On Thursday, I took part in the Three Kings Preparation, which is one of several preparations used in biodynamic farming. We gathered in the barn in the early afternoon, a rather eclectic group of farmers and community members, young and old. On New Year’s Eve, gold, frankincense, and myrrh had been ground into a paste, and we mixed this paste into buckets of hot water. We used a very particular method of stirring, submerging our whole arms in the water and stirring in one direction in order to create a vortex, and then switching directions. We repeated this over and over, stirring the preparation for an hour. We each then took some of the preparation and walked the perimeter of the farm, sprinkling the water as we went. We then came back together and shared our experience of this ritual with each other.
I came to Hawthorne Valley Farm with only a very vague notion about the specific practices of biodynamic agriculture, but it particularly appealed to me as a more spiritually oriented incarnation of sustainable farming. To me, the preparation felt like an offering to the essential but microscopic life below the soil’s surface, an acknowledgment of our own dependence on the earth, especially in this cold and dark time of the year. Walking the perimeter also gave me some sense of the “farm organism”—from atop a hill, I could appreciate the expanse of land that we are stewarding, and watching the sunset over the Catskills, I could see the context in which the farm exists.
Most of all, though, this ritual was special for me because so many people in the community gathered to participate. It felt very much like some gatherings of Unitarian Universalists that I have been a part of over the years, and that sense made me feel as if this is a community to which I could belong.
Saturday was my first day off since I arrived, and I spent it getting to know the community around the farm a bit better. I walked down the road to the Banjo Mountain Café, which has really tasty-looking food and lots of books and board games to entertain its patrons.
I then walked a bit further, to the Rudolf Steiner Library, which has an impressive collection of books on anthroposophy, biodynamic agriculture, Waldorf education, and all manner of other interesting topics related to Rudolf Steiner’s work.
This is an amazing resource for me because I know relatively little about these topics, and I’m excited to learn more about the philosophical backdrop in which this farm and community exist. I also drove to a nearby town, Chatham, with one of the other apprentices. It’s quite a cute place, really—a movie theater, bookstores, cafes, little boutiques, plus some essentials like a grocery store and a pharmacy. With a natural foods store on the farm and free dairy, bread, and vegetables to be had, there’s not much need to go elsewhere, though!
In the evening, we had a potluck dinner with the farm team and their families. With good food and good company, potlucks can go a long way to making a place feel more like home.