31 March 2011

Live Power Community Farm Trip

Last week the third grade received an honor bestowed on them by Gloria and Stephen Decater of Live Power Community Farm in Covelo (Mendocino County), CA (www.livepower.org). The Decaters told the children that in their 27 years of hosting school groups, 10 groups per year, our 3rd grade had experienced the most extreme weather to date. The Decaters congratulated our children on their resilience, strong work ethic, and good cheer throughout it all.

The Third Grade farm trip to Live Power is a transformative capstone on the children’s four years of gardening curriculum. The farm provides them with opportunities to go beyond the work we do at St. Anne’s, particularly in the animal realm. Under the guidance of the three apprentices Becca, Matt, and Kim, the children milked Bess, the dairy cow, sheared one of the ewes, and chased the cows and sheep out to pasture in the morning and into the barn at night. The children gathered eggs and fed the pig, and were in constant play with the two farm dogs, Sophie and Alder.

Throughout the wet and at times snowy weather , the children attended to the daily chores to support the life of the farm. In addition to animal care, the children mucked out stalls, wheeled the manure to the compost yard, built compost piles, split and stacked wood, baked bread, shucked corn and ground it into meal. There were nails to take out of recycled wood, brambles and branches to clear, and dishes to wash.

When we arrived Tuesday in the dry afternoon, the Decaters had prepared the two draft horses, Pete and Laura. After the children pet the horses, Stephen led the 3rd graders in an exciting activity of working together to pull a sled. The children worked in two teams along the wooden yoke, pulling as one to keep the sled moving over the rutted pathway. As the teams gained momentum, other children would jump on the sled, and we’d count how many each team could pull. It was hard work as we adults found out on our turn!

Once we had tried to work as the horses do, Stephen hitched the two draft horses to the yoke and the horses pulled groups of children on the sled back and forth on the lane. The kids loved it and we were all amazed by how effortless the horses made it look. The children learned firsthand the meaning of horsepower and teamwork.

Each night we slept in tents and stirred at night to the hammering of rain or purring of snow on the fly. Our tents withstood the snow and rain pretty well, but it was hard to keep the water from pooling around the doors and sneaking in with the children and all their wet gear. The parents set up elaborate systems to ensure the tents stayed as dry and mud-free as possible!

Debbie Hopkins was our farm chef and provided us with delicious and plentiful meals three times a day. The kids clamored for seconds and thirds and particularly loved her soups and the fresh baked breads with honey. Ms. Christofferson and I are indebted to all of our marvelous and intrepid parent volunteers: Craig Appel, Hugh Molesworth, Chris Larrance, Peter Belanger, Joel Bleskacek, Lesley Fisher, Carrie Leeb and Debbie Hopkins. They were expert campers and loving caregivers.

The third graders delighted us with their enthusiasm, farm-sense, and general toughness. Despite the wet weather, our work warmed our bodies and our hearts throughout our stay on the farm.