Ruminations on Small Scale Farming, Raw Milk, and Food Production

Pasture-al Uncounseling – May 15, 2013

an excerpt from Debra Tyler’s final paper for Pastoral Care and Counseling taught by Prof. Benjamin Watts at Hartford Seminary:

…I propose an organic, alternative, un-counseling approach

*Organic farmers strive to cooperate with Nature to optimize soil, plant, and animal health with natural and energetically potentized soil amendments, fresh air and feed, sunshine, and water. Chemical farmers focus much of their energy on identifying and addressing problems with synthesized fertilizers for specific mineral deficiencies, pesticides and herbicides to exterminate competing animal, insect, and weed pests.

*Alternative health care professionals attempt to treat the whole person by restoring balance between one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual self. Their emphasis is on supporting health with the theory that healthful cells, thoughts, and behaviors will flourish and replace those that are diseased or dysfunctional. Conventional medicine diagnoses disease-causing agents or injuries, usually treating with drugs and/or surgery.

*Inspired by the work of John Holt, unschoolers trust that children are born with the innate ability to learn whatever skills they need to fulfill their lives and that they will be able to learn those skills easily when they are interested. The role of an engaged unschooling parent is to facilitate the child in pursuing her interests as they arise. Our public school system subjects our children to batteries of tests and evaluations to determine where they are behind their classmates or the national norm so they can identify problems to be addressed with special assignments, drills, tutoring, and counsel.

These descriptions are written to emphasize opposing viewpoints, when in truth, it is becoming more and more common for farmers, doctors, and educators to choose from and utilize the most appropriate aspects of both approaches. Likewise, these suggestions should be thought of, not as the only way, but simply as yet another set of tools in the care-provider’s kit…

… uncounseling attempts to validate the everyday wisdom in people-to-people exchanges as means to health and wholeness…

…The organic, alternative approach to uncounseling trusts that all people desire healthy relationships and are constantly in a state of readjusting equilibrium as they progress toward that end. Uncounseling brings people together in natural settings and empowers them by providing meaningful tasks to accomplish together. Indirectly, the uncounselor creates safe opportunities for a variety of people to interact in order to model to and observe each other in relationship. For example, this week-end my daughter, Margaret, celebrated her 18th birthday.

M's bday brkfast

One morning a week for the past 10 months, we have been hosting a mothers’ coop at the farm for moms and their infant to 7-year-old children. The children help with that morning’s chores and either do crafts or some farm-related project. For her birthday party, Margaret invited these youngsters and their families to a sleep-over in the barn. Families began arriving at 3:30 Saturday afternoon to build a cooking fire with wood the children had gathered earlier in the week and to cut vegetables for soup. With close parental supervision and plenty of time, even the three-year-olds could safely handle knives. In spite of a downpour, by 5:00 the fire was going well, the soup was cooking, and some of the children and parents went foraging for roasting sticks for cooking hot dogs. Around 5:30, Margaret’s dinner-and-music-only guests began arriving with instruments and pot-luck dishes. We cooked the hot-dogs and feasted, with parents taking turns watching the youngsters playing in the hayloft. When all were filled everyone gathered in the loft to sing and play music. As the evening sky began to darken, the day guests left and we went back to the fire to roast Margaret’s homemade marshmallows. I brought in the cow to be milked and some of the children helped with that chore. Easily by 8:30 or 9, everyone was is their bedroll on the hayloft floor; the two 9-year-olds whispering quietly, a husband and wife singing softly to their 6 month old and 4-year-old, a father reading by flashlight to his family, the rest of us letting a contented sleep fall over us to the musical murmur of our floor-mates.

Next morning, we rekindled the fire to cook bread on a stick and to scramble our farm-fresh eggs. Someone brought forth a bag of coffee and a spontaneous think-tank developed to figure out how to brew it. Babies were passed around. Overly-excited children were reigned in by people other than their parents. Safe and respected boundaries were modeled and maintained. Children helped with morning chores. Adults played and relaxed and did dishes and visited and packed up; longingly lingering until all evidence of the party but a few embers in the fire-ring had been tidied away. By 10:00 the guests had gone home, filled with the magic loving glow of time well-spent in relationship with others. In her coming-of-age wisdom, Margaret had provided us with an amazingly healing and inspiring uncounseling session. We learned parenting and relationship skills by watching and talking and playing with each other. We gained self-confidence as we realized our contributions were of use to the whole group. Although no one mentioned God, on a very tangible level, we had all partaken of Holy Communion.