Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hope and Fear in a Time of Climate Change

by Andy

If we humans are to overcome the challenges of global climate change, we may need to all learn to think like adolescents. Try to remember your own challenges as an adolescent. Mine were many. Like many adults, when I look back on my own adolescence, I remember how socially awkward I felt most of the time. I spent a lot of time attempting to discern how I might fit in. In retrospect, my adolescence seems like an inordinately anxious and fearful time, but also I know that I survived and sometimes thrived. I survived because, also typical of any adolescent, my own inordinate anxiousness was paired with undaunted hopefulness, boundless creativity, and a willingness to take risks. In social life, this optimism kept me engaged with friends and potential friends. In my life of civic engagement, my hopefulness attached to vegetarianism, environmental activism, writing letters to save the rainforest, recycling, joining the Peace Corps, and ultimately becoming an organic farmer and a teacher. In each young person the hope, the fear, and the willingness to take risks all interact, and the resulting actions can produce the wisdom of experience and an expansion of possibilities. However, if the positive potential of adolescence is not nurtured, then the lessons of experience can lead to a shrinking of possibilities and disillusionment, disinterest, and disengagement. We humans desperately need to understand and support our adolescents and our own selves in civic engagement if we are to have a chance of saving the precious planet we are messing up so badly.

We are in a moment in history when we collectively need to rise to the occasion. When as a teacher I see adolescents look at History, I see them often initially interpret past events as clearly good or evil. They can be frustrated with the inaction of historical people in the face of obvious injustice. There is outrage at slavery, the Holocaust, the Trail of Tears. The hindsight of History allows young people to look back in disbelief and ask "How could they have allowed that to happen for so long?" Our heroes are those who reach for greatness and often they are those who are great because they have had the courage and creativity to fight injustice: Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela. My own heroes were a mix of great, ground-breaking people and great fighters against injustice: Edward Abbey, Jerry Garcia, Fran Tarkington, John Lennon, Wendell Berry. Of course, our heroes are also personal: our parents, teachers, and peers. I remember an older college student who made a massive sculpture out of styrofoam that brought attention to the problem of waste. He was a giant in my eyes! We are in an important historical moment right now. Future generations of adolescents will look back on our moment in history and ask "How could it have taken so long for them to change?" We must all become heroes, and we need to engage our adolescents and our own adolescence in order rise against the injustice of the moment. Make no mistake, there is injustice inherent in this issue.

The climate change issue often overwhelms me. I look at the numbers and I can't fathom how we are going to face this. The other day there was a rebroadcast on MPR of a talk by Hal Harvey, a CEO of Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC (see link at the end of this blog). He laid it out for us. We are currently over 400 parts per billion (ppb) of carbon in the atmosphere. Based on research of climates from the past, scientists can tell that the last time earth was at that level of carbon, sea level was 75 feet higher. The fact that sea level has not risen that far yet seems to be just a matter of time. Yikes! But it is not just sea level rising, the warming oceans evaporate more water, and this creates more storms and more severe storms. Think more deadly typhoons, hurricanes, and "super storms". Also, as carbon accumulates in the oceans, the resulting carbonic acid acidifies the oceans and undermines the shells of the zooplankton, which are the basis for every ocean ecosystem, not to mention all the people who depend on the ocean for food. Climate change shifts rainfall patterns and some areas will be and are experiencing chronic droughts, which can lead to huge agricultural losses and more frequent wildfires. Then there are are the feedback loops that have the potential to accelerate the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere. The most distressing to me is the methane trapped in the permafrost in the tundra areas. As the permafrost thaws, the methane is released. Methane is many times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. We need radical change and we need it now. Do you know who are really good at radical change? Adolescents.

Hal Harvey let us know that even if we stopped all emissions of carbon today, the carbon in the atmosphere will still stay at 400 ppb for a very long time, maybe hundreds of years. But we are not stopping. In fact, if we keep emitting carbon at the current rate, soon we will be at 650 ppb. Mr. Harvey described dire consequences as that happens, and he said that at some point we will just have to stop, because the planet will become unlivable. Why not stop now? HOW ABOUT NOW!?! I was blown away when Mr. Harvey said that if we are to have any sort of a chance, we will need to leave 80% of all fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) in the ground. I had been secretly hoping for peak oil to save us. I had hoped that as we run out of fossil fuels, they would become more costly compared to renewables, and we would make the shift because of economics. But it seems we need to voluntarily leave fossil fuel in the ground. This will be hard for those who benefit financially from extracting and processing fossil fuels. With the advent of fracking, natural gas is cheaper than ever, and the U.S. finally has a measure of "energy independence," but all that is meaningless in a time of runaway climate change. We need worldwide action on climate change. Now. Mr. Harvey was not all doom and gloom. He reminded us that humans are resourceful and creative. He spoke of how the United States transformed its entire economy in the space of a few months when we entered World War II. Those adolescents and young adults who fought and overcame fascism became what we now call our "Greatest Generation." We now need another transformation and we also need another incredible generation. Our young people are ready to answer the call to fight for justice.

