It is strange how one can get conditioned to new places and styles of living so quickly. The sounds of the roosters crowing, the smell of pig manure and smoked meat, sparkling starry skies, bird poop everywhere, dogs barking, birds clucking and I am not sure what the guinea hens do but they sure are noisy.
It’s been a little over three weeks since we arrived at Countryside Farm and today we are leaving. My first woofing experience has been challenging on some days but mostly it has been a means of self-awareness about what you can do when someone needs your help.
Sebastien is the kind of person who can and probably will get most things done on his own, but he really appreciates help when you can give it and was always thankful to me.
Katie (a past wwoofer who now lives on and helps run the farm) is there to help him daily. I have seen many people through the farm and enjoyed the conversations, the food, and the memories. I can’t imagine myself owning and operating such a farm but maybe this is my age showing. Your heart needs to be there for the day in and day out demands to keep it running. My heart is clearly not there. I was happy when Dave mentioned to me that they needed a new sign for the farm gate. This I could do! I found some scrap wood and put together a sign and hung it up before we left. I hope it will also bring fond memories of Paul and myself.
Au revoir Countryside Farm.
When we decided to work on a farm outside Austin for a month, I looked up what races were happening close by. What luck that the Austin Marathon was February 15th and my good friend Gene wanted to join me in running it. Gene’s good friend TJ and his wife Fran live in North Austin and we were able to park our van there overnight to get an early start on race day. After a pasta dinner plus wine, a terrible movie (Godzilla), and a good night sleep we awoke early and Paul drove us into Austin.
Now if I haven’t mentioned this before Gene is a competitive runner and a threat in his age group and more. I, on the other hand … OMG! I had only 6 weeks to train so I found an on-line program to cram for this event. It really didn’t say much except for do the distances, don’t go too hard, and you will finish. Most of my runs have been with Paul and we keep them conversational and enjoyable. The longest run I did was 20 miles and it was pretty flat and easy so when Gene and I reached mile 19 together I knew I was fading fast. He on the otherhand was using the marathon as a training run and was able to pick up his pace and kick out a 3:32 for first in age group. I struggled the last 6 miles or so but did a solid 3:40 marathon! I was pleased with the results and can’t wait to get my 2nd age group award in the mail.
I enjoyed the casual feel of the race. No corrals at the start (just self seeding) supportive fans the whole way, a variety of live music being performed, a not completely flat race, and a huge heavy finishers medal. All of this made it much nicer to participate and I would recommend it.
Here are some of the more interesting and entertaining signs we read along the marathon route.
You run slower than Betty White
Hurry and finish before Kanye takes your medal
Don’t quit like Jon Stewart
(at mile 19) If you were Brian Williams you would think you had finished by now
Run with Joy!
Run now mimosas later
I appreciated the humor along the way. Thank you
Its been about 2 weeks since Paul and I arrived on Countryside Farm.
I don’t know why I thought I would have plenty of extra time to do things like learn to play guitar, read books, run, learn Spanish, take naps and write a blog. I have been able to throw in running but the others I have had little time for. Farms are in daily need of attention. Sebastien has some part-time help but for the most part he is exhausting himself by working everyday and two nights a week cooking up product to sell at the farmers market. I have been trying to make myself useful by feeding and watering the animals in the morning but it does take me awhile. I enjoy collecting eggs that come in all shapes and colors that Martha Stewart would envy. It is like Easter morning everyday and I find eggs hidden in many unusual places, like an old grill for example.
I can’t see Paul and I owning a poultry farm let alone a pig farm. For one thing, pigs are smelly and they need a large amount of space to wallow in the mud.
The chickens, geese, guinea hen, and pigeons are pleasant at times. I am enjoying all the noises they make and even the early morning rooster crows (which last all day). On Monday we started two days of butchering. Dave and I first caught over 100 chickens with a handy hook that snags their leg. Then he would hand them to me and I would take both feet and put them into a cage and shut the lid fast. Reed was heating up water and getting the plucking machine ready. The chickens have their necks cut, then they are bled upside down, dipped into hot water, and plucked with the machine. It was my job to tweeze all the extra feathers off the birds while Sebastien gutted next to me. Yuck! This was an all day event and it was exhausting. The next day it was onto ducks who are bigger and a bit harder to catch and cage. We only did a few dozen this time. The feathers are harder to remove on ducks so they use hot wax to dip the bird in and when its removed so are most of the feathers.I had the job of tweezing again and also, bagging, labling, and freezing the chickens from the day before. I can remember doing some of this when I was young on the farm in Wisconsin but that seems so long ago.
Although I can really appreciate all the hard work that goes into running this farm, and I enjoy the experience of trying it, I just know that this farmer’s life is not for me.
Paul and I decided to take some time exploring Austin. One of the reasons we travel is to run in new and interesting settings. The Barton Creek trail did not disappoint. We left the farm in the morning and headed over to the park which is called Zilker Metropolitan Park. The park has a humongous spring fed pool which is home to plenty of fish and also endangered salamanders. I had a 13 mile run scheduled to do and the trail was about 7 1/2 miles long. We planned on an easy out and back run. Perfect, except that the trail was anything but easy. The trail started out flat and the sun was low in the sky. It wound along the side of Barton Creek which has cliffs for rock climbers, swim areas, and mountain bike trails which connect to running paths. Since it was Sunday we met many people at the start of the trail and fewer as we ran on. There are places where families came down to cool off or take a nice Sunday stroll. Paul and I zigzagged our way down the paths and climbed up rocky bits and enjoyed the dirt and smooth parts. By the time we got back to the park we were both pretty tired. A cool 62 degree (all year long) swim in the pool was just the right thing. We didn’t swim for very long but sat on the side of a hill soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the sheer delight of an amazingly beautiful day in February.
