Sunday, June 8, 2008

Journey's start

I have survived my first week of farming at Everdale! It's been a really wonderful first week that has confirmed to me that I made the right choice in coming out here. This week I worked on seeding in the greenhouse, planting in the fields, setting up pea trellises, hand weeding sweet peas, compost digging, mulching and bringing the cow in at night. I've held baby chicks and turkeys in my hand (I like rubbing their fuzzy heads under my chin), learned how to pick up and hold a chicken and visited with the pregnant goats and sheep, milk cow and work horses. I can't wait until the lambs and kids are born in the next few weeks!

I also have more mosquito bites than I can count, am more sunburned than I'd like, and have been getting a real workout going up and down hills and spending a lot of time in a crouch. But because there's so much work to be done each day, my muscles haven't had a chance to get stiff and sore and I feel extremely healthy and energetic after the week of labouring outside. I have also gotten used to sleeping in a tent, using composting toilets and solar showers and am quite enjoying it all!

I set up my tent at the top of a ridge where I can see the whole farm laid out before me. So far, my tent has stayed relatively water tight, even through nightly rains and many thunderstorms. By Friday night, I was sleeping through the night, and now am a bit worried about sleeping in past breakfast! I need to buy myself a windup alarm clock, though I do think my internal clock has now been set for 6 am wake ups. I've shifted my sleep schedule from my city schedule of 2 am to 8:30 am, to 10 pm to 6:00 am. So really, I'm getting more sleep now...or at least I will once I start sleeping through the night.

Life at the farm is quite structured, with everyone gathering for breakfast at 6:45 am, a staff meeting to assign tasks for the day at 7:30 am, lunch around noon, and a finish time of around 5:30 pm. Different people are assigned to make breakfast and lunch each day, and 2 others are scheduled for after lunch clean up. Dinners are a bit haphazard, usually involving lunch leftovers, and a lot of tortilla chips and salsa. I've never seen a group of people go through so many tortilla chips and salsa before! I will be added to the cooking schedule next week, so I'll have to start thinking what I'll cook for everyone. Meals have been vegetarian and very different from what I'm used to, but everything has been really tasty and very healthy, so I'm definitely not hungry and have lots of energy for the work each day.

Farm tasks run the gamut from grounds maintenance to planting to tour group leading. Until school ends for the summer, there seem to be 2-3 school groups coming in each week, and this past Saturday was the opening weekend for tours and the farm store this summer. A large part of Everdale's mandate is to educate, which is why a lot of time and effort is spent on school groups and providing tours to the public for both the farm and the straw bale house.

I had my first visitors to Everdale this Saturday as Dy and Bob came down to see me and take a tour of the place. And since the world is always surprising me by how small it is, it turned out that I recognized another person who was visiting the farm, who turned out to be Nicole from Mackenzie Financial where I worked for 4 years when I first graduated from McMaster. It was really nice to have visitors my first week and hopefully Dy will encourage other DBRSers to come out and see me!

One of the things I was a bit worried about when coming out to the farm was getting adjusted to communal living. After all, I have been living on my own in Toronto for over 5 years now. I'm actually quite surprised by how easily I've adjusted to spending so much time with Everdale's staff and interns. There are 6 farm interns who were picked out of a pool of about 45 applicants and will be working and learning on the farm from April to October. They're a varied group of personalities with really different backgrounds, but all with a love of the environment and the will to learn as much as they can while working hard at Everdale. There are 5 guys: Carl, Dave, Simaron, Mark and Andrew, and one girl: Gwen, who I think is the youngest of the group at 21. Then there's Gavin (the farm manager), Karen and Lynn, who are some of the original founders of the farming operation. Also living at Everdale are Garrett (working on the launch of a biodiesel co-op) and Harris (assists Gavin), who have set up some great prospector tents that seem huge and luxurious compared to my little 4-person dome tent! Joseph, who works for Seeds of Diversity, is also there occasionally and is working on building a Seed Maze. Ben who builds straw bale houses, lives in the straw bale house on-site that was first built as a demonstration building at a housing expo in Toronto. Everyone is really fun to talk to and there's so much to learn from each of them. I really look forward to getting to know them all a lot better in the next few weeks!

As a rather sad close to this family had to put down our dog Jasmine on Saturday. She turned 14 at the beginning of May and a bone tumour started growing on her head about 2 months ago. I'm sad that cancer got her in the end and she couldn't just die of old age in her sleep. When I do finally find the place that will be my farm, I will plant lilac bushes for both Beauty (who died last fall) and Jasmine.


Weewian said...

How exciting!

I've always pictured you with your own farm, and it's great to see you making steps towards that goal.

I'd imagine that the kind of food you eat is really delicious - simple, fresh and flavourful.

Keep up the updates.

chiquitawonder said...

Exciting!!! :) Great post - makes me want to go out and do farming. Hope to see you soon (we will make a trip up for sure this summer!).