It's Good to Be Back

It's Good to Be Back

by Alex Gemme


TiKahh..TiKahh..TiKahh..TiKahh...  The sound of sparks echos around the circle.  Snow is just beginning to fall outside of the shelter, and there is anticipation in the air.  The spark catches and, breath by breath, it is brought to life as singing fills the air.  Growing until the entire fire structure is engulfed.  Smiles go around the circle and we settle in to warm our toes as a story is told.

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After we finish our snacks, we prepare ourselves for an epic game of Turkey and Coyote.  A simple game, but with clear relevance to our ecosystem.  Its our first day back in over a month and there is a lot of energy around base camp.  The weather couldn’t be better, with calm winds and snow expected for most of the day.  Already our tracks are filling in and visibility becoming blurred.  Few animals are out and about today, and the only sound that breaks the silence is the occasional call of the raven, dampened by the fresh snow.

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A lot has changed in the past six weeks, since the last time we were all together.  Base camp has had a roof constructed and firewood is stacked in preparation for the cold months ahead.  Two more people have also just joined our community and folks couldn’t be more eager to show them around.   

Between the ages of 7 and 28, we now make up a group of eight enthusiastic, curious, thoughtful and creative kids.  Together we observe and question, follow tracks and work together, explore new places and learn new skills.

We head out from our shelter, running whopping and sliding through the freshly fallen snow.  With no thought of the past and little thought to the future, we chase the slowly fading tracks of the wild turkeys down the hill, in hopes of catching even a glimpse of these majestic birds.

For the next 4 months, we will be coming together weekly, cooking our lunch over the fire and getting to know our landscape in a deeper and more intimate way.  I reflect as I sit back in my post-lunch sit spot.  The snow is falling harder and the smell of woodsmoke drifts through the air.

I take a deep breath in.  

Its good to be back.

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This story was written by Village School mentor and farmer, Alex Gemme. Photos were captured by both Alex and Bekah Gordon, and audio was recorded by resident environmental artist, Nancy Winship Milliken. 

February 16

If 35 deg. Farenheight already feels balmy in the mid-Vermont winter, then try spending a couple of minutes in our -40 degree storage freezer. Walking outside feels equivalent to teleporting to Hawaii. Corie, Brandon and I finally tackled the looming meat inventory project, which has been a big to-do on our collective plate (inventory & beach teleportation, equally). It helps us plan out the rest of our year in terms of meat sales, and guides how we approach expanding our animal herds. It was fun and frantic to sort through all of the beautiful pieces: bacon, spare ribs, chuck roasts and sirloin steaks, tenderloins and bones. Inspiration for so many cooking projects swirl somewhere between my taste buds and imagination (recipes to come!). 

This week, Corie also gave our farm store freezer a make-over and created an informational cut sheet - two simple elements that have disproportionately elevated the meat-perusing experience. Yes: It has never been easier to find & bring home the bacon. 

Considerations for bacon, inventorying and long term herd planning are also culminating right now in our animal barn. We time our herds' birthing periods with specific seasonal landmarks so that our mamas and babies have access to the right nutrition and environmental conditions to thrive. We plan for farrowing (the birth of the piglets) for May, but recently learned that our pig's have other plans. Our two new-mamas-to-be, Georgette and Freya (namesake: lover in the night - this is clearly our fault) became pregnant earlier than we had hoped and planned for. The signs of their pregnancies are starting to become more obvious, and we believe that they may farrow in the next month. This means piglets in winter, before mud season, and before Gertie, our Sow gives birth, creating significant management challenges for us. Gertie and Elmer (the boar) are having pregnancy troubles of their own, and this cycle is Gertie's last chance to become pregnant in time for spring farrowing. So, join us in sending fertile thoughts and support to her!! 

Outside of animal world, it feels like every day there is more and more happening to engage kiddos in our farm and landscape. The first week of Village School was last week, and this semester welcomed some new faces, young and old(er). Long time farm friend Braden has just joined Bekah and Alex as a co-mentor, and the tribe grows. Alex shared a vivid window into what life is like in a day of Village School in his story "It's Good To Be Back", below. 

We are also excited to collaborate with another good friend of the farm, local herbalist and educator, Kenzie McDonald, who will lead kid's herbalism classes here this winter. Kenzie is also the inspiration behind our herbal themed camp week this summer, and we feel incredibly grateful for her knowledge, energy, and skill working with students of all ages. 

