First night; feb 1st
Ah, so excited to wake up on a farm tomorrow! And what a great first farm! An Irishman, a German, and a Japanese guy. Chickens everywhere, sheep, pecan trees, my own room, two little blonde kids to love on.
The boys are learning Japanese and cracking themselves up next door. Tracy Chapman’s on the radio. They’re learning (and exclaiming) “fuck yeah” and “shit” and cracking me up, too. When I walked past their room earlier they were all standing on their beds with rolled up newspapers like fly-killing warriors. So funny. I wanted to join them but wasn’t invited. You need to be invited.
Gah, this is such a cool experience.
Day one; feb 2nd 7am
You know what? I don’t even like cherry tomatoes in the real world, but here I love them. They* said its because they’re allowed to ripen on the vine, whereas grocery store tomatoes are picked green and ripen en route to the shelves.
I want to be an organic farmer. You can glorify God and be happy, right? Maybe C.S. Lewis knows.
Live simply and tread lightly on the land.
I’m actually WWOOFing! Really doing it!
Day two; feb 3 1:15 pm
Go ahead and add “free-range” to your list of words that are meaningless. There are not, as stated in the WWOOF book, 500 chickens here, but the couple hundred that are here are only “free range” for four hours in the afternoon, and that is only half of them. The other half, the younger hens, are kept in an enclosure that includes a “garden”, which somehow qualifies them as free. They are all dirty, many missing feathers around their necks, chests, and anuses, some of the skin raw and red.
I am disillusioned.
Phillip was actually the one to bring it up this morning.
But technically they are. Just as to be labeled “organic” only a percentage of the product must be organic. It’s really a bunch of bull shit.
Also, when the hens are past their prime they are culled and their used-up bodies burned. Which, you know, is normal and economical and everything, it just sucks. I’d imagine they’d at least be fed to the farm dogs or donated to a wildlife sanctuary to feed the carnivores. It’s just so wasteful. They’re hardly treated differently than the unfortunate hens in factories.
They’re just products./em>
We go at eight to collect the first round of eggs. It’s disgusting. The smell in the coop is suffocating. You reach under these hens, sometimes multiple ones in a single box, and pull the eggs out to put them in a bucket. You rarely get a protest, they’re so used to it. Then same with the next enclosure of younger hens.
We bring them into the cleaning shed where there’s also a cooler and wet-wipe all the eggs clean, putting them in cartons. We count how many eggs from each enclosure and write it on a sheet of paper, then tally them up.
Then we sort them, which is really a lot of guess-work. Big ones are separated as jumbos and especially small ones as smalls, and they go on a separate shelf in the cooler. The average-sized ones are boxed and put in there as well, then sold in the markets for five dollars a carton.
So many eggs.
I barely slept last night for some reason, and I’m feeling it today. So drowsy. So easily annoyed.
Ah well. I’m learning how to do repetitive tasks, like dead-heading the roses (which I hate more than stealing the hen’s eggs – and it is like stealing. Often you take an egg and she’ll stand and stare at the pile of shredded newspaper where it used to be, clucking deep in her throat as if she’s really very confused and maybe disappointed…as if a chicken could be disappointed…) and wiping the eggs, with care and mindfulness.
Even in this groggy state.
Feb 3rd 7:30 pm
Feeding the chickens is insane. One of us (me) distracts the flock away form the coop while the other (Phillip) literally runs inside and carefully slams the gate, closing it off to the mob. He then slices a hole in the bag of feed and pours one and a half of them into four feeding troughs. Then half into the younger hens’ trough.
We then open up and the chickens rush inside, pecking the shit out of each other to get to the food. I feel really badly for the unlucky weakling who can’t fight her way in. There’s hens on top of each other in desperation for food.
Maybe I’m hopelessly naive, but is there not a better way to do this?
Feb 4th, 3 pm
I’ll probably never be at that mythical weight where I feel at home, and it’s not a thing to have some junk food every other day or so without thinking about it. And yet, I keep striving. I keep thinking about it.
Feb 5th 6:40 am
I didn’t even explain about Kuru! She is the kelpie locked up all day because she terrorizes the neighbor’s chickens. I’ve let the boys walk her and said nothing, no input on their…technique. The technique of being pulled all over the road, legs flopping everywhere.
I took the lead last evening though and the first fifteen minutes of our “walk” was Kuru and I getting aquatinted. I yanked her back and forth across the lawn until she kinda figured out that she belongs on my left side and is to sit when I tell her, and we don’t move forward until she does so.
The walk took a good forty minutes longer than usual, as I am (pardon me Phillip) a nazi about dog-walking. I determined to make Kuru a good dog, at least while I’m here.
We saw more kangaroos.
When we got home I emailed the woman taking care of my Kira asking how she was. Kuru, but for the discipline of me, goes Kira.
*I am certainly not planning on slandering the farm I stayed at in any way; it was a perfectly adequate farm, and the chickens were in fact treated better than factory-farmed chickens. They are very good to their WWOOFers as well. I am omitting the family’s names, however, because I do not agree anymore with the sketchy practice I feel that “free-range” chicken farming is. I do not wish to offend the farmers, but not everything I have to say about my experience there is positive.