Polarity

12 Dec

Polarity

It has been about three weeks since my last post and much has happened in that time. Needless to say this post will be three posts condensed into one; bear with me.

I arrived at my second farm in Greece on November 23rd, a gorgeous oasis known as Koroni in the southern Peloponnese. I stayed with two native Greeks, Kiki and Vasilis, in a modern apartment on a beach overlooking the Ionian Sea. The work commitment was very light compared to my other WWOOFing arrangements as I was only expected to work for about 4 hours a day. The rest of my days I spent going on long walks through the mountains, swimming in the Sea, and going on drives through the surrounding villages.

Kiki was an avid traveller, full of historical information pertinent to the area and was kind enough to take me on several day trips. One of our drives took us to many of the cities along the southern Coast of Greece including Finikounta, Methoni, and the popular city of Pilos. On these trips I witnessed some of the most beautiful sunsets of my entire life, several different castles, and a lagoon home to a flock of flamingoes. I celebrated my first Thanksgiving away from the U.S. with my hosts in a traditional Greek taverna, a very pleasurable experience. It was a very cozy little room heated by an open fireplace and the food, as is almost always the case in Greece, was exceptional.

The last day of my stay in Koroni my hosts took me to Ancient Messene, the ruins of a once great city a few kilometers north of present day Kalamata. Once serving as a guard post for the Athinians against the Spartans, Messene was a flourishing city for several hundred years. This was the first real ancient site I got the chance to visit in Greece and was certainly on par with the Acropolis and the ruins of Athens.

On December 7 I kissed Koroni goodbye and took a taxi to the fuming metropolis that is Athens. With half the population of Greece residing in this city, it was an overwhelming experience to come from the sleepy, quite costal villages of Messinia. While there, I stayed in a youth hostel located a stone’s throw away from the Acropolis, the Acropolis museum, and the temple of Zues, as well as some notable shopping areas and parks. This was my first experience staying in a hostel and I wish I would have done it more on this trip because It was a lot of fun. Though I had to put up with an obnoxious snorer, every one I met was extremely nice, interesting to talk to, and great to hang out with. I met several people from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and South America, and was not without good companions for sightseeing. I was blessed with beautiful weather for my stay in Athens and took full advantage of it. I took Saturday afternoon, a few hours after I arrived, to see the Acropolis Museum which was nothing short of incredible. It houses almost all of the original statues from the Acropolis and surrounding sites and many other artifacts including pottery, coins, and tools, found in the area. The museum itself was a work of art, using natural light to illuminate the exhibits in a way that I had never seen before, it was a feast for the eyes an a great lesson in history. The Acropolis itself was also very neat; though it looked more like a construction site than an ancient temple (due to ongoing renovations), it afforded an incredible panoramic view of Athens, the Corinthian gulf, and the Ionian sea. Athens, though not without beauty, become somewhat overwhelming after awhile and I was quite ready to leave it when Tuesday came around.

Tuesday I flew to into Oslo where I boarded a bus to Skien (pronounced Shey-en.) Norway could not be more different than Greece: it’s people, it’s infrastructure, it’s food, it’s landscape were the polar opposite of those that I grew accustomed to in Greece. The public transportation is incredibly easy to navigate, exceptionally efficient, and always on time, it is very clean here and everyone drives very safely. It was a welcome change. Norway also received a 6 inch snowfall on Sunday so everything is covered in a pristine blanket of snow making the already stunning landscape all the more beautiful. Truly it is breathtakingly beautiful here but it is also breathtakingly expensive (8 bucks for a hot dog! 30 for a burger!!) and I feel very lucky to be staying with relatives.

Soooo that is the last few weeks of my journey. More to come on Norway as we take some more day trips in the next few days.

Sendin’ my love from the Minnesota of Europe!

Harvest Time

21 Nov

Harvest Time

I didn’t anticipate when I was coming to this farm that I would experience the olive harvest as it usually starts later than I was going to stay, but I was in luck. Due to compromising weather on the horizon, Mariejeanne made the executive decision to start the harvest earlier than usual. Olive trees differ from most other fruiting trees in that they don’t produce consistently. Typically if the trees produce a lot of olives one year, the next year they will produce very few or none at all. That being said, there is the odd outlier: the occasional tree that produces a good amount of olives for a few years in a row. However, even these experience off years of dormancy.

