Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

Pointed Sticks

During a typical week at camp, some kids make compost and spread it in the garden. Some culinary campers make chard stem hummus and wild black raspberry crumble. Some teens help make and cultivate organic produce for the folks who visit and rely on local food pantries for healthy food at a nearby kitchen. Other campers make temporary habitats for frogs at the Ice Pond. Some kids at camp will soon write plays based on something personal and meaningful so that their peers can direct, act and perform as though they were holding a mirror up to nature.

And still every year and during many field trips and walks in the woods, some kids and campers, mostly boys, will make a common stick into a gun. I often, without trying to wreck their fun and discovery, will tell them that there are too many guns already and we do not need guns at the Farm. There have been neighbors who have offered to use a gun or a bow and arrow to hunt the deer that are intrigued and interested in the vegetables. But we are a no kill farm and our deer, as well as many other four legged animals, are just part of the flora and fauna that the farmer has to live with.

Our dear chickens live a long life on the Farm and do not find their way into any cooking endeavours. There are indeed far too many guns of all sizes and capabilities in our towns, at people’s waists and within far too accessible access reach. A simple stick, fallen from a tree or resting on the ground is a familiar discovery for many. The child who picks up such a stick and begins to innocently shoot or aim or fire with sound affects is far different than what we have seen of late on the front pages and on our rectangular screens, both mounted and hand-held.

So what is wrong with a young lad just imitating what he she has at home or has seen on said screen? What is wrong is the ease with which these violent tendencies permeate our language and our actions and even our desires. Bullet points on a document – forget it. Shoot. Bang. Fire away. Even the magnificent colors of fireworks are hard to separate from the explosions of bombs and the devastating reality for many at the receiving ends of those bombs.

My old high school changed the name of the stately manor house for the connotation it holds today. Working kids or others like slaves, with even the metaphor of a whip, is too hard for those who lived that reality. I know we cannot change everything or become caught up with only speaking correctly, both politically and otherwise. But we can try to think about the origin of violence and the havoc wrought by guns.

At a day camp 36 years ago, I took a woodworking class and fashioned myself a wooden gun, which fit in my hand. I also made a lamp with a Vernors’ (non-organic) ginger ale can and a plant stand for my mother. Why did I sand and stain and spend many a summer day making that toy gun? I have not delved into that depth and maybe I am only now coming to terms with our obsession with guns. I know not where that gun is today, perhaps in a compost pile, slowly decomposing.

I know the sticks on the Farm are also better left as walking sticks, trellis poles for climbing beans or legs for a rustic stool. I know kids have imagination and boys will be boys. But I still think we would do better with fewer guns and a greater propensity to think and imagine much less violence and paying more attention to one another. It is hard to have conversations about changing old habits and thinking new ideas. This could mean banning plastic bags, buying organic vegetables or not spraying synthetic fertilizers on your lawn. It is also hard to talk about old habits and explain to kids (and reason with one another) as to why people are dying, being shot and pointing sticks at innocent civilians.

© 2016, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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