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Mountain Senses

By Grace Grattan, Phase I Fellow

It’s officially summer! Even though the temperatures on the mountain are far cooler than any summer I’ve ever felt (it’s in the high 50’s as I write this post!), the sun is strong, the lightning bugs blink at night, and we are anxiously awaiting our first tomatoes! Life here on the mountain and in the garden is different than any other experience I’ve had before, and I’m trying my best to savor it all. So, in an attempt to capture this moment in time in this place, I’ll share with you what we’ve been seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting, and hearing recently.

Working in the garden, I feel like I see something new every day. We recently had a Herbalism Workshop where we spent time identifying various edible and medicinal herbs. Since then, what used to look like a mess of indistinguishable weeds are now starting to become plants with individual names such as lamb’s quarters or wood sorrel. I’ve also been noticing all the animals living around us. Some of us were lucky enough to spy a tiny fawn curled up in the ferns right next to the path. It was camouflaged perfectly - just two large eyes, fuzzy ears, and a black nose nestled in the leaves.

Fawn by the path to the cabins

A few of us were also lucky enough witness the birth of Lucy the cow’s new calf. Being able to watch little Goosey the calf grow up has been both adorable and incredible. One of my favorite things that I get to see here on a daily basis are the mountains. I love their distant gradient of blues and the almost fuzzy appearance that the green trees give them. Every time I walk or drive by, the view from the road never ceases to amaze me.

The mountains in the clouds

Since being here, I’ve used my hands more than I ever have before. I’ve gotten used to the feelings of digging through dirt, pulling weeds, spreading tiny seeds, and squishing aphids. My legs are usually covered in little scratches and I’m still not used to the feeling of walking up the hill from the garden. Recently, I’ve come to appreciate the feeling of walking through the grass and on the paths without shoes on. The squishy mud, slippery grass, and pointy rocks are feelings my feet have never really been accustomed to until now. However, I think my favorite feeling so far is relaxing and sitting down to dinner after a long day in the garden!

Different smells are all around us every day. I love the unique smell of the ferns that grow by the lodge door. Every time I walk by, especially during the rain, I get a whiff of their delicate sweet smell. Walking into the lodge before dinner and smelling what is being cooked for always makes my mouth water. We’ve also been doing lots of maintenance on the tomatoes, which causes my fingers smell like the summery scent of tomatoes and makes me hungry for their future fruit! The best smell has been the evening rain after a sunny day – it’s always so calming and fresh.

Taste is by far the sense that I have been paying the most attention to recently. Food is so integral to what we do here, so naturally taste is central! Snacking on peas and other greens while harvesting, eating amazingly creative Fellow-made meals, and tasting a variety of foraged plants are just of few of the tastes unique to this place. When another Fellow and I made garlic scape pesto, it was so strong that at first it felt like my mouth was on fire. I love the honey harvested from last year and I’ve never tasted anything like it before. It tastes like how I imagine the sweetest flower would taste. Even the water here tastes amazing. It’s going to be hard to go back to city water after being spoiled by the fresh mountain springs. Perhaps one of the most memorable tastes so far was the variety of flavors of maple syrup sold by Back Creek Farms at the Farmers Market. I taste tested everything from original maple to a bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. It was almost too good to just use on pancakes!

Garlic scapes before we made them into pesto

Beautiful radishes we got to eat

Part of the loveliness of being on the mountain is how quiet it is. Aside from the occasional jet zooming by overhead in the garden, we are surrounded by the sounds of nature. I love being able to hear owls hooting and frogs chirping at night. During the day, work in the garden is punctuated with various squawks from the chickens, which sometimes sound like they are coming from dinosaurs and not our laying hens. So far, my favorite sound as been that of our musical instruments. Between all the Fellows, we have about six stringed instruments with us on the mountain and I really love being able to play and sing with others.

I’m excited to experience more of what the mountain and garden have to offer as summer continues and these sights, feels, smells, tastes, and sounds of the season change.

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