The learning and the adventures continue! This time, our travels have landed us in Mobile, Alabama. Also known as “The Other City”, the city between New Orleans and Panama City, that is sometimes forgotten about. We booked with this farm because they are new to WWOOF, us being their first ever WWOOFers, and because they are just a little further with farm development than we would be once starting. We are learning all of the essentials of getting a farm up and off the ground. We have installed several fences while here, mainly to keep the free range chickens off the fruit trees and other edible plants. Here, the plants go in cages and the chickens get the rest of the property to be… well, to be chickens; scratching the ground, pooping and pecking away at vegetation. When used correctly, chickens can help you clear and fertilize land.
The family we are staying with is a large spiritual and educated family. Currently only Rosie, Leo and Gabriel live here, although there are 9 in the immediate family, with all other children, living elsewhere (most close by). There are a total of 7 kids, the youngest being 18. Gabriel (28) is a young biologist that has decided to farm and homestead with his parents to develop the farm which they have named Jubilee’s Promise. Most of the time, Benny and I are working side by side with Gabe. His father Leo teaches at the University of South Alabama here in Mobile, so his hours only allow him to be home on weekends and Rosie, his mother, is often found ripping up sticker bushes down by the pond, collecting eggs or making something yummy in the kitchen. The Dentons are by far the most genuine and wholesome people I have ever met in all my 37 years. They are people to strive to be like. We meditate, we pray, we give thanks to each day, to the amazing food we harvest and eat, to the rain that quenches the ground and for the love and health of others. We have also began practicing yoga with the family as well as meditation multiple times a week. Something even Benny is planning on continuing.
While here, we have learned to make kefir, yogurt and granola. We have learned about healing properties of many plants, about Black Soldier flies, how to grow them and why they are beneficial. We have helped make choices for the garden, such as what plants should be grown with the chickens and which ones should be protected. We have, of course, enjoyed fresh harvests from the garden, as well as planted seeds, made hugel-mounds, and mulched throughout. We’ve learned multiple permaculture uses for eggs and eggshells and have enjoyed everything from breakfast quiche to sun cooked egg yolks. We will be learning more about farmers markets while attending upcoming market days. While here we have created a very ambitious to-do list, which is coming along nicely, including finishing a bridge over the pond, building gates and talks of a living fence. Last week we built a sloped door for the feed shed and noted how well we worked as a team. We also plan on making jam, perhaps a pie, depending on how many blackberries we pick. Along with our daily morning chores which includes feeding the baby chicks, feeding the chickens, cleaning and refreshing their bedding for egg laying and egg collecting. There are other animals here too, miniature horses, dwarf goats and two big beautiful white dogs that keep coyote and other critters at bay. Gabe and Rosie usually attend to them as we tend the chickens and then a long walk is usually taken with the dogs for fun and relaxation. The pond is also great for fishing for bass, bream and catfish. Rosie goes for a swim almost daily and the animals enjoy drinking freely from the pond as well.
Each garden here has been named, not only for clarity and function but also for a blessing and for fun. The large fenced in garden is called the OMPEG (open-air, multi-purpose, protected, ecological garden). There are other gardens, like, “Sunrise Garden” and “Mom’s Herb Garden”. This is true of the pond sections too, there is “Songbird Pond”, “Goat Pond”, “Turtle Trench”, and “Duck Pass. Leo, when here often goes for long walks around the property observing and naming off birds. Him and Benny are both pretty good at recognizing the sounds of a bird, even if it’s unseen. This place is a mixture of familiar and new to us, being close to Florida but also far enough away to have slightly different growing possibilities and weather patterns. Mosquitoes have been almost non existent which is a nice break from Florida! Deer run in abundance here, and they are not like the scrawny deer we see in Florida, but not as big as corn fed deer from further north. The day is filled with sounds of roosters crowing, hen’s clucking to announce they laid an egg and that everyone should know, goat’s making noises in the distance that sounds a lot like, “maaaamaaaa” and songbirds like Bobwhites, Bluebirds, Cardinals and Purple Martins. Nights are filled with family chatter, talks of new farm plans, wholesome activities like Scrabble, cooking, guitar playing and reading. There is no T.V. here, but there is internet. We usually peel away and get to sleep no later than 9/10 pm and prepare for an early rise of amazingly productive work at 7am. They have been over the moon with our presence and our help, Gabe has been able to get so much more done, as he was whittling away at these tasks mostly alone before.
Benny has joked about moving here because he feels like he would be a better person in an environment like this and we also recently learned you don’t need a building permit in this county to build any structures, that includes a home. Pretty good incentive, but alas, we are both Floridians for life.
P.S. Today we both slaughtered and cleaned our first roosters each. He was much faster at it, but I was more emotionally removed. I’ll say this about that experience:
1) It was really hard physically to skin a chicken with your hands.
2) If you eat it, you should be man/woman enough to kill it yourself at least once in your life.
3) It makes you more grateful of an animal for giving it’s life to you, rather than buying a packaged already processed meat where you can easily ignore that side of it.
4) If more people had to slaughter their own food there would be more vegetarians…
And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.