Well, we missed a week of posting our video on the blog – but do not fear, because we did have the video made. You can catch up on our second and third week on New Morning Farm by watching the videos below. We are just finishing up our fourth week on the farm and we are heading back to Minnesota to celebrate the Fourth of July!
We woke up each morning this week knowing that there were hundreds of little, living beings waiting on us to feed their hungry bellies. With this motivation, we stretched, yawned and made feeding them our first priority of the day. As we were wandering over to the chicken coop one morning, I looked at Chase’s curly locks of hair and screeched, “Chase, I think a bird pooped in your hair!” He noticed the white liquid dripping from the ends, touched it with his finger and then licked it. Yes, he licked it. Luckily, he informed me that it was just sunscreen and to this day, I am still unsure whether he knew it all along or if he was prepared to taste bird poop.
Chase and I became more efficient with the daily chores as the week progressed. Chase mixed the morning feed for the chickens as I gave them fresh water. Once the chickens were distracted with the morning meal, I collected eggs. The chickens provide us with about 10 dozen eggs per day – which equates to 840 eggs per week! Nancy sells these eggs to eager customers in Winnipeg every two weeks for $4.00/dozen.
Chase and I look forward to saying good morning to the little piggies. They are always squealing around and trying to say hello to us as we feed them breakfast. The pigs have grown so much since we arrived on the farm and they are getting a little too pig for their current pen – they have been tearing holes under the fence, moving their feeders all around, and pushing against the walls. Lorne has a whole field fenced off for them, but before we can let them run around, we had to teach them to “fear the wire.” Training camp started this week, when we hooked an electric wire up to a post in the center of the pen. For the first few pigs who begin to sniff around this new device, they get quite the surprise when they hit the wire. Squeal! Squeal! Although it is never fun to hear an animal in pain, I know it is for their benefit because tomorrow we will be able to let them run free for the rest of the summer.
Our week ended with a celebration of the Summer Solstice at Geoff and Theresa’s inspiring Boundary Creek Farm. Geoff and Theresa have been farming for 11 years now and are committed to trying any and all sustainable farming methods that they read about. This has resulted in a dynamic, successful farm that provides their customers with eggs, chicken, pork, garlic, honey and a bounty of vegetables. We saw, first-hand, how much their customers respect their famers by the sheer number of them that traveled 50 miles from Winnipeg to spend the evening on the farm. The potluck dinner was incredible, Theresa’s mint tea was heavenly and the bonfire, spectacular.
We woke up to another beautiful morning on the farm. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and, best of all, the wind was brisk and warm. I just knew this was going to be a good day. It may not be surprising but one of my favorite things about working outdoors, rather than in an office, is the ability to experience the day. Being surrounded by four walls all day, you forget how warm the sun gets and how much the wind is appreciated during the afternoon hours.
In fact, you forget a lot of things about nature when sitting inside all day and I am slowly learning them again. The thing I learned today was how to complete a task and take pleasure in the task itself, rather than just the pleasure of crossing it off my list. Does this sound familiar to you? I go about my life making so many lists that all I think about when working is how I am going to get the next thing on my list done. In my former life, I worked like a drone, just trying to accomplish the task at hand as fast and efficient as possible. While this may make the ideal employee, for me, it felt like the world was going by and I wasn’t even experiencing it.
Today, we had the task of planting tomatoes, peppers, melons, and eggplants. Instead of just planting, planting, planting, I actually took the time to feel the dirt on my hands and the way it tickled my skin when it went down my shirt. I noticed all of the life that was living in the soil as it squirmed around my hands. I heard the birds singing their lovely songs in the trees and wished I could carry a tune. I feel so much better at the end of a day, when I know that I witnessed the day first-hand. In my prior life, I would go days without spending more than five minutes in the sunlight. I would leave the house when the sun was still sleeping and I would get home after the sun had gone down. This life seems so sad to me now and I truly hope I never have to live like that again.
The glory of the day continued well after our planting was done. Chase and I wandered over to our favorite animals on the farm, the pigs, and filled their home with fresh straw. They delighted in the wonder of this new, fresh, fun and began to shuffle and sniff it around their home. I could spend a whole day playing with pigs. They are just like people – shy at first, confident with friends and curious as a cat. Everyday I spend time with them and everyday they grow a little more comfortable with me rubbing their backs and touching their wet snouts. One day, I know that they will become dinner, but for now they are my dirty, smelly friends.
When Lorne noticed my love for the pigs, he mentioned that Chase and I are just like Abner and Daisy Mae, a satirical comic that appeared in newspapers from 1934 – 1977. In the comic, Daisy Mae loves the pigs almost as much as she loves Li’l Abner.
For those who prefer to watch videos rather than read blog posts, take a look at our video recap of the past week on the farm.
Warning: if you have recently eaten or have a weak stomach, stop reading now.
I have always thought of myself as having a tough stomach. I grew up dissecting dead animals we found in the woods, I have assisted in gynecological surgical procedures and I ate my way through the back alley streets of Peru without any problems. Yet, nothing prepared me for the stench of cleaning out a chicken coop.
