Wednesday, May 27, 2009

wwoofing in washington

This week we began our first venture into WWOOFing. For those of you not in the know, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is an organization that brings together farmers with those who are interested for an exchange. The WWOOFers work a moderate amount (20-25 hours/week) in return for housing and food. Alex and I have been wanting to WWOOF for a while now, and it seemed like this Big American Road Trip was the time to do it.

We choose to WWOOF with Alma and Lou of Port Townsend, Washington because they live in a beautiful place, they expected less than five hours of work a day, and because they answered our inquiry with incredible speed. We arrived at their home after driving straight through from Sonora, Alex's home town. They welcomed us with incredible hospitality, with never-ending portions of delicious organic food filling our plates as soon as they were emptied.

They put us up in their renovated garage, where we slept on our air mattress overlooking Puget Sound and the everlasting northern summer sunsets. During our days we helped Alma with the starting of her demonstration garden, something she wants to set up to show her community how to turn their lawns into productive food. She is setting up a no-tilling no-weeding garden, where you layer organic material (cardboard, then compost, then grass clippings, then mulch) which keeps out weeds. You just plant the seeds in this layering system, water, grow, pick, serve and repeat.

At Alma's house we also met Jay, her mentor and handyman. He has been growing his own no-till garden for a decade now, and says he still feels like a baby every season he starts growing again, realizing how little he really knows. To us, he seemed like the enlightened one. The information flowed out of him like a waterfall during the season's snow melt. The vastness of our ignorance about how to provide for ourselves is astounding.

What we know now, after this week, is that you can't really know anything about growing until you do it, and that it's different everywhere you do. There are so many variations in wind levels and sun and types of soil and first thaws and first freezes. Which means we're REALLY not going to know anything about until we buy some land (1/2 an acre or so is all we'd need), and put down some roots.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

a sprint in yosemite

Wanting to start our inaugural trip (starting in Yosemite) with a sprint, Alex and I started our hike on Upper Yosemite Falls. This eight-mile and 2500 ft increase in elevation hike is not an easy task for this city girl, but I wanted a serious start to what I perceive as a challenging and meditative cross-country trip.

After when seemed like thousands of switchbacks in a monotonous forest, Alex and I reached the bottom of Upper Yosemite Falls. The mist from the falls blew in our faces and cooled our glowing skin. After convincing Alex to come a bit further, he finally took a stand, philosophically and literally. He thinks we should employ a gradual increase in physical exertion (which is the way smart athletes train), but I, like a fool, wanted to conquer the mountain, to prove my strength to the indifferent gods of nature.

So, I bid Alex goodbye and took my pride straight up the mountain with me. After leaving him, the trail traversed over the face of a gigantic granite cliff, which was situated squarely in the late morning sun. no trees. or shade. Just a rock desert and a few scurrying lizards at my feet.

The top didn't seem too far away, or so I thought when I left Alex, but an hour in the sun later, I just won't turn around. I've come all this way. There's no going back. My heart pounding from the sheerness, the sweat dripping from my nose, I keep moving my shaking legs, like a marionette with pride as my puppeteer.

As I come around the last corner, the ground levels off. I stumble almost robotically towards the waterfall. The sheerness and dramatic thousand-foot drop-offs go unnoticed as I am drawn to the raging current of the falls. I am alone here, the first one on this mountain today, and it feels like I've discovered water's abundance for the first time. With panting lungs I take in the thin air deeply and let it out through my smiling teeth.

Even though the knowledge of all the steps back down and my future aching body loom, the pride and tenacity I let control me allowed me to feel mad exhilaration. And I love it.