Friday, July 30, 2010

Building the Arc.

How’s life on the farm?

It’s like waking up in Heaven every morning. It’s great. It’s better then a hundred million bowls of Bligh’s orange butter cream frosting.

What could be better then spending time everyday with people you love? People you trust and are completely comfortable around? Laughing so hard you have to keel over at the waist? Getting to the point where you can have whole conversations with out saying a thing?

As I sit here in the Gables living room, getting my back massaged by a mechanical fold-up chair, looking around at the pink carpet installed in the 70’s and the drab green walls, I ask myself: What’s next?

The rain is pouring down outside on a beautiful Friday afternoon, the windows are open and I can smell the drops as the hit the ground. Moving to Sunrise and taking the farm internship is the best decision I have ever made.

At our bi-monthly classroom session Thursday, it shouldn’t have been unexpected given our history of being an openly emotional bunch, that about 5 minutes in the team was blowing on multiple handkerchiefs and building an arc to save us from drowning in our tears.

Although I have asked to stay on the farm till the end of December, an additional 2 months to my original contract, I don’t plan on staying here forever.

I currently feel that I am lacking direction in my life. I said in the field a few weeks back, I don’t know what life is going to be like after I leave the farm. Dave replied with, “Life after the farm? I didn’t know there was such a thing.”

His comment seemed lighthearted enough, but really, is there life after the farm? I’m not saying that I’m going to finally drink the kool-aide or anything like that, call it quits and join the rest of the Emissaries that have passed on, but I’m saying that even after only being here 2 months, I don’t know if there is any other way to live.

I keep saying I don’t have any direction, but here we go, let’s move on from building an arc intended to save us from drowning, to building an ARC, a bridge that will help connect me from here to there, a transition period, a structure with direction.

So may it be written, that is, a little direction:

1. THERE HAS TO BE FOOD: Not genetically modified, corn fed, high fructose filled food, but rich, tasty, organic, soul enriching food.

Ex.1: Bush Beans

Ex.2: Broccoli

Ex.3: My Sanctuary/Love Shack/Garlic House. My love, Kate.

Ex.4: The day spent in the kitchen.

2. THERE HAS TO BE FAMILY: Not just mom, pop, brother and sister. But that TOO! Family as in the ones we love. They have to be there. Or be found there.

Ex.1: My Valace Ladies.

Ex.2: The Farm Family

3. THERE HAS TO BE LAUGHS: Laughs like the ones we have here. Ones that end with wet crotches. Really, the day I stop smiling and laughing is the day my soul dies.

Ex.1: Avana dodging the flies that are taking over the compost.

Ex.2: The wet crotch

Ex.3: That's what she said

Ex.4: This was hysterical. The wheel FINALLY fell off. I love Kate's face of confusion and defeat.

4. THERE HAS TO BE CLIMBING: There may be a day in my life when I no longer hold climbing so dearly to my heart, but that day isn’t now. So yeah, there must be climbing too.

Ex.1: Up in Wyoming. THE hardest route I have ever gotten on, on lead.

Ex.2: ISRG'en at Shelf Road.

5. DOGS MUST BE WELCOME: Shout out to Pappa for taking care of Ally. She would love it here on the farm but I couldn’t make it happen.

Ex.1: The one and only, me and Alamander.

Typing a blog is kinda like talking out loud. Thanks for keeping up with my journey. Any feed back is always much-ly appreciated.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Just Because You Have Cool Sunglasses Doesn’t Mean You ARE Cool

Boulder Colorado
is known for its Subaru driving, olympic athletes, ecopreppies, trustafarians, environmental indie hipsters, and overall crunchy granola population. Here on the farm we don’t get out much so seeing these particularly beautiful and fashionable people is an exceptional treat.

I don’t know if we were more successful in fueling the ego-inferno of these individuals or if we actually tricked them into thinking I’m a world famous blog writer. Either way, everyone loves to be told they are beautiful, which is how I got consent to take their picture.

I want to thank them all for the gracious participation in my beautiful people profiling and let them know they’re appreciated more then they will ever know.

This Boulderite's smile was almost as sweet and refreshing as the Dulce de Lache ice cream sample he gave me.

These friendly egophiles didn't blush when I wanted to take their picture. When I told them they had great style they pretty much responded with, "Tell me something I don't know." More power to you. I'm an egophile too.

I spotted these two a mile away. I was so excited about his red sunglasses but right before I took the picture she told him he absolutely had to take them off (!?). Why? I wanted to put a halt to it, but they clearly have more fashion points then I do. Note to self: Do not wear awesome red sunglasses in pictures. They compromise your complextion.

