Kit has left Sunflower River for the winter

Kit unexpectedly left this weekend. That is typical for him–at EMG he and I spoke about the fact that he’d need to find another place to stay for part of winter, and he had from time to time made calls and put out feelers for where that might be.

He found a paying gig out in Maryland doing strawbale construction. After a few short phone interviews, they bought him a plane ticket and offered him a few months paid work. We put him on a plane Saturday with a promise to share stories and knowledge when we see him again. Kit is my eyes and ears to what is happening on the ground outside of our river valley. I promised to tell a story about him at bardic this Mabon.

It is always wonderful and heartbreaking when he leaves–we immediately noticed his absence around the farm, as he stays on top of animal care and cleaning the kitchen. Most of late summer has seen 6-8 people living at Sunflower River. As winter approaches that is going to make our tiny farmhouse seem very crowded–and we stewards realized how little time we had been spending with each other. One side-effect of having so many people around is that certain kinds of conversation and planning we need to sustain ourselves don’t happen without extra effort on our part. We haven’t been making that time, and the stress of not doing so eventually creeps into all of our other effort.

Just before he left, Kit built us new nesting boxes for our hens. Our flock hasn’t been producing the volume of eggs that it should, and we hypothesized that the coops we had essentially repurposed as nesting boxes were part of the problem–we get too many broken eggs as the hens walk over them.

Kit did not have the knowledge or skills to build these boxes last winter. When he started WWOOFing with us, he did so with the intent to replace a college education with an apprenticeship. A year of working has created impressive results. Before he left I was preparing to hand off to him planning and execution of getting our field ready to be irrigated. This is a large, multi-stage project involving coordination of people and equipment. Definitely one step closer to Charlie than digging ditches!

Some months ago I had breakfast with a friend who is forming her own intentional community. She had described her group as leaderful rather than leaderless, and I have since adopted that slogan myself. Combined with techniques I have learned from participating in WAYK, I have been able to more clearly see how to create environments that promote self-agency. How our greater community around Sunflower River benefits by increasing our collective leadership fluency.

The day Kit left another WWOOFer, Andie, arrived. Like a lot of people participating in this program, she is just starting her own training. I was asked this weekend if it was frustrating to constantly have to train new people. It isn’t, not really. Each person coming through is an opportunity to evaluate how we do things. Each time I describe it I have to rejustify to myself that it is the best, most obvious, most productive way of accomplishing a task. That stream of new people gives us enormous insight into how better to run our farm. To make the environment itself a teacher, a reminder of what it itself needs.

Susan Frank has described us as participating in the Great Reskilling, and as I’ve worked on better teaching what I know and better learning what I don’t, our community has, over the past two years, greatly increased our fluency. The constant stream of new people hasn’t reduced what we know and can accomplish, and our retelling of our stories and experiences contributes to our own understanding of what we’re doing.

I look forward to showing Kit how many cool things we’ll get done while he’s gone–with any luck we’ll have a new yurt up, among other things. And I’m excited to see what he brings back to us: new songs, new stories, and new knowledge. If he and I are really on top of our games, we’ll even teach each other a few tricks on the tin whistle.

Goddess speed.