Monday, June 29, 2009

A safe place

If I didn't already believe in the power of manifestation, I would after coming to Sidhehaven. Alex and I didn't know where we were going to go after our dramatic exit from Westwind Farm. Fortunately the universe saw fit to provide us with a safe place, which is all we really could think about after our previous experience.

When we got here I immediately felt the difference and I felt safe without really needing to be told I was safe (but I was told). We participated in, what Sherry (Sidhehaven proprietor) called 'Circle', which basically ended being a group therapy session and an incredibly healing afternoon.

We've been invited to stay here but we're doing a trial run for a week to make sure that it's somewhere where we actually want to be and that we mesh well with the community here. I don't know how this will go but at least we have a place to be and reflect on what we want to do next. If it's staying here, then great; if not, at least we have time to figure it out and we have people here who are willing counselors and guides.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Counting the Reasons Why

I wrote a blog entry about two weeks ago about the difficulties Alex and I were experiencing on Westwind farm, which made for a difficult work environment. We considered briefly looking for a new farm then but ultimately decided that we would give it another chance. So we did, and it was a valiant effort but we can't do it anymore. For a little bit, I honestly thought it would get better. However, there began to be some serious drama between the interns too. Alex, Matt (another intern) and I all had a very difficult time relating and even liking one of the newer female interns. We got the impression that she was a bit too bossy and know-it-all for someone who had never farmed before, especially since she was one of the newest interns. I'll admit I had a difficult time even being cordial at first but eventually I got to a point where I was civil and occasionally nice.

Then there was the intern who had been there the longest, I'll call him Rusticle. At first he seemed nice, but the longer we were their the ruder he got towards us--me in particular. He was also a devout follower of Peter, the co-owner of the farm, so any time I spoke up to Peter in Rusticle's prescence I seemed to stoke the fire of contempt in him. There were at least 3 meetings in the past 3 weeks (2 of which occurred just yesterday and the day before) which lead up to our eventual departure. The first meeting was called because Peter sensed that there was communication issues, which there were. I voiced my concerns to him during that meeting and I felt really good about what went down during the meeting. The only person that seemed to not be okay was Rusticle. Alex said that he went into his room and slammed the door after the meeting; I shrugged at his reaction. But after the meeting he became even ruder to me than he had been before. Without really meaning to (I was asking Matt why Rusticle was being so salty towards us when he walked up behind Matt) I end up asking Rusticle why he was upset. He explained that he thought we were out of line when we told the owner of the farm, who took us in and let us stay there according to him, that he wasn't teaching us in the right way. I explained to him that I have a right to express what I need in order to learn better in this situation since that was the point of me being there at the farm. He seemed to accept this, so we left it at that.

Basically, I was holding my breath--which, as they say, you shouldn't do. Two days ago Peter called a meeting and we weren't really aware of what it would be about. When we began the meeting he explained that for the number of people that were interning at the farm we were not doing the amount of work that should be expected. So I asked for an example of what he was talking about so he said that last year when there were just two interns, one of them weeded and hilled the potato rows in 5 days. This is the same time it took several of us (we all weren't working on it at the same time) to do the potato rows (keeping in mind that there were also more rows this year). So I pointed all those caveats out to him and he didn't like that. He then said the work that we are doing is inefficient (and, what I read from this, it was not worthwhile) and I asked for yet another example and he immediately gave the example that he saw Alex and I in the strawberry fields several times that week and yet the rows he was picking and weeding that day were not weeded well. He asserted the fact (again) that he had been farming for 50 years and that he knows plants really well and therefore he knew that those weeds had been there for longer than a couple of weeks. Now I'm on the defense, I did not expect him to give an example that specifically singled us out in front of everyone--however, in retrospect, it does not surprise me since he lambasts Jane, his wife, in front of the interns in a regular basis. I defend myself and Alex by explaining that Alex was the only one weeding and I was weeding the brassicas that day. Then it degenerates from there when Rusticle explains that his lack of motivation has been caused by other people dampening his spirits and refusing to do work parties with him and then he explicitly accuses Alex and me of not being self-movtivated. I was outraged and I had to leave the room. That was over. Peter came down a little while later to reconcile and try and get some closure to the conversation and that went relatively well but we were honest and told him that we were thinking about moving on from the farm--which he said he kinda of expected. Case closed, or so we thought, and we decided to find a new farm but in the mean time just make the most of it.