Climate change is a social justice issue because, at least at first, the results of climate change are experienced more by some people than others. Poor people are the first to suffer in any disaster. Island nations are in trouble. People who are chronically in the path of tropical storms already are demanding action on climate change. Agricultural losses to long term drought or unforeseen flooding are displacing small-scale farmers and herders all over the planet. We need empathy even more now, as collectively we become immune news of death in far away places. We need engagement in the political processes at the local, state, and national level. There is actually a lot we can do. One of my current heroes, Bill Mckibben, is leading efforts to get people to encourage institutions to divest from fossil fuels. His organization,, is named for the top limit of ppb for carbon that scientists think would have prevented large-scale climate change. We need his kind of energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. We can find it in our young people if we only call it forth. I think we get stuck collectively as a species where we cannot nurture a developmental stage. We need to get unstuck at this developmental stage and unleash the positive potential of adolescence in order to survive.

Link to Hal Harvey's speech:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

18 December

            Some of us woke up to do farm chores. We fed the llamas and sheep and chickens. At breakfast we realized it was our last full day at the Land School. After breakfast and math, we had Occupations.  This was our last full day.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What to do with all this beauty?

by Andy

It has been incredibly beautiful at the Land School lately. It can be hard for me to remember to notice natural beauty when it seems like it is everywhere every day. These past two weeks we have been living in a winter wonderland at the Land School and I have been just going about my day as if everything is normal. I walk every day to the Homestead and the snow on the trees is overwhelmingly beautiful, but yet I am not overwhelmed every time. Sometimes I think I must not be an artist or a poet, because I just walk by beauty and I can just glancingly notice it and move on. I have work to do or I am late for something. Who really has time for infinity? Tonight, as I write, I try to capture some of these moments.

During the first week of December, we had a mix of rain and snow for three days off and on. It seemed like it would never stop snowing and raining. Over the course of those three days it was the perfect combination of conditions to make the snow stick to the trees and branches. The snow piled up several inches on top of even the smallest branches, and then when it rained lightly, it would glaze the snowy branches in ice and encase the snow and branch in a crystalline cocoon. This happened on every branch and every tree in the forest. Then on that Thursday it turned very cold. Usually when snow sticks to the branches in the forest, the next day the sun comes out and melts the snow off the branches or the wind blows and the snow falls off. I usually have to rush out just after dawn to enjoy the winter wonderland before the ephemeral moment is gone. But the extreme cold that came that Thursday seemed to set the snow and ice on the branches. It stayed, and the clear, cold, sunny days did not melt it off. Instead we were treated to the shimmering reflection of the rays of sunlight bouncing off thousands of icy branches. In the late afternoons, with sunlight shimmering off the icy branches it is almost too beautiful to bear. I am driving or walking somewhere and I feel like stopping, just to admire the beauty.

But I don't stop. In fact at best it is just a cursory glance and a thought: "Wow, that is something!" Then I keep going.  Maybe I am afraid that if I started noticing unique and beautiful things, that I would not be able to function in the real world. There are so many times when I am amazed by the unique and ridiculously beautiful variety in nature. The snowy, swirly wind while I plow the snow at the Homestead. The whirr of birds' wings at the bird blind. The veins on a leaf. The colors of the sunset or sunrise. The flavor of a habanero pepper or a kubocha squash. The smell of a campfire or even when I drive by a house that is burning wood for heat. The patterns on elm trunks after the bark has peeled off. The steam rising from my morning cup of tea. The patterns in weathered barn wood. My life could feel like a progression of multi-sensory beautiful moments. And I don't know what to do with it all.

When I begin to see beauty in one place, I notice that it seems like it is everywhere. I realize what a gift each of our students is. I think every face and person is beautiful. The sound of laughter and excited talking bouncing off the walls in the Homestead is beautiful. The smell of fresh baked bread and steamy soup is also beautiful. The purring of a cat, the dog chasing a ball. Two summers ago, I made a deliberate attempt to notice beauty. I decided to stop and take three mindful breaths whenever I came across beauty. It worked for a few months. Often in the garden I would stop and just be standing there breathing mindfully as a bird sang or a tree moved in the breeze. Flowers would get me. But then my old familiar "hurry-up" came in and I forgot to slow down and notice things. These past two weeks nature has literally hit me over the head with beauty (sometimes falling ice and snow from trees). I might have to start with those mindful breaths again. Maybe there are two steps to beauty. There is the beauty that is inherent in something, and then there is my inclination to notice it.

