Hello all! I have been home for less than five hours, but I wanted to write this all down while my memory was as fresh as possible.
First of all, if you read my last post it was a release of my anxieties and it was slightly darker and deeper than I intended it to be but it helped with the release of all the things I was feeling at the time. When going into new things like that, you always have preconceived notions like: “I’m going to miss Estelle so much it’s going to ruin my time.” “It might be a wasted trip and I left her for nothing.” Y’know? That kind of thing.
Ashley, one of my Mother-in-Law’s accompanied me on this adventure. Once I became interested in traveling to Better Farm and completing their Sustainability Education Program, I knew that I couldn’t go alone. I wanted it to work out that Estelle could have one of her parents while the other one traveled and Ashley was one of the first people to pop in my head. She’s down to earth, she’s a little crazy at times but most importantly she’s down for almost anything and of course she said “OMG! Yes!” when I asked her if she was up for a crazy adventure with me.
Like every new experience, we both had our fair share of worries. Looking back now, a majority of them were silly and we soon figured that out. There were things like: Who were we going to be staying with? What were they going to be like? How is it going to be eating vegan for 3 days? And the more ridiculous worries like: Will they even have a TV or modern day appliances? Pretty much every aspect of the experience was going to be something new for us and we just didn’t really know what to expect, even after reading Nicole’s book.
Arriving at the farm was easy, minus the hurricane-force rain we experienced on the highway through Syracuse. We were welcomed inside the house, given the grand tour of everything and left to make ourselves comfortable. To make ourselves feel at home. Which didn’t take long, if I’m being honest! The uniqueness of the home was rustic and beautiful in every aspect, from the pictures on the walls to the plants in seemingly every room. There wasn’t a space untouched by creativity.
As time passed more “students” arrived, a family of four, mother, father and their two daughters from Ohio. (Side note, I’m going to refer to them as mother,father, and daughters just for privacy reasons, being that I never asked their permission to write about them) As we learned over the course of three days, the family had traveled to other farms across the country and learned about their lifestyle, farming practices and sustainability. The daughters were girl scouts ages 4 and 6, the father was a family practitioner and the Mother was a physical therapist gone yoga instructor. By the end of the weekend, I was so inspired by their learning as a family I was excited to learn with my family someday.
During our stay at the farm, all meals were served family style at a huge table in the main kitchen giving us plenty of time to bond with the other students. As I mentioned before, all meals were vegan (with the exception of eggs at breakfast) and they were delicious. Meat substitutes “have come a long way” as I have been told and the way they were cooked you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference! We had burgers, tacos and different pasta dishes that were all seasoned and cooked well.
As for the learning experience, everything was very basic and easy to follow!
The gardening portion of the course was taught by the Bennett Family from the nearby Bittersweet farm. We were shown gardening techniques, composting, container gardening, etc. We were able to plant our own seeds (I chose Thai basil ) and bring them home with us. We helped set up a raised garden bed and planted herbs and beets.
For the building portion of the course, we worked on installing siding on the tiny house on the property. During this portion the temperature was very high, as was the UV index. We were taught some basic building skills like “Tape Measure Reading 101”. (Ha!) We measure and cut some pieces for the siding, as well as installed a few boards before everyone was like “it’s too hot” and we cut it early.
One of the perks of the program was that they were not strict and they really cared about the well-being of everyone. We were constantly reminded to drink water, apply sunscreen if necessary, etc.
After a short hydration break, we went over some of the basics for Animal Stewardship. We briefly met the alpacas, horse and chickens, with the intentions of having a more in depth course the next day. For the remainder of the afternoon we went swimming at Lake of the Woods. It was a huge relief from the heat that we were all happy to have.
For our last day of the program, we were accompanied at our final family style breakfast by some of the Airbnb guests that had arrived the night before. There was a couple from Canada who worked in tech and were designing a pair of smart glasses, a student from Kansas who was studying Ecology and traveling to an island to continue her education. Meeting people from across the country, was something I’ve never experienced before and it was so interesting to talk to everyone about their work!
The second to last part of the program was finishing up the Animal and Land Stewardship that we were unable to finish the day before. We talked about barns and chicken coops, the chickens in general and how to care for the land. This was my favorite part because I am interested in someday raising my own chickens and animals! I love the idea of an animal sanctuary as well.
The last part of the program was “Survive”. We learned basic fire starting skills as well as some tricks that I hadn’t learned before, because I was never a girl scout (but Estelle is going to be!). We talked about building shelters in the woods, identifying a few edible plants, like burdock stems and followed deer tracks. In order to get through the woods we had to run through grass that was taller than I was. If you know me, tall grass is one of the biggest things on my peeves list. I hate tall grass, it makes me think of bugs and other animals that I can’t see and reminds me of scary movies where there are predators lurking out there to attack you. But I did it, I ran through the tall grass behind Ashley who was the first one to shrug her shoulders and follow the leader.
All in all, I had an amazing time. The simple things that I learned sent huge waves through my entire being and inspired me to change things in my life. I want to be less wasteful and more mindful about the products I’m bringing in the house. I’m going to try to be vegetarian for a while. I want to grow more plants, more food for my family. But also, it makes me want to have our own farm even more. The urge is real and I want to learn more!