March 2004

Winter (written in February)  by Lorraine

        We are over halfway through another north country winter.  This morning it is snowing and the guys are out shoveling and I just picked up the phone and assured an elder that we would come by today and bring in the mail and clear off the steps again.  Family and friends call after watching weather news; they ask if we are buried and how we are coping.  The snow has been deep and so has the cold.   (One day the high was -8.)  The pipes have frozen in various places but have always thawed without bursting.  The light box has helped me cope with the darkness.  Zach and Dan have skis this year (Zach scavenged at the dump when we went to Maine in the fall) and skiing through the fields helps us see the beauty of the snow.  A neighbor has been coming by and plowing the parking lot when he sees Zach and Dan working with the scoops.  We bought a generator and haven’t had to worry when the power starts to flicker.  Letters and calls and visits and prayers have helped us through the coldest darkest days.  We never quite found the slow time as our work with children and the needs of the elders grow and the work of planning is set aside in the growing season to be dealt with in winter months.

        When it was too cold for children to be outside and all the weather reports included wind chill warnings, we discovered that this barn has its uses even in winter when we don’t host groups.  We stacked all the beds from the second floor dorm in the alcove on one end of it, leaving plenty of open space for play.  We bought large balls for bouncing and hopping and rolling over.  We brought in hoops and jump ropes we use in warmer weather at the After School Program.  On Saturdays we bring children for 3 hours at a time to play in that space and build with blocks and make music and art.  The children enjoy the active play and they are ready then to settle down in their smaller spaces at home.   The ASP got off to a slow start this year but we have picked up new students in the new year and a couple students who were with us last year as 5th graders asked if they could return and busing was arranged with the school so that they could.  Some children we see both at the ASP and here at the farm, and many materials are used in both places.  One boy who is described as having difficulty academically spent a recent afternoon at the farm totally absorbed in working with an electronics kit from the ASP.  He was able to read the manual, follow the directions to build various circuits, and figure out what would happen if different components were used.  

        The elders as well as the children find winter weather difficult, but instead of needing a place to use their excess energy they need help with simple things they can do for themselves when it isn’t so cold or icy.  They can hire someone to plow their driveways but then need help clearing snow from their steps and walkways.  When the roads are slippery or visibility is poor in snow, they need prescriptions and groceries picked up.  Sometimes when activities are canceled because of weather and they have been at home for a few days watching the snow pile up they just need someone to talk to. We fill bird feeders, chip ice and rake snow off roofs, bring mail from a box at the end of the driveway but out of reach.  We do the little things that help elders living alone cope until spring.

        The snow is still deep and the icicles cover the first floor windows but we’re turning toward spring.  In the silence of morning prayers today I heard a chickadee singing the two note summer song.  The daylight grows on both ends of our days.  Seeds have been ordered.  As we ski through the fields Zach remembers last years haying and plans what he’ll do differently this time.  We are making plans for Boston College students who will be here the first week of March and then Deacon David Sweenie will bring the Spanish Apostolate for a weekend Lenten retreat and students from SUNY Cortland and Oswego will come the last weekend of March.  Whatever snow may still be left then, winter will be over and a new season of groups and growing begun.

Boston College Reflection   by Emily Walsh

In the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson creates a character with two contrasting personalities. There is the pleasant, rational one that exists during the day, and the decrepit, dark one that comes out during the night. The thing is though, is that both personalities exist within the same person and neither personality is aware of the other one. Reading this story makes one more aware of the inner workings of their mind, as well as thankful for their sanity, for living with a split personality would be a very painful thing to deal with indeed, not only for ourselves, but also for those around us. And yet, don’t we all live with a degree of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome? 

        I am a 21-year-old student at Boston College, a Jesuit university that emphasizes the motto of “men and women for others.” Jesuits are traditionally known for their commitment to education, serving the poor, and leading a simple life. These Jesuit ideals are seen in some of the various classes and programs that BC has to offer; classes that make you look inside of yourself and ask questions that aren’t normally asked, or might make one feel uncomfortable, pushing them to really think and consider what is being discussed. The university is also very proud of its array of service opportunities outside of the classroom, both domestic and international. This second part of BC, the commitment to community service, was something that attracted me to the school and one of the central reasons that I chose to spend my 4 years of college at BC.  

