Wednesday, April 28, 2010

4-27-10

It stands to reason that if you're listed as a host in the WWOOF guide, you are a farm. Our experience with this isn't so. Just in case you aren't sure, WWOOF of course stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. We have stayed now at at least three places that are clearly not farms. We have officially learned our lesson, that if a place is listed as a homestead, they are a rural house that may have a small garden, but mostly needs maintenance and upkeep help.

Maintenance duties that are required here include but are not limited to: washing windows, pulling out brush from the forest to prevent the spread of wild fires, plumbing repair, road repair, wood stacking, audio/visual equipment repair.

Since our arrival, the rain has barely let up, and the forecast is pretty bleak. While the poor weather didn't prevent us from doing outdoor activities this afternoon, we wonder, if the weather was sunny and clear, would our tasks be more in the garden? It is hard to say, and only time will tell. We want to learn food growing skills first and foremost, in order to efficiently have our own thriving garden. Life skills relating to house upkeep are important and valuable, but we didn't leave our apartment in Brooklyn to clean and repair someone's home. If we want to clean and repair a home, it will be our home that gets our attention.

4-26-10

There are always two ways to look at things, either you find the positive or you find the negative. Technically there are millions of ways of looking at things, but let's just focus on the positive vs. negative for the sake of the argument. Positive: it's cold and raining outside but we're dry, safe, and cozy in a private cabin. Negative: we have no electricity. Positive: we have a wood stove and collected plenty of dry wood before the rains came. Negative: we have no indoor toilets, and it's raining outside. Positive: we just ate a delicious dinner. Negative: there was no dessert. Positive: our laptop has enough stored energy to write this blog entry. Negative: we have no hot water. Positive: we have each other. Negative: with only one candle, it's kind of hard to read. Positive: we have a living room. Negative: it only has one chair. Positive: there's an area rug. Negative: said area rug is a flattened piece of discarded cardboard. Positive: we have a refrigerator. Negative: we found mouse droppings inside. Positive: we haven't seen a mouse yet. Negative: there are loads of indoor insects.

Guess we both asked for all of this. It was our idea to embark on this adventure and now we know how the majority of the world's population lives: without electricity, without running water, without internet, without cell phone service, without television or radio. But unlike countless third world country residents, we are well fed and happy.

The truth is, we took a hot shower tonight, but not in our cabin. Regardless, a hot shower was much needed after many days of camping. Patricia, our new WWOOF host, is quite nice. She has a lovely house in rural Mendocino County, CA that gets its power from the sun and its water from the nearby stream. Her house is killer, a "back to the land" paradise. She lives off the grid, uses 3 solar panels to generate enough heat for her electricity and warms her house and water with a custom designed wood stove. A graduate of UC Berkeley and Stanford, Patricia has been consciously reducing her carbon footprint for the past three decades. Currently growing in her garden are fava beans, swiss chard, collard greens, basil, mint, and comfrey. In addition there is a fruit orchard filled with plums, apricots, peaches, apples, and pears on her property. Our intention this week is to help improve her homestead and learn as much about off-the-grid living as we can, and hopefully Patricia will serve as a great teacher this week.

We are staying a quarter of a mile down a dirt road from her house in our small private cabin. Our cabin is rustic and would be charming if it had electricity and hot water. There is an electrical outlet in the wall that hooks up to a generator, however there is no functioning generator here at the moment. If there were, we'd have hot water, a gas stove, access to a working refrigerator, and this place would be amazing. Without all those goodies, we're roughing it. It's good we're visiting places like this and learning how pioneers made it happen. But it also reminds us that we don't want to live our lives without electricity and gas. We often talk about reducing our carbon footprint, and this week, we will be nearly invisible. There must be a way for us to reduce our footprint and preserve the earth while still enjoying the amenities we are accustomed to. We are determined to find that way.

4-25-10 **VIDEO INCLUDED**

CASTLES MADE OF SAND MELT INTO
THE SEA EVENTUALLY


BAD MOON RISING

SEA LIONS

SPIDERMAN

MILES FROM ORDINARY

GREY WHALE SKELETON

GRRRR

HOORAY BOOK SALE

The Pacific Coast Highway is something you have to experience to understand. Sure the views are magnificent. Sure the winding turns are treacherous. Sure lunatics pass you illegally at break neck speeds. But the one thing that sums up the PCH is that it makes time disappear. Somehow, driving 50 miles takes 4 hours. And that time is passed, observing small towns, cows, flowers, mountains, birds, endurance driven bicycle riders, and breathing in the sweet salty air from the mighty Pacific. Aside from one another, music has been our closest companion on the road.

