farmstay

Oh My…How Things Change

Change Ahead

Change is my new mantra.  It is so funny to think about, but I used to avoid change at all costs, now the landslide I call my life is constantly shifting.  I was thinking this morning about all the little things that have changed in my life.

I used to wash my hands constantly.  Yes, slightly obsessive.  Now, I can go to the barn then make a sandwich and never give my hands another thought.  Of course, if they are covered in something I will wash them, but not the 30 times a day I used to.

My old rule was if I wore something for longer than five minutes, it had to be washed and dried.  I was constantly doing laundry of clothes I never really wore.  Now, I have to remember to change my clothes after a few days.  I forget sometimes how long I have worn an outfit.  Pants can go a couple weeks and shirts a couple days.

Grocery store runs were an almost daily norm for me.  If I saw a recipe and did not have an ingredient, off to the store I went (and bought a lot more than that one item).  I have learned to improvise.  Now I use what I have or do without.  “Going to town” now means planning ahead and being resourceful in the meantime.

Most of my life has been spent sitting behind a desk; shuffling papers,typing, answering phones and other non-physical activities.  Due to that lifestyle, I became very soft and doughy.  Now I am walking and moving so much more.  What an amazing difference that makes.  I am down about 30 lbs. (with quite a few to go) just by getting out of the chair once in a while.  After you get used to it, moving actually does feel good!  I am even considering starting to hike  — well, I still in the thinking stage of that one.

Food, what can I say.  My old idea of food had to come to me in a prettty, shiny package all wrapped up nice and secure.  I knew where food really came from but I liked the idea of sanitary food.  I have found that food that is home grown, locally grown or just fresh from a farmer’s market tastes so much better.  I no longer need the plastic wrap to make me comfortable eating food.  Also, how much better is it when the food has been tended to and cared for.  You can actually taste the difference.  Sometimes I even accidentally eat a little dirt.

There are so many little things that have changed, I could go on for days.  The real thing though is how much more open I am.  I am still scared to death every day of my new life.  Mostly, I have no idea what I am doing or what is going to happen next, but I am open to the experiences.  I used to be so closed off, I just wanted to be alone.  It was just easier to be by myself.  I had no reason to meet anyone new.

Yesterday, I met a fellow Helpxer who came to my hosts home to help with a project.  We all had a great day talking about life, traveling, pain, insecurity and joy.  We talked the gambit of emotions and feelings.  At the end of the day, my new friend is going her separate way but I am hoping we can stay in contact as our journeys are similar.  I realized my struggles with uncertainty and feeling lost are not abnormal.  Lot of people, more put together than me, struggle too.

So as I think of all my personal changes and the fact that they make me feel as if I am standing on shifting sand at times, they are making me a more open person to all this world has to offer.  Talking to strangers, doing jobs I never dreamed of, and just putting myself out there are things I could have never done without the changes in my life.  The added bonus is the incredible people I am meeting are showing me new ideas and new ways to think that get me outside of my head.

There are days I curse change and wish I could wrap up in my blankie and just wallow but change is not allowing that behavior any longer.  I was very comfortable being enveloped by my sorrow and fear; we had become friends.  Now it has all changed and is continuing to change.  I am interested to see where the tide takes me and what my next adventure is.

Thank you for sharing with me.  Here’s to change and all that that entails!

 

 

Morning Comes Early

Having never been one to jump out of bed and start the day, my new life requires that I do that now.  The morning comes early when there are horses, dogs, cats, birds, turkeys, ducks and the occasional goats to feed.  These lovely living creatures need me to care for them.

Walking outside to see the sun starting to stream over the mountains, smelling the pure mountain air and feeling the cool breeze on my skin has transformed me into a morning person.  The absolute quiet of the day and the stillness have made me fall in love with this new, albeit temporary, lifestyle.  As the kitties rub my leg and the horses nudge me toward the barn, I realize that there is much more to life than I had ever imagined.  My view was certainly very narrow.

