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...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Goodbyes and chickens...

We had to say goodbye to Bettina today :( She's off to San Fran and then Colorado to do some hiking and rock climbing. I will really miss her company and her sense of humor. She definitely kept me laughing. I guess that's the life of a wwoofer - leaving and going. It's bittersweet, because I won't have my buddy around anymore but I will get to take on a lot more responsibility on the farm. So...Bettina left with Luke, and now the farm is pretty quiet.

Today was a pretty normal day for chores. After the morning milking session, we made butter from the cream from the fresh milk. Then I helped Katie (part-time wwoofer) make a new chicken cage. Two chicks hatched in the incubator and now we need to find a momma for them. No go, though. The one momma did not accept the baby so it's back to the incubator. Give it a couple of days and he/she might be ready to go with the other babies.

We're going to the movies later today. I've got an organizing job. So I'm off.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A day in the life of a Frey wwoofer...

There wasn't any super exciting things that happened today so I figured I'd share a normal day here. Oh, wait. There isn't one. Ha ha ha. There is, however, a routine of chores that must be done daily and at certain times. But interspersed throughout are random gardening and cleaning chores. So.... here is a snapshot into a typical day at an atypical farm.

The house starts moving around 7:00 am. We eat breakfast sort of separately. Everyone kind of fixes what they want. Usually I have a piece of fruit. Today I had oatmeal with raisins. Other options include cereal with milk (not pasteurized), yogurt with fruit, coffee, etc. All of the food is certified organic from the local store or the co-op or fresh from the farm. They have a variety of greens that are readily available, beets, fresh milk from Buttercup, goat cheese made from the farm's goats, and the meat is from cows that they butchered right before I arrived. Anyways, that's the lowdown on food.

Work usually begins around 7:30am. The morning animal chores are feeding/watering the cows and goats, milking Buttercup, milking the six goats, and releasing/feeding the chickens. Today, I helped with the milking of Buttercup and the goats.

The animal milking is quite interesting. To milk Buttercup, we sort of corner her baby, Buckwheat. Buckwheat is separated from Buttercup for most of the day so that he doesn't get all of her milk. When Buttercup is milked, we make the pen a little smaller so there's a separate space for milking away from all of the cows (Hazel, Pumpkin, Sweetie Pie). Then Buttercup is given hay, harnessed, and attached to the fence. Fresh straw is strewn throughout the barn prior to milking. Then we collar her back legs so that she doesn't kick or move around during milking. Her teats are cleaned (along with our hands). And milking begins. About 2/3 of the way through milking, we stop and let out Buckwheat (her calf is old enough to survive without milk but gets it anyway so Buttercup keeps producing it). Buckwheat gets a chance to drink some of the milk to release the milk and make it easier to get from the udder. Then Buckwheat is tied up after a couple of minutes and milking continues. Then the pen is opened up to all of the cows and they go to the field or into the barn. Today, we got 2 1/2 gallons of milk. I said "we" a lot through this paragraph even though I stopped participating after the first round of milking. I didn't want to be in the pen when they let Buckwheat in, because it's a lot of motion that, to be honest, scares me.

The goat milking is a completely different story. There's a small table with a trough attached to it. When it's "goat milking time," we feed the goats and then open up the gate and one goat (or more if rookies are attempting it) run to the stand, jump on it, stick their head through the trough area, and munch on the hay we give them. They are sort of locked into position. One of their back legs is tied to the post of the barn so they are immobilized. Then their udder/teats are cleaned and they are milked. For the cow, we use a metal pail, but, for the goats, they use a small glass jar that is then filtered into another larger glass jar. When it's all finished, the goat is released from "milk prison," sent back to the goat pen, and the next goat runs to the milking stand. You have to be more careful of the goats. They move a lot when they run out of snacks or for no reason at all. They also do not always want to come down or out the way you want them to. They also smell a little funky and so does their milk.

All in all, pretty interesting insight into how much work goes into producing a food that we consume on a regular basis. Makes you really stop to wonder where the milk you drink actually comes from, what the cows are like, what the farmer is like, and more importantly what the farm is like.

The rest of the day has pockets of intense gardening and cleaning. Interesting but exhausting.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mom and Dad are home!