Later that day some interns from another farm came over to meet us and socialize and they were like a breath of fresh air. Ciara and Christopher were hilarous and Alex & I got along really well with them especially after we found out that Ciara (pronounced Sierra) knew someone that we worked with in St. Paul. First question she asked was, "Do you know, ****?" (don't know if she wants to be mentioned in this) and we were floored because this was someone we had gotten to know just before we left St. Paul. This confirmed to Ciara that she was indeed in the company of fellow lesbians. She was excited and we were excited--a little community! The visit was going really well and were laughing and having a good time (my side hurt so bad from laughing so hard) but then I had to go to the bathroom. I walked up to the house and when I got in I noticed that our door was open just a smidge. I thought this was a little weird because Alex and I usually close the door tightly. I emerged from the bathroom and went straight into my room. Then I noticed a note on our computer. It read "Don't download and streammmm anything. Thx." and was place on the key board and my computer screen showed my browser very clearly. This last detail is important because my computer falls asleep after 30 minutes or so and we had been outside for longer than that time--in order for someone to see what was on our screen they would have had to touch our computer to wake it up. I was furious. I stormed out of my room, and stopped when I saw Rusticle on the couch outside our room. I demanded, "Did you go into my room?" and he just said yeah in his signature monotone and offered no explanation or apology. I said, "Don't ever go into my room again" and walked out as he was muttering something. I went down to the fire and told Alex that Rusticle had been in our room and she and I went back up to confront him about it. We did get quite upset and Alex thinks she may have scared Rusticle but we felt very strongly that our privacy had been invaded. He said that he went in there to check the modem, but he did not ask our permission nor does that give him justification for looking at our computer and then going out, writing a note, and then bringing it back into our room. We went back to the social gathering and chilled out with the intension of talking to the owners the next day.

Yesterday we woke up and immediately went upstairs. Rusticle and Jane were upstairs. When he left to go outside, Alex and I told Jane about what happened. She seemed unfazed. She knew because he had already told her. She then asked if we wanted a mediation and we said yes (this for the record never happened) so we went outside to pick strawberries. We told Peter that we wanted to talk to him too, so after lunch when we finally did and he too had already been told. While he agreed that it was a violation, he defended Rusticle and we didn't feel as if our complaint had truly been heard or validated. Then later that day, there was another meeting called--about the internet bandwith, presumably in response to the fact that Rusticle saw us trying to stream a movie on our computer. I had every intention of not saying a damn thing because I really just wanted to coast until I could find a better place. However, we were specifically called out and specifically targeted during the meeting. Peter asserted that everyone had been told about the bandwith and about the need to not download or stream anything. I admit to knowing this, that was my part in this, however we were unecessarily focused upon and not given any due process. The information that they were using to incriminate us was acquired in an act of personal violation that was never even remedied or addressed. I went off. Those of you who know me, know I'm not shy and I can hold my own in an argument. I was not rude, I did raise my voice, especially when Peter himself began to raise his, but I was firm and did not back down. Then I walked away but then came back to find them talking about the situation in my absence--I was eavesdropping. Jane saw me and basically ratted me out like a child telling on someone in order to grant herself a reprieve (yes, I'm judging). Then we got into a second round which I won't go in detail about but suffice to say he eventually accused me of a criminal act (threaten Rusticle after we discovered he entered our room) and I was so incensed that I just kept on arguing until he left the room. I was beyond the ability to calm myself. I went down stairs and told Alex that we have to leave as soon as possible. I was hysterical. I called my mom and then calmed a little while Alex started packing. We didn't know what we were going to do but we did not feel comfortable there anymore.

