The Kids


On Saturday morning, Fanni and I cruised up the driveway of Rising Sand, where we met a large group of people consisting, oddly, of no Sand Risers. There was a motley crew of students fresh off a van from Appleton, Logan Brice’s Dad, and Lotus the Dog. Lotus barked effusively as the students roamed the common area and Logan Brice’s Dad occupied his post on the roof like a new Messiah; carpenter belt and all. Feeling vaguely uneasy about our lateness, I swooped in to gather the masses and begin our fall Saturday workday with some degree of normalcy.

“Hey, how’s it going, everyone?” I greeted them loudly and jovially, over Lotus’s harsh and threatening cries. “You guys are all coming in from St. Lawrence, huh?”

“Just Lawrence,” a guy corrected me.

“Hmm, oh… Well then what is the S for?”

“Sustainable Lawrence University Garden.”

“Ahhh, that makes sense. Anyway, one of you knows Oren, supposedly?” A girl raised her hand and we were off, starting with a bit of an impromptu tour around the grounds, discussing our formation and structure, and the development of our land and infrastructure thus far. I tried to keep things light and make some jokes, but couldn’t help noticing that most of the students seemed a bit… stiff. So we did our best to warm them up, making a quick round before splitting up the group into project teams for the day: Fanni leading a tomato patch clearing project at Rising Sand, and me a deconstruction of our busted hoophouse at Field Notes.

Though I’ve never actually constructed or destructed a hoophouse myself, I’d gotten a pretty detailed Grandmaster orientation the previous evening, and was feeling pretty comfortable. Besides, given the obvious discomfort of the students, nobody would admit to knowing more than me, so I got to play expert for the day regardless. I gave a brief overview of the plan, before getting the drills into hands of people who looked at least relatively competent, and further delegated tasks until everyone’s hands were in motion.


To my surprise, the technical process of deconstruction was the easiest part of the day. More difficult was monitoring the work of others, answering questions, and keeping people engaged in a positive and efficient work flow. “You guys take these metal clamps off of this rod and put them into this bucket.”

“These aren’t coming off… I don’t know what to do… how should I do this…”

Shortly thereafter, the truth was revealed to me by the only, it turns out, upperclassman in the group. “These guys are all freshmen.”

Ahhhh, freshmen…

From this base of knowledge, I moved forward more aptly. “Hey, do you have anything to do? No? Here, screw these bolts back together…. Hey, go grab the wrench from her and get on the ladder… Gather all these boards and pile them over there…”

Soon, all hands except mine were busy, and we were rolling steady. We detached the plastic, and worked together as a team to get it rolled up. We got the tracks and sideboards removed, and started working on the purlins. We ebbed and flowed through our three-hour time-availability, as I kept one eye on the clock and the other on our progress. In my orientation the day before, Oren had said, “If you get through the purlins, I’ll be surprised,” so I was determined to take it at least one step farther.


As we neared completion and closed in on our time limit, I sent vehicles back to Rising Sand, to help them finish, and remove unnecessary workers from our midst. Finally, only myself, my friend Asher, and one freshman fellow remained, beasting out the last of the purlins and dropping the side walls before loading up the tools and heading back to Rising Sand to reconvene.

Upon arrival, we found that the Rising Sand workgroup had completed their tomato project and then some, and we all gathered around the table for a crockpot Split Pea soup, and some fresh baked Main Grain sourdough. We laughed, chatted, and generally lavished in the energy of a team project well-done. Near the end of the meal, one of the more sheepish dorm-dwellers remarked, “Wow, it’s great to be eating a homemade meal again. Thanks so much…” “Yeah,” they all chimed in, “this is wonderful.”

And that, more than anything else, made my day. Given our short time-slot with the students, I’d been torn about whether or not to provide a meal, versus working them straight through. However, communal meals have been an integral part of Rising Sand’s fabric since day one, so I decided to put together a hot, nourishing soup. And we sat and ate together like human beings and friends, freshmen and upperclassmen alike, before heading out in our separate directions until who-knows-when. I think it went well, and hope we made a good enough impression that we’ll be seeing them all again in the spring.