Rockridge Final Reflections

This internship has been spectacular. The best part is, we’re not quitting! Although our fall internship concluded and our spring internship is wrapping up, Olivia and I will continue to work with the wonderful folks at Rockridge Retirement Community through the summer and into the fall. We should even be having some other interns from the five colleges joining the ranks!

We’ve got some of the plants that we started from seed in the preexisting raised beds already, four new raised beds have been built–Olivia and her father building two and she and myself building the other two, with a big community planting day coming up Friday May 30th.

All I can say, and I’m sure that I’ve said it a hundred times before, is that the people at Rockridge are amazing. From the staff that has been essential facilitating all pieces of the project to the residents who watch through their windows or grab a shovel and a rake, this community is great! Olivia and I have been able to do work and have fun at the same time, a wonderful combination.

Thanks Olivia, Thank you Rockridge, and Thank you GCC, I’m happy.

Olivia sharing our plans with Violet Young

Olivia sharing our plans with Violet Young

 

Writing is Fun

Oh it’s nice. It’s nice to feel like things are easy and stress just isn’t around. They just decided to stay away for a bit, not bother. Because writing is fun, and when it just happens it’s magical. Words just flow. Words that mean a lot to the writer, and will probably have a similar effect on the reader.

This Garden Guidebook that we are creating to help Rockridge Retirement Community manage their gardens into the future is a blessing, for me, and for Olivia I know it is too. It blows our mind on the regular. Some days one of us will look at the other and just say,”you know we’re pretty much writing a book.” I don’t know if I have fully realized the magnitude of the thing we are working on, but I know when we talk about it, when we run into Abrah or Tony and tell them the latest on the project, it’s like we realize a little more and a little more what we are really helping to create. We’re facilitators, and I am super happy with what we are facilitating.

No pictures this time, just words. Words.

The Art of Teamwork

Olivia Holcomb and I were lucky enough in the Fall to have gotten ourselves involved in the same internship, and now that we are deep in the planning for it (the internship consists of managing the already existing vegetable gardens at Rockridge Retirement Community, designing new raised beds for more gardening, and creating a guidebook including plant information and a comprehensive management plan for the gardens) I am incredibly thankful for having a teammate as great as Olivia. We have been able to get together at Rockridge, coffee shops, and our homes to work together, and then also put in time individually to make progress on a project that has us both really excited.

Just a couple of days ago we convened at Olivia’s apartment, with the broad goal of working on the project. This seems to me the way the internship has gone of late for the both of us: each of us having a serious desire to put time and effort towards developing plans for the gardens, but feeling like we didn’t know where to begin. On Monday when I went to her place, we shuffled around from the living room to the kitchen, taking on pieces of the project together and individually, and without a doubt feeling like we were doing good things. However, there was still a feeling of squirminess that was apparent in each of us. Thank the Heavens at some point Olivia looked at me and said something to the point of “Ian I need something real, something I can hold and write on and touch.” Her statement was in response to the fact that a lot of what we have been doing has been on the computer. We have been in email contact with the Volunteer Director at Rockridge, Abrah Dresdale at GCC and now have multiple Google Docs that contain most of our planning and guidebook efforts to date. What happened after she said that was kind of hilarious, and incredibly productive all at once. We each finished the tasks we were working on and then proceeded to grab a stack of computer paper and spread out across her kitchen floor creating a sort of storyboard/outline of the guidebook and all of the individual pieces of our larger mission.

Olivia's Olivia's

 

When she proposed the idea I thought it was really great and could tell it was exactly what she needed, so naturally I was all for it. What I didn’t realize is how invaluable it would be to me. It was EXACTLY what I needed too. The outline we created is amazingly quite thorough. Not that I didn’t expect it to be, but rather I didn’t have any specific expectations because it happened so fast. We were planning on taking 20 minutes to finish what we were already doing, then move to the storyboard. Less than ten minutes later we were spread out across the kitchen floor 5 pages in to what became an organized and nearly complete “guidebook” for ourselves to create a guidebook. 

