lulu had one: "do you ever let the goats out from their regular fields?"
"sure," replied francis, "on the field below the octagon. i let them graze for a few hours while i watch the sunset."
late last week, the davies forum on digital literacy traveled to stonelake farm, an organic, off-the-grid homestead in humboldt county. we - amber, blake, kelly, lis, lulu, sara, steven, and me - drove six hours in two cars stuffed with backpacks, blankets, sleeping bags, and good food from rainbow.
from our arrival to our departure four days later, we agreed to six strict rules:
1. all of us must work on the farm for at least one hour a day;
2. those who cook a meal do not have to wash dishes;
3. lulu can't cook every meal;
4. if anyone gets unruly, everyone has the right and responsibility to approach him or her and say, "hey, settle down";
5. we are allowed to use the internet, cell phones, and text, but use as little as possible; and
6. be mindful about as much as possible.
on friday afternoon, francis lake, one-half of the team that runs stonelake farm, shared with us the farm's history and its back-to-the-land roots (the same back-to-the-land roots, btw, that show up in fred turner's from counterculture to cyberculture). then, he led us on a guided tour of stonelake's many natural resources, animals, tools and technologies. during the tour and throughout our stay, francis offered us concrete and profound examples of sustainable living. at stonelake, nearly everything consumed is remixed back into the farm: the worms get our spent coffee grounds, the goats get our apple cores, the chickens get nearly everything, the fruit trees get our poop from the outhouse, and la luna and meza get an occasional dropped pancake or bite of french toast.
as a class, our goal was to live more intentionally for a few days. i wanted all of us to experience organic living first hand, in first life, as unmediated as possible. and while we were doing that, i wanted us to be as collaborative as possible.
i had been to stonelake farm before - twice with sarah, once alone as an artist in residence - and have always found life there to be intentional, sustainable, less mediated, and collaborative. i had to remind myself, though, that my prior visits to stonelake were during the summer and early autumn, when school's out, the sun and sunflowers are high, and everything is beautiful and bountiful. this visit was different. this visit had seven students. this visit had snow.
most of our farm work involved gathering wood for heat. we'd gather wood, chop wood, and saw wood. we gathered a few trees francis brought down and hand-sawed them into logs - logs for the campfire, logs for future octagonians, and, most importantly, logs for the wood stove that gave us heat, sweet frickin' heat, from the cold out doors.
all of our meals were collaboratively made and extremely delicious. and whenever possible, we'd eat together outside.
by saturday, melinda stone, the second-half of the stonelake team and my media studies friend and colleague, arrived to the farm. melinda brought with her seven baby ducks and one mild snow storm. because it was butt-cold outside, my students decided that saturday's dinner would be a fava beans-and-greens feast served inside, in the octagon. the meal was prepared and cooked collaboratively by the students and declared absolutely delicious by all of us.
before arriving to stonelake, i gave my students an assignment: while at the farm, digitally disconnect and reflect deeply about something important to you. before returning to the city, i gave my students a homework assignment: write your best blog post ever. log off before you blog off.
and they did:
Amber McChesney-Young's Reflections on StoneLake Farm
Blake Wilberding's Stonelake Farm
Kelly Pretzer's Stonelake Farm
Lis Bartlett's The Best Blog Post Ever
Lulu McAllister's The Digitally Literate Go Back to the Land
Sara Bassett's StoneLake Farm
Steven Barnett's coming-soon podcast thingy (
back in class on tuesday, one by one we'd read out loud our best blog posts ever. i projected individual blog posts from my laptop to the screen on the wall and the author of the post would come to the front of the room and read his or her own writing. then we took a few minutes to discuss the post and share what we thought worked and what didn't. then, individually, we'd write on paper a list of tags that we associated with the blog post - food, firewood, logging off, snow, sustainability. finally, we'd record the tags and their frequency on the white board on the wall.
as class ended, it became clear that we had covered a lot of ground in the last few days.
and then, silently and stealthily, davies student sara collected the tags and their frequencies, logged back on, and dumped them through TagCrowd. what she created was this, a pretty accurate tagcloud of what went down and an excellent way to end a blog post about the davies forum at stonelake farm.