For the past 3 years, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Appalachia program, which sends nearly 600 college-student volunteers to various service placements in the Appalachian area for their spring break. It is through this program that I came to know St. Francis Farm during my freshman year. While most of the Appalachia placements are large trips that work with Habitat for Humanity, or run a camp for kids, the SFF placement is somewhat different. For starters, it is a smaller trip, and while physical service is certainly a component of the week, in my experience, the biggest transition for the students who stay at the farm is witnessing what it means to live out the Catholic mission of serving others, and the rich questions and topics that Lorraine, Joanna, Zach and Dan present and grapple with. This, in my opinion, is what makes this experience different from the rest, for it is impossible to stay at St. Francis Farm and not be forced to assess where you are in your life, as well as consider whether or not you are living in line with your beliefs and genuinely consider where you are heading. If you leave this place without it impacting your soul, it is not for lack of substance of depth, but because you haven’t allowed yourself to be completely open to it.

In the second paragraph of this article, I described the ideologies and programs that I love about BC, and why I chose to be a part of that community. But, as with any situation, there is another side. While I have found a community of people who “care” about world issues, relieving the suffering of others, and a desire to bring about justice and equality to our world, I have also found an underlying tone of apathy. I have found contradictions with what we say and with what we do, both at the level of administration, as well as amongst the student body. I buy my books from a bookstore that sells clothing produced in sweatshops, I drink Coke products from the dining hall, I spend $50 on a ticket to a homecoming dance and I go to parties where beer flows like water. I go to a school that pays more attention to how one looks than to how one feels, I sit next to boys at lunch who discuss what girl they got to go home with for the night, and girls who are trying to decide whether Abercrombie or Gap is the more appropriate brand to wear for the day. Am I exaggerating? Maybe. Am I being honest? Certainly, and I recognize the fact that by virtue of being a part of this community, I am also a part of this hypocrisy. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome of Boston College affects every student at the school.

This is a scary thing for me to recognize because I consider myself as someone who is conscious and willing to make sacrifices for change. But there are also times that I don’t want to admit that some of the actions I take may be contributing to injustices that I am both aware and not aware of. There have been so many times I have heard the excuse that living simply, or being constantly conscious of whether or not one’s actions are at the expense of another person, is impossible. And yet the community at St. Francis Farm proves that this just isn’t the case. It may not be easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. 

I recognize that we each have different gifts, are called to do different things, and there is not one method or way in which we can change the world. But I will never be satisfied with the status quo, simply because that is the way things have always been, or because it is easier for only a certain percentage of the population. If we let the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome of acting one way at certain times and another at others, permeate our existence, what kind of world are we living in, and what kind of global community are we looking to build in the future? We need to live in line with our morals; there is no other way. In not facing the tough questions head on in the present moment, we are only setting ourselves up for

tougher questions in the future.  As Elizabeth Elliot writes: “The life of faith is lived one day at a time, and it has to be lived—not always looked forward to as though the ‘real’ living were around the next corner. It is today for which we are responsible.”

Garden Volunteers?        by Joanna

The garden is deep in snow, and now that onions, leeks, peppers and eggplants are started indoors there isn’t much to be done in the agriculture department for a month or so; but as we plan for next year we realize that what we hope to grow will keep us fairly busy.   Last year we grew plenty for eating during the summer, and enough tomatoes and green beans to can and peas to freeze for winter, but we’re hoping to grow more root crops to store this year. And we keep finding more people to give fresh vegetables to.  

Some of the elders who we’re shoveling and running errands for now  spent most of their lives gardening, and now are finding that they don’t have the strength to turn garden beds or bend over and weed; they still enjoy greens and squash and leeks in their seasons.  Children who visit and say they don’t ever like healthy food find that they actually like cherry tomatoes and edible pod peas and want to take some home.  I started sending vegetables home with a boy from the nearby subsidized housing complex, and after a few weeks one of his neighbors wanted to know why she had been left out of the vegetable give-away.  We started bringing boxes of extra produce down to the apartments every week when we picked up children, and everything we brought was taken—even the yellow tomatoes, after some hesitation.  This year we would like to grow more to share.  Some extra hands to help with the growing would make this easier.  

        What we can grow is partly limited by the number of garden beds we have available. Working the beds by hand has given us deeper, softer workable soil as well as saving fossil fuel, but it is a slow process.  Breaking ground and turning new beds can be exhausting, but it also provides fresh air, good exercise and an opportunity for conversation—and it only has to be done once. 

As the growing season progresses we would also welcome help with less strenuous and more constant jobs, such as weeding, harvesting(which takes a long time in peak tomato season), feeding (with side-dressings of compost or foliar seaweed spray) and succession planting.  