Sometimes all it takes is a shift. Sometimes all it really takes is trying something different, and then fireworks go off (appropriately we were listening to a musical group named “Explosions in the Sky”). Sometimes all it takes is a friend, a partner to collaborate with, someone to shake you and say “this way isn’t working! Let’s try this!” Boom before you know it you’re making more progress in 45 minutes than you have made in three weeks. Teamwork is beautiful. It’s enjoyable, it’s tough, it’s inspiring (Olivia blows me away with her creativity) and it’s helpful. I really feel blessed. Since the beginning of this internship Olivia and I have been dumbfounded by this opportunity. I couldn’t think of a better culminating project for either of us. I just graduated and she is nearing the end of her Farm and Food Systems Associates Degree, and this endeavor brings together all of the things we have been learning about and allows us to practice them in a setting where we can give back. It feels appropriate. Since I started at GCC I have found myself increasingly becoming a part of a larger community. One that is really, really beautiful.

Warm winter fires

An encouragement to expand is a wonderful thing.

It’s the middle of the winter, and I’m thinking about gardening. I’m thinking about broccoli florets and colorful tomatoes.  I’m thinking of raised beds filled with beautiful annual vegetable crops, and little niches getting occupied by blueberry bushes. I’m thinking about what all that will be like when the snow melts, the grass turns green again, and the deciduous trees are all bearing leaves again. It will be beautiful, there is no doubt about that.

All of that said, what I’m really thinking about right now, is winter. It’s winter. I love winter. Just like I love the spring, in all its beauty, it’s freshness, I love the winter.  I love the way that the cold permeates your skin, into your bones. The way everything slows down, the quiet, the hawk overhead, undeterred. Winter is special, it allows for many things. Our biome has evolved to exist with winter, and its biota is dependant upon it. Many seeds of plants native to the Northeast require a cold dormancy period, in order for them to be viable come springtime. I think I need a cold dormancy period.  Maybe I’m more like a grown up perennial plant.  I’m not quite dormant, I’m already born, just bracing myself for the winter. Taking the time to reflect, time to slow down and think, remember what shoots and roots succeeded where I sent them, what seeds blossomed in what places, which neighbors were easy to work with. Winter is special.

This winter I have been using my time to plan. To do what a plant does, prepare. Olivia Holcomb and I have been working with the wonderful folks at Rockridge Retirement Community to coordinate their raised bed vegetable gardens. They have 15 4×4 beds, that they have grown various annual and perennial plants in. In the fall we cut back and pulled plants, added rich horse manure compost from Full of Grace Farm, and sheet mulched. We met with Kelly and Rachel at Rockridge and the two main chefs there. All this is in preparation for glorious spring when we will be implementing the planting plans that Olivia and I are in the thick of designing.

There are many amazing things about this project, from the simple pieces like tending the garden, to interacting with the wonderful folks at the community, to working with Olivia on something we both love to do. I think right now, however, the thing that excites most, is that not only is there encouragement, but there is a written requirement for expansion. We must grow their growing operation. Thankfully, that is exactly what Olivia and I want to do.

With warm winter fires and flowers blooming in mind, I say cheers, enjoy yourselves.     Ian Walton

Beyond the gardens, there is a lot of space to expand.

Beyond the gardens, there is a lot of space to expand.

Cherish It.

 

It has truly been a pleasure.  It has been a pleasure serving all of you CSA’ers.  It has been a pleasure meeting the Enterprise Farm crew.  They are a driven group that work more than most.  It has been a pleasure seeing everyone show up, excited to see what is in their box this week.  It reminds me of working at the Ashfield Farmers’ Market this summer.  When people can get together around a healthy lifestyle, around promoting supporting local and regional food, around community networking and friendships, then people can get together and be happy. I know there are many roads to happiness, and many people’s main goal is finding theirs, and so I am pleased to see people finding their road intersect with mine and maybe even for a time run parallel.  My road, as are most others, far from being happy all of the time. In fact they are often downright rocky, bumpy and treacherous.  I lost a dear friend this year to a rocky road dealt to him, and I miss him greatly. Losing him has made me realize more than ever that I need to cherish these connections with people and that when something comes along as beautiful as an opportunity to connect with people over great food, you have to take it.  We aren’t guaranteed much in life, you have to reach out and grab most of it.  Thanks for giving me something to reach for, all of you.

A hard working bunch

Yesterday solidified it all for me.  I knew that I liked Enterprise.  I knew that I like interning with an organic farm and helping them distribute their wonderful CSAs, but yesterday pieced it all together for me.  I have had nothing but good experiences with the Enterprise folks with whom I have interacted.  It is an important and special part of any kind of relationship.  Having said that, I should have had no reason to expect otherwise, and I didn’t, or rather I hadn’t really given it any thought, but yesterday at the farm, I saw how the team works together, how they smile and laugh and love each others company, and I could do nothing but smile and laugh along with them.  It was awesome too, to see how much overlap they had from person to person in their ability to do each others job.  They are a highly functioning business with standards that can be respected, passion for the work they do that is admirable, and care for each other that can be understood and enjoyed.  I have appreciated this opportunity greatly, and I can feel good now too, knowing that someone else will have it next semester, and they will get to work with an amazing group of people.

