JY 26
A lot has happened in the last few days since my previous post. Perhaps too much to go into detail. We’re approaching the last week here before we head off to Astoria to attend a big reunion held by Rosy’s mother’s family. From there, we’ll be heading down the 101 to a farm near the coastal city of Coos Bay. This last farm will be a short visit, just 2 weeks and it will officially end with a handful of friends, backpacks and a weekend visit to the South Sister.
     I’ve had a lot of time to think about my return to Portland. My emotions are kind of mixed at the moment. I got taken away by this stream of dreams that I forgot about the reality I will undoubtedly have to return to. Of course work is the first thing to hit my mind. One option I’ve been thinking about is applying to a plant nursery around Portland. Perhaps with all this farm experience I might have a strong enough resume for that sort of work. To be surrounded by nature of that kind isn’t perfect, but I can continue to learn a lot about plants and build up a ton of knowledge. Even going out to a small nearby farm one day out of the week would be a huge benefit. The Birds & Bees Community was one of my favorite farms I’ve sweated on. I visited this place last year when I was doing farm work part-time to gain experience for the PeaceCorp. It’s run by a friendly couple named John and Bev, two very hard-working farmers that maintain a well-oiled organic vegetable farm in the back hills of Oregon City. Farmer John is your classic farmer. When I first met him he had a somewhat heavy sounding stutter, but I soon discovered a highly intelligent man with a masters degree and wide collection of books from floor to ceiling. I bit my brain’s tongue real fast on the quick little judgement I made of him.
     I’d like to remove myself from the world of design if possible. I got an email a few days back from a company in Portland asking if I was interested in a full-time graphic design position. My mind quickly jumped to my student loans and I became instantly tempted to take up the offer. With a good steady income I could work, pay off my loan and take a class on agriculture. With a bit more knowledge I could build an even stronger resume and hit the nurseries with a bazooka full of experience. It’d be a great way to feed two birds with one hand. A logical side of me takes over and says this option is what reality calls for if I ever expect to survive. I’d love to pay off my student debt and never have to think about that damn thing again.
     If I wanted to take farming to the next level, these would be a few steps I could take in that direction. With farming, you play hard then relax hard, and if it can afford me the chance to continue down this road, I’m willing to put in the extra effort. Changing my path from the desk to the farm is going to take a lot of hustle and willpower. It will have to be done in small steady steps, and I’m inspired enough by the challenge of doing something wildly different that moving like a turtle towards that goal doesn’t phase me in the slightest. Farming my own food is a priceless reward. I got a lot of life left and fingers tightly crossed.
     I’m giving myself the next few years to explore different options and see what sticks. I have to piece together my education slowly for something like this, and of course take care of my responsibilities before making the leap. I’m all of a sudden reminded of an old quote by John Burroughs (via my friend Ashley) it goes, “Leap, and the net will appear." I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without the help of my sweet Rosy Pinecone! The hare to my tortoise. I owe my source of courage to her. When you focus too hard on one thing, you miss a lot because of it. I’ve spent too many years focusing on my life as a designer that I forgot about the rest of the universe, but thankfully, because of Rosy, I found a way to see it all from a slightly different angle and am forever grateful. No exotic travels for me, no fancy expensive lifestyles, just a few rounds in this beautiful place they call the Northwest and my inspiration gauge is on full.