We slept terribly and woke early. We had our car packed by 8:30 this morning and we only said goodbye to Keegan (the youngest, newest intern) and Matt. Peter passed by and wished us luck (I was on the phone and didn't respond, Alex barely responded. Jane came out and said goodbye and that she was glad to have gotten to know us. She hugged me but Alex was tying up our bikes. And we drove off into greater sanity and freedom.

Now we are staying in this really cute, very cheap hotel and making our most valiant effort to recover and find a new farm. We are happy to be out of such an anxiety provoking situation and as of now not terribly worried about our next step. Matt, the intern we got along most with, also has plans to not go back to the farm after visiting with his friend this weekend because Peter insulted him so greatly. We honestly believed Matt would leave before us, but life doesn't always happen the way you expect it to. Our immediate plans are to contact farms, perhaps go on one last trip with Matt to Olympia this weekend, and just enjoy ourselves and this newest adventure.

Thanks to all who have been interested in what has been happening with us. Our friends' and families' continual long-distance support has been incredibly important to our mental well being during the past few weeks. We love and miss you all. The journey that Alex and I are taking has been tumultuous thus far but we have hope that will improve from now on. We've learned a lot so far and we hope to keep learning and growing. We appreciate any positive thoughts and comments you can send our way.

Tomorrow is a new and promising day :)

And we're done.

For various reason and because of various events that have transpired in the past two days Alex and I have decided to leave Westwind Farm.

It's not a healthy place for us, which we've recognized for a while and have tried to remedy but to no avail. We have already packed up our things and we will leave as soon as we wake up tomorrow. We don't know where we are going to go yet but ultimately any place will be better than here. I wish that I had the energy to report in depth the two "meetings" we've had in as many days which have led up to this seemingly drastic, dramatic departure but for now I just have to leave it at this. I hope to set up somewhere tomorrow where there is internet (be it coffee shop or hotel) and give a more detailed account of the events leading up to our decision.

I should really write a book about this when I'm done ;)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer Solstice

Ideally I would have liked to say that I did something profoundly spiritual to celebrate my new intense connection that I now have for the Earth for Summer Solstice but I did not. However, I don't think I wasted the longest day of the year.

Alex and I spent a lovely day in Port Angeles and even found out that a local celebrity was having his birthday today--the vampire hero from Twilight (yes, that vampire movie). How did I know this? Well, a cardboard cutout of this teenage heart throb was adorned with a party hat, streamers, balloons and a lovely computer printout that read: "Today's my birthday!" Wow, this is commercialism to the max. It's pretty intense how they've actually managed to integrate a fictional movie into a factual town, and to have done it so seamlessly too! I've even caught a glimpse of where Bella, the lovely heroine of Twilight, and Edward, her vampire love, had their first date.

I do have pictures and I'm dying to put them up (especially since I suffered through the humiliation of taking these pictures: imagine me, pulling my camera out, oh so deftly, looking to the right and then the left, seeing the coast clear, and then pointing and shooting, chuckling slightly to myself, but mainly for show, just in case anyone would walk by and actually think I'm taking this picture because I like Twilight--which I did, but that's beside the point. This is academic, historical fact gathering--I was here to witness society barreling toward the brink of insanity first hand!) but it's very late and dark and I can't find my camera. If only a had a vampire paramour to espy it and retrieve it for me, alas.

Ah, enough of that.

At precisely 10:45 my (pacific) time, the sun stood still. Or something like that. And now the days will shorten everyday, at first imperceptibly and eventually very obviously. Therefore, it is on the shortest night of the year that I offer my brief (it is a very short night, afterall) reflection of the first half of the year:

Appearances are not always what they seem and you cannot expected the unexpected, no matter how hard you try.

These are constant lessons and yet they are always new. I am thankful for this experience on the farm and this chance to rediscover my connection to the land that I walk upon and the seasons that change the landscape each year. I am truly thankful for the abundance of life and love that I have, which is brought to me either directly or indirectly by the sun. This is what ancient agricultural cultures knew down to their bones--the sun is the source of light and life. Today I bask in the prolonged prescence of light, knowing that in the long, cold winter I'll miss it dearly. Such in the ebb and flow of life, which can be seen reflected in all things. I think this teaches me most that balance is foung not necessarily by being in the middle all the time, but by balancing your prescence in the extremes of light and dark.