The day continues as it always does with more chores to do and errands to run.  Then the cycle starts again as night begins to fall.  I will hear the animal voices reminding me not to forget to feed them, as if I could.  But now the sun is disappearing behind the mountain and the fresh air still brushes against my face but just with a cooler temperature.  Life is good on the farm.

I am learning that taking care of something other than myself is its own reward.  I so quickly fall into a pattern that revolves around myself.  That only leads to frustration and depression.  Caring for others opens the heart and the mind to a new way of thinking.  It makes no difference if you are helping another person or a furry friend, the mind cannot seem to concentrate on both self and others at the same time.  Thinking of others is not an automatic response for me, but the more I do, the easier it becomes.

A few more things to do then off to bed as morning does come early to the farm.

Here is to the opportunity to see a new and different life than the one I knew and to constantly expanding my horizons.

How to Find a Host Family for a Farm or Home Stay

Helping Others

 

Lately, I have been talking about the Farm or Home Stays I have been participating in. I have been asked how one finds people who need HelpXers (as we are called). It is easy, through an online site called Help Exchange (or HelpX for short). The following blurb is straight from the Help Exchange Website and describes the theory behind the program much better than I ever could.

 “Welcome to Help Exchange (HelpX)

HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.”

 “HelpX is provided primarily as a cultural exchange for working holiday makers who would like the opportunity during their travels abroad, to stay with local people and gain practical experience. In the typical arrangement, the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts.”

The only difference is that I have decided to stay within the United States (I cannot even imagine the mess I would be if I was traveling abroad). If I was interested in traveling overseas, that would be an option. There are all kinds of working opportunities as well as locations. Some places need experienced help and others are willing to teach, train and coach you to learn a new skill.

The program is amazing as are the people who participate as Hosts. They are awesome and generous. This is a great program for young people to learn about different cultures and learn all kinds of skills, but it is turning into an option for more experienced (dare I say older) people who want to get off the corporate treadmill and start living an alternative lifestyle. I have run into more and more “older” couples who want to ditch the mortgage and the stuff and hit the road.

HelpX is a great way to give back and pay forward. It opens doors to let the participants help each other as well as people who are in need of assistance. I want my life to start being about others instead of always being about me (if you have read past posts, it really is all about me).

So what have I learned so far from my HelpX experience: (1) How to lay field stone and gravel to make a mud-free walkway, (2) How to make better a better food product by using sustainable and organic means, (3) How to paint a porch, (4) Goats are really fun to take care of, (5) How to make coffee with a French Press, (6) The more you move the better you feel, (7) After all these years, I am still allergic to hay, (8) Some outside people do not understand the concept and are not trusting of your motives and so much more. This journey has just begun, so I am looking forward to what other lessons I will be learning. Here’s to a wild ride!!

What is it Like Working on a Farm/Home Stay?

Just a few of the tools I used this weekend.  Okay, maybe not the hammer.

Just a few of the tools I used this weekend. Okay, maybe not the hammer.

I have had a few inquiries into what it is like to work on a Farm/Home Stay.  This is only our second one, but I am thinking it will be similar in other places.  First, it really depends on what the Host is looking for in terms of work to be done.  Many of the stays we have looked at include fixing thing, gardening, caring for livestock, building barns and other buildings, cutting trails, clearing land, painting and general farm work.  In return for this work, the “help-x’er” (that’s us) will receive room or a place to pitch a tent and sometimes meals.  Each Host decides how many hours a week is needed (usually between 20 and 32).  Many of the hosts do not require a lot of experience, this process is designed to expose people to things in order for them to learn something new.  It is really quite a unique program.

Then there is us.  I cannot verify this fact for sure, but I think we are fairly old compared to other help-x’ers.  But Mike has a lot of varied experience; so when seasoned help is needed, he is the guy to call.  I, on the other hand, have spent the last 30 years or so working behind a desk.  I can paint a little and do some things, but my skill set is not in huge demand.