Yesterday was our day off. We ventured west from the farm to Fort Bragg (cool right?) and then south through a dotting of small coastal towns. Pretty amazing and breath-taking. The whole vibe was quite unexpected - very progressive and a real interesting mix of people. The scenery, on the other hand, was out of this world. Rocky cliffs, pounding surf, and a fog that was omni-present - it's something the pictures sure won't do justice. The temperature was something that was a little surprising as well. It was probably in the low 50s throughout the morning and then it probably dipped into the upper 60s by the time we left. As for our adventure, we traveled west from the farm over to Fort Bragg, one of the larger coastal towns in northern california. We walked around the downtown, had coffee, and stopped at a few viewpoints along the way. Then we traveled south down Highway 1 (spectacular) towards Mendocino - very progressive small coastal town with a cool vibe. Then we headed to Big River which is a river that flows into the ocean (or out of depending on the tide). That and one of the Redwood parks we stopped at were the major highlights. The ocean was way calmer there, the water was a tad warmer (the air temperature, too), and it was extremely beautiful. Then after quite a while at Big River, we headed to Hendy Woods which is the park of Redwood trees - by no means the biggest in the state but probably the closest to where we were heading. The woods were pretty amazing. My camera decided to be dumb in the shade so I have to wait to get pictures from Bettina. The whole vibe was just really peaceful and some really beautiful trees. I think I'll go to Montgomery Woods (this other park) on my other day off.

So we got back to the farm around 8:30 or so (Cali time). Emily and Luke were there. And to be quite honest, I am a little nervous, because it's the first time I'll be working with them. Prior to this, it had been the blind leading the blind (and almost like a mini-vacation). I'm excited/anxious to be better oriented with the animals from Luke (who is the main animal farmer besides the goats) and pretty psyched about the gardening with Emily. I just got the okay from my principal to have a few raised beds behind my classroom to grow some vegetables/flowers. That should be quite an exciting venture. I better start taking in as much knowledge as possible.

Anyways, it's back to work time. I'm sitting here, eating a banana and waiting for the next direction. Emily and Bettina went on a run/walk this morning. Betti just came running in to get her camera to capture the moment that the hens/roosters jump out of the henhouse in the morning. Luke is up and running around, making coffee and walking around the farm. I guess I'll just wait around and see what the deal is. The other wwoofer Katie is here, too, now. Should be an interesting nine days.

Monday, July 19, 2010

So some funny things happened on the way to the farm...

I had to share the three funny things that happened tonight before I retreat to my room.

1 - Betti and I were attempting to make soup out of the botched chicken from yesterday when the phone rang. We've been answering the phone since I'm pretty sure we caused the answering machine to stop working. So, it was another one of the Freys wondering if Em and Luke wanted to go to a barbeque. Obviously they were not here, so they invited us instead. As we were walking to the vineyard (where the bbq was), Bettina asked if they have just meat at a barbeque. I explained what a barbeque was (grilled meat + sides) and we proceeded to the vineyard. To my surprise, we came upon a large outdoor pizza oven, an old flour mill used as a table to roll out the dough, an outdoor crank grill thing, a couple of wine testing tables set up, and many fancier picnic tables. Ha ha ha this is a barbeque alright. To top it all off, we drank biodynamic wine, feasted on pizza with fish, tofu sausages, and pesto, and ate potato and seaweed salad. Favorite part of all of it - surprisingly the potato and seaweed salad. When we were walking back, Bettina laughed at the notion that "that" was a barbeque.

2 - While at the "barbeque," there were some distributors from Tree of Life looking to do some work with Frey vineyards. The one woman, Ellie, was really interested in the wwoofing process, and when we told her that we had to get back to the farm to milk the goats before dark, she almost jumped out of her seat with excitement. She wanted to come watch us. So she traipsed back to the farm with us and proceeded to watch mainly the milking. She asked a bunch of questions, but she was more the snooty type that saw it as a novelty and not as daily life. I guess most people would. However, she and I related to one another. I usually do the mundane easy chores while Betti milks. Bettina says she's not a goat milking expert, but she also says she's done it before. C'mon now. A week before this experience, I was watching Family Guy and eating potato chips. A week before her experience, she was rock-climbing and living with alpine cows. I'm pretty sure one of us is closer to being a goat-milking expert, and it's not me. Ellie also took random pictures where she told Betti to smile randomly - randomness was extremely rampant during this freak show. Pretty funny.