I might be so bold as to say this adventure, even in its early stages, has forced more growth out of my mind and spirit even as they are still aching from previous growing pains. I am almost weary with learning and processing, which sort of befits the time of year it is. The sun does not only produce profuse growth in plants but in humans too, apparently. Since I am in the midst of it all I don't think I can really sort out what is happening to my direction in life, my ideals, and my perceptions just yet--but it is in tumult and things will have to change drastically and not necessarily because I want it to, but because it has to.

However, no matter how difficult this journey is proving to be, it is worth it all. I am seeing a new part of the world, learning from others, getting dirty, and learning to be a kid again. And isn't knowing how to be a kid again what we all need? We all need to restart our imagination engines and re-believe that anything is possible. Children think they can change the world--why shouldn't adults too?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Low Tide

That picture gives you a good idea of how low the tide was this past Tuesday. We drove about five minutes from the farm to this point on the coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca (very close to Salt Creek Campground and the remains of Fort Hayden--This gives a good, brief description).

I felt like a kid again jumping from rock to rock, walking over a sea of mussels, exploring the recesses of the tide pools, and basically pushing the limits of where we could be--all the way to the edge and back! We saw a lot of neat sea creatures and even got to rescue a starfish, which we affectionately named Patrick. He/she was probably the biggest starfish I'd ever seen in my life (my foot's there for scale):

We put him in one of the tide pools because he was just sitting on a big rock, baking in the sun. Poor Patrick. Hopefully he's happy and eating lots of what starfish eat.

I also managed to capture several pictures of crabs. Two of my favorites are a crab in an empty mussel shell and Alex holding a tiny crab:

I'm also amazed at how colorful all the creatures in the tide pool were. I saw a small ruby red starfish, a neon green sea anemone, and a big purple starfish.

I really, really enjoyed the trip to the tide pools and I would love to catch it again some time, but I'm not sure how often the tide gets that low. I have to do some more research on that. I'm really interested in seeing what that area looks like without the tide being so low--it would be cool to look out on to the strait and try to figure out where we were walking during the low tide, and imagine what all those lovely creatures down there are doing.

It's times like the trip to the tide pools, that make all the drama worth it (at least in retrospect). I am in this place for a reason--to learn how to appreciate the natural beauty of the Earth and to learn to care for the Earth while producing food for myself and others--and I am learning that. I have a very deep appreciation now for all that I took for granted even just a few months ago. I'm rejuvenated by the quiet and beauty of the pastoral mountains. Yesterday when we went into Seattle it was hugely stressful and only slightly gratifying, and I felt so relieved when we finally made it back to the Port Angeles area. There is no substitute. The city does not have my heart like the country does now.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where you gonna go when it hits the fan?

I was going to post something else here but my browser crashed and I had to re-do my post. It's probably for the best because I had some of my most negative comments about the farm on there. I realize now, I don't need to put all the negative stuff out there--at least not yet. After taking some space from the extremely physically and emotionally stressful day yesterday, I can post more calmly.

There is not much direction here on the farm. We have a white board on which the tasks that need to get done are written. What I and the other interns have been doing is choosing from the list based on what we think really needs to get done. This one guy, Matt, has worked on farms before so he's been helping Alex and me learn the ropes, so to speak.

Yesterday, as we've been doing everyday, we decided on our task and that was to plant squash. We still have a ton of planting to do, which shouldn't be but the farm is really behind and its disorganization does not help that problem. Alex, Matt and I started and then two other interns came to help. We dug 10 really huge holes (I was raking and leveling the terribly unlevel ground), and then poured fish emulsion, compost, and soil, stirring while we went. Then we made a mound and planted the squash. We had just completed planting and I went in to get lunch, when Peter, the husband of the couple that owns the farm, came up and started talking to Alex and Matt. When they come in I find out that Peter immediately came up to them and said that was a bad idea and that we're going to have to dig them up! We originally got the direction to plant the squash in the back from, Jane, his wife and co-ower of the farm! So, then Matt and Peter had a "discussion" (it wasn't really a discussion, since Matt wasn't allowed to explain why we planted them there) about growing squash and how it needs more space than what we gave it.