2012 was a record olive harvest: trees so burdened with little green olives that their branches sagged to the ground, the sheer volume of the fruit causing them to emit strained moans. 2013 was a record year for the lack of olives. In 2012 the harvest took 5 people 3 days and yielded 59 sacks of olives and 250 liters of olive oil. In contrast, the 2013 harvest took 2 people 2 days and yielded 9 sacks of olives and 50 liters of olive oil. Yes, the year I come to Greece to experience the joyous, magical occasion that is the harvest, MJ has the worst year in her records. The fates are cruel indeed. All that aside, I did get to experience the harvest, however brief it may have been, and to learn about the process that takes olives from tree to pasta.

The method for harvesting olives has not changed much in the past few centuries: hit the tree with a long stick and collect the olives that fall down. Though large industrial farms do make use of a few amenities not available to the Greeks of old, most small scale farmers still do it the ol’ fashioned way. We spread out large tarps under the trees, extending 10 feet past the farthest branches on all sides. Branches that are the most heavily burdened we cut off to be fed through the automatic thresher, a machine with spinning plastic tines that knocks all the olives off and feeds them into a burlap sack. We then commence the whacking: Taking what look like long, plastic pitchforks with small, flexible tines, we hit the branches that we didn’t cut off, knocking the olives onto our tarps. When all the olives have been removed from the branches we lift the tarps and pour their contents into sacks. The sacks are loaded onto a pickup truck and taken to the olive press. Most towns in Greece have an olive press which, like its name suggests, presses olives. At the olive press you pour your olives into a metal hopper to be carried up a metal conveyor into a vat of churning water where most of the unwanted debris is separated. Next they are blended, pressed, extracted, piped through all manner of tubes and contraptions, and voila: an hour later your oil is poured into big plastic barrels ready for consumption.

It was a good experience overall. Though we had a meager harvest it was still really hard work and had I had to do four or five more days of it I don’t know if I would think so highly of the experience. It was also interesting to work alongside someone who didn’t speak any English. In order to do what had to be done we developed a language of onomatopoeia and hand gestures in order to communicate–difficult at first but progressively easier as time went on.

This week I have been battling some virus that I picked up. Not the way I wanted to spend my last week here in Patra but I think I am over the hump now so I expect to arrive at my next farm on Saturday in good health. I am looking forward to my next host, it should be a good change of pace from the last two months. It is getting late now and my mental faculties are steadily decreasing so I must end this post.

More to come soon!

Why WWOOF?

6 Nov

Hey ya’ll, It’s been a little while since my last post and I apologize for that; not much has been happening here on my end. Because I lack any riveting escapades with which to entertain my esteemed readers, I would like to take this post to address a question that some of you may be asking yourselves: Why WWOOF? In my first post on this blog I talk about the organization itself, but this time I want to explore in more depth my personal reasons for WWOOFing with the hope that it might encourage others to follow my footsteps.

To properly tackle this question I must first talk about the importance of agriculture. It is the belief of many anthropologists and historians that agriculture is what allowed us to develop the elaborate human societies that today stretch across the Earth. Nomadic tribes of hunter gatherers give way to stationary populations that, because of the surplus of food, begin to grow in size and complexity, developing cities, political systems, art, philosophy and religion. Indeed, agriculture is, to use an appropriate metaphor, the seed from which our entire civilization blossomed. Though agriculture is an extremely important facet of the aforementioned civilization, if not the most important facet, more and more farmers and rural civilians are moving to large cities. My question to those people and indeed to all of us is who will grow our food? Has popular culture distorted reality so much that living in a crowded, polluted urban sprawl is preferable to an agricultural lifestyle? Yes it may be hard work, yes you are at the mercy of the weather, yes you can’t drive through McDonalds to get dinner, but someone has to grow the food. If all of the small-time farmers move to the city who’s left to grow the very thing that sustains those cities? A multinational agricultural conglomerate who cares only for how much profit it can squeeze out of every square inch of land?

