Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm a grannie!

yes yes, all you've heard is true, reports just in, I'm a grand-chicken! or maybe a mid-chickenwife, or hen-doula (hula!). I'm terrible at making puns.
Anyway, the hen that's been sitting finally hatched out her babies yesterday and today! Yesterday, both Rob and Diane were at work all day and I discovered there was a baby that had popped out of the nest (and when I say discovered, I mean that I heard a gigantic ruckus going on over by the chick and the hen). I freaked out, not knowing what to do, and helped the little thing back up. I discovered there was another sitting under the hen (who was still distrustful of me at this point and scolded me for helping). Later in the day I found there were at least 5 that I could see, sticking their adorable little heads out from under her wings. soo cute. Today I counted 9 and I moved them all (by myself, yes, Diane was sick all day) to a little hutch outside and hooked them up with hay, water, and some food-processed corn (yes, I used the food-processor to chop some already-cracked-corn so their little beaks could handle it). I took some pictures I'll add to my flickr page later. precious.

Since I'm on the topic and since they take up so much of my time, I'd like to talk a little more about chickens. I've been compiling thoughts and things I've learned about chickens since I got here. So there's that previous little story about hatching chicks. Then there are the roosters, with whom I have this sort of (totally) vengeful relationship. They're really cocky (pun intended), loud, and aggressive. They chase the hens around, grab their back/head feathers with their beaks and roughly mount them. I always chase them away when I see them starting to harass a hen, and sometimes even when they've mounted. Don't tell Diane, it's probably not the best thing to do for the propagation of the species, but it's really hard for me to stand by and watch the non-consenting, well, rape of any species. And yes, I would call it rape, because it is abundantly evident from their awful squawking that the hens do not consent. Chickens do not seem to court, like other birds and animals. The roosters here, of which there are too many (it's no-kill and Diane has a hard time unloading roosters to places she knows will not kill them, thus, overpopulation of roosters) can stroll over to whomever and force themselves upon her. When I first got here, I watched in horror as 2 or 3 roosters ganged up and chased a hen around together. It made me wonder about the animalistic urge/justification of gang rape, and rape in general.

Yes, this is the first of my Feminism and Farming series of thoughts. I wonder if rape/gang rape something that other species do, or is it solely the action of sick and twisted humans? If human men were put on an island with one woman and no socialization or learned culture, would they violently take turns with her just because they outnumber her? If there were more than one "Adam" back in the (questionable) day, would they have shared the one "Eve"?

I should mention, however, that occasionally hens will aggressively chase other hens, or hens will gang up and chase a rooster, or a female llama will mount another (apparently unwilling) female llama. Is there a difference in gender perceptions among nonhuman animals? Is everything just learned by watching and experiencing things (ie roosters learning aggression, llamas learning to mount)? Is there a common animalistic craving in all humans and animals alike? Are we driven only by the need to procreate? To protect our space? To fulfill sexual pleasure/urges? To eat? To be the most powerful? When animals (humans included) become violent, what are we fighting for? Shelter, food, oxygen, procreation, basic biological needs? I just don't know, and these are thoughts to which I will definitely return.

On a much more lighthearted chicken note, I shall discuss "The Bacaw Phenomenon". You know when you're doing chicken noises, you'll bawk bawk bawk and occasionally let out a hearty, Bacaw! when you're feeling frisky? Well, most of the time, the hens around here make your typical bawk noises, while they're eating, roosting, etc. The Bacaw is reserved for an alarm noise, for use while being raped, or, as I've encountered, when you catch them doing something surreptitious. When a hen is sneaking around, she knows it. She knows that the feed room isn't really where she's supposed to be, so if you catch her poking around in there, she will let out a series of loud Bacaw's to let everyone know that you are doing something wrong. Somehow the Bacaw turns the blame from her, sneaking into the feed room looking for scattered chicken scratch (yes, it's actually called that), to you: Human, endangering livelihood! You turn around and the hens and roosters are all eyeing you up. You. That Evil Human trying to hurt the innocent little brown hen. They cluck, disapprovingly, in unison.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


a quick little update before I get working today... a girl that Diane works with at the Health Clinic invited me to some sort of screening of NPR's Prairie Home Companion in Bristol (not Palin), TN tonight. I have never heard the show, but like I said before, I don't turn down invitations, so let's hope my plan doesn't backfire quite yet. we're supposed to get dinner and a drink before, so it can't be too bad!

