Here Comes the Frost!

Julie and Amanda
Julie and Amanda

The first frost of the fall season has come and gone at Three Roods Farm.  Two lovely ladies have been around to experience this and other activities of the season. Julie, 24, from Upstate New York, arrived the beginning of September and plans to stick around into the winter time. Amanda, 23,  from the Land of Oz – Kansas, arrived late September and plans to be around until mid-October. Julie and Amanda have jumped into action on 3RF, taking in the learning opportunities.

What about Three Roods Farm attracted you the most?

Amanda: The description I read on the WWOOF directory about 3RF first attracted me. “If work is defined as something we would prefer not to do, but must do, then there is no work here. We love what we do – and we do what we love!”  This attitude combined with a speedy response from Robin definitely caught my attention.

Julie: After two years of living in a busy college town I was seeking out a quiet, steady lifestyle, and 3RF seemed to offer just that.  I was also  attracted to the alternative avenues of thought, such as homeopathy, biodynamic living, and spiritual awareness, that seemed to be woven into daily life at the farm.

What is a first impression that has changed over your stay?

Amanda: The first hour I arrived was quite awkward. Not knowing anybody previously, it was kind of scary. However, things have definitely changed and now I feel very comfortable, like a member of the family.

Julie: I first thought that the garden was really weedy!  All I could think about doing was getting out into those beds and pulling all those nasty buggers.  But after observing and participating in Greg and Robin’s approach to the garden I learned to ease my ‘weed anxiety’ and looked at the many small plants less as pests and more as dynamic parts of the system.  Why spend hours weeding something that doesn’t really need it?

What is something that you did not expect to be doing that you are doing?

Amanda: Burying humanure.

Julie:  I did not expect that, within my first few days, I would attend a Nirankari worship and receive the blessings of Babaji, Greg and Robin’s spiritual teacher.  I did not expect my enrollment in this crash test of spiritual awareness that I am, unexpectedly, so thankful for.

What do you really think of the composting toilet?

Amanda: Genius…the lovely decorations are quite entertaining, although it is getting kind of chilly out there.

Julie: I’ve used composting toilets elsewhere, but those ones got a lot more traffic.  I’m glad to see that building and maintaining a composting toilet for personal use is so darn easy…and a lot less messy and smelly than I thought!

What is something you know you won’t forget?

Amanda: The tipi dedication ceremony was very memorable. I also will never forget the stockpile of food supplies in the kitchen that remind me of being in a natural foods store. So great!

Julie: I have picked up an armada of tiny little ‘life-skills’ that have nothing to do with getting me a job or pushing me on ahead in the great big world, but are instead improvements on my everyday enjoyment and participation in life.  For example, I now know how to brew crabapple wine, make durable cord out of pretty much anything, better analyze the authority of the medical world (haha), and how to slice and can one million billion tomatoes without loosing my mind.

Amanda (left) and Julie (right) can't hide their enthusiasm for sanding tipi dowels!  Life just doesn't get much better than this.
Amanda (left) and Julie (right) can't hide their enthusiasm for sanding tipi dowels! Life just doesn't get much better than this.

!

CSA Harvest ~ August 29th

Verena
Verena

We said good-bye to interns David Rittenhouse and Verena Eichenberger.  They were with us for a long time and we appreciate their help.  In fact, the farm would not look half as good without the help we get from all our interns.  May their paths be blessed!

David
David

We welcome Courtney Kocher from Illinois who started her internship this week.

As for vegetables, we have lots of tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers peppers, and beets. We have a small amount of broccoli and pole beans. We'll cut basil and Swiss Chard again this week.  There's a new planting of mesclun lettuce to cut. We'll continue to give everyone garlic and the harvesters will get okra.

Hagar and the Shetland Sheep
Hagar and the Shetland Sheep

Our eggplants did not do well this year, but we'll have at least 1 for each of you this week. The corn is ready.  It is so sweet and tender, it hardly needs cooking! And the potatoes are in; an early red potato that is creamy when cooked.

Dill weed heads are available for pickling. Cut your own while you're here.