Last weekend was a good example of a typical home stay workload.  Mike was involved in doing some brush clearing, tree trimming, raking of leaves, and other landscaping-like tasks.  The weather was nice, so it seemed like the perfect set of tasks to start on.  While I worked in the house a little bit, doing general cleaning and some cooking.  Then on Sunday while Mike was trimming I started to paint the house around the front door and Mike ended up finishing it.  After working all day and having a meal together, our Host Family invited us to join them in watching a movie.

It is a lovely mix of varied work and being social.  Some Farm/Home Stays simply want the work done and afterwards you are on your own.  That is fine too.  That is why it is so important to read Host profiles and reviews to see if a particular stay is the right fit for everyone.  We have been extremely lucky with our two Farm/Home Stays, as the people could not have been nicer or more generous.  I am fortunate that my “Martha Stewart” skills are being put to use; even though they were not detailed in the profile, it turns out our busy working mom Host can use an extra hand.  I am so very happy to help.

I am not sure how long we will be doing this bartering for room and board, but for now it is a wonderful experience.  We are meeting some of the most interesting people along the way.  Every day there is something new to learn from our Hosts.  Although the process can be a little daunting for someone like me (basically who hates to be out of their comfort zone), it is the most blessed of experiences as it makes me do things that are uncomfortable (not in a bad way) and is making me stronger for it.

I hope that painted a generous picture of what it is like.  If you have any specific questions, feel free to let me know and I will be more than happy to answer them.

I am sure each situation is unusual, but that is just an example of what we have experienced in our three weeks of Farm/Home Staying.  Thank you for listening!!

Home Stay #1+ — Working on a Horse Farm

When I was younger, my older sister, Rita, had two Tennessee Walkers (Bagdad and Marylegs) and a Shetland Pony (Butch).  She loved horses;I was really afraid of them.  They were so much bigger than me and they moved a lot.  My parent’s friend tried to teach me to ride, but that never worked really well.  I was just always afraid of falling off.  Many times I would ride behind my mother and hold onto her with a death grip.  When I would ride alone, I would only ride Western because I hung onto the saddle horn for dear life.  I was allergic to the hay and all the dust in the barn so you can imagine what fun it was for me.

To be completely honest, I actually love the majesty that is a horse.  They are such regal animals and people who can ride them fascinate me.  The family we are home staying with have horses and they are so good with them.  I watch the love they have for them, it is beautiful.  The bond between a rider and their horse is extremely intense as both parties hold the other parties life in their hands.  It is a true symbiotic relationship.

I do not own this image, but I respectfully am using it in my blog.

I do not own this image, but I respectfully am using it in my blog.

Fast forward 40 years or so and I am home staying in North Carolina when Mike meets a woman who owns a boarding stable, he strikes up a conversation with her and next thing you know he is feeding horses and cleaning stalls.  I have known Mike for over 25 years and I never have seen him with a horse.  It turns out that he used to help with his Aunt’s horses and had been around others in his youth.  He loves the peacefulness of working in the stable and it shows on his face.

I have stayed away from going to the stable as I have had other duties to attend to at our host’s home.  Last night, Mike took me to see the stables and I ended up helping him feed and water the horses.  I am much taller than I was back when my sister had horses and I am older and wiser.  I assumed that all the past experiences I had with horses would flood back and I would be good with them.  I was wrong!!

What a wimp I am!!  My gosh, horses are still big even if I am bigger.  They are way stronger than I remember and have huge teeth that look like they would hurt if you got bit.  I wanted so badly to be over that fear, but it does not seem like that is the case at this point.  I guess my fear has an unrelenting grip.  For now I will watch from the sidelines and maybe inch closer every now and then.  I think I can overcome this fear eventually…at least, I hope so.  It is officially on my bucket list, to ride a horse again.  We will see if that one comes to pass.

