Archive for the ‘WWOOFers’ Tag

Work Calls   21 comments

It’s amazing what the summer brings. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve found myself without a single day that I haven’t been doing at least some work for one of my two farmhand jobs or working on the garden. That doesn’t mean life has been crushing or brutal—some of those days have only involved a bit of work and others have involved quite a bit of gardening that proved enjoyable and invigorating as much as anything. But it has kept me busy and pretty consistently feeling in service of a never ending to do list, even in the moments when I’m not working on one of the tasks.

On that to do list for awhile now has been to write a new blog post. As I imagine is obvious, that keeps slipping further down the list. I’ll hope that most of my readers understand that sort of prioritizing. My jobs take precedent over the blog and my garden screams a bit more loudly than this blog does. When I’m looking to get some seeding done before the end of the day to hopefully have some home grown salad on the table in a few weeks or taking advantage of cool and cloudy weather to trellis tomatoes in the hoop house, I have to prioritize the actual work of this life over the writing about the work of this life.

Furthermore, when a long day of work is followed up by some evening gardening, dinner and zoning out (or reading, or getting to bed early) is much easier than writing a blog post. Simply put, I’ve been a bit too fried of late to get a good post written. I’ve sat down with the intent to write just such a post a few times, but it hasn’t quite come together. The inspiration has been lost in exhaustion.

So here I am writing something easier, so that I can get something written and posted and let you all know that I haven’t entirely disappeared or lost myself in more basketball (though I am watching the NBA Finals.) This is my meta update. And there are updates to my life, beyond what I’ve just written.

Aside from the work I’m doing—or as an element of all this work—is the fact that two WWOOFers, Lily and Kayleigh, are now living with me and helping out on the farm and with my garden. They worked at Ginger’s place—the farm I interned on last year—for six weeks and decided they didn’t want to leave the Oregon coast. So they’re staying the rest of the summer. After a bit of checking around, talking, debating, thinking about it, and making arrangements, it worked out for them to move into the house I’m living in now—staying in the second bedroom I hadn’t been using. So now I have helpers, roommates, friends, companions, dare I even say students. They play a wide variety of roles and so far it’s been a great arrangement.

One of the consequences of their arrival, though, has been an increased workload. It’s ironic that help can add to the work, but so be it. I’m not complaining about that; the workload has increased because I’m now getting more done with the motivation of having others around to help out. I even am attempting to teach a bit, though I still feel a far way from being a truly knowledgeable teacher. The garden keeps expanding, though it also still seems so far from complete. The hoop house is getting filled out with tomatoes and eggplants and peppers. New beds are being worked up and seeded outside and I’m seeding trays and pots to eventually be transplanted. There’s a lot going on and if much of this comes through, I’ll eventually be swimming in more food than the three of us likely can eat.

Not a bad problem to have.

I also have been working more for the farm here, both in helping to lead Lily and Kayleigh when they’re working and also in doing other tasks without them that seem to be cropping up as the season wears on. I’m now working two full days for Lance and Tammi, in addition, and this week I start working a second farmer’s market on Thursdays. So that leaves me working full days for Lance and Tammi on Tuesday and Friday, working markets on Thursday and Sunday, and fitting in other work here around the farm and gardening on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. And I try to get in some socializing and down time, as well. The season is in full swing indeed.

This isn’t to complain, I want to be clear. It’s been really inspiring having such purpose and feeling so in service to a wide variety of people, animals, land, and personal goals. After my stretch of distraction and lack of accomplishment, I feel like I’m making up for that down time with a flurry of activity and good work. But it’s also been tiring and I’m still trying to find my feet; to find a pace that’s effective and sustainable. I think it’s going to take a bit more thought and experimentation.

I feel, though, that all this is moving me toward something. I have vague thoughts and ideas and schemings about what that may be. Suddenly living and working with two women who I also am, in a few small ways, teaching and leading has helped to affirm for me that I could manage and lead WWOOFers in other capacities. Gardening and growing my own food is helping to affirm that I could run some kind of farm or homestead of my own. Figuring out what tasks need to be done, prioritizing and accomplishing those tasks, and just generally being in the mode of management is also helping to affirm that I could manage my own place. None of it would be easy—and we’ll see where I am with all this in a few months—but all this good work is reminding me that I’m capable and that there are opportunities out there, so long as I’m open to them, willing to be creative and flexible, and willing to take a few risks.

I’m not sure exactly where all this is leading, but it feels like it may be somewhere good. The future suddenly feels a bit more close to the present.

We’ll see. In the meantime, forgive me my lingering silences and know that this blog still is important and still remains on my to do list. It’s just that there are plants and animals and people depending on me and they have to take a bit more priority at the moment, while the sun’s (occasionally) shining and the days are (somewhat) warm. Sometimes the season calls for contemplation and sometimes it calls for work. It’s calling for work at the moment. The contemplation will be back, and I’ll no doubt manage to sneak it in, at times, amongst the work over the next couple months, but for now the work calls a bit more insistently.

I hope to get something up later this week. We’ll see if the garden and my sanity allows it.

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Posted June 18, 2012 by Joel Caris in Farm Life, Gardening, Meta, Work

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50 New Friends – A WWOOFer Retrospective   5 comments

One of the particular joys of farming at R-evolution Gardens this season has been the chance to meet so many amazing people throughout the course of the year. Ginger decided that for the 2011 season, she was going to start bringing WWOOFers onto the farm to help out with the expanded operation. Rather than it being just her and an intern, like it was in 2010, it was this year going to be her, two part-time interns (Emily and myself) and somewhere in the vicinity of 50 WWOOFers.