In rereading this essay I notice that the word beauty is repeated so much. As a writer, I know that repeating a word in sentence after sentence can seem stale and redundant. When I revise, I try to eliminate redundancies and add new creative ways to say things. But as I reread today, I think that the whole point of the essay is that when beauty appears to be everywhere every day, it can seem boring and redundant. Enough already. I don't mean to say a blanket "everything is beautiful" statement either. In fact, there is considerable ugliness in the world, and we need to recognize it when it exists, like when we notice racism or environmental destruction. Ugliness can be a call to action. I think my point is that beauty can also be a call to action, or at least it can call on me to notice it. Thankfully today it is supposed to warm up and get above freezing and maybe some of that snow will melt off the branches, so I can get back to my life.

17 December

Today is our second-to-last full day at the Land School, Farmstay 2. We started out the day with farm chores and breakfast, and then we welcomed Dave early to help us with math. After math we started to get ready for the JH. After we were done with that, we sat by the road and anxiously awaited the bus. When it arrived, we welcomed everyone and then gathered at the fire circle and formed out stewardship groups. I am normally with Katie in the Prairie Group, but today I went with Donna’s group, Facilities. Throughout the Farm Stay, Ava and I have been working on signs to go around to make the Land School more understandable. Today we laminated them, and got to use a staple gun to put them up. After that, it was time for lunch, and after that we had free time. Lucia, Helen, Ale, Ava, Julia, and I went on a walk and then just sat down and talked. Then we went to the tree house for a little while, and before we knew it, it was time to go back to the Homestead and the bus. When we got back to the Homestead everyone started saying goodbye. But it was different than usual, because we wouldn’t be seeing everyone when we got back on Friday. Today, Farm Stay 2 said goodbye to our Mexican exchange student, Alejandra. Most of the girls started crying as we said goodbye, but then after the bus left, it was time to go back to our Farm Stay 2 schedule. After they left, we worked on making our tie dye t-shirts and zentangles. Then it was time for chores, dinner set-up, dinner, and dinner clean-up, and now study hall. This Farm Stay has been truly amazing and we are all looking forward to ending it on a good note.                        

                                                                                                ~ Sophie

Monday, December 16, 2013

16 December 2013

by Filippo   

         Today we did many things. We started off the day with breakfast at 7:45 and after the clean up crew had finished their cleaning of the kitchen, we had math; math starts at 8:30 and that was a great period of time to work on the practice cycle expectations for math. At 9:30 after the math was finished we had land school stuff with Katie a.k.a Science. Science was a time were we got to work on slope which is the new lesson that Dave has kindly sent us from the urban campus. We divided into four groups of 3 and each group was assigned a slope on the Land School property such as: the sledding hill, or the back of the homestead. With a rope we measured and we finally came back inside and finished up with the math. After a long science/math work time everyone was very hungry so we had lunch in our mentor groups. Lunch was risotto, cauliflower and garlic bread. After lunch we all went on a hike with our mentor groups, my group went on a hike to try to identify trees with the new tree identification guide that we made. After the hike we had a council meeting with all the staff and all the students about how things were going and reports about the land school. This meeting lasted about an hour. After the meeting we had micro eco, which is were we got to add up all of our profits from the craft fair and see how much money we made! After adding and subtracting for two hours it was daily chore time. After chores we had twenty minutes of free time except for the dinner crew this was a good time to have fun and relax free time included ping-pong and foosball and many other activities. We were called up for dinner and we had enchiladas and rice. After we had study hall were I am writing this. After we will have closing and get ready for a new day.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

15 Dec

Today (Sunday the 15th) was one of my favorite days for many reasons. One being that after the excitement and energy of the Holiday Fair had past, Sunday was a extremely laid back and calm day. I for the first time on the Farm Stay, slept until 10:00. It was amazing to wake up and have the beautiful Wisconsin sun seeping through my window, making the beginning of my day considerably exceptional. We only had farm chores today, because on Sundays we have brunch, which has its own crew. It was a delicious brunch consisting of eggs, pancakes, sausage and fruit. I happily indulged myself after feeling exceptionally hungry after playing foosball.  Sundays are leisurely at the Homestead; so after our excellent brunch we played foosball, ping-pong, spoons and other entertaining and amusing games. At 2:30 we went to the pond in a competitive and wonderful game of broomball. At around 4:00pm we packed up the vans and headed to Gibby’s bowling alley.  After two games and (many) pieces of pizza we made are way back home. After we arrived home we begin Study Hall to get back into are weekly schedule. That was the ending to are exciting and interesting day on the farm.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

14 December 2013

Today was the day of the Holiday Fair and people were getting nervous. Many people’s materials had not even come yet, and it was getting to the point where they wanted to murder Joann from Joann Fabrics. If you didn’t already know, never order from there! Anyways, people were getting very nervous. As soon as the fair started though, everyone’s stuff was ready, or as much ready as possible. There were many vendors selling things from jams and jellies to potholders and wooden carvings and $200 paintings. It started out slow, but then as it got to be around ten o’clock people really started coming. The classroom had been absolutely transformed into a food court while the gathering room was a store. Around one o’clock it started to die down and many vendors started lowering their prices. The whole fair was cleaned up in under an hour. The grand total that all of the students made was $1115.90. Even though the Craft Fair was fun, everyone was glad for it to end.