Advice from experienced gardeners would also be helpful.  We still have a lot to learn, especially about seed saving (bush beans and peas tested out well, but pole beans and lettuce were more problematic), growing winter vegetables in greenhouses with only solar heat, slug control, strawberry thinning and companion planting.

~

We have never had a more literate population, or a more powerless one.  Now the best-educated people in the history of the world do not know what to do with what they know.

        Everything is too big for us, too overwhelming for us, too global for us.  So we ‘mind our own business’ and  ignore everything else.  We have learned well not to see the bodies that we step over in the streets or the elderly ill in our neighborhood.  Then are the responsibility of someone else—of bureaus and agencies and faceless civil servants.  We have handed conscience over to government programs and looked away. (Joan Chittister, There Is A Season)

        It is not a matter of doing great things.  No, it is far worse than that.  It is a matter of doing small things courageously. (ibid)

Organization

        St. Francis Farm Community now officially exists as a corporation.  We  filed our certificate of incorporation with the State Department in December, and in late February we held an organizational meeting in which we adopted bylaws and chose directors to provide oversight, advice, help and continuity to the farm.  We have been able to preserve the simple and non-hierarchical nature of this place.  Instead of designating a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, we have decided that our officers will be Core Members, who must have lived and worked here for at least one year, and who will carry out the work of St. Francis Farm and make decisions as needed. The four of us who live here now are Core Members.  

We continue to live by gifts given and received, taking no salaries.  The board of directors will meet once a year to appoint new Core Members as needed, and to renew the terms of existing Core Members or, if things are getting out of hand, to end them. In between meetings individuals on the board will advise and support us in various ways. Decisions will be made, not by voting, but by a Spirit-based consensus process.

        Lorraine and Joanna are on the Board along with five others. 

Father Tony Keeffe worked with Fr. Ray McVey even before Unity Acres was founded, and helped him think about how the farm could best be used to meet the needs of low-income families in the local community. During his twelve years as a pastor in Pulaski and Lacona he organized various community outreach ministries, including a clothing room and a food pantry, and he has continued this work in his other parishes. When the farm began to host service-learning groups Father Tony came to lead discussions about social justice.  Since his retirement last year he has spent a lot of time here, helping us with the sometimes confusing and tedious process of incorporation, giving us advice about the dilemmas of our day-to-day work here, helping us connect with people in the wider community and telling wonderful stories about the history of this place and his work for peace and justice in other places. He is an incorporator and initial Board member along with Lorraine and Joanna, and he helped us to find some of our other board members.

Joe Morton is a professor of logic and peace studies at Goucher College in Maryland.  He has traveled extensively among Catholic Worker communities and other peace-minded groups.  He is closely involved with the ministries of Jonah House, a center for Plowshares actions (nonviolent civil disobedience working against war and militarism) and local community outreach, and Viva House, a Catholic Worker house in Baltimore. He’s also on the board of Peace Brigades International. He has been a friend of St. Francis Farm since before we knew it, and we always look forward to his visits, his cheerful help with whatever work we’re doing and his thoughtful perspective.  Some of you may remember his article in our  March 2002 newsletter.

Mike Huynh will be familiar to many of you who have been friends and supporters of the farm for several years.  He was a member of this community for several years, and after his marriage to Christy Harrison, another longtime community member, he stayed for a little while to help us learn about this place and work when we were new.  He is currently working as a counselor at Bishop Ludden Jr/Sr High School in Syracuse, and is involved in music and other forms of ministry at the Newman Center at SUNY Oswego. He drops in to visit and encourage us, and to hunt and fish; one of the boys who we work with had the time of his life salmon-fishing with patient and good-humored help from Mike.

Carmelyn Hevey first visited the farm on Palm Sunday of 2003 with other parishioners invited by Fr. Tony.  She was already familiar with the Catholic Worker movement and wanted to live the Gospels in a more present way.  As a registered nurse she seeks to serve the sick and elderly and comfort the weary.  Working with the Vietnamese community has raised awareness of the lives of migrant workers.  She works in the food and clothing pantries at St. Patrick’s in Williamstown and has helped facilitate retreats using the arts and nature in prayer and meditation.  We’ve already been grateful for her advice and support and look forward to getting to know her better as she becomes more involved here.