FYI:  It is a real thing:  Equinophobia or hippophobia is a psychological fear of horses.

How Much Comfort do You Need in a Comfort Zone?

I do not need a room with a view, I need a room with a door.

I do not need a room with a view, I need a room with a door.

As I make my way down this new road I am taking, I am faced with the fact that my well-known comfort zone (my home) is no longer available to me for comfort.  I now have to find a place of comfort somewhere else.  This has been difficult for me.  I am considered a “Highly Sensitive Person”, which means basically that I am easily overwhelmed by light, sounds, commotion, and other external stimuli.  I need a place to go when things get to be too much.  I always ran to my home for that comfort but after many years of that I started to feel that my home had gone from comfort zone to prison.  I say prison because, at times, it became easier to not leave at all then to face the world.

The view from the front door of our latest farm stay.  North Carolina is beautiful!

The view from the front door of our latest farm stay. North Carolina is beautiful!

For now, I do not have a permanent place to live and, therefore, no permanent comfort zone.  I have been blessed thus far on my journey that I have had a room that I could retreat into when I felt overwhelmed.  I took all that for granted for many years, now I realize that is a luxury.  A room with a door….what a lovely sight that is for me now.  A place where I can be quiet and breathe, away from anything happening on the other side of the door.

This view is my new comfort zone.

This view is my new comfort zone.

I used to think that my comfort zone had to be this place where I was in control of all things.  I cooked my way, I cleaned my way (although I gave up on that a while back), I did everything my way.  I realize now that it was the “control” as well as the quiet that was my comfort.

Even Devi loves North Carolina.

Even Devi loves North Carolina.

Having “control” of things is like having a false sense of hope.  It is just not real.  Life does what it does and you really do not have that much control.  Okay, you may control how often you do laundry or what to make for dinner but the big decisions seem to be out of your control.  I walked on eggshells for years thinking if I had everything in place that my life would finally be perfect.  I would try to control something and another thing seemingly fell apart.  I was afraid to rock the cosmic boat for fear that all things would just come tumbling down.  Now that all “that” is gone, I can see a little clearer.  I lived in constant fear…every day and of everything.  It is no wonder I was never happy.  I wish I could have seen that before, things may have been different.  Or maybe they had to be this way in order for me to see them.

So I am learning to find my comfort where I can find it; I am learning to be more resilient and flexible (which is NOT me); I am learning to let go of what little control I have and learn how to do things differently; I am learning that making a new life is harder than I thought it would be but is very doable.

I do not own this image but I am respectfully using it in my blog.

I do not own this image but I am respectfully using it in my blog.

I always used to say “Let Go and Let God” but, honestly, I had no idea. It sounded good in theory and I was sure that was something I could do at another time but not then because I was still in control. Now I make the latest plans, think of all the contingencies and try to make it come to fruition….and the plans never seem to work out. I need to remember to let go and go with the flow. Mike is amazing at doing that, me…not so much. But I do not think I will ever find peace unless I truly and honestly completely let go.

Here is to letting go of useless control (it never got me anywhere good anyway) and to find life exciting instead of scary; scary being a place a had to hide from. If I can just see the adventure in all this, maybe having a comfort zone might not be that important anymore. Here is to letting go of the woobie!!

Thank you for listening!!

Farm Stay #1 — Near Bowling Green, Kentucky

This is not Kentucky. I misplaced my Kentucky pics, so I hope you enjoy North Carolina.

This is not Kentucky. I misplaced my Kentucky pics, so I hope you enjoy North Carolina.

Now that things are finally starting to calm down a bit, I hope to post more about our Farm / Home Stays.  As I noted in previous posts, Mike and I are basically without a permanent home and now have very few possessions.  We cannot afford to stay in hotel/motels, and we cannot seem to get an apartment without having some sort of employment (go figure, right?).  So we had to think outside the box and Mike came up with a great idea.  Farm/Home Stays.

