This has been a mixed up week for Woodland Park with no classes on Monday or Tuesday morning, our Halloween party on Tuesday evening, and then on Wednesday the 3-5's class took a field trip to the Jubilee Biodynamic Farm near Carnation along the Snoqualmie River. The week of steady drizzle broke up for us, providing a day of glorious fall sun, bright blue skies, and a Cascade Mountain backdrop.
Jubilee is a small, organic farm that in addition to offering fall tours for school groups, runs a successful Community Supported Agriculture program, which gives those of us interested in fresh, locally grown, organic produce a chance to "subscribe" to a share of the harvest throughout the year. They will deliver your share to your house, but most families choose to enjoy outings to the countryside, where they can spend an afternoon puttering around the farm, checking out the animals, and picking a bouquet of flowers, while also claiming their bounty. As far as I'm concerned, this is the future of farming in America. (And to those who claim that without slave-wage, oppressed, undocumented immigrant produce pickers we will pay $35 for a head of lettuce, here's proof that you're wrong.) Heck, with the way urban real estate prices are plummeting these days, it might soon be feasible to locate this type of cooperative farm in the heart of our cities. As I understand it, Detroit is already headed that way.
This, of course, wasn't the first trip to a farm for many of these kids, most have already taken a similar pilgrimage as family outings, so really what we were doing was reinforcing knowledge, giving them a chance to be experts, to teach one another. But it's different too, being out in the world together, many of us without our parents, sharing a meaningful experience with friends. Even if we never talk about the farm again, this adventure will serve as one of the touchstones that binds us together and makes this school year, and this community of children, different than any that came before it or any that will come after.
We started with the hay maze, but the "hay ride" to the by now nearly exhausted pumpkin patch was even more exciting . . .
. . . if only because we don't often get to ride anywhere on anything without being strapped into car seats.
Not that I have anything against car seats, they absolutely save lives, but there is something lost as well when one misses out on the thrill of holding on tightly while riding in the back of an open pick-up or sitting up on your knees and sticking your head out the window to feel the wind in your hair.
We got to use real tools to harvest pumpkins for ourselves.
Most of us chose pumpkins that were still partially green. That's how you know they're super fresh.
And the mud lets you know they came straight from the field.
And speaking of mud, there was a lot of it at Jubilee, as there should be on any Pacific Northwest farm. Glorious mud!
A great excuse to dawdle and experiment with our rain boots.
And many of us learned about how slippery mud can be, taking involuntary seats in the stuff.
But, naturally, no one likes mud more than pigs. Our guide, Farmer Ryan, told us that one of the most important jobs that pigs have on a farm is to eat the organic waste. "They even like to eat rotting stuff," he told us. "And they can find food buried deep in the mud with their noses."
Farmer Ryan was thankfully judicious with his use of "don't touch," always providing a good reason for us to keep our hands to ourselves. "The pigs might think your fingers are food," or "Don't touch the eggs because we haven't washed them yet."
One of the eggs we saw was green. According to Farmer Ryan, the hen with green legs was the one that laid it. In fact, he told us that the color of the shells often corresponds with the color of the hen's legs. Who knew? He also let us in on the speculation that chickens are descendants of Tyrannosaurus Rex. This was exciting news for many of the children, who agreed that they could see a resemblance.
He also informed us that, aside from laying eggs, the chickens were also in charge of eating bugs that might harm the crops.
When he asked if there were any questions, as the teacher, I was pleased when just about every hand shot up. "Why do chickens peck?" "Why do chickens run?" Good questions and so many that Farmer Ryan just didn't have time to answer them all.
This is what we did out in the world together. A shoulder-to-shoulder experience . . .
. . . in a place where there are no car seats, food grows out of the ground, animals have jobs, and mud is bountiful.