I have never found bare ankles to be more attractive. But for the record, blondie on the left didn't think he was worthy to be in a picture that was taken in the name of fashion. In-correct-a-mundo, buddy. You ARE the epidemy of cool. Not to mention your skinny pants partner doesn't hold a candle to you.

I didn't mean to interrupt these gals gossip hour, but they just looked so blond and bohemian I couldn't pass them up.

Nutt'en like a Chicago-Style Italian Beef Sandwich Guy. He may look like he's living off his parents paycheck with his Holister sandals, Aeropostale button up and Ambercrombie pants, but at least this guy is making a buck by selling his meat. What? That's what she said?

The Face of Boulder. White, Liberal, Upper-Middle Class. A horticultural genius. This beautiful woman was the only one who was openly skeptical about letting me take her picture. However, once we told her we live on a farm it was like we were long lost family. She even showed us her muscles.

These bros said they were use to having their picture taken, Ben& Jerry's employees by day and models by night he said. Are you convinced? I let him know he had me sold and this was the best picture I took all day.

I'm writing a blog and I wanted to take pictures of fashionable people.. And you two have style! Can I take your picture? The ego inferno nearly burns down the entire town of Boulder as the two graciously flip their hair, smile as if they didn't know they looked great and agree to a picture. You two are nice girls.

She is my favorite. This fashionista knows it's not cool to support corporate coffee and wanted her Starbucks cup outta the picture. But I caught her before she could disown the one time use cup. This shameful Starbucks drinker has just come out of the closet.

This snow cone eating couple couldn't have brought a bigger smile to my face. You gotta love the trend setters who are the last to know and the most in denial of their dedication to looking adorable and picture perfect.

This photo wasn't a ploy to get a shot of the crunchy chaco mamma in the back ground, that just happened by chance, this is a shot of 2 grass fed future farmers. Extra style points for matching sun hats.

Of course these obvious hipsters would deny their outlandish style as fashionable. That's hipster rule #1. Way to stay strong.

I mean hot damn! These two divas got it going on. I don't know how we came across such a perfect find but a duo like this doesn't come around very often. Thank you for gracing us with your presence. We will forever be in debt to your godessness.

Although these last two are by far the champions of fashion, they have a lot to learn. If it wasn't for my faithful posse, Avana, Dave and Alisha this post would not have been possible. Thanks for a great day in Boulder.

Finding Comfort in the Uncomfortable

The past 2 days at work have found me laughing my ass off, something that usually ends in wet pants but now finds me with wet tear ducts. Our team is beginning to separate, Shannon will be leaving in about a week and a half, Avana at the end of August, Dave& Alisha in September.

Another Front Range thunder storm. I'm always thinking, go head and rain already! Sky! And yesterday it actually did. Not just rain either. Lightening and thunder to boot. I guess they don't call this place Sunrise Ranch for nut'en. Check out these pics.

I feel that each passing day tops the previous, I don’t know how it actually happens, but it does. I will try to give justice to these special situations but really, this story will probably end the same way, you had to be there.

Personally, I really don’t like when people use that as a cop-out. I would call that more of a story teller error. No, I wouldn’t have to be there if YOU could just tell the story right. Idiot. But in this case, I could fill books with laughs and conversations that we have on the farm and still not shed light on the experience well enough to encompass what I want to get across. But let me try:

It's the awkward situations like Sarah putting a bandage wrap on my finger that oddly resembles a condom. I have a lot of respect for Sarah and look up to her as a mentor. I didn’t think this was an appropriate time to laugh, although the absurdity of it was through the roof. I watched her, deadpan, as she pulled out what looked like a little tiny condom. I held my pinky finger out and continued to watch like a dear in the headlights as she pinched the tip and rolled that little latex bandage right down to the base. I was trying to act like the mature adult that clearly was NOT festering on the inside of me. When I looked up, I saw the entire farm team with their jaws dropped to the floor. It was like the eye of the storm. Complete stillness. Then, the bust of laughter. My disbelief, that didn’t just happen. False, Sarah did in fact just put a condom on my pinky. And it was hysterical.

It’s the stories that begin with: If it weren’t for that drug bust I wouldn’t be here right now. Seriously? Asked Avana. I couldn’t believe this story either. Guns in his face and doors getting kicked in. I think the story could have been that much better if Dave stretched it JUST a little and added that HE was the drug lord himself and sold his first born child to supplement his addiction. Maybe also that the only reason he was really here at Sunrise was so he could learn how to start a multi-million dollar, thousands of acres on Forest Service land marijuana operation. But nope. Not really the case, Future Farmer Dave is just learning more about the modest, sustainable land stewardship that he believes so much in.

