Friday May 23, 11 students from the ALPS outdoors club of Ridgewood High School ventured up to Stony Creek Farm to help out with some farm chores and learn about some of the components of organic, ethical farming.
After we reached our destination in upstate New York, we were warmly greeted by Dan, Luchia, Isaac, and Kate Marsigilio, the owners of the picturesque farm, who value wholesome, healthy food and reflect these values in their farming methods in a world now caught up in unsustainable factory farming .
First, the group took a walk around the farm, during which we were introduced to the various, free range livestock kept there starting with some chickens, including a few that were roaming outside the fence. Of course the birds could have wandered away but with their food and shelter inside the fenced area we learned they would be no reason to worry. Next, we approached another fenced off area with a small shed built for an animal that we soon discovered was much larger than we expected . Gertrude, the behemoth pig, emerged slowly from the shed, following a host of small piglets. While we thought that the many piglets were surprising, Gertrude was a wonder.
Following this preliminary walk around the farm we sat down at the milk house and discussed the alternative Saturday itinerary that awaited us. A few people began preparing dinner, while the rest of the group unloaded the bus and carried the tents to the campsite, accompanied by the moo of the cow whose grazing area was set adjacent to where the tents were going to be pitched. It was amazing that we were able to fall asleep. We pitched the new ALPS tents and kicked back with a frisbee toss until it was time to built a bonfire. We had everything in place in the fire pit but soon realized the strike anywhere matches Dan procured did not live up to their name as we could not replicate his one successful practice strike executed on on a terracotta block. Once we implemented some old fashioned, "strike normally" matches we got a nice bon fire going until the skies released a light rain that soon doused our "bonfire" sending everyone back to their tents. By this early hour of nine o'clock, we were still able to have a great time for hours after that.
After a night of Mason's non-stop laughing at random things, we were finally able to fall asleep around 1130. We emerged the next day into a wilderness that gave proof that during the night the subfreezing temperatures had frozen most of the water on the tent. We we up and out by 630 and started off the day with a few farm chores up the hill. The chickens and the pigs needed to be fed and so volunteers filled their troughs with grain, while another group headed over to the herd of sheep to move the their temporary grazing fence so the herd could access new grass. Except for a few stubborn lambs that needed to be coaxed by a wall of ALPS kids, the herd, led by the Aniken, the sheep dog, burst into the new area.
Today, their were three main projects we undertook after splitting into three groups. One group, which included Mason, Sarah, Ms. Stump and Mrs. Marsigilio, weeded and mulched spoil and eventually planted basil and brussel sprouts. The other group, which I was apart of along with Mike, Emma, Alex, Cole and Mr. McCullough, blazed a trail. The third, including Waffle, Sam, Kate, and Julia planted trees with Mr. Marsigilio. Blazing a trail is a multi-step process that requires an array of tools. A few of us used pick axes to cut out chunks of soil and grass, while others raked away rock and flattened out the trail with a shovel. By far, the most fun tool was the rock bar which was used to gain leverage around and move rocks. Planting trees is another difficult job, digging holes about a foot and a half deep and about two and a half feet wide. These 9 plum and apple trees will grow to be about fifteen feet tall and fifteen feet wide. In about five years, they should hopefully bear fruit. The third group, with Mrs. Marsigilio, Ms. Stump, Mason, and Sarah grew corn, basil, and pulled weeds from the strawberry patch in the garden.
Throughout the trip we enjoyed rich, fresh organic food, an anomaly for the ALPS club which usually limits itself to ramen, poptarts and pitas. Breakfast was based around delicious, unpressed oatmeal with a variety of toppings, while for lunch we had homemade egg salad, humus and bean dip which was one of the best organic meals that the group had ever tasted. With the conclusion of lunch we headed back up the hill to plant some corn before taking a half hour trek on the other side of the creek. On the trek, Mrs. Marsigilio explained that catepillars are harmful to the wild cherry trees and impressed the group with her ability to remove writhing masses of catepillers from the trees with her bare hands.
The short trek ended at the new environmentally friendly home that Mr. Marsigilio is building. The house utilizes not only off grid active solar technology through solar arrays but also passive solar design with an impressive use of skylights to achieve maximize energy efficiency. This was a home that was truly amazing in design and structure. The Marsigilio family has a true talent of construction. With plans for a full basement, to a greenhouse, to an underground parking garage, ALPS believes that with their special ability, they will accomplish much more than they plan.
Dinner was an excellent meal including bread, chips, various types of salad, pork fresh from the farm, and chile. And once again the cleaning crew worked on the very involved task of removing the food from everyones plate. Yet, Ms. Stump successfully completed the task of reading to Luchia, and the rest of the group was able to keep an eye on Isaac. For the ALPS seniors, we and the Marsigilios will miss you next year and for those who still have at least year left, we look forward to seeing Marsigilios next year.
THANK YOU TO THE MARSIGILIOS!!!!
Mike and Mason