This year we visited Beiler Farm, a beautiful Amish farm in Spring Mills, PA. There a family of 9 runs a dairy farm. We were taken around by one of the middle sons, Ruben, who was an expert tour guide, and his sister, Martha, who was a knowledgeable, caring and thoughtful young woman.
On Saturday we visited three local farms as part of the 2009 Centre County Farm Tour (for a pdf version of the brochure, click here.) I wrote about our experience on the farm tour in 2007, and this year again, we were amazed by the beauty of the land, the importance of the work and the spirit of the farmers whose work on the land sustains us.
Chloe and Hannah enjoyed, in particular, jumping on the trampoline with Martha, one of her sisters, and two of her brothers. For Val and me, it was an important opportunity to expose the girls to a way of life with which they are not familiar. They had many questions about how the Amish live and we were happy to answer what we knew and research what we didn’t. I remain in awe of the life they lead, recognizing at once its nobility and its difficulty.
We then visited Stone Meadow Farm in Woodward, PA, where Brian Futhey produces raw milk cheese and grass fed beef. He is committed to the sustainable practices of rotational grazing, stream bank fencing and making excellent cheese from the most natural sources.
He spoke to us about the ways he works with the natural rhythms of the animals to produce cheese and beef. I very much admire his commitment to farming in ways that facilitate a symbiotic relationship between the earth, the non-human and we human animals.
Finally, we visited the picturesque Fiedler Farm in Aaronburg, PA, where they have a beautiful summer kitchen and a nice little yurt at the top of the property. Val and Hannah are walking up to the yurt in the picture here.
Fiedler Farm is part of a community of farms participating in the Groundwork Farm Community Supported Agriculture.
On Sunday, we went to Knoebels Amusement Park with my step brother’s family, Tom, Amina, Aaron and Danny. The picture with which this post began was taken there. Increasingly Chloe and Hannah are venturing on to more dynamic and scary rides and I, their father, am compelled to join them. It is a happy compulsion and we had a great time just screaming at the top of our lungs and challenging ourselves to try rides just at the boundary of our comfort level.
It is exhilarating to watch as they grow into the world, learn about the earth that sustains us and risk new endeavors. This fall Chloe will begin Kindergarten and it will be a transition for all of us. Hannah is already expressing a worry about going to pre-school without her big sister. Val and I are already a bit nostalgic that this phase of Chloe’s life is coming to an end, but we are excited that she will soon begin the exciting adventure that is her formal education. As for Chloe herself, she seems for the moment the most at home with the whole idea of beginning school.
These exhilarating weekends are all the more precious in the wake of the recognition that they are fleeting.
With this in mind, I end with this picture, for it seems to capture something of the more nostalgic side of the exhilaration we felt this weekend.