Things here have been pretty interesting lately. Although we must laboriously take in the morning fog, distant mountains, overloaded fruit trees, and starry night skies, we are finally able to look past all that lavish beauty and see the other strange things that are happening around the farm. So far we've seen mating Luna moths (as seen in previous post), a tomato hornworm with parasitic wasp eggs in its back (yes, this happens), a self-grafting tree, a wild Puffball mushroom, a snake skin hanging from our kitchen rafters, a praying mantis, a wasp attacking a cicada, exceptionally weird mud dauber wasps that collect spiders in their mud houses and parasitize them with their eggs, and a bee hive in the base of a tree. Here are just a few pictures. Hopefully I can take more. But not of the spiders. Terrible.
We've officially been here for 4 whole months and still have 3 to go. This week we've had the opportunity to truly measure the change in lifestyle that we've experienced over the past four months by becoming temporary commuters from a housesitting job. Just for fun I will measure this experience in increments of deliciousness (by my standards). So for example, something exploding in the house would be measured as "mystery organ meat." Ease of use of kitchen would be say, "blueberry pie". You get the idea.
Scary Lunch Lady
This house sitting job means living in a real, live house- running potable water, electricity with usable outlets, rooms connected to each other (barefoot capabilities!), laundry machines, a shower right off the bedroom, internet in the next room, and an actual bed! This is magical. (It became clear how long we'd been living in our little apprentice world when Josh and I lost each other within minutes of moving into this one story, mostly open floor plan abode.) And yet, this kind of life is what I've had for 23 years and 1 month prior to this experience. Appreciation is an important thing and I've been able to find plenty for both life on the farm and life at this house. For a week this is a great way to rejuvenate, stay dry from the sporadic rain, and get things back to normal. That gets an appreciation score of moose tracks ice cream in a sugar cone. If you've had it you know that means very high.
One unique thing about this temporary job is the morning routine. In addition to feeding ourselves, we have a coop full of chicks to feed, three hens, 1 rooster, 4 ducks, and 5 rabbits. We also fill up water on demand and collect eggs. There are two cats that like to eat, disappear, eat, and rub their faces on Josh (who's allergic). We've managed to keep everything alive and well so far and to keep our shins peck-free from the angry rooster. I've heard it said before that chickens just aren't smart and it only took 5 days to see that in action. The other night the chicks, who are usually in their coop by nightfall, decided they were all going to huddle right up against the coop door and not go inside for the life of them. We checked for anything that could have come in and given their erratic behavior some legitimacy, like a snake, but there was nothing. We ended up nudging them with our toes and stomping behind them to corral them toward the door. Somewhat annoying, mostly confusing. Using the appreciation scale of deliciousness, I give this a plain zucchini rating. Not bad, not great, but more "why?"
The animals are hilarious though and it's good to know how to take care of them. The ducks are skiddish and will quack louder the closer you get to them. They also travel in a small pack, often turning left and right and left again for no apparent reason. They haven't escaped yet but if they do it will be a good show trying to catch them and put them back in the pen. The rabbits are adorable and soft and fairly timid. The chicks have minds of their own as elaborated before and the chickens seem to have an nontraditional hierarchy with a strong matriarch and a rooster with a phony, tough-guy front. The hen can cluck him away on demand. I appreciate these nuances like I like a grilled cheese tomato soup combo.
Rated X: Mating Luna Moths
Despite all of this I still miss the little apprentice plot up on the hill with its sunsets, fog, occasional deer, the fire pit fun area, the glorious outdoor shower, and the chance to feel the fresh air at all times. I don't know how I'll ever reintegrate back into the world of walls and refrigeration. I guess it will take some cooler weather and some spoiled milk to convince me.
In other news, Josh and I are in charge of designing, planning, and building a new apprentice cabin! The old pop-up camper will be put up for sale and we're going to fill the space with a tiny cinder block rectangle big enough for a bed and a few shelves, possibly a sink, and a wood stove if we can pull it off. The cinder blocks are laying around in a heap next to the camper so we now need to figure out the cost of a cement footing and floor slab, mortar, interior and exterior coating, and anything else that comes up. Luckily, we're rich in materials like windows, doors, wood boards, and roofing. We'll be working on this for the rest of the time we're here in between normal farm tasks
PS We've had good watermelons from our garden!
I apprenticed on a farm in southwest Virginia from April-October 2010. This blog contains all the anecdotes and observations from that adventure.
See more of my photos here