A few days before Holly’s early demise…
Sabi had gathered up sow bugs aka rollie pollies and was feeding them to her.
Mom: Is it hard to feed them to her, because you really like them? (knowing that he loves rollie pollies, calls them his friends, and likes to play with them alot)
Sabi: Yes…but well…I want to give her something that she loves.. (said with a sigh and a sense of wide understanding)
Though very sad, he accepted her being eaten by a predator, in much the same way.
For the past two months I have seen a change within me. I feel that this change has come about thanks to Mother Nature, Sarvodaya, and the wonderful people that I have met through this internship program. Working outside and witnessing life play out is such a beautiful experience. It is an experience that textbooks cannot teach. My desire to learn more about plants and ecosystems has become stronger. I feel like I am a sponge just trying to absorb as much knowledge as I can. In short, I am just really happy that I was given the opportunity to learn from amazing people about nutrition, social justice, farming, etc. All of you have made a difference in my life and I am so thankful to have met each and everyone of you.
“What should we do with you?”
When I got rear-ended a couple months ago, my back injury prevented me from doing a lot of my normal daily activities, let alone the back-breaking labor that farming is known for. In addition to just having to adapt to living with pain, I was also bummed to not get the full farm experience every day, being pretty limited in terms of the types of fieldwork that I could do. Some days I was alone by the sinks washing piles and piles of vegetables, and other days I was traipsing the farm updating our accounting system trying to figure out what crops were in which fields.
It was hard to feel like I was really farming. Isn’t that what I had come to do anyways? But on those days when I would start to feel bad about what I was contributing to the farm, I began thinking about the ways we think about labor and interdependence.
A lot of the ways we think about labor has to do with masculinity. We can easily understand how shoveling horse manure onto a compost pile is work. Other types of labor like cleaning, taking care of children, or providing emotional support to a friend – the types of work that are often taken on by women – are often erased as being labor in the same way. But we also know that those jobs, which often are undervalued, are also completely necessary to the functioning of the whole operation. So when I started to feel discouraged I would challenge myself to think that the hours I spent washing collard greens was as integral to the operation of the farm as planting seeds or clearing fields (even if it is less glamorous).
Beyond human labor, being on the farm has challenged me to value and understand each organism’s unique contribution to a broader system. On Friday, we found a whole gopher tunnel labyrinth, and began scheming on how to quickly catch and kill it. I paused a bit though and see past the gopher as a ‘pest’ and to push myself to see what role the gopher plays in our complex ecosystems.
‘Do gophers help aerate the soil?’ I asked Tyler.
‘Yeah, gophers are great at breaking up compact soil, because they’ll come through and dig it up. They’re like nature’s tillers.’
During a time when there is a lot of hate towards groups that are seen as ‘other’, it’s important to look deeper and uplift the value that each of us brings to the larger whole. From immigrants and people with disabilities, to gophers and aphids, everyone is connected through our shared home of this planet.
So this week I experienced pincher bugs in my hair, on my legs and even inside my shirt. That being said, I decided to do a little bit of research on these little buggers to better understand them. Pincher bugs were given the name Earwig due to an old wives tale that earwigs burrowed into the brains of humans through the ear and laid their eggs there. They are found everywhere in the world except Antarctica. Furthermore, they are nocturnal insects that like to hide in small, moist areas during the day. They also have wings but do not fly.
Forficula auricularia are responsible for damaging crops. Both sexes have forceps but males have curved forceps while females have straight forceps. They are omnivorous and feed on plants to spiders, aphids, dead plants and insect eggs. White clover and dahlias are their favorite plants to munch on. In addition, they like to feed on molasses, mosses, lichens and algae. They prefer to eat meat or sugar to natural plant material.
I found some interesting ways to get earwigs off plants. One method I found was to roll up damp newspapers or cereal boxes in the garden during the evening. The second method involved pouring vegetable or olive oil into a shallow dish. The following YouTube video shows the method and the results:
I would love to see this being done at the farm. Just to see if it really works like it does in the video.
Here are some snapshots from the farm over the last six weeks!
It has been some kind of week. For starters, the farm has been trying to fight off double story condo’s that developers want to build in the empty lot nextdoor. This would be disastrous for the farm, because it would decrease and block out sunlight throughout the fields, leading to a drastic decrease in farmable space. On Wednesday night I joined the crew as we huddled together to present (1) why the farm is a great part of the Pomona community and (2) why the development is detrimental to the well-being of the farm. It was the first time I had ever been to something like that and found myself pretty fascinated by some of the protocol.
Personally, I am working through some big decisions in my life and this week(end) I made the decision to pursue a Masters of Science in Regenerative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona. I was debating betweeen that and being an Ayurvedic Practioner. Both paths were compelling but at the end of the day I went with my heart and with what I think will be the best decision in the long run.
And lastly, this week on the farm we ‘rotated’. I have been on Nursery team and Field team (my personal favorite) and now I am on chicken duty. At first I felt a lot of apprehension, mostly because I was just getting my groove going in the fields, but also because I haven’t spent a lot of time with chickens and I don’t really understand them all that well. I am looking forward to spending more time with them, with feeding them and observing them, and I am excited to get back to the farm and the onry birds.
