STATS – Day: 16 | Distance: 2364.5 miles | Location: Greenbush, Maine | Money Spent To Date – Gas: $307.43| Food: $151.53| Play/Misc: $38.19 | Lodging $176.00
It’s called WWOOFing! A labor exchange for co-op farms, homesteads, vineyards, gardens and markets where you can put in a half day of work in exchange for meals and a place to sleep. It’s a great way to meet people, have new experiences, build up your knowledge, help others and travel cheap! See https://wwoofusa.org/ for more information.
A homestead in Greenbush, Maine is my first experience at working on an organic farm through this program. Jim is the owner and it is just him and his dog Angel living on the farm now. Angel is a mix of border collie/sled dog/wolf and is sweet as can be. Jim’s homestead is 97% sustainable for up to 5 people. The last 3% is for stuff like meat, soap, toilet paper and coffee. 100% of his electrical power comes from solar and wind energy! Can you believe that! There are solar panels facing all 3 directions (east, west, straight up) so that he makes full use of the sun’s path and a wind turbine on the roof. He does have a generator for times when he’s doing major remodeling with the house and has all the power tools plugged in, but everyday use is just natural energy. He said he has enough energy stored that he could go a week without any sun or wind, not that he’d want to, but he could.
Jim’s been retired since he was 44 (he’s almost 60 now), he bought the land at for around $187/acre, I think he got a deal like that because of the 2-miles of really bad country road you have to drive to get in here. He gave me praises for doing so well in my little Toyota Corolla. Lucky for me I’ve driven a few bad country roads in my life! His monthly bills come to about $250/mo. He’s a carpenter by trade and has a master’s in electrical engineering. The town residents still give him plenty of work, as there are no carpenters around, so now he’s semi-retired. He was happy I came because now he has an excuse to stay home and tackle some of his own “to-do” listed items.
He explains that the farm was originally owned by the Smith family in the 1850’s and the soil has never had any chemicals added to it, so it is authentically organic. I asked Jim how he handles the bug problem and he says “I don’t, I have a bug problem”, but if a few plants get eaten that is the way it goes. He grows cantaloupes, watermelon, carrots, radishes, beats, pears, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, blueberries, squash, apples and even has high bush cranberries which I have never seen before. I’m used to seeing the low bush cranberries that grow in bogs (harvested with water). He recently started raising turkeys. The little gals are only 2-months old. They’ll be full grown in another 4-months and he’s hoping they’ll lay eggs because he can get almost $10 for every egg if he sold them.
Jim grows buckwheat and red clover for the wild bees. I asked him if he harvested honey, he looked at me and said “no, that’s taking food away from the bees”. He explained that it would be like me painstakingly growing and harvesting my vegetables and then someone taking it all away and saying “Sheesh, why is Piper starving when she grows all this food?” #FoodForThought
Jim tells stories about how the animals are evolving and how scary smart they’ve become. He tells me how he had friends come visit who had small children and Angel was playing with them and then she came over to Jim to get a cookie (Angel must have a certain cookie look), Jim only gave Angel cookies when she was being good, so she was checking to make sure playing with the children was a good thing. Cookie rewarded. And a story about a mother bear who lived nearby and how when her cubs were small she would bring them to the farm and let the cubs chase his chickens (he had chickens at one time but Angel ate them) and then after a while she’d come out of the woods growling and angrily smack her cubs to teach them no stay away from chickens and humans. One time when Jim was picking blackberries he accidentally came upon her while she was sleeping. Both Jim and the bear were startled and she got angry and growl at him, then walked away. There is also a raccoon down the road that will only cross the street by using the crosswalk. I need to get a photo of that!
Jim tells me that coyotes come up to the boundary area and watch him. He don’t cross into his area because he urine treats a parameter around the house and farm marking his territory. He says it’s easy to communicate with the animals if you use a language they can understand, no need to shoot them. I asked how often he needs to do the urine treatment. Apparently the scent stays for a while, but every time he needs to go pee, he just picks another tree! He also said the higher you pee, the bigger the animal you are, so he tries to pee as high as he can. Haha!
It looks like snakes and horseflies could care less about whose territory it is because they are EVERYWHERE. He said he has more snakes and horseflies now than he ever has. It’s like a locus. I shudder and feel ill. He re-assures me by saying “I don’t think any of the snakes are poisonous”, but there is a really big one that lives in the wood stacks. He hasn’t seen it, but knows it’s big because he can hear it moving across the wood stacks at night over the noise of the TV…..double shudder! The horseflies are bad too, but I’ll take painful nasty bites from horseflies in exchange for not seeing one freaking snake. Please go away snakes.
During the day we do all kinds of odd jobs – taking old remodeling wood scraps out to the fire pit to burn, cleaning out the shed, feed the turkeys, stack firewood, mowing down the overgrown grass in the orchard, picking blueberries and snap peas for dinner, spreading chunky white gravel rock under the solar panels which does double-duty in reflecting extra light into the panels and also keeps the bears from leaning their bodies on the panels while they eat clover. Whatever needs done. In the afternoon when it’s hot we go to the neighbors for a visit.
Lenny and Jane have a farm where they raise pigs and chickens as well as grow fruits and vegetables. Every inch of their place has stuff growing! Lenny is a fantastic story teller and tells me all about the people that live around Greenbush, Maine. He tells me stories about Carl, another neighbor, who has an alien landing strip, but no free landings, the aliens must purchase a ticket (there is even a ticket booth)! Carl thinks that the aliens sent Jim to Maine to plant the apple trees because they like to pick the apples when they visit. When someone builds a bonfires, Carl will come over to see who is sending smoke signals to the aliens! One time it was Jim and he just told Carl “sorry Carl, it was me, I was checking to see if you were alright”, which calms Carl down. I MUST MEET CARL! Lenny asked Jim if he was going to take me over to meet Carl (please, please, please), but Jim said no. It was too much of a risk because sometimes Carl is okay, but most of the time he’s not and he could come out and shoot me.
On the way back to Jim’s place he drove me by Carl’s house and pointed out the landing strip. He said he couldn’t slow down or stop because Carl would come out with a gun. Some adventures you just have to let be.
Change is the Only Constant in the Universe – Heraclitus of Ephesus
**Jim asked not to be photographed.
Next Blog: #WhenYouGetLost
Previous Blog: #AdventuresCollide
Back all blog posts on Pipe’s Adventure