2011 marks not only the 20th season of Stonebridge’s CSA but the 100th anniversary of the farm itself. To celebrate both, we decided to paint the barn. We’re not sure when it was last painted, but judging from the weathered red wood, probably 30 or maybe even 40 years ago. We thought it was time to give this century barn a new coat of good paint to help it last another 100 years, so we invited our members to a community barn painting and pancake breakfast to kick off the morning’s work.
I have to admit that ever since I’d come up with the idea, I’d been worried about this barn painting business. Our barn is a former dairy barn, a huge building with high sides on the east and west and old wood that looked like it could soak up buckets of paint. I worried about people climbing ladders and falling off the roof and finding the right color and feeding everyone while they worked. I worried we wouldn’t get it done in a day, leaving us with a half painted barn.
But when I woke up the day of the barn painting, I decided I didn’t need to worry any more. We’d finish what we could. If we didn’t get it done, we’d get to it later. I mixed up enough batter for three huge batches of oatmeal/cornmeal/whole wheat pancakes (you can find the recipe on our website) so I knew we’d have enough food. And then as I walked outside in the fresh morning air, I realized that I wasn’t going to have to paint that barn alone. Like everything we do at Stonebridge, the community pitches in and the work soon gets done.
After 20 years of CSA, Stonebridge runs like a well-oiled machine—most the time, anyway. We trust each other’s skills and count on each other’s enthusiasm and support to accomplish whatever we need to do, not only on Saturday mornings when we get the vegetables into the barn, but any day when something needs doing. John and I make sure the supplies are handy or the prep work done—like buying the paint, power-washing the barn walls, or mixing the pancakes—and then our friends take it from there.
Tim flips the pancakes, everyone brings toppings to share, Sarah and Hunter mix gluten-free batter, and after everyone eats, Sandy and Rajni do the dishes. Michelle, Eva the Younger, and Eva the Elder start painting the sunny south side before the day gets too hot. Lisa, Steve, and Joe (still glowing from headlining the local festival the night before with his band Crow Radio) are joined by Jenny, Mike, Sarah, and Angus on the tall west side with brushes and buckets of Country Redwood. Seeing 10-year-old Angus with a paintbrush can’t help but remind me of Tom Sawyer’s trickery–make the work seem like fun and everyone will want to do it.
Soon, the lower part of the west side is done and we start to worry that we’ve got enough paint, but everyone votes to keep going, even though we’re starting to sweat in the late morning sun. Michelle and Luca cheer us on from the tire swing. Lloyd volunteers to climb up to the roof to paint the cupola, so John and Tim join him and soon it’s done.
Then Gretchen, Michael, Avi, and Sharonah arrive to help finish the short south side with a couple buckets to spare. Eileen shows up as reinforcement and doesn’t mind painting high on a ladder to finish the west side, so we haul up the ladders for Gretchen and John to join her, while Mike, Lisa, Tim, and Julie climb up to finish the east. Good thing we have a lot of ladders.
In the midst of this work-turned-party, a dear former member arrives with a beautiful engraved stone for our entryway, so Joe, Lloyd, and Mike dig a deep hole to set it in place. We stop to admire the new look of our entryway and then head back to finish the west side and clean up. We’ve painted the entire barn in a little over three hours with a half-bucket of paint to spare! Hungry again and not ready to break up the celebration, we fire up the griddles for another round of pancakes with Jenny’s peanut butter ice cream, some cold watermelon, and a few beers.
Why did I worry about painting the barn? I should have known from years of experience on this farm that many hands make light work. This is the crew that can polish off a weedy bed in the remaining minutes after a pick; the same folks who show up when the tomatoes need harvesting before an unexpected first frost; and the same people who keep Stonebridge going year after year.
And now, the barn is done, except for a little white trim that we’ll get to when the crops have settled down and the days are cooler once more. I doubt John or I will paint the barn again in our lifetimes and that feels good. Good to know that the hard work of the best kind of people can carry on beyond our time. This is how work used to get done on farms–from barn raising to threshing crews to harvesting. We’ve lost that tradition in this country but maybe, in these times, working cooperatively will come back, not only out of necessity, but from desire for community.
Stonebridge is more than a Tom Sawyer farm. We don’t have to trick anyone into anything here because we all realize what we have. We know we are lucky to share this piece of land that sustains our families while bringing us closer together in joy throughout the seasons. Closer in comfort and care for the land and each other–that’s the true meaning of the “C” of CSA.