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Jumping into Independent Study Projects (ISPs)

Our second day at The Draw marked the start of our Independent Study Projects. Once we had fully woken up after breakfast, we strolled over to the pavilion for our morning check-in and prepared ourselves for farm work in the burning sun. We were reminded to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The temperature almost reached 90°, but the heat failed to dull our spirits.

I followed Shyam to a strawberry patch that we would be turning over. She explained that the strawberry plants had been there for far too long. Old strawberry plants don’t produce strawberries. Only young ones do. And so, we aerated the soil with pitchforks to loosen the roots and toss the plants in a compost pile. After a year or so, that compost will become fertilizer ready to nurture new plants.

Shyam’s two youngest daughters eagerly pitched in, showing us which plants grew the sweetest strawberries and finding worms of varying sizes to befriend. One worm even had a diameter of 1cm!

“When you’re living outside, you need to learn how to share,” said Shyam when we asked her about why most weeds and invasive species aren’t a bother. Shawm and Nat, her husband, purposefully planted dandelions from their neighbors’ property to grow them for salads and medicinal purposes. Horsetail is another weed that they cultivate in their garden, also for medicinal purposes.

Two students took an axe to log segments, splitting them into firewood. Chopping with these axes felt “like cutting butter” according to Simon. The two students went at it. They attacked log after log, sending pieces flying. Sometimes, they ran into a particularly knotty log that gave them some trouble, but both agreed that the experience was well worth the struggle. “I love it. It was fun,” said one.

“Way better than anything else,” agreed the other.

I decided I would give chopping a try. The two made it seem like such an effortless process, driving the axe straight through the matter. My arms were considerably less buff than the other two students’ and not wholly unlike the noodles that we would be eating for lunch, but I opted to ignore this fact and give it a swing.

Simon showed me how to tee myself up to the log. I was to start with the axe above my head and swing it straight down. My first chop hit the log at an awkward angle. The axe jumped off the log, leaving a dent but no cracks. I adjusted my hand positioning and tried again. Crack! A piece flew into the woodpile.

We ate dinner’s leftovers for lunch — a fulfilling meal of peanut butter noodles with cheese and broccoli — while briefing on our separate routes for Independent Study Projects (ISPs). I took the van with Jac and the herbalism crew to Washburn. I met a dog named Cloud, a fetch connoisseur, who brought me his tennis ball. We proceeded to play fetch for the next twenty minutes.

After dropping off the herbalism group, Jac and I grabbed coffee and planned out my ISP, journalism. Hopefully, over the next few days I can revisit the Great Lakes Indian Fishing and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) to learn more about and work on their publication Mazina’igan.

Jac dropped me off at the Cornucopia Community Center, where I am now, to research and write. In a few hours, we’ll be enjoying a potluck with the rest of the Corny community and playing a game of ultimate frisbee.