In this entry, two students—Leila Rezvani and Catherine DiPietro—speak of their work on the farm. Leila speaks first and then Catherine, both voices alternating throughout the blog as they complete chores. Although they had different roles on the farm, they discovered that they share a similar perspective about Chewonki. -AJ
Every weekend, two students volunteer to help Megan and Jeremy on the farm for afternoon chores. This task is highly coveted and almost everyone raises their hand when the selection is being made. However, this past weekend, Meghan and Jeremy were attending a MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) conference and were not able to be back in time for Saturday chores. Instead, two students were picked to lead in their stead, in addition to two students to help out. As usual, everyone jumped at the chance to be able to be on the farm, milk Lola, play with Clementine, and feed the sheep. But this time would be special- there would be no experienced adults present to guide you, answer your questions, or tell you what task to do next. Out of all of the students, Francesca and I were chosen to lead chores on Saturday. We were both extremely excited but nervous to have responsibility over the entire farm. We were to go to the farm on Friday to be trained (which I unfortunately forgot to do and went on the Mud Rove) and then again on Saturday at 4 pm to actually do the chores.
This past weekend I volunteered to do student farm chores on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, which was something I had wanted to do since the first few weeks of being at Chewonki. The weekend, I chose however, the farmers were not going to be there, and left the farm in the hands of two students—Leila and Francesca– who had experience milking the cow and working on the farm. There is a lot of responsibility that goes with this job; they had to complete all of the regular daily tasks on the farm, but they also had to teach Sarah and I, the volunteers, how to milk and complete these chores.
Saturday afternoon finally came, and Francesca, Catherine, Sarah and I all reported to the farm. We divided up tasks: Sarah fed Clementine, I fed the sheep and gave them water, Catherine fed and watered the chickens and collected eggs, and Francesca gave hay to Sal, our workhorse. We all reconvened for milking, the best part of chores in my opinion. Lola and Adeline were in the pasture right next to the farm at that point, having been rotated through all of the other ones in the past few months. We gathered the milking buckets and the hand & udder washing buckets, and headed down to pasture. We gave Adeline, a beautiful old brown cow and my favorite animal on the farm, her grain and tied up Lola. Adeline ate her food and went off to browse on the other side of the pasture while we washed Lola’s udders, covered them in Bag Balm and set to work milking. It was both Sarah and Catherine’s first time milking, so we let them start while Francesca and I watched and gave tips on technique, both of us having done milking when we were on morning farm chores. The farm was beautiful and peaceful, as always, with Sal munching on hay nearby and a spectacular sunset just starting to be visible in the sky. Milking went smoothly, if a little long due to Nettie, the name of the never-ending teat who supplies most of the milk. We finished by weighing the milk, washing the eggs, sweeping the barn, and cleaning the milk room. The sunset was becoming more and more stunning every moment, so we finished chores by sprinting down to the dock to watch the sun fall over the water, a perfect end the past few hours.
When we arrived at farm chores at 4:00 on Saturday, both of the students that were put in charge had set up the food and water for the animals, and made preparations for us. Right away they gave us tasks to complete and directed us where to go. I was in charge of feeding and watering the chickens and collecting their eggs, while Sarah took care of the work horse, Sal. After we were finished with our small responsibilities, the four of us gathered together to milk Lola, the cow. The two students knew exactly what to do, and began to teach Sarah and I the techniques of milking efficiently. After 45 minutes or so, Sarah and I finished milking as the sun was setting.
Farm chores are by far my favorite part of daily life at Chewonki because of how effective and responsible I feel when I perform them. Physically taking care of an animal creates a bond with it that is hard to describe but incredibly powerful. And, in the most basic sense, the farm keeps us alive as well, providing us with milk, eggs, meat and vegetables for our table as well as enjoyment and happiness when we work there. On top of all of this, this past weekend was even more special because students were given full responsibility over the farm for the first time ever. I feel that being trusted to that extent is extremely hard to come by, and can only be found at a few places besides Chewonki. This trust is one of the many reasons I love it here so much- your elders treat you as equals in decision making, seriously consider your opinion in all matters, and hold you to the same standard to which they hold others.
Although I did not have the farmers– Meghan and Jeremy– to direct me through my chores this weekend, I was amazed at how organized their two student replacements were. They knew exactly what they were doing, and fulfilled the expectations of the farmers. I was really impressed at how must trust the farmers expressed in leaving the health of all of their animals in the hands of these two students. They depended on these two students to keep up with the many responsibilities of running the farm. This gesture reflects perfectly the trust system at Chewonki; the Staff counts on the students to be responsible and fulfill their everyday duties autonomously instead of having to be asked on a daily basis. I really appreciate the amount of trust and independence that is given to the students here at Chewonki.
-Leila Rezvani & Catherine DiPietro
Ellicott City, MD & Owings Mill, MD