JY 19
The work on this farm is light. We work every single day for about four to five hours, usually with a break in between for a cold beverage or a small snack. In the blueberry patch it takes very little concentration and thus leaves us with a lot of empty and quiet voids to fill. Rosy has returned from her trip to Ohio, so she is in the process of adapting to life here in high desert country. Rosy will ask all kinds of questions, and Robin and Dan are happy to answer all of em' with great detail. Occasionally I will snap away from a thought and insert a few words every now and then. For the most part I’m enjoying the silence when it comes.
     I always feel like my heart is in search of a sea of calm to float in. In the city there’s constant activity and a need to fill in gaps, but out here it’s the opposite. We’re surrounded by miles and miles of vast nothingness. When night crawls in it’s nothing but dark hills and a huge canopy of glittering stars. I’ve been going to bed early without the opportunity to enjoy the night, but the morning is equally breathtaking. It requires a different state of mind out here. I’m forced by limited internet bandwidth to shut down my machine and find a different way to entertain myself.
     Before I started this adventure, I even told myself that this was a chance to step away from the machine and regain my love for the outdoors. And to a certain degree I’ve been able to achieve this, but it wasn’t until I reached this place that I was pushed out of my digital world and have had to slowly rehabilitate and educate myself of this new form of life. Could I ever completely shut myself off from the machine? Probably not, but I would be happy to have a much greater control of it.
     It’s very hard. And it is in those jittery moments of trying to kick the addiction, that I come to depend on that one common theme among all of these farms we’ve been on, the word that I constantly return to, that beautiful oasis I call 'community.’
     I have no religion. I only have the belief that I’ve struggled 29 long years for, that has gotten me through a lot of mind-bending difficulties. Religion is a great way to establish tight-nit communities, and for that reason they serve as an essential tool to the lives of many, but what about us who have no religion? We have to depend on the tribe that we build for ourselves, and I believe that a lot of people try very hard to build themselves a community that they can depend on. That will hold them if they ever fall. Every tribe develops its own language, big or small, it develops its own rituals and these are the instruments we use to show each other that we belong together. I’ve come across a lot of amazing people in my life. And of the many there have been a few that’ve stuck around, and I like to think of those few as family.
     I mentioned before that my relationship between myself and my greater family is weak, and it’s been something that I’ve been trying to build back up in the last few years. It’s taken a lot of strength on my part because my direct connection was either severed by my wandering Dad or by distance, and by that I am referring to my family in Venezuela. Of course there’s nobody to blame, but there’s always a chance to regain that community if I should ever feel the need to, and I do.
     This farm has been less work and more of a lesson on the basics of the heart and soul. Robin is the kind of woman that’s built out of rough edges, and for a while I had a hard time trying to understand her personality. When we get into a deep conversation about family and community, she takes an unfathomable amount of pride in the surrounding people who care deeply for each other (minus one grumpy old woman who lives alone and wants nothing to do with anyone). And yet for that grumpy old woman, Robin says that most everyone around would be more than willing to help her out in her time of need. Whenever Robin or Dan talk about large friendly gatherings, I’m reminded of the party had by the hobbits for Bilbo in the Lord of the Rings. The thought of that kind of community to me is literally fantastical, in that I can’t imagine it ever existing outside of a fantasy book. In this landscape it has taken shape, and although Rosy and I are more strangers than friends in this community, slowly we are starting to sink in. The feeling is alien to me, and yet I can’t resist welcoming it with open arms.

JY 13
Finally, a break has come. I didn’t get the weekend off like I thought I would, but the rains came which thankfully made blueberry pickin’ impossible (a wet blueberry doesn't last long) and thus gave us the day off. I woke up this morning, walked into the kitchen and sat down with my cereal next to Robin and Dan playing a board game. I was hesitant to ask whether we had the day off, only because of Robin’s on-the-fence decision yesterday about taking today off. I asked, she said yes, I silently said "yessssss.” They then asked me if I wanted to join them on some blueberry deliveries and I declined. I was eager to jump into my car and do some exploring, before the heat settled in. I grabbed my swimming suit and a towel and drove down to the hot springs near by. Alone time was necessary. The hot springs was the perfect place to get it.
     When I got to the hot springs, there were all kinds of folks there, jumping and splashing by the pool. I was looking for the private baths, and after a kind woman pointed me in the right direction, I crossed a wobbly bridge and entered a tiny canyon that had a little pink structure with four individual rooms. No doors. When you entered one of the blue painted roofless rooms, it was three feet of concrete and then a four feet by four feet cutout that you accessed via a five step staircase. All of them were empty. Perhaps because they were a little shabby looking and the morning crowd was primarily a family crowd. I found them to be charming, and the moment I stepped in I became a permanent customer. The water was very warm. Just the right temperature for the cool morning. I smoked my pipe and stretched my legs out. After about 15 minutes or so I decided that if I stayed too long, I’d melt. So I grabbed my stuff and jumped into Thora (my carship) and drove down the road in search of the swimming hole Dan had recommended to me a few days earlier. The morning was still a little too cold for that, so instead I went back to the house with the intention of going on a hike. I ran across a bunch of lazy cows that’ll hop into the road for some tasty grass on the other side of it. The road is a little blip on the map, making it a quiet little treasure to drive down, especially under a pleasant morning sun.

     When I got back to the house, Robin and Dan were gathering their buckets of blueberries. I was hesitant to follow, but after the mention of offering to buy Justin and I lunch, we both were quickly on board. We scrunched into the truck and headed off. We made two stops, one was at a couples home nearby and the other was at the junction near the main highway where I got the chance to meet another neighbor. Her name was Patty and I noticed in the car she had three dogs waiting inside. I asked if they were friendly and she said, “yep, outside of the car they are!” And she let em loose and they were all kinds of adorable. Joe, Pete and Sam I think were their names. We said our goodbyes after talking a good while and then headed to the town of Long Creek for one more delivery and a bite to eat. On the way there I connected with everyone a little more. I felt a little more comfortable to share some information about me. I told em about my mother and father, my connections (or lack there of) with my family here and my family in Venezuela. Because they never asked, I assumed they didn’t care, unbeknownst to myself that in this part of world you just have to speak up.
     When we got to town, we went into the only small market there and had a tasty lunch. The place is run by two older women, one of them was a feisty German woman by the name of Hermina a.k.a. "the meanie” and while we were eating, the other gal, who’s name I can’t remember, lost an earring. So I got up and offered some help. As I scanned the floor, two old men came in and I asked how their eyesight was, one of em chuckled and the other screamed “terrible!” Alas we never found that earring. But I was pleased with my fish tacos and Hermina said I could have access to the iced sun tea anytime. She’s a keeper. Not so mean after all.