It is because of this growing trend in the agricultural sector that people like myself turn to WWOOFing. WWOOFing allows people who didn’t grow up on a farm to learn about sustainable, organic farming practices, to work side by side with someone who is a farmer and knows what is involved. Agriculture is the primary focus of the WWOOF organization but the actual experience is so much more. WWOOFing is a cultural exchange (international WWOOFing especially but domestic too), it is a chance for both parties to share knowledge and friendship, it the opportunity for travelers on a budget to take that extended trip they’ve always dreamed of, and most importantly, it can be the first step to taking the power and control away from the Monsantos and ConAgras of the world and put it back into the hands of the individual and the small communities to which it belongs.

I am not suggesting that everyone reading this quit their day jobs in the city and move out into the middle of nowhere to start a farm. That is preposterous and impractical. I am merely saying dig up some of your grass and plant a vegetable garden, start a compost heap in the corner of your yard, keep a few chickens to provide eggs, the possibilities are endless. These are the sort of practical things that you can learn about while WWOOFing, things that everyone can do to enrich urban life.

I know what some of you are thinking and no I am not being payed by the WWOOF organization to write this, it is simply that I feel passionately about this and I have had only positive experiences that I hope other people have the opportunity to enjoy. So think about it: if you want to take a gap year between highschool and college, if you want something to do after college before entering the workforce, if you’re just curious and interested in the lifestyle and the learning opportunities it presents, consider giving it a try. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I’ll get down off of my soap box now. Tomorrow the olive harvest starts for which we started preparations today. As the rainy season is upon us, it is imperative that we harvest as quickly as possible before the next bout of rain starts on Monday. We will work long days straight through until Sunday, hoping we can do it all in one go. There is a possibility that a young Israeli WOOFER will come to assist us and I for one hope he can make it. I have loved my experience here so far but it is always nicer when you’re working with someone else, makes the day go by faster. I plan on bringing my camera out to the farm and I will try my best to document the process from tree to jug as best as I can and do an exciting post for all of you when we have finished.

That’s all for now,

Much love from Greece,

Duncan

Fair Weather and Antiquated Architecture

21 Oct

Fair Weather and Antiquated Architecture

Today marks the three week point. Three weeks since I stepped from the cool breeze of the Great Lakes into the salty spray of the Mediterranean. I see now the passage of time waits for no man–those sands continue their ceaseless, cadential descent onto the dunes of eternity while we mortals scramble desperately to catch but a few granules in our open palms. Here, the small pile that I have caught, stolen from the hourglass of father time himself and immortalized in my inner eye, smells of jasmine and tastes like the salty brine of a thousand Mediterranean nights carried to my window on a stiff breeze. I shall keep this tiny mound in the guarded safety of my mind, in the jeweled box of my subconscious, and in the towering heights of my imagination to where I may one day steal away and again relive this trip.

I can’t believe it has already been three weeks, it sure doesn’t feel that way though I guess that means I have become accustomed to living here. This week I removed branches and stumps, preparing to dig the foundation of a cinderblock wall (the digging of which I will embark upon tomorrow.) The week before I took dirt from an area of the property and transported it into some raised planters only to find out later that where I took dirt from was once a path. One would think this fact would be readily apparent but this “path” was buried under several Fall’s worth of leaves and dead branches. Needless to say it was in need of some restoration, a project that I this week happily plunged into. Smoothing out the area, bringing in fresh dirt, and lining the path with stones I gathered, it looks much better now and I hope I have time to do the same to the rest of the footpaths here as they are in an equal state of disrepair.

Saturday night, Anna and I ventured into the center of town to see some of the ruins in Patra. She took the role of tour guide and photographer as I gaped open-mouthed and drooled at the structural history I was witnessing. Though the city has many examples of beautiful Neo-Classical architecture, it is most famous for its medieval castle and the Roman Odeon. The castle was built by Byzantine emperor Justinian I in the 6th century and was used as a military fortress up until the World War II. The Odeon, an ancient theatre built in the 2nd century, was in its heyday grander even than its Athenian equivalent. It was dark when we visited so neither of these places was technically open though there was someone stationed at the Roman Odeon who noticed us taking pictures and was kind enough to let us in to look around. We walked up the tiered seating of the theatre and got a great view of Patra lit up at night. You can see the whole city and off in the distance, the famous Rio bridge lit up in blue and gold against the backdrop of far-off mountains. Quite picturesque. I took lots of pictures but they weren’t of the highest quality (nighttime is the arch-nemesis of my Nikon.) Anna took many more and she has a very fancy camera with all the bells and whistles so she is going to send those my way soon and I will make sure to add them to my gallery for your viewing enjoyment.

