Winter WWOOFing 2016

In late November, we tucked the Farm in for the season, ready for its sleepy cover crop of snow, and headed southward toward our planned route of other organic farms, where we would live and work through the WWOOF-USA program.

It was a good plan, a great route – but as we all know, what will be will be – and it’s rarely just what we had in mind. As it turned out, we first had to endure some loss this Winter. First, sweet mighty Cleo lost the use of her legs, after 15 years of the finest companionship a dog has ever provided man.

We kept her comfortable and happy til the very end, let her sleep in the bed with us, rolled her to her favorite places in a padded wagon, gave her all the love and treats that she wanted, and said our goodbyes at my sister’s house in Illinois.

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Immediately afterward, my Mom’s health began to slide, as the cancer she’d kept at bay for a decade came back to roost. We turned back North, cancelled our plans to return to Yokna Bottoms Farm in Mississippi, and spent the month of December in my Minnesotan childhood home helping prepare the house for sale and my mom for a move into an assisted living facility.

By January, things had stabilized enough that we packed up the trailer again and hit the road for Texas – now with my mom’s dog Ace joining our family entourage. It would be just another month before I had to come back North  …

Habitable Spaces (Kingsbury, Texas)

We’d spent almost the entire winter last year at this unique artists’ residency, and it was wonderful to return to see our human and animal friends, all that’s changed and endured.

Scout modeling an imported Que Sehra pumpkin
Scout modeling an imported Que Sehra pumpkin

 

tile remnant puzzle floor completed
tile remnant puzzle floor completed

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adopted feral Egyptian Geese (which are technically not geese, or ducks - but "shelducks." in the space between the two
adopted feral Egyptian Geese (which are technically not geese, or ducks – but “shelducks.” in the space between the two
the simple rocket stove we built last year, keeping water boiling for feather plucking
the simple rocket stove we built last year, keeping water boiling for feather plucking

  

chewing up, spitting, lumping , and drying out some dried, rehyrdrated, limed Que Sehra corn ...
chewing up, spitting, lumping , and drying out some dried, rehyrdrated, limed Que Sehra corn …
... to make chicha!
… to make chicha!

 

a walk through the woods discovery
a walk through the woods discovery
one mile to go
one mile to go
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I love Burl.

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loved eating from the earth oven we built last winter
loved eating from the earth oven we built last winter

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the Ward Sisters installing a new door
the Ward Sisters installing a new door
the Ward Sisters nursing ducklings
the Ward Sisters nursing ducklings

 

catmouflage
catmouflage

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Biodiverse Food Forest HomeGreen Permaculture Center (Rockport, Texas)

Their goals here are as lofty as their name is long – to transform a sandy, neglected, abused little parcel of land into a lush symbiotic edible ecosystem. Meredith and her mom are just getting things cleaned up and starting to grow – we helped them out wherever we could, and enjoyed the proximity of the ocean, in between.

first encounter with the barnyard gang
first encounter with the barnyard gang

 

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doing some exploring by the Texas coast
doing some exploring by the Texas coast

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found a lot of fossilized wood in our down time
found a lot of fossilized wood in our down time

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fossilized poop! for real. AKA a "coprolite" - I had to lick it to convince Kristin it wasn't just a sun-dried poop of recent vintage. Even then, she was skeptical ...
fossilized poop! for real. AKA a “coprolite” – I had to lick it to convince Kristin it wasn’t just a sun-dried poop of recent vintage. Even then, she was skeptical …

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our MN friend Lizzy was visiting nearby Corpus Christi, and showed us a great beach
our MN friend Lizzy was visiting nearby Corpus Christi, and showed us a great beach

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#WWOOFerAmenities
#WWOOFerAmenities

 

a rooster checking out the new roost / laying boxes we built
a rooster checking out the new roost / laying boxes we built

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Loss Interlude

Immediately after leaving Rockport, I got a call from my sister – my Mom was fading fast. I got on a northbound plane immediately, while Kristin and the dogs drove West toward our final host farm in New Mexico.