by Hazel

Friday, December 13, 2013

13 December. Friday the 13th!

            Today is the day before the craft sale and tensions are rising. Many people are counting on items coming today in the mail so they can sell them (modified) tomorrow. The fact that these things haven’t come yet is bringing stress to much of the community who hang around the front entryway every night around chore time, waiting for the UPS truck to come. People are working to complete their projects, not an easy task when the main things in them have not arrived yet. Thoughts have come up about slaughtering Joann (from Joann’s fabrics, a place from which people’s items have not yet come) in her sleep. I cannot say that is a good idea because her family is probably full of millionaires (thanks to her) and they would have the money to find a good lawyer and they might be charged with first-degree murder. That would be much before they had a chance to explain that the items for their 7th grade project had not come on time and that Joann had lied by saying the items would come in 5-7 business days. However, I do think that this is a great opportunity for us to realize that no one can predict the future (not even a millionaire like Joann) and even though we counted the days ahead to make sure our projects would come on time, we have no idea what stopped them from doing just that.  This would have been an excellent time for someone to show they would not judge without knowing the whole story, but I suppose we are all yet to learn that.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

12 12 13

by Sammy

Today was a pretty normal day at the land school. Some people woke up at 7:30 to do farm chores, but most people woke up later. After breakfast, we had math from 8:30 to 9:30. A lot of people got a lot of good math work and practice cycle done. Then we had Occupations. Half of the group was in Facilities with Donna, and the other half was in Interpretive Trails with Andy. During Occupations it was discovered that most of the vegetables in the root cellar had been frozen, but luckily we were able to save some of the vegetables. After Occupations we had lunch. We had chili and cornbread for lunch, which was very good. After lunch we had micro-economy time. The Holiday Fair was getting pretty close, and people everyone got a lot done on their projects. After that we went to play broomball on the pond. It was really fun and everyone had a good time. Then it was the end of the school day, and we had to do our daily chores. Then we had dinner. We had stir-fry, which was really good. Then we had study hall, which was a really good work period for everyone. Then we had closing, and everyone told really interesting stories. After that we all went to bed for a good nights sleep.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Orange Monster is Contained

by Andy

Our kitchen counter has several zones. There is a section with about 20 unfinished supplement jars. There is the section where the cats' raw food is divvied up. There is also a separate section for cat supplements. There is section for empty kombucha bottles. There is a dish-drying section. There is a corner that contains 6 cutting boards, 8 knives in a block, 4 trivets, 3 oil jars, 2 vinegars, and salt and pepper grinders. There is a place for chicken eggs that have not been washed yet. There is a potted plant zone. And, until tonight, there was the "orange monster" area - my habanero/carrot fermentation experiment zone. I'm pleased to have the counter space back, and even more pleased to have success with the hot sauce.

In early October, two Farm Stay 1 students wanted to make some hot sauce. So we chopped up some habaneros, carrots, onions and garlic and poured a brine over it in a decorative crock and watched it ferment. Within days the salty water had extracted enough fire from the habaneros to burn lips with a little sip. It was dangerous stuff. We tried to keep the veggies submerged using plastic bags full of water, but they kept trying to float. The interface between the veggies and the air would develop a whitish film. We would discard any veggies that were touching the air and skim off the film and re-submerge our future hot sauce. This worked okay. When the students left after 2 weeks, most of the carrots were still crispy, so I decided to continue the ferment on my own at home. This was when the orange monsters appeared on our counter.

I packed the fermenting peppers and veggies into a gallon-sized glass jar, and then added more peppers. Then I did another half-gallon jar with new carrots, habaneros, garlic, shallots, and brine. I filled ziploc bags with water and used then as weights to keep the veggies submerged (tried and true fermentation method). Then I covered each jar with a kitchen towel to keep out household indoor insects (surprisingly abundant here). There was still the floating/filmy issue, so we had to add just enough water and risk overflows to keep them submerged. They weren't exactly orange monsters, but they were close enough, because the fiery spice soon pervaded everything in the zone as overflows necessitated catch plates under the jars, making it an area to work around gingerly.

Then I forgot about the jars. Well, I didn't exactly forget. They were right there on the counter. Rather, they just became one more thing on the counter. They soon blended right into the landscape. Every once in a while I would lift the towel and look at the progress. By adding more peppers and starting a new jar, I had to restart my mental fermentation clock. Even though we were three weeks in with the first batch, I knew I eventually wanted to combine them. So I was checking the progress of batch number two, while making sure batch numero uno did not over-ferment into mush. Sometimes we would get a bloom on a jar to skim off and cull the top items. Over time, I noticed the bottoms of the jars filling with about a 1/2 inch white/yellow layer of sediment. I hope that layer is probiotic. But just in case, we left that behind when we bottled.

