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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, 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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This week at Full Life Farm began with cut logs already mounted to the concrete floor posts.  The work continues before and after I arrive.  It’s a working farm.  While there are not enough hours in the day, and I would like to be present more often, I realize that life happens, and I have other commitments.  I have learned and I continue to learn.  The learning happens in it’s own time.

This structure is being built to protect newly cut logs and timber from damaging elements, mostly the rains that occasionally happen in this part of Georgia.  It’s not an overly “permanent” structure, but it is something that is built to last a while. It is obviously and certainly not like a finished building that would take time to erect, to live in.  It is more like an open garage. It is essentially an open storage wood shed.

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When you’re homesteading, which I hope to do one day soon, materials must be used, reused, repurposed as needed, and even donated if possible.  If you look into the right corners and ask, there is always someone who has a piece of equipment or material lying around that they no longer need. This is all about creativity and when necessity is paramount to thrive (also known as necessity is the mother of invention), everything is all about creativity and efficiency.  Learning for me, is by any means necessary, and the farm is patient, willing to teach, and answer my inquisitive, curious questions.

In spite of the freezing winter weather that shut down many areas in North Georgia for half of the week, work continued on the farm to prepare for the coming spring.  Monday was spent preparing plant beds for winter planting (and a spring and summer harvest).  Plant beds were cleared of rocks and built up to decrease erosion and increase water conservation and watering efficiency.  Paths were dug for walkways to reach inside plant beds.  Paul explained that the wideness of the walkways would help in the control of weeds through constant foot traffic.  However, a much wider walkway that would increase yield and profit would also increase the need for a tractor and the cost to maintain that tractor.    At the field end, Jerusalem artichokes or other root foods will be planted to decrease weed growth from growing in from unfurrowed ground beyond the plant beds.  The method used at Full Life farm efficiently decreases weeds, increases the quality of life.  This is similar to the methods employed in efficient use of already enriched soil described in One Straw Revolution that I have discussed with a few friends but have not had a chance to yet read.

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I began my internship at the Full Life Farm in Carrollton, GA three weeks ago with a tour of the farm and what the owners (Paul and Terra) wanted to accomplish in the winter, preparing for house-building before spring arrived.  I received an overview of the chickens and goats and the proper procedures to feed each if the other interns were unable to attend to the feedings and care while the owners were away on a winter vacation.

They returned earlier this week and settled in.  My first day is today, and the day begins bitingly cold, what I usually refer to as “New York cold.”  It is indeed that cold, near 6 or 9 degrees Fahrenheit, with or without a wind chill.  I walked from the farm where I am staying a half-mile away, leaving mid morning dressed in work clothes but not nearly enough to prevent my fingers and toes from growing colder and colder. The walk to the farm felt like I had stepped back in time.  There was no sound but for people working on adjacent farms and dogs barking to let the world know they were protecting goats, chickens and other farm animals.

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