oh and cute story of the day, last night Diane came into my room with her adorable little sweater on and her hands cupped together, exclaiming, "hot hot hot! I have something for you!", I tentatively look up, expecting a salamander or perhaps a dog poo, and she hands me three little reeses cups! how did she know they're my favorite?!

also, this morning I was pondering over tea how much longer I should stay here, wondering if I should head to Charleston real quick for a visit before heading out to Colorado. no sooner had this plan begun brewing in my little brain before Diane asked me if I could house/farm sit from Oct 30th to around Nov 8th... looks like I'll be here for a couple more weeks!

Saturday, October 16, 2010


okay, I had all of these high hopes and clever things written in my head for this next post. but then my internet wasn't really working, and an extra day passed and now I have so many things to write about, I'm not sure I can be clever. but I'll try.. for you, my readers. I seem to be most clever when I'm doing physical labor. I try to remember what I had thought up (which was sooo hilarious as I shoveled composted llama poo), but sitting here, it's sort of hard to remember.

The only place I get reception from this crappy-waste-of-money USB mobile internet stick is sitting out on the front lawn of the farm, which happens to be a fairly steep hill, which wouldn't really bother me but I'm trying to simultaneously sip on this tasty wine while I catch up on two days of lost internet time (there are SO many tweets to read.. geeze) and hills do not embrace wine glasses, apparently. noted.

so, where to start. Asheville was incredible, I will surely make my way back there again in the future. I went to the art museum, a few tasty restaurants, as well as every coffee shop and bar available. I spent most of my time/money in coffee shops and bars, pretty much trying to meet interesting people while doing research on wwoof farms in nearby states. there are some awfully cool coffee shops and I'm sure they got sick of seeing me after a while. I eventually heard back from one farm, The Farm at Mollies Branch in Boone, NC.

It's really just a small family farm run by Diane Price and Rob Griffith. They are a lovely couple, Rob is a doctor so I don't get to see him much (but he was a history major before and has TONS of interesting-looking books..if I may judge a book by its cover), but Diane is around most of the time and is super sweet and wonderful. I've been helping out transplanting plants, mulching and spreading compost, attempting to groom the llamas (okay, she didn't ask me to, and they don't really like being groomed..but I'll change that), finding chicken eggs (Diane recently changed up their living situation and they're mad about this, so they hide their eggs ala easter bunny--they're even wonderfully strange colors: off blue, brownish, aahh I could go on for hours about color). ANYway. remind me to get back to the topic of Feminism and Farming. I think I'll write a series of posts on that someday, but I'm still doing my research though so that's for a later date.

let me go into detail about the serious beauty around here. in the past two weeks I drove through West Virginia, into Asheville, and then to here, Boone. it was peak season for colors when I started, and even when I got to Boone the colors were seriously radiant. I've never seen half of the colors I saw while driving here. but after a couple of windy days here, most of the leaves have fallen and the mountain sides no longer hold their bright colors. it's crazy! two days ago I had to catch my breath every time I looked out at a mountain, and now it's beautiful (don't get me wrong, it is nice still), but much more dull.

my first working day I met Shamba (pronounced Shahm-bay), Samantha, and Daniel, who occasionally work for Diane here. Shamba and Samantha lived here in a teepee (sp?) for a year or so. they're aiming to live completely self-sustainably, which is pretty cool in my opinion. so they were out at the farm the other day and invited me to a potluck in downtown Boone. I should add here that I have made a rule on this trip never to turn down an invitation. so I accepted (bet you thought I would make an exception!). I'm becoming quite social and good at conversing with strangers (I guess it's easy when you can fall back on your 'I-just-escaped-from-a-cult-what-have-you-done-lately?'-story.) so this potluck was a nice little mix of Appalachian State students, Boone workers, and jazzy musicians. I shamelessly filled up my plate and grabbed a beer (sorry, but my other rule is to never fill a plate halfway) and settled on the couch where people milled around and complimented my jewelry (oh yes, I'm like a queen of some foreign land). I think I'm overusing the parentheses. oh well, my fingers are going numb because it's really cold on this hill...currently the sun has gone down and I haven't drank enough wine to warm me up.