Interview: David Rittenhouse

Interview: Dave Rittenhouse
Tell me about the way you came to the Three Roods Farm:
It’s my first time WWOOFing and I wanted to visit a farm in the Midwest where I’ve grown up. I contacted many farms by e-mail and by calling and 3RF was the only farm that responded and had room available. Also the description of the 3RF in the WWOOFer book interested me with the large diversity of the farm.
What are the different chores you do here?
Every morning I feed the chickens and check for eggs and continue to check for eggs throughout the day. In the garden I help to harvest vegetables, weed, water, and help plant new crops. Greg and I have prepared a plot to be used next year, which has involved leveling the land, digging a trench and roto-tilling the soil. Twice I helped to move the sheep onto a new area for grazing. This involves setting up an electric fence and mowing the old land. One day I assisted Robin with the bees to look for honey. With Verena I have helped cook different desserts from our harvest with Rhubarb & Black Currant Crisp being our specialty.
What is your favorite job?
I enjoy weeding the most. It’s a very simple and repetitive job, but it allows to me to get lost in my thoughts and meditate on different ideas. Plus its very rewarding to see the crops positively react after weeding.
What do you do in your free time?
I do lots of reading, I’ve probably read eight books since coming here. I enjoy playing the guitar, I got a book on playing the blues in Ann Arbor and have been playing from that ever since. I have been practicing the language Swahili to prepare for classes in the fall. I have made different crafts taught to me by Robin, such as weaving a belt and learning to spin wool. I enjoy photography very much and I have taken many pictures which Robin has used on the website. I also have ridden my bike on a beautiful local trail many times.
What is something unique you’ve  learned that you did not expect?
With Robin I’ve learned a lot about different herbs that can be used to make teas and their various medicinal properties. The herbs I’ve learned about are Chamomile, Bee Balm, Comfrey, Clover, Catnip and Mint. My favorite combination is Chamomile, Catnip and Mint right before bed to help me sleep.
What are your sleeping arrangements?
I sleep in the upper part of the barn which I share with George, the cat, mice and bats. Numerous nights I have awakened to bats flying over me. I then use a net to catch them and release them outside. At first it was scary to wake up with them screeching above me but now it is second nature to catch them.
What are your plans after 3RF?
I will return to Minneapolis, Minnesota to start my third year at the University of Minnesota where I’m studying Biology, Society and the Environment. Also I’m excited to move into my new house as the landlord plans to turn the backyard into an organic garden. I will get to apply a lot of what I’ve learned here into the devolvement of my backyard garden.
Interview with Dave Rittenhouse
By Verena Eichenberger
IMG_0257Tell me about the way you came to the Three Roods Farm:
It’s my first time WWOOFing and I wanted to visit a farm in the Midwest where I’ve grown up. I contacted many farms by e-mail and by calling and 3RF was the only farm that responded and had room available. Also the description of the 3RF in the WWOOFer book interested me with the large diversity of the farm.
What are the different chores you do here?  Every morning I feed the chickens and check for eggs and continue to check for eggs throughout the day.
IMG_0204
In the garden I help to harvest vegetables, weed, water, and help plant new crops. Greg and I have prepared a plot to be used next year, which has involved leveling the land, digging a trench and roto-tilling the soil. Twice I helped to move the sheep onto a new area for grazing. This involves setting up an electric fence and mowing the old land. One day I assisted Robin with the bees to look for honey. With Verena I have helped cook different desserts from our harvest with Rhubarb & Black Currant Crisp being our specialty.IMG_0139

Hands in the soil
Hands in the soil

What is your favorite job?

I enjoy weeding the most. It’s a very simple and repetitive job, but it allows to me to get lost in my thoughts and meditate on different ideas. Plus its very rewarding to see the crops positively react after weeding.
IMG_0247What do you do in your free time?
I do lots of reading, I’ve probably read eight books since coming here. I enjoy playing the guitar, I got a book on playing the blues in Ann Arbor and have been playing from that ever since. I have been practicing the language Swahili to prepare for classes in the fall. I have made different crafts taught to me by Robin, such as weaving a belt and learning to spin wool.
I enjoy photography very much and I have taken many pictures which Robin has used on the website. I also have ridden my bike on a beautiful local trail many times.
What is something unique you’ve  learned that you did not expect?
With Robin I’ve learned a lot about different herbs that can be used to make teas and their various medicinal properties. The herbs I’ve learned about are Chamomile, Bee Balm, Comfrey, Clover, Catnip and Mint. My favorite combination is Chamomile, Catnip and Mint right before bed to help me sleep.

praying mantis
praying mantis

What are your sleeping arrangements?

