Friday, October 1, 2010

Ready for Harvest

Fall is a busy time. It’s the time for harvest when apples fall, salmon spawn, deer feast, and bears get fat for winter. The Sticks and Stones interns seem to act similarly, but their priorities are a bit different.

With hunting season fast approaching, Skeet and the residential students are in a hurry to get things ready. Arrowheads need to be knapped, greenwood shafts straightened, bows finished and hundreds of practice shots fired. Camouflage-compatible clothes, that are warm and quiet, need to be made or bought, properly de-scented and packed away. Tracking skills need to be practiced, and books read. On top of hunting, shelters need extra work for the rain and approaching cold. Then there was the Headwaters Gathering to get ready for, and all of the fall courses still to come. It’s a busy time, but a happy time.

Interns Mike and David prepare thunderboxes for the fall Headwaters Gathering

Intern Drasko takes a break to enjoy the hard work he's put into his bow, made of Osage Orange

The interns have grown more comfortable with one another in the time they’ve been around, and a routine of productiveness has been engrained. Skeet won’t admit it but the interns are sure that the cows sneaking onto the property from the adjacent fields are a team building exercises in disguise. There is something beautifully bonding about chasing cows back over a fence while trying to avoid all their scat.

David has also built Drasko a shelf out of pine for his tipi while the weather was dry. Skeet is putting a woodstove in the house, as well as in the workshop, and plenty of wood needs to be cut. Everybody spent some time caretaking the woods, cutting down dead elm trees and overcrowded pines, making room for the growing apple, maple, elderberry, dogwood and cherry trees. Most of the pines will be given to a neighbour and some will stay on the forest floor to turn into nutrients. The elms, which are a hardwood, will be good firewood. We had many hands to help harvest the wood. On top of the interns and other on site members of the Sticks and Stones community, other helpers included Stu, who is a friend of the school, as well as Skeet's Dad. The community looked like a hive of busy bees. The rain seemed to hit in the middle of busy times but we all managed to work through it in good humour.

The last day of summer started with a midnight thunderstorm, but through the day the sun poked her head out. It was a great day to enjoy. Sue went to the local Collingwood Market and bought vegetables from Bobby, who gardens on the property and sells at the local market. A nearby farm called the New Farm put on a Harvest Festival that evening. Drasko and Sue went to dance the night away with friendly strangers. Sticks and Stones isn’t the only community to be working and celebrating the seasonal shift and its bounty.

Meanwhile, the animals are arranging their own affairs. The Canadian geese and blue jays are flying south. Drasko, after choosing his sit spot, saw a big, old raccoon he nicknamed Grandpa Raccoon going about his hunting and gathering. A barred owl blessed Mike with his presence swooping over his head to look for shrews while Mike gathered debris for his shelter. Sue, Phil (both friends of the school) and Mike, visited the plants for some autumn harvesting, which took them on an adventure and allowed them to gather some wild ginger, golden rod, cranberry, yarrow, birch and cedar bark. Tucker tagged along and gathered porcupine quills in his paws which were later extracted.

Tucker, the Sticks and Stones mascot, retires after a long day

The buzz of the current schedule seems to be just the beginning. About a month ago, a fire in Drasko’s tipi was lit by the interns, and it seems it was built well. The passionate youngins are still on fire and ready to go. The learning that has come with community and rewarding work has been potent. It seems like the animals are rubbing off on everyone as a sphere of productivity has come to the school. Though it feels like the link between the busy schedule of the animals and the School has been subconscious, the community of Sticks and Stones is intent on making that connection very conscious. Everyone is fine tuning their awareness to make that happen. When it comes to mimicking the satisfying labour of harvest that the animals are so good at, the interns and school are learning a great deal.

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