Joe Pidkaminy is the president of the parish council of St. Patrick’s Church in Williamstown, where Father Tony was pastor before his retirement.    He has been through a 2-year formation for ministry program, especially focused on work with the sick and elderly.  He loves the area—after a brief experiment with living in the city he came back to the North Country and has just built a home in Parish.  He came to visit the farm along with Carmelyn and Father Tony, and he’s been back to help us figure out how to fix ailing switches and cranky stoves.  We all enjoy his help and his company.

Now that we have held our organizational meeting we are ready to receive the title to the farm’s land from Time of Jubilee, which has been very patient with the slow unfolding of this process.

We are beginning the process of filing for tax exemption, but we don’t know when it will be completed.  We know that many people have strong feelings on both sides of the issue of tax-exemption, and that it is not usual for Catholic Workers to be tax-exempt (although it has happened before). Some feel that allowing donors to receive a tax deduction encourages giving for the wrong reasons.  However, it seems good to us that people can reduce the amount of money which they send to finance our government’s wars by giving to places that work for peace.  At this point, however, we are NOT tax-exempt and donations are not deductible.  The process will take some time.  More about this in the next newsletter.

We are grateful to Effie Kritikos and Patrick Lee, students in the Syracuse University clinical law program, who have helped us with this process free of charge, and to Professor Deb Kenn, who has helped them and us figure out the legality of some of the more unconventional provisions of our bylaws.  Also to Father Tony Keeffe, and to all of you who continue to make this place, this work, this life possible.

Maintenance         by Zachary

This winter has not been a very busy time for maintenance projects, but we are looking ahead to a busy spring on many fronts.  The greenhouse interior is finished except for the floor slab, which will be poured in the spring or summer.  The sink in the garden room has been installed, and will be used for washing things like plant pots, goat dishes and other things that we don’t want to bring into the kitchen.  We have purchased a generator which can be used to run the barn when the power is out.  We are planning to run buried cables to the farmhouse and well house from the barn, which will eliminate 2 of our electric meters, and save $30 to $40 per month on our electric bill.  This will also make it possible for the generator to run the well during power outages, which will make taking care of the animals much easier. In the next week or two we are going to be building a wall to provide more privacy for RMMOC’s medical clinic, and we have repaired the walls of a small upstairs office there.  We have painted the ceilings of two rooms at the Friendship Thrift Shop with the  Boston College group, and also painted at the houses of some local families.  Another project which needs to be undertaken this spring is the disassembly of the 2nd trailer up the hill from the farm.  It is not in good condition, and at this point it would take more work to make it habitable than we think makes sense to be done, especially since we cannot see any use for it in the near future.  Much of it can be salvaged for other uses, the only difficulty being finding the time to do it, and the space to store them.  We are going to to be looking at the farmhouse this summer to see what can be done to make it more usable.  It is a large question, which will take quite a bit of thought.  We would very much appreciate help with these and many other projects here on the farm, if anyone has time for it.  

~

That  is always our temptation when we set out to do good: to do it in a way that will leave us above the fray.  But our desire to stay above it all reveals our misunderstanding of right action….Right action  can only be an immersion of ourselves in reality, an immersion that involves us in relationship, that takes us to our place in the organic nature of things.  (Parker Palmer, The Active Life)

The quality of our active lives depends heavily on whether we assume a world of scarcity or a world of abundance. In a universe of scarcity only people who know the arts of competing, even of making war, will survive,  But in a universe of abundance acts of generosity and community become not only possible but fruitful as well.  (ibid)

Wish List

Volunteers to help with gardening, maintenance and repairs (see other articles)

Garden spades or shovel handles

Loppers

Mattresses and box springs for dorms

Books (not textbooks) in Spanish

Puzzles up to 100 pieces

Binoculars

Boots and snowpants in small sizes for visiting children

Manure spreader, and manure

Field mowers in any condition, or parts

Lumber

Sledgehammers 

Washers, bolts, and cotter pins

Hay rake

Hay wagon or running gear

Money

Prayers

ST. FRANCIS FARM

136 Wart Road

Lacona, NY 13083

315-298-2844

stfrancisfarm@yahoo.com

www.stfrancisfarm.org

June 2004

May is perhaps the loveliest month on the farm.  The woods are carpeted in trillium and spring beauty and the low wet places with marsh marigolds.  The orioles sing from the tops of the tallest trees and brighten the days with flashes of orange as they chase each other.  One pair of robins has a nest behind St. Francis on the front of the barn that faces the road.  Another nest is tucked just under the floor boards of the landing on the outside stairs of the house.  Bluebirds and tree swallows have built nests in the boxes we put out last month.  There are fresh herbs to go in the goat cheese and fresh asparagus to cut each day from the garden.  The evening frog chorus is at its fullest with the last of the peepers still calling along with the first of the bullfrogs.

