I imagine, if you have been following us and what we do, that this past month has been a whirlwind of confusion and chaos.
Well, that would be accurate.
I have been struggling deeply with how to share our current story and trajectory. I want to be transparent and open always. If I am not, this is no sort of community, but rather just a platform and hierarchy, neither of which we are yearning to be. However, this story is going to be sometimes dramatic and things I share might not always paint everyone in the nicest of lights. But, I have meditated heavily on this question and the truth wins out. If I yearn to create community and include all of you within that tribe, I must also be open and vulnerable, with all of the courage I can muster. I can share the truth, even when it isn’t the prettiest.
I’m sure you know that David, Avi, and I moved up to Three Roods Farm in April. The plan was to help the owners run their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for the season and meet the neighbors while we raised enough funds to purchase the farm and create our Bat Chava, retreat center and Jewish Land based farming fellowship.
We were introduced to Robin and Greg at the law firm I was working at, and we met with them numerous times before we agreed to move up there, putting our lives on hold to work towards this “common goal”. David, Avi, and I spent Thanksgiving up at the farm and both of my parents came by for visits. We were told that we could purchase the farm for $250,000, or we could do a land contract if we put $50,000 down.
In April, we moved to the farm. It was cold, still, and David was still teaching back near Detroit, so two days a week he was gone, while Avi and I stayed up to “work” the farm. I say “work” because there was still snow on the ground, so we weren’t able to do much in the way of farm at this point. We cooked, cleaned, and went for hikes. We researched fundraising and wrote business plans. We tried to faithfully count the Omer, and planned a Shavuot Shabbaton. We got some goats and ordered bees. We met all the local characters and were even gifted a loom and a spinning wheel. Mostly, it was pretty beautiful. Sleeping was a bit tricky, as it was still very clearly winter and we were living in an unheated and uninsulated barn, but we managed. We got an electric blanket and huddled up. Stitch made sure to keep our toes warm.
When it warmed up a bit we painted the chicken coop, the shed, and the entirety of the inside front half of the barn. We fed the chickens, tilled the soil, watched baby ducks struggle to survive, planted, weeded, and worked our fingers raw.
In the planning stages, we were told that we all had a shared dream of this Jewish community farm/retreat center. However, although we came enthusiastically to the community events that were led by Robin, her and Greg were completely absent from the events and services we led.
The excitement that Robin and Greg seemed to have about us up at the farm quickly faded.
In hindsight, there were warning signs, but we all brushed them off. When we began we were told that our meeting was surely a sign from God, but soon after there were personal insults thrown about our finances and our unrealistic dreams. I was even told that our inclusive community of female identified and non binary folks would be a “leper colony.”
There was also this bizarre penchant for murdering animals. A fluffy orange cat was caught in a live trap and drowned! I was told to crush robins with my bare hands! 21 baby ducks died in random ways that could have been prevented, but nope.
Okay, so those are the tip of the ice berg of little (and maybe not so little) things we ignored with the hope of working towards our ultimate goal, which was for them to move and for us to purchase the farm and continue doing the work we do.
Then, approximately a month ago, they went to Chicago. I held down the fort while they were gone, as I had for their other trips. Things went really well. We were making great connections and moving steadily forward with our business plans and our fundraising. We have a few great goat share customers and events we will be doing and things were all looking good. We were really enjoying getting to deliver veggies, milk and eggs every Friday and to listen to the bullfrogs sing every night.
Then, they came home. They decided to have a meeting with me, Avi and Robert (Robert was up there WWOOFING along side us) David was down in the city teaching a circus camp, and apparently they didn’t find it necessary to wait for him to come “home” and be included in this. They proceeded to tell us that we had 30 days to buy the farm or get out. Because of the lack of rain they were done with the CSA. Robert and I offered to haul water in the pick up truck and to water everything by hand on our own. Then it was that they didn’t want to think about work. We offered to take over all of the work. No. just no. No reason… lack of rain. Then it rained for days and days. Nothing changed. They ended the CSA only half way done and stated they would do us a favor and pay the Detroit folks half??? I’m not sure why we would have been expected to do such a thing. And they are still harvesting for their local people, even after telling the shareholders there was no food. There is abundant food. There is also my several hundred foot plot of organic veggies that I spent weeks tiling, tending, planting, and weeding. I imagine that fruit will be rotting in the field. It breaks my heart, but I hope that the critters and the soil itself are nourished by my love and hard work.
We thought, okay, we’ll raise the money. It was stressful and unrealistic, but this was the lot we were given. We didn’t want to fail and disappoint all of the people who were counting on us. We started making phone calls, set up a Go Fund me, met with a Rabbi. It was actually going really well. Except, things at “home” were getting worse. David came “home” and asked for an explanation. He got a new story, totally different from the one Robert and I were given.
Things just kept getting more and more uncomfortable, but Greg sure did seem happy. After two weeks we had managed to raise about $15,000… which if you ask me is pretty damn good! Not good enough for them I guess.
So, we tried to have a mediation.
It ended up worse than I could have ever even imagined a mediation going. They changed the price to $305,000 (which is at least $100,000 over market value) and took away the land contract option. We asked for more time. We offered to tend to the space while they were in Vermont… in the condo they are moving to, but were told that we would be in the way and that it would sell better if it were empty. (We have now been informed that they are keeping their Airbnb guest to manage the property and the housekeeper to tend to the gardens.) They made it abundantly clear that we just needed to gtfo, nothing we had to offer mattered, and they just wanted us to vanish as fast as possible. As I sat sobbing in fear of Mordecai being beheaded, I asked for some support and received absolutely none. That’s what I needed. We were done, but we couldn’t even leave yet. Moving and life just doesn’t work that way.
Luckily, Hazon had offered to send us to the Jewish Food Conference at Isabella Freedman in Connecticut, so off we went. The trip was great and being away provided a better perspective. Clearly, we were not meant to be there. The universe had been sending us signs for months, but we kept ignoring them and proceeding with our plan. That place is full of death and hateful, stale energy. We would have inherited all of that. I’m grateful that didn’t happen.
On our way home, we all caught a summer cold and the air conditioner in the car died. Fortunately, when I arrived home, the High Priestess of calm and organization, Talia, was staying at the Kibbutz to avoid rushing home to Toronto after being at her own conference in California. She has saved me this past week. I have been so sick, no one has been available to help us move, to unpack and to empty the basement, that flooded yet again while we were gone. Things are almost looking like “regular” life now. Our basement is still a disaster and we can’t afford to have it fixed. Its $20,000….. sigh.
My main goal right now is to keep my head above water and to not be consumed by sadness and grief, but to keep moving forward with our work.
The goats are at a farm about 25 minutes from here. It’s rough when its 90 degrees out and we have to drive to milk them, but I still get to smell their sides as I milk them and there is something so grounding and comforting to me about that. We also get to keep our Kosher, raw milk needing goat share guy whom I was terrified of disappointing, and Mordecai gets to keep his shofarim for now at least.
Our goal is to keep fundraising and look for a different property. We have already found several nicer and cheaper places. Its a roller coaster of hopeful and fearful. Hopefully. one of us will get an interim job to make the rest of this process more spacious. In the meantime, please, come for dinner or to tell us a story, or help fix the basement, or visit the bees or walk along the river. We could really use all of the support you’ve got for a bit here. But I really do believe that in the long run, this will all be for the best and Bat Chava will find her home and her voice and we will all do beautiful things together.
Thank you so much for joining us on this journey.