13 June, 2010

I stood behind the stage with young Ben when his dad stooped down and picked a four leaf clover. Some people are just lucky like that. Ben wanted to hold it's fragile stem, but I wasn't about to let him until I had at least made a wish on that four leafed wonder.

I have begun gathering intern stories:

"I lived with my friend and co-intern in a small cabin with no electricity, gas or indoor plumbing. There was a wood stove, but it was summer. We installed a gas stove and used candles at night.It was wonderful; I was often un showered that summer but I have no complaints...they expected 24 hours per week of work, essentially 3, 8 hour days in exchange for room and board. We often gave more hours, but never less. When your job is your home, and your employer begins to feel like your own family,pitching in for extra work is very easy, but we were cautioned not to burn ourselves out.

They knew that I came in knowing next to nothing about gardening, homesteading, chickens, goats, horses, and they were willing to teach and I was willing to learn. It took a long time for them to become comfortable with us feeding, watering, grooming, leading, and eventually tacking and untacking the horses. And after 6 months, when we were moving off the farm, they still had not let us drive or work the horses, though I think that we were close. We were young, strong, engaged, mostly enthusiastic, and these qualities almost always seemed to make up for our lack of experience.

I don't know what "hardest transition" means. On May 31st I woke up in an apartment in Brooklyn, New York, and on June 1st I woke up in a small cabin on a mountainside with no electricity, so that was a pretty dramatic transition, but not particularly hard because I felt so good about it.

There were countless sweet moments. Sometimes dozens a day. What jumps out at me is riding on the back of an over-filled hay wagon as it is pulled by the horses back to the farm. They did their hay loose - not baled, so it's a different kind of hard work, but probably much more fun to lay in and watch the clouds go by as you trundle down the road.

What do farmers needs to know? Such a big question. I feel like I could write a book on the subject right now, but to boil it down I would say that you can teach an intern to lead or you can teach an intern to follow. It seems like not every farmer is prepared for the responsibility of having to manage another person's time, and some farmers are so used to working alone that they struggle to communicate their vision for a project and/or their methodology to another person, especially someone who is less experienced than they. So I would say, allow your interns to take initiative. Take advantage of the skills that they do have. Keep communication lines open at all times. Establish clear-ish boundaries in terms of the living situation, food, etc. Do not come up with pointless busywork for the interns. Now, some jobs are tedious and time-consuming. That is the nature of farm work, and most can understand that hand-weeding a long row or cleaning a tall stack of buckets is essential, important work. But less direction is more. An intern who gets into the habit of being micromanaged, over-managed, or poorly-managed will become alienated, bored, and eventually less effective as the creative side of their brain gets slowly switched off.

Did you ride a tractor?
Tractor? Yes, but tractors generally suck. They are loud, they vibrate a lot and are mostly unpleasant to ride. Try horses.Most needed article of clothing? Obviously tall rubber boots. No contest. You can get a really good pair at Tractor Supply Co. for about 20 bucks."

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