Student Thoughts

Raw Milk

Fall 2017 Intern

raw-milkNothing gets me out of bed - correction, out of my tent - like knowing it’s my turn to milk. I rise at 6:15 am, throw on my boots, clomp over to the composting toilet, and pray there are no spiders on the seat. I then brush my teeth, grab some coffee, and bolt up to the milking room. In the milking room we clean out the milk pails and grab some water and hydrogen peroxide to clean the Jersey cow’s udder. It is of the upmost importance that we keep everything pristine, as the raw milk flows straight from the cows’ udder to our fridge.

At about 7:10 am we pull into the luscious green pasture to begin milking. My eyes are greeted by a rainbow herd of three mama cows and two calves. Their brown, black, and white hides stand out between the green earth and blue ocean.

“Adventure is simply physical and emotional discomfort recollected in tranquility.” – Tim CahillDSC 02791-253x300

As I awake to a sky filled with whispy clouds kissed pink by peaches and coconut trees bowing a dance in the background, I begin to remember all those things that have awaken me during the past two months that were—how shall I put it—less enjoyable than today. Need I count the retired sleeping pads that deflate slowly but entirely during the night, the cats stomping around my tent like dinosaurs searching for fleeing mice, the macadamia nut gunshots off the kitchen roof at the crack of midnight, the rooster hitting the high note of a Katy Perry song he had haunting his dreams at 5am, or the quick scramble into the dark, up the steep hill, towards a drunkenly sleepy yoga practice I have yet to be on time to. But from the moment I first woke up at HIP Agriculture (which, by the way, was many times that first night), the excitement for what the day brings has made all of these awakenings welcome, even though they may shortly require a cup of coffee to fully pursue the long list of activities that daily await us.

Since arriving, I have learned how to tango with three very large, female cows; taste-tested more banana varieties than I knew even existed; chopped open dozens of coconuts whose juice always stains my shirt with razor sharp machetes; harvested and ate my first farm-raised duck; processed gallons of golden, wild and farm honey (and consequently made myself gloriously sick giving in to the sweet temptation); learned how to grow, harvest, and prepare traditional Hawaiian crops; husked and shelled uncountable pounds of macadamia nuts; painted myself black with mud weeding a flooded taro field; swam with sea turtles in the deep blue Pacific; and thrived without the constant nag of e-mails, facebook, youtube, Netflix, whatever. In fact, writing this blog is by far the longest I have been on the computer in the past two months, and I have never been happier without it.

Perhaps most importantly, in the past seven weeks I have fallen deeply in love with so many things: with every tree we plant that gently reminds me to keep looking up, with every weed I pull that encourages me to stay rooted, with getting dirty and having soil stains on my hands before the day is over, and with the many individuals here who consistently surprise and inspire me. Coming together are diverse, intelligent, quirky, hilarious, beautiful, soul-shining individuals who come to show we were best friends in previous lives, even if sometimes we forget—especially when the dishes have not been washed. Also, living with two friends who also attended Rollins College has been an incredible testimony to the potential of graduates to escape the unhappy train of job-seeking, debt-burdened, burnt-out students, trapped in an unsustainable life-style of unhappiness.

Lastly, I have lived without a mirror now for two months and on the rare occasion I do catch my reflection, I have nothing but love for the girl staring back.

I haven’t paid much attention to astrological signs during my life, but I am given constant reminders of my fire sign, Sagittarius: my burning enthusiasm for learning, my temper that ignites that I will one day tame, my fiery passion to improve my knowledge and skills. As my friend affirms, “Remember: we are always getting better.” I believe this to be true for everyone here at HIP Agriculture. We awake every day with a mountain of tasks living on a farm, attempting to live by example, seeking balance while we live and work with each other and give back to that which sustains us.

As my poet friend, Hafiz writes:

“Your soul and my soul
Once sat together in the beloved’s womb
Playing footsie Your heart, and my heart
Are very old friends.”

The more I hum this poem in my head, the more I realize the absurdity of denying oneness, be it with the earth or each other. Gratitude for bananas far outweighs the stains she leaves on my shirt, thankfulness for fresh cheese shadows the tedious task of milking, appreciation for the joy in each other pales the arguments over who ate all the luxurious peanut butter, so much so that all these tasks become synonymous with breathing, and each one becomes a new step in my interaction with living. My smile is reaching, my heart is flowing, my soul is blessed.

Mahalo.

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It is perhaps one of the most rare occasions when one can go to bed blissfully content and rise the next morning in the same state. We live in a society that is so rich with opportunity; so blessed with abundant diversity and technology that it seems our individual consciousness’s have become anxiously perplexed. Here me now, I am not one to advocate for digressing back to a more simple way of life. There are indeed many things that our species has polluted in our race to develop (no denying our planet is in a state of crisis). However we have also tapped into an incredible amount of knowledge that would be a shame to dismiss for simplicity’s sake. So then the question becomes, how do we progress towards a more peaceful state; towards a life where collectively we can all lie down to sleep and rise in the morning thoroughly satisfied?

Weekly Observation log:

Week of Oct 2nd

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I prepped lower garden space to start new test plot for agroforestry. We cleared the cane grass, added composted cow manure from the local dairy, fish and bone meal, and lime and I incorporated it in with tiller. I was very unimpressed with the tiller. After using a 6 foot spader for the last 3 years the tiller seems quite inferior. The tiller did not till very deep at all. I talked to a local veteran row crop farmer about this and he confirmed that tiller does not till deep at all and you need a ripper to open up the soil. I found the spader to be much more effective at opening up garden space. Weather is very dry. Kohala is experiencing a major drought. We need to water all the gardens and nursery very frequently, the water bill is very challenging, as we are not selling much produce yet. The garden that is on well water is doing much better than the garden on county water. I believe it is because there is no chlorine in the well water.

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