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While the semester and my official learning experience through a farming internship are almost technically over, I am far from finished, and I don’t plan to stop learning for quite some time.  That’s counterproductive to my nature.  As life breathes through my veins, learning will continue wherever I am in the world, whether at another university, another country, or another farm and intentional community.  All of the above is about to happen.  As I have grown and learned from everything and everyone, this is my destiny.

For the first time in a while, Monday was too wet to work on the farm.  It rained most of the night and the previous weekend so the solution in times like this is to take my previous skills that relate to farming and food sustainability and use them to benefit the farm.  Back when I began interning at Full Life Farm, I mentioned my love of fermentation and home made bread using sourdough starter, and Paul mentioned the excess wheat berries that he has.  So I took those skills and the experience from the previous bread I made a few weeks ago and improved on the recipe and the baking. It came out beautifully and Paul loved it.  He also received another big bag of wheat berries so there will be more bread to make soon and there may even be a regular supply of wheat berries for the farmers’ market.

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This week was filled of what I am primarily interested in from many levels:  seeds, planting, and composting.  My interest is, of course, sans animal wastes, but for now, this is the process I am learning and there are applications for every element of knowledge.  I have found an Intentional Community ( that is entirely raw and vegan that utilizes another form of creating organic compost, which I am anxious to eventually put to use.  At this point in my apprenticeship/internship, I am a bit more comfortable around the farm and feel as though I am fitting in better than I had at the beginning, and I feel as though I belong there and can contribute a little some piece of knowledge when an opportunity arises.  This is more of me acclimatizing myself to my surroundings rather than the energy surrounding the farm.  And this is probably the case with most people in new surroundings.

On Monday, I began planting Pok Choy (a Chinese and East Asian short, but oblong leafy green cabbage-like vegetable) and Swiss chard seeds in 50 row nursery seed pots. The Pok Choy was a few years old so it received approximately six seeds to each seed pot to insure against non-germination of the older seeds.  The Swiss chard received two seeds to a seed pot, given that they were not so old.  Once the seeds were labeled, dated, covered with previously mixed compost potting soil, and lightly watered, they were placed outside in the sun or in the hoop house.  Later in the week, additional seeds were planted in seed pots but for now there were seeds to be planted in plant beds.  Before that, the plant beds near the half hoop house attached to the greenhouse/library and the whole Hoop House greenhouse had to be prepped.  It was a small bed but it needed to be weeded, shoveled, aired, and raked to prepare the bed.  And three rows needed to be furrowed to plant rutabagas, turnips, and radish seeds.  Later in the morning, Paul and I visited the Haven where I room to prepare part of another row bed to plant beet seeds.  Paul also added posts to the adjacent bed and haphazardly strung string to slow down the bird or birds’ (possibly a cardinal) attempts to get at the seeds.  Paul also planted Kohlrabi seeds in an adjacent bed after I left.  The seedbeds were covered lightly by hand or hoe and watered.  The previously planted potatoes were also covered with hay to insulate against the next few days’ night and mornings’ drop in temperature.

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Given my openly admission to a vegan lifestyle and my tempered discussion of it under the circumstances, everyone that I have encountered at Full Life has been remarkably understanding towards my position.  This doesn’t change my attitude of animals being raised, suffering needlessly just to be killed later. All of this seems extremely Dadaist and absurdist.  Please understand that this is not how I began life as a vegan, this time or the first time I began as a vegan.  Though I became a vegan for the same reasons, living on a farm, seeing and encountering living and breathing animals daily and contemplating their ultimate end has codified my position even more.  I am still grateful for the understanding I have received and will always be grateful, but my next move will definitely be to a vegetarian or vegan intentional community or one that is vegan or vegetarian friendly.