And lastly, movement continues bit by bit in the greenhouses. This longer bout of warm weather means that we can begin watering, and the first five beds were broadcast seeded with salad mix and cilantro seed on Monday. Normally, we plant in rows, but we love to experiment, observe and adapt - so we'll keep you informed as to how this experiment goes. 

We are lucky to have the ability to try new cultivation methods and develop our practices - and much of this freedom is created by selling our food through the CSA model. We truly appreciate the commitment of our CSA members, whose support creates so much stability and opportunity for us as a business. Registration for our Spring CSA Shares began this week, and we hope you join us! If so, you'll be the first to try our broadcasted Cilantro. 

February 9

So much bright and light this week. The lingering sunlight has finally reclaimed the afternoon.

Even though the ground is still frozen, now insulated with an entirely fresh blanket of snow, we have felt a perceptible jump in day length signaling the assured approach of spring. We are nearly midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox, and can sense a shift in our hoop houses. During the winter, plant growth slows to all but a frozen halt, and we must harvest sparingly to assure that we leave enough leaves to do the photosynthetic work for each plant. We are pleased to announce that their growth is, once again, perceptible.

The stretching day length is also our cue to slowly begin movement towards spring plantings. We’ve begun to turn over the garden beds in hoop house 2, and have seeded the very first few trays of what will be our earliest kale transplants. This, while Alex still races to finish the crop plan before the real plants get ahead of him.

And, inspired by the transition from the slow, darkness of winter, back towards movement and light, Corie has co-organized a women’s rejuvenation retreat series that will take place on the farm in our classroom space. We invite you (sorry men, ladies only) to gather with us, one morning a month to share in movement, meditation and a meal. The first event is this Sunday, and we hope to see you there! 

- Lauren & the Bread & Butter Team

The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.

- Wendell Berry

 

The Spotted Gray Mass by Brandon Bless

The Spotted Gray Mass by Brandon Bless

This story is a reflection on how we communicate with and shape our landscape, through the language of farming. Brandon is the animal manager here at Bread & Butter. His ecological lens helps inspire both our cultivation practices and our collective imagination. 

 

February 1

Freeze, thaw, freeze. The oscillations outside reflect the sense of semi-hibernation I feel at the farm right now. Days filled with introspective farm team homework assignments and long, visionary planning meetings are interrupted by interludes of weather warm enough for Alex and Bekah to hurriedly harvest the briefly thawed out greens, just in time for our CSA members’ arrival. The greens are so precious right now that I have to be sneaky about snagging just a leaf from their harvest bin. The candy sweetness of winter spinach is worth the risk.

Last week, camp registration opened and closed in the span of about ten days. Though, thinking of the infusion of life that the campers bring to the farm at the height of summer feels like a far off but fast approaching memory, it has been an energizing interruption to the frozen winter pace. In our first day of registration, over two thirds of the spots were promptly spoken for: what an incredible showing of love! And, luckily, we don’t even have to wait for summer to enjoy the brightness that kiddos bring to the land. Next week, our tribe of Village Schoolers will be back for their weekly immersion in farm and forest life. Alex and Bekah have been out on the knoll, putting the final touches on their magical woodland base-camp in anticipation of the first day of winter session.

Stepping back to planning mode: the plant team has been crop planning, puzzling through the vegetable rotation, dreaming up new varieties for experimentation, and studying up on herb and perennial cultivation. Our monthly stakeholder meeting featured a deep dive into what our roles are within this farm community, and how they can develop and grow.

And as for the food: Micro-greens are on sale in the farm store this week. They are a tender reminder of spring and the perfect complement to a hearty winter meal. We are also excited to feature grass-fed lamb from our friends over at Scuttleship Farm. And last, but not least, keep an eye out for our own woodland pork shares, which will be on sale soon. Brandon, our land and animal manager, shared a beautiful peek into the lives of the pigs on this land and their place within our farm ecosystem in his story: The Spotted Gray Mass, linked below. Enjoy! 

Cheerfully, 
Lauren & The Bread & Butter Farm Team

Fundraiser for Bread & Butter

Fundraiser for Bread & Butter

The below Go Fund Me campaign was created by a dear friend of the farm, Sher Tsai, on our behalf. As she explains, this has been a very challenging season for the farm. However, the amount of community support we have felt throughout has been truly incredible, and we are so grateful for it! Read her words below to find out more about the season and the campaign, but know that all kind of support are felt and appreciated!