A crowded choir of sheep “baa-ing,” the fresh squeak of a newborn, its bristly wool drenched by mom’s licks, its bow-legged brother with his rear in the air, and the smell of blood but the knowledge of hope. It’s lambing season at Lee Abbey. This week the first 50 were born.
Our Environmental Coordinator, Jo Greenwood, has been at Lee Abbey for two years, first serving as an Estate Worker. In this role, she was involved in the lambing season. She would monitor the ewes when they were about to give birth, and help them if they were struggling. Once the lambs were born, she’d spray the navel to stop an infection, she’d make sure the lambs suckle so they get their nutrition, she’d feed and water them, move them, castrate them, and tail them.
Jo grew up in Surrey but she and her two sisters have all moved west. When I asked her what animal she would describe herself as, she immediately said, “A red squirrel because you don’t see them very often—they’re in the background and every now and again they come out. And they have the same colour hair as me!” Now at Lee Abbey, she says about her experience:
It’s very rewarding but very challenging with the number of people that come through here (the community is from all over the world) and with learning about how other people have been brought up. I am a lot more confident than I was before I came here.
I feel more at home and I’m able to be myself because, at Lee Abbey, people accept you as you are.
Jo’s work at Lee Abbey in the last year has helped our community become much more environmentally friendly. We currently have a recycling system, all of our food waste goes into a biodigester (a big machine that makes it compost), and much of our electricity is provided by our hydro-system from the River Lee. Jo also coordinates our participation in wildlife surveys where we give data to large organizations. For example, Lee Abbey does an annual sea watch alongside the Exmoor National Park when we look for porpoises and other sea life. It’s a way for us to link with people outside of our own community.
While there seem to be countless options to improve our individual actions and better care for the environment, Jo’s top suggestion is bulk buying because it reduces packaging. She says, “It’s really important to think about how you’re living. Every little helps.”
In her spare time, Jo enjoys reading, spending time with friends, and “bike riding because I feel free—I feel the wind in my face.” Life at Lee Abbey can offer community members a chance to find freedom, find courage, and find themselves. When I asked her what her favourite sense is, Jo said, “Probably sight. I like seeing the amazing views at Lee Abbey and I like watching people—watching them worship, watching them smile—it makes me smile when others smile.” Her experiences at Lee Abbey have also influenced Jo’s hopes for her future. She’d like to pursue environmental coordinating as a career, ultimately, “doing something to help God’s creation, whether that’s wildlife conservation or something entirely different.”