Late Friday afternoon, Pal asked me what my learning intention was as his latest intern.  I took for granted that Paul is doing this actively as a sustainable farmer for he and his family.  I was surprised and impressed to hear that he is doing what he is doing to primarily educate.  My feeling and my philosophy is that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student, though most do not have a piece of paper that authorizes them to be one or the other or both.  How I feel about the social construction of certified education systems is another discussion entirely, but given my interest in permaculture, teaching, and anarchism, my views would not be hard to deduce. I found his question an intriguing one, given that I had considered it so often over the last several weeks and months but never voiced it to many at the University of West Georgia and certainly to no one on the farm.  It has always been my intention to learn as much as I can to maintain myself and my future family but it has also been to teach others in some way to maintain themselves as well, combining my interests in permaculture (small-scale agriculture that sustains a small community or family group that is environmentally sustainable), herbalism, anarchistic community building, and propaganda, all within the scale of an intentional community, rather than a single family farm.  The latter would obviously include participatory action research with community groups in various national and international locales to actively change and eliminate destructive sexist propaganda used in their community to sell mass-marketed products.  Anything is possible and while this is ambitious, this is what I want to accomplish. I want to actively be the change that I want to see on this planet.

Monday morning began with moving lumber from a makeshift temporary temporary shelter (more or less a temporary but solid covering placed over lumber laid outside of a regular temporary shelter) to the tool shed (above the pantry that is here called “the tool shed”.  Additionally, lumber exposed to weather and rain was moved to under this makeshift temporary temporary shelter.  For the first time I utilized an angle grinder to lightly grind off the sides of slightly weathered lumber exposed to the rainy weather to prevent further mold or temporary decay since this is viable lumber that can be used to build the house later when the spring weather warms enough to begin. Later that morning, I mixed seed planting compost from composted manure, gifted peat moss, and remnants of composted rotting wood.  This was mixed as two parts (two five-gallon buckets) of manure and decomposing composting wood and a few shovelfuls of the peat moss.  Apparently, to maximize the nutrients in these composting elements they have to be rationed properly.  I mention this because most of us are used to purchasing composting soil from the nursery. Once properly mixed, the compost was added to seedling pots, and year old Black Seeded Simpson lettuce seeds were sprinkled into pots six at a time (to insure against any “dead” seeds.  These were placed into the greenhouse for germination.

Wednesday and Friday, besides the standard egg cleaning for the farmers market and the CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture—a community distribution network that distributes local agricultural goods to the local regional community for a modest exchange rate) there was cutting of seed potatoes to be done for planting later on Friday when it warmed up and the rain stopped.  Any potato larger than a tennis ball was to be cut at least in half for planting, but potatoes had to have at least one live potato eye.  Potatoes used included Red Pontiacs (most did not need to be cut), White Kennebecs (developed by the USDA in Maine several decades ago — some had to be cut), and Yukon Golds (very large but delicious potatoes – all but one had to be cut).  The cut potatoes had to have at least 24 hours to dry out before planting.  The last part of Wednesday morning was spent transplanting Brassica Family ( seedlings ready for larger pots (because some didn’t grow) and for the garden bed.  Fertilizer was added to plantlings in sectional seed pots to stimulate growth.

On Friday, the Brassica transplanting was completed.  These and other plants were moved into sun in the hoop house to take advantage of the warm weather.  Plantlings in sectional seed pots were watered depending upon size.  The sunny day obviously warranted water, and smaller sectional seed pots required more water, given that such pots dry out faster than larger pots.  When the afternoon arrived, it was warm enough to visit the Haven to prepare plant beds by removing protective hay (rotting hay is good for potato growing, apparently).  Plant beds were furrowed and all but a few of the previously prepared potatoes were planted about three feet apart and properly spaced apart from row to tow to allow for proper growth.  Seasoned cow manure was lightly placed over the planted potatoes.  The hay was left to the side in the walkways to give the newly planted potatoes a little air to breathe prior to being covered in hay. The hay will be placed over the potatoes in a few days to stimulate further growth.

After nine weeks of this, I am awed that I have become more accustomed to helping this farm to function on some level and I am amazed that the little that I am learning each day is adding up to something substantial.  I am even furthering my knowledge, a little at a time, about the herbs that grow round Carrollton as “weeds” on the farm.

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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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