Fence Boards and Paneer

Congrats to Spain, Condolences to the Netherlands,

Another seven days has quickly passed and I find myself stealing a few moments in my chair once again. I’m a bit tired from my biggest day of riding yet and I’m going to attempt to weave together some thoughts about work projects, summer camp, paneer and mountain climbing. My apologies in advance if I don’t quite get it all looking like a fine tartan.

Through Facebook of late, I’ve been reconnecting with many folks who I worked with and for at Farm and Wilderness (F&W) during the mid to late eighties and early nineties. I spent one of the most pivotal years of my life as a crew member there in 1983 between high school and university. I volunteered my labour in exchange for learning gardening, farming, and carpentry skills. I went for a semester and stayed a year and then went back for the next seven summers after that. The place and the people there transformed me and nurtured my growth much like Marian and I tend the small container garden on our deck…with love, care, and attention.

I haven’t been back there in some time now but yesterday I was once again appreciating all of the skills and confidence I learned at Indian Brook, the specific F&W camp I worked for. Marian and I were transforming the remnants of friends’ new fence construction project into a deck-like/pallet sort of covering for the desperately black and coal filled black soil beneath our kitchen deck. In a masterpiece of jigsaw fitting and spatial problem-solving, we slowly found pieces that would fit together. We could have sawed them all to a uniform length and goodness knows, I was eager to saw (I love power tools almost as much as my new motorcycle), but it was more fun to see how to get the job done with the least number of cuts possible.

My dad was the first to teach me to use a circular saw and other power tools. Farm and Wilderness polished those skills to a rich sharpness and I then passed those skills on to the girls I taught there. What came to me went round to others and so on. Just like the fence boards. And the whey from the paneer.

Missing Nepal, I wanted to make some paneer (a simple cheese that features in both Nepali and Indian cooking). I’d first learned to make it on crew at F&W but consulted Google for a quick reminder on technique. I heated the milk, dropped in the lemon juice, and voila…curds and whey. I won’t mention here that when my mom was angry with me as a child she often said, “Watch yourself, Little Miss Muffet.”

So there I was yesterday eating a few curds before pressing them into a hard block to become paneer, and wondering what I should do with the whey. I knew a few things you can do (make bread, make soup stock, water the plants) but I once again consulted the fountain of all current knowledge and learned you could make lemonade out of it as well. So I did…with fresh lemons and a few fresh sprigs of mint from the garden…mint lemonade that tastes a bit like drinking lemon meringue pie (just like we had at Mike’s Breakfast in Kathmandu). Again, nothing got wasted…and the whey got made into something else. Just like the fence boards.

How does it all fit together? Cheese, I first made in Vermont, enjoyed in Nepal, and made myself here in St. John’s, brings to my awareness that I am always grateful to those who have gone before me having both taught and inspired me. That I am most deeply connect to those whom I share experiences with–and those experiences can range from mucking out the cow stales to pulling tires to building a deck to paddling a kayak to presenting together at a conference.

I know I would never have attempted to climb Mount Everest or many other mountains, if I hadn’t been nurtured and mentored away from dancing on cliff edges without being tied in…not because I might fall but because it scared those around me…F&W allowed me to space and opportunity to develop as a person, an outdoor educator, and a risk manager. I wish for all children and young adults (heck all people) to have such a place/space in their lives where they are honoured for who they are, supported in growing beyond the boundaries of their gardens, and transformed like the fence boards.

Have a good week,


PS: http://www.farmandwilderness.org/

This entry was posted in Buddhism, Everest 2010, Motorcycles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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