Basically, what we are doing is volunteering a someone’s farm or home to do work (a predetermined number of hours a week) in exchange for room and meals.  We do buy some of the food as it only seems fair.  The first Farm Stay was only for a weekend, but our current one may go a few weeks.  In the meantime, Mike is contacting other people who might need help in order to line up our next stay.

We are lucky because Mike has quite a few skills that make him valuable on a farm or doing home repairs.  I, on the other hand, have spent most of my life sitting behind a desk and typing for a living.  I fear that my skills are not quite as in demand.  Luckily though, many years ago I went through my “Martha Stewart” phase so I have some homemaking skills that I can use.  But I still feel very unsure of myself.  One wants to be sure that they pull their own weight when doing a Farm / Home Stay.

Anyway, our first Farm Stay was with a lovely family just outside of Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Our Host, runs a small farm with cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, bees, dogs and cats.  She utilizes farming techniques from the 30s and 40s, which she taught herself.  Her animals are treated so well, they are actually stress-free.  They roam in beautiful green pastures (she moves them often so the land stays in good condition) and are tended to in a loving fashion.

I, like many of you, have watched the Big Farm documentaries and have some knowledge of the horrific practices some corporate farms use in order to feed people at a profit for themselves.  I used to think myself as frugal until this short Farm Stay.  They use EVERYTHING, nothing is wasted.  They have reverence for the Earth and its bounty and the Earth seems to be shining on them for their great stewardship.

I cannot begin to fathom all the things I learned in that 2 1/2 day stay.   I am still trying to come back from a really bad anemic episode, so I am still feeling weak and very low.  We talked how our food was designed to heal us but instead the processed foods we eat are doing the opposite.  I know my body has a difficult time up-taking nutrients, and the human body was not designed for that.  Everything I thought I knew about food has changed.

It is amazing how you can meet someone for a short time and they can leave such an imprint on your life.  Our host did that.  I feel so honored to have met her and her family and to have seen her farm.  Their way of life is SO different from the way Mike and I have lived in the past, but now we are open to these types of experiences.  I am generally a germaphobe by nature, but I have to step outside of any kind of comfort zone that I know in order to live in these other people’s lives.  It is a true test for me.

I envy Mike as he just jumps in, no matter what and adapts.  I am slower to adapt, but I am trying very hard to be the person who “rolls with it Baby.”  I can see now that these experiences are going to be the ones that teach me about life.  I thought the road trip was going to teach me about life and about God, but now I see it is going to be living with people who were strangers in the beginning (friends in the end) and living a life that is not mine.  That is going to change me.  That is where my knowledge will come.  I stayed insulated in my little world for so many years, now that is all gone and I have to find my way in a world that I know little about.  It is scary but actually very exciting.

We are officially a week and two days into our new life and things seem different already.  I cannot wait to write more about it as I spend some trying time trying to figure it all out.  Please stay tuned because things are going to get very real!!!!!

Thank you for listening!

Living with Too Much Stuff

I do not own this image but I am using it respectfully.

I do not own this image but I am using it respectfully.

Last Friday, Mike and I rolled out of our driveway, the same driveway I have driven up and down for 47 years, for the last time.  We have spent the last few weeks giving away, throwing away and donating most of our belongings.  We have decided to start a new journey that involves living with much less; which also means not having a house any longer.  It is a huge change from what we are used to.

Our first stop was a farmstay in Bowling Green, Kentucky (a really great place – I will write a post about our stay).  I knew by the time we got there that we had brought too much stuff. The back of Devi was full and we even had to leave some things behind because there was no room left in the car.  Luckily our host was getting ready to donate some clothes to a local charity and we asked if we could donate some things also.

The point is not what great people we are for donating stuff, the point is actually that we realized on the second day of our new life that we still had stuff we could live without.  I began thinking why I had to have these few items and I could not remember for the life of me what I was thinking.  So we have decided to pare down even more.

