By England Avis, Phase I Fellow
When nine individuals came together just a month and a half ago to begin the Fellowship we arrived with a common goal: to learn. The educational nature of this extraordinary intensive Farm Fellowship paves the path for abundant opportunities to learn while on (and off) the mountain. Whether it’s by tending to the plants and soil in the garden, cooking an adventurous new dish in the kitchen, diving deeper into an intriguing workshop topic, or wandering around in nature to identify plants, birds, and insects, there is always the freedom to explore in depth whatever may pique your interest.
Every week brings the opportunity to soak up knowledge from a new workshop. With thanks to our thought-provoking workshop teachers, we are grateful to have inoculated logs producing shiitake mushrooms, see honey bees at work producing delicious honey, make jewelweed concoctions infused with oil, and create compost piles recycling nutrients to enrich our soil and feed the microbes. Soon enough, through our upcoming workshop endeavors, we’ll be learning how to preserve the harvest through canning and fermenting foods, how to connect with all that’s growing in our garden through saving seeds, and how to make delicious cider to enjoy after a long day’s work on the farm. The workshop topics are all so enthralling that it’s challenging to choose just one favorite.
As new material introduced on the farm and in workshops continuously flows through our minds, I especially appreciate having the space and support to delve into what fascinates us as individuals. As the weeks on the mountain pass quickly now, it seems us Fellows have all discovered hobbies that excite us. In our free time, you’ll find us staying busy by brewing beer and kombucha, collecting and dehydrating herbs and flowers, feeding sourdough starters, practicing for the town orchestra, pressing and preserving wild flowers and plants, and reading those books we’ve always wanted to devote our attention to. Engaging in these extracurricular activities provides us the opportunity to learn about and practice new skills while processing the lessons from the previous week.
As a Phase I Fellow, I have been granted the chance to fully experience the magic of the Appalachian Mountains through being immersed this special learning community. In just a month and a half, I’ve been exposed to so many stimulating new realms that I have never experienced before AMI. I’ve learned about and tasted different foraged foods at wild Wednesday potlucks with local friends, I’ve been lucky to talk on air and choose songs to play on Allegheny Mountain Radio, and I’ve also been able to test my skills and memory by identifying different wild plants while wandering around the mountain and farm. In the months to come, I have many things to look forward to learning and exploring. I’m excited to dive deeper into the realm of herbalism by trying my hand at crafting salves and syrups from wild plants, to pick up a violin again after a hiatus in my playing and join the town orchestra in the company of a few Phase I Fellows, and to observe and identify butterflies and pollinators native to this area so that I can help foster the development of an intentional habitat for these species. This mountain is teeming with life, lessons, and experiences to be had. If you would’ve asked me where I thought I’d be living today one year ago, Highland County would not have been on my radar. Yet here I am- happily living, learning, and growing every day.