A couple weeks ago I realized that fermentation was complete and it was time to deal with the orange monsters. I was cautious. I have never made fermented probiotic habanero sauce, but I have plenty of experience with regular habanero/vinegar/lime juice sauce. Not all of my experience is good. One time, we were cleaning up after making the sauce and we used the sprayer and hot water. The steam volatilized the spicy compounds and soon we were all gasping and coughing. Yikes! We could have died from inhaling the fumes! Or not. Then one time we used the food processor to make sauce, cleaned it out thoroughly, and put it away. The next week, when Jen made her raspberry smoothie, it picked up lingering compounds from the plastic and made her smoothie to hot to handle. Sorry! Then there are the contact injuries. Red swollen hands from touching the hot sauce, and crying eyes from accidentally touching them after handing habaneros. Ouch! I was so cautious, I was immobilized and put it off entirely.

There is nothing like a deadline to focus energy, and with the craft fair looming, I was determined to finish the sauce. My trusted friend Laura gave me courage and support. We donned surgical gloves to protect our hands. We used an immersion blender to spare the food processor. We washed the glass fermentation jars in cold water. Now we have a beautiful blended sauce that is the consistency of apple sauce, but I wouldn't want to confuse it and take a whole spoonful. The bright orange color should be a warning. Laura and I each sampled a few drops and our faces were red and our eyes were watering. It definitely tastes incredible - fruity and spicy and complex. But only a little drop will do you. Once blended, we contained the sauce in quart jars for now and put them in the fridge.

I was surprised how much space was opened, both on the counter and in my mind. Thanks to Laura for helping me tame this monster.  

Dec 10th

            Today was a regular day at the Land School. Katie’s mentor group had farm chores at 7:30 sharp and then we had breakfast. If it hasn’t been explained to you yet before, each mentor group does farm chores at some point on farm stay. On farm chores in the morning you give the animals what they need for the day and night. After breakfast we had a math lesson at 8:30. After the math lesson, which was a presentation that Dave made by video on the computer, we split into our Occupation groups. Occupations started at around 10:00. Donna’s group has been working on Facilities at the Land School, like making signs with labels or directions so that people understand what they’re supposed to do or what they’re looking at. In Andy’s group for Occupations they have been working on making the land school trails nicer. Then we had lunch at 12:00 and shortly after had a Micro Economy work period. Everyone got a good two hours or so to get a lot of focused work done. At about 2:45 we had outdoor play and we went sledding at Strawberry Hill, which was very fun. Then the day started to come to an end. We went inside and did our daily chores and had a calm dinner. After dinner we had a productive study hall until 8:30. At 8:30 our typical night time routine began and we had transition time, then closing. At closing we went around the circle and told a story about our selves. Then we got ready for bed and got a good night sleep for the day ahead of us.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

December 7, 2013

Blog Entry- December 7, 2013
A year ago today in 2012, the best Land School dog died. Her name was Pearl, and she lived a long life.  She was an amazing dog, a was a helper to the students, never ran off, was calm, and let little children climb and play all over her. If you ever knew Pearl, please take a moment to remember her or any memories that you have of her.

Today it was one of the coldest days so far. When we went out for Farm Chores this morning, it was at least -20. Today was mainly a day just to hang out and have lots of free time, because it is a weekend. Many people played cards downstairs, played foosball or ping-pong, did homework or visited Pearl’s grave. It was also optional work for credits day so many people did that. There was also some work on Micro Economy projects for the craft fair. At night we watched the movie “Juno”. 

by Hazel

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Dec 6th

The 6th

Today our Farm Stay started out with some community work. Three groups set out to help the community with different tasks at hand to finish. After community work a group of four students made squash soup with cheesy bread and salad. Then we had a very competitive game of broomball where the yellow team was victorious over the orange team 2-1. After group play we had two hours of micro economy, where I personally continued on my cutting boards and bread. After micro-eco we had a deep clean which took a hour and made the Homestead very clean. After deep clean we had our first make-your-own-pizza night and it was very good pizza! After pizza we had Gallery Night. After Gallery Night we got ready for bed and was ready for a good night of sleep. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Farm Stay 2 Photo Hike

