I cannot believe it is already day 14 here at Chewonki Semester School. It feels like we moved in yesterday, but at the same time, like we’ve all known each other forever. The past two weeks have blown my mind with non-stop activities from harvesting potatoes to hosting the first Chewonki Semester 55 Coffeehouse. These first two weeks have been especially amazing for my cabin mates in Gordy and me, because we have been on morning farm chores every day.
Every morning, my Gordy sisters and I wake up at 6 am to get to the farm to start our chores. There are a variety of morning chores; feeding the chickens, taking care of the pigs, turning the compost, taking care of our horse Sal, and the one I’ve been lucky enough to do, milking the cows. We get to the farm at around 6:25 am and I immediately go and wash my hands to make sure the cows don’t get any bacterial infections on their udders. I can’t touch anything as I walk over, which always reminds me of when characters on Grey’s Anatomy scrub in before surgery. After I make my way to the milking room, I sit down with one of the three amazing farmers, Megan, Lisa, or Hilary, and start milking. The art of milking quickly is quite hard to achieve, but I can say this; after two weeks of getting better and better, I fill up half a pail and make foam! (Producing foam as you milk is a big achievement in the cow farming world.) I then take the milk and weigh it. Most mornings, I’ve milked Gerry the cow while my friend Lily milks Halo. Gerry usually produces about 11 and a half pounds of milk while Halo is upwards of 14 pounds.
After the milking process, I walk down with one of the farmers and put the cows back into the pasture that they are in for the day. Our farm at Chewonki rotates our animals in a circle around the whole farm so grass has a chance to re-grow and replenish its nutrients. After I bring them back, I move the water buckets and salt from the enclosure they were in the night before to the one they are in now. Then I run back up to the barn and hook up the hose to fill up the buckets. Every morning I get to see the sunrise over the farm and it always reminds me of how lucky I am to be here.
These last few days of farm chores have been incredibly sad because I never want them to end. At the same time, it is incredibly satisfying to be able to look back on all the work we have done over the first two weeks of the semester. We all went into our individual chores having no background experience in the animals we were taking care of and no idea how to deal with them. We didn’t know the personalities that each animal has, which made it hard to take care of them at first. But now, I can honestly say that on the final day of farm chores, we all know how the animals we have cared for work; Emily knows exactly where Sal likes to be brushed, Ellie knows how to feed the chickens without them running out of their enclosure, Parker knows how to take care of pigs better than anyone I know, and I have become so close with my cows I can give them a look if they’re doing something bad and they’ll stop immediately.
Looking at the relationships we all developed with our individual chores from day one to day fourteen shows such an incredible difference. I never thought I would be able to walk two cows down to the other end of the farm by myself and get them into the pasture, but I’ve done it, and done a pretty good job at it. I’ve learned so much from taking care of these two animals every day for two weeks. It sounds funny to be thanking two cows for what they did for me, rather than all I did for them, but they taught me about trust and respect in ways humans couldn’t. My Gordy family and I have learned so much from each of our individual chores that will stick with us forever.
Each of the farmers has also taught me incredible things; Megan taught me how a farm works and how every piece is crucial in the whole farm running smoothly. Hilary taught me how to properly milk a cow and answered all my questions about everything cow related. And Lisa taught me how to filter and pasteurize the milk. They taught me so much in the past two weeks and I truly cannot thank them enough for giving me their trust in taking care of Halo and Gerry (the cows) every morning. I am so grateful for everything they taught me farm related and also all the nice conversations about life we’ve had from opposite sides of the cows while milking. I hope they know how much I admire and look up to them everyday. I cannot wait to see what the rest of Semester 55 entails. I’ve made incredible friendships with people from all over the country already and I cannot wait to see them grow and become stronger. Let the second chore of the semester begin…
-Sarah Estey, Friends’ Central School, PA
Learn more about Chewonki Semester School on our website,chewonki.org/semester.