It’s the conversations that start like: Since we’re being open and all, I just want to say… Dave, you’re much cooler now. Or, do you wanna wait behind 90 Healing Sounders for lunch?! I don’t. Get up. Lets GO! I’m serious!

Avana, the resident whip cracker is probably the hardest worker on the team. She can wear her emotions on her sleeve and isn’t afraid to tell you when she’s reached her tipping point. I’m always praising her for her work ethic but I don’t know if she always receives my compliments well. But I mean it from the bottom of my heart. I would work under this psycho whip cracker any day. As long as she cracks the whip in the bed room too. Did I just say that? She may be in denial that the scale in the kitchen is actually spot on, but this lady has the body of a goddess, the mind of a warrior and the heart of a best friend. Someone’s got to fill in the managerial role since OUR managers seem to always be checking out. And that someone is Avana. She may not always finish her lunch but I still admire her. This gal has become my closest friend and the thought of not waking up to a cup of coffee with her every morning is not something I want to think about. So lets change the subject now.

Circa 1930 Sugar Beet Harvest

The openness of our group astounds me. I never really felt like one to push people's envelopes, but I find some of the greatest joy in it now. Asking Dave and Alisha questions like, when did you first say I love you? Assuming you DO say you love each other… oops. Did I just create and uncomfortable situation? Oh. Ok. Good. You DO say that. Well in that case:

Do you like the lights on or lights off?

I would want people to ask me the same thing. How would you know if you never asked? Not just if I like the lights on or off, but anything. Can I offer you some constructive criticism? Can I ask you to hold me accountable? Can I tell you something in confidence? I want people to cross lines. Break social norms. Find comfort in the uncomfortable. And it’s happening here. I love it.

You may find yourself thinking now, so why did you need a condom on your finger anyway? I honestly didn’t want to tell the farm team because I thought it was a little embarrassing and slightly unbelievable. But I was actually dancing in my room. Alone. After a latte and a nice nap I found my second wind. While listening to David Bowie’s Space Oddity, stretching and dancing, I jumped and smashed my pinky into the ceiling. Then proceeded to roll onto my bed in the fetal position, clutching my hand. What was I thinking?

Lift off. This is ground control to Major Tom.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Four Salads for Lunch

The Emissaries of Diving Light have a conference business here at Sunrise and this week they have their largest group in, Healing Sounds. I always think its exciting when groups come, lots of interesting people to say the least.

This morning Avana and I had our dish shift, cleaning up after all those Healing Sound-ers is a long process. When we returned to the garden the team was cleaning out the horse stalls and caring for the poor tomatoes.

I don't really know where today went, it just flew by. I was thinking of the more memorable moments of today and you may not believe the absurdity of it, but we had four salads for lunch, and that was one of the more memorable moments. I didn't think it was actually wildly unreasonable, but unexpected. And memorable. Who eats 4 different salads for lunch? The Emissaries and Healing Sound-ers I guess. Maybe it's a spiritual awakening thing.

Avana thinks the kitchen has a secret spice, one that actually takes the flavor out of the food. Leaving it totally bland. They must have doused the tabouli in it. I'm starting to think this post is going down hill, my apologies. Maybe this IS the proof in the pudding that this isn't some freaky, cult-ish commune, no crazy sacrifices and sexual scandals, just talk of bland food and secret spices.

For the record this place IS amazing.

My two favorite pics from today:

BlueSky. Yesterday I fell in love with mountain biking again. Also fell over my handlebars. Can't wait to get back out there.

Thanks for reading. Cheers darlin' here's to you and your lover boy.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It’s Gettin’ Hott In Hur!

Have you ever felt like you just wanted your clothes to magically disappear? Totally off. Buck naked. Wanting to find yourself in a nice cool bath tub filled with ice? Don’t be confused with the kidney heist urban legend, that’s not the kind of situation I’m talking about. But if your curious, the legend has it that this attractive woman in the bar offers a dood a drink and the next thing he knows he’s in a bath tub filled with ice in some motel with a note next to him saying “Call 911. Don’t move.” The dood calls 911, the operator is clearly not amused when he tells her his story. She goes on to say, “Feel your lower back… Oh, there IS a tube coming out of it? Yeah, you have just been a victim of a kidney heist.”

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking Sunrise Ranch, two thousand and ten. I’m talking sweating bullets while weeding the vine field. It’s literally like THIS: before you finish drinking your water its already dripping down your forehead. Like it bypassed your esophagus all together and actually went up your nose, through your mind and out the sweat glands in your forehead. Now that’s a little tough to imagine, but yeah, that’s what it’s like.