What eventually ended up happening, was that I refused to do anything with the squash any more and then Matt, Alex and two of the newest interns went into the field (after traipsing back and forth from one field to the other to find a good spot) to plant more squash--we ended up only digging up one from the back of the house--and then spent 2 hours just preparing the rows. We originally took an hour to plant 10 squash plants and because of the inefficiancy of Peter's communication, they took 2 hours to just prep the soil. From Alex's accounts, they we're criticized on everything they did--from digging the hole, to mix the soil, to even pulling the hose out to water! They had to use the exact tool that Peter thought was appropriate for the job, which required several trips to the other field to get these important, missing tools (the other field is hundreds of yards away). Alex ended up getting fed up with the micromanaging and left before they even got the squash in the ground. While they were doing this I decided to put circles of stones around the tomato plants in the back yard because it's the thing that allowed me to be alone and not yell at anyone.

Basically I cried a lot yesterday because I was miserably home sick and tired of all the drama and miscommunication. I was also physically exhausted and drained to the point of breaking. I wanted to leave immediately. Alex did eventually calm me down but it took a long time.

This is what this farm is like. The husband and wife don't communicate with each other and then we end up bearing the brunt of it. In addition to that, the husband gets most of his information out of books and then takes them as gospel which you must then follow to the letter. There is no room for input from other people. It's Peter's way or no way. Even Jane apologized to them for squash debacle not because she didn't check in with Peter!

I think ultimately why I was so inconsolable yesterday was that I felt crushed and beaten down. My hopes and expectations of this farm were not only dashed but stomped and then spit on. I expected a stronger female role model than I got. I expected to learn sustainability (since it is a sustainable farm) but it's not evident with what they're doing. I expected to get off the farm more but that's only happened a handful of times and usually to go to the general store. (I will say, though, that day before yesterday we went down to the coast because there was a low tide and we had a super cool time--Peter wasn't with us). Things have to change and I'm going to have to be the one to change them. I have to take care of myself over this farm because it's evident to me that the happiness of the interns doesn't seem to register with the owners of the farm because they are so caught up in their own worlds. So, yesterday was the breaking point but I'm going to give the farm another chance before I decide to leave. If there is another day like that, I'm contacting other farms immediately to see what is out there.

It's kinda sad but I'm really glad that all of my positive expectations were killed yesterday. At least I don't have to go through the heart breaking disappointment and despair that I was going through again. I'm still thankful for this experience but in different ways than I would have expected--instead of learning how to run a successful farm, I'm learning how to make sure I don't run an unsuccessful farm. I suppose that's good enough for now.

(My next post will have pretty pictures of the low tide, I promise.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Baby birds!

A couple of days ago I was walking through the strawberry patch and I saw something tiny scurry quickly to my left. I looked over, thinking it was a mouse, but caught sight of a little bird. And then I remembered the finch mama and the nest we found a few days ago, so I peered into the nest to take a quick look and low and behold THEY HATCHED!

I was super excited and very surprised, especially since I had just seen the eggs not even a week ago. I didn't realize baby birds could hatch so quickly. Well, while the mama twittered and tweeted her discontent at my proximity to her little ones, I decided to snap a picture to show you guys.

They're pretty weird looking and insanely tiny but also really downy and cute. If I think about it, I'll try to get some more pictures of their progress as the days go by. They might be fledglings already for all I know!

Speaking of fledglings-- today, I notice a loud squaking, which isn't of itself out of the ordinary, but then I saw our farm dog/mascot/entertainer, Gixxer (pronounced Jix-er), looking quite intently at a patch of grass and inching in slowly. So, I walked up quickly and looked and saw a fledgling stellar jay pitifully sqauking at me. I immediately shooed the dog away and eventually chased him into the house. When I went back out the little jay was still sitting in the tall grass, occassionally crying out, especially when I got closer. Poor little jay. I hope that it finds its mother or its mother finds it soon. Send it some positive thoughts everyone.

