Saturday, September 6, 2014

boys and girls club

In September we are experiencing the summer we have not had. It is suddenly hot and humid, and my sneezing allergy is in pretty full bloom too.

We had a group of 14 kids visit us from the Boys And Girls Club of Harrisburg today. Remember I mentioned it is hot and humid? We tried to keep in the shade as much as possible, but it was a super sweaty sort of day.

I climbed into the bus to say hello, to explain that we have a lot of dogs, two would spend the day in the garage, two are lovely and friendly and one is fine just don't touch her. This made one little girl start to cry, and to consider staying on the bus and riding straight back home. Um. Oops. Big eyes all around, looking at me, scaring a little girl before they had even left the bus. She proudly overcame her fear and stuck with us, we entered the gate and all was well. Storage bins for grain, stops under every tree, filling a wheelbarrow with potatoes they dug up. Transfers of chicks to mobile pens. Straw moved across the farm into egg boxes. Lunch break. Water from hoses opened up onto the back of necks for an instant cool down. Swings discovered and used. Shade trees found again. Visits with cattle who would NOT come over for a treat: too many moving small people for the herd, who stood and watched, ears listening, watching and on edge. Not even the treats could tempt them.

What color are pigs? "Pink!" Everyone says. Homer whistles, a few snuffling sounds, snorts, and through the grass appear two pigs, solid black, ears flopping over eyes. Silent, eyes wide look from the kids followed by laughter. Questions tumble. About eating, sleeping, running...everything pigs might do. Brief biology lessons occur.

Turkeys found, and what a surprise! They are large and loud and by now more cold water is needed, to drink and douse the backs of necks. Kids and grownups drop temperatures from too hot to cool!

What are in those trees? Pears?! Can we eat them? Can we pick them? What do we do with the core? Its raining!! Here's another whole place to sit! A breeze!

On to tomato picking. Cucumber pulling. Trays and trays of both. Hot again as the rain stops, time to get back outside...yes, run, please, over and back again. Swings?! More than one!? Can we pile on? How many? How high?

I sit on a seat as the kids run in the shade, playing after a full farm day. The girl who cried on the bus is carrying a dog, supporting her behind and saying sweet things in her ear. A child approaches to request intervention on an injustice, I request that there be no whining, lower your voice to a normal speaking tone and make your request. She sits, calms herself, distracted by the other activities runs to participate.

And then they leave. Trash picked up, gear that has been shed gathered, folded, tucked back up.

Last question: "did everyone get dirty today?" "YES" is the answer. Ahh. I think. I love a dirty kid. Mission accomplished!

At dinner it is quiet. Homer reminds that he grew up going to the Boys Club...not in Harrisburg, but just like the one in Harrisburg and these kids today. After school he would go there, for basketball, painting, kickball and bumper pool, Popsicle stick holiday decorations, woodworking and more. He tells me he is certain that the Boys Club saved his life, that he was lucky enough to be there when...things...happened. He remembers clear as can be who worked there, who kept him engaged, involved, playing ping pong tournaments like his life depended on it, realizing today his life did.

"Did you take field trips" I ask. No recollection of that. No memory of what is being done at the 3 Boys And Girls Clubs in Harrisburg...a program based on food, on planting, growing, harvesting, preparing, preserving, and eating food. We love food, and the life we get to live here.

And the kids, here today? Who stepped through the gate, filled with more than a little fear about all the livestock here and what might happen? They all worked. All day. At the pace we work, with breaks and water and swings and talking. On such a hot and humid day, such sunny, willing, working attitudes.

We always hope people who visit here grow something: a couple chickens, vegetables, rescued dogs, plant a few fruit trees at whatever scale available to them. These kids, today? We hope they visit us again.

And that, like Homer, these little things save their lives, and they, like Rafiyqa who made this trip happen, grow up and do as she does, as we do, extend a hand to the next little ones who care, who want to learn and play and run and just be kids.

Rafiyqa at one point turned to me and said "Homer's the biggest kid of all here.". And she's exactly right. What his parents raised him doing, what the Boys Club did for him: keeping him busy, active, engaged and curious is still how he lives.

And that's why we farm the way we do.

It took three of them to pull that weed out.

What they will prepare back at the Boys And Girls Club.

To do list.


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