3 - When we were finished, Ellie left and we bunkered down only for some craziness to ensue. My dad had called 19 times thinking that I had died, because I forgot to call and forgot the time difference. So I was talking him through his nervous breakdown. The owners of the farm - Emily and Luke - called, and Betti was confirming our coastal adventure tomorrow (meaning we do no work). Molly, Osiris, and later Daniel came tearing in to the house after two days away at the coast. Ocyrus proceeded to eat all of our pizza we had taken back to the house and attempted to drink the rest of my can of organic root beer (interesting but off-putting after taste). Once things settled down (a.k.a they left), Bettina went to bed and I was going to put all of my pics on facebook and mess around on the computer until I was exhausted (I had taken a nap for almost three hours earlier in the day). Well... we leave all of the windows and doors open (screens are closed) at night for a sort of natural air conditioning. But sometimes Loki pushes open the screen to go outside. I didn't notice that the front screen door was open, but it must have been. Typity type type was interrupted by a crazy fluttering sound in the kitchen. I turn around to see a hummingbird sized moth/bird going insane. I wasn't sure how to get it outside so I just sort of watched for a minute. I tried turning all of the lights off except for the outside one and opening the screen door, but no - that just allowed more crazy looking insects and moth-like creatures inside. So I just continued working on the computer. Suddenly, I couldn't see it, but I could hear it fluttering around. I searched around and finally found it in a wooden vase thing. I dumped it outside. I'm still pretty sure it was a miniature hummingbird. Now I finish this and there are like seven beatles/moths/hawks flying around the house. I'm wearing a plastic bag over my head tonight.

Quick note...

Check out my facebook profile for pics of my road trip, a couple of other side trips, and the farm. I'll try and post the pics there when I remember. Betti is sleeping right now so I have some free time.

Nighttime antics...

So last night, I was going to go to bed early. No. Decided to wander the internet, check facebook, read emails, etc. - things that I haven't done in a while. Noticed that a friend was on facebook who had left me a voicemail. Decided to facebook chat. Then decided to Skype. Then decided on Skype that I should show her the baby chick that was set up in the house. Then tried to put the baby chick back into the make-shift incubator only to accidentally drop the heat lamp, breaking the light bulb. Then baby chick decided to not stop cheeping. So... short story long, loud Skyping along with incessant peeps probably left Bettina a pretty angry sleeper. She didn't say anything this morning, but I had to sheepishly (on the farm... get it?) tell (half) the story about how the light bulb broke. Ha ha ha good times. On top of all of that, I woke up late and came stumbling awkwardly out of my room. lol

This morning, we had a wwoofer come from town - Katie. She goes to college in Washington state but lives around here. She wwoofs on a few mornings a week. Man, she really is persistent on working - opposite philosophy for me and Betti. So... we fed/watered all of the animals, milked the cow, milked the goats, and collected some mulch for the garlic and basil. After all of that it was 11am. We were supposed to weed three large beds of asparagus sometime when the Freys were gone. Surprisingly we had not. And even though it was 11am (getting pretty hot), Katie insisted that we do it. Okay, so she didn't insist, but she was raring to go. Anyways, farm work wears you out. It is only 11:40 Cali time, and it feels like midnight. I'm planning on gathering some energy and cleaning off of the porch before the Freys get home. It sounds like we are really messy, but really it's shit that one or the other of the family members didn't clean up. Not hard work... just time consuming. That's the thing. It's not like the work is crazy difficult. It just takes a while and it requires a lot of patience.

So... the evening plans... not breaking a lamp. Finishing my break. Cleaning the kitchen/living room. Hanging up the laundry. Taking down the other laundry. Cleaning off the porch (we braided garlic and harvested onions on Saturday - it still has some remaining scraps and dirt). Eating lunch. Finishing the weeding. Animal evening chores - feeding and watering all and milking the goats. Yea goats! Not. Closing up the hens in the henhouse at dark. Then dinner of make-shift chicken soup (long story), wine, and sleeping.

Emily and Luke are supposed to get back sometime tonight. So are Daniel, Molly, and Ocyrus. I will have to wait until Wednesday, though, to get the full effect of the farm and all of its teachers, because Betti and I are going to the coast tomorrow. I'm psyched!! Time is going by so fast, though. I'm not sure I'll be ready to go back in 11 days. We'll see.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Home alone. AHHHH!! (relive movie scene)

Daniel and Molly decided to go to the beach for a vacation leaving Bettina and I in charge of the farm (Luke and Emily are camping and won't be back until Monday evening). AHHHH!!! So... guess who's going to be surprised/angry when the farm is in disarray and we're drinking wine and eating junk? You guessed it.