Thursday Dec 5th

Today was the coldest day yet on our Farmstay. Perhaps it was the coldest day this winter so far. The high was nine degrees but the real feel was -20. It was incredibly windy and that made any outdoor activity miserable but it was good that we all suffered together. We had a photo hike, which was not too bad because the snow that had stuck to the trees had turned to ice and they made for beautiful photos.  Also it was fun to take pictures of the chickens with there feathers puffed out (to keep warm.) And once we started to give the llamas treats they suddenly turned extremely photogenic. Though today was a very cold day, it was also a very beautiful one and certainly a memorable one.
The photo hike and the weather were all interesting but nothing especially memorable. The memorable pat was when we took a long hike in Andy’s occupation group. We started out in fairly high spirits but the horrible weather soon slowed us down. When we got on the trail, we had loppers and we chopped everything in the way of the trail. However, this soon got tiring and cold so as a result we just walked along while Andy told us about how to identify different types of trees. We figured out that yellow birch tastes like wintergreen gum and this lifted our spirits. We trudged along slowly, losing feeling in various parts of our bodies. After what felt like many, many hills we finally reached the home stretch. As our spirits were lifting higher and higher, we found a big Aspen tree completely in the way of our trail. Then we had to cut our way through the tree with our loppers and headed for the homestead. Then we realized we had to go to the long barn to put our loppers back. This was a big setback, and groaning the entire time, we did it. Finally, we headed back to the homestead for good, where we all fixed ourselves a cup of hot chocolate (not thinking twice about the 50 cents fee) while we brought back regular blood flow to the edges of our bodies. Like I said, memorable experience.

by Mehek

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December 4th

by Julia

Today was amazing. Andy’s mentor group and I had farm chores in the morning. Imagine waking up, bundling into two jackets, two hats, snow pants, two pairs of wool socks, mittens and good winter boots. Then walking outside and feeling the brisk wind on your cheeks. Imagine trudging through the deep snow and hearing the crunch of the iced-over snow. The morning was so cold that all you wanted to do is keep your head down and protect your face from the fierce wind. But as soon as I looked up for a brief second I saw a row of dark trees being lit up by the upcoming sun. The sunrise was beyond incredible. In that mere second I took in the moment and felt the sun on my face. Then the cold wind blew air on to my face and a shiver rolled down my spine. I crunched through the deep snow all the way to the seemingly bright red barn. I open the door to the barn to find the loud clamor of the chickens. I open the wooden and insulated chicken coop door. The chickens rush out of their nice, warm home. The amount of color that the chickens bring to the barn is uplifting. I do the chores as usual with Eloise, then I go and face the brisk, white winter again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Blog entry day #3

Blog entry day #3

On Tuesday morning we all woke up to friends and teachers. (A good feeling) most of us have a good night sleep, but at night it was hard to go to bed, all we wanted to do was talk. 

Andy’s mentor group GOT to do farm chores around 7:30. They fed the llamas, fed the chickens, collected eggs, fed the sheep, and refilled all the water.

At 7:45 we all sat down for a nice breakfast. We served our selves: cereal, bagels, and fruit. After we had a nice good meal we cleaned up and started math. We worked till 9:30 then we went to do our Occupations. There are two groups there are: facilities and trail exploration. 

by Lauryn

Thursday, November 28, 2013

How to write a blog post

by Andy

Writing a good blog post is all about the first sentence. Insert ironic pause. The first sentence needs to grab your interest and make an assertion. When I say “your interest,” I am speaking to you as a writer. If it grabs you, then the reader will join you. Once your first sentence is written, you are done. The rest of the essay will write itself. Not really. But your first draft might flow directly out of that first sentence.

There are days when I walk around with a potential first sentence in my head. Maybe I saw something inspiring in nature, or I read something that started me thinking. I might get up in the morning and realize that if I can just capture that fleeting sentence as it floats across my half awake brain, then I'll have a blog post. Writing a first sentence is like opening a door and peering down a long dark passageway. I'll compose a first sentence and then a potential essay will begin to come into focus. My brain will make connections and begin to bring in things that might be related to the assertion. All of this can happen in a few seconds and sometimes below my level of conscious thought. This is the magic of staking out an intention, my unconscious mind loves to make connections.

If I am true to the process, as I begin to write the essay, something will be revealed that I did not expect. The writing process is like bringing a torch into that dark passageway. I begin to see things that were not illuminated a minute ago. As I write a first draft, new ideas and connections are woven into the original assertion, enriching it and adding dynamic energy to the blog post. It is useful at this point not to filter too much. I just allow words to flow. I do, however, try to write in complete sentences and paragraphs. An unfinished sentence or paragraph is like an unfinished thought. In the first draft stage it is useful to me to finish my thoughts so I can see where they end up. Often they lead me somewhere unexpected.

As I prepare to conclude the essay, I am drawn to reread the preceding paragraphs. Sometimes what seemed like a magical connection reveals itself to be an uninteresting tangent. Just because my unconscious mind produced it, does not mean that it is worth including in the final essay. I go back to the first sentence and use it as a touchstone for the rest of the essay. Do subsequent ideas and paragraphs enrich and develop that first interest-grabbing assertion? If not then I have two choices. I either revise my first paragraph to include the new ideas, or I set aside those new ideas for another day. I often read it aloud and I use this rereading time to check for style and flow. How do the sentences read? Where is my essay redundant or overly wordy? (here!) Do I mix metaphors? Is there a little alliteration? Is it funny? Does each paragraph develop a unique theme? I try to root out the passive construction and add in active verbs. I add in more sensorial details. I look to make sure that the point of view and the verbs tenses are consistent throughout. Then I reread again. Then I am ready to write a conclusion.

