The Six Thistle Challenge

July 20, 2013

No one, seriously, no one, has ever mistaken me for the outdoorsy type.  So when I say "I am a Thistle Farmer" the thought of me outside, on a tractor, sweaty, is a really valid reason to laugh.  I mowed the yard of my childhood home one time, as punishment for speaking disrespectfully to my mother.  My father decided on that day that HE had been punished far more harshly than I had been when he saw the nearly irreparable job I'd done to his previously lovely yard.

Farming: "0."
Going inside where it was nice and cool, to watch The Partridge Family: "1." 

I've spent a huge portion of my adult life working as Volunteer Coordinator at Thistle Farms. My skills lean toward a "sublime" category of farming, in that I have been given the opportunity to place and tend to volunteers from every possible background, age group, and skill set.  Seeing volunteers bloom into their places in our community has been one of the greatest joys of my life. Also, it can be done mostly indoors, away from the possibility of sweating or sunburn.

Metaphorically, I love thistle farming. I love the idea of taking something that people consider a weed and making it the star of the show. I love recycling. I love the changing of perspectives. I love the beauty contained in the restoration of dignity. But honestly, I don't get very excited by the prospect of climbing into a field of thistles to harvest a truckload full. You know, with what happened to the yard and all...

A few weeks ago, I was plucking the down from the thistles that had been in our weekly thistle arrangement at the Thistle Stop Cafe. Since we are dedicated recyclers, we use the feathery down from the thistles in those donated arrangements, along with all of the other donated thistle, in our handmade paper recipe. There were six thistles in this particular arrangement, as well as other beautiful wildflowers and foliage and when I looked down at my little pile of thistle down I thought about how six thistles looked like about the right amount for one 5 gallon bucket of paper pulp, which makes 25-30 single sheets of paper.  What would happen if lots of people each picked six thistles and put them all together? Wouldn't it be great to be a part of something so artful and so dependent upon people coming together as a community?

Six thistles …  I was excited by the prospect of what this could mean for us. Those of us who are gifted farmers, and those who aren't. All of us working together, doing something small and seeing the big difference it can make. Laughing, forgiving, and each of us finding our place with each thistle.  This is what Thistle Farms has always been. This is what we believe.

So I invite you to take the "Six Thistle Challenge." 

Sometime prior to July 28, pick six thistles. Choose dried thistles or choose blooming thistles and give them about five days to dry in your garage or any enclosed dry space. Bring your six thistles to Thistle Farms on Sunday, July 28, any time between 1-3 PM, and we will pluck the down from our thistles together in our circle of gratitude.

Your six thistles, along with every other farmer's six thistles will provide enough thistle down for our paper department for the next several months. Thanks, farmers.

By Stacye Wilson
Thistle Farms Volunteer Coordinator

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