Bree Lloyd, 2013-2014 intern, assists with the daily care of the alpacas at White Violet Farm Alpacas at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She also works in the organically grown garden that the alpacas also contribute to.

Bree Lloyd, 2013-2014 intern, assists with the daily care of the alpacas at White Violet Farm Alpacas at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She also works in the organically grown gardens.

Perhaps I should begin with the poop. Humble pies. They are, after all, often seen as the disreputable pieces of farming and gardening work — the most smelly and dirty pieces. Waste, feces, excrement. It so often elicits an, “Ooooo, gross!” from honest children lacking discretion, or from most of us, really.

And yet, these pebbles and piles are gems — jewels to the world beneath our feet and fundamental to the health and wealth of soil. Here, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, that microbial world that roots the living matter on which our bodies and lives depend is supplemented, enhanced and given longevity.

It is passed carefully onto the next generation, to live and give life, richly, anew. From the humility of this named waste comes, in time, the beauty of the marigold, the strength of the oak, and the sweetness of the raspberry. I am a proud poop scooper; and this is my business.

Here at the White Violet Center, I have also had the opportunity to participate in other aspects of alpaca care, from morning chores of feeding and watering, to stomach baths in hot weather, and from assisting with shearing to administering meds.

Just last Sunday I had the golden opportunity to hold a new-to-the-world cria as we drove to the vet to ensure its healthy start in the world. It was a very dear drive, and a moment that reminds one of the care that is possible between two very different lives when only we take the time and attention. Thanks, Tracy, for the opportunity and for teaching me along the way.

Other growing things

I also have the opportunity to participate in other pieces of this cycle of growth and life. In the garden, we have added mulch to rows of leaks, squash, cabbages and more. We have cultivated these rows to ensure this produce will grow well. In other words, we have weeded and weeded; we’ve weeded and weeded.

And we have harvested! From berries (with occasional snacks; I only eat the bad ones) and basil to okra and onions. The harvest continues, as does cleaning this produce and weeding.

Bree hauls straw for the garden for spreading around the plants in the spring.

Bree hauls straw for the garden, which is spread around the plants in the spring.

David, our assistant manager, has nearly finished building another greenhouse which will extend this harvest into the late fall. All in all, we are busy in the garden, dirty, sweaty, but laughing together (thanks, Ann!) and helping to grow fruits and vegetables that nourish many people around us.

So it is that the White Violet Center is enabling me to continue to learn and participate in this utterly profound act, of gardening and animal care. Of scooping poop. It is humble work, but honest. All comes from soil and sun and returns again. To be a steward and witness to this process is nothing short of sacred.