Full Life Farm Ethnographic Diary Week 6 Ending 14 February 2014

This was a challenging week on the farm, given the extreme cold and especially my views on animals, animal rights, and my vegan diet. Monday arrived and Paul, one of the farm’s owners, knowing my vegan lifestyle (I obviously had to make him aware of this before I signed on to the internship that we both agreed upon), announced the day’s first activity: the slaughter and cleaning of a few roosters. I was asked as a polite courtesy if I wanted to participate, but they all understood when I declined. Friday began at the Haven down the street from Full Life where I stay, and it was announced that a rather large raccoon, who was stealing and killing the chickens because that’s one of the things that raccoons do, had been caught in the trap.

The intellectual and emotional processing I had to perform ata the beginning and end of this week still continues. When I literally had to walk around the animal cleaning station, it had me thinking seriously on the next intentional community I move to. I have been looking through www.ic.org, the intentional community database, for vegan and vegetarian communities, because I do not think it would be physically or emotionally healthy for me to commune and live with animal eaters for any extended length of time. There was a time in the past that I believed I could handle it well. That time has past. At the moment, there is an element of necessity to stay where I am. In spite of these challenges, or because of them, I am learning more than I can possibly include in these reflective diaries.

Instead of participating as I mentioned earlier, I was asked to clear brush and remove fencing and fence posts from a section of back fencing that was formally used as a chicken grazing tail. Weeds seem to run rampant here in spite of everything. It’s rich soil, it’s been raining and snowing and there hasn’t been time to think about controlling weeds and wild plants that need to be tamed when there is so much that needs to be done otherwise.

Given my interest in permaculture, I have asked and expressed curiosity in sustainable methods to minimize the growth of rampant weeds and plants that act as weeds (though I am reluctant to refer to weeds as such at all, given the medicinal herbal value of everything). There are ways that incorporate walkways around plants and plant beds as well as cover crops that work in combination with the walkways that slow down the appearance of weeds. The day ended with the digging of trunk-sized postholes for a grape trellis. Given that it is still winter here and everyone is anticipating spring, much of what I do is out of practical necessity in preparation of the spring that will arrive soon.

Wednesday arrived; it’s been frozen for a day already. The air seems almost frozen, the rain is frozen, and there are icicles on trees and ground everywhere. It’s a winter wonderland but working on the farm, it’s painfully cold. Frozen. I use Buddhist principles as much as possible to create the reality that separates and joins my spirit from this temporary feeling of discomfort. I need to practice more. Midway through the morning, I was offered the opportunity to leave without guilt. I stayed. The Wwoofer stays, the owners stay, because this is life lived daily.

There is no excuse for me to leave so I don’t, but after dealing with wet gloved hands shoving branches into a wood chipper, I ask for the opportunity to do something else. The wood chipper is interesting because it creates woodchips used as mulch in the plant beds. Collecting brush and wood for the wood chipper to clear the farm of brush and clear more land for planting beds for raspberries is obviously more environmentally practical than buying wood chips and throwing away excess debris. It is also cheaper when every resource is needed to be as efficient as possible. While there has been practical discussion of what plants and vegetables, tubers, and other plants are necessary for a working farm, there is also a practical consideration of favorites as well, which are spread throughout fro grown seeds (plums, pears, persimmon), and plant cuttings (brown turkey figs and wine berry).

Friday at Full Life was finally relatively warmer. It is my hope that the groundhog will see his shadow soon. At this point, I am contemplating a final or semifinal place to settle down and grow food and travelling to teach. I don’t want to be near any manner of cold weather any more than I have to. I am also considering the practicalities of starting my own farm with a family or moving to an intentional community where each person’s strengths are utilized to benefit all and increase the quality of life of each member. I continued clearing more composted trees from the recently cleared brush near the pond across from the storage shed and dug a two foot wide path to control more weed growth with a cement brick terrace. Another plant bed was created on the side of the terrace for the raspberries ready for transplant after I left later in the afternoon. Wwoofer Paul continued to install the bricks as well as create the plant bed and readied the area for the transplanting of the raspberries.

Every job is necessary and every body is needed as I am discovering. When you are unable to perform one task there is always another that you can do.

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