After visiting ancient Greece we sat down for something a little more modern: Souvlaki in a classy street-side cafe’. A narrow alley, cobble stone street, traditional bouzouki folk music playing in the background, old Greek men smoking cigarettes, I felt like I stepped into a travel pamphlet for Greece–it was the quintessential, European cafe’ experience that I’ve always wanted. Our sightseeing accomplished and with full stomachs, my night on the town came to a close. Hopefully in the near future we will visit these places in the day time so I can take a full tour and hopefully get some postcards for ya’ll back home.

In the meantime, lots of love coming your way and I’ll post more soon!

Défteri Evdomáda

12 Oct

Défteri Evdomáda

Week two has gone by extremely fast. I believe I am beginning to get into the swing of things here in Patra. We had a week of thunderstorms, rain, and gail force winds. This weather is not ideal for yard work so Mariejeanne’s siste, Annie, who lives directly behind us, is having me do some finishing work in the apartments that she just had constructed. It is a three level, modern looking apartment complex with two units on each floor and what is going to be her new place in the basement. Built with the latest in German structural technology, the top floors were finished last year and rented out to generate income while she works on her home in the basement. I work there when it is raining or when it is too hot and humid to work outside comfortably. She is having me mud and paint all the walls and possibly do some tile work once the cement floors are finished.

On tuesday my neighbor Anna took me into the center of town with some of her friends from school. We walked the pedestrian area around King George square (the central square of Patra) and looked at the architecture that surrounds it. Due to earthquakes and economic factors, many of the Greco-Roman style buildings were knocked down in the 60′s and 70′s and replaced by rather generic looking, beige apartment complexes. Though, there still remains scattered examples of the architecture that Greece is so famous for, most of it has disappeared in the name of “progress.” Unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate going into town this day so I didn’t bring my camera and lack pictures of this adventure.

Later that evening we walked down the the dock and sat at one of the quaint, seaside restaurants that dot the coast of Patra and enjoyed some Souvlaki, a favorite of Greek youth. Souvlaki is essentially a gyro (pita, beef, tsatsiki, tomato, onions) with french fries on top. It pairs very nicely with a costal sunset and, at a meager two Euros, is both affordable and delicious.

This afternoon Anna, if she has recovered from the flu, will take me up to the medieval castle that overlooks the hillside and to the ruins of a Roman theatre that is nearby. I will bring my camera this time and make sure to take some great pictures.

Sendin’ my love to ya’ll back home!

Mediterranean Madness

4 Oct

I can happily say that after 2 days of cramped seats, poor food, and no sleep I have found my home in the Koukouli neighborhood of Greece’s costal Patras.  Miraculously my trip went without a hitch: my flights were on time and I successfully navigated Athen’s bus system.

Athens, at least what I saw of it, was a mess. Abandoned buildings, a testament to recent economic downturn, sat crumbling as refuse and graffiti piled up in the streets, a testament to Greece’s recent economic downturn. Talking to the locals, no place was hit harder by the crisis than the once great metropolis. Patras, in contrast, is a bright and colorful place, laid back and easy going. With mountains to the East and the Mediterranean to the North and South, Patras is picturesque.

The woman I’m staying with is named Mariejeanne (pronounced the French way), she is in her 50′s, British/Lebanese, and extremely nice–we get along very well. She owns a large home inside the city limits with a sprawling garden/jungle and lots of chickens. The front portion of the house she occupies herself while the back and side portions are split into 5 or 6 individual, self-contained apartments. I have the flat on the side and the back ones are rented to college students from the Technological Institute nearby. The work is mostly maintenance of her land here in town: raking, carting debris, mending the chicken wire, chopping wood. I work from 8am until 2 at which point we have lunch together out on her terrace. She is a wonderful cook, making mostly traditional Greek dishes with local produce and meat. Lots of lemon, olive oil, and bread; foreign yet still pleasing to the American pallet. She and her sister who lives next door also own a Olive farm about 20k outside the city. Though I haven’t been up to it yet I expect I will within the next week.