     We filled up on gas and headed back for home. The car ride back was most enjoyable. Justin would occasionally whistle a quiet tune every so often, or he’d sing a few lyrics very quietly to himself. I love it when people have the courage to sing, so I says, “turn it up, man!” He was too shy, but he continued to sing quietly anyways. I backed off. I then sang what little I knew of Folsom Prison Blues by Mr. Cash. Afterwards, Justin leans over and says, “We can do a duet?” I’m floored and I’m all up for it. He asks, “What do you wanna sing?” And then next thing you know, there we were singing, “Sing us a song you’re the piano man!” Hell yes. We converse about music and he tells me about the different genres he’s into, mostly classic rock and folk. Fine choices I say.
     We make our way to the hot springs again for some splashing around. Dan and I are in the public changing room and I’m trying to jump into my swimming suit and he tells me about how he grew up in the 60’s and was practically naked all the time. I chuckled. We hit the pool and soak in the coolish water. After throwing the ball around and wrestling with floatation devices, it’s time to boogie. As we’re heading out, a big snake creeps across the road and Dan hollers, “gopher snake!” Justin eagerly jumps out and starts approaching the snake. He’s a few feet from this thing that’s slithering across the concrete, occasionally it coils like it’s ready to strike and Justin is basically meditating just outside of it’s “strike-zone.” But the bastard is damn close, and my jaw is practically on the floor. I’ve learned here that gopher snakes will bite, but are not venomous, the thing that kills are the unattended puncture wounds the gopher snake will undoubtedly gift to someone who’s not paying attention. Dan yells at Justin to leave it be. Justin jumps back in the car, his vitality restored after dancing with our small scaly friend.
     On the way back, Justin and I decide to do a little off-road hiking. I give him an old pair of my boots to wear and tell him he can keep em. Poor kids working his ass off inside a pair of skater shoes. We make our way down a long hill, in search of anything Justin can point his nice camera at. We climb inside Robin and Dan’s old house that's not too far off. Beat to hell and filled with whole lotta nothing. We make our way through a big open field and come across a very small boggy pool. It’s teaming with all kinds of bugs, a tadpole and a grand ol’ dragon fly. He snaps a few photos and we continue downward. By the end of it, we’ve let gravity take our lazy vessels down to a dried up creek bed. Our mini-adventure hits a dead end, and so we have to make our way back up the long hill. The sun begins to finally cast big long shadows and we’re settling in for the night. Robin and Dan are in their big la-z-boys and Justin and I are looking at photos, jamming to some music by the Shins (Justin’s "eye-opener" band, equivalent to my Incubus.)
     I thoroughly enjoyed today. I’d say it’s the first time I really felt a part of the community here. There’s plenty of time for more adventures ahead, but I’m glad to be sinking into this place so soon and getting to know more of the locals. It makes things easier. Moving around the land is easier when you’re a familiar face. Fences begin to fall, and every time a car passes me, I be sure to give em a friendly wave. When you live in this far out country, it’s important to know the differences between friends and foes. Trust isn’t handed to you here, it’s a gift you have to earn.

JY 10
Today we picked blueberries. Yesterday we also picked blueberries. Next week, it’s looking like more blueberries. This farm has two different patches of blueberries, one close-by and the other is about a quarter mile away. Both patches depend on spring water to irrigate them. We start early (wish we started earlier) to beat the heat. We’ll sit, we’ll stand, we’ll sit on a cart or just bend over to pick as many as possible. I kinda like the work. It’s nice to sit down on the ground and get swallowed up by a row of closely planted blueberry plants. I can see every berry from the ground level, and then my hands begin to slowly work their way down, branch by branch. Pluckin' and pullin', droppin' and movin’. Every once in a while I’ll nibble on one as a sweet little reward for my efforts.
     Today we worked on both patches and by the time we hit the second patch the heat was beating down upon us. The first rule of business, before pickin’, was setting free all the little stinker sparrows that managed to wiggle themselves into these, berry fortresses you might call em, constructed by farmer Robin and farmer Dan. When you enter the patch you’re entering a tasty domain filled with a variety of blueberry species, such as Chandlers and Northlands to name a few, all with their own unique tastes. There’s even some grapes and roses in there as well. The sparrows, or the blueberry thieves as I call em, will desperately bang themselves against the green netting that replaces the sky, looking for a getaway, guilty for the tasty treasures they’ve plundered. They lazily flap away with full bellies that almost touch the ground.
      When the heat becomes too much, we make for the truck and lazily drive back up to the house for a little break and other miscellaneous chores. Then it’s time for what the farmers consider to be dinner. A big fat meal in the middle of the day, as is apparently en vogue on most farms (this is the first farm I’ve heard of this.) It’s gotta be an Eastern Oregon thing. I like it. Anyways, we ate and then went our separate ways. I’ve been on the computer a lot, hanging out on my bed, listening to music or reading. I find it hard to get out of this room. Without Rosy here, it becomes even more challenging. I need to throw my computer off a cliff. Knowing me though, I’d go find the closest apple store and buy another one. Or I’d jump off the cliff with my computer and attempt to check my messages in mid-air. I thought I’d change it up a little and invite Justin to go play a little frisbee out in the blazing sun. It was fun for about 15 minutes until I started showering sweat and slipping inside of my slip-ons.
     Then the clouds and thunder rolled in. We’ve been covered off and on by big fat clouds for the last few days. I was sitting in my room when a big CLAP filled the air. Eastern Oregon will shit itself whenever thunder rolls in. I got an evil stare after I lit my pipe yesterday because the fear here is that just about everything is ready to burst into flames, including ourselves. So we all are required to stay vigilant. Robin asked me if I ever put out a fire before, I laughed and said I’ve gone camping a bunch and put out tons of campfires! She didn’t laugh. My sarcasm has a tendency to hit a thick brick wall with her sometimes.
     I quickly put on my serious face and told her I’d being willing to help if needed.