For me, the conclusion needs to restate the original assertion in a new way that also includes the magical new revelations I made along the way. The conclusion is problematic because my pull is to wrap the essay up by making a pronouncement. I want to tell the reader what the moral of the story is and close the door on the essay. I would like to think that the conclusion is like the completion of a sentence. When a sentence is complete, the thought is complete. And when a blog post contains a conclusion, then that whole developed thought feels complete. But this is all illusion, because in my experience a good essay conclusion opens more doors than it closes. Often in the very act of writing the conclusion I see a new twist. If this new twist is interesting, then I will include it so that the essay will leave the reader with an open-ended question. An essay is just a metaphor for life. Where will your next first sentence take you?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Holiday Baskets Still Available

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Can you believe it? For the last several years, along with LCS Junior High students, we have put together bushel baskets of produce just in time for the Thanksgiving Holiday. The basket will have everything you need to add Land School flavor to your meal. It also makes a great gift. 

This year we have a lot of storage produce available for the baskets. There are winter squash, onions, shallots, potatoes, carrots, turnips, popcorn, dry beans, and more. In addition, there are still some items in the garden that usually survive the first cold snap. These includeleeks, kale, and Brussels sprouts. We can't know for sure that the garden veggies survived, because it has been super cold, but if they make it, we'll top the baskets with green things. Finally, we plan to include a jar of pure maple syrup and two hunks of Wisconsin cheesefrom our neighbor's dairy store. 

All of this will be in a decorative reusable wooden basket.

Delivery is next Friday, November 22nd, from 3 to 5 pm. We can make arrangements to leave the basket at LCS if you cannot make those hours.

How do you order? SImple, just email Andy <> with your name and how many baskets you want. 

Cost: $50 - payable to LCS on the day of pick-up. If you know you will miss the pick-up hours you can drop a check in the LCS office ahead of time with Brooks Cavin.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It Is About Time

by Andy

This time of year is a big transition time for the garden. The ground freezes and the crops die and the nature of the work changes. It is also a big transition time for the gardeners. It is a mental transition as well as a physical one. We are no longer bound to the relentless rhythm of weekly harvests, and we have long since given up on planting and weeding. The dictates of the land become less immediate. We need enough wood for maple syrup. We need to prepare the ski trails for winter. We need to monitor the storage produce. There is time to think about new projects and choose work based on interest more than urgency.

As I was reviewing the Land School blog this morning I realized that the number of posts has fluctuated significantly from month to month. I would like to write every day. Certainly I do compose essays in my head on most days; or I take mental snapshots, wishing I had my camera along, so I could post photos. But as I looked at the pattern of when I post more or less, I noticed that there are two conditions when I do not post: when I don't feel I have enough time, and when I feel I have too much time. That I am controlled by my sense of time is no surprise to me, but this is a moment when that awareness gives me pause for reflection. As a teacher, I tend to incorporate my own learning about myself directly into an expanded understanding of human universals. My picture of human universals also puts me in touch with Montessorians everywhere, who are always looking to reveal the true nature of the child. This brings me to the question: "Is time real?"

Time certainly feels real to me. As a child, I had certain adults in my life who were very concerned about time. My parents wanted us to be places "on time," and when we were traveling somewhere we could feel good when we were "making good time." Punctuality was also praised by my teachers, who wanted us to get our homework done "on time," and who provided an example for us by beginning and ending classes based on what time it was. As I moved into the world of adulthood, in my first jobs I was asked to punch a clock when I arrived at work and when I left. The breaks of these jobs were timed as well. I had also internalized my parents' and teachers' directives about being on time and I began to budget my time, much like money (don't get me started on money). When I wake up in the morning the first thing I wonder is "what time is it?"  From my childhood onward, counting linear time has been a very real companion.

I was first exposed to the idea that time might not be real during college. Between conversations with friends and some revealing books, I came to believe that, in theory, time was just a human construct. Of course in practice, I continued to treat time as a real phenomenon. A second blow to time came when I was in the Peace Corps in Central America. There were many situations where my Midwestern United Statesian view of time was not applicable in the slightest. If there are different cultural conceptions of time, then maybe it is a practical human construct. As a Montessorian I am also aware that at least for Children's House and Elementary age children, the ideal is to have long uninterrupted work cycles, where children can become immersed in their chosen work and lose the sense of time. As a craftsperson, I also know that when I am truly engaged in a wood-working or writing project, I lose awareness of linear time as my "flow state" is activated. However, I don't last very long in the timeless flow state, and when I do return to my day-to-day time sensitivity, it feels familiar and safe.

If linear time is a sort of useful collective delusion, then I have two questions. First I want to know why linear time is so important in this place and point in history. And second I want to know what is actually true about how humans and "time" interact.

