Entering the Frog Common House at Ecovillage last weekend, the room was abuzz with chatter- in Japanese! Forty Japanese students were visiting Ithaca from Izumigaoka High School in Kanazawa, and spent the morning volunteering in different tasks around Ecovillage. How fortunate we were that Groundswell could be a volunteer site!
Our task for the day was to begin clearing brush- mostly a mix of honeysuckle, multiflora rose, wild grapes, and raspberries- from a sloped area towards the back of the farm. In November, Edible Acres will hold a workshop on our site to convert this area to permanent perennial beds, using only human power and hand tools. I was a bit concerned that this task would be too arduous, or not interesting enough, to hold the interest of international travelers for 90 minutes. I had nothing to worry about! The five students helping Groundswell were eager and happy to work. I asked if they ever did work like this at home, and they said, “No. Only if we want to have a barbecue and our parents say we have to clean the yard first.” They also commented that their travels thus far had been very academic, with a lot of listening in English, and they were grateful for a morning to be outside and active.
The work was hard and thorny, (or “lots of spikes,” as the students said), but everyone worked hard and without pause. Sawing down woody brush and pulling out whole trees was especially satisfying, and the students took turns using the saws, loppers, and pruners to clear the area. A short way in, we came across abandoned drip tape that had become entwined in the roots and branches of the wild area over the years. Pulling out the plastic was a highlight for me, knowing what a hazard to a lawn mower hidden plastic tubing can be!
As we worked, we discussed energy usage, and our decision to accomplish our task with human power rather than oil-driven machines. The conversation turned to the solar array we passed on our walk through Ecovillage, and I asked if there was much solar energy used in Japan. “No,” he said. “It’s starting a little, but mostly we use water and atoms.”
After our water break, in which the students enjoyed taking group photos in our walk-in cooler, we returned to our task for the last half hour before lunch. “We’ll cut it all down!” I was told, and “next year you must ask for more students!” The overgrown brush on the edge of the Incubator Farm stretches along the entire fence line, and is no job for a single morning. Still, we took a good bite out of the brush that morning, and as we walked away, I felt for the first time that the task was not only possible, but would be quite enjoyable. Thank you Kurt, Cheiko, and Izumigaoka High School students!
Article By: Liz Coakley, Incubator Farm Manager
Photo credit: Kurt Pipa