     The one thing that really makes this place special is the view. I find that this side of Oregon has something otherworldly about it. The thought of seeing it destroyed would destroy me. Every evening I walk outside to see the sunset I’m mesmerized. The people on this farm have an incredible gem just outside their door. They own what I see as a hell of a lot of land, and then suddenly I'll start to think of my dad. I know exactly what he would say, something along the lines of, “This land doesn’t belong to anyone. To hell with fences and barbwires!” I crossed a barbwire fence this morning trying to climb the hill outside my bedroom window. All I got was a hole in my jeans and a less impressive view than the one right outside the front door. I like to think these folks, and everyone around who owns a piece of this land, are protecting it in some way. Putting out fires and making sure strangers don’t come around and abuse the land.
     I’m a stranger here. I’m an Oregonian, and yet I exist on a very small sliver of the state. Tomorrow is my weekend, so I’m gonna jump in my car and fly away, like a bird with a belly full of blueberries and see if I can find some adventure around here. Wish me luck.

JY 8
The clock is broken. It was set for 6:30am and went off at 2:30 instead. I shot my eyes open and found myself in complete darkness. I turned off the alarm on the clock, turned on my phone’s alarm and closed my eyes. 6:30 finally came around and I pried open my eyes to a room slowly filling itself up with the morning twilight. I threw on some jeans and a shirt and made my way out to a bustling kitchen. Everyone was moving around. I said my good mornings and made myself a little bit of cereal covered in berries and a chopped up banana. I sat down and chatted with the guys at the table. It was Nick’s last day, which was a bummer because he was quite friendly and fun to talk to, but alas he was headed to visit family up in Washington. A young guy name Justin sat at the table with us. He dawned a B&W Punisher shirt and a green bandana. This is the “snake wrestler” I mentioned in the last post. At first our conversation was a little awkward, but my unrelenting questions would eventually pay off.
     I actually didn’t work today. It was a day of running errands and Justin and I were invited to tag along to the city of John Day. We first dropped Nick off at a neighbor's house who was sharing a car ride out to Portland. Nick grabbed a photo with our farm hosts for memories, and then pulled me in for another photo with Justin. I told him, “I’ve only known you one day!” He said, "That's alright! Feels like I've known you for a lifetime!" I smiled and gladly accepted. We shook hands and took off.

     The drive in the morning light was lovely. Justin and I talked a little more in the car. Robin and Dan gave us a mini-tour of the surrounding geography. Robin is, I guess you could say, a retired geographer who tends mostly to the farm now. She keeps track of the area and the potential for forest fires. When the clouds popped in later, she’d yell out “rain no lightening!" Dan is the coding guru, as was made very clear by Robin this morning, when I claimed Rosy to be a coding guru herself. He works on some very complex programs that focuses on seismic data for engineers, architects, etc. Different kinda guru with 50 years under his belt.
     We got to John Day and started with a hearty breakfast. Robin and Dan split to run errands and I went to explore the town. I walked down to the river that runs through town and smoked my pipe and read my book alongside the quiet shallow stream. The plan was to meet back at the restaurant where Justin was, and then go check out the Kam Wah Chung museum. The tour didn’t start until 1pm, so Justin and I killed some time and went down to the river to stick our feet in and cool off. I’d say we connected a little more and Justin revealed quite a bit of himself. He’s 25 years old from Pocatello, Idaho. Aspiring computer programmer and lover of video games and fantasy books. We nerded out and talked about the rise and fall of the Final Fantasy series, of which he was a big fan. It was time for the tour and we made our way over to interpretive center where the tour began.

