2010 Opportunities for Volunteers

2010 WWOOF Opportunities Update

We’ve been on the farm for over a year, and have learned a lot about growing food here. Last year was filled with experiments, this year we will pursue the most promising ones, and would like to add 1-2 WWOOFers for the growing season, ideally preparing you for the following year’s enterprise, either with us or elsewhere.

The average age of farmers in this valley is about 75. Many affordable farms will be coming available, and it is our hope that our valley can  become  a major local food provider.

We have the basic skills and equipment in place here, and hope to provide an opportunity for 1-2 WWOOFers to collaborate in several arenas:

Raising meat chickens in Salatin-style chicken tractors (Last year we qualified for the license to raise up to 1000 birds for on-farm sale. We raised, slaughtered, dressed and sold about 120 chickens in two batches, and turned a profit of about $700.) We have 3 ‘tractors,’ a ‘plucker,’ and all the necessary  equipment.  We have barely scratched the surface of the market.

Growing fruits and vegetables on about 2 acres of heavy rock-free soil. 2 donkeys and 18 goats provide lots of manure, which we compost. We have sold at the small farmers’ market in Raymond, and there are others in the area.  We have small informal farm events, and we eagerly feed our guests from the garden.

Wine-making. (Larry made 125 gallons of very good fruit wine. It is part of our farm hospitality.)

We will freshen four goats in April, and start making ricotta, chevre, and small batches of cheddared varieties to store as hard cheese. We plan to build a Grade A creamery kitchen within the next year, which will enable us to sell cheese to the public. Currently we consume all we make. We’ll freshen 6 more yearlings in August, and will be milking through October.

We still find time for playing Old Time Music and enjoying our farm lives. A few congenial collaborators would be most welcome, allowing us to help raise the next generation of farmers and perhaps even find time to pursue our passion for bicycling through farmlands and doing some WWOOFing again ourselves.

Get in touch, and if we feel like we’re a good match, come stay for 2 weeks so we can get to know each other. (That goes both ways, of course.) We’re eager to settle in for a productive season with compatible team mates. Come for two weeks, and we’ll see after that.

The donkeys, goats, chickens and pigs are part of our efforts to improve our soil. They are a major source of nutrition here, converting the countryside foliage into many forms of protein. Therefore, vegetarians are not a good fit for us.  The kitchen is part of the whole farm ecology.


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Allergies and Barnyards

Science says kids who grow up around farm animals have fewer allergies as adults. I think that’s why 4-year-olds of our species are compelled to go to the barnyard and pick up poop. Their compulsion is rewarded with an allergy-free adulthood, and the gene pool prospers.

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Anthony Vickerstaf and Tierney Creech’s video of the farm!

Meet the goats and chickens! Music by Jere Canote on the CD “Uke Life.”

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Farm Photos

You can find pictures of the farm here.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Granny’s Potluck Farm on Flickr“, posted with vodpod

And even more here.

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At Peace by One’s Own Hand

Rob Girdis was full of magic! His choice leaves us deeply saddened, and plagued by questions like: “What could I have done to help him find another path to peace?”

The answer is this: You did everything you could, most of the time, and in many ways. You loved him well. You appreciated his work, and were forgiving when your dream instrument was in the pipeline longer than you had hoped. You hugged him back. You allowed him to be quiet at times, even withdrawn. And now you must forgive him for leaving us.

If genius is a blessing, it is the polar opposite of the blessing of peace. In order to work the magic as he did, I suspect he had to wait until the energy was just right and he could turn himself over to the hyper-focus demanded to produce such fine work. It’s not a simple on/off switch that you can flip at will. You have to wait for the moment to arrive, then leap on it and not allow yourself to be interrupted in your process. You can’t force yourself to be there, and when you promise that you will make a guitar for someone you love you are committing yourself to the tyranny of that hyperfocus. It’s thrilling to work that way, but it exacts a toll on your body, mind, and friendships.

