Saturday, March 5, 2011

Down on The Farm

The Book Publishing Company's humble front door
Last week I went to the offices of The Book Publishing Company in Summertown, Tennessee to help with some food photos for a new book by Laura Theodore, called "The Jazzy Vegetarian." Actually, the offices are not in Summertown, but nearby, at "The Farm Community," the  oldest, largest, and the only successful hippie commune in existence, that I know of. You can read an article about "The Farm" that appeared in Vanity Fair, called "Sex, Drugs and Soybeans."

A lot of the original buildings, festooned with interesting period artwork remain, along with a good number of the people, who have retained their '70s openness and free spirit, as well as their commitment to non-violence and all things progressive. I haven't met them all, but the ones I've had the pleasure of working with impress me very much. They seem to have gotten past all (or most) of their personality issues, and work as a team in ways that any company would envy. This was my third visit to The Farm (the first two were to work on the photos for Omega 3 Cuisine and Speed Vegan, respectively); each time I get to know the people better and enjoy their unique microcosm a little more. I've only been there in the winter (just seems to be the timing of book production that has me doing food photos in January or February), but I hear spring and summer are amazing.

The Living Room and Barb's Kitchen
The Bloomfields' House
Barbara Bloomfield, one of the Book Publishing Company's members, also runs a bed & breakfast at her house, where guests like I get to stay and experience the pleasant country vibe. She also farms (along with her husband, Neal), and the meals she serves feature freshly harvested vegetables. Nothing in the eating world comes close to a salad made from greens that were still growing an hour or so before you grasp them with a pair of wooden chopsticks and slip them between your teeth.

A wood-burning stove warms the house and a silky black cat makes the rounds. I love it there.

Neal Bloomfield, standing on the frozen creek

The remains of the sweat lodge.
The last two times I've been at The Farm, I got the work done and out of the way with a day or two to spare, so Neal took me with him to see some of the land.

Last year, we went for a hike near his house, where he showed me the swimming hole (frozen), and the site where a couple of nights before he and some other people had built and sat in a sweat lodge to honor a friend who had recently passed away.

This year, he took me with him to pick up a load of manure from a guy who lives a few miles from The Farm--a hands-on activity that included sifting through the dung (with gloves) to pull out and discard any stones before bringing the load home.  Not the kind of experience most people would think of treating their guests to, but I guess Neal figured it was something I would enjoy, and he was right.

On Saturday night this time around, I was invited to a community gathering, an informal affair which featured a skit by children who attend the Farm's school, and live music by Doug Stevenson (guitar, vocals) and Rick Diamond (bass). Some other guy whose name I didn't catch ran up and played a drum at one point. I have to admit, I expected their live music to be barely tolerable, but these guys were good! I shot these two pictures with my iPhone, and then recorded a short clip and texted it to my wife, back in Colorado. She texted back: "Cool! Is that live?"

The rest of these shots I took over several days on my last trip, as I walked around and took  in the sights...
The Farm School, now solar-powered.

A tortured tree, with a battered barn.

The light switch in my room at Barb's place.

An ingenious catchment device, for gathering rainwater.

Old silos never die, they just get put out to pasture.

One nomadic visitor came with his own lodging. The next time I went to the farm, he had moved on, and this was gone.

The lodgepoles speak about the spirit of the warrior who dwells there.

The Book Publishing Company Offices, from across a field.

A wooden gate, permanently open.

A very soft, contented horse.

Slightly abandoned Farm buildings. I've never seen anyone there, but tire tracks vaguely hint at some activity.

Stick people beat drums and dance around a fire.

Not sure what this once was...

...but it's colorful.

Same building, from the front.

An interesting open-sided dome-like structure that shelters a kids' playground, with the octagonal Farm Store (pink) in the background.

Maybe this was one of the buses in the original caravan that brought the farmies from San Francisco back in 1971. Looks like someone made a two-story dwelling of some sort out of it, back in the day. Makes me think of The Incredible String Band.

Magic mushroom and a tulip, I think. Must have meant something at the time...

Playground Equipment and a brightly painted outhouse near the Welcome Center.

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