Life on the farm is packed: early morning singing in chapel, caring for our animals, harvest and food preservation, noon chapel service, a community lunchtime meal, afternoon break and more work hours. Then evening prayers and a light dinner. The days and weeks just speed by...
But on Sunday afternoon, after our "house meeting" when the Sisters and other residents discuss and make decisions about farming projects, events, and day-to-day schedules, Anne and I stole away for an afternoon walk. And I think I'll have to make a practice of it, because to stroll through the woods acquaints me with a whole other part of the farm, slows me down, and makes me appreciate this place even more.
The Community's property is about 23 acres, and we cultivate less than one acre (which makes our harvest, and the fact that we sustain ourselves primarily from our own crops, all the more impressive!). Throughout the property there are about 300 maple trees, which the Sisters tap to make our own maple syrup.
This photo is of an area that separates the farm and a playing field used by the Melrose School, a dayschool that shares the property. The ground is fairly bare, with few shrubs or mid-sized trees. From what we've been learning about edible forest gardens, the forest would probably be healthier if it had a wider diversity of species to help protect and nourish the soil.
A few years ago, one of the Sisters began planting fruit trees in the meadow below our main garden, which abuts this part of the forest. We currently have at least two varieties of pear trees, apple trees, and a peach tree, as well as hazelnut trees in the nearby vineyard. We're thinking about how to cultivate this lower meadow with a wide variety of fruit and nut trees and other edible plants. If we can successfully "build into" this transitional space between the garden and the forest, we will be able to harvest many foods and materials without the intensive labor required by farming.
In this photo, Anne is looking down upon the playing field and the woods beyond. It's such a serene place. I can just imagine building a little strawbale house near this field, in the woods on the periphery...and the snowy silence down here in the wintertime.
Walking back up to the farm, up the winding road that takes you to Farrington's Pond and then into Connecticut. It's a bit of a shock when SUVs come barreling around this corner, rushing on their way, totally out of sync with the pace and peace of this area. Sans traffic, you hear the wind, the leaves falling, the chickens clucking, the sound of shovels hitting soil. And then a big noisy car or truck will drive by, and you realize that we're living cheek-by-jowl with suburbia. Or, really, that suburbia is speeding by us, oblivious to the quiet beauty and slower rhythm of this place.
I think that all those lovely manicured lawns that you can see on your way down the hill, when you get into town, would make great vegetable gardens. Imagine if we were all growing a little bit of food, we could share seeds and tools, and have the pleasure of eating food we've planted and watched mature...imagine if we all were connecting with our neighbors around the activity of growing food. Rather than spending big bucks on lawn care, and the costly and toxic pesticides that are part of that whole operation, we could use our yards for food. This idea of "yard sharing" is becoming a reality, organized through new media--check out this site that connects people who have yards with people who want to garden.
There's something about getting your hands in the dirt, about shuffling in the leaves on the forest path, about imagining new life in a plot of land that gets us to slow down, to see the way the light falls, to be creaturely. I'm grateful for Sunday afternoons, and how they help catch me from just speeding by...