Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oct 15-20: WWOOFing at Life Spring Farm

Originally I had planned to work at LifeSpring farm in Janetville, about an hour from Toronto, for two weeks, but I've realized there is so much I want to do during my travels that I cut it short - 5 days. And what a crazy five days it was!

I arrived in the midst of chaos, and it didn't exactly calm down during my time there. On the afternoon that I arrived, one of their four gorgeous dogs, Kody, got into trouble with a porcupine - apparently the #1 killer of farm dogs! I became a veterinary assistant, holding him down while Ken and Anastasia pulled out the quills one by one. They estimated there were over 500 quills in total from his face and especially inside his mouth. One of my jobs during my time there was to give him a salt and water mouth wash 4x a day and feed him several homeopathic medicines, as well as to watch for stray quills that make their way through his cute slobbery face and pull them out. It's scary because the poison from the quills can make its way to his brain, so we were watching closely for any behavioral changes. Kody was a bit tired during my time there, but overall he was still a happy playful doggie - here he is playing with Ken:

In the meantime, one of Ken and Anastasia's beautiful Highland cows gave birth prematurely (we think) to a small calf. One afternoon was spent frantically cleaning out the chicken coop for mama and baby calf to spend time there. Neighboring farmers have been shocked that the calf is still alive, being so small and weak, but I'm sure Ken and Anastasia's intense love for animals and meticulous providing of milk and homeopathic medicine will help it to survive and thrive. There are three other baby calves on the farm, all born within the past month or two, and they were so cute playing with each other and jumping around. These cows are not meat cows - as Highland cows tend to be small - so they are used for show and some, especially males, will eventually be sold to be with other Highland herds (you can't have more than one bull).

I've enjoyed spending time with Ken and Anastasia and especially learning about their respective careers in holistic health fields, and their interest in farming and animals. They put a lot of work into the farm but unfortunately do not get much financially out of it right now. They do not participate in local farmers' markets, so they only sell produce to people who come to the farm to pick it up. And their produce is so good! From squash to beets to monster-sized carrots to leeks to various herbs, the produce in season right now was delicious, as was the food I ate while there. I never actually got used to eating late breakfast and really late dinner, but I did learn a bit about food from Anastasia (who used to be a vegetarian for 20 or so years, but they now eat their meat chickens). We finally got to enjoy the borscht soup that simmered on the stove for three days - wonderful!

I was WWOOFing with Hiromi, a Japanese woman who has been WWOOFing for over 6 years in the USA and Canada, to improve her English. During the day, Hiromi and I performed numerous chores including cleaning up horse and cow manure, feeding the baby cows, providing water to all animals, cleaning up the chicken coop (before the cows were put in that building), picking tomato plants to be hung up and dried in the basement, mulching the garlic and asparagus to protect them from winter's frost, painting fences, walking the dogs, cleaning the house, drying herbs, and various other tasks. I was hoping WWOOFing would allow me the balance of learning about farming as well as personal down time to perform some computer work, read and write in my journal. The structure of the day at this farm unfortunately didn't leave much "me" time separate from the meditative time during repetitive farm tasks (which I actually quite liked). This, combined with the fact that I've decided to cut my trip short by a week or two to get to NYC for the Small Planet Fund Fundraiser meant I couldn't spend two whole weeks at the farm... where next? Read my next blog entry!

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