Thursday, June 24, 2010

Meet Phil and Diane.

We arrived safely on our second farm, "Nothing But Nature", located in a town called Oakwood, in western Ohio, at around 9 pm. It's only 180 miles away from Lodi, a home for "Earth Song", and the drive was not that exciting as the land was flat, the road was straight, and if it wasn't for the two U-turns (which is a BIG deal with our Silver Maiden!), a flying propane tank, and Amish cherries, we were munching on, I think, I would have dosed off.

We came kind of late, and our wonderful woofing hosts were not able to show us around that day. After setting up the Airstream, getting hooked with water and electricity, farmer Phil and Diane retired to bed. "Early to bed, early to rise", Diane told us. "What time do you usually wake up?".

That was a question that I couldn't answer without a chuckle. All those evenings on "Earth Song" we didn't go to bed earlier than 1am. And, of course, would catch up on sleep by getting up a bit later. At least the younger woofers and myself.

"We can get up at 8am, that is no problem", I said, hoping that that would be an acceptable time.
"Oh, you would have to do better than that." Diane decided to give us a quick round up of a day ahead. "Milking is at 6am. Then we have breakfast at 6:45. While at the table we discuss what needs to be done and where the help is the most urgent. We work till 10 or 10:30 am, and then have a half an hour tea break. Another round of work from 11 till 12:30 or so. Then lunch and a mid noon siesta. Phil usually takes a nap, I rest my knee. You , guys, can do whatever you want. If it gets too hot in the afternoon we won't go back to work on the gardens, we'll find other projects to do either in the shady area or by the house. It is going to be a few hot days".

It is a different structure on "Nothing But Nature", and it felt like it would take us a while to get used to it. But we don't really have a lot of time to have a luxury of getting used to it, so we'd better get on to it right away.

The first night I and Mirek woke up to a display of fireworks all around us. It was the kind of fireworks that usually sends shivers all over your body because you are scared. There was no thundering yet, but judging by intensity of the lightnings, I had a feeling it was coming.

We were sitting by kids' beds, holding hands, praying quietly for the storm to move on. Our second night on the farm was not without a surprise either. A tornado warning had been issued till 11:30 pm. There was no way I was going to fall asleep knowing that. When the winds finally calmed down, and there was no siren after all, we could go to bed and didn't have to grab everybody and run to Phil and Diane's basement.

The next day we woke up with the rooster and officially began woofing on our second farm. Diane had prepared a delicious breakfast, Phil was passing around some of his favorites to eat early in the morning, like pickled beets, homemade sauerkraut, dill beans and peach preserves. The plan for the day was being discussed and all stuffed up we rolled onto the field.

The land was inherited by Phil from his family. He has over 100 acres total. But for the farm they are using less than half. 20 acres is the organic pasture for 2 bulls, 2 pigs, a few goats and a herd of sheep. 5 acres are planted with alfalfa for animal feed in the winter. The garden takes only 2 acres, but it supplies fresh produce for a farmer's market twice a week, for a local health food store, and feeds Phil and Diane all they want, plus some woofers who come with their 4 children that munch on everything they see, like a swirl of locusts.

Farmer Phil is known in the area for his passion for organic and natural ways of gardening and raising animals. He told us that farmers that use conventional ways usually refer to a shovel as an "idiot's stick". That nickname, of course, they extend to the farmers that use it.

Phil and Daine started selling their produce organically since 1995. Every year since then they need to get re-certified, which means another yearly fee of $600, and a visit by the inspector. On the second day of our stay an inspector had been scheduled to stop by and spent two hours or so on the farm. He looked through the receipts of the seeds Phil and Diane had ordered, asked questions about whether they had used any chemical sprays or fertilizers, walked and looked around, and once again confirmed their organic USDA approved certificate for another year. This is only for the produce. As for meat, they do not have it organically certified. Diane was telling me that most of the meat they consume themselves, but if there is extra, they sell it with "Free range. Grass fed" label.

There is also another woofer on the farm. A nice girl, named Laura, who is going to do her graduate studies in Library and Information Technologies, attending Kent University. She has traveled half of the world, mostly woofing, and have some stories to share! We have a great team and it looks like we'll have a great week on the farm!


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