Stay tuned, I’ll post more as I explore further from my little home here. I am venturing out in ever widening radius’s so as not to lose my way on the winding streets. One of the college students next door offered to take me around and show me the city so hopefully I will have some more good pictures for you folks back home.

Peace and Love,

Duncan

Portland ’13

13 Mar

It has been about 8 months now since I first nestled myself here in the Willamette Valley and Portland’s flowers and trees are beginning again to bloom. Multicolored botanical genitalia burst forth through the ripe brown earth, a melange of olfactory ambrosias of the most delicate, spring variety give me reprieve from the stale scent of winter, and avian composers greet the rising sun with concertos as ephemeral and fleeting as the morning dew. Just like the vibrant, seasonal vegetation just now emerging, I too find myself filled with a renewed energy, ready to establish my roots and grow.

As is inevitable at the beginning of a new year I have begun to seriously think about what lies in store for the coming months. As is typical in the painting business, January and February were almost entirely devoid of work for me. Though this meant that I didn’t have the opportunity to save money, my winter break gave me leave to consider what options I had available to me.

My first option, one that I had also considered for last summer was Arcosanti, an experimental eco-munity in the Arizona desert. Brain child of architect and philosopher, Paolo Soleri, Arcosanti is a full size example of the concept of Arcology. Coined by Soleri, Arcology is the fusion of architecture and ecology. In practice this means designing an urban landscapes the works seamlessly with natural ones, buildings that generate their own electricity and heat through passive solar, geothermal, sustainable technologies. The aim is to create cities that are an antithesis to the plastic sprawl the likes of Los Angeles and New York. Arcosanti is a place of learning for people of all ages and background. They host workshops ranging from a day to two weeks on construction and agriculture as well as the philosophies and ideologies of Paolo himself. They also offer, for those hoping to make a career in this kind of field, internships of your chosen length. They have a dormitory where they host their live in interns with also the option to camp. Meals and other amenities are provided in exchange for twenty hours a week either constructing new buildings or managing the farm. The idea of spending some time here appeals to me on many different levels. I hope to eventually pursue architecture as a career, focusing on affordable, sustainable buildings. I also would like to learn basic construction practices with the intent to one day build myself a home but also because it would give me valuable insight as an architect.

My second option, one that occurred to me last fall, was WWOOFing in Europe. I have been to all four corners of our beautiful country, from Kalamazoo to Maine to the Cascade mountain range but never have I left our shores in search of foreign skies. An international foray into organic farming, sounded like just the thing to break that spell of landlocked appetence. When my good friend Chloe, visited Portland in January, we got to talking about our plans for the future. We both intimated to one another an interest in traveling internationally in the coming year. Since two is always better that one we decided to join forces and travel together and thus the seed was planted.

My lease here runs out at the end of August so we decided that the end of September would be an ideal departure date. That leaves me with September to spend in Winona with my family and friends before I’m gone for an extended period of time over thousands of miles of open sea. We leave towards the end of the 2013 calendar year and that means that most of northern Europe is well past peak farming season, not to mention traveling on foot if necessary would be uncomfortable and cold. We decided then on Greece as an ideal launch pad for our romp through Europe. Greece has a well established WWOOF network, needs lots of help for its’ winter olive harvest, and has a very temperate climate in those lower elevation areas. We will stay in Greece for three months (the longest period of time permitted without any kind of visa) moving onto Turkey for an additional three months and after that hopefully some more northwestern European countries.

EEGAD, it got late fast. 6:30 comes earlier every morning I swear. We have our farms mostly decided on for Greece and I will go into more detail about those in a coming post.

May the force be with you.

Dunk

Portland

9 Dec

Well, here I am; back to the ol’ blog thanks to a generous donation by my grandparents of a macbook computer. That’s right ladies and gents I have now entered the 21st century but don’t expect me to get a smartphone or those new computerized underwear. I draw the line at laptop computers when it comes to technology.