     The Kam Wah Chung museum is a relic from John Day’s past. In the days of the gold rush, there was a huge influx of Chinese that made their way up and over to Oregon from China and California. The house belonged to two gentlemen, a doctor and a businessman, and was the last standing house from what used to be John Day’s chinatown. The men were referred to as “miners of the miners.” One took the gold from town folks via the store he ran, the other healed many of the miners, both Chinese and American. The house was fully intact and flooded with all kinds of merchandise and an assortment of strange Chinese medical supplies. On the table was a bears paw that was turned into a powder and blended with herbs to be used as a healing tea. I was a little skeptical about how much of these things were actually true when they cracked open this beautiful time capsule. But there were still a lot of things inside that you couldn’t deny. The men buried themselves with friends behind metal plated doors at night, with meat cleavers in hand, mostly for protection from racist miners and other wildlife. There was a table for card playing and bottles of liquor. I tried to imagine life way back when and marveled at the aesthetic in which these men lived day to day. Sweating hard and making a small sum of money enough to feed the body and a little more to feed the soul. Talk about community.
     I’m going somewhere with this post, I promise. The people in this house are heavy readers. I’m currently in a room with a bookshelf behind me brimming with fantasy books of all kinds. When I think back to my blog post about all the books I brought with me on this trip, I giggle at the fact that they all dropped off my reading list. I lost interest in all of them. I told Rosy that I wanted a light read for the summer. We went to a Goodwill in search of To Kill A Mockingbird. I read this book back in High School, but for some reason it randomly popped back into my head and I wanted to give it another try. Surprisingly we couldn’t find it at the Goodwill superstore, and so I began to scan the shelves for something else.
     I came across a book that caught my eye, mostly because there were four donated and I was browsing the non-fiction section, a section I don’t usually find myself in too often. The book is called From Beirut to Jerusalem. It was published in early 90’s and is the documentation of a Jewish journalist named Thomas Friedman, and his decade long journey through the two cities. I read the first few pages and was hooked. Again, another rare event for me and the books I read. The reason I bring up this book is because even though I’m only about 30 pages in, it talks about community and the human condition in a region that is stricken with war. I’m reminded of Kam Wah Chung, and the life lived by men who were strangers in a strange land. The book taps into the psyche of the Lebanese, and their coping mechanisms in a time of terror. Friedman said that even when humanity was at its lowest point, the citizens of Beirut tried desperately to glue together a sense of community.
     I realize that this is not a light read by any means, but what Friedman was trying to convey was that in harsh times, it was very important to maintain a sense community, and also a sense of humor. The word “community” to me is becoming a word filled with new meaning and power, of which I can’t ignore. The tour guide at the museum (his name is Ken) said that the sentiment towards the Chinese began to change over time. Every time Ken made mention of this, he made a gesture with his hand that I couldn’t help but notice. He flipped his hand slowly, palm facing down to palm facing up, and this was meant to represent “change.” The change from a racist America, to a more accepting America.
     Community is instrumental to change.
     Tomorrow I’m going to try and wake up very early, hike to a hilltop just behind this house, and try to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, assuming the view is everything I imagine it to be on the other side of that hill. Reporting from the flatlands, I'm Alejandro. Over and out!

JY 7
Today started very rough. I got up and packed my things in my car to begin my journey to the next farm. My mother was a little paranoid about the directions that I gave her as she proceeded to map it out and discovered that the satellites showed nothing in the area. I tried my best to calm her down and assure her that if anything about the situation smelled funny, I’d get out as fast as I could. I’ll admit that her fear soon became my own. I stopped by for a coffee at my favorite little place in Portland and finally hit the road around 10 o’ clock.
     I had a very long road ahead of me. I drove on 84 East all the way to Pendleton, a drive I’m fairly familiar with. My plan was to race to Pendleton, take a lunch break and resume my flight down to a small town called Long Creek. On the drive to Pendleton, things had lightened my mood. The sun was out and I was happy to be on the road and moving. Every once in a while looking at my messages. I turned my phone off after a while so I didn’t have to think about the farm too much and end up spooking myself.
     It was a calm drive from mountains to flat lands. By the time I made it to Pendleton, it was nothing but golden plains and a few small rolling hills. The heat was beating down on me as I parked my car and walked over to my favorite burger joint in Pendleton. After my meal I jumped into my car, determined to finish this drive that started out green and fizzled into a yellow blob.
     The sky was a glowing blue and it was very radiant against the yellow hills of grass. It was a winding road that eventually opened up to a big expanse of easy hills, with some smallish mountains dotting the background. After about a half hour of driving I hit a small corner that revealed a patch of trees that felt like a diamond in the rough compared to everything before it. I was relieved to see the green. The green began to spread and before I knew it I was driving through a beautiful canyon filled with sparse but luscious trees. There was a small river that ran alongside my path as I snailed my way down a nearly empty road. No cars behind, no cars ahead. It was one of the most lonely but relaxing car rides I’d ever experienced, and I must say, I’ve been down many roads.