        The other side of May is that the black flies are still with us and the mosquitoes have just started.  The work piles up. When Joanna gets sick and loses a few days in the garden and Zachary has to set aside his to-do list to work on a problem with the drains and Dan goes home to New Jersey for his brother’s college graduation the pile begins to look overwhelming.  The After School Program is still going on with students restless with spring and testy after days of standardized testing.  The weeds in the garden always grow faster than the grass in the pasture.  Zachary wants time to go for long bike rides and I want time to take photographs of trout lilies and to figure out where the yellow warblers and the flickers and the kingbirds are nesting.  Joanna misses time to write the stories and poems that run through her mind as she works and Dan misses time to play his saxophone.

        The delight and the weariness stretch me and I struggle to learn again a lesson learned in other times and places—how to keep my balance in the moment,  doing the work faithfully and staying present to those around me and giving thanks for the abundant blessings.  In June Sr. Louise is leaving Rural & Migrant Ministry for a clinic in Stamford CT where a Spanish speaker is needed and where she will be able to live with other sisters of her order. I sit by our pond with her and watch swallows skim the surface and a water snake chase a frog out of the water at our feet and a large snapping turtle lumber through the grass and glide into the pond while we talk of the children and families we work with in the After School Program and about the future.  The silences are filled with memories of the past two and a half years and the work and talk and meals and tears we’ve shared.  We talk longer than we’d planned and she comes in for supper with us and goes out with Joanna to milk the goats and meets Dan’s father who has just brought Dan back from New Jersey. When we decided to take on this work in the summer of 2001, I asked Sr. Louise whom I had only recently met if she would be willing to meet with me regularly.  I knew I’d want some help working through the recent deaths of my parents and that I would need someone wise and experienced in service to help me through the rough patches. I try to enjoy the time with her and be thankful instead of focusing on the gap that will be left when she leaves.

        On May 15th a group of high school students and adults came to spend the morning helping at the farm.  The rain that was threatening held off so that everyone was able to get out to the garden and catch up with the weeds.  Paths were cleared and beds dug and manured for planting.  The garlic and peas were weeded and the area around the newly planted berries was cleared of weeds and ready for mulch.  And still visitors had energy to go for a walk up through the pasture and a bit of woods to the Unity Acres road and back to the farm by the orchard.  The younger folks tried the swings and took their lunches out to eat by the pond while the adults sat in the barn away from the bugs and talked with me about the farm.  Suddenly the load had become manageable with an infusion of outside energy and I was near tears saying good-by to a carload of kids who had no idea what they had done.

        On Monday the 17th Zachary and I walked through the woods to Unity Acres to help drive their cattle through to our pasture.  They were a little late being ready to start and I had time to sit by the stream and listen to the water song and birdsong and look at the neatly trimmed lawns and the clumps of flowers just coming into bloom on the bank.  Finally all was ready and we let the cattle

out.  Inside the fence the grass was grazed down shorter than the lawns were mowed and all the cows set out for greener pasture although the calves were too confused to follow and had to be brought later in the van.  That evening we walked out to see the herd, grazing contentedly in the tall grass in the first section of pasture.  And there was tall grass on our lawns and in the orchard and along the edges of the roads and the garden and around the trailers we are tearing down and cleaning up.  I’m still not sure whether it is chaos or abundance, but I am learning to live with it.

-by Lorraine

The Real World         by Dan Wilckens

  Around the time I was eight years old I went with my family to a log cabin in the Catskills.  My aunt and I got in a rowboat and rowed down the large pond behind the cabin.  I remember the deep brown water of that pond and the mystery of an old rotting dock and fallen trees and a turtle.  This was my first experience being surrounded by nature and nearly everything about it fascinated me.  However, after returning to the suburbs that interest in the natural world grew dormant and was expressed mainly vicariously, writing stories and later video games about exploring a cavern or forest.  

