The Beginning

by Zelie Wright-Neil

Two weeks ago eight intrepid St. Lawrence students arrived at their new home, a white and green renovated old farmhouse in the-middle-of-nowhere northern New York. Those eight students were us: Emma, Bronte, Zelie, Lauren, Jake, Emma, Olivia and Heron. None of us knew quite what to expect before we arrived. That first night as we sat around the dorm-scavenged table covered with taco fixings, we were scared, excited and silently trying to remember why we had chosen to leave the normal college experience in favor of chopping wood, navy showers, slop buckets and carhartts.

As we went around the room telling our stories, we discovered that our reasons for coming here were similar.  We were looking for an authentic application of sustainable ideals, we were looking to escape a campus life that felt superficial, and we were looking for community. Although we held a common purpose, we were still unsure how our vision would materialize.

In the last two weeks a routine has been established, community values have been set, soap has been made and many a good meal eaten. Throughout that time the eight of us spent most waking hours together and all inhibitions were quickly lost. Just the other day, all eight of us were squashed into our 10 passenger van singing “we’ll be working on the rail road” at the top of our lungs while driving to the yarn shop in town. Our initial fears seem absurd and distant now.

We were apprehensive as to what our new life would look like and it’s something we struggle with every day. It’s extremely taxing eating delicious local and organic food for every meal. One time, we ran out of raisins and yogurt, and it took a whole 24 hours for them to reappear. Every night, the dinner table is a battlefield, between what you want to fit in your stomach, and how much you physically can. In addition to eating, we are expected to attend classes. Our treacherous commute involves battling blizzards, deer herds, and unexpected hail, to the bright pink outbuilding 36 yards away.

We joke about living the “good life” but we do have real concerns. Everyday we are reminded by our professors, peers, mentors, and the weather of the precarious and depressing state of our world. We are also learning to balance our ideals against reality. This was realized in our attempts at navy showers (turning off the water while soaping up) during 30 below weather. We are also learning to balance individual needs with our vision of sustainable communal life. A common refrain is “Should we drive to campus or play charades?” These issues are not only the subject of our semester, but the crux of our generation.

From the first moment we were accepted into this program, everyone—from our families and friends to faculty at SLU to members of the community—has been wondering who and what we are. We hope that this blog will act as inspiration to some, entertainment to others, and a peek into our lives here on the farm for all.

  ~Emma Rose & Zelie Snow