I sleep in the upper part of the barn which I share with George, the cat, mice and bats. Numerous nights I have awakened to bats flying over me. I then use a net to catch them and release them outside. At first it was scary to wake up with them screeching above me but now it is second nature to catch them.
What are your plans after 3RF?
I will return to Minneapolis, Minnesota to start my third year at the University of Minnesota where I’m studying Biology, Society and the Environment.
Also I’m excited to move into my new house as the landlord plans to turn the backyard into an organic garden.I will get to apply a lot of what I’ve learned here into the devolvement of my backyard garden.
David with a shovel in his hands
David with a shovel in his hands

Meet Verena Eichenberger

Verena in Ann Arbor
Verena in Ann Arbor

Verena is Three Roods Farm’s latest intern, hailing all the way from Switzerland. She recently graduated from High School. She wanted to come to the United States for the summer to improve her English. Ken, Robin’s brother (and father of Timmy who is a friend of Verena’s brother Raphael), suggested Verena come to Three Roods Farm, and since July 14th this is where she has been.

Verena picking black currants
Verena picking black currants

At home in Thun, Switzerland Verena enjoys playing the flute, spending time with her family and friends, eating chocolate, and doing everything outdoors e.g. biking, skiing, and hiking around Switzerland’s beautiful mountains. Her favorite books and movies are non-fiction true stories.

Being on 3RF isn’t the first time Verena has gotten her hands dirty. She has often helped her parents with a large garden they have at home.

At Three Roods Farm Verena passes her days weeding in the garden, harvesting vegetables, planting trees in the orchard, helping Robin prepare meals, and helping Greg with whatever he thinks up for the day. In her free time here she enjoys playing the piano, reading the book Twilight, which she was inspired to read after seeing the movie, and going on adventures with me to explore Michigan.

Michigan's eastern shoreline
Michigan's eastern shoreline

So far we’ve seen the coastline of the thumb, stopping at a beach in Caseville and hiking through Port Crescent State Park, biked throughout Genesee County to see local parks along the Holloway Reservoir, and seen a bit of big city life during a day in Ann Arbor. One thing that never ceases to amaze her is the number and size of our trucks.

Verena helps put up the tipi
Verena helps put up the tipi

Verena did not come to the US alone; her friend Ramona joined her, but Ramona is wwoofing at the Strawbale Studio in Oxford learning about natural building. When they meet up, they excitedly begin to speak of all that they’ve done in Swiss-German, their native tongue. Before returning to Switzerland, Verena and Ramona will travel to Toronto to see more of the Great Lakes Region. When Verena returns home she will begin studying Environmental Science and Natural Resource Management at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

Story and photos by David Rittenhouse.

Three Roods Charm

Greg relaxing with a head of lettuce
Greg relaxing with a head of lettuce

An excerpt from Three Roods Charm, a short story by former intern Michael Short :

