The Mindfulness of Farming

Murray on Chicken Move Day

“…the most valuable part of this experience was undoubtedly my “tuning out” of the city, and my “tuning in” to nature. Without electronic distractions, internet, or even consistent cell reception, I was forced to slow down and reestablish my relationship with the living world around me.”

Murray, Twisted Roots Farm apprentice

Winter is starting to settle in here at the farm, and life, as it should, starts to slow. There are still the daily routines that need tending to, and we still have many projects on the go. I find myself more on the computer these days, and as much as I would like to take more down time, the reality of starting a new farm is that now is the time to start planning and thinking about next year. Farming these days is not only about how you work with the land, it is also how we connect ourselves to the larger community, and as much as I have my opinions about social media, this is how we are reaching out to those who can find this little farm set in the woods.

And find us they did this season. We had no idea what an Apprenticeship Program would bring here to Twisted Roots Farm. The pandemic made things even more, well, interesting. However, as life settled in with the arrival of the apprentices, we were so incredibly fortunate to be in a family like bubble, living, working and creating relationships to the farm and all the wildness that surrounds this incredible place.

And now as we approach the Winter Solstice, all the volunteers and apprentices have left for the season, leaving us with much to feel into, to think about and to miss. It has inspired us beyond words, and all those that found themselves here have left behind the foundation of a dream that knowingly or unknowingly has created all the inner workings of a school, a School of Wyld Roots where others can continue to come here and be immersed over a year into the magic of this place, this farm, this wild community. We are forever indebted to their energy and the way that they have served something beyond themselves, being truly in service to something larger than oneself.

The skills, talents and gifts that we have witnessed in all those who took a chance on us and this farm has been amazing. We have heard incredible earth poets and writers, had future designers and builders discover their creativity, and listened to future community leaders express their ideas for change. These are the future visionaries, future leaders, future artists who have a huge challenge in front of them.

Murray is one of those future writers. His way with words takes you into the narrative, opening up our imagination where you can touch and feel what is being said by the poetic rhythm of his words. Following his apprenticeship this fall, he left us with this beautiful writing of his time and experience here on the farm. Thank you Murray for sharing this with the world!

~ William Kosloski, Twisted Roots Farm

“I meander down Robie Street late at night, between glittering condominiums on one side, and the perfectly trimmed grass of the Halifax commons on the other. Streetlamps burn spotlights over the impossibly green turf. A monoculture of grass; no weeds, thickets or trees anywhere other than where the gardener has designated. These fields are far too green for early November, and the trees, too, they’re barely starting to show spots of yellow or red. It all seems so artificial, so contrived, like the white picket fences and smiling faces off the Truman Show, or the visions of a 1950’s utopia. Have I found myself enclosed in some planetarium, separated from the coming and going of the seasons? Am I on the same planet anymore, or trapped in some alien bubble, a city frozen in time for future scientists to study?

I remember back to the last few days on the farm. Where the green grass gave way to sullen brown, and the last clumps of leaves clung to the trees with all their strength. Our kale and chard would soon be things of the past, as the earth turned more frozen with each passing day. The water lines will soon freeze shut, and water must be hauled from the brook, or broken from the ice that comes to encase it. The chimneys will puff a constant stream of white smoke into the air, and the crackle of the fire will become an ever-present aspect of the farmers’ lives. Their diets will change; fresh fruit, vegetables, and salads will give way to meat and potatoes. Darkness will linger into mid-morning and come again just after chores are done. Sleep will come easier, and longer for humans and animals alike. The pigs will hunker down in their sty, piled one atop another for warmth, snoring happily into the night. The chickens will roost close together and lay fewer eggs than once before.

The picture may sound dismal, but its authentic, it’s the real deal. Seasons change, things die, and the daily rhythm of life slows to a grind. There’s so many things I learned over the course of my three month apprenticeship, it would be impossible to list them all in one blog piece. But the most valuable part of this experience was undoubtedly my “tuning out” of the city, and my “tuning in” to nature. Without electronic distractions, internet, or even consistent cell reception, I was forced to slow down and reestablish my relationship with the living world around me. My brain usually runs with fifty tabs open; I’m thinking about some embarrassing thing I did yesterday, while dreading going back to work tomorrow, and in the back on my mind wondering where I’ll be one year from now. When do I even take time to sit down and enjoy the present moment?

After a few weeks at the farm, free of the distractions of technology and the capitalistic workweek, my brain began to adapt. I was bored at times, sure. I spent many nights reading or feeding the wood stove, staring into the flames. Many of the chores on the farm were monotonous – the same old stuff everyday; feed the goats, feed the pigs, feed the chickens. Haul water from the brook. Make oatmeal. Clean dishes. Clean more dishes. Muck out the goat stall. The cycle repeats. But as the weeks progressed, the various tabs in my brain began to close, and I found myself taking time to just stop and listen to birdsong, or sit down and watch the trickling waters of the brook. The “brain fog” had lifted, and my mind was clearer than before. I began to live mindfully, savoring each minute that I could indulge in a new experience. I chewed my food delicately at dinner, careful to embrace each note of savory and sweet. I listened to music for a few minutes before bed, humming gently with a smile on my face. And I took a lot of walks, diligently observing the crispness of the air, the greenness of the grass, the movement of squirrels, toads and snakes just behind the tree line. I lived in the moment, for the first time in my life without trying to do so.

And here I am, back in the city, a world apart from the last three months of my life. And it’s tempting to get caught up in the multitude of worries that plague the city – rising coronavirus numbers, a housing crisis that threatens to throw many of my friends out on the street, all while I try to navigate the anxieties of a new job. It’s tempting to look back to the farm as a sort of oasis, a retreat from the disorders of modern society. But I remember all the work that I did on those long walks, and the mindful appreciation I gained for my surroundings. I remember the way I sat amongst the trees, and felt my anxieties melt around me. How the trickle of the brook never ceased, no matter how many hardships I encountered through the day.

And now I realize: all of those lessons, I have brought with me. I can go for a walk in the park, and I can call myself back to that trickling brook whenever I want. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not the same, not by a long shot. I still have to go back to work on Monday. I still experience stress, sleepless nights, and feelings of being overwhelmed. But every once in a while, I can take a breath of clean, crisp air, and return to that place where I sat amongst the trees. And just like those long days on the farm, all those tabs in my brain begin to close, one by one.”

~ Murray, Apprentice, Twisted Roots Farm

Published by Twisted Roots Farm

We are a small off-grid farm located in Cape Breton Nova Scotia.

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