Hibernationesque

Monday, January 6
Yokna Patawpha Bottoms Farm
Oxford, Mississippi

The cold hit hard Monday night, just as it did throughout most of the country, as a massive Arctic airmass pushed southward and stayed put. The wind howled all night long as the warm southern air was shoved down off the continent into the Gulf.

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We convinced Nathan to suit up and take a walk through the frozen morning down to the chicken coop, to gather up some eggs for breakfast. He took us through the puddled pathways through the woods – the shallow puddles were already frozen, and Nathan did his first ever “ice skating” on a natural body of water, skimming across a flooded puddle in his workboots.

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Kristin baked oatmeal apple muffins, which sustained us through a cozy afternoon in the house, laying about and becoming nearly indistinguishable from the seven dogs sprawled around us.

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Merton & Cleo: hardworking farm dogs

 

We were sedentary, but we weren’t lazy – we spent hours throughout the afternoon creating and populating a “master seed list” – a combined inventory of all the seed the farm has on hand plus all the seed and requisite info for the seeds they planned to order for spring planting (all in a convenient online spreadsheet).

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Widget assists with seed ordering
 
Jan 7
Yokna Patwapha Bottoms Farm
Oxford, Mississippi

The next morning, we scarfed down pancakes made with the single egg that the chickens had laid in the freezing cold night.

chicken in the Mississippi winter
um hey guy our drinking water is totes frozen solid … ?

 

All the puddles – even the deep ones – were now frozen over, and the well’s pressure gauge had failed in the extreme cold – springing a spraying leak.

cypress & ice - an unusual combo
cypress & ice – an unusual combo

 

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Kristin and I gleaned some freeze-softened cabbage, broccoli, and kale remnants from the field, which she turned into a tasty side salad to accompany the black beans and rice dish that Doug had been slow cooking. While she created, Doug and I drove to the Mega Bus dropoff point to pick up Tom From the UK. He was on a tour spanning from Canada to Mexico, celebrating his new Philosophy degree and using the Help-X network to find places to stay in exchange for labor.

heading back toward the farmhouse’s smokestack beacon of warmth

 

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We went to bed knowing that it was our last day of indoor hibernation – tomorrow we would let the fireplace rest, and head outside to work.

– Gabe

Rain & Ping Pong

Sunday, January 5th
Yokna Patawpha Farm
Oxford, Mississippi

We woke to wonderful smells from downstairs – coffee, and the wood that we’d chopped the previous day burning in the fireplace.

We spent most of the morning and afternoon at the kitchen table, as rain from the arctic airmass coming south poured down  outside the windows on all sides – Kristin at my side browsing seed catalogs with Widget in her lap, my Cleo and Shivas the Scottish Terrier at our feet beneath the table, an unknown number of cats watching from motionless nooks and perches, and host/farm owner Doug adding wood to the fireplace.

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I was deemed to be the Human Bellows, so when the slightly damp wood failed to burn fiercely, I’d help blow it back into a roar.

For breakfast Doug made French toast made with eggs we fetched in from the Yokna coop, which we topped with preserves we’d brought from home – apples & wonderberry syrup.

The temps outside were still relatively balmy in the 40s and 50s, but the rain was constant and there was some of the coldest weather that the region had experienced in almost a century on the way, as all of the eastern US was subjected to a huge bubble of frigid arctic air.2014-01-05 08.25.40

Of course, it was still far warmer than the weather we’d left behind!

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We spent the early part of the day  relaxing, conversatin’, crochetin’ (well, Kristin did), and eating Doug’s farm-ground venison huevos rancheros.  Toward evening, Doug got a call from some friends across the river – they were having their annual ping pong tournament, and we were invited, so Kristin and I joined Doug and Nathan and hit the road. Although the party was less than a mile away across the river as the crow flies,  we had to go up a ways to cross, and then back down again. (Town politics involving the local “Board of Supervisors” had prevented the nearby bridge from being rebuilt after it washed out several years ago.)

We arrived to discover a gorgeous home built from plaster-covered straw bales, with soaring exposed beam ceilings and soft organic edges. I was surprised to see such a structure in such a moist environment – it turned out the house was built in part with experimental grant money –  a university study was done of how well it withstood the moisture, with concrete pillars keeping it up from the ground (it’s been several years and so far it’s stayed dry and durable!)

The folks at the party were older than us, and very serious about ping pong – competitive without rancor, they played to win and they played hard, but even in the heat of the contest they remained incredibly friendly and positive.