In other words, a bit of a jump in personnel.

My fellow intern Emily, me, farmer Ginger and two-time WWOOFer and movie night-instigator, Erin.

Of course, the 50 WWOOFs didn’t all arrive at once. They were spread out over the season, arriving for stays of two weeks or less, with usually two or three being on the farm at any one time. Yet, it still was a certain kind of madness having the constant influx of new faces and helping hands. At the same time, it was a certain kind of lovely to meet so many incredible and heartfelt people, all of them interested in growing food and living more sustainably, their excitement and enthusiasm a constant lift.

While this year was my third farming experience, it was my first one with WWOOFers. And I liked it. No, actually, I loved it. Having these people cycling through provided uncountable moments of friendship and good conversation, work and play, new perspectives and unique bits of wisdom. It’s a special person who decides to go live in a tent for a few weeks on a farm and trade their physical labor for food. It’s the sort of person who has moved herself to an honest questioning of our society’s functioning. It’s the sort of person who seeks good work, good food and good community. It seems to be the sort of person who tells good jokes and asks good questions and makes smart observations and enjoys a good sweat, either from labor or a sauna or both. My kind of people, then, and I’m lucky to have met every one of them.

There are memories galore. From chopping wood and exchanging books with Matt–who walked away from our farm with a new tattoo inspired by this place, as well as the intention to return next year–to the ginger ale-making session with Cori, Sarah and Kyle. From cob-oven pizzas made with a multitude of different WWOOFers to long conversations with Erik about Derrick Jensen and farming and future plans. From the late-night summer bonfires with strumming music to the burrito adventure with Skyra and Erin. From wood hauling with Casey, Sarah and Karen (so appreciated right now as that wood burns and pushes back this winter’s day chill) to listening to the easy conversation between Matt and Kaiti next to a bonfire on the beach, to sitting by the river on a hot day with Jed, Alex and Erin, to talks of dating in Portland with Christine. From so many amazing meals made by Kate, to Matt and Minjie bringing a bit of Chinese culture to the farm, rocking the authentic fried rice and talking mooncakes, to the always-amazing Leigh-Ann and Jena initiating us into this crazy WWOOFer adventure via their hauling and spreading of gravel and their getting covered with chicken shit (a rite of passage!) Not to mention, Leigh-Ann’s continuing friendship when she moved to Cannon Beach, providing me some wonderful evenings of beer and good conversation up north. From Glen’s thoughtful conversation, steady presence and smart insights to Erik’s fantastic handwritten instructions for growing mushrooms to Aaron’s calming presence and hard work. From a night of music and burnt cookies with Laura, Sky and Rob to conversations about basketball with BJ. From Julie and Kevin’s dangerous over-consumption of Rooster sauce to Kevin’s drunken nudity (oh, tequila!) to Tiffany and Michael’s enthusiasm for weeding and faux-theft of M (see the adorable picture at the bottom of this post.) From our wonderful overlapping of two different Nicks, to Ally’s listening skills on our drive to Tillamook (sorry for the babbling.) From the steady hands and farm free-styling of Marguerite and Alex to Rachael’s cob-oven cobbler and condemnation of this coffee-connoisseur’s caffeine over-consumption. (That’s how you do alliteration!) From conversations about Buffy with Piper to conversations with James about how to make a little money with this lifestyle. From going in to Portland to see music with Liza and Sean and snagging ourselves some free fries to the odd relaxation of our final WWOOFers, Nicky and Darci, who showed up after the markets were done and the CSA appreciation dinner over and with everything finally having eased down from the utter craziness and stress of late summer. It was nice to have that last couple WWOOFers to be more relaxed with and to have a sense of cyclic-closure, as they represented some kind of approximation of experience to the rainy, more-relaxed first WWOOFer experience with Jena and Leigh-Ann.

Casey and Sarah, flexing those muscles after an exhausting day of non-stop wood hauling and heaving. An extra thanks to them as I burn that same wood now to keep warm.

All these WWOOFers provided not only their perspectives and work and friendship and energy, but they provided an extraordinary social scene in a somewhat remote setting. While we have a town of great people nearby, that town isn’t huge and the farm is still about nine miles from it. With my past farming experiences, I’ve often found myself feeling isolated to the degree that I have to somewhat crazily head out on a semi-regular basis to a local coffee shop or bar or both just to hang out and be in the presence of other people–even if I’m not actually interacting with those people. This takes a bit of a financial toll when you’re pursuing a life that provides little to no money, so having the WWOOFers here this year really helped with that. I very rarely felt the need to leave the farm to fulfill some social longing. If anything, I was anti-social at times, needing a break from the constant interactions, and I apologize to those WWOOFers who hit the farm during those anti-social periods of mine. Sometimes I can’t help but just want to hunker down in my yurt with a good book and my own thoughts.

In celebration of all these kind souls who helped us work, play and grow food this year, Ginger has put up a more comprehensive WWOOFer retrospective on the farm’s website. I encourage all to check it out. It’s highly entertaining, with photos of most of our visitors, some thoughts from Ginger and quotes from the parting notes everyone left in the WWOOFer book at the end of their stay. You’ll even see a few pictures of me scattered throughout that post. We really were blessed to have so many incredible people work with us this year. A huge thank you to all of them–you really made this year happen, in so many different ways.

Posted December 13, 2011 by Joel Caris in Farm Life

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