WWOOFing in Tennessee
Hello! HAPPY OCTOBER FIRST!!!!
It's been awhile. But September was definitely a blur in a really wonderful dancy twirl sort of way. Like when you're just dancing and spinning and a little exhausted from twirling but having the best time anyways? That feeling.
I haven't had the chance to compile a day-to-day account of my Route 66 yet, but I promise it's coming soon. What I have done is transferred my blog from Blogger to Squarespace (I've been using Blogger for about five years now so this is one of those life-changing technological moments for me) and even made a fancy Facebook page if you want to check it out and "like" it. It's all coming together. Slowly. But surely!
Just to catch you up — I left September 2nd on my Route 66 road trip and successfully made it through eight states starting in Santa Monica, CA and ending in Chicago, IL before things started to slow down. I had a couple days in Chicago before spending five days in Ohio and one day in West Virginia before FINALLY driving through Kentucky (honorary state mention) and making it to TENNESSEE. I literally cried when I crossed the state line randomly listening to Danza Kuduro (which is probably the most opposite-of-crying kind of music). Out of joy mostly. It felt really great to be here.
I spent that first night near Nashville (although I got here too late to do any actual exploring), and then took my time the next morning before making it to my destination of the next 3 – 5 weeks: Sugar Camp Farm.
Some background on deciding to work on a farm (mind you — this may be my first ever extended stay on a farm in my life; I have a fear of bugs and rarely dig in dirt):
I had heard about the Worldwide Opportunites on Organic Farms (aka WWOOF) through various sources. I had always thought it was an international thing — people doing it on farms in Italy was I think the first time I heard about it. After a post I saw from Nomadic Matt, I realized it might be in the United States, and specifically in Tennessee. And maybe I could do it. It seemed like a good transition option to learn about areas to live in around Nashville so I don't feel rushed to rent the first expensive apartment I look at.
More importantly, I've really had a huge interest in food and food production for a long time. I wouldn't say I've invested a whole lot in this interest aside from reading a couple books, and taking an Anthropology of Food class at UCLA, but the subject of food, and how disconnected I am from where my own food comes from has been of growing interest to me over the past four or five years.
SO. I did some research. Got a WWOOF-USA membership ($40 for the year to access/contact the farms) and started looking at my options. I knew I had some limits. Like I said absolutely not to the farm that said to bring your own tent for sleeping. And then when I found Sugar Camp Farm and checked out their website and mission it seemed completely in line with my convictions on ethical food production so I sent a message through the WWOOF website. A couple phone calls later, and they decided I wasn't a super creep and despite my fear of bugs, I could be a potential farm-helper.
I was approved.
And now, I'm here! I arrived in the afternoon exactly one week ago. I feel like this is my "Nashville" aka Tennessee dream actually on this farm. I mean, my first assignment was picking flowers because guess what? They were having a little concert the first night I was there! Not for me, but because they're that cool and love music and doing community/group events when they can.
The farm itself is beautiful. The house has these large windows and feels homey with a nice porch that was a perfect setting for the concert. Lizzie and Jesse began the farm after they got married about a year ago and have so much knowledge that they've been so patient and open and willing to share with me. I've learned so much just within one week about the choices farmers have to make, being resourceful, what makes something organic or not, farmers market-ing, how nature doesn't really wait for you... I told Lizzie that I really need to be carrying a notebook around with me to write down everything she tells me.
Oh and bugs. I've learned a lot about bugs and how they're actually part of the ecosystem instead of something that just crawls on me and creeps me out. No one is more surprised than me that I won't freak out when there's a woof spider crawling in the dirt next to me as I'm harvesting vegetables.
Hopefully I can pass on this knowledge in the future. For now, a little picture diary of my time here so far...
FEATURING (descriptions taken from Lizzie's event page):
Austin Toy: Lyles, TN A rapper and producer from Lyles, TN. He prides himself on changing people's minds about hip-hop with is lyrically oriented content.
I loved this guy. He was so sweet and would smile and thank us for being there and then transform as soon as he started rapping. Not that he wasn't sweet when he was rapping, but he had passion and delivered his meaningful lyrics.
Curt Oren: Iowa City, IA is a saxophonist without a home who loves his friends too much for his own good. He is usually on tour with his kitchenaid in tow, baking cookies for every show. Curt is also a frequent collaborator, the hippest of which is with Juan Wauters for his most recent release, Who Me? Out may 12th on Captured Tracks. He also just got a New Hat.
