Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Off the road??

I will happily awake tomorrow morning and NOT drive 12 to 13 hours to then awkwardly sleep in the car at a random location. I am finalizing this leg of my journey with my last blog entry (at the persistence of an unnamed person).

So I have a few crazy traveling stories to share. I last shared my journey up through Barstow, California which would have been Saturday night. As I was pulling out of my campsite in Petaluma (the night before), I discovered that my toiletries bag was on the ground along with my mouthwash. I just laughed, put it in the car, and drove away. Well I don't know why it was on the ground. But when starting to take a shower the next night in Barstow, I noticed that my face wash bottle was empty, and its top was missing. Slowly reaching into the bag for the shampoo, I realized that I must have run over part of the bag when I was pulling out the night before, because everything in the bag was covered with face wash. Random other things were cracked, too. That same night, I'm pretty sure I left my almost-full bottle of shampoo/ conditioner and bar of soap in the bathroom, because, when I went to take a shower in Arkansas two night later, it was mysteriously missing. Craziness. And you may wonder why I didn't take a shower every night. My answer - because it was too late, I was lazy, and I really didn't get that dirty or gross sitting in an air-conditioned vehicle.

After Barstow, I headed approximately 13 hours east to Tucumcari, New Mexico. Nothing super exciting happened during the trip, but I was completely creeped out at the KOA. I was cleaning out the back seat so I could comfortably sleep (I didn't set up the tent for the last three nights, because it was extremely time-consuming in the setting up and tearing down. See previous paragraph about my laziness). I was also turning on the computer and attempting to set up a nice little sleeping station when I heard a small voice squeak out "Are you by yourself?" I almost jumped, looked all around, and jetted out of the car to find a little boy on his bicycle. He went on to blabber something about their RV. I was pretty freaked out to say the least. Talk about the creepiest thing to say to someone alone at a campground. And you know how little kids' voices, in the right tone, can sound like they are right out of a horror movie.

I also had another unnerving experience. In the morning, I packed up and drove up to the bathrooms before I left. When I got back in the car, I was entering the next KOA into the GPS. When I looked up, I saw a little blond girl staring at me from the front of the car. And it was a pretty creepy stare. I just kind of sat there, and then she stopped staring. What the hell is up with the kids at this campground? Needless to say, I drove away pretty quickly.

Last story and then it's off to slumbertown. After Tucumcari, I was scheduled to stay at the West Memphis KOA right outside of Tennessee in Arkansas. Again, the drive was pretty uneventful, but the heat started to set in around Oklahoma. The digital temperature in the car maxed at 105 to the best of my recollection. Anyways, by the time I got the to KOA in Arkansas, it was still warm. But laziness overtook ambition, and I decided to bunker down in the car. I figured rolling down each of the windows a crack would keep the car moderately cool. It didn't really matter, because the outside was almost as bad as being inside at that point. Anyways, the open windows let in some crazy swarm of mosquitoes (slight exaggeration) and I was attacked (again overdone). So I had to roll them up. This time, I figured that my electric fan balanced on my stomach would magically resolve the heat while blowing warm air directly in my face. No. I rolled down the windows again. Still unbearable. Short story long - I decided that I could not sleep in a tent or in the car. So I pondered what to do while taking a shower (remember - without soap or shampoo). I ended up using some extra money to stay at a Holiday Inn in West Memphis. It was pretty serendipitous, because it ended up being a pretty awesome way to start the last leg of the trip. I slept in a King-size bed in an air-conditioned room with no alarm clock. It was like a real vacation.

And today was a pretty good driving day. The only problem being the remaining mosquitoes that I had to attempt to kill while not swerving off of the road or into another car. Let's just say that the car is in one piece and that there are at least four hand prints and two dead mosquitoes on the windshield.

So here ends my many crazy tales from my vacation. The traveling part of the trip (oxymoron?) included passing through the following states: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina (the twelve bolded states are ones that I'd never been to). The non-traveling part of the trip was the best part of all of it, and I'm so glad I convinced myself to stick with my random aspirations of working on a farm!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Literally on the road again...

So I figured I'd continue blogging for the rest of my journey (3 days) to pass the time away at the KOA. The past two days were kind of a let down. I visited San Francisco yesterday and then traveled the Pacific Coast Highway today. Don't get me wrong... there were some cool parts to both of those treks. But it didn't really feel like part of the vacation; it felt like a leg of the journey - a long leg at that.

San Francisco would have been better with someone who knows the city and more time. The Pacific Coast Highway would have been better as a passenger. And the whole time, in both places, I couldn't help thinking about getting home and implementing my organic/ recycling/ gardening and what they were might be doing at the farm. All in all, it's been extremely rewarding being able to see so many different parts of the country in such a short amount of time. The Pacific Ocean is a sight to behold, and those rolling mountains in the middle of southwestern California are truly captivating.

