We arrived in the windy wooded hills of the Kroka base camp on Friday morning, with butterflies in our stomachs. We were greeted with songs, ceremonies, and a delicious potluck before saying goodbye to our loved ones. Here at Kroka, we wake up with the sun and the rooster’s crow. We notice the moon, and wonder at the interconnectedness of the forest. Our backs are beginning to adjust to sleeping on the earth and our feet are starting to callous from living without shoes. One week has felt like so much longer; each day has been full of new growth, and a mixture of farm experience, academics, fitness, and adventures both on and off campus. Quickly, bonds between us have formed and the seeds of community are being sown.
Each day we have woken up before 6:00am for yoga in the Boathouse, followed by morning chores. Each student chose a chore to commit to for the week, such as gardening, helping with the construction of the farmhouse, or cooking over an open fire.
“Milking with Lynne this morning was real nice. It feels so meaningful to do chores here when everyone else is doing chores at the same time. There is no question of whether the person next to me is working hard enough when I fundamentally trust that everyone is.” -Harry Taussig
Academics have focused on group discussion, presentations, and hands-on projects, as well as observation of our surroundings. We now know how to create a map of New England from memory, and identify major natural features, highways, and cities. In Humanities with Ruby, both high school and gap year are studying the book Braiding Sweetgrass. Through discussion, projects and personal narratives, we are connecting Robin Wall Kimmerer’s indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and stories of the natural world to our own experiences.
Gap year students have been taking science classes with Jackie, and applying each lesson every time we walk outside. We’ve learned how to differentiate between cirrus, stratus, and cumulus clouds and how to detect air pressure and predict when it might rain. On Tuesday, the gap year group embarked on a forest ecology walk with Laura, who will be accompanying us on our bike-packing trip. Together we are becoming familiar with the trees with whom we share this land. By the end of the afternoon, we were able to identify various types of birch, maple, and conifer trees. We also found a pure white mushroom that was most likely the “Destroying Angel,” one of the most poisonous mushrooms in the world. On the contrary, the high school group found a delicious orange mushroom on a run, called the “Chicken of the Woods,” which was added to stir fry for breakfast!
Each day we push our bodies with technical mountain bike rides, laps across the Kroka pond and mossy trail runs. Our arms are sore from rock climbing and calisthenics and our cores ache from swimming a kilometer across the Connecticut River. Our bodies are growing stronger by the day.
On Friday morning we depart for our first expeditions; high schoolers paddling down the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers while Gap Year students embark on a bike-packing trip from the Kroka Farm west across the Green Mountains. Although we are about to depart on two separate adventures, we are beginning to weave a functional and intentional community here at Kroka. In the words of Robin Wall Kimmerer:
“If one tree fruits, they all fruit- there are no soloists. Not one tree in a grove, but the whole grove; all across the country and all across the state. The trees act not as individuals but somehow as a collective. Exactly how they do this, we don’t yet know. But what we see is the power of unity. What happens to one happens to us all. We can starve together or feast together, all flourishing as mutual.”
Like the pecan trees, we fruit together. As we adjust to a way of life that is simultaneously simpler and more demanding than our prior routines, building a strong community has been a main focus. Each of us has a purpose here, a responsibility to show up as our most integrous selves.
“Staring at the trickling stream, the rocks letting the water gently slide over them… they all look so peaceful. Voices mixed with the birds makes for a pleasant chorus. Nature is so accessible for me at home, yet somehow here at Kroka I am noticing it so much more. I think this is the beauty and truth of living with intention, and not just letting the Earth slip by. She is speaking to each of us, and this morning as I sit and write, I am starting to hear her voice, clearer than ever before.” -Lael Cashen