Curt used a saxophone in a way I had never heard it used. It was this sort of avant-garde experiment of sound. He would even do things like scream while he was playing with these crazy rhythms. It was incredible.
Dubb Nubb: Columbia, MO. Dubb Nubb songs are sweet and mean, and the stories paint a colorful map inspired by highways and cities, nature and concrete, love and loss. Twins, Delia and Hannah, sing the kind of harmonies that only twins can make over classical inspired guitar, ukulele, and poetic yet fierce songwriting.
This duo, sometimes trio was mesmerizing. Their harmonies were so beautiful and it was so soothing and such a perfect setting for hearing their music.
Emma Berkey Music and Lizzie Wright Super Space Ship: team up to play some songs together. Emma Berkey (Nashville, TN) is a natural storyteller and portrays life's triumphs and tragedies in clever and beautifully written songs. Lizzie Wright Super Space Ship (Bon Aqua, TN) loves the planet and although others of her kind usually like to leave it, she wants to study it through song and microscopes.
It was such a great way to end the night listening to Emma and Lizzie duet. Lizzie has a song about Cicadas that seemed so relevant and lovely.
It's not all music, potluck, and twinkly lights. The next morning was an early one that involved a lot of lessons on what harvesting was all about. We had to go through all the vegetables to bunch them and prep them for the next day's Farmers Market in Nashville.
Growing up, I was trained to not be dirty. I think most people that live in a city or suburban area get used to not digging in dirt and getting your clothes all messed up. I have slowly been letting that go.
It's helped to be aware of my surroundings. Getting comfortable in the dirt. Understanding the insects that live in it. The spiders still creep me out a little bit. Especially when I don't see them and then they just come out of nowhere. But for the record, Lizzie says I'm a lot quicker just from last Friday to today. I grab radishes and turnips out of the ground now almost like it's no big deal. Almost.
I'm actually beginning to really enjoy digging in the dirt. It's weird that this is "work." I mean, I feel it in my muscles I haven't used in a long time, but it's nice to be outside and picking food that we actually end up eating for lunch and dinner. Lizzie has even gotten me to eat some of the food straight from the plant. I was pretty hesitant at first. Like, we shouldn't wash it first? But I haven't gotten sick so far. And Lizzie and Jesse don't use any chemicals so this is as fresh as it gets.
I think the hardest thing has been digging up sweet potatoes. It has never occurred to me how sweet potatoes are harvested. But they're in the ground, and we have to shovel and dig for them. Like a little treasure hunt. Except I'm really not great at guessing where they are and sometimes stab them. So I was designated digger and sorter on Monday to find any sweet potatoes we might have missed in the dirt and sorted them to make sure they didn't have anything weird on them. Below is a picture of me really excited about actually finding some sweet potatoes. But actually I'm pretty sure Jesse found those and was willing to give me credit by photo.
I worked at a Farmer's Market occasionally when I studied in Rome. And I've been to Farmer's Markets in Los Angeles. But it's different when you're the one that just picked that mazuna the day before. It's like, I was part of this.
In the downtime parts, Lizzie also taught me about soil erosion and the level of heat in the peppers because I couldn't keep it straight. I took a picture of the pepper part (shown below) so I could remember. And now you know too.
This is a special note. The creatures of the farm go beyond the insects. I LOVE ALL OF THEIR ANIMALS. They have a cat named Stormy. I don't even like cats. I've never gotten along with them. But this cat. I love him.
And their dog Winnie is a gem. She just comes along with us out to the field and hangs out.
Most of all, I could watch the ducks all day. I heard them before I saw them quacking outside of my bedroom window. They waddle together in their little group of five. Sometimes they'll get close to me if they think I'm not paying attention, but they'll quickly waddle and quack the other way as soon as I look at them. They could have their own sitcom.
I cooked dinner the other night. I used the cherry tomatoes we picked from the garden and the basil I picked just outside their door. And, for my first time cooking in maybe four months (yep) it turned out really great if I do say so myself. Nobody got sick. And that's always the best measure.
In general, life here has really been wonderful. Other than being slightly overwhelmed by finding a place to live after the farm that fits my picture of what Nashville should feel like to me (ie. not a community apartment over $1000 a month, but we'll see how that goes), I've really loved it here and it feels like home. It will never be my home in the same way Los Angeles is, with all the people I already love there, but it's a chosen home for the time being.
Until next time... here's a sunset from the other night.