Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Walk Along the Ridge

Today was orientation day at the Farm School, which involved very little sitting inside listening to regulations, and quite a lot of walking around outside on this beautiful fall day, visiting with animals and people and talking to plants. We walked the whole distance along the ridge between Maggie's Farm (home of the Practical Farm Training Program) and Sentinel Elm Farm (home of the Program for Visiting Schools). Here's a brief itinerary:

1. A brisk morning walk up the road about 3/4 of a mile to check out the North Orange fields, two and a half fertile acres that the Farm School leases from the town. We walked past the tiny North Orange public library and wound our way up the ridge through bright red and golden leaves to the fields, mostly sowed with cover crop now (oats and vetch) but still hosting a few beds of tasty-looking parsnips and some delicious golden raspberries.

2. Back down the road, we stopped at Maggie's house, right across from the farmhouse where we all live. We met Maggie in her garden and she gave us a brief history of the farm. Her great-grandfather bought the land in the late 1800's, and her family has been farming it since. About ten years ago, Maggie gave the land to the Farm School to act as the home base for their newest program, the Practical Farm Training Program. It was wonderful to stand with her on he land, walk through her gardens, taste her apples, and listen to her talk about the history of this place.

3. Back at Maggie's Farm, we walked through the home garden - a quarter acre or so that is exclusively for us. It's our space to grow food for the house, as well as experiment with interesting vegetables and varieties. Right now there's still some basil, red peppers, herbs and lettuce, much of which we ate for dinner tonight.

4. Just before lunch, we met the kids at the Chicken Coop School, an alternative school for local middle-schoolers who also make their home at Maggie's Farm. They were an excited, energetic bunch, and we went on an enthusiastic scavenger hunt together which included silly skits and singing in Spanish.

5. Farm animals! After lunch (root soup, fresh salad, and bread), we walked around the farm and met all the animals: the beef herd, including six adorable calves, the chickens, the flock of sheep, and the two draft horses, Ruby Star and April. It is exciting to be sharing the land with a crew of such excellent creatures.

6. Leaving Maggie's Farm, we walked south along the ridge toward Sentinel Elm Farm. Stops along the way included two of our other major production fields, gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight and ringed with gorgeous fall trees. Along with the dying tomatoes, these fields included a gorgeous stand of fall brassicas: chard, kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage. We also visited some of further pastures and hayfields, with a gorgeous view of the surrounding hils and down toward town.

7. At Sentinel Elm Farm, we met Pride, the dariy cow we'll be taking care of this fall, and walked her back along the road to her new home at Maggie's. She seems quite sweet, and even if she didn't enjoy the quiet, fall-scented walk along the ridge as much as I did, she didn't give us any trouble. After settling her into her stall for the night, we all came back to the farm house to relax after a long day.

It was a truly wonderful opening day. The weather was fall-like and beautiful, and it was such a blessing to spend all day starting to get acquainted with the land, the animals and the people. Food abounds here. For dinner a couple of us made a good old-fashioned stir-fry with a bunch of veggies from the farm, and a yummy peanut sauce. I am looking forward to a year chock full of learning, good food, beautiful days spent outside, and new friends and mentors.

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