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After a powerful and surprisingly positive week helping my mother make the transition into the great unknown, I flew back to rejoin them with a refreshed appreciation for life.

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Last Word Ranch (Los Cerrillos, NM)

If the native soil in coastal Texas had been  poor or challenging, the soil here in the high-altitude desert was barren and blasted. Irradiated by the sun and scattered by the howling winds, very little plant life grew – outside of the carefully nurtured gardens and the high tunnel packed with the aquaponics symbiotic system they’d just started up – fish living in water filtered by edible plants that used the fish waste as nutrients, a Rube Goldberg system as interconnected and unlikely as all of Life.

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Kristin gluing together scraps of tarp to line the new raised grow bed that Kristin and Dee built before I got there
Kristin gluing together scraps of tarp to line the new raised grow bed that Kristin and Dee built before I got there

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sifting soil for the growbed
sifting soil for the growbed
otherWWOOFer Ali, Dee Word (89 years old & always working harder than anyone), and Gabe finishing up the filling of the new raised grow bed
otherWWOOFer Ali, Dee Word (89 years old & always working harder than anyone), and Gabe finishing up the filling of the new raised grow bed
Jedi, Dee's sidekick
Jedi, Dee’s sidekick
sol in the solar panels
sol in the solar panels
refurbishing solar thermal panels with Dee - these use copper piping and fins to heat fluid as it flows through
refurbishing solar thermal panels with Dee – these use copper piping and fins to heat fluid as it flows through
Kristin took the reigns of the farm Instagram account and started making wonderful collages like this ...
Kristin took the reigns of the farm Instagram account and started making wonderful collages like this …
the local Pinion Pines had been ravaged by boring beetles - which resulted in an abundance of fragrant resin globs all over the place, just waiting to be collected and turned into incense ...
the local Pinion Pines had been ravaged by boring beetles – which resulted in an abundance of fragrant resin globs all over the place, just waiting to be collected and turned into incense …

 

one of several loaves of sourdough that Kristin made
one of several loaves of sourdough that Kristin made

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down in the arroyo
down in the arroyo

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sun & wind blasted - and loving it
sun & wind blasted – and loving it

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twisted, living arroyo bouquet
twisted, living arroyo bouquet

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gunshot gravestone in the old Los Cerrillos cemetary
gunshot gravestone in the old Los Cerrillos cemetary
good fine print, there
good fine print, there
Dee drilling holes through the trailer bed. If I'm half as active at half his age, I'll be doing good I reckon ...
Dee drilling holes through the trailer bed. If I’m half as active at half his age, I’ll be doing good I reckon …

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took an afternoon to see Santa Fe - wound up climbing a mountain in a snow storm.
took an afternoon to see Santa Fe – wound up climbing a mountain in a snow storm.

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Farmer Gene tends the Barrelponics system
Farmer Gene tends the Barrelponics system
hard to tell from the pic, but this was the biggest piece of petrified wood I've ever found
hard to tell from the pic, but this was the biggest piece of petrified wood I’ve ever found

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Looking Ahead

Although the loss of Cleo and my mom  made this one of the emotionally coldest winters in the personal record books, it was not a bad winter. We shed so many tears, but death is an inevitable part of living – and life is a wonderful thing indeed. We met lovely people, reconnected with friends, bonded with family, learned, and laughed – and we are coming into Spring ready to keep on growing; forward, upward, and ahead.

Thank you all, again, for being part of this journey.

Love,

Gabe, Kristin, Widget, and Ace

One thought on “Winter WWOOFing 2016”

  1. Blessings to you both. I am sorry for your losses this winter. May the memories of heartfelt moments and life’s laughter give you light and comfort as you move from the past into a different future, and though those you love are now on a new plane, they will remain with you forever.

    I love reading about, or seeing through photos, (love all the photos) the adventures and challenges you both experience, even having never met either of you; I feel as though I know you and send best wishes through the aether. It is a wonderful journey. I know you are both an inspiration and welcome friend to all of those with whom you connect.

    Thanks for sharing a little part of your world.

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