I know there are much hotter places, and really the temperature isn't that outrageous here. What’s really happening is that I’m breaking rule number ten (refer to yesterdays post): don’t be a turd. Here are a few photos from today:

Rule 10 Violation. Us being turds. And me wishing my clothes would magically disappear. You all may have Carhart overall envy, but when your cheeks start sweating and it feels like you may have wet your pants, you might be wishing your kidneys were heisted instead.

Even though it was sweltering hot, we still manage to look great.

Rule 7 Violation: Don't opt for the quick fix.

This is Dave's attempt at repairing his pants. Successful? Eh, he was successful in testing his hypothesis: If I tie these frail strands of denim material together then they will hold for eons. However his hypothesis was incorrect, lasting all of a few minutes. Valiant effort though!

Another molten hot day, at least there was cloud cover. We got quite a bit of weeding done and 3 pipe changes. Another day on the farm, another dream come true. And tomorrow! Day off. Hello Devil's Backbone!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What Not To Do

Much of farming is trial and error. Finding out what works and what doesn't. I have been at Sunrise about a month and a half now, still chugging along, still holding onto my prefix, intern, not quite to farmer status yet, but getting closer.

Over the past week or so I have taken quite a few pictures of what not to do on the farm. Now take notes:


This picture was taken last week while Micha was giving us a lesson on lashing. No, I'm not talking about what probably first came to mind, some kind of cult-ish act of whipping. I'm talking about lashing as in fastening a cord to something in a secure way. I will agree, it was early, but I'm personally not a standing sleeper like my mamma Sandy. Even though Sandy slept through a greater portion of the lesson she sure did lash the hell outta those polyvinyl chloride pipes.


This photo was taken during our monthly farm tour. I wouldn't say that Avana flat out lied to all those lovely folks, particularly our house mate Larry, pictured in the black and white collared button up, but I would say all those nice things about the row cover were a little biased. She did flip both sides of the coin and all, telling of the pros and cons, but she did fail to mention that the Devil himself feng shui-s (verb) his palace with this synthetic disaster. It may be great for adding good energy to the home or starting a bon fire, but this stuff didn't help our lovely crop in this case. This beautiful row was ridden with leaf eating worms when we finally uncovered them.


Earlier in the week we conducted a little biological monitoring that consisted of tossing darts and closely examining a six inch diameter plot of the field. This rule is pretty simple however. Do not throw darts at peoples faces. In the NOLS world they would call this one a near miss. Sandy nearly missed throwing the dart square in my face while I was trying to take a picture of her and Micha in the beautiful landscape. I still captured a great shot, but it nearly cost me my life. Would I do it again? Definitely. It's called extreme photography.


This is a shot of me weeding with a hand trowel as if it were a shovel. You would probably get no where fast using this method, and if you finally did in fact get to where ever your were trying to go, you would have a broken back. End of story. And PS, a shovel probably wouldn't be the tool of choice anyway.


I got shocked. Twice. And once was enough. Although some people pay lots of money to get this adrenaline rush I would say, steer clear.


Reference #2. The row cover does have some benefits but in my opinion, it is visually unpleasing and it disconnects you from the crops that are growing underneath. This particular row got a little, emphasis on little, neglected. When we finally got around to giving it a little TLC the weeds chocked out our crop. They will live though, don't worry.


If a riser blows off the line, maybe it needs a little more then a hand tightening to fasten it back on, maybe, just throwing that out there. Well we opted for the quick fix and this is what happened, exactly what happened the first time, another blown off riser. We learned from this lesson though, today when it happened we decided to switch out the pipe entirely.


Right now farming naked is only in my dreams, but I guess for some reason that's not allowed here. So here's the next best thing, bathing suits and sports bars. However, naked farming did make the list of things not to do because of a few factors: thistle and sunburns.


While harvesting garlic scapes, a farmers market delicacy, I simply forgot to harvest the last two rows. Keep in mind that those two rows are way out in left field and any individual could have easily made the same mistake. This is me trying to justify my foolishness. Anyway, when I realized what I had done, I went back and harvested another handful. Or should I say liberated? I enabled those scapes to become something great, a secret weapon, and a gift for Lara.


None of us can really pass on a break when they are offered, especially when they include coffee and toast, but its easy for those 10 minute breaks to some how turn into 25 minute breaks. Sometimes I have to remind myself, this is what I signed up for, now don't be a turd. Get up. And get back to work.

This past week the team had a lot of freedom to make management choices. We really are growing as a group and becoming more efficient as a product. We will probably keep adding to the list of things not to do, but I would say the list of things TO DO is growing exponentially. I couldn't ask for a greater experience.

See ya out there.