First off, I would like to apologize for my comment in Part 1 of this post where I referred to year end recaps as a “cop out”. That is not true. Writing this post has been some of the most draining and irritating writing I’ve done. That being said, I’m half way done, so I might was well keep going.
November was the month that I got down to business. I got to 3 different farms, as well as began to explore the National Parks in earnest. I spent the last part of October traveling southward to Coarsegold, California to visit an organic olive oil farm. I spent 15 days on that farm, picking olives from dawn to mid afternoon. It was interesting to compare the differences between Skipley Farm that tried to cultivate a one-stop-shop farm that provided all the staples a person may need, to Blue Bird Trail Oil Farm that focused on one specialty product. I have nothing but fond memories of the olive farm. I enjoyed getting to know my host and her daughters.
Bluebird was a lot more in keeping with what I thought I would be doing. I had a work schedule that consisted of hours of manual labor. I also got a lot stronger of an idea of what it would take to make a specialty product farm run, which is essentially relying on free labor and a day job that offers you a certain amount of flexibility.
I did end up getting a pretty smug sense as WWOOFer after WWOOFer bailed from the farm. I can’t really see what was so bad about the whole thing. Sure, repetitive, but gorgeous weather and beautiful scenery. It was at Bluebird that I first began to suspect what probably many people already knew: Farming is essentially just doing the same boring thing over and over again, and I find that I get an odd sense of accomplishment looking at a bin full of olives that I spent weeks picking.
It was at BlueBird that I ended up beginning to get to explore the National Parks system in earnest. Previously, I had just been passing through, arriving as dusk and leaving before the afternoon the next day. Since Coarsegold is so close to Yosemite I spent several days there, crawling around on rocks and touching trees, and more or less refusing to have a spiritual experience. I keep trying to come up with a more significant weight to the outdoors, but every time I try, I end up getting bored with myself before anything really locks into place.
It’s just nice to be out in the fresh air and bask in your own smallness. Plus it never hurts to be reminded that, when left to its own devices, nature accomplishes some pretty neat things.
Leaving Bluebird, I got to visit with a professional beekeeper, and from that experience I learned I don’t have it in me to beekeep commercially. That was something I always suspected about myself, but it was good to have that confirmed. The things it takes to successfully make money through a pure beekeeping venture are not things I want to do, and I am ok with that at this point.
From the olives, I went to Arizona to spend time on a cattle ranch. This was my first time working extensively with another WWOOFer, and I was back to learning about what it takes to run a farm, and it’s not always farming. It’s a lot of maintaining a property. Grass fed cattle requires so much land and there is just a lot of work that goes into it. I learned a lot about property lines, grazing paths and water rights. I love cows, and after my experience at the Gold Bar Ranch, I am left wondering at the price of beef. It is really remarkable that it is as cheap as it is.
Oh yeah, Gold Bar is also the place where I scratched the sh*t out of my mom’s car, and has filled me shame and anxiety ever since.
It’s about this time that Theresa and I settled on a date for her to meet me in Las Vegas, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon Quail Hollow, a large CSA that operates out of Overton, NV. Quail Hollow was by far my favorite experience. Not only did I have two other WWOOFers to get to know, there were goats and chickens and bunnies. There was a schedule to follow, and actual work to be done. The farm was run by earnest, hard working Mormons who know how to buckle down, and by George, get things done. I think Quail Hollow is where I finally did decide that this type of work is for me, at least on some level. The Mormons are astute business people, and know how to exploit their market. It was in them that I found what I was looking for, people who knew a little bit about farming, knew a little bit about business, and learned the rest as they went. Talking with them made me feel like there isn’t anything special I need to know, I just need to focus, be willing to work hard, and be willing to do the same thing day in and day out. Even when you are in a foot of mud and dealing with princess goats.
Theresa arrived in the last little bit of November, and after a bit of detour (2,000 miles) for Thanksgiving, she and I made a serious effort for not doing anything.
December is a month that is better told in pictures and videos. We drove down the California coast, over the Golden Gate Bridge, skirting L.A. to go to Joshua Tree, unexpected sand dunes, the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion. I am not sure if I learned anything too particularly shocking during this last month. Two big things that come to mind. The first is that Utah is one of the better places I have ever been to. The second is that most of our friends and family seem to think that our social skills are so poor that we couldn’t stand each other’s company for very long. (“No, really, you got sick of each other right?”)
This December has been one of the best one record, and it’s not because it was so easy to forget about Christmas. It was pretty self-indulgent and thoroughly awesome, and an excellent way for shut-ins to spend some quality time together.
After looping back to Las Vegas to send Theresa home, I made my way to Salt Lake City, where I’ve come to collect my thoughts before finally ending my journey. As of today, I have put nearly 11,000 miles on my mom’s car, and will put another 1,000 on it before I am done.
I’m sure it’s at this point that I should have some sort of thesis statement about my trip and what it’s taught me, with supporting examples from the text. But I don’t. My life doesn’t really rest well into discrete parcels that way. And while this may be the start of new chapter in my life when I get home, my life isn’t changed. This was not life changing, because well, life isn’t just one thing and then another. Just like with farming, everything is connected and everything is so much more complicated than all of that.
And just like when I try to disect the National Parks, trying to explain the trip leaves me bored. Sometimes it’s nice just to let something exist as whole.