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Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash
November 26, 2020

By student Brandon Ipiña

Coming to Thoreau College, I wasn’t really sure what it was about. Yes, I did know it would be in the Driftless Region, that there would be time to reflect and to work, and that through all these moments of engagement and practice, I would get closer to the community; but when asked by people who care about me in Houston, it was hard to explain why I wanted to be here. This ’why’ is something that I have been exploring every moment and while I don’t have a proper answer yet, I know I’m getting closer.

Being here is fun because every day is different. I think about how I’ve been wanting a gap year after high school for years and, while I wasn’t expecting it to turn out like this, I don’t regret it. There are days that the labor portion feels longer than the discussion-based classes. Moments of installing greenhouse plastic sheeting, raking leaves, helping at Community Hunger Solutions, and making apple cider, while arduous, has been rewarding. When I think of a project that I have been working on here, I think of drywall. These past two months, I have been working down in The Commons basement to put drywall on the ceiling of a room so it can be used as a music room. It’s tiring to say the least. While I do have experience, it’s new for me to transverse the landscape of ideas with the people here and the tools we have. There have been moments that I would not want to do something and maybe give up even, but I rise up to the occasion because that’s what I signed up for.

With both my experiences of drywall and Thoreau College as a whole, it has been about moving toward something. I’m learning what I like to do and how I want to better myself by being here. From minor incremental goals to more grand endeavors and all the value they can bring. Hearing the other students’ thoughts and their intentions in our moments of self governance and practicing folk skills has been helping me take a minute to see what matters. We joke about how we strive to follow Thoreau’s ideology of “living intentionally” and I really do feel we are doing our best. We keep up with current events around the country and in our close community and get frustrated, but most of all, we talk. To have this connection with each other through such a natural act that is for me this program, is why I wanted to be here. A couple of days ago, I went to work on an organic valley farm and came home with a box of winter gourds and brussels sprouts. For tonight, I am planning to bake those brussels sprouts and a big butternut squash for dinner.  Sacrifice really isn’t all that hard when the reward is so palpable.

(Photo: Brandon studying basket weaving with Martha Buche through the Driftless Folk School).