Alabama to Florida

Monday, February 3rd
leaving The Chastain Farms
Winterboro, AL

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old silage pit once used to feed cows - Nathan would love to bury a school bus in it ...
old ‘silage pit’ once used to feed cows – Nathan would love to bury a school bus in it someday …

We woke up and fed the Chastain animals for the last time, and then got moving all our stuff out from the Milk Barn, into our van and trailer.

bringing the pigs their daily slops
bringing the pigs their daily slops

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pigs harassing their new bovine pasture-mates
pigs harassing their new bovine pasture-mates

Then we all took a field trip across the road, back to the Lodge – this time to get a tour of the upstairs, where Old Man Joe had been working to rehab the historic structure. It was full of old donated junk, so we had a good time picking through it all, but the coolest thing by far was the 8-foot tall bird nest in the wall – made from generations of birds adding new material annually in a tall narrow space between the wall joists.

The nest towered over us, and reflected when the neighboring lands were changed from wilderness pine straw to cultivated wheat straw, decades before.

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When we returned to the Chastain Farm, we were all packed, ready to roll, and were a bit ahead of our planned schedule .. but it just felt wrong leaving without helping the crew get the high tunnel greenhouse ribs assembled and put up. We’d helped dig in posts, level posts, re-level them repeatedly, cement them in, drill and attach multiple layers of toeboards, etc – days of work, but with almost nothing to show for it … and it had gone so smoothly putting up the first, test rib with the full team cooperating to align segments, screw them together, and hoist them up and down into place.

So we dug out muck boots back out from the trailer and went back out with the farmers and the SoCal WWOOFers to raise the roof.

The crew worked quickly and efficiently, dividing the labor into sensible chunks without any one person leading – the project just carried itself along and we rapidly had all the ribs screwed together on both sides and ready to move into the receiving foundation posts we’d worked on all week before the snow came.

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It had rained intensely the previous night, and the tilled, loose soil within the perimeter of the high tunnel had become a thick ooze, ready to swallow the unwary.

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We built a bridge from extra 2x6s, allowing the group that was setting the post on the far side of each rib to make the crossing without going down like Atryeu’s horse.

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Once we’d finished the build and the obligitory celebratory photography, we said our goodbyes, once again hoping they were “see you laters.”

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We had loved our time on the farm, and would miss the good people we had met there, the endless Kool Aid, the woodstove chimney pipe made from scavenged tomato cans, the amazing junkpiles bursting with potential, the cyclical rhythms of animals and old men.

branded by the DIY tomato can stovepipe
branded by the DIY stovepipe

We’d loved playing rustic aestheticians, practicing farmyard feng shui, bringing utility and rough beauty together. We had learned much from their selling of various value-added goods, from bouquets to preserves.

decoration we left behind in the WWOOFer bunker bedroom
decoration we left behind in the WWOOFer bunker bedroom

But it was time to move on, and go southward, sunward. Onward to Florida, the sunshine state!

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The temps rose as we dropped deeper southward – by the time we reached our destination (our friend Chris’ place in an RV park in Tallahassee), it was dark.

We ate some “mater sandwiches,” talked with Chris for a couple of hours, and called it a night relatively early, wanting to get rested for the next two days of recreation and relaxation in the Panhandle.

 

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