Portland has been great to me so far. I am working as a house painter for a company here in Portland called Fresh Paint. Although my work mostly involves spreading petroleum based solvents onto wall surfaces, it is, for the most part, an enjoyable and rewarding profession. Though it isn’t something I want to do for the rest of my life but it is a useful skill to have, it more than pays the bills, and my coworkers and boss are laid back and enjoyable to be around. This job has allowed me to put away a respectable amount of money in the last couple months that I hope to use to travel through Europe this time next year when my lease with Ross and Kelly runs out.

Thanks be to Zoroaster we are no longer living in an RV but a semi-modern, 2 room apartment with hot water, gas, and, compared to the RV, a huge excess of free space. Needless to say the added room has made all of our lives a little easier and considerably diminished the amount of arguing that occurs between us. We are close to a lot of hip locales, restaurants, and chic boutiques; I visit the latter frequently to keep my store of scented candles and decorative knick-knacks well stocked. I have been eating healthy out here following a strict diet of sprouted wheat grasses and non-gmo astro turf. Also, the kombucha enemas have really helped to keep me regular.

All in all I am still doing considerably well out here, enjoying the weather  immensely, and trying to stay busy. My visit home was a lot of fun over Thanksgiving; it was refreshing to see that Winona and it’s inhabitants still exist and haven’t been sucked into some kind of quantum time vortex never to be seen again this side of the sixth dimension. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see everyone but I am eternally grateful for those I did get to spend time with.

Next time: Bagby Hot Springs, puzzled monkeys, and hopefully some photographs if I can remember to bring my camera anywhere.

Peace and Blessin’s

Home Sweet RV

26 Jul

Well it has been almost a month since my last post and what a month it has been. We decided in Montana that the terrible heat and fires in Colorado was going to be unnecessarily  hard on our vehicle and we didn’t want to risk a breakdown in a mountain pass at 110 degrees. So, leaving Montana, the idyllic farm, and all of our new friends behind we sailed out into the wild prairies of Idaho towards our new destination: Vancouver, WA. The last leg of what felt like a long journey was just wrapping up and I had time to reminisce about Montana as we were descending through mountain fog, now on the eastern half of the US Rockies. I couldn’t help feeling sentimental about my early childhood as we passed through Spokane, WA,  a relatively south from Pullman where I was born. Although this part of the country is dry, flat, and sparsely populated, it has a sort of ethereal beauty that one can really only appreciate on a windy day as the fields of wheat and lentils sway lazily in the breeze.

We arrived in Vancouver on the 1st of July tired, dirty, and inexpressibly glad to be again with friends, finally at the end of our journey. It was indeed the end of a chapter for the three intrepid travelers, but unbeknownst to them, a new one was just beginning.

So began the long and at times stressful enterprise of getting established in a completely new city. We were staying with Ross’ sister and her fiance in their flat in north Vancouver. We spent most of our days here applying for jobs and looking for apartments to live in. After about a week of searching we came across a great place downtown that had just, that very morning, had a two bedroom open up on the fifth floor. We immediately piled into our car and went for a quick chat with the manager. Lucky for us, we were the first ones to apply for said room and were set to move in Aug 8-15 once the maintenance had turned around the place. Because we were only slated to stay with our hosts for another week, we had to find a place to stay for a month. For the solution to this dilemma we turned to the inexhaustible, indefinitely useful tool, the internet. With the help of our friend Craig’s List we found a guy name Kieth, looking to rent out a room in his house on a short-term, month to month basis. Naturally we called him up and told him we were interested in the room. Upon hearing that we were a party of four he suggested that we might be more comfortable in his RV. Open to the idea and desperate for a place to stay, we came over to have a look. It was your typical RV: small, combination living room and kitchen leading into a hallway bathroom and a master bedroom at the rear of the vehicle. It had all the amenities  of comfortable 21st century living: electricity, hot water (sort of), air conditioning, even a TV. We decided among us that this was probably the most economical option we were going to find on such short notice. We signed a hand written lease and handed over the 600 bucks right there. Things were fine and dandy in our cozy new home, a bit cramped and moldy smelling perhaps, but certainly better than sleeping in a tent on a highway median. We were becoming quite accustomed to our new arrangements until one day we noticed that there was 4 inches of dirty, rank smelling, greasy water that had backed up out of our shower drain. We notified Kieth immediately and he informed us that we had to dump the gray water tank (the tank that holds all the water from our sink and shower). So, for the first time in my life, I drove my house across town. A novel experience, we felt greatly relieved to have, once again, a clean shower. Apart from that and the 6 inch mushroom growing out of the bed, our house was home.