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We feasted on veggie chili, lentils, cornbread, sweet potatoes from Yokna Bottoms Farm, and other deliciousness while meeting an assortment of interesting characters, any one of which I’d have been glad to hang out with again if we ever cross paths – from the great-grandparent ping pong wizards who owned the house, to the artist who made amazing furniture from hardwood grown in twisting spirals due to restriction by climbing honeysuckle vines, to the Reiki healer who chatted as she rapidly assembled a complex puzzle that had been left out for any takers to piece together.

Every person and and every conversation was stimulating, friendly, and genuine, and although I was surrounded by strangers I was a bit sad when Doug said it was time to head back to the farm.

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We’d been away for five hours or so when we got back to the Dog Party at the Animal House – it had seemed filled with critters before, but it really did now; the temps were falling rapidly into record lows, so the not-so-housebroken outdoor cats and Missi the stray were welcomed into the fireplace-warmth of the house.

let me in please yes?

 

We tended the fire, read, and turned in early with full bellies and happy hearts.

– Gabe

Waking up Mississippi

Saturday, January 4th
Yokna Patwapha Farm
Oxford, Mississippi

It was dreamlike to wake to a warm green world  after the -11 arctic landscape we’d risen to just one day earlier. While the weather we were experiencing was frigid by Mississippian standards, we knew we’d dodged a far chillier bullet by coming South, and this added at least 10 subjective degrees to the actual temps …

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View out the front door, greeted by Whatdog & one of the cats
Kristin with Missi the semi-domesticated doggie
Kristin with Missi the semi-domesticated doggie
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Missi eats cat poop & dead rodents & she wants a kiss

To prepare for the coming arctic air mass, we helped Doug split a bunch of red oak logs they’d used throughout the year as drum circle seating, reducing them into small chunks for the fireplace. We were accustomed to the Monster Maul on the home farm, so it took us a bit to get used to the hammer/splitter combo and the light, sharp splitting axe – but we got better as the hefty log rounds become firewood stacked in the pickup bed.

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It was a good day – everyone we encountered was genuine, positive, and friendly. We met Jeff, the farm manager, and Nathan, who was on the tail end of a year-long WWOOFing stay on Yokna Bottoms farm, Ben the student of permaculture, and Mike, who was on the verge of biking to a village in South America.

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Yokna Bottoms fields

 

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Cleo checking out the Yokna chicken coop

And, we ate tacos in town. Mmmm. tacos.

The journey continues to be wonderful!

– Gabe

from -11 to Yokna Patawpha

Jan 3rd, 2013

We drove South from my sisters in Illinois,away from the -11 degree weather and headed for our first WWOOF farm, Yokna Patawpha Bottoms, down in northern Mississippi. We watched the temperature rising as the miles fell away, and the snow cover on the ground got more and more shallow, and then more patchy. By the time we finally rolled into Oxford in deep darkness, we could feel it was warm, but we didn’t see that we’d completely left the snow behind us until the next morning.

We chatted with our host Doug for a bit and then went to bed in our new room – a cozy, carpeted, and welcoming upstairs space lined with books that I’d like to read, interspersed by rocks and pleasant decorations. Amongst them, facing the entryway, was a single fortune cookie fortune.

I burst out laughing when I leaned forward and read it – because the exact same fortune had been the one thing of mine we left behind in our old bedroom in Minneapolis, as a message and blessing to our friend Jacque, who was moved in the day we left town.

I’d wedged it into a crack along the wall facing the entrance to the room, so it would greet her as she entered – just as the exact same fortune greeted us here:

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Aaaaaah! Love!

– Gabe

Southbound & Down – Loaded Up & Truckin

Gabe & Krisitn Sehr
Gabe & Krisitn Sehr

 

We launched our WWOOFing Honeymoon on New Years Eve, with a gathering of the Tribe – friends came together at the house to send us off, celebrate the new year, and warm the home we were departing for our dear friend Jacque, who is moving in with her dog, cats, and man. It was a truly beautiful, deeply-connecting party; setting the ideal frame of mind for our journey.

Now that things are finally, literally rolling, I’ve let myself feel the excitement – I am just insanely pumped. Everything is falling into place so magically, flowing so easily and organically – even preparing for a 2-month roadtrip & moving out of my house of 17 years was almost without stress – just amazing luck, perfect timing, and opening opportunities.

On New Year’s Day we finished packing and helped Jacque move, then we rolled out of Minneapolis and drove out to my sister’s in Illinois – where we’re spending two relaxing nights before pushing on to Oxford, Mississippi for our first WWOOF farm stint.

Happy New Year’s everyone – 2014 is looking to be the best, most interesting year of my life. Hope it is for you too!

– Gabe

what will be will be