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I drove to Woodland with farmer Pattie to pick up 50 bales of mixed grains the other day. Holy shit, that’s a lot of work. We loaded the trailer in Woodland–MySistersFarm only uses organic hay, that’s why we drive so far–and got back to the farm around 5:45pm. No clouds and no rain planned for the next day, thank goodness, so we left the trailer hooked up and the hay uncovered for the night.
The next day, I unloaded the 50 bales by myself. At approximately 120+ pounds each, it’s a hell of a work out. And it’s rained so much, we cannot park the trailer close to the barn. I drop them one at a time on a tarp, and drag it down a hill to the barn, where I stack it underneath the awning to protect it from the rain. Took me four hours this time.
When I unloaded the 50 bales of alfalfa the other day, it took me 3 hours. But these were even heavier and I had to drag them a longer distance, and stack them 4 high. It’s hard work. It’s all about leverage and gravity. Don’t use your back, use your knees, and try not to do any lifting at all. There are two large metal hooks that are basically extension of your arms to help you manipulate the bales. It takes a bit of getting use to. When you do though, it’s almost fun. And a lot faster. Captain Hook, if ever he decides to drop his bad evil ways, is a match made in heaven for this job.
Several people have asked me why? Why are you doing this? Well, the answer is simple. I wanted to visit a farm and live there a few weeks, preferably a farm where they raise animals for meat and dairy, to do research for my next book. Lucky for me, that’s exactly where I landed. The book that I want to write this year, tentatively called “The Land of Milk and Honey” takes place in a rural area, and much of the action takes place on an actual meat & dairy farm. So that’s the first reason: authenticity.
The second reason is even simpler. I ran out of money.
I am so deeply grateful to all my friends new and old, who have helped me on this incredible journey. I would be begging under a bridge somewhere if it wasn’t for all of you. Thank you so much! You have housed me, cooked me incredible meals, given me money, taken me out to the restaurant and the bar, and showed me an awesome time! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!
In early December, I started sending out resumes to farms and wineries. I got a positive response from My Sisters’ Farm north east of Sacramento, and that’s where I’m at. In exchange for 20 hours of work per week, the farmers provide a place to plug my rig, facilities, one cooked meal per day, and enough food for the remaining two. There’s no money involved.
So… I’m looking for freelance writing work. I’ve started sending out queries to editors. Any leads are greatly appreciated.
Most likely, I will be here through the winter if not longer. However I need to start generating some kind of income.
Life on the farm is very intense physically, and it’s kicking my ass. I am learning so much about farming, about raising animals, about the production of food. I am so grateful for this experience. I highly recommend WWOOFUSA.org to all, young and old. My sister Viginie told me about this organization, and it’s a great way to check out the country.
Things you should know about pigs, just in case:
- Pigs are very intelligent, very aggressive, and can be very dangerous. They have sharp teeth and they will use them.
- Pigs never stop growing. Their growing slows down after a while, however it never stops. A 5 year old pig can be around 800 hundred pounds no problem… and they continue to grow.
- Pigs have been known to eat their young. If the piglets die for whatever reason, the mama pig will eat them. If the piglets don’t die, they might still get eaten.
- Pigs like to have all four feet on the ground. When you lift a piglet off the ground, the minute none of the hooves are touching solid ground, the piglet will start to shriek. Once a piglet starts to shriek, every single adult pig on the farm will come running full speed toward the shrieking piglet with the idea of killing whatever or whomever is making that piglet shriek. This is good to know when you are castrating young pigs. Make sure all the barriers to all the pigpens and pig yards are closed and locked properly otherwise you will be running for your life. A 250 pound pig running at you full speed with the idea of mauling you to death is not a good thing. Oh, and after they maul you, they will start to eat you, whether or not you are dead yet.
- Pigs don’t sweat. So stop telling people you’re “sweating like a pig” because that doesn’t mean what you think it does.
It’s been raining a lot, and one of my biggest duties at the farm so far, is to clean out the pens for all the various animals. This is hard heavy back-breaking work. You have to use a large fork, and take out piles of mud, shit, and wet straw from the pens, so that you can refresh them with clean dry hay. It is very cold at night, and this is important for the health of the animal.
So I am eating fresh food from the farm, and getting a ton of exercise this winter. Life is good. Be thankful. Cheers!
Peace & Love
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