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greenhouseRed Gate Farm is an educational paulachickenfarm providing farm experiences for children.  The heart of our program lies in real farming for real kids.  We put tools in the child’s hand and let them discover the joys of activity, challenge and satisfaction of a job done well.  Meaningful work at the farm includesyc4smiles caring for animals, tending the gardens, cooking meals, repairing buildings, constructing fences, managing woodlots and any number of other pieces of work that need to be done to maintain a small farm in working order.  As we work side by side, we find companionship in each other, and learn more about ourselves.

leapinglambAt the farm, children find themselves engrossed in new activities, sensations and experiences.  Youngsters eagerly shove on their boots as they hurry out into the rain to gather in the onions that were left out to dry.  Singing songs, we march along the dirt road with tools in hand on our way to the upper field to repair a fenceline.  The older kids laugh and shout as they joenoserace to catch up to the flock of sheep that have escaped into the back pasture.  Quietly, we stand together and gaze upwards at the twinkling lights of the summer night sky and feel the majesty of it all.  In the distant woods, an owl hoots at the moon, and a fox calls out to its mate.  Crickets sing, and we smile and whisper together, walking back to our beds, content in another farm day’s passing.

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SCA Interns at the Farm

sca-and-staff

(l-r) Natanah, A.J., Alley, Allie and Ben.

For the past three months, the Student Conservation Association in Hawley has provided the farm with two interns.  This is a partnership of over ten years, and once again the farm has enjoyed a great season with some really interesting, helpful and wonderful young people.  The interns have had a variety of experiences, and this is a short recollection of those adventures by Allie and A.J.  Enjoy.

 

Our first week in the Snow

We led Joe out for more practice, but snowy-oxwith only half his breakfast. With little time and much to do, he would have to wait until lunch. Trudging through the crunchy snow we could tell that he had little enthusiasm for work that day. It was remarkable to see how sure-footed a nearly one ton animal can be, even through slick snow. There were times when he nearly broke away and made his way back to pasture, but thankfully we managed to catch up to him every time. With us still being quite new, we are always looking for opportunities to learn and improve even if that means chasing after an ox.

Escaping the biting December wind we found sanctuary in the workroom building a gate. Such efforts were short-lived, however. And with sawdust in our hair we worked our way upstairs to bond over letter mailing. Content with working in a warm building, we folded letters, and filled and sealed envelopes until the day was done.

Frigidity and Firewood

slabwoodHoping for some relief from the frigid temperatures, we were met with another frozen morning. Moving hay was met with smiles, for we knew that more movement would keep us warm. But for the majority of the day, we were on a mission for slab-wood, and lots of it! Stacking the wood in the back of the pick-up truck would have been far too difficult had Ben not been there the first time. But, as we and Natanah waited for the second load of wood to arrive, we began speculating about how and when it would show up. Allie ponders, “Maybe they’ll just come down the hill with horses and a trailer…” And sure enough, no less than thirty seconds after that the trailer arrives, towed by two massive horses. Seeing the sca-slabwoodcalmness and control of such massive animals was remarkable; and in some way, reminded us of working with Joe. After we finished splitting and stacking for the day, we drove home thinking of all we had accomplished, and were no longer thinking about the temperature.

Final Weeks

The past few weeks have brought numerous novel experiences and challenges. With the new weather come new projects, and we were excited to learn more new things. Even though we spent several hours working on it, it was fantastic to see the chicken coop so clean. But after we were finished with that, the real work began. We rounded up every chicken and cleaned their feet in order to get rid of mites. Even though it was difficult and unsightly, it was great to see that they were feeling more comfortable.

We also noticed the animals beginning to react to the warming temperatures. Giving Joe the chance to get up and walk around, we hadn’t heard his hooves scratch the pavement in quite some time, we enjoyed the slow click-clack of his steps on the hard ground.
We also recently began seeding for the garden. We had very little experience in this area; so being able to literally get our hands dirty in the deep dark soil was fantastic. What was even more enjoyable was getting to see the seedlings ascend through the compost the following week.

Another brand new challenge we were able to experience was vaccinating the sheep. And even though we accidentally ended up being taken off of our feet a couple times, we certainly improved throughout the time!

The final weeks were filled with seeding and sugaring, and even though we were leaving just as everything was beginning to pick up, we were thrilled to have the experiences we did. And as we gloomily left the farm for our last day as interns, we knew that we would certainly be back! Thanks so much to Ben, Natanah, Alley, and all of the other friends we met and worked with along the way. We can’t wait to come back soon as volunteers. Good Luck with everything this spring Red Gate Farm!

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