Here are some thoughts on the first question. I think linear time and the whole concept of measuring things in a linear fashion both mesh very well with industrial capitalism. When people as a whole moved to a factory model for industrial-age life, predictability became very important. The assembly line has to start and finish simultaneously. Products needed to be measurably uniform and up to a minimum standard. Items that are alike are able to be labeled as commodities and traded interchangeably. Time itself has also become a commodity that can be used, traded, maximized, or wasted. Traditional school as we know it coincides nicely with the measurable quality of linear time. Many of the meta lessons of traditional school prepare us to participate in capitalist society. Children begin to punch the clock in kindergarten and soon learn to apply themselves in the pursuit of meeting external standards at a pace dictated by external authority. I personally thrived in traditional school, partly because I had internalized early on the dictates of measurable linear time.

The second question is more complicated. What is our natural relationship to time? I think agrarian and hunter-gatherer people are acutely aware that linear time is seldom the way of nature. Things do not grow in a linear fashion, but rather there is a logarithmic nature to growth. For instance, corn does not grow one inch every day. Instead, for the first 3 weeks it grows to about 4 inches, and then in the course of the next two weeks it might grow 1 foot, and then in the 6th week, if the weather is right, it might grow 2 feet. In the insect world, development does not proceed at a linear pace, but rather through quantum stages and metamorphoses. Farmers do not plant based on what date it is, but rather based on the conditions and phenology. And in farming, tasks are not usually circumscribed exclusively by the time of day, but rather they are bordered by the actual completion of the work (this week our corn farming neighbors have been out harvesting all night with the headlights on the combines). So in nature and in agriculture there seems to be different sense of time, that can seem to slow down or speed up depending on the situation. In nature, uniqueness also seems to trump uniformity and thus standardization is less important. For agrarian and hunter-gatherer people I can only imagine that the concept of "using" time would be different and flexible depending on the task.

Take a moment and listen to Radiolab for a while if you want. Then come back to indulge me (once again) in a little dream analysis.

I awoke this morning with memories of a dream where I was left behind on the Junior High Odyssey because I had not tracked the time well. Specifically in the dream, I did know what time it was, but I wasn't aware that people were going to leave at a certain time and also that they were not going to come around and collect me. There was a sense of shame and urgency around the rest of the dream. I was ashamed because I had missed the bus and I was also urgent to rectify the situation. This situation mirrors my day-to-day reality when I feel have a lot to do, urgent about time and some shame about what I don't accomplish. Despite my agrarian lifestyle, I continue to have urgency around time that I carry around with me. This urgency is useful when it helps me to prioritize and get to market on time. However, it is not useful all of the time. In fact, I do appreciate times when I am free from the constant need to be aware of how well I am using my time. I like long bus or plane rides, when the nothing is required or even possible for me to accomplish. I like a Saturday morning, when I wake up early and can write random musings for the blog, or read a book, or do nothing, all without urgency. I like working with young people on the land especially when we forget about the time and dig into the project at hand. I love cooking when the end point is not the timer going off, but rather the food actually being ready. Time is sometimes real for me, but not always. There are cracks in the foundation.

I believe that industrial capitalism contains inherent oppressive structures, and that systems of education based on the industrial mindset can be equally oppressive. Although I live an agrarian life and I teach for a Montessori learning environment which is explicitly focused on the liberation of the child, I am acutely aware that I remain partially in the thrall of linear time and the mindset of constantly needing to use my time well. I am aware that I am a model for my students and and my own values can be easily transmitted without my intention. Awareness is a first step.

It is not so simple as just giving up linear time and living in the charmed flow state all the time. According to my understanding of Montessori theory, the task of the Adolescent is to discover who he or she is in a social sense. In this process, the Adolescent discovers his or her worth in terms of society in a process Montessori called "valorization." Quite literally, the young person comes to a sense of his or her own value through experiences of making recognized contributions to community. This learning process is a cycle of cause and effect, and it reminds me suspiciously of linear time. So this is telling me that we might need both. How do we reconcile the need to keep in touch with our true nature, with the need to live in our particular world with our particular social mores? This is an essential question if Montessori adolescent education is going to be a "school in the elements of social life," as she described it in her essay in From Childhood to Adolescence. How much do we educate young people to find a place in this world without undermining their true nature?

This brings me full circle to my initial observation that my blog output seems to go down both when I feel like there is not enough time and when I feel I have too much time. After a summer and fall packed to the gills with action, the open ended nature of winter can overwhelm me. There are fewer boundaries to help me prioritize my actions. Winter is beautiful, and I do have time to pursue hobbies and interests, but sometimes motivation is hard to muster. As an educator, I am also suspicious of completely open-ended curriculum. The gift of the Land School is to ground the curriculum in agricultural time, seasonal time, phenology, and food. I will continue to relish my own interaction with the land and the resulting time shifts, and I will also continue to bring awareness to the urgency of linear time and the ungrounded amorphous nature of off time.