Now I am looking at the stuff I still have and I am wondering what I can part with.  Do I really need four mini-sewing kits?  Probably not seeing as I do not know how to sew.  Do I need my set of 3 lb. weights for working out my arms?  Probably not, since they have so much dust on them from non-use, they made me sneeze.  Journals, I have several and I usually write everything on-line.  They sit in a box just waiting for me to hand-write things again.  I see now that I can actually get rid of more stuff.

So this new journey involves a conscious effort to live with less stuff.  I dreamed it would be easier than it is, but as with any learning experience, it hurts but it will be worth it in the long run.

Phase Two: Fresh Starts and New Beginnings in North Carolina

I do not own this image, but I am respectfully using it in my blog.

I do not own this image, but I am respectfully using it in my blog.

Many things have changed since coming back from my journey.  Since everything was in flux, I was not really able to discuss the changes, but now I can.  This is actually Phase 2 of my Epic Journey.  The first part was the trip itself.  While I was actually doing the trip, I felt it was yet another of my failures, but in retrospect, it has actually prepared me for this new phase.  I learned things that I did not realize until later and the difficult experiences made me realize that I am not quite as soft as I thought I was.

Over the past few weeks, Mike and I have been cleaning out our belongings.  Getting rid of anything that is non-essential.  We had decided to live our lives more consciously and without a lot of physical entanglements.  I have lived in this same house for about 48 years and it has accumulated much stuff.  Getting rid of the stuff has proved to be much more difficult than I had ever imagined.  It is not so much the getting rid of it, but finding a home for the stuff when everyone is buried under their own stuff and just the sheer volume of things to get rid of has been quite a hurdle.  I decided a while ago that I was tired of the stuff owning me and now I am finally getting to a point where that will not be the case any longer.  If it does not fit in Devi, it does not go with us.

At the end of this week, we will be starting a completely new life.  We are going to be leaving this home and our home state for a new location in North Carolina.  During this entire process, Mike and I have talked and talked about everything and what we feel we need at this point in our lives.  Years of being one lost paycheck away from disaster has taken its toll, stress has made us sick and it seems we may have actually forgotten how to live.

Part of Phase One was to try a farmstay out in Oregon, but due to unforeseen situations, that never came to pass.  We decided that we would give the farmstay idea another try in North Carolina.  The idea is to connect, through an organization called Help Exchange, volunteers (that would be us) with people who are in need of assistance either on their farms or teaching facilities.  Tasks are detailed and volunteers are usually give room and board in exchange for the jobs they will do.  It is a great symbiotic working relationship because the people in need receive the assistance they desire and the volunteers are given the opportunity to give back while having a roof over their heads.  These stays can be short-term or long-term, it all depends on what is needed.

We actually have a couple of exciting stays lined up for the next few months.  There are about ten opportunities just in the location we are looking at, so the opportunities seem good for now.  We will be nomadic for the next few months; if we like the options, we may stay that way indefinitely.

As the blog starts the next phase, it will still be about self-discovery but now it will also be about something more than just me.  We will be meeting people who are living outside the box and who will, hopefully, teach us how to do the same.  My eyes are going to be opened to new ways of life that I never even imagined before.  The plan is to live lighter, live healthier and to live simpler.

Leaving everything we know and leaving my ultimate comfort zone is proving to be a challenge.  But I could sit in the same place for the rest of my life and play it safe like I have done for so long.  I could watch myself get more and more depressed because my fears and doubts would be running my life or I can step outside and start living.  It is time to start living and helping others.  I wanted my Epic Journey to give me answers to how to live my life, it seemed to only give me more questions, but now I see that when asked the right questions, the answers start to fall into place.

I wanted to thank everyone again who supported my trip.  It was life changing and I could never have done it without your support.  I hope you will stay tuned to find out about this new adventure.  We should be on our first short farmstay by the weekend.  I am looking forward to it (I am scared to death) and I hope you will walk this new path with me.  Thank you for listening.