Finding these KOAs at night is a different story. It's like a guessing game. Will my GPS recognize the address? If it doesn't, will there be posted signs that I will drive by? When I do find the sign, will I know how to access the park? I'm not lying - it took me 20 minutes and an accidental turn down a dirt road to find the way to the Barstow KOA tonight. Staying at these KOAs has also made me determined to become multi-lingual. I am definitely in the minority with the English. It makes for an interesting people-watching scene but a definite language barrier.

So here I lay in the car (too late to set up the tent), with my boot-legged internet (a fellow camper gave me the secret code), about to attempt 7 hours of sleep before the next 13 hour leg of the journey to New Mexico. I'm hoping to squeeze in the Hoover Dam, but we will have to see.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bittersweetness (word?)

Today is the last whole day at the ranch, and, not to be outdone, it is, so far, one of the most exhausting but rewarding. I guess that pretty much sums up every day, but today it was especially true. We herded the cattle to another field. Okay, "herded" is probably not the right word. Luke had three of the mama cattle on an extended leash of sorts while Katie and I walked behind and clapped when the cows began to lag. I'd say we went probably a mile like this through the woods, up and down hills, and finally to a large open pasture to "liven it up" a bit for the herd. On a side note, the walk really did open up a whole new level of vastness to Redwood Valley. We walked for a good 30 minutes without seeing a road or person. Back to the adventures in cow wrangling, we then had to walk the perimeter of this extremely large field to make sure there were no holes or gates left open. On our way back (even longer this time), we walked through the vineyards, ate fresh peaches, and climbed into this tower thing which gave us an extraordinary view of the valley. Amazing.

By the time we got back, I was exhausted and thirsty, but it was on to the next adventure - blackberry picking! Oh, how I've missed your razor-sharp thorny branches, the clawing feeling on the underside of your leaves, and your "only-the-good-ones-are-higher-than-you-can-reach" motto. Not.

Now my hands are stained and scraped again. My legs are throbbing. I feel like sleeping for days. I'm eating avocados and rice. Just another day at the Frey Ranch.

I can't help but savor every one of these moments today, because I know that this life and these people are something to cherish. There infinite wisdom, existentialism, kindness, patience, generosity, and freedom have truly enriched and changed my life for the better. They are constantly searching for that next level of being, that hidden insight into the way humanity/ the world works. I am forever inspired by them - by their focus on developing yourself first, on their love of nature and family and friends, on their health and what they put into their bodies, on their acceptance of all, and on their willingness to share what they create with others (including complete strangers like myself). I truly believe that this has changed the direction my life was going. Maybe not, but there will definitely be some really powerful additions to what I do on a daily basis.

To be completely honest, I will have to hold back some tears tonight at our (the other wwoofer's last day is today, too) farewell dinner of filet mignon, polenta, salad, and ice cream with blackberries (in case you were wondering).

Now, on to a much lighter topic, I don't want curiosity to kill any cats, so I will share my travel plans for the next five days. I am leaving for San Francisco tomorrow around 8 am (Pacific Time). I will hang out there all day and then stay at a KOA about 30 minutes north of the city. On Saturday, I plan to take a leisurely time getting to the next KOA (in Barstow CA), traveling down the Pacific Coast Highway and stopping at will. Then Sunday through Tuesday will be my stint to good old Fayetteville. I will be stopping in Tucmucari New Mexico and West Memphis Arkansas along the way and arriving in Fayetteville on the evening of August 3rd. I will have traveled through 20 states, conquered four time zones, and seen some pretty amazing things - the Pacific Ocean tops the list at this point.

Well, I'm off. Off to clean the kitchen, do some more chores, help make dinner, and packing. I'm not sure what kind of access I'll have over the next five days, but I will do my best to keep the masses informed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Walden's Pond (so to speak)

So I was re-reading the blog and faking doing something important during my mid-morning break, and I realized that the blog is taking kind of an existential and maybe too serious turn. So, I will try and intersperse funny stories throughout. Morale of the story - lighten it up.

Let me tell you about the last six hours of my day. I helped to prepare sauerkraut. Ha ha ha I came to the farm of a workhorse named Luke. He never takes a break. He has the energy of a young child without the nap breaks. I chopped up cabbage along with multiple vegetables that I did not know the name of. I harvested beets and something green. I cut my hand. I got soaking wet from the hose that we "sterilized" everything with. I had to go chase a goat twice (unsuccessfully). I am currently listening to some song circle thing where all they do (so far anyway) is weird vocal warm-ups and rationalize with three-year olds.

Now, I am going to go die in my room and watch the remaining half of Airplane! (while dying).

p.s. Still a satisfying day. Just not realizing it right now. Oxymoron?

Farmer Em...

