Shamu made a comment early on in our program that we need a better name for chores, since chore sounds like a burden, whereas he really sees these as opportunities. At first I wrote that off as romantic flim-flammery, but the now that I’m into my third chore, I’ve realized that each one really has been a blessing. Aside from the pragmatic aspect of learning about various farming operations, these chores have been pleasures that I’ve really looked forward to doing each day.
When I was on chicken chore, even though it cut into my breakfast time, and pulled me away from my pre-Shabbat routine on Friday evenings, I still felt very grateful to be able to spend time with the birds each day. I often found myself reluctant to leave after I’d let them out and fed them in morning, lingering to watch them peck at their food and dig through the compost, and to look at the rooster looking at me warily, placing himself as much as possible between me and his harem.
After that, I had the privilege of taking out compost from the dining hall to the chickens, which I didn’t get to do that many times, due to travel and illness, but this too provided another chance to watch the chickens, and also the opportunity to drive Adamah’s very large, very rickety pickup truck.
Now I’m doing evening milking, which has been the biggest challenge and the biggest treat of all so far. Each day I get to spend some quality time with several goats of our fifteen milking goats. It’s nice to feel like I’m working together with these animals (and my fellow milkers) to get a job done. Just as with human collaborators, I have to be attentive to their feelings, and make sure they have what they need (grain in their bowl, clean, dry teats, a loving, patient, firm touch) to be able to do their job, at the same time that I’m working on doing my end of things. I’m noticing how each day, I’m not only getting better at the technical aspects of milking, but I’m also getting little better at reading the goats’ body language, and responding to their mood and their needs. This chore really is a spiritual opportunity, and one that I look forward to each day. Shamu was right.
-Submitted by Garth Silberstein Fall Adamah 2011
From the leaders of the Adamah/IF poetry group:
one tree kneels down and puts out roots to form another
crowded with light.
my hand and arm at sunrise, beaming and blue–
where asphalt dissolves into gravel
a jacked-up black truck rumbles past.
inside, the world is lungs and heart and creeping vines.
pine needles fall and vines creep along the edges of the road.
noise of race cars through the distance and heat,
2 turkey vultures circle.
airplane passes over the field
crowded with light: aster, basil, amaranth.
pile of people on the overlook, stop at the top, curious
constellations, eyes on each other, colors in the sky
kale chips and cheap booze, lamplit walk, talk of
how we would survive if we never made it back and
ice cream, twice, twenty chickens in the morning, a visit
from two people I love, small town, permaculture mint,
food fight in the kitchen, saying goodbye, twice,
yellow raincoat, yellow bike, nettle tea, twenty chickens
in the evening a walk with someone I admire,
As the sun set on Saturday evening calling our restful Shabbos to a close, a small troupe of Adamahniks and Isabella Freedman staff hiked to a rocky ridge in the mountains. From our vantage point in the Berkshires we sang niggunim and folk songs, relishing in the breathtaking view of the endless forest below us. Gavriel led an improvised Havdalah, in which we made the most of some of our not-so-natural resources. In place of wine we pulled out a cheap flask of vodka, leftover from our Shabbos celebration. A box of spiced and exceedingly-delicious dehydrated kale chips served as our basamin—spices. Finally, we belted the bracha over light as we gazed down at the 4th of July fireworks which sprang from our neighboring town of Lime Rock.
This week at Isabella Freedman, we took care to remember not only the independence of our country, but the interdependence of the entire world and of all living beings. We took this celebration of freedom as an occasion to reflect on the importance of the responsibility we hold as stewards of earth. We work with our hands when many others would resort to using destructive machines and chemicals that ultimately harm our land, our society, and our planet. With ecological interdependence in mind, we forgo the use of dangerous fertilizers and pesticides. This week we sprayed a natural clay mixture on our cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes, and radishes. This simple clay is the only substance we utilize to ward off pests in our field. At Adamah we use practices which honor our responsibility to protect the environment in which we live.