The Stone Soup Institute is an international school offering courses of study which integrate traditional and contemporary practices and knowledge in the Agrarian Arts & Sciences, Crafts and Fine Arts.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My First Time Driving a Horse!

Today I got to drive Marcus for the first time. There were some blown down spruce trees behind the workshop which we are going to be using for firewood, so Jim got Marcus harnessed up and ready to go.

It was interesting to see Marcus get very serious when his harness got put on. Gus was trying instigate some horseplay, but once Marcus knew he was working he was all business.  He stood up steady, and didn't moved around as Jim put on his all his gear.
I went back in the woods to watch them pull out the trees. Jim attached the tree to the chains in the back of the harness, and Marcus waited and made noises, proably because Zeus was trying to herd him.  Its wasn't time for herding, and Marcus probably thought, "What the hell is with this guy?" .  Zeus can't help it.

Well, in short order,  Jim called for Marcus to start pulling the log forward, and the log started going. Jim jumps from one side to the other, and sometimes stands right on top of the log while Marcus pulls it. The snow is about 3 1/2 feet deep in the woods where we were working, so, you had to try and stay in the packed down area, so that you don't break through into the deep snow.
Once Marcus and Jim had pulled all the logs out they needed, I got to drive Marcus.  I took the reigns, and walked him down the driveway to the end of the road. You can tell the horse to go forward, back up, go left, or right. They know these commands verbally, and they have a bit in thier mouth attached to  a long set of reigns, so you say the commond, then put slight pressure to indicate how much you need the horse to move in that direction.
It was amazing  to say " Come ahead!" and to have a massive animal respond in a way that almost seemed thoughtful. He was very calm, and didn't move to fast. When I pulled back slightly, he immediately slowed his pace, and when I put some pressure and said "Turn Gee!"( Gee sounds like "Ji-E") he did a 90 degree turn into the drive way.
I could feel instantly how deep a connection someone would develop with their horses. To work with an animal is so different from anything else I have ever done. With draft horses there are many more things to respond to emotionally then with tractors. For instance, sometimes they get out of their pasture and run around the neighborhood, which forces you to stop whatever you doing and go get them- this can be frustrating- and is something that a tractor would never do. They also can frolic in the snow, and move in a way that is has the same grace as a leaf drifting down to the earth, yet they are so massive. They are powerful, beautiful, and can not be forced. You have to be gentle to work with them, and I think that is a powerful lesson.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Conquest of the Future

Reading Wendell Berry has me thinking about the nature of exploitation, and conquest.  It is interesting to observe that conquest in the physical sense has been mostly completed. There are few places left pristine, unharmed, truly wild, and natural. There are few people who have been not been effected by the onslaught of mechanized modernization, and few landscapes that have been left unaffected.
However, the one arena where the battle is more covert is the future. It is an interesting assumption that   technology must make things better in the future, and somehow can not  do otherwise.  The most undisputed indicators of progress are also the things that seem to be making more people crazy, and creating cyclical modes of thinking wherein future growth is the only way to improve things.  There is this promise made, that sometime, after this growth happens, things will indeed be better. However, for most of the population, that simply isn't true.

Economic development always seems  to mean more of anything, but never does it mean taking the time to do something well. The promise of the future keeps us running towards something that will never arrive, and it is the most slippery promise that any one can make.
 But, that is why it is made . It lends itself very well into confusion that looks like some form of this:
"Are we happier?"
"Well, no. But thats because things can always be better, so lets just keep working and try to get more. "
"But didn't we all agree on this course of action because some how we were promised something that we wanted? "
"Well, lets just try this again and this time it will workout better then the last."

If you break down the mechanics of this loophole, the results can only make you feel as though you have been hoodwinked into believing that something, somewhere, in the future is just waiting to be invented that is going to make your life a lot easier, make you much more attractive, guide you to your true love, help you find your dream job, give you security, or fill in the blank with your own insecurity.
In the meantime, everything, that possibly can provide us any real security; good land, knowledge of how to grow your food, clean water, clean air, close communities to support you with laughter, friendship, love, hope, joy,  healthy children,  honest work, freedom from debtors, all of these things of real, true value are being let go of.  It as if the troubles of one life could be traded in for a life where all our troubles and problems were solved for us by machines and technology. 
Well, that simply isn't true. The beauty and satisfaction of having a real connection in your heart to what you  spend you days doing can not be underestimated. That is the longing  that is so easy to chase, but so hard to identify. It seems once a society is separated from it, the absence leaves such a laceration on the human consciousness that finding our way back seems impossible at times, and these other, false promises seem so attractive.
However, my personal belief is that our reality is, and always will be that we are beautifully united with each other and with the earth in a way that can never be replicated, and can never be lost.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Preparing for Snow

Well, we are getting ready for our Weekly Wednesday Blizzard.  We got firewood ready today:

Some members of the group did not understand priorities:

However,  we were able to get things accomplished:

By golly, stay warm these next few days!

The Fundrasier was Fun!

Just a quick update about the fundraiser- we had a great time. The meal was wonderful, as was the company and the music. We are planning a fundraiser every month until April, each with a different food theme, but all with great music, great people, and great local crafts to be auctioned.

I would say the food highlight was the homemade ginger snaps and homemade gelato ice cream sandwichs.

And certainly the musical highlight was the divine Miss. Dorie Barnes, accompanied by the amazing Jesse Feinberg on keys, playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. All the men where softly crying, and the women looked like they were in love. It was a moment in time that I am thankful for , and deeply appreciative to have experienced.

We hope to see you at one of the next ones!

( Sorry there are no pictures- I was so absorbed in the whole day, and didn't remember to bring my camera. Next time I will for sure!)