It seems so long ago, that first morning here on the Chewonki campus…
Our eight separate alarms woke us from our very first night’s sleep in Orchard House. It took all of us a moment and a few blinks to realize where we all were and why we were waking up at 6:00 a.m. on an August morning. We eight girls from Orchard House of Maine Coast Semester 41 had our first day of farm chores. We all pulled on our work boots and trudged over to the infamous Hilton, where we brushed out teeth before anyone else had even woken up.
My boots flapped against my legs and we hurriedly made our way to the Wallace Center to collect the several buckets of slop and compost from the kitchen. We had to search for a few minutes to find the red farm cart, but we finally did. The buckets were loaded onto the cart and they all just barely fit. I donned my brand new work gloves, grabbed the handles of the farm cart, and started pushing my way to the farm. Margaret, Jeremy, and Abby were already waiting in the entrance of the barn when we arrived.
Quickly, the three of them gave us an introduction to the Chewonki Farm, and then jobs were given out. Tenaya volunteered for barn duty; Kelly and I raised our hands for slop and compost; Taylor, Sarah, Ashley, and Emily agreed to care for the chickens; and Johanna’s heart practically leapt out of her chest with excitement when they asked who wanted to milk Lola. Kelly and I brought the slop over to the door of the pig pen and Margaret taught us what to do. Without thinking, Kelly and I jumped right in behind Margaret with the buckets and were bombarded by the snouts of the curious pigs. As quickly as possible, I dumped the slop into the pigs’ food buckets and jumped out of the pen. The last thing Kelly and I had to do that morning was clean out the buckets. Our first experience with the compost would happen the next morning.
When Kelly and I slid the covering of the compost open the next morning and took the planks of wood of the front of the crate, we were overwhelmed with the stench of composting food waste, something I had never imagined. Turning the compost was something entirely new and completely out of my element. When I stepped into the pile of compost, I sunk to my knees. And when I tried to run away, my feet moved in slow motion and made a squishing noise. This was my job for the next two weeks. After a few days, it simply became routine. Kelly and I would wake up early to get to the compost, and we worked on perfecting our turning technique.
My sole purpose became caring for the compost. I became incredibly defensive of it and focused on its well-being. Throughout the day, if I walked by the slop and compost buckets and saw something in one of them that didn’t belong, I would stick my hand in and pull out banana peel from the slop or the paper from a tea bag from the compost. During morning meeting, I would make announcements from time to time calling attention to the compost and reminding people as to what went in the buckets.
Now that Orchard’s farm chores are completed and its Ellie and Hazel’s turn to care for the compost, it just seems unfamiliar to wake up and not head over to the farm. It’s a nice break, but I will most likely volunteer for farm chores on weekends throughout the semester.
-Alex Feuer, Princeton, NJ