Reflections on living at St. Francis Farm 

by Melinda Kurowski  

I live in the local area and have been visiting the farm for three years now.  During a time of discernment last summer I felt called to spend some time living at the farm.  At the time, I was unsure of the reason of the call, but felt it strongly nonetheless.  The more time that I spent with the Hoyts, the more I realized that I had much to learn about sustainable living and that I had a strong desire to do so.  I could also see the need for help as the farm is big and the summer is very busy.  It soon became apparent that my time at the farm was meant to be a time of learning and a time of helping.   

With that in mind, I moved in at the very end of August.  I worked with Joanna in the garden picking vegetables, weeding, turning compost, and eventually cover-cropping and helping to plant garlic.  I canned tomatoes with Lorraine, and she taught me how to make soft cheese and how to cook with what was available. Zachary showed me how to do some of the re-roofing of the farmhouse.  There are many jobs at the farm that can only be done by someone who has lived there for awhile.  However, there are many other tasks that need to be accomplished that are sometimes hard to get to.  I was able to help with some of those tasks such as washing the garden pots that need to be ready for planting in the spring.  I helped with cleaning and painted the garbage bins and the side of the woodshed.  Joanna taught me to milk the goats.  Eventually I was able to milk them both on my own and take over morning milking on Fridays and Saturdays.   

  I could take up much of this page listing all the little things that I did, but I think that what I did and what I learned is much more than a mere list.  I have thought for a long time that there are different levels of “knowing.”  You can read about something in a book and “know” about it.  You can talk to someone about what they do and then “know” that.  But there is a distance in that type of knowledge.  As I was a visitor to the farm, I knew about what the Hoyts did, but I didn’t participate in it fully every single day.  During my time at the farm, one could argue that I never quite got to that level anyway.  I can never be the Hoyts, but I could experience more directly the life that they have chosen to live.  Having lived it, I have a more personal connection now to sustainable living than if I had only ever talked to them about it. 

In the garden, turning compost into a garlic bed, there was a moment when I was filled with the thought that what I was doing made sense.  It made sense to me in a very real and profound way that I had not experienced before about any task.  After spending time in the garden and seeing how my actions directly impacted my life, I felt connected to my work.  It was a wonderful feeling and a wonderful realization.  That is how it is about many aspects of life at the farm.  Everything I did impacted my life in a very concrete way.  I think that is quite a rarity in popular culture today.  People aren’t as connected to the earth, themselves, others, or their God as they could be. 

I have wanted to simplify my life for some time now.  I find it easy to get stuck in a rut and to never actually get going.  The desire is there, but I don’t act on it.  I did act on this desire by staying at the farm.  I see now that there are many things that I can eliminate from my life and be perfectly happy.  For example, I don’t need a television or a clothes dryer to be a happy person.  It gets me thinking about what other things I don’t necessarily need to be happy.   

I also learned about myself.  I never thought that my time at the farm would involve soul searching.  Well, I shouldn’t say that.  I mean that I never expected to do it with such intensity and to be stretched so much.  What I do know is that I am a different person now because of my experience.  I see the world, other people, and myself in a new way.  I can’t go back to living as I did before with my new knowledge.  Little by little I want to grow more towards living as I did at the farm.  I am very grateful to the Hoyts for letting me come and share in the richness that is sustainable living.

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