It's been such a trip so far to be so close to the lives of birds. There were birds in St. Paul but I never got to see fledglings or newly hatched baby birds. It's all quite exciting and wonderful.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Week one is over...

Well, it's been one full week that Alex and I have been out here living on Westwind Farm. It's been an interesting week to say the least. We arrived May 25th, Memorial Day, dazed, travel weary and just a little (under-exaggeration here) home sick. We had to get used to our surroundings somehow, so we cleaned our new room and the bathroom which we would be using. It was kinda gross, especially since only boys had been using it before. We cried a little because we didn't know what to do with ourselves.

The next day, we decided the only way to feel better was to get into the work. So we were given the task of sowing 12 flats of corn seeds. That's 200 seeds per flat. A little tedious, somewhat meditative if you're in the right mind set, but it had to be done. Here's what some of them looked like when we were done:

That was our major project for the day aside from getting to know the farm. We were acquainted with the resident OCD dog who likes to endlessly chase his tail, or sniff things, or kill things and roll on top of them, or so we've come to realize. He finally sat still long enough for me to snap a photo.

I'm going to try to get a good video of him endlessly chasing his tail and perhaps put it on YouTube. Our first day, he chased his tail for literally 5 minutes straight, possibly more.

We've also done various other tasks during our week. We've weeded and mulched the strawberry patch--my personal favorite. Some one stumbled upon a bird's nest among the berry patch and we quickly realized it belong to a very vocal finch which stood by and watched as we weeded around its nest.

We've also learned to harvest lettuce (which we did have experience with), asparagus, brassica tops (which are very yummy steamed, by the way!), and nettles (from the forest). We've done intensive weeding in the artichoke rows and today we've started in the jeruselem artichoke patch. A lot of the land on this farms is being built up by what the Vanderhoofs are doing--moving dirt around, growing cover crop, tilling, composting, mulching, picking rocks, etc. It's very rocky soil so some of it is hard to work in but I know that we're doing valuable work by making this rich and viable farm land. This just means there's a lot of back breaking, exhausting work involved. But there is some fun too! Yesterday I learned how to use the riding lawnmower and I mowed down ridiculously long grass in the orchard. Here's a rough before and after shot (the rumbling of the riding lawn mower and fading light made it interesting to capture these shots):

Today, I did some more mowing and more weeding and now we're pretty much taking it easy because the sun is making it no fun to be out in the fields. In another hour, I'll probably get back on the horse and maybe some Alex and Matt, one of the other interns, how to use the riding lawn mower. I think they're reluctant to learn since they'll probably be expected to do the mowing after they learn. I don't think I fully thought that situation out myself--guessing I'll me mowing a lot :)

My over all feelings and impressions are still forming and right now there's just so much to do that it's hard for me to find time to sit down and process it all. I had to force myself to sit down and blog because I would rather be taking a nap. I really like the other two interns, they're both pretty laid back guys. We're all talking about hikes and trips that we'd like to take once we get this farm whipped back into shape. There's still a lot of planting, weeding, and irrigation set up to do before we can sit back and let things grow. Harvest time will be another issue.

Alex and I went to the farmer's market this past Saturday and it was a fun experience. It's certainly smaller than the downtown St. Paul market but I found all of the stands there to be really interesting. I'll try to dedicate a post to the Farmer's Market(s) that we go to because it's a fun place to get pictures.

Ultimately, we're getting stuff done and enjoying ourselves. I'm trying to find a way to balance work on the farm, with personal growth stuff as well as group time, couple time and most importantly alone time. It's a lot to get used to but I'm learning quickly. I'm sure once I've been here for a month I'll have developed a routine. It just feels good to know that I'm making a real difference for this farm with all the work I'm doing and I'm also getting a better idea of what I do and do not want to do on my own farm one day. It's fun to share and help others with their vision but I'm really looking forward to creating my own!