There will always be food.

There must always be food.

In times of loss,

There must always be food.

Bright lights shine.

We eat.

We grow.

We grieve.

We grow.

We nourish.

There must always be food.

Seeds, we plant.

Food, it grows.

Closely, we observe.

We learn.

We grow.

There must always be food.

It’s fresh.

We grow.

We harvest.

We eat.

It nourishes.

We grow.

It reproduces.

We interact.

We reproduce.

We grow.

There must always be food.

There will always be food.

 

Potluck please.

I am excited to think about the next time I will get together with many of the FHS organizing members.  We plan to have a debriefing meeting and a thank you writing note party.  I think that they may both be of the potluck atmosphere, which makes me really happy.  I have a really warm, happy feeling about being with all of those wonderful people in a setting where we can kind of kick back and relax, especially after all is said and done.  The one potluck I have been to was really really nice.  It left an awesome imprint on my brain of what a potluck is.  I am even, at this moment, considering having one at my apartment for the FHS crew if the other meetings don’t turn out to be the potluck atmosphere.  I really just think that I am yearning for a more personal, intimate setting with all of my fellow FHS organizing volunteers.  We had all of our meetings at Greenfield’s Market, which is awesome and I don’t think we could do it in any better place, but every time we have gotten together it has been pretty formal.  They are all amazing people and I think I just want to experience them outside of a work environment, even if we were all there voluntarily.

Looking back, after the fact

Well many things have been wrapped up for the Free Harvest Supper.  The event took place a little over a week ago with great success, I have completed my required hours, all but one donation jar has been collected and the donations from those jars have been sorted and counted.  This truly marks a point in my summer where I can step back and really feel good about what my summer was like.  I have just about completed everything I set out to do.  I took a summer 1 class and got an A, and have succeeded greatly in helping with an event that seems to me to be something truly amazing.  What I witnessed and experienced on that day was quite special.  I think the part that stands out in my mind the most is the moving mental image of masses of people unloading the U-Haul truck full of tables and chairs to set them up.  That image, to me, defines community.  I have to say it was hard at times to see myself making all of this happen.  Acquiring the 70 hours was starting to seem a little bit out of reach and I started writing my blogs pretty late into the process.  I was nervous for a while, and being that it was all up to me, that made it even more of a challenge.  I mean I did have Abrah checking in to see how things were going, and other people around that kept me informed and checked in from time to time, but being that it wasn’t an in class setting and I had quite a lot of responsibility, this was one of the more challenging things that I have done for school ever.  It was great.

The Aftermath

The sun had set and the setting was calm.  None but a few feet carried owners across the slowly breathing street.  Just a couple of hours before, the street was quite overwhelmed, having never dealt with over 1,000 hungry and happy humans moving about on that special Sunday in August.  Yes there were balloon animal makers and funky blues rock musicians; there was free food for everyone prepared and unprepared;  the mayor was selling tickets for the prize drawing; and people were smiling all over Court Square and the town common in Greenfield, MA.  This year—my first year of involvement with the Free Harvest Supper was the most amazing one to date.  As I said there were over 1,000 people in attendance which is a new record, we had 120 volunteers (not including the group recruited by the Hope and Olive/Magpie crew to prepare the food) on hand, musicians from young funky blues rockers to a women’s choir to musical saws.  We had a state senator and a state representative serving food, and a former city councilor on the fundraising crew.  It was a beautiful day and I was blessed to have so many of my friends and family there with me, some volunteering themselves even, and others just soaking up the contagious pleasant vibes that were oh so present.
It does seem crazy to me, how events like this take so much preparation, so many people and so much time to bring them into fruition, and then the event itself lasts merely a few hours.  I don’t know if I could have handled much more anyways, being that I was there for a good seven hours, but it definitely happened in a flash.  It’s as if, after an event like that, when you sit and take in the space again, where not long before there were tents and tables and chairs, boxes and people there is now a certain silence that exists inside yourself and about your surroundings that wasn’t even there before you started.  It really doesn’t even matter that you are still downtown and cars are driving by and people are walking around, there is a silence that runs deep.  It is a beautiful noise.