Life on the Remote Crew

Working at Spring Lake Ranch during Covid-19

Over a month ago today I packed up my computer, pulled the paper files and books I would need, and loaded my office plants into the car for an indefinite period of working from home. Spring Lake Ranch’s Farm Manager Carl, in his typical fashion of looking after the needs of others, ensured those of us working remotely ]would not go hungry. As I headed out the door for the last time, there on the counter were stacks of full egg cartons, a send-off of SLR goodness.

It was a difficult last day. While there were jokes about being able to work in pajamas, many of us felt tremendously sad.  We wouldn’t be physically together, and we didn’t know how long it would last.

Now, over a month in, the Remote Crew, as we refer to ourselves, has developed a communication network and schedule to keep in touch with each other and the rest of the community. We have a Monday morning video call with each other, a check-in for emotional support on Tuesdays, virtual attendance at Wednesday’s staff meeting, and Thursdays we can be present (virtually) for Morning Meeting. This last meeting is a highlight for me as we learn of the Work Program projects completed the previous week and hear what’s upcoming. Today’s ‘work board’ was led by Shop Crew, showcasing recently completed beehive boxes for new bees coming in May (to be located in the apple orchard) and self-standing closet shelving, made for the local Habitat for Humanity house in Rutland. It’s different seeing everyone on a screen but seeing people’s faces and hearing about the ongoing work of the community, albeit remotely, is wonderful, and we’re all grateful for the power of technology to keep us connected.

For many of us working from home, communication and ongoing projects can continue as before. We need to get creative about pulling together meetings and can’t count on catching people as one normally would by popping into a nearby office or at lunch, but we are finding many workarounds thanks to the multiple ways we have to be in touch. Even team meetings and doctor appointments have been able to be maintained by phone and computer.

Tuning in via video and chat technology a few times a week and communicating with email gives me a window into the current daily life on the Hill. I also know I speak for others working remotely in stating we’re most appreciative of the ongoing work and positive spirit that the scaled-back staff onsite are providing to our residents and clients to ensure that their needs are met during this very difficult time. In fact, I learned this week that since the pandemic hit, our programming has actually expanded, not scaled back. Amazing!

I’m confident in the resilience of the Spring Lake Ranch community, and that an organization that survived World War II, the Great Depression and Great Recession, among other major setbacks, will persevere. With its natural setting and capability for food production, fresh water from the uphill spring, and, lest we forget, gravity sewage, alongside the incredible hard work, dedication, and ingenuity of its people and built-in social network of the community, I know the Ranch is uniquely positioned to weather this storm.  We’ll get through this, but for now, as I sit watching the rain gently fall outside of my home office window, nourishing the emerging flowers of spring, I can’t help but feel the personal and collective sadness of this moment. As the South African Zulu proverb states:  Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. A person is only a person because of other people. I look forward to being together again.