  But in the time since I’ve come to the farm, that interest has been reawakening.  One of my most vivid memories is climbing around some great old willow trees one warm evening in November the first Fall I was here, and being struck by their realness: the limbs wide and horizontal enough to walk on, shoots growing from them everywhere, the quiet stream nearby.  And I was not a passive observer, but a part of that reality.  The process of this world opening up to me continued the following year when for the first time I came to know Queen Anne’s Lace and burdock and thistle and milkweed and my limited knowledge of garden plants grew.  And as I began to cross-country ski, I became aware of the contours of the land, the way the sun—or moon—was scattered by the snow, the contrast of the sky with the rugged outline of trees bordering the hayfields where we skied.  After the snows melted I went on walks and noticed  the currents and whitecaps in the stream, the early spring golden leaves, the pollen forming on the trees, the little wildflowers—speedwell, wintercress, buttercup—growing all over the fields.  This great variety amazed me, yet it is all only a tiny piece of a vast, ancient process, and only recently have people been able to forget their dependence upon it.

  As I continue to live and work here, I become increasingly aware of the connections between the food I eat and the work I do to grow it, something which hardly dawned on me previously.  I realize food is a gift of the Earth, cultivated by work and meant to nourish us.  It doesn’t appear by magic and the land from which it comes must be respected and cared for.  When people purchase all of their food in a supermarket, never work the soil or see the plants grow, they are deprived of experiencing those connections and food becomes simply a commodity.

  The result of those deprivations is not only the malnourishment of people’s spirits but also environmental devastation.  I wonder what I can do here at the farm to further reduce our use of fossil fuels and lessen the environmental impact of my life.  One thing is to bike when feasible, which provides good exercise and experience of nature in addition to not using gas.  I plan to construct a solar oven for use in sunny weather, hoping to reduce propane use.  And perhaps someday we will implement a solar water-heating system. But what seems to me fundamental is the cultivation of an attentiveness to nature, a wider awareness of the wildlife around the farm, the patterns of the seasons, the trees and the stars.  That’s hard to do, but it’s worth it.

Maintenance                by Zachary

This spring it seems we’ve spent a lot of time playing catch-up and trying to repair one thing that breaks down before the next thing does.  We had to install a new greywater drainage system for the kitchen sinks and dishwasher.    They had formerly been draining under the floor of the kitchen, but water began to flood up out of the drains in the floor when we let water out of the sinks, and we needed to attend to it promptly.  Fortunately our friendly backhoe operator was available, and he dug a hole in the parking lot for the pot-washing sink to drain into, and another for the dishwasher

and its sink to drain into in the front lawn.  We had a difficult time figuring out how to run a drain out from the dishwasher, and the only way we could do it was to chisel a hole through 10 inches of concrete wall, which ended up taking several hours.  We also have a pipe which froze in the ceiling of the farmhouse and needs to be replaced, along with about a third of the ceiling drywall.  There is a place on the back side of the farmhouse roof that leaks quite badly, and we need to determine why.  That roof was shingled in 2001, but it has continued to leak in that spot.  The general dampness of the house is another issue that needs to be addressed in some way.  We’ve had some ongoing problems this past winter and spring with the oil fired boiler breaking down, but we have had the wood boiler for a backup, so it has not been too big a difficulty.

        This spring we repaired the subfloor of the kitchen and front hall in one of the trailers and put down new floor tiles.  We still need to repair the floor in one of the bedrooms there as well.  The work of removing the second trailer up the hill and cleaning up the remains of the first one still continues.  The yard where the trailer was which we tore down last summer should be completely cleaned out within the next couple of weeks, but that still leaves us with the task of tearing down the shell of the second one.  Much of the gutting of it was done by the Boston College group which was here in March.  While they were here they also worked at Rural and Migrant Ministry on the task of repairing the walls in the small upstairs office.  Later in the month we built a new interior wall dividing the downstairs kitchen where the medical clinic is held into two parts, to give a more private office for the medical staff there.  In April the group from St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, MA worked at the Ministry to put up shelving in the medication room, to augment what was already there.  The staff there has reported that it is easier to find medications now.  We have also done some small repairs on the plumbing at their building on an as needed basis.  

        We have had some ongoing vehicular difficulties.  The pickup truck needed a new muffler and catalytic converter in March, and later developed a tendency to stop running at random intervals and refuse to be started, which we were told was probably the fuel pump failing.  However, it was also possible that it was something wrong with the electrical system, and we did not want to have to buy a new fuel pump if we didn’t need one.  We spent a few weeks taking parts out and testing them and putting them back in, and eventually we had it diagnosed at a garage, and the fuel pump did need to be replaced.  By the time we actually put the new one in we had removed and reinstalled the fuel tank three times, and we were getting pretty good at the procedure.  Many thanks go to Unity Acres for towing it with their van all the times that it quit.  