There is really nothing like a good hard day's work. I feel kind of spoiled. The first four to five days of my time at the farm were extremely laid back and fun. Bettina and I hung out, checked on the animals, and cleaned random parts of the house. There was extremely limited gardening (which was surprising for all of the garden space that they have). We ate a lot and had many breaks. I'm not saying that we didn't work - we ended up doing the five hours of work required, but it wasn't back-breaking work. Then Luke was gone for two days, and I basically hung out with Emily and did some organizational things in the house. Well, Luke's back, and for the past three days (it might be two, my mind is shot) we've been hard-core gardening. We moved a compost pile to a new spot. We prepared seven 15 - 18 ft. corn beds. We mulched them (spread dry hay/straw over them). And today, I am clearing two 24 ft. beds that are overrun with weeds, nettles, etc. Sllightly insane-o.

But I truly can't complain. I eat well (and cook pretty well, too). I sleep well. I am surrounded by pretty amazing music and musicians. The family is awesome. I feel completely at home which is funny because this is completely different from my home or what my home used to be.

I also have, surprisingly, learned a lot about teaching. I came here like many students come to teachers - not knowing or beginning to know a concept/skill/etc. Luke has been and continues to be an amazing teacher. He models (excessively) how to do something, reiterates how to do it when I am making a mistake without making me feel like a complete imbecile, and praises without praising. This is a wonderful experience, and, to be honest, it will be pretty hard to leave. Fayetteville has its pluses (my friends, my students, and the Atlantic Ocean), but this particular farm has something for me that I've felt is lacking from my life - something to do at all times without the mind-numbing influence of television/random internet-surfing, a sense of belonging, and a renewed emphasis on health and what I put into my body. I am going to try really hard to replicate or search out those things in NC.

Last, but not least, the acceptance from Emily and Luke is amazingly refreshing and freeing. They don't question decisions; they let people be themselves. They are completely not dogmatic about what they believe in or their "life practices." And it's extremely noticeable, because that kind of thing isn't rampant in the places that I live to say the least.

On a less serious note, my hands look like they were in a crazy battle zone. I burned my hand on the convection oven at the big house (Luke's mom's house by the vineyard). I was bit by the cow. I cut a corner of my finger nail and finger with the knife while chopping up kale. I found two splinters lodged in my hand last night. I have little scratches on my hands and arms. And my hands are perpetually dirty. I love it!!

Tonight's plans... there's one more 24 ft. bed that needs to be cleared. I'm going to gather up some energy, rehydrate, and attempt to tackle it in 15 minutes. They are going to make sauerkraut (spelled correctly?). Hopefully, I can finish in time to help with that. I have to go check on one of the eggs in the incubator, because, fingers crossed, there is another baby chick about to hatch.

My traveling plans... I'm going to leave here on Friday morning and head to San Francisco. I'll hang out there for the day/night and then set up camp for the night. I'll continue exploring San Fran on Saturday and then head down the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway to San Luis Obispo and stay there for the night. Then I will make the (hopefully) three day trek to Fayetteville. Per my grandma "well, they won't fire you if you don't make it on time." True. :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lessons learned...

#1 - Don't cut up jalapenos after picking blackberries. Scratches on hands + jalapeno juices = burning for hours.
#2 - Don't try milking a cow by yourself if you've never milked a cow by yourself before. Ha ha ha. I conjured up one small mason jar's worth.
#3 - Don't give up. And don't forget to ask questions, because one does not need to know everything.
#4 - Don't include a bunch of "don'ts" in your lessons learned. It seems really negative.
#5 - People value different things. Don't judge. Acknowledge and accept that person for who they are to you.
#6 - Key to insomnia - a lot of work, the peaceful sounds of the forest, complete darkness, and a down comforter. No lie.
#7 - Take it easy and enjoy. Life is not meant to be enjoyed from work; it can more easily be enjoyed with pleasure, passion, and people that you love.
#8 - I need to read more. It's interesting.

That's it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

At home

I know I'm posting really early today, but it's going to be a really busy day. Luke's gone. I have to help with the morning chores, and later this morning I'm going to help one of his sisters with some catering prep.

But I just couldn't help feeling really "at home" yesterday, and I had a great need to expel and process this information. We went to the movies and to the co-op. Then we cleared the corn beds, continued organizing one of the book shelves, and played cribbage. I'm not sure exactly how to say it, but as simple and ordinary as all of this sounds, it all feels meant to be. I feel completely satisfied by the work and the responsibility, amazed by the simplicity (but awesomeness) of the food, and welcomed/loved by the people. This is all infinitely amazing to me being that 1-it's so random. I haphazardly chose some farm on a whim. They don't know me from a stranger. 2 - we're so different. And when I say different, I mean pretty far out there. Completely organic, at one with the earth's spirituality. A big compound sort of living environment. But with all of those factors (okay only #1 and #2), I find it pretty inspiring and comforting that we can relate, live together, and laugh. I don't necessarily think that I am going to adopt their beliefs or be like them, but there's no judgements being passed. There are just differences being accepted and things being re-examined.

Off to the races so another short post...