So, when you can’t get to that creative place, you feel guilty about making your friends wait, and oppressed by the monumentally demanding task ahead. The flip side is the array of exhilarating rewards when the job is completed. You know the work is good, and the person receiving your gift (purchase is too crass a word) takes it personally, and that’s appropriate!

I’d like to try to explain what that roller coaster ride is like from the inside. I lay no claim to genius like Rob’s, but I know the passion and depression cycle very well. This is not a treatise on bipolar disorder, or any other clinical diagnosis, but more about what that moment is like which makes escape irresistible.

Maybe roller coaster is the wrong image. It’s upside-down. On that ride you climb slowly to the top in anticipation of the rush down the other side, which is most exciting at the bottom when you change directions and head up again. In life there is no guarantee that the climb to the top of the ride will yield the promised rewards. Sometimes that climb takes forever and has many detours. (All of my bad dreams are about the travails of ‘getting to the gig,’ and I never actually arrive before I awake.)

When you touch a hot pot, your withdrawal is immediate and involuntary. Ouch! You pull away. The urge to escape the sensation of despair is that demanding of action. It mirrors the passionate urge to complete the insistent task at hand, except the outlet for the latter urge is to keep working towards the goal, maybe the next perfect guitar. There is no similar outlet to escape despair. You’re stuck with it until it goes away. Some escapes are available at times: playing music, getting drugged or drunk, going to sleep for a few weeks maybe, but they are temporary. After a while you realize that you are always going to go back to that awful place where life is impossible.

You can’t accomplish yourself out of a depression. You can only try to hide from it.

I know many of my own friends were confused by the two of me: the one that hugged them enthusiastically one day, and the one that withdrew and couldn’t meet their eyes the next. Which reaction was ‘real?’ They both were, though I preferred to be the one who hugged.

Calling dances and doing the radio show were extra taxing in the same way. I figured out how to do those things in my hyper moments, but then had to execute them when i was ‘down’ as well. I could still remember what I used to say to make people circle to the left, so I learned to act like I meant it every time, even when I was down. Then, hopefully when I was safely alone, I’d burst into tears for a while.

You don’t get to select when you’ll be hyper/inspired/energized. It’s totally unpredictable. You may have to accept the gig while up, and accomplish it while down. Until I was 50 (!) I didn’t know there were two different conditions running my thoughts: I thought I was the same all the time, and the world just got extra irritating once in a while for no apparent reason. The actual reason?  I was down.

The urge to escape the down is greater than any of our automatic inhibitors which insist we be ‘reasonable.’ It’s akin to the opposite passion for ‘real truth’ in its intensity, whether your pursuit be beauty, power or holiness.

Do we  enjoy the highs more because there are lows? I don’t think so. The joy is so absolute that nothing else can possibly compare. I’m weary of the agony of the roller coaster. The perceptions of the up and the down sides are equally valid, and the conclusions equally true. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to chasing your dream, even if you are aware of your swings. It can feel like “I know how to save the world – the path is clear.” If you feel like that, wouldn’t it be dishonest to your passion and a denial of our concept of community to decide on a ‘no?’ If you know how to do it, and you think it’s important, you must do it.

I’ve wondered if a lobotomy would level things out for me, (not awfully seriously usually). What would it be like to never have to do a ‘low’ and never get a ‘high?’ For one thing, it would be very very peaceful by comparison. Urgency is not a comforting presence, and it comes with both sides of the coin.

I’m tremendously grateful to Rob for his willingness to persist with his most creative self rather than choosing some drugged version of ‘average.’ He generously dared to love us and make perfect guitars for us. It was not easy to be Rob Girdis. So, though I’ll miss him, I have a little warm comfy place in my heart that knows he decided to finally get some real peace. He trusted us to carry on with the things he knew to be important. We all know a little of his message, and in gratitude we each carry our morsel forward so his hard work is not lost.

