Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Green String Farm Intern

I've really enjoyed "day in the life" posts on other Peace Corps volunteers blogs, and I think I'll try to write several of them during my service.  Even though I'm not a volunteer yet, here's the first - a slice of my life here at Green String Farm in Petaluma where I'm interning until the end of May.  At the farm, I live in a house with 9 other interns.  The house is located a 5 minute walk away from the rest of the farm, where we work.

Sometime before 6:30 - Woken up by a friend asking if I want half of the swiss chard fritata she's making for breakfast.  Of course I do!

6:30 -  Went down to the kitchen, said a groggy "good morning" to the others who were up.  Waited for the aforementioned fritata to be ready.  There is a bottleneck at the stove.  Fritata is delayed.

7:00 - Time to start chores.  I and another intern water plants at the greenhouse near our house and apply compost tea to them.

7:10 - I stop back at the house to eat the fritata, now ready. Delicious!  Then it's off to water plants and apply compost tea at the larger greenhouse and say hello to the new, tiny baby goats.

8:00 - Wash onions, leeks, and beets that were harvested earlier to prepare them for the farm store.

10:00 - Milk Priscilla the cow and feed the milk to the adorable baby goats (pictures to come!)

10:30 - Transplant cabbage into a newly tilled patch of ground.  We worked in groups of three - one digging holes with a pickaxe, one dropping plants into the holes, and a third covering the plants up.  We're going to be doing a lot of transplanting now that things have warmed up!

12:00 - Back to the intern house for a delicious home-cooked lunch of whole wheat tortillas filled with quinoa, sauteed greens, and black beans (all cooked from scratch).

1:30-4:00 - lesson with Bob Canard, the farmer here at Green String.  We have lesson every day.  Today we talked about tillage management - how to farm efficiently while tilling the soil as little as possible, so as not to disturb the soil biology.  Yesterday, we learned how to sharpen and re-handle scythes, and how to use them to cut grass.  Always interesting topics!

4:00 - A quick trip to Whole Foods to get some needed supplies for dinner.  Then I and some other interns cooked marinated portabella mushroom sandwiches with smoked mozarella or havarti cheese, caramelized fennel, and a mustard aoli sauce.  Side dishes where a quinoa salad with oranges, jalapenos, and curry vinagrette and a beet salad (like potato salad with beets instead of potato).

8:30 - Finished with dinner and clean-up - time to relax and finally update this blog!

What do Rolling a Kayak and Applying to the Peace Corps Have in Common?

I'm going to be blogging for the website time4thinkers off and on over the next few years, about my Peace Corps experience.  For those of you who don't know, time4thinkers is an awesome youth-focused website maintained by the Christian Science church with lots of inspirational resources - such as blog posts.  Here's my first post for them, published a little while ago, about my Peace Corps application process (and yes, rolling a kayak).  You can read it on the site at: 

Is your life plan on course?

Have you ever done any white-water kayaking?  My younger brother started to teach me this summer. When going through rapids, a kayaker first plans his “line,” or route, around rocks and other hazards. But even if the line is well-planned, it is possible that something will catch the kayaker off-guard and he will find himself flipped over by the current.

Life can be like that too, can’t it? One minute we can feel sure of the direction we’re going, and the next, something catches us off-guard and disrupts our plan. As a student of Christian Science, I’ve learned that God is Love, and as Love, God has a loving plan for my life. I may feel like I’ve hit some rocks along the way, but even if my route seems disrupted, Love’s remains intact. This higher “line” for my life, and everyone’s, is actually obstacle-free—which we see as we yield to Love in prayer.Sometimes, though, that can be easier in theory than in practice.

For the past year, I’ve been applying to join the Peace Corps. Early in the process I was told that I would be likely to go to French-speaking Africa in November to do an agriculture assignment. I got really attached to this idea—it sounded perfect for me! I even made plans to leave my job based on this timeline.

But near the end of the summer, I got a form e-mail from the Peace Corps informing me that, because of budget cuts and other factors, I was very unlikely to get this original assignment. Instead, I would likely leave much later than expected and would need to be flexible about the type of work I would do. The email also told me that since the Peace Corps was getting more competitive, I was not necessarily guaranteed a spot. Nothing about my future was as certain as I’d thought. I felt like I’d been smoothly kayaking down a river, confident of my route, but that I’d suddenly been flipped!

During my summer kayaking lessons with my brother, one of the main skills he taught me was how to roll the kayak. Once a kayaker learns how to roll, they can quickly right their boat when flipped. Although it’s ideal to stay upright the whole time, flipping really only needs to be a momentary disruption. Learning how to roll initially seemed daunting to me, but my brother told me not to worry. Anyone can do it, and it doesn’t require much physical strength. All I needed to do was learn the principles of how to roll a kayak, and then apply them.

When practicing how to roll, it was very tempting to panic while underwater. I wanted to strain towards the surface with my head so I could breathe! Actually, though, this was the opposite of what I should do. In order to successfully roll the kayak, I had to keep my head down and use my hips and paddle to right the boat. When I strained my head towards the surface, this actually kept the boat upside down and I’d have to be rescued by my patient brother. But if I remained calm and used the rules I’d been taught, the boat would right quickly with very little effort.

I found this lesson useful when I got that disappointing letter from the Peace Corps. I was tempted to get anxious and try to figure what was going to happen next. I realized, however, that as in kayaking, I had to “keep my head down”—not frantically try to figure things out myself, but instead trust that the principles I knew would help me regain my stability.

These principles are actually laws of Love that guarantee stability in life. The one I found most helpful at that moment is that God and Principle are synonymous. God is the only Principle governing our lives, and this means we can experience nothing unlike God’s goodness. In other words, goodness isn’t just wishful thinking or optimism. It’s unchanging law—as reliable and irrefutable as math. I didn’t know exactly what my next few years would look like, but I could know without a doubt that every moment would be a blessing. These simple truths did help me “right my boat” and regain my confidence in the future, and over the next several months, I reminded myself of them whenever I was tempted to feel concerned.

I did finally get an official invitation to join the Peace Corps: I’ll be leaving in June for an environmental assignment in Benin, a French-speaking country in West Africa! And some wonderful opportunities have opened up to fill the time between now and then. I still don’t know exactly what my two years in Africa will be like, but I’m confident that the principles that helped me through the application process will support me while I’m there, as well.

What do you do when something disrupts your plans for the future? Are there any spiritual ideas or principles that help you regain your peace and confidence?