Our Frey-farm-takeover started this morning, because Daniel and Molly had to prepare for the trip. We got up early for a.m. chores. Morning chores involve the following duties (ha ha ha I said duty :)
-Releasing the chickens from the henhouse (pretty sure it's so they don't get eaten by big birds)
-Feeding/watering the hens, goats, cows, the no-name cat, and Loki (the dog)
-Milking Buttercup the cow
-Milking the six "milkable" goats

Now let me tell you a story about milking goats... So, as you may or may not have guessed, I am NOT an expert goat milker. However, I try to go with the flow of things and be helpful. Betti is in charge of that department. So... this morning we milked the cow successfully (compared to yesterday - crazy nonsense). On to the goat milking with the confidence of an experienced farmer. Well, news flash to anyone about to milk a goat (or any animal in that case), they like to kick... A LOT... when they run out of the grain that keeps them occupied. I bet you can guess what happened... Yep. The goats "usually" know right where to go and when, but after milking three of the six goats, goat #4 and goat #5 came clambering out of the pen together and things went haywire. Goat #5 decided it was going to try and go for the corn/grain in an old trash can. I attempted to grab the collar and wrangle it around, but one of its horned got caught underneath my bra and I was freaked out that I was going to be gored to death on a small farm in the middle of podunk hippie northern California. I'm not sure which one of us knocked over the jar with the milk of three goats in it, but in the chaos who really knows? I'm pretty sure Betti and Daniel thought it was me (I did forget to put the top on the jar). Ha ha ha I don't care. No one should drink the gross milk of a goat. Passive protest.

The rest of the day was pretty unexciting. Betti and I ate a poor man's lunch - she had bread, peanut butter, and rhubarb; I had granola and a kiwi. Then we decided to leave the farm (gasp!) and go to the co-op in Ukiah (a city that's 15 minutes away with a Kohl's!!!). At the co-op, we bought fruit, chocolate, ice cream. You know, the essentials. Emily's going to go grocery shopping when they get back from camping so right now things are a little limited. Co-op super expensive and all organic. It's no Meijer Thrifty Acres, I'll say that. When we got back, we decided to do some free-styling organic baking/cooking. I tinkered with the oatmeal raisin/chocolate chip cookies and Betti worked on the roast chicken while we listened to a mix of Swiss/Spanish/indie music and drank wine from the vineyard. Felt pretty homespun.

Another wwoofer comes tomorrow. She has been working on the farm for a while during her breaks from college. She only comes in the morning. Maybe she can help us wrangle the goats. Or maybe I can just sit out and "observe." :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 2 and counting...

Today was... (speechless). I'm pretty much grasping at straws when trying to describe this experience as of yet. There are some really rewarding, satisfying, and enlightening experiences. But there are also some things that are completely not what I do on a day-to-day basis. I guess that's the point. I just have to keep remembering that I don't have to change everything, just the things that I set out to change - an appreciation for what I put in my body, better fitness, more knowledge about farming (so I can have a little garden with my class), and some spontaneity/ courage on top of it all. I DO NOT have to become these people.

Some lessons learned on the farm today and last night:
1) Do not put two hens that are clucking at each other in the same pen, because they are probably having a disagreement that could result in a fatality (true story - poor baby chick was trampled).
2) The complete silence of the woods at night is extremely peaceful and extremely soothing.
3) Prepare the milking pen properly before starting. A calf that doesn't belong to the mother cow should not be allowed to stay in the pen with the actual baby. The result can be confusion, a couple of kicks to the calf's head, spilled milk, and a really dry utter.
4) Milking a goat is surprisingly easier and more rewarding than milking a cow.
5) Mulching is good. Not sure exactly why and I'm pretty sure I'm not doing it properly, but they say it's necessary.
6) Farming life is pretty satisfying. Three hours of work in the morning followed by a long break is the kind of work that I could get used to.
7) Organic farming life is pretty thinning. I snuck in the car today to eat grapes and peanut butter crackers before lunch. No processed food leaves Emily a very hungry girl (and hopefully thinning girl, too).
8) Schlau is hose in Switzerland. Note to self - need to ask what language they speak in Switerland.

Tomorrow is picture day. My battery was dead, but I managed to take some candids of the cows. And I WILL be asking Batina to take my picture milking a goat and a cow. Thank god she's here, because I would be completely lost. She is the wwoofer from Switzerland. She'll be here til Friday. And speaking of Batina, she told me quite a story about her wwoofing experience right before this one. This was her "safe place." Let me just say, I picked the right farm. Ha ha ha. I will save her story for another day, because I'm not ready for any family member to come flying here to get me :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's finally farm day!

