Koinonia Farm Part 2 (as written on November 16, 2008)

My Experience at Koinonia Farm
Volume 2
By Dan Truesdale
October 6 – November 16, 2008

This installment is going to be a lot less detailed in some ways and more detailed in other ways.  I have learned a lot and done a lot of things in the past month and it’s beginning to all run together.  I’ve become more adjusted to life on the farm and I’ve been getting to know people better as our relationships have developed.  The things that I’ve been doing have been fun and rewarding and I’ve learned a lot, however, much of things that I’ll be writing about are reflections on conversations that I’ve had with people that have challenged my perspectives on some deep issues.

My labors here over the past month have been a lot of fun and very educational.  In the garden there has been more planting, weeding, harvesting, watering, feeding and caring for the animals, and some construction projects.

The winter greens that we planted several weeks ago have started to produce some awesome salads for the community.  Kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, and lettuce are most of the things that are coming out of the garden now.  We harvested about 200 pounds of sweet potatoes and have been eating those several days a week for about 3 weeks which has been great since they are sooooooo gooooooood.

We’ve gotten 4 new animals in the last month and I got to see one of them being born.  On the way back to the garden area one day after lunch we were walking by the goat barn/pasture and heard an unfamiliar animal sound so we went and checked it out.  It sounded like a goat, but it was more high pitched than the ones we were used to hearing.  When we got to the barn, we found the source of the noise: there was a little baby goat kid laying in the corner crying.  We had to totally change our plans for the rest of the afternoon to take care of the kid.  We immediately went and got some towels to clean up and started building a partition in the barn for the kids so they could be protected from the weather and also have some privacy away from the other animals.  As we were building the partition, the mamma goat started making some weird noises, so I turned around and got to see my first live birthing experience.  It was fascinating, captivating, and pretty messy all at the same time.  For those of you that get grossed out by that kind of thing, I’ll spare the details.  The kids are so cute and since we have been around them since their birth, they are really friendly.  We can even pick them up and hold them, so cute.  The other two animals that are new are 2 cows.  One is a Jersey, which is a breed of dairy cow, the other is an Irish Dexter, which is the same breed as the bull that I told you about before.  The Jersey cow is a lot bigger than the other two and to be honest, she was a little intimidating as first, but now she’s fun.  She’ll come up to you and lick your hands and let you pet her, kinda like a really big dog.  The other cow is pretty shy, but I’m hoping she comes around eventually and lets us pet her and stuff.  I really like animals, especially ones that are as useful and friendly as cows and goats.

All these new animals have pushed the pasture area to its max, so we’ve been working on fencing in another big area to move the animals into so they’ll have more food to graze and browse.  We’ve also been partitioning the fenced in pasture areas into smaller paddocks to try out the method of interval intensive pasture management.  Temporary electric fencing is used to create the small paddocks within the large pasture areas and the animals will be moved every day to another small area.  The electric fencing is energized by a small solar panel.  The advantages of this method of pasture management are that the animals will graze quickly and thoroughly in the small paddocks rather than slowly and in patches in the large areas.  This is good for the animals because it gives them more time to ruminate the food and it is good for the pasture because it is more evenly grazed and browsed.  The cows will preferentially graze the grasses, while the goats will preferentially browse on the more woody shrubs and trees.  All the while, the chickens will scratch up and spread around the cow pies and eat the fly larvae and other insects.  Its really fascinating learning how all these animals work together to utilize the plants and each other to harmonize with the environment around them.  We have a lot to learn from nature.

I’ve been thinking about, reading about, and talking to people about a lot of different issues lately.  Some of these things have been: voting, politics and government, the death penalty, the gaps between the rich and the poor, is human breast milk vegan?, is there an absolute truth and can we know it?, the many problems in our societal structure, the difference between Christians and those that follow Christ, communal living, interdependence verses independence, and prayer.

I was talking to Kurt, a guy that I work with in the garden that just turned 22, and he does not believe that a Christian should vote for candidates in the United States governmental system.  I had never even thought about that as a possibility.  I mean, I’ve thought about not voting because of disagreeing with the views and policies of candidates, I’ve heard of not voting because you think your one vote doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, I’ve heard of not voting because of apathy, but not voting because you’re a Christian, are you kidding me?  No, he wasn’t kidding me, and actually after talking with Kurt about this, I am beginning to see a lot of good things in his viewpoint on this.  Voting shows support for the governmental system, for the United States, for this society, for this economy.  The principals portrayed by Jesus paint a completely different picture of society than the one that we live in.  Our government supports war which kills people and I’m sure we can agree that there are better ways to solve problems than to kill people and that killing people is not good and is wrong.  Okay, maybe we can’t agree on that, but entertain me for a bit, and consider it.  Our society runs after wealth, security, sex, power, fame, individualism, materialism, capitalism, consumerism, etc.  These are all things that Jesus said to run away from, and run toward love, helping others, interdependence, humility, kindness, gentleness, self-control, joy.  Our government is run by our society and if these are the things that our government is built on, then the Christian must support a different system, a different society, a different kingdom.  There are tons of issues in here, and most people know Christians by what they are against, rather than what they are for.  Shame on us Christians for being known for what we’re against rather than being known by love.  So, if I don’t support the system, if I don’t support the government, if I don’t support this society, then what do I do?  Find a different way.

Someone suggested that I read this book called The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne.  He talks about creating a new society in the shell of the old.  A society of love, interdependence, abundance for everyone, peace, and joy.  I’m not done with the book yet, but its one of the best books I’ve ever read.  This book needs to be on the top of your reading list, seriously.

The gaps between the rich and the poor is something I’ve been thinking a lot about in the last week or so.  An interesting quote that I heard recently was that there is enough in this world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.  There are economically poor people, relationally poor people, spiritually poor people, and lots of other kinds of poor people, but that covers most of ’em, I think.  I think its safe to say that most people like to help others, but not enough people actually do anything about it.  We’re willing to donate to this or that charity and let them take care of helping people, but if it requires any of our time or other effort, forget about it, we’ve got better stuff to do.  Do we have better stuff to do?  The greed of our society and lack of preparing for the future has led us to become a society of waste.  We have kitchen waste, garden waste, agricultural waste, human waste, municipal waste, biowaste and on and on.  This waste is being piled up around us and contaminating our water and soil and if we don’t change the way that we live as a society, we’re going to ruin our planet.  All of this exists because of greed and the poor suffer the most because of it.  Are you going to be a part of fixing this problem, or are you gonna let your children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren deal with it?

I know that I am at a place that is committed to being an alternative to the ways of western society.  Koinonia Farm is a community that seeks to embody peacemaking, sustainability, and radical sharing.  I just got back from a meeting with Bren, the director of the community, and the rest of the group of interns and we were discussing the future vision and mission of Koinonia.  I am really excited about the future of this place.  The group of us was in agreement that the current economic system that is based on cheap energy, greed, and waste is going to fall apart sometime in the not so distant future.  We were talking about how to become a sustainable community and how to demonstrate that there is another way to live other than the way that the society around us has taught.  We are living in a very exciting time and I’m ready to do my part to move our world to a sustainable future.  Are you?

I just touched the surface on a lot of this stuff, and if I pissed you off, I’m not going to apologize, I just hope that you choose to do something constructive and helpful and loving for someone else instead of what our society has taught us to do: party, get drunk, have sex, throw everything “away”, and leave someone else to clean up the mess.  If I confused you, let me know and I’ll try to explain myself further.  If you’re doing good stuff, thanks, if you’re not, then join the fun in solving the world’s problems.  Why? Because we can.

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