It seemed like much of Austin was in agreement as the park was pretty busy but not overcrowded. Another plus was that at this time of year, the pool, park and facilities (solar heated showers, bathrooms, children’s museum ) are all free!After we had our fill of the park we decided to get some food and fill our bellies. We stopped off on South Congress Avenue. It was Sunday around 5 pm and the street was still hopping. Most of the stores were open and there was an art market with food carts. We stopped for some drinks and appetizers at a recommended place Perla’s Seafood and Oyster Bar. Nice open air bar and vibe. We walked a bit, checked out some stores and then had dinner at Gueros. Tasty albeit a bit touristy. We then headed back to the quiet sounds (or not so quiet) of birds on the farm and slept well. Good day, as they say.
Winding down paved roads which turned into dirt and gravel, we arrived in the evening at Countryside Farm in Cedar Creek, Texas. Its hard to make first impressions in the dark but we were happy to be greeted by a friendly dog named Belle. The farm owners Sebastian and Esther are currently having some family issues. Although we are somewhat disappointed, it would not be polite to speak more of this. Paul and I parked our van near the side of the driveway for the night and I slept amazingly well. Cool air coming through the window and the sound of birds all around us.
The farm is a primarily a poultry farm with a dozen or more pigs thrown in for good measure. Sebastian and Katie, his assistant do most of the work. I followed around Dave who is part-time on my first day. Dave is a wealth of knowledge and is the oldest one here. He truly cares and calls the birds “my babies”. He taught me how to water, feed and collect eggs. We also gathered up baby goslings and moved them to their new home. The weather has been cold for Texas and mixed with rain the place has a muddy, messy feel. I am so glad I brought my yellow rain boots to slop around in all the muck. Your gonna get dirty doing this line of farming.
The main money maker is the selling of their products at farm markets and restaurants. I watched Sebastian and Reed make sausage and the next day I was in the kitchen weighing, bagging, and vacuum sealing them. They have many freezers where they store the meat. I really don’t want to be involved in the butchering process but I will admit that Paul and I have been enjoying some delicious meat centered meals.
Paul and I ventured out yesterday to Bastrop for some shopping at a huge grocery store called HEB. I nearly got lost in there. We then headed to the Bastrop State park for a run. The park has had a forest fire in 2011 and the devastation is clearly visible. We enjoyed the hilly trails and the change from all the flat road runs in Key West. New trees are starting to grow all over and the trails were completely quiet with no other visitors except some footprints in the sand. We bought a Texas State Park membership as we plan to visit many more before we head back home.
On our last evening in Key West, Paul and I took a 2 person kayak down the canal near where we had our van parked. Its a small peaceful canal that no motor boats can go through and has plenty of fish and cassiopeias. The canal is the only water way that cuts through the whole island. We caught the sun in time and the sky did not disappoint.
The morning we departed I met a friendly man on a bicycle. His name is Charlie Roswell. He was admiring the mural but I admired his bike. It was decorated with items he found or was given over the years. Charlie has been riding his bike everyday since his wife Pat passed away in 1999. He nearly drank himself to death with grief but was turned around when his friend, a doctor, said he would die also and Pat would not have wanted that. He stopped drinking and now rides 35 miles a day, volunteers and loves to share stories. Please stop and say hello if you see him.
Off the Island with a stop at Baby’s coffee!
We headed to our next adventure through the Florida everglades. This is just mind boggling that people could navigate let alone settle in these wet lands. The air boat tour had a humorous guide that fit the part well.
I was impressed we saw many alligators on the tour only to find that they are everywhere on the side of the road all up the coast. Still, pretty cool ride. We stopped a night in Palmetto, Florida and had a nice visit with my old friends, Suzi, Louie, and their son Josh. I completed a 20 mile run in the morning which left me super hungry and able to eat all the sausages, eggs, and biscuits we had for breakfast.
On our way to Texas we planned to stop at a Loves truck stop. But it turned out to have only truck parking (very noisy) and was really unpleasant. Paul had noticed an independent truck stop 10 miles earlier on I-10, so we headed back. We slept very peacefully at this one, called Oasis in Robertsdale, Alabama. Plenty of room to park and the place is clean and even has laundry, along with the expected mix of god, guns and family that lets you know you’re in the deep south.
When first arriving in Key West I felt as though we had loads of time. I would help Baily out daily on her mural project and then spend some time during the day or evening exploring. The mural seemed to be progressing at a steady pace with some days more productive than others. I knew at the end of the first week I would not see the project to fruition. The mural will be completed in the subsequent weeks without me. Check on Baily’s FB page for finished photos. https://www.facebook.com/BailyCypressMosaicLLC
I am grateful for the opportunity to have spent three weeks in paradise and the friendship that led me there. Paul and I feel we have made new friends and thank the hospitality of Joe Weatherby, George, Carla, George Robert, and their lovely dog Bandit.
Baily and I were invited to a poetry reading in honor of Jose Marti, a Cuban National hero and poet. While I enjoyed his poetry I wanted to leave this post with a poem by Jack Hackett (Tortuga Jack)
don’t they seem so shallow
don’t they seem so deep
these waters that we traverse
these waters of thought and speech
sometimes the words are spoken
directly from the heart
sometimes their carefully chosen
for the message they impart
and don’t they seem so shallow
don’t they seem so deep