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Clearing the Way Together

On May 6, a dedicated group gathered in the morning chill at Bellwether Farm. Over the course of a couple hours, the crew slowly and steadily grew to more than 40 volunteers who participated in our Youth and Family Work Day. Serenaded by Orioles and Blue Jays (as sleuthing youth figured out with help from a bird guide), a contingent swept through the lower floodplain fields to clear large woody debris from areas that will be later maintained with mowing. This was truly a committed, hard-working group! In just two hours they lifted, carried, hauled, and piled all the logs and sticks from the field— the enormous brush piles left behind attest to their determination! Hammering echoed through the river valley as other participants carefully assembled bluebird boxes that will provide safe spaces for these field-dwelling songbirds. The boxes include features designed to accommodate the birds’ physical needs such as ventilation holes and a sloped roof and awning to keep out rain, but also included handwritten prayers on the inside from the sermon of St. Francis to the birds.These prayers were invocations of the ways in which God provides for all creatures and a way to remember that we are called to step into that care as co-workers. In addition, groups built fire-starters (from recycled materials) which will be used for future camping events. We really tried to cover all the bases—there were even eager workers scrubbing the rust off garden tools and others filling in potholes with gravel! Since the splendor of spring was difficult to ignore (and the kids kept telling us how awesome the forest was), a small group took a brief wildflower hike to find (and smell!) neighboring Trillium, Wild Ginger, Virginia Bluebells, and Mayapples. At the end of our time together, all gathered to pray and enjoy a meal. And what a meal it was! Along with the countless potluck dishes generously provided, we enjoyed a salad with dandelion greens and wild chives foraged from the surrounding area by the youth. Volunteers grilled local hotdogs and hamburgers from Chris and Jamie Hilaman of CHL Farms, neighbors of Bellwether Farm, who raise Angus cattle on pasture. Wrapped in ramp (wild leek) leaves from Bellwether’s forest, these not only tasted fantastic and replenished our energy, but were also an embodied connection to the land and the ways we aim to continue connecting through well-grown, well-raised, and wellforaged food at Bellwether Farm. Many thanks to Bellwether’s Project Director Katie Ong-Landini and Development and Project Management Specialist Claudia Wilson for their help and coordination. By 2:00 p.m. we all found ourselves muddier, happier, and warmed by the company of so many wonderful people in this common space; a gifted, blessed space of recreation and re-creation.
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