I'm not in Utah anymore! Yeah! So the story goes... the car was fixed by about three o'clock yesterday afternoon (California time). Decided to drive to Sacramento and stay at the local KOA and then do the rest of the trek (3 hours) this morning. Okay, one - not smart to drive at night when in an unfamiliar location. I got to Reno when it was getting dark. Reno is right outside of California. As I entered Cali, the road was a two-lane mountain road with changing speed limits extremely similar to a West Virginia trip I vaguely remember. There is no two.

So left this morning around 8. When I got closer to the farm, I was following Emily's directions (Emily is 1/2 of the couple I'm staying with). She said to follow the E & L (Emily & Luke) signs to the house. I thought I did. Ha ha ha! I sat on some stranger's porch for about 45 minutes thinking it was their house and they were on the farm. Nope. The stranger came home and directed me towards the other dirt road where there house was. Off to a great start.

I got to the farm and explained the earlier mix-up thinking they would laugh. Nope. Continuing the great start. I'm staying with Emily and Luke. They have three kids - two of which live on the farm, Sam and Daniel. Daniel lives in a cabin next to the house with his wife, Molly, and son Ocyrus. Not really sure how that's spelled. There's also another WWOOFER here (wwoofing is what I'm doing). Her name is Batina and she's from Switzerland. She seems cool, but as we sit here she is double-dipping while eating the peanut butter out of the jar. Remind me not to eat peanut butter among other things.

Settled into a nice small bedroom and then ate a lunch of spaghetti and salad only to discover that they do not eat processed foods. None. No pasteurized milk. No processed anything. Well, plus side, I'm going to be really skinny after all of this. I've already hidden oatmeal, goldfish crackers, and Reese's peanut butter cups in the car for a number of short breaks that I'm going to be taking throughout the day.

After lunch, I was trying to be helpful by putting the dishes in the sink. I was called over to the dishwasher by Daniel (who I later discovered was the crazy one) who asked if I was okay with cleaning other people's dishes. Then he thoroughly explained the method of placing dishes in the dishwasher. Ha ha ha. Me and Daniel are already tight.

Then after sitting around for a while, Daniel decided to give me "lessons" on some mellow things they do when it's hot out. He proceeded to tell me when the right time to water plants is - I can't remember if it's morning or evening but it's when the Earth is breathing in. Ha ha ha. He also told me to visualize oregano in order to find it in other locations. As crazy as it sounds, it was helpful.

So... as crazy as all of this sounds to you AND me, I did already get to some pretty interesting things - tour the very tiny farm, braid garlic, clean onions, and "harvest" oregano. I was really worried that this would be too crazy, but I realized that that really is the point, right?

I get to eat beets, bread, and goat cheese for dinner. Until tomorrow... hopefully?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Groundhog Day!

The last two days - best of my life. Not. I have had an interesting time here, but you can't really enjoy something that you don't really want. Maybe in the future. I'm being a little over-dramatic. I'm not at work. I'm camping and eating junk food. So, it could be worse.

Yesterday was a pretty cool day. I drove about four hours to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. It was pretty much a toss up between sitting at the KOA and the insane-drive-for-one-day. All in all, glad I went. Super pretty scenery - red rock cliffs, eroding rock/sandstone that leaves pretty cool arches, petrified dunes (when I got back, I had to look up what petrified meant. "turned to rock" for future reference). Also super scary. So, I got to the visitor center only to find that the way into the park is up some crazy steep side of mountain road. Now, I'm an okay driver, but when you want to take photographs WHILE you are driving, it is a little bit more difficult to navigate oncoming traffic and steep mountain cliffs. But one takes surprisingly good pictures when randomly holding a camera, not looking where it's pointed, and clicking. I was quite shocked.

Back to the super scary parts... one of the things that I definitely wanted to see was Delicate Arch - the iconic symbol of Utah. So I headed for the viewpoint only to find that you had to go on a hike. Totally cool, except for the fact that I had on flip-flops and jeans - not a great combination for a sandy incline with rock half-steps strewn throughout. I stopped halfway through when I saw that the sandy incline turned into large rock boulders that you just climb on. Shocking, I know. So, I snapped my picture from a less-than desirable vantage point and headed back down the trail. Then...a sandstorm erupted in the middle of my trek. I stopped near a boulder and literally had to hold on while sand blew across the mountain. WTF!! I almost blew off of whatever mountains these were!