My room mates are now ushering me out the door to the famous alberta street fair. More posts and pictures to come. Love you all and peace from Oregon!

Weedbusters

28 Jun

DSCN0082

It has been a couple of days since my last post not because nothing interesting has happened to me but because after a long day of toil, dirt, and sun all I can really think about is how nice my sleeping bag looks. Sunday night Kelly, Ross, and I drove 15 minutes north to check out the Mission Mountains (the range in the pictures) during the sunset. We drive through these tiny little hodunk roadside towns until finally we crest this hill and there in front of us are the snowcapped Missions. We felt like Jake Blues during his divine revelation minus James Brown and the aerobatic black congregationalists. Monday we went into Missoula with Ashley and got a chance to explore the city a little bit. Missoula is a surprisingly liberal town: lots of dreadlocks and organic coffee shops. The first good coffee I have had since crossing the Minnesota border was at this place in Missoula called Butterfly Herbs. Mainly specializing in gourmet tea, (they had walls and walls of different tea varieties (Mugby needs to step up the competition, someone should suggest and expanded inventory to that barmy manager)) they had some great espresso. I had two shots and a hummus sandwich, both delicious. While wandering around town, Ross and I decided to visit the city building and find out what kind of ordinances there were regarding busking (playing street music) in the city. After being shuffled through literally eight different government offices (it was like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil) we finally got the email address of someone we could contact to get a permit of some type. We left disheartened after 45 minutes of beige government offices and bumped into a traveler type with a guitar outside the courthouse. We asked her if the police had given her any trouble for playing on the street and she told us that it was perfectly legal to busk on any public property including sidewalks as long as you weren’t being obnoxious. Figures the only real information we get is from a gypsy without shoes. The main reason we went into town, however, was to pick up another WWOOFer coming from the UK. Our new WWOOFer is named Johnathan. He is taking a summer jaunt across the United States to gain inspiration for his dissertation on the American road trip in literature. He has been fun to have around; he turned me on to an author I have really enjoyed reading named Jorges Luis Borges. Known as the best author to never win a Pullitzer prize, he is an Argentinian who’s postmodernist, sublime short stories, remind me a lot of some of Ray Bradbury’s work (another author I enjoy immensely.)

We weeded a whole field of Heterothica today and yesterday (check out the before and after pictures above.) The sheer amount of weeds we pulled out of that field is completely unreal: it must have been close to four truck beds full piled at least 6 feet high. I have gained an immense respect for Bryce and Rebecca who, after working eight hour days in town, still find the time and energy to come home to the farm and work for another three or four hours in the hot sun. That same respect extends to all organic farmers who have to pick all their weeds by hand–relying not on the use of herbicides but on good ol’ fashioned hard work. When I close my eyes to go to sleep after a pulling weeds all day I inevitably have the image of whatever weed I pulled the most of that day burned into my retinas. We were joking today that it is like Dante’s Infarmo, fighting through the nine circles of noxious weeds. Luckily our hosts have a good sense of humor. More weeding tomorrow and the next day but Saturday we have the day off to go to the farmers market. Ross, Kelly and I are going to try to busk to make some gas money for the trip to Vancouver. We decided not to go to the next farm in Colorado because of the wild fires. The extreme heat coupled with another long, slow trip through the mountains and a bad engine seems like a recipe for disaster. Sunday morning we will pack up and leave for Vancouver where Ross’s sister has a place for us to stay for a few weeks until we get off of our feet. Meanwhile, I love you all back in Winona–Mormor, everybody loved the cream of potato cheese soup you gave me the recipe for–Mom and Dad, I will call you friday after I get off of work. Keep checking back for more posts. I will try to be more diligent about posting more often.

Peace from Montana!

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