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 :)

1 comment:

  1. Oh, my. Good luck! I hope you find a way better farm!