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Swiss Picnic in Frances

Larry and I rode the Counterpoint tandem 7 miles up the road to Frances to the Swiss Picnic at Swiss Park. There were campers, locals, a couple of vendors, a couple hundred people,  and at the center of it all, a 3-generation polka band (Bass, piano, accordion and clarinet) on the little stage, and where the dance floor ought to be was a big pile of sawdust. Wrestlers (schwingers) donned heavy canvas shorts over their clothes and wrestled while the band played on. The winner would brush the sawdust off the loser on the way out of the ‘ring.’ Lots of kids running around, river to cool off in, picnic tables, food, and in the evening the big dance. I was glad to find myself in a place almost like Europe on the 4th of July.

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Tom Anderson: Synesthete

Tom Anderson: Synesthete

In about 1979 I was playing at music festivals, and spent a lot of late nights jamming with people like The Boys of the Lough. Ali Bain, the fiddler, kept entreating me to meet Tom Anderson, his teacher and mentor from the Shetlands. Tom came on one of their tours, and when we met we played together. Tom said to me (as he probably says to several people every day when he’s on the road): “You Must come visit me in the Shetlands!” I said: “Okay, how about December 10?” and he said: “No, the 19th would be better.”

So five months later, the date arrived, and so did I. I stayed several weeks, over the winter solstice, Christmas and spent New Year’s Day ‘first-footin’ to his friends’ homes. (That’s the first day of the year that you step across the threshhold of your friends’ houses for the good luck of all and for several shots of whisky.)

One of the most interesting aspects of Tom’s playing is that he is a synesthete: his senses cross over, so when he writes music he sees visual images. I discovered the impact that can have while discussing tunes with my sister, Colleen. I played her a guitar tune I’d been toying with, and she responded: “That tune says ‘things are rough right now, but I can make my way through and everything will eventually be fine.'” She was right. Every time I played that tune, that’s how I felt. I think the grammar of the song was related to the grammar of our language, in some ancient circuitry we don’t know we’re using.

Anyway, knowing that her perception of that image seemed language related, I decided to try one of Tom’s visual pieces and see how she reacted to that. I’m not glib on the piano, but I struggled through a simple version of the tune, a slow aire. She saw in her mind’s eye a rocking chair in front of a fireplace. I was stunned. The piece was The Resting Chair, which Tom wrote when he visited his grandfather’s croft on the north island of the Shetlands and saw an old resting chair in front of the fireplace. Now that is a persistent visual image, because it not only survived my clumsy execution, but carried no language related baggage, because english is not Tom’s mother-tongue. He spoke the Shetland dialect of something like Swedish. She saw the chair he wrote the tune about. Wow. Then I really wanted to go visit this man.

I did. Dead of winter way north of Scotland, very long evenings with Tom and too much whisky. One night I asked him about the visual images, and these are my notes:
By Tom [Anderson] on colors 12/15/79 [as told to Sandy Bradley]

Bb is blue, cold, lonely. Freddie’s tune is the blue of the sea or sky

Eb has got a lot of black, dark blue, almost indigo. It’s a despairing key, a virtuoso key. The devil who appears in black.

Cm is wierd: touches of fog & greyness & black. Deep grey, ‘flacid.’

F is silver, like the moon on the water. Moonlight Serenade key

C is grey, colorless: A ghost comes out of the mist and it forms into the shape of….

A is blood red for fighting, strathspeys, pipe tunes

Am is pink which can resolve itself into grey like a cloud over the sun. Sunrise and sunset.

D is dark red with speckles of white

G is mysterious, it sparkles, like cleaning the blood out of a joint [meat bone] and it runs grey with the water and specks of red

E purples. 4# Shoots up like the aurora. Complex with yellow and purple. Brilliant as 1/2 the rainbow. Like an aura.

Minors are mixed paints to make the shade.

Bach fugues demonstrate this. Duets and trios.
Strathspey in A: blood & adrenalin — war.

End of quote.

I just thought you’d like to know.

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