     It wasn’t until I got scent of a familiar smell that I realized I was right where I wanted to be. The hot air burned with juniper and sagebrush, the same perfume that decorates the cracks and crevices of central Oregon and the kind that floods my head with all kinds of old warm thoughts.
     I finally hit the road I was looking for. 15 more miles to my destination and my fear was now replaced with a burning curiosity. What kind of people buried themselves deep into the empty hills? It was hard to fathom being surrounded by such painfully beautiful scenery. The concrete turned into a gravel road and after 5 miles I pulled up to a gate that surrounded a large patch of blueberries and three beautifully built wooden structures. Off in the distance stood what I assumed was the main house. I didn’t have any way of contacting my host and didn’t feel the desire to push through the gate without a proper welcome. So I decided to wait. The moment I turned around I was greeted with a vast landscape that stretched for miles. The stony blue mountains were dotted with trees and painted with an afternoon sun. After some time a grey truck approached my car, I walked over to the driver side and introduced myself. The passenger of the car figured me out right away and went to open the gate.
     His name is Nick, and he is also a wwoofer (who connected to the farm via an old wwoofer) and he led me inside where I met Robin, my email buddy and farm host for the next month. She’s a short round woman with short grey hair and a gentle personality. We shook hands and she gave me a small tour of the house. I then met her husband Dan who was a tall man with a little belly, a friendly face covered by a 5 o’ clock shadow and glasses. They killed my parched throat with a cold glass of water and we sat around and talked about the rules of the house and other minor details. She then proceeded to give me the animal talk, meaning, things to be aware of around here: elk, deer, cougars, rattlesnakes, scorpions and my very favorite, spiders! She assured me that the area was pretty safe, but if I ever came across a rattler, I was to inform the “snake wrestler” as I called him, Robin’s cousin’s son, who was also staying on the farm, so that he could properly dispose of the scaly enemy.
     With that I crashed on my bed, popped open my book and proceeded to “chill the fuck out.” I’m happy to have landed here, even with all the doubt that had slowly been building itself up in my head all day. It’s about 10:30 right now and I should get to bed. Rising early to beat the sun, who apparently is breaking some records this year with a massive heat wave. If you’ve been in Portland the last few weeks then you’ve already felt it. A nice gentle breeze is finally hitting my window. Good night.

JY 5
Rosy and I are laying in bed. Our skin is redder than the sky on the fourth of July. It’s cooking outside and inside it feels like the face of the sun. We’ve returned from a little night out on the town, back in Portland, taking it easy until it’s time to move on to the next farm. We spent the weekend camping up near Mt. Hood with friends. We started the trip out right and filled my red Coleman with a ton of beer and some ingredients to make some delicious breakfast sandwiches for a group of almost 15 or so hungry campers. We got to the campsite and set up our summer home. We chatted with everyone as soon as they started coming in. We got comfortable and decided after some time that we wanted to be more comfortable and go dunk ourselves in the lake. Being tired from farming and exhausted from the heat made any idea of moving sound awful, but as soon I plunged into the water I felt a little more calm and relaxed.
     We got back to camp and made a fire, sat around and filled the air with all kinds of silly noises. Our friend Matt brought a guitar and we awkwardly sang half of every song we kind of knew. I decided that I am now on a mission to memorize more songs to sing, starting with some Johnny Cash. The night crashed and so did we. The next morning it was our turn to cook and Rosy and I tag teamed breakfast that consisted of bagels filled with cheese and fire-cooked bacon and eggs. I, of course, was in charge of the bacon and all I can say is that there was enough grease to replicate a small star in the cosmos. We gobbled everything up and headed back down to the lake.

     Trillium Lake was packed. It was refreshing. We sent out some scouts (thanks Heidi and Matt) to get us a little space close to the water and under the shade of some beautiful evergreens. The sun didn’t hit us until noon and we took in the calm of the lake, the fishermen packing out and the tube-floaters packing in. In the background stood the mighty Mt. Hood. You can’t help but be speechless in its presence. The sun finally kicked in and we were splashing around, soaking up as much of the cool water as possible. By the end of the day, Rosy and I were burnt to a crisp and bathing every inch of our bodies in Aloe. I can’t tell you how many people kept reminding me about how red I was. My farmers tan got filled in, that’s all I can say. We’re a little stubborn when it comes to skin protection, but that’s gonna change at the next farm.
     I’ll be leaving Tuesday for the farm, and Rosy will be heading off to Ohio to visit her brother for about a week. She’ll be joining me after her little side adventure. I’m eager to move on to this next place. We’ll be out in a small town called Long Creek which is close by good ol’ Pendleton. The heat out there I’m sure will be throbbing. From what I remember when I was organizing our summer that this farm is primarily a fruit orchard. I imagine it being very very different from our work up in Olympia and I’m a bit excited to head out east to the dry plains and see what it’s all about. There’s all kinds of damage I could do to myself out in that wild country if I’m not careful. We’ll be out there for about a month or so and I think this will be the toughest part of our experience so far. This last farm in Olympia was good preparation for it. I’m hoping my non-violence towards all the bugs and insects pays off in karma points towards the snakes and spiders we may come across. Cross your fingers for me dear readers, we ride into the sunrise!