Inclined to dilly dally, we make probably too many stops. This may be a reason it has taken us 4 months to cross this nation, but as the saying goes, it's not the destination that matters, but how you get there. And we are getting there by building a library. The Coast Community Library has a monthly book sale for four hours on the last Sunday of each month. Lucky for us, we drove through their small town during this incredible small window. They had a staggeringly incredible deal we couldn't pass up: fill up a brown grocery bag with whatever you liked for $5. We salivated as we selected an epic garden guide published by Readers Digest, the book of complete Fairy Tales, and in addition to others, works of Phillip Roth, Thomas Friedman, Kate Chopin. The trouble with buying books in every city is that our car is really starting to fill up. In a worst case scenario, we'll have to learn to drive while balancing books on our heads.

Today was the last day of camping until we start wwoofing tomorrow, so we took advantage by going to MacKerricher State Park. Situated in Mendicino County, it is right on the coast. Its favorable soil and climate conditions make it a suitable home for a wide variety of plant communities and wildlife. In the harbor you can watch grey whales migrate, but we weren't here the correct time of year. We did however see seals and/or sea lions. They are similar creatures, but sea lions have more pronounced ears and wider webbed feet. They jump up and down in the water quite quickly so it's awfully difficult to get a clear look at them. We also enjoyed an evening stroll along the boardwalk out to Laguna Point, and drank a bottle of red with noodle soup for dinner.

PITCHING A TENT

video

4-24-10

SUNSET PT1

SUNSET PT2


SUNSET PT3

WE'RE NOT GOING SWIMMING IN THAT!

DIG THE NEW SHADES?

BEAUTIFUL BUT WINDY

WILD IRIS

HOME IS WHEREVER I'M WITH YOU

Camping is an activity neither of us had much experience with as children. Our parents never took us camping, and in the past few years together, we've camped almost as much as the prior 20-something years individually. The campground culture is amusing, and we wonder how we fit into it. A snapshot from earlier today included us sitting at our picnic table, each engrossed in novels with our full sized, Reader's Digest Oxford 1,829 page dictionary/thesaurus in between us. Jen finished Ruth Ozeki's "My Year of Meats" and Aaron concluded reading "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides. Around us, people were fishing, listening to loud boom boxes, playing games, and enjoying AM beers. Guess we don't fit the mold.

While on the topic of books, a wedding gift we received was the Peterson Field Guide, "Edible Wild Plants." It is our desire to learn how to forage for wild foods, which can supplement our grocery items. We are determined, and we carry this book around with us where ever we go. Unfortunately, the book is for Eastern/Central North America, and we are currently in Western North America. We brought it on our nature walk, hoping to identify something, but knowing many plants in our book would not exist in this habitat. We were able to identify 3 plants that we knew, and consulted the book to see if they were edible. Wild Irises, which are poisonous when eaten, Dandelions, which you can eat the leaves but they are extremely bitter, and ferns, which apparently you can eat. However, studies indicate a diet high in ferns may lead to stomach cancer. As a result, tonight we will be eating rice, beans, and corn roasted tamales for dinner.

4-23-10

MARIN COUNTY FARMERS MARKET

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE


BIRD FEEDERS


BIG REDWOOD, LITTLE JEN

REDWOOD FOREST

TREE HUGGERS

OCEAN COVE SUNSET

Miles turned 14 today. We woke up early to sing and celebrate with Miles, Sue, and Jackson before packing our things and heading out of Mill Valley. Before departing though, we hit up the Marin County Farmer's Market to gather fresh goodies for the next few days of camping. Their Farmer's Market was small but great and even featured an Afghani stand, and one named "Tofu Yu." We picked up spring's first bounty of strawberries and they were exquisite, and of course organic. We also got pencil-thin asparagus, baby bok choy, onions, baby red potatoes, teriyaki tofu burgers, spinach bolani's (from said Afghani vendor), oranges, sweet english peas, mushrooms, fresh bread, and arugula. Our grocery bag filled, we hit the Pacific Coast Highway for a winding, stomach-turning ride.

En route up the coast to camp for a few nights, we stopped by Muir Woods, one of the many redwood forests in Northern Cali. The sheer magnitude of these trees is astounding. Standing next to one, we are reminded of our smallness in life. These trees are so large, so sturdy, so ancient; they are very reassuring. They can live thousands of years. Their grandeur cannot fully be expressed in words and they can't help but make us feel insignificant in the broad scheme of things. Like mountain chains, massive redwood groves change your perspective. Celebrating Earth Week, the park entrance fees were waived and we took advantage by hiking a few trails.

