Not deferential enough: On common ground

Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2011 in Opinion

Not deferential enough: On common ground

A barefoot toddler curiously examines some prize-winning chickens at the Common Ground Fair.

by Gina Hamilton

It's always the third weekend of September, this vast celebration of the harvest in Unity.  It's part farmer's market, part free speech zone, part family reunion picnic, part sustainable living expo, with a lot of a good old-fashioned country fair thrown in for good measure. 

You can buy yarn from Maine people who raise the sheep or goats or rabbits and spin the fiber, sometimes right before your eyes.  You can listen to a speech about increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  You can learn about how to build a chicken coop.  You can listen to a debate about the best way to insulate your basement or sign up for a site assessment for solar panels.  You can watch Native Mainers build a birch bark canoe.  You can get a wholesome cup of lemonade made with real honey.  You can learn to save seeds from year to year, thresh your own rye, join a harvest dance, listen to a fiddle duet, and if you're small, you can dress up as a vegetable and have a parade.  And on your way home, you can buy a sackful of apples or a prime pumpkin to make a pie.

There's no midway with carnival rides, although you might be able to ride a pony or take a tractor-drawn cart to the parking lot.  There's no Coca-Cola; no corn dogs dipped in mustard, no salt-encrusted soft pretzels (although you might be able to find some honey-dipped whole wheat ones somewhere).  Everything is sustainably grown, and organic, and virtuously good for you.  Or mostly, anyway.

It's the Common Ground Fair, and it is an annual pilgrimmage for me.  I am always ready for something new, and I am always inspired at the Common Ground Fair, which is run by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, or MOFGA.  This year, I went on my own ... I usually have at least one companion, but the Red Sox were playing a double header, and Chris would not be moved.  My friend Jean had planned to come, but in the end, she couldn't make it, so I wandered around the vast campus on my own. 

It was probably not a bad idea.  I met many, many old friends ... indeed, I know a great number of the fairgoers at Common Ground, because we have ... well, a lot in common.  I didn't see many other old friends that I knew to be there. At least three of us who work for the New Maine Times were there.  There were probably more.

I bought my t-shirt, which featured the art of Dacia Klinkerch, a 'still life' of canning, and tucked it into the large tote I brought.  Then I wandered through the social and political action tents, where, surprise, surprise, I knew quite a few of the folks.  After a lovely lunch in the warm sun of organic turkey on organic whole wheat bread, I visited the crafts tents to get out of the warm sun, then struck out for the animal exhibits, where I almost ... almost ... bought a couple of chicks to start my flock.  I didn't, but not because the chicks weren't as cute as a button.  I don't have my coop built yet, and I need to build a little chicken run, and oh, yeah, I have to get permission from Bath to have them at all.  I figure in the spring I'll be ready for them.

So I bought some yarn ... hand raised and dyed ... by my friend and sometime writer Kelly Corbett, inspired to learn to knit this fall. 

Then I wandered over to the shelter and energy section, lusted over the wood burning cedar hot tub that I lust after every year, looked for a small pellet stove (couldn't find one) and was inspired to get worms to compost indoors this winter.  My husband will learn about it when he reads about it here.  But hey, I do all the composting now, so can he really complain? 

Time for another lemonade, and a rest, watching the parade go by, while listening to a distant fiddle and guitar duet somewhere over by the birch bark canoe builder.  The sun drifted across the southern sky toward the west, and I bought a crisp macintosh apple to eat on the ride home.

Another year, another Common Ground Fair.  If you haven't yet been, go next year.  If you go every year, see if you can't find me and say hello. 

After all, we're all family.

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