        We purchased a newer side-delivery rake at the auction in Sandy Creek this spring for a very reasonable price, so that now we will only have to use our old not-very-functional rake as a backup.  The new one is PTO driven, and fits on the 3-point hitch, so it should be much more effective for the fields we have.  The men at Unity Acres are painting the new baler which they bought last summer, and checking it over before the season to replace worn-out parts.  We would appreciate the donation of sicklebar mowers in any condition, since ours are rather old and tired and tend to need new parts from time to time.   The haying will be beginning shortly, as soon as the weather dries up.  We have built a new pigpen from some old sections of picket fence which weighs a lot less than the old one did and will be much easier to move.  

Agriculture                by Joanna

        The frost-free date has come and once again everything seems to need doing at once. Most of the tomatoes are set out (and a few died in a late cold snap), but the greenhouse is still full of rootbound basil, peppers and eggplant seedlings waiting their turns. Outside the peas are tall, starting to set pods and pulling their supporting stakes down, the greens are small but growing vigorously (and need to be fed), the strawberries are blooming (and why do the ones that have popped up in the path seem so much healthier than the ones in the bed?) and we’re hurrying to plant beans and squash and cukes and corn.   

        There are some signs of long-term progress.  Last year we got some of the beds turned, fertilized and mulched before the snow came; these are in excellent condition now, soft and full of worms. The other beds have fewer large stones and turn more quickly than they did last year. The new asparagus patch, which we were supposed to cut from for only 2 weeks last year (we cheated a little bit) is producing abundantly, and this year we can harvest all we want.  We have planted highbush blueberries and transplanted black raspberries from the yard of a neighbor who is moving away, and these are leafing out and growing well on the hillside below the garden.   And the new sunroom that Zach and Dan built with donated windows is much more accessible, light-filled and stable in temperature than the old greenhouse; I didn’t have to bring all the seedlings in every night in early spring, and they don’t require much hardening-off, since they’re used to strong light and good air circulation.

        We’re also trying to take better care of the flower gardens. At some point last year we looked around and realized that we had forgotten to plant flowers.  Now sunflowers, nasturtiums and cosmos are coming up around the house and barn, and we’ve set out marigolds and pansies. Lorraine is keeping Tom’s garden deadheaded and weeded and making space around the less aggressive plants.  Joan’s memorial garden had been situated between the compost bins and a trailer yard full of junked vehicles and unhappy dogs, but that trailer lot has been cleaned out, the compost bins have been moved to the other side of the garden, and with some work and attention the garden will be a lovely place to sit in.  If anyone has sedums to share they would go well in the stonework. 

        It seems that we will not have any goat kids this year, but both does are continuing to produce milk in abundance.  The children who come here will miss the antics of the kids, but it saves a lot of time in fence repair and goat moving, and it has been lovely to have a constant supply of milk to drink and cook with and use with groups and send home with children. 

        The cows and calves have come over from Unity Acres for the summer, and are enjoying the rich grass in the pasture, which is now divided into 3 sections to allow for better pasture management.  The grass is tall and thick in the hayfield, and we will be ready to start mowing when the weather gets drier and the mower gets fixed.  We had hoped to fertilize the fields this spring but weren’t able to buy or borrow a manure spreader in time.  We hope to feed them this fall or next spring at the latest.

        If any of our readers have some spare time and would like to help us keep up with weeding, feeding, planting-out or anything else in the garden, please come! The farm is lovely at this time of year, with apple trees and lilacs blooming, goslings in the pond and robins nesting behind the statue of St. Francis.  Thanks to all of you who support us with prayers, time, money and useful things so that we can stay here, care for the land and our neighbors and enjoy this beautiful place.

Both Sides Now                by Joanna

        ‘Kyle’ started coming to the farm a few months ago.  On his first visit he would barely speak to us; he kept turning around and darting his eyes from side to side.  I had been told that he was shy, and young for his age. I tried to give him space, listen to him when he did speak, wait.  He was interested in the goats and the chickens, and after being cooped up in a small apartment with several siblings he liked having room to run.  As his visits continued and he learned that we were safe he relaxed visibly, grinned and told extravagant tall tales, let me push him on the long-roped swing. But whenever I had to raise my voice to keep him from running on the stairs or darting across the road he cringed and shrank into himself again.