When I first started the nursery team, I was admittedly not terribly excited. I grew up thinking I did not have a green thumb and now I had to grow them from seed? It seemed a little boring, like watching grass grow, to be honest (sorry Rishi!!). Now that our six week term has ended I’m a little sad to go. There were so many parts of the nursery that were unexpectedly satisfying and meditative. Watching the different ingredients of potting soil get mixed together, soaking and breaking up a block of coconut coir (seriously fun stuff), sifting a bin full of Lynn’s compost, and even the seemingly never-ending process of watering all the pots and seedlings could put me in a contemplative state. Even the smell of fish fertilizer became a part of our routine, though I can’t say I’ll be sad leaving that behind. It also helped that being in the nursery worked with my natural inclination to tasks that require attention to detail, like putting a single seed in each cell with an indentation measured to the correct fraction of an inch depth.
From feeling apprehensive and clueless to gradually gaining confidence as plantings grew, it dawned on me that I may not have a black thumb! Perhaps this whole time I didn’t have the right tools to put me in the right direction, like the nutrient rich compost, ample water, and a healthy dose of sunlight. The seeds have sprouted, they’ve been lovingly watered, and they will soon be planted into beds as we move along to the fields team. We will no longer be under the luxurious shade cloth but I’m excited to transplant and watch the plants grow to their full size.
As I walk on the dusted mulch pathway towards Sarvodaya Farms at 8am my body is trying to wake up. My head is groggy, my eyes are trying to make sense of what is in front of them and the caffeine from a Starbucks cup of coffee is slowly blocking the receptors responsible for drowsiness. After I clock myself in I walk into the nursery and immediately my body wakes up. I carefully observe the various trays where the seedlings have not yet popped up and pronounce their presence to the world. My initial thoughts are filled with concern and disappointment. I quickly look at the masked taped tab to check if it was I who planted the seeds. The handwriting always gives it away. Lo and behold it is my handwriting and questions are running through my head. Did I plant them correctly? Did I wash my hands before planting the seeds in each cell? Did I put the correct number of seeds in each cell? Have I not been watering them enough? Why aren’t you growing??! Working in the nursery makes me feel like I am going through motherhood. I have never had a child but whenever I am in the nursery I feel responsible for the seeds and hope that they grow into beautiful successful plants. It gives me great joy when I see the trays with my handwriting growing into cute little seedlings.
The process from seeing these tiny little seeds being planted in the cells to growing into dazzling adult plants fills me up with a lot of happiness. Witnessing the process of life every week inspires me to better my life, my body and soul.
Over the weekend an acquaintance of my husband’s (so, a complete stranger to me) shared his two cents on GMOs. His instagram post stated that GMOs are not inherently bad, and that “there are good ones out there like golden rice that are saving millions of people in the country of Africa.” Now, seeing this sort of information all over the internet is not new or news, but this person has a following as an exercise and nutrition expert and I could not turn a blind eye. At first, my mind could not decide on where I should even begin. I started out writing a short comment that ended up being 500 words. Whoops! There was just too much to cover! In the end, I simply wrote, “Golden rice is still in development and has yet to be commercially grown and distributed. It is being created for countries in Asia, not Africa, as their staples are tubers and not rice. Source: International Rice Research Institute, the organization behind golden rice (irri.org).” I felt that my response was unbiased and did not attack him in any way, but invalidated his argument that because golden rice exists, GMOs are OK. Yet only 30 minutes later my comment was deleted, while others that praised his thoughts stayed up.
This encounter frustrated me but also reminded me of a conversation we had on the farm during one of our Wednesday check-ins. No matter how you approach it, there will always be people who do not want to see or listen to any view points other than their own. What can you do? My response during check-in was to lead by example, which I obviously did not follow this time around. I wish their was a one-size-fits-all answer approach this, but for now I guess my best option is to put my head down and focus on what’s important to me.
Just this past week, our favorite bantam chicken was attacked by what we think was some kind of animal. She was the smallest of the chickens my team tends for in this current rotation. Her name was Holly named by Sabriel and she was beloved by almost anyone who visited the chickens.
When we found her, she was half eaten or pulled apart. Sorry this photo is graphic! But perhaps it will help us further investigate the causes of her untimely death.
Silvia helped to facilitate a gathering and ceremony to mourn the loss of Holly and also help her transition. I’m really glad she helped us hold a circle, because frankly it all happened so quickly. We were rushing to put away the chickens in time for weekly check in and then we found her and called Manju over. While we were late to check in, the chicken team+ Sabi, Manju, and Silvia were able to share memories and collect wildflowers as we buried her.
Losing a life is never easy, and I don’t think it ever gets easier. However, I am thankful that we as a group could hold space for one another. It’s kind of funny how we as a team celebrated the death of 2 gophers we were able to catch while on the fields team, while the death of Holly was very sad. I guess this is all a part of nature and the cycle of life or the cycle of death, depending on how you look at it. All those that died on the farm continue to feed our eco-community whether it is through cats eating the gophers, or the remains of Holly giving back to the soil and the microbes that will break her down and build the nutrients there. When I was working on a farm in New Orleans, we were raising ducks and there was a morning where we found like 5 dead ducks spread out throughout the back plot. They were killed by dogs that roam the neighborhood. We buried them throughout the farm and that summer those spots were buried them in had seriously some of the most lucious soil I had seen throughout the farm. Crazy how something like dogs took their life but they continued to give back past its death.
I know I can be more conscious of keeping my giving and taking to be more harmonious and in balance. everything is like a relationship- you can never take too much or give too much- theres always gives and takes for relationships to be healthy.