Once again we headed up the PCH and set up camp at Ocean Cove campground, just north of Fort Ross. We'll stay for probably two nights, camp elsewhere further up the coast Sunday night, and Monday finally return to farm life, wwoofing in Laytonville.

Friday, April 23, 2010

4-22-10

INDIGO SEEDS PLANTED TODAY

INDIGO SEEDS PLANTED THREE WEEKS AGO


JEN CAREFULLY PLANTING

SAVING AND CLEANING SEEDS

A BEAUTIFUL DAY TO SKIRT WOOL


AARON & MILES JAM


Happy Earth Day! Every day should be Earth Day, but at least people set aside one day a year to celebrate the Earth. Through farming, we honor the Earth daily and recognize the incredible importance of every action each person makes, every day. Lowering our impact will hopefully make a difference. Pray more people realize this, and soon! Until then, reduce, reuse, recycle.

We got back to Cali Wednesday morning with high hopes of entering the best part of our wwoofing adventure. Unfortunately we were let down by two more farmers, neither of whom would host us. The first one we spoke to weeks ago. Despite having significant rainfall and several other wwoofers, they promised to host us but advised us to find somewhere else as an alternative. With that in the back of our minds, we called many other farmers and found a bio-dynamic farm that sounded great. After sending an application and then not hearing back for a while, we finally spoke to this host after getting back in the car in San Fran. Unluckily, they too told us they could not have us. Without other options, we called back the initial farm to confirm our arrival, hoping the rain had ceased and some other wwoofers may have left but instead they told us they couldn't host us either. BUMMER. Rushing back after 36 hours in retrospect was the wrong decision. Had we known we wouldn't have work lined up immediately we wouldn't have taken a 6 AM flight out of Newark.

Never ones to panic, and having a bit of experience with flakey hosts, we had a backup plan: we are staying for a few nights with a family friend in Mill Valley, just north of San Fran. We have a host confirmed for Monday so we just have a few days to kill. As a result, we have been working the past two days with Rebecca Burgess, who we met through our family friend Sue. Rebecca is working to make her own clothes that she will exclusively wear for one year using local wool and locally grown plants she turns into dyes. It's not wwoofing per se, but we learned to clean saved seeds, plant indigo seeds into peet pots, water them with kelp water, mix and add horse manure to her compost, build a mini greenhouse, and learned to skirt wool.

We often think about the "true" cost of food and consider where food comes from; the average consumer may think a dozen eggs should cost no more than $2 but if you calculate the true cost it's incredible they can be sold for less than $1 per egg. Factoring in the costs of everything from feeding the chickens (more expensive if you use local & organic feed), maintaining their coops, labor for picking, cleaning, and packaging eggs, not to mention cost of delivery, it surely seems that either people are being taken advantage of or the chickens are being taken advantage of. The only way to make a dozen eggs cost $2 feasibly is to provide low quality subsidized food with chemical & hormone additives, low quality, highly confined shelter and machines to gather and clean eggs. However, we don't always give enough thought to the "true" cost of clothes. If we come across a t-shirt that costs more than $10 we might think it's overpriced. But consider the cost for growing the cotton, picking the cotton, milling the cotton, designing the shirt, cutting the pattern, sewing it all together, packing, and then shipping it off to who-knows-where. It's a miracle t-shirts don't cost over $100. Of course when they are made in huge factories where employees are treated and paid as slaves, it makes more sense they are so inexpensive. Rebecca realizes the cost to the consumer, manufacturer, and more-so to the environment and as a result is trying to do something about it. Next time you buy a three pack of undershirts for $5, ask yourself is it really fair?

4-20-10 **VIDEO INCLUDED**

J. M. PATTAP'S BRIS
video

4-17-10

DENZELL WHYZELL AND KATIE

COLORFUL SAN FRAN SUNSET

DANNY TANNER LIVES HERE

DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE DOUBLE YOUR FUN


MISTY MOUNTAIN HOP

GG BRIDGE, NOT GW BRIDGE

BUENA VISTA PARK

JIMI

THE MECCA OF 60'S COUNTERCULTURE

Andy Rooney notices cultural shifts with an astute eye. A few years ago he brought to the viewers attention of 60 minutes that suddenly, everyone in America walks around with a bag. Have you noticed this wasn't happening years ago but now men, women, and all children always have a satchel en tote? Well watch out Mr. Rooney, because we have discovered a new trend. Think back many years to the types of people that rode motorcycles. They all were fearless, brash, and always had tattoos. But nowadays, some motorcycle riders are going through midlife crises, aren't so tough, and aren't tatted up. A new counterculture has stolen the tattoo spotlight: city cyclists. New York City has a lot of bicyclists and many wear small hats and are covered in tattoos. Lots live in Williamsburg, ride fixed gear bikes, and sport large framed eye glasses. San Fran has a similar bike culture, and you better believe Whyzell and Katie are part of it.

