After the Falling Leaves Rendezvous and visiting Wildroots, I went back to Koinonia for another visit. If you remember, at the start of this year when planning my big road trip, I made a Google map and put little markers on all of the places that I was interested in visiting and then I set out to visit them. Before I went back to Koinonia for this visit, I took some time to look over that map to see what else was still on the map that I hadn’t gotten to yet. The places that I hadn’t been to yet, weren’t really seeming very interesting to me anymore, so I just decided to go back to Koinonia and spend some time there before Christmas when I would go up to visit my family in Chicago. Another thing that made those other places less attractive to me at this point was that I had found out that I got accepted for an internship at the Possibility Alliance in Missouri, you know, that awesome place that uses no electricity and all that other good stuff. Yeah, that place. The internship starts at the end of March, 2011, which was quite a ways off, so I figured I’d spend time at Koinonia and help out there and learn more about farming, gardening, livestock, life, community and spend some more time with that intern girl that I was interested in. Then I figured that I would go up to Chicago to visit my family and friends up there for a while and then figure out something else to do until the start of the internship.
I spent almost three months at Koinonia before going up to Chicago to visit family for Christmas and a while after. A lot of stuff happened in that three months. Here is a brief highlight and then I’ll elaborate on some of the more interesting things. I mostly helped Brendan out with the animals and with a big fence building project. Things we did with the animals: castrations of new born calves, castrations of a couple of older calves that the farm bought and the original owner hadn’t castrated yet, daily movements of cattle a sheep to fresh pasture, improving the electric fence subdivisions in the big 80 acre pasture to make moving the cattle easier and faster, putting up semi-permanent electric fence wire in and around some of the pecan groves for winter grazing, moving pigs, feeding pigs, moving chickens, feeding chickens, fixing fence problems, catching the guardian dogs when they got out, slaughtering and butchering turkeys and chickens for thanksgiving, processing deer that hunters gave to Koinonia for letting them hunt on the property (mmmmm, venison…. sooooooo good), and probably a lot of other things that I can’t remember right now.
The fence project was the start of a boundary fence that will hopefully one day run around the entire property that Koinonia owns so that it would be possible and more safe to move animals all over the farm and make use of more of the available food that the forest is producing and is being under utilized. We put up a lot of fence when I was down there, but there is still a huge amount left to do. I imagine this project extending over several years at least. It was fun to work on fence building again, there is something very satisfying about putting up a good fence that is going to be beneficial for a long time. It also got me back into really good shape. All that traveling around the country made me a little soft, but being back at Koinonia and working hard regularly hardened me up again.
Other things that were great about being at Koinonia for several months was reconnecting more with my friends down there, meeting some new friends, learning a lot and eating a lot of really good food.
It was really great to see the growth and improvements that have happened on the farm and with the people in the community. It seemed to me that there were some improvements in organization and in people’s prioritization of all the stuff that they do that really made a difference in the way that the whole operation worked and in the way that people interacted with each other. In general, the community members seemed to be more comfortable in their life together. They also seemed to be in generally higher spirits. There was more laughter, more smiling, more joking around, more good conversations, more love, and people seemed less tired than I remember from when I lived there. It was really great to get to observe those changes. Of course, everything down there is far from perfect and never will be perfect, but things are getting better and that is good. God is at work down there and that to, is good.
I spent a lot of time with the fall interns and that was fun. They were a really good bunch of folks and we got along well. I definitely made some new friends. Things didn’t work out with the intern girl that I was interested in, but we’re still friends, I learned a lot from her, and I hope she learned some from me to. Things are still going well with the girl that I’m interested in who is still on her own little road trip around the country right now, so we’ll see where that goes. It has been difficult to try to get to know each other over the phone, but we’re trying and we’re both still really interested, so I’m excited about that.
Wayne Weiseman, the Permaculture dude that has sort of taken me under his wing as a developing young Permaculturalist and teacher, came down to Koinonia for a week to help figure out how Koinonia could better organize their operation and prioritize so that everything could operate more efficiently. I sat in on all the meetings that week and helped out where I could. That was a great learning experience for me and it was also very helpful for Koinonia. One of the big successes that week was getting all sorts of stuff out of people’s heads and on paper so they could really see everything that has to be done and better coordinate and communicate about things. I think that is going to go a really long way to help the community to succeed in its mission and move toward a more sustainable way of life more quickly than they were before. Good work, ya’ll.
Thanksgiving was pretty great. I had a hand in the raising, slaughter, plucking, and cooking of the turkeys and man were they good. The hatchery that Brendan ordered the baby turkeys (poults) from sent him the wrong breed of turkey and sent them a couple weeks late. Brendan ordered a fast growing breed and actually got one of the slow growing breeds and they came late, so the turkeys that we ate for thanksgiving were pretty small. We had to cook 4 of them to have enough food for everyone. Even though they were small, they were still really good. I cooked them all with some help from Sarah and Sarah Beth and they came out really well. Pastured turkey is fantastic tasting and its really good for you. Next thanksgiving, I suggest you should really try it. Find a local farm that raises pastured turkeys and support them, you won’t be disappointed. Check out eatwild.com for some more information and listings of farms in your area. That website also includes farms that produce all kinds of meets and other animal products in a way that is much better for the environment, the farmer and the consumer than that factory farm crap that you buy in the grocery store. The meets and animal products from pastured animals are also very healthy and did I mention tasty? Yeah, I think I did.
This fall, Koinonia let a couple of hunters go around in the forest and hunt deer and one of them gave a whole deer to Koinonia while I was down there. I helped with the butchering and I saved the hide to make into buckskin later. I took about 15 pounds of the meet and made some deer jerky, it is was freakin fantastic. Also, one night when Craig was on his way back from town he passed by a guy on one of the back roads that had just hit and killed a deer with his truck so Craig came back to the farm and got ahold of me to come help him get the deer so we could take advantage of some good free meat. We drove back out to the spot and picked up the deer and took it back to the farm to skin it and gut it and process it. It was a lot of really good meat that otherwise would have just rotted on the side of the road. It amazes me how many animals are killed by cars and trucks and just left on the side of the road to rot. It is still perfectly good if harvested freshly after being killed on the road. A lot of people could be fed if there wasn’t some big stigma about road kill not being okay to eat and there were people willing to go out and collect and preserve the meat. Another great thing about the whole deal with the deer was that Craig was so into it. He surprised me in a number of ways when I was back visiting Koinonia and that was one of them.
My time at Koinonia was really great. I felt loved and appreciated while I was there and I was able to help out and learn. Good times.