The class is called “Building a Garden Shed.” I don’t have a garden. Nor any property on which to put a garden. In fact, I’ll be living “on the road” for the next year, so it’s inconceivable that I will need to know how to build a garden shed anytime in the near future. Despite all of this, it is one class I’ll definitely be taking during my four months at the John C. Campbell Folk School.
Why? Well, because I still have it in the back of my mind that I may one day want to live in a Tumbleweed Tiny House. And I may just want to build it myself (well, with help of course). There is just one small hurdle here: I have zero home building skills. You might think building a garden shed is quite different from building a tiny house. In which case I ask if you’ve seen a Tumbleweed?
My class covers use of hand and power tools (the only power tool I’ve every used is an electric screw driver thing), framing, trusses (I think those are the things that hold the roof up?), shelf building (I imagine this could be useful even if I never build a house), and window and door installation (because just about any house I live in will have windows and doors….though now that I think about it, maybe not…) And when it’s all done, we’ve built a garden shed for the Folk School to use for years to come:)
Building anything is so out of my element that I just love the idea. I mean, how else would I learn all these things? You might think JCCFS would want only experienced builders on such a project. And you would be mistaken. Because one of the things I love most about JCCFS is that so many of the class descriptions, including this one, end with the words “All levels welcome.”
It was two years ago that I did my first stint as sous-chef at Villa Marguerita – the vacation home on the Rhode Island coast belonging to the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. They work hard in their various ministries – at schools, hospitals, and other non-profits – and then come here for some R&R.
Many people have a view of “women religious” as stern women in habits. That was my image from Catholic elementary school, and when I talk to others about my week here cooking for these sisters I find that a lot of people still have that image. Most people have never thought of Sisters not dressed in habits, let alone sunning on a beach.
When I was here two years ago, I had a funny conversation with my sister Liz that brings home this point. Liz has no bones about speaking her mind nor about verbalizing the questions others only think of but are too scared to ask. The conversation went like this:
Liz (in a whisper – even though we’re on the phone): Do they drink?
Me (with a slight giggle): Yes.
Liz: Do they get drunk?
Liz: Well, how much do they drink?
Me (matter-of-factly): A beer or two with dinner.
Liz (incredulously): They drink beer?!
Me (laughing): Some of them. Some have wine, or a mixed drink.
Liz: Like what kinds of alcohol do they have?
I named off some of things that had graced the drinks cart at dinner. And with that, banished the myth that Sisters are stern, mean women who never relax with a drink:)
So tomorrow I’m off to the Sisters Hill Farm to volunteer for a week. I knew this was a little out of my element when I applied, which is one of the things that attracted me to it. But I was reminded how far out of my element I am when I got an e-mail two weeks ago that said this:
“…am going to suggest the following might be good to add to your farm work clothes- depending on the weather and your past experience, rain boots, rain “poncho”, sun hat, sun screen, sunglasses, work gloves, water bottle, swimsuit(there is a pool nearby)…”
Here’s the problem: 1) I don’t really have “farm clothes.” I’m hoping gym shorts, T-shirts, and sneakers qualify. 2) I don’t own rain boots…or a poncho…or work gloves…or a sun hat. My plan is to raid mom and dad’s house for these items. Most people would go buy them, but in my family we head to mom and dad’s first. 3) The only sunglasses I own slide right down my nose as soon as I lean over to do anything – and I imagine working on a farm requires a lot of leaning over to do things. Not sure how I’ll fix that one yet. But will hopefully have it figured out in the next 24 hours….
I have the good fortune of being blessed with a mother who listens to my ever changing ideas and when she sees something that might be of interest to me, she sends it my way. So thanks to Mom, I’ll be spending a week living and working on an organic farm run by the Sisters of Charity at the end of July.
This all came about because my mom read, in the Catholic New York newspaper, an ad seeking volunteers for the Sisters Hill Farm. Volunteers would plant, weed, and harvest for the farm which has a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. She left me the name and number of the contact person. I googled the place and mom was spot on. It sounded like the perfect opportunity. I have a growing interest in eating local food and have twice participated in CSA programs (and written posts on the topic here). I also have done plenty of volunteering with women religious and have loved every experience (see my posts about Sr. Cathy and Mississippi). And ever since I found out you could basically travel the world living and working on organic farms in exchange for room and board with WWOOF, I’ve wanted to “test out” my stamina for the work. No need to plan on three months of farming in Italy only to find out I can’t stand it! So a one-week test drive sounded perfect.
Yesterday I found out I was accepted into the program – but only after I assured them that I have no physical problems that would prevent me from squatting down to weed (and being able to get back up again!). I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my experience July 24-31:)