Wow, summer is wearing down, and fall is around the corner. What to do for fall. We will begin helping the teens transition their gardens from summer to fall plantings. We will also be putting in some new gardens this fall for teens who came on this summer. One young man joined because his two older sisters have been in the program and have talked about all the fun things they do and learn. He has been anxiously waiting for over a year to finally be old enough to join. With fall approaching, we discussed this week about fall crop choices and potential for growing throughout the winter. The family would really like to grow some cooler crops and cover their raised bed to mimic a small hoop house this winter! I was excited at their thought into producing as much and extending the seasons. Those older sisters must have paid attention! And mom is not a green horn here either. She is very familiar from her own youth the importance of growing food for sustainability. The family’s plan is to grow year round and be able to preserve as much as possible to help the family food budget. They are also involving grandpa, making this a 3 generation project! I am very excited to work with this family and anxious to see the fruits of their loving labor!
This weekend was the close of summer for our teen training program, and with that, was an annual activity for our teens. This year we chose a teen leadership/teamwork retreat. We went deep into the Amazon this weekend, hence the lateness of the reporting. We were in a very remote jungle that internet and cell signals did not cooperate very well, which prevented our original plan to report in each day with our activities and progress through the jungle. We met tribal leaders that were testing our strength, leadership, and teamwork abilities to see if we could survive the Amazon and progress to their villages. After walking miles, first in pairs, then teams of 5, on boards, we went for a river trip.
Wouldn’t you know, on the trip up river, which went up a mountain (unbelievable right! Don’t worry it really happened!), we encountered cute pink dolphins, that attacked the boat! We had to leverage all the sailors around the boat to balance it and keep one end of the boat from falling in the water. We spent three days and nights on the boat being attacked with many challenges on how to balance the boat and defeat the dolphins. We finally made it to the village and could get off the boat, where we were able to canoe further up river a mile, swim, and coast the current back to our home base. After a true first night of rest, we started the morning off trying not to fall into burning hot lava, where our original tribal guides left and we had to go to the next village over and get more. We had one casualty to the lava, but he must not of liked him to well, he gave him back.
The group had to carry boards and lay them across rocks to pass their team across the lava and NOT fall in. They continued on the path and had to cross a very large spiders web. A large bird eating spider placed a web in our path that we had to get through, without alerting the spider to us. The team had to enter and exit without touching the sides of the web space openings, or using a web hole more than once. It was frightening to think a spider may eat us all!
We did not get to finish trekking to the village, as the rain came and prevented us from crossing further ropes, so we all had to go through a portal to get back home. Once again, working together as a team, the team had to put everyone in the portal through different directions. I think everyone made it back and we had no sacrifices in the Amazon!
We managed to have some fun and learn how hard and amazing it can be to work together, share ideas, improve upon the mistakes we make, make new friends, experience new things, have difficulties and get through, and just have an amazing time! And no worries, the bears were only after the honey.
Our program offers many layers beyond our basic training around food security. To ensure our teens are successful in the future with work, communication, and entering society, we also take time to focus on skills that will help them succeed in these areas. This weekend was one of those times. With teens taking the lead (and yes I found it very hard to step back and not try to give input as I normally would) they worked through challenges, came up with solutions, tried and retried, and finished the task at hand as a team. They spent time reflecting this morning, before leaving, at what they learned, accomplished, and how this would help them succeed in life. it was amazing to see each of these teens do something new and unexpected of them. One young man mentored another teen who was having some difficulties, another young man who is a leader but always stays on a quieter side in large groups stood up and gave input and helped lead an activity, another young lady who was not going to come and stay at home inside all weekend, came and participated most of the weekend, another young man who I saw more as a “let’s play guy” lead many activities and took charge as requested, and many found their strength and confidence inside of them. These teens reflected that this experience will be of great benefit to them in the real world. This, and hopefully they saw it, will benefit them to work better as a group at Rural Resources to successfully complete their training, work in our community sharing what they have learned, and working as a team on the farm to finish the tasks at hand. I truly was blessed this weekend and expect wonderful and great things in the future of each and every one of these teens! We would like to give a big thanks to the staff at Longview Ranch Christian Retreat, Mosheim, TN, who provided us with a memorable experience. (hopefully I got the Amazon story straight) Their instructor, Tyson was very respectful with each of the teens and fully debriefed with the group after each activity – going over the learning curve, leadership curve, what worked/didn’t, and any feelings any one had or concerns.
So, Debbie signing off from our home in Greeneville, TN!