Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Forward Progress from the Retreat

It's always struck me as whimsical that groups schedule a retreat in order to focus their attention forward. But that's just what Sandhill did last weekend, and the big news coming out of that three-day huddle is that Trish (28), Joe (30), and Emory (1) will be joining us in June. Yippee!

Just in time for the Summer Solstice, Sandhill's population will swell to seven adults and two children—which feels spacious after several years of wanting new members but being stalled out at five adults. To be fair, we've been picky about whom we invite to the party. In our 36 years we've developed a signature commitment to growing our own food and land stewardship. In line with that, all four of the adults who've joined the community in recent years (Apple in 2007, Emily in 2009, and Joe & Trish this year) have a strong commitment to homesteading, and all four are under 40. (Can you hear me exhale?) This bodes well for our making an orderly transition to the next generation of Sandhillians.

As excited as Trish & Joe are about moving to Sandhill, it was not an easy decision. They are leaving a community they helped found in St Louis, New Roots Urban Farm, where they have loving connections with their fellow community members, and are positioned closer to both sets of Emory's grandparents—all of whom, understandably, cherish regular contact their children's children. But for all of that, Trish & Joe feel the call of the country; the sanity and rootedness of rural living, and the resource leveraging of income sharing.

At the checkouts we did during the final session of the retreat, Trish said her biggest remaining question mark was whether there was enough love among Sandhill members. She has a loving connection with others at New Roots and she was wondering if that precious quality would be available to her here. It's a great question.

The challenge is now on the community to build quality relationships with Joe, Trish, and Emory, to integrate them well into our lives. Their lease in St Louis ends in late April and they're taking the month of May off to enjoy a much deserved month-long vacation—their first in years. They'll linger in St Louis to celebrate Emory's second birthday with family in late May and then move up to Sandhill to start their new lives.

Given that Trish identifies primarily as a farmer, a June arrival means the growing season will already be well begun before she's on site, and thus the 2010 garden will not be "hers" in the same way that it would be if she were here to order seeds and start seedlings. It's a luxury of our more robust population that we can afford to protect their May vacation and not worry about having all the bases covered during our busy planting season. Both Trish & Joe figure the first year is mostly about learning the customs and strategies of gardening in northeast Missouri—with its different climate zone and different soils—and everyone feels there's plenty of time to figure what levels of management the two of them want to shoulder for the 2011 growing season. It's so much better not to rush.

While the calendar says it's still the middle of winter, and there's still half a foot of snow on the ground, Stan & Apple tapped maple trees today. Daytime temperatures are tentatively poking above 32 degrees on a regular basis and the sap is starting to flow. With Trish & Joe's announcement of their decision to join the community, Sandhill's sap starting flowing last weekend. Can spring be far behind?

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