        One day when I went to pick Kyle up his mother showed me a cut on his cheek and a lump under his hair and told me that ‘Eddie’, his older brother, had beaten him up more seriously than he usually did.  Authorities had been called, but no one had come; Eddie, still preteen, was considered too young to be a serious problem.  Kyle was hard to handle that day, first withdrawn and then bouncing off the walls; and I was furious with Eddie and with the people in authority who wouldn’t get him out of there and keep Kyle safe--furious partly because I felt helpless to change the

situation.  I kept doing the small things that I could do: setting clear limits for him and enforcing them as gently as possible, channeling his nervous energy into baseball practice and long explores, praising his competence, making it clear that the farm was a safe place for all people, & animals too  His mother spoke of Kyle and Eddie’s father,  who had beaten and frightened his wife and children until they finally left, and of Eddie’s assumption of the bully’s role in the family.  And finally I agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to start having Eddie visit the farm.  I had seen him occasionally, but mostly when I thought of him I thought of Kyle’s bruises and his frightened eyes.  I was willing to take him out of the home sometimes to give his family some relief, and to work with him on his behavior if the opportunity arose.  I did not expect to like him.

        Eddie, like Kyle, was quiet and wary on his first visit.  He was fascinated by the creatures in and around the pond, but he wanted to whack them all.  I told him he couldn’t do that here, observed that he wouldn’t like it if a funny-looking giant came along and decided to whack him.  (When he looked offended at being called funny-looking I explained that I thought all people must look funny to frogs.)  He looked startled, but refrained from poking the animals and eventually threw his stick away.  The most noticeable thing about Eddie was his desperate need to be in control.  He insisted that his kite would stay in the air as long as he told it to, yelled at the soccer ball if it didn’t go where he wanted it to.  I was uncomfortably reminded of my own anger at things I can’t control.  But on his second visit Eddie found our electric organ.  He played the first half of the Ode to Joy quickly and accurately; then he stopped, looked rather sheepish, and said “I don’t know the rest.” He listened with interest as I played it, had me write it down, tried it.  Absorbed in the music, he willingly admitted what he didn’t know, asked for help, tried new things.  I was pleased with and for him, and began to readjust my image of him. 

        Later that day Kyle came to the farm and wanted to play house.  He threw himself enthusiastically into the role of the big, strong father who could hurt, humiliate and control everyone else.  He wanted me to be the daughter, and I tried a variety of responses, from passive compliance to belligerence to firm but fairly courteous noncooperation; but Kyle looked at me with desperate eyes and said “I’m big.  You’re little. You have to.”  But I had options, and said that it was time to play something else.  It wasn’t long after that I heard that he had started to hit his younger siblings. Although at the farm, in his own character, Kyle continued to be gentle with the animals, eager to please, fond of making things for my mother, I sought advice from people with more experience in dealing with very troubled children.

        (continued on back page)

(cont., Both Sides Now)

Our work with the children is a small-scale form of peacemaking. At first I found it very easy to see Eddie as the bad one and to think that if he could be gotten out of the way the family would be all right. But I am distressed when our government defines other governments as ‘evil’ or ‘terrorist’ and promises that their elimination will make the world better and safer or when friends in the peace movement define certain people in our government as evil and say that if we can discredit them and remove them from power the country will be better and safer.  It’s never that simple.  Now I know Eddie and Kyle and can’t just dismiss them as ‘bad’; and I know that it doesn’t help to blame their father, who must have been another frightened child. I am left with the more difficult work of seeing Kyle and Eddie clearly, caring for them, trying to help them transform the violence within themselves and encourage the strength, the gentleness, the wonder and the music.  That’s all that I can do for myself, for my neighbors, for the world.

Wish List

Volunteers to help with gardening, maintenance and repairs (see other articles)

Thread in basic colors, Stuffing for pillows etc

Watercolor paper or other heavy paper,  Acrylic and watercolor paints

Outdoor play equipment

Magnifiers, esp. boxes with built-in magnifying lenses

Rubber boots and rain gear in kid’s sizes (suitable for boys)

Black fly nets

A lawn mower, shovel handles, trowels, and small pruners

Bicycles and parts

We always need volunteers to help with gardening, maintenance and repairs, money, and prayers.

Thanks to all who have donated things to us.  The binoculars, books and kid-sized slippers have been especially appreciated lately.

Saint Francis Farm

136 Wart Road

Lacona, NY 13083

(315)298-2844

stfrancisfarm.org