“Did David Bowie bother you at sunrise?” Greg asked.
“Huh?” I said.
“What I meant was how did you sleep?”
“Oh. Wonderful,” I said. This was my first morning at Three Roods Farm, and I made sure to sound cheery and willing. I hadn’t a clue what chores might await me.
“I’m sorry, but did you say David Bowie?” I asked.
“Yes, but never mind for now.” Greg seemed pleased about something. He was the kind of guy who carried himself confidently without fringing on arrogance. “Well, we’d better go feed and water the chickens first thing. Nicole can give you a full tour of the farm later. She’s our summer intern—you’ve met her, right?”
“Oh, yes,” I said. “She actually showed me around last night.”
“Wonderful,” Greg said, as if that had always been the plan.
I trailed him in the morning dew out to the barn. The grass was tall and wet and irritated my legs despite my attempt to follow his steps.
“That means you’ll have some free time this afternoon. Maybe you and Nicole can go swimming at the nature preserve. And if you’re lucky…” he paused but didn’t look at me. “…you’ll meet Deer and Justice.”
“Who?” I asked.
He hesitated again, and I swear he winked at me, but I couldn’t tell. Greg frequently exhibited a shrewd yet mysterious smile and made you feel like a puppy awaiting a treat. He could have winked after every sentence without the gesture seeming inappropriate.
“The neighbors, of course,” he said at last. “But now, meet the kids.” He unlatched the gate to the chicken pin and held it open. “After you.”
The chicks were yellow, brown, and black, and at first, they ran away in terror, but then the cluster looked at me expectantly and approached with caution.
“These are my babies,” he said. “All forty of them. You can count them if you’d like.”
“Hmm.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. In fact, I would say ‘hmm’ a lot during my stay at Three Roods. “They’re cool.”
“No, count them,” Greg said. “I need to know they are all here.”
I realized ‘if you like’ was Greg’s gentle way of saying ‘do this, please.’ Embarrassed, I began counting in my head, but I waved my fingers around like I was directing an orchestra as proof of my diligence. “I count forty,” I said.
Greg displayed his knowing smile again. “Me too.”
I reached down to scratch my legs, which still irritated me.
“Did you bring any long pants?” He asked. “You’ll want to wear them in the future.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be fine.”
I remembered almost laughing at the sight of Greg earlier that morning, but now I understood his dress. He didn’t look ridiculous, he just looked like the typical farmer, pitchfork-in-hand, any child would envision while singing old Macdonald had a farm…
“Ok, well let me show you the operation I run here,” he said.
Rubber boots, denim overalls, patch of chin hair, glasses, tall and slender frame except for a rounded belly, and brown calloused hands—ee i ee i oh.
“When the kids grow up, which takes about six months, they start laying.” He picked up a wooden egg from a shelf. “These are for encouragement. But in the meantime, we feed them—a lot. Their poop is their most valuable product for now, so I keep them well stocked with an organic mixture of feed.”
“How come it doesn’t smell in here?” I asked.
That smile and ambiguous wink again. “I’m glad you asked.” He bent down and grabbed some of the bedding. “I get this hay from a friend over in Romeo County—no chemicals in it, he assures me. I add two or three inches to the floor each week, and by the end of the season, I’ll have three or four feet of compressed hay and poop—you can’t ask for better fertilizer.”
“So is that what makes Three Roods a permaculture design?” I asked.
“Well, its certainly part of it, but we strive for efficiency in all of our projects. And we have many.” He closed the gate. “I’ll have you change the water, add two scoops of feed, and spread some fresh hay in a minute, but first let’s see how our mothers are doing, shall we? Oh, and watch out for Schnitzel,” Greg said as I followed him out of the barn and around to the coop where the hens strutted up and down the run. “He probably won’t eat the chickens if he gets in, but he’ll scare them half to death.”
Schnitzel was young, tireless, and his wet nose came up to my belly button. Despite his size, he seemed friendly and didn’t scare me. “Good boy,” I said, patting him on the head. “You stay here.” I squeezed through the cracked gate and into the pin without breaking eye contact with the German Shepherd.
“So does Schnitzel have a specific function in the permaculture design, too?” I asked.
“No,” Greg said. “He’s just cool.”
I laughed. I was starting to feel more comfortable around Greg, even during long silences, and he seemed to enjoy my questions.
“Speaking of cool dudes,” he said. “This is David Bowie.”
I looked up to see a rooster with a large orange cockscomb staring at me. His head was tilted, his eyes black and piercing, and his left leg poised two inches above the ground. Without warning, he kicked up dust and ran around in circles shrieking frantically.
“Oh shut up,” Greg said, shooing David aside. “We’re here for the ladies.” Then he turned to me. “So Mike, have you ever collected eggs before?”
“Nope.”
“Well there’s nothing to it. Only about six lay at a time, but we have eighteen.”
I lifted my finger and started waving it around again.
Now Greg laughed. “You don’t have to count them. They don’t go anywhere. Just lift them up gently with one hand and feel beneath them with the other. They won’t peck you.”
I timidly reached beneath the warm hen and pulled out three eggs.
“Great. You’ve got the hang of it,” Greg said. “When you make a dozen, bring the carton inside. And don’t forget to feed, water, and add hay to the chickens when you’re done. Any questions?”
“I don’t think so.”
The clever smile, the half wink, the approving nod. “I’ll see you at lunch then.”
************

[Inspired by an apprenticeship at Three Roods Farm. Read the whole story: Three Roods Charm]