They gave us the grand tour of the city through the Mission and the Haight, wonderful alternatives to Chinatown and the Fisherman's Wharf, which are tourist traps. We ate delicious Guatemalan food and Burmese food in the Mission. The Burmese food at Yamo, a tiny hole in the wall restaurant served us one of the most delicious meals of our lives for under $13. After lunch we strolled through the Haight and checked out record stores, book stores, and coffee shops. We hiked to the top of Buena Vista Park for a "good view" of the entire city.

But a trip to San Francisco would not be complete without paying homage to Full House. Having paid said homage, we enjoyed Mexican food for dinner, and had a restful evening.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

4-16-10

JUST WIN BABY

JAY HOOKED US UP

SOUVENIR ICE CREAM HELMET

MILWOOD'S PITCHING WAS LIKE BATTING PRACTICE

BATTING PRACTICE

HOWDY SHERIFF


To ring in our 27th and 28th years, we packed up and headed to San Fran. We walked around several areas of town and enjoyed an authentic Guatemalan lunch in the Mission district. We were hesitant to head straight to Fisherman's Wharf so as to avoid completely touristy places and things, but we were still slightly tourists. San Francisco is much like New York; you walk a few blocks in one neighborhood and step onto another street and suddenly the feel changes immediately. In a five block stretch, we walked passed Asian food markets, beer gardens, presumably several crackheads and then to high rise luxury condos before hitting what seemed to us to be exactly like Herald Square.

We rode the BART under the Bay out to the Oakland Coliseum, home of both the Oakland Athletics and Oakland Raiders after checking out downtown San Francisco. Jen's cousin Jay works for the Baltimore Orioles, who were in town on a road game, and he hooked us up with great tickets for the game. Far from a sell out, only a third of the stands were filled. It's hard to know what Oakland's typical fan base is, but it seems like the combination of being so early in the season and Oakland having not been in World Series contention for several years, not too many fans visited; especially since they were playing Baltimore who is one of the worst teams in baseball. Regardless, we had a great time. It's always fun to visit other ballparks and eat peanuts and throw the shells all over the floor. For those interested, Oakland won 4-2, and it was the fastest baseball game any of us have ever witnessed, finishing a shade over 2 hours. Happy Birthday to us.

Friday, April 16, 2010

4-15-10

DOWNTOWN NAPA

WINE INDUCED NAP TIME

SILLY SISTERS

ROADSIDE BALANCE BEAM IN NAPA

SONOMA VALLEY

TOUCH MOVE

YIPPIE CAY-YAE-YEH


Over the past three days, we visited several wineries and tasted somewhere between 50 and 100 pours. When you taste so many wines back to back to back, you try very hard to detect individual aromas and flavors, and you also try to distinguish what characteristics you enjoy from glass to glass. Certainly some wines we tasted were less enjoyable than others, and everyone's taste buds vary so reaching a consensus on a favorite proved impossible, but the truth is all the wines we tasted were easily and happily drinkable. Think back to the time you may have struggled through a glass of boxed wine, or some 1 buck chuck glass of drivvle. If a winery in Sonoma or Napa doesn't make the cut, it disappears. Only the best of the best can survive in wine country, and as a result, overall, all the wines we tasted were wonderful. After sampling wines that cost almost $100, It will be difficult going back.

Grapes aren't the only thing growing around here. This is an agricultural mecca, and as a result, there are some fantastic restaurants too. Without a doubt, the food we enjoyed this past week was among the finest, if not the finest since our trip began. We enjoyed a tapas style meal at the Vineyard Inn, which is the greenest restaurant within 100 miles of San Francisco. Their ingredients are organic and some of the supplier farms use biodynamc practices. Their hot olive dish is to die for. Hot olives: if you've never tried them before, believe us, you are missing out. We ate a Cafe Citti, a delicious casual Italian restaurant, where nothing on the menu wasn't incredible. We dined at a lovely gem with Jodi in the Sonoma Square area, with an accommodating chef who serves house wines that are poured exclusively inside the restaurant. The house cabernet was divine. Even a humble chinese restaurant in Napa, with everything from its lazy susan style table to the spring rolls to noodles to fortunes were terrific. Southern home style cooking may appeal to some, but to a bunch of vegetarians, northern California's food scene is heaven.