New Morning Farm has hundreds of chicken. There are the fluffy baby chicks that still cling to one another when they go outdoors, contrasted nicely by the featherless ‘things’ that have been in so many chicken fights it’s amazing they are still alive. All of these chickens live in separate pens in the chicken coop and all of these chickens have active digestive systems. Every couple of months someone is honored with the task of scrapping up and shoveling out the excrements. We were the lucky couple this time!
I rarely admit defeat, but this coop defeated me.
I blazed into the coop, pitchfork in hand, mask securely fastened to my face and ready to clean up the crap. Ten minutes in, I was doing all I could to stop myself from gagging every time I lifted up a new pile of waste. Suddenly, my gallant knight in rubber boots strode in to relieve me of my task and finish up the coop himself. All I had to do was keep shoveling the manure into the wheelbarrow and bring it to the tractor. An hour later, Chase emerged from the coop without any signs of disgust. What a brave boyfriend I have.
I took a final peak inside the coop and, surprisingly, I could see the bare wood floor. Chase’s ability to fight through the smell resulted in a beautifully clean home for the chickens. We layered in fresh straw and let the chickens back into their shiny new home. I am still deciding whether the deliciousness of fresh eggs is worth the disgust, but I am leaning towards yes – especially with Chase in the picture.
Today, Dana and I slept in until 9:50AM! Although, to be honest, the other mornings we only woke up as early as 8:00AM. Turns out farmers don’t always have to wake up at the crack of dawn. We are getting very comfortable with our first farm family, Nancy and Lorne Hall. We have learned so much about Canadian traditions and political systems. They took us into the town of Gimli today to help with some flower planting and window washing at a local senior citizen home. Afterwards, Lorne and I went to clean up some grass clippings and he introduced me to the local snack “Cheezies.” It is similar to Cheetos but, I must say, far better – especially with a nice, ice-cold Coca Cola from a glass bottle, which Lorne says feels great on your lips and I completely agree. Lorne explained that Cheezies only have one advertising scheme, they make smaller versions of their snacks for Halloween so that they can be handed out to children. Cheezies are also coveted for their top secret method of making no individual Cheezie the same. Each one has a unique and different shape, making it one of Canada’s leading ladies in the snack food isle.
|Giant Mosquito in Komarno, Manitoba|
|Just finished planting beans|
Well, we have now entered Canada – I wouldn’t exactly say that we were welcomed in, but they allowed us into their country for 30 days. Why, you may ask, are we only allowed for 30 days? Because we lied. While it is no excuse for common sense, there was some logic behind our madness.
The program that we are farming with is called WOOF-Canada and if you check out their website, they make it seem like telling boarder patrols the truth about your intentions to farm in Canada will cause them to deny you entry. That being said, we crafted a little story about staying with a family friend in Canada. Yes, we risked a $10,000 fine and time in jail just because we thought we would be able to “out-smart” the border patrols.
As we drove through the entrance to Canada we were greeted by a nice woman who asked us quite a few questions about our travel plans. We thought that we were doing great and that we would be off to farming in Canada in only a few short minutes. We were wrong. She directed us to park our car and wait for an officer. The first officer had us remove all belongings from our car and tell him more about our plans in Canada. So far, so good, the story was holding up and we had only slightly lied about our true intentions of farming. Next, we headed back inside to talk with another officer about our plans. This is where it all started going downhill.
The officer asked who we were staying with and I told him, “A family friend.” He accepted this answer and asked for her contact information. I had her contact information in an email printed in my car as well as in an email on my phone. He wanted to see the one on my phone – in fact, he wanted to search my whole phone. He told us to take a seat while he “did a little digging.” This is when I knew we were in trouble, because the email chain contained information stating that the border patrols have become a bit strict lately and that it would be better if we did not tell them about our farming intentions.
The minute he called me up to the desk I knew he knew the truth. He wasn’t some bifocal-wearing, old man who couldn’t use an iPhone if Steve Jobs were personally tutoring him. This was Officer Generation X, just waiting to bust us. The moment I realized this, I burst into tears. Not just a single, strategic tear that would show my sincerity – more like uncontrollable crying. He called Chase up to the desk at this time to answer the questions that I was trying to get out between sniffles and sobs.
We told him the truth. After he did more “digging” on Chase’s phone, he confirmed that our farming story was the truth. He informed us of the severity of lying to an officer and told us that he would only allow us to stay in the country for 30 days, after which we would have to leave or risk arrest. We have never felt so bad in our entire lives. We asked if we could speak to the first officer once more so that we could apologize – I was crying throughout this apology too. Embarrassing. As he was stamping our final paperwork to send us on our way, he began to discuss the rules of volunteering in Canada. Chase finally got him to crack a smile when he noticed my tears starting to well-up again and said, “Oh no, if we don’t leave now you are going to get round three of tears.” Officer Generation X laughed and sent us on our way.
Our trip officially began yesterday! We are excited to meet new people and learn all about sustainable agriculture over the next year. Below are a couple of statistics to measure our progress as we go!
Miles on Honda Civic: 54,622
Chase’s Facebook Friends: 221
Stay tuned for our horrific border crossing experience in the next blog entry.