JY 1
Rosy and I spent all day stacking logs in the heat. After the first hour Rosy was ready to change things up and do a different chore, but I wanted to keep going. After another hour we both needed a break. Rosy caught her second wind and we kept going. It became a mission to stack three cords of wood, and by the end of it we were a sweaty mess standing proudly next to our mighty tower of chopped wood. Wood stacking, I believe, should be an initiation for all new farmers. Another chore has been salvaging some planted trees from a swarm of blackberry bushes waging its slow war on everything that isn’t a blackberry bush. Rosy borrowed a machete from Johnny with great gusto and proceeded to gut the property of the vicious blackberries that have, in general, been taking over the Northwest for many many years. She’d cut and I’d rake everything up. Rosy, with a machete in her hand is a sight to behold! I try my best to get out of her way when she goes a-swinging. Then after a hard day of work, we’d find a comfy spot out on the patio and peel garlic that’s ready to be ground up and stored in mason jars. These are just little samples of some of the work we do here.
     Looking back prior to this, whenever we'd move back into the vegetable garden, I’m pleased to get back on track and focus on the agricultural side of things. Yesterday we dug up garlic, peeled them back a leaf or two and laid them out to dry. We then mounded potatoes in the evening, and that means as the potato plant grows, they’ll get partially covered with dirt so that the potatoes can form and be dug up later. Each plant has its own form of magic and it’s exciting to see how each plant functions. When we first arrived, we dug out some trenches in one of the green houses and piled them up with fresh compost. The mounds formed were to become new homes for tomato plants. Diana explained that there are two forms of tomato plants, determinate and indeterminate. Determinate means the plant will grow to a certain point and indeterminate means they grow and grow and grow. We then hung up some twine to the roof of the green house and this is used to keep the indeterminate tomato plants from falling over. Diana told us that the amount of tomatoes produced would be an absurd amount and that made our mouths water.

     I try to soak up as much information as I can, but I try not to worry too much about that but more so about the experience itself. I’m interested in the culture of farming, the lifestyle, and the rewards that come with it are self-evident in the food we eat. Tonight we had an excellent dinner. The meal was a final hoorah as we begin to wrap up our short time here at the farm. It was chance to chat with everyone because we all have our own lives and so conversations become short and spread out. Every once in a while you gotta herd us all together. We had salad with wonderful greens and edible flowers from the garden. Different kinds of meats and giant portobello mushrooms that got grilled. We drank beers and told jokes. We sat and watched these three baby ducks stumble around and gobble up slugs. They were here when we first arrived and are the main attraction for us every day as we’d sit down to take a break out on the patio. They’re here mainly for their duck eggs and just watching them grow is a powerful sight. It’s been a trip to see these beautiful beasts go from fluff to feather in such a short amount of time.

     Tomorrow is our last day and it will be a very busy one just like today. We’ve taken in a lot of Olympia. We enjoyed the company of Maya, the farm’s guard dog, and the way she’d follow us from chore to chore. I tried to savor the calm that would come to me in between the drops of sweat. I told Rosy it's crazy to think of how much this place has changed, two weeks ago we came in as strangers in a strange place, and on Friday we’ll leave as friends.

J 29
There is a contrast here at this farm in which I’m beginning to finally understand. When I asked Rosemary last week what was the one word she would use to inspire a new farmer, she said the word, “community.” This morning Rosy and I woke up to dancing and giggling in the kitchen, which felt a little unusual. There is a young man named Johnny who lives with his girlfriend in an apartment attached to the barn and his handshake is always replaced with a warm hug. There’s a quiet Nebraska man named Brad, he lives in a small house next to the hoop houses and will sit patiently and quietly wait for the conversation to come to him. Rosemary has a daughter who is smart and filled with positivity. With the last post I was feeling tired and perhaps a little too snarky towards all the people who coexist on this farm. It’s the type of lifestyle that I’ve met only a very few times in my life, but never enough to fully comprehend the inner workings of.
     I’d like to restart my words. Shed a different light on these people and hopefully explain better what we’re experiencing. This farm is much different from the last farm, and their attempt to organize things and command us volunteers, at first felt a little daunting. We wanted to fit in, we wanted to please and work as hard as we could to justify our stay here. It’s been a hard shell to crack, but I think we’re making progress.
     Dianna is a tough woman. She’s got the type of hands that could crush my delicate ones and still be able to hold a bunch of flowers properly. She guides the farm in the proper direction and balances it with the task of running this amazing market in the city of Olympia. There’s a lot of seriousness that I draw from her, but she also has a silly side that will pop its head out every once in a while. I like to draw information from her, and I even have a tendency to run her around in circles with all my questions, but she always manages to get to the point no matter how dizzy I’ve made things. Her mind is very thorough, and the farm, with all of it’s little projects scattered here and there, stays well maintained because of it.
     Rosemary has been a hard read for me. She is very talkative, but has a very introverted demeanor that makes her a little more sensitive towards people’s emotions. She’s like a mind-reader. A little easier to joke around with, and thus rounding out the personalities that run the farm. She is a nurse and eventually is going to be entering a full-time job. So she makes sure that workers who come to the farm are trustworthy and dependable. This feeling has forced me out of my shell a little more, taking the initiative to show her that we’re not here to fuck around.