Second super scary part. I got back in the car and started to head to the rest of the must-sees in the park. Quick note, the whole way through the park, there were signs that said "watch out for flash-floods." That being said - it started to rain. It wasn't a down pour, but I was just imagining me in my yellow rental car being swept away by a flash-flood. Talk about things getting worse. Nonetheless, I am still alive. I left the park a little earlier than planned and headed back to town.

I don't have any really exciting stories for today. I toured downtown SLC. I probably could have been converted to Mormonism if I would have let the visitor center people. I also could have had a few more passengers if I would have really read those signs (there is a good number of homeless people).

Well, here I sit, at the KOA trying to decide how to spend the remaining three hours of daylight. Wait, Nicole's hosting Wii games at the pavilion? I think I just decided.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Capturing the moment 2...

I can't remember what particular statethis was in, because these wind turbines were all over Nebraska, Illinois, and randomly in Wyoming. Super crazy. There would be one or two in some places and then whole farms of 25 - 40. Awesome sight... even "awesomer" was when there was a tractor trailer carrying a blade of one them down the highway.

Capturing the moment...

I will try and post some pics. Exciting stop on Day 1 - crossed the Mississippi River going from Illinois to Iowa. Pretty surreal feeling but looked too much like a regular old river to me. Btw super fun trying to take pictures while driving. I had like seven that were of the door handle.

The Adventures of Traveling...

So, I am actually doing what I set out to do. More or less. I was traveling from Michigan to California to work on an organic farm. I say "was" because I am not actually doing that currently. After some car trouble (ha ha ha at the word some), I am stuck in Salt Lake City, Utah. Envisioned it as a pretty cool city... no. Haven't gone downtown yet, but the rest does not impress just yet. The scenery was absolutely stunning at the beginning, but after a while, the gigantic rock mountains and barren desert makes me miss the woods and trees and lakes. But I digress...

Back to the "was" traveling bit... I spent July 10 traveling from Freeland Michigan to Gretna Nebraska (a little bit west of Omaha). Passed through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. Surprisingly pretty scenery in Illinois and Iowa - rolling green hills and blue skies. Spent the night at West Omaha KOA - great place by the way. Woke up at 1:30am to what I thought was a hurricane. Okay, I may be exaggerating just a bit, but when you are alone in a tent and the rain, wind, and thunder/lightning are threatening to murder you in your sleep, you would use the same vocabulary. After sitting in the middle of my tent, hyperventilating, watching the neighboring tents for signs of evacuation, and getting rained on, I decided I better sleep in the car, but what? You can't find your keys and you forgot your flashlight in the car AND there's a torrential rainstorm outside? What else is there to do but run to the laundry room at the KOA and bunker down. Ha ha ha would I have liked to have been a spectator to all of that nonsense. Short story long... I ended up finding my car keys underneath my air mattress and the knees to your chest sleep began in the back seat of the car followed by a brief case of the overslept.

Exciting, right? July 11 - not so great. There were 13 hours of driving that day. A little over six hours were spent in Nebraska and the same in Wyoming. Besides the exactly-the-same-the-whole-time Nebraska landscape and the crazy rain storms that popped up every hour or so, the drive was great (totally sarcastic if you didn't catch that). Traveled from Gretna to Salt Lake City, Utah. Passed through Nebraska, Wyoming, a brief touch into Colorado, and Utah. Stayed at the Salt Lake City KOA and have been here ever since... Not a bad place. Not a great neighborhood, but you feel a little safer because there are so many people around. More people to choose from when deciding who to murder. Makes me sleep well at night :)

Set out on July 12th, on time, raring to go and.... the car broke down. Overheated. Turns out the water pump was leaking causing the coolant to leak and then a head gasket to blow and then the oil to burn. I feel like singing "the head bone is connected to the..." only while crying. A tow to a dealership $72.00, a rental car $50.00, two extra nights at the Salt Lake City KOA $65.00, an extended vacation - priceless. Not sure what the cost of the repairs will be yet, but got some good people helping me out. I'd be thumbing it without them.

So here I sit at the KOA next to the electric outlet typing my life story and trying to figure out what to do for the next two or three days (depends on what the mechanics feel like - I put enough crying in for the day that I think some sympathy has kicked in) in this god-forsaken wasteland that is Salt Lake City Utah (no offense to any citizens - I just haven't found the good parts yet). My plans for the night you ask? Trying to find someone who will lend me an air mattress pump and chatting up the cute, possibly single, guy next to my campsite. Fate?? ha ha ha