back to the story. I met loads of very nice people and had a great time. it was Shamba and Samantha's four year anniversary (of dating), and they had to give me a ride home. classy third-wheel action. we celebrated by going out and getting potato skins, nachos, and a literally GIGANTIC brownie ice cream sunday (for my south jersey readers: think Duffers, but bigger). I apologized 327 times for being the third wheel, but they were too nice to tell me to screw off and walk the 15 miles home.

the next night (oh yeah, there's more), Diane invited me to a Kiwanas-sponsored spaghetti supper at her mother-in-law's place of residence. I socialized my ass off at a nursing home, and the ladies looooved me! Diane knows just about everyone that lives there (seriously the sweetest woman alive) and apparently a couch-full of ladies asked her who the beautiful young lady accompanying her was. I was just dashing in my ratty old Pashmina (never been washed and has been to every horseshow/road trip/sickness possible) and $.50 thai earrings. Ardath, Rob's mother, is a lovely lady and was very welcoming when I traipsed into her apartment. I love her name, by the way, so if I ever come up with a child in my lifetime, you'll know where the name came from.

well this post has gone on about long enough (and my computer's about to die). I'll try to do this more often so that you don't have to sit for two hours to catch up with my daring stories of bravery and combat. I know my butt is numb, and I hope that you've been sitting on a comfortable chair and not a grassy knoll like I have. farewell, and until next time, hope you're all doing well and thanks for checking in!

Friday, October 8, 2010

um, let's try this again.

well, my first stop was not-so-successful. The "Zendik Farm Arts Foundation" Marlinton, WV turned out to be a little different than I expected. First, it's a commune, which I don't have a problem with, in theory. I think a commune could potentially be a cool place to be. This particular commune has been around and moving from state to state (well, a few states) since around 1969. They are avid followers and preachers of the writings of "Wulf Zendik", who has since passed away, and his wife, Arol, continues to run the farm.

Let me say that the people were very nice to me, there were about 20 staying in the house, and they were all related by marriage/children. They all have strange names, but I can't really say anything, I fit right in with my name. However, running the farm itself seems to be secondary to their jewelry-selling business, for which the members travel the weekends to the far reaches of PA, DC, and various other areas to hawk their goods. Granted, I went on the off-season, so all there was to do was harvest the remaining fall vegetables before the first frost, and care for the goats, horses, chickens, pigs, children--all of which I enjoyed.

I wouldn't have really bolted-in-the-night (so to speak...it was actually morning, but I like quoting Lindsay Bluth) if it hadn't been for the creepy write-ups online. A simple google search will discover a bunch of crazy-weird stories about their haunted past. Nothing necessarily life-threatening, but enough to weird me out enough to want to leave. I don't really consider myself a quitter-I really wanted this first farm to work, but I felt increasingly uncomfortable as time went on. They didn't really seem to care what I did, which is great, freedom is awesome. The part that most bothered me was that they were all busy doing other things. A few of the women manned the phones and called stores across the country to sell their jewelry. All day long.

I don't know, they're new to WWOOFing and so am I, so maybe it just wasn't a good match all around. I feel a little guilty leaving with no notice, but I can't justify putting myself in a possibly threatening situation just to stick to my plan.

So I'm in Asheville, NC, planning to plan the rest of my trip. I'm staying at this beautiful, spacious, clean, wonderful hostel right downtown and I'm loving it (it's called Sweet Peas Hostel!!). Had a nice lunch, got myself a bunk bed and a locking locker, took a shower, waiting for my hair to dry, and then I'll go explore the town. There's free coffee here! and a HUGE recycling bin! and FREE INTERNET, which means I shouldn't have canceled my netflix, because I could've continued watching my TV on instant-view here. oh well, maybe I'll go meet people instead. any sights I need to see? cool bars? I've got one of those terrible tourist maps whose colorful and not-to-scale depictions of downtown will probably get me more lost than if I wandered aimlessly. wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Hi all, just checking in. I'm currently in Columbia, MD at my friend Rachel's house, but I will be departing shortly for my first farm in Marlinton, WV. they have this cool website, click here to check it out. the trip takes about 5 1/2 hours. my generalized route: 95S to 495W around DC, to 66W, to 81S, to VA-42, to VA-39/WV-39.

Not sure when I'll be checking in again, my mobile internet thing was working really slow this morning so I'm currently on Rachel's computer.