     Today we spent our morning in the hoop house weeding the hell out of it. It was filled with weeds and rows of beautiful flowers, some of which I’ve never seen before and were a delight for the eyes. After a few hours of that we took a nice long pause for a delicious smoothie made of cucumber, cilantro, blueberries and limeade. We then tackled a big project that involved moving the chicken pen. The process was a little sloppy, but in the end the pen was fabulous and the chickens were dancing all over the new grass. Rosy and I are slowly entering this mindset of improving all the methods used by other farmers. We keep imagining this future farm and how efficient we can make it. We like to impart what little wisdom we gain from our previous experience to new farmers we meet and that’s a good feeling. Not only do I feel like we’re learning a lot, but we’re excited to experiment and try things out for ourselves.
     Whatever happens in the future, Rosy and I both agree that we want to embody the same feeling of community that exists here. It’s impossible to master everything, but with minds together you can accomplish so much. It’s also very easy to overwhelm yourself. Dianna and Rosemary won’t hesitate to sick us on a backbreaking chore, but that’s what I’m looking for, I want to sweat as hard as possible and drink the reward of a hard days work in the shade of a tall tree with a smoothie in hand and a pipe in the other! I think it’s time for a smoke. See ya soon!

J 28
I haven’t been able to find the words to describe this latest farm. I wrote a few posts prior that got scrapped. Last week was filled with a lot of hard work under a red hot blazing sun. It’s been a true test of my abilities. This farm is headed by two nice ladies, Dianna and Rosemary. It is a farm that tries to embody the essence of community. There are many people that come and go on this farm. It’s what you might call a “hippy farm” and in many ways it was a surprise and not at all what I expected. My perception has changed quite a bit and I guess that is why there’s been a lack of words lately. The farm is a homestead, meaning that it’s focus is primarily on sustaining itself. Down south, Dianna owns a small piece of property where she grows large crops of beautiful flowers, lilies and gladiolas to name a few. We went down there to help in the field and we found ourselves working alongside a friendly and very talkative Mexican woman named Nancy. She took pride in her ability to work fast, as I lay drenched in a pool of my own sweat. Bulb in hand, I could only plant a few at a time where Nancy could plant a 100 in that same amount of time. Diana gave us a tour of the surrounding area.
     There’s a tight nit culture of Ag farmers (as most farmers will call it) up near Olympia and Rochester. It’s the serious side to the cute farmer markets that dabble the random cracks and crevices of american suburbia. The romance of farming has quickly dispersed and I’m okay with that. It is replaced with a hard face, where the only beauty that remains can only be found in the folds and wrinkles. In the drops of sweat. And it’s taken me some time to find it. Rosy might say the opposite.
     On the homestead, it’s a great big garden with a lot of chores, but out in Rochester, it’s the booming industry of organic farming. Olympia has a farmers market that runs four days out of the week, which was kind of mind blowing in comparison to the markets in Oregon. Life moves very fast up here. Never Los Angeles fast, but too fast for a person like me. Seattle, the Chief’s city, is the mothership, the fast growing hive. Olympia is far enough away to move at the easy pace that it does and it reminds me of an earlier kind of Portland. I love the market culture of Portland, and if I ever had hopes of watching our great city of roses bloom, it would do it in a way that's sustainable and sane.
     I’m going off course a bit with this post. I love Oregon. I can’t help but echo the words of our friend Adam, who comes from Kansas and worked with us on the last farm. He wished, "the world would slow down.” I’m a little fish in a little pond, jumping into a big lake with big fish. I imagine myself wrestling with a gigantic motor that will not, cannot quit. On our way down from some beautiful lands up north, closer to the highest part of the cascades, we came crashing down the I-5 corridor, and never in my life have I felt the fast and terrifying machine that is our culture. I thought to myself, as I sat passenger side, we all want to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. We want all the joys and comforts in life and nothing in between.
     For the last five minutes I’ve been trying to think of a way to end this post, and I can only think of a book. I thought about it on our way back down to the farm yesterday evening, passing through Seattle, after a day of visiting the beautiful sights and sounds of the Olympic peninsula. The book is called The Stars My Destination (or Tiger! Tiger!) by Alfred Bester. My oldest sister recommended it years ago to me and at first glance you might think of it as a silly sic-fi book, but to me it really embodies the madness of our tech-hungry culture. In the book, the human race evolves and develops the ability to teleport itself, and the social/political/economical impacts are devastating. In the midst of this chaos, the main character, Gully, evolves from a dumb work grunt into a very intelligent man who is on the hunt for a spaceship named Vorga, that left him to die inside of a wreckage in the darkness of outer space. I won’t give away the end, but it’s a cool tale of man vs. machine that ends in a sort of meditation. Interpret that whichever way you want.
     The sun is about to rise and I’ve had zero sleep this night. A spider landed on my head as I was falling asleep last night and I lost the power to keep my mind still, which occasionally will happen. I will work this day, but slow if I have to, the last thing I need is to hurt myself while working. Good morning y'all.