Photoset

Catching chickens, boiling turkeys, and skinning rabbits.

Text

Monday

Today the camera on my phone stopped working which was a damn shame because a fox got into the barn and killed three turkeys and a rabbit, I built a fire, I herded turkeys and geese, I caught chickens, I helped skin a rabbit, I boiled three turkeys and a rabbit for the cats and I picked beans with the bebushkas.

I took some pictures from Stephen’s iPhone (man I really wish I had one of those puppies now) and had him take some of me too so I’ll see if I can get any up tonight.

Tomorrow morning I head back to Prague bright and early for two days before it’s off to Bangkok.  It really hasn’t set in yet that I’m going to Bangkok.  I’ve made no plans other than getting my visa.  I have no idea why I’m going, what I’ll do once I get there, or how long I’ll stay.  Here goes nothing.

Text

Sunday

Today I found 8 peacock eggs, saw a pig fart itself awake, juggled three kittens while holding a can of cat food, herded a flock of geese, saw a cat carrying the corpse of a kitten, drove a tractor, tamed wasps, fried rice, picked peppers, baked a pie and roasted a duck.

Text

Bebushka Duty

WEDNESDAY

- green house with the bebushkas.  harvesting beans.

- helping with bee stuff: cleaning out the trailer, wiring frames, waxing frames (pictured below courtesy of Stephen).  I wonder if he knows he has his sepia filter on?

- DRIVING THE CART!

- pasta, chili, chili in the eyes is PAINFUL

THURSDAY

- green house with the bebushkas.  more tea recipes

- wiring frames all day.  Ingmar sits and watches while telling us about pig slaughtering.  I’m going to miss the pig slaughter by a couple days.  Mixed feelings.

- reading more Dresden files, bored, napping, bored

- gespacho and rice milk from Maria and Gerard

- league

FRIDAY

- green house with the bebushkas.  Mia says no more veggies which i translate roughly to them “Mia neni zelenina” so we transplant a bunch of sproutlings and tidy up a bunch of rotting cabbage. 

- wiring frames

- FRIED RICE

- finish the third dresden book.  no more.

- goose

- natl treasure, league, sam and leah return after midnight means i don’t have to work tomorrow

SATURDAY

- sleep in, eggs + potatoes

- nice long walk.  always makes things better.  always.

Text

And on the seventh day…

I decide that I really don’t want to eat the borsch so I putt off dinner until 8:30 or 9 and then start looking around the kitchen for ideas.  We don’t have a lot of stuff other than pasta and tomatos so I decide to make latkas instead.  I’ve never made latkas on my own so I look up a quick recipe of potatoes, onion and egg.  I have to put on my sandals and walk down to the veggie beds for onions which is both amazingly cool and kind of inconvenient.  I don’t use any measuring devices and just eyeball everything so I’m not supremely confident but they turn out alright.  A little too potato-y and not enough fry-y.

More weird dreams. Trekking/rafting trip with Mac and other weird stuff.

SUNDAY

Another morning of the animal routine and then strimming for the rest of the day.  We’ve finished everything except for the two steep hills behind the greenhouse which look nearly impossible and we’re dreading having to do it tomorrow.

Sunday is the infamous pizza day on the farm and we’re all enlisted to help out at 4.  I knead dough with Kevin and Sam and then volunteer to tend the fire in the woodfired oven.  Chat with Ingmar and Mia about their history of the farm which really can be summarized as a history of downsizing.  I ask Ingmar about the cannabis plants in the greenhouse which he says are only for tea and that I should try making some for for myself some night— it’s good for my cholesterol.

- the sons arrive, talk some hardcore trash, so I CoD with them.  they win.

- exhaust

MONDAY

- strim strim strim

- read Stormfront

- watch monty python

- play laggy LoL

TUESDAY

- and on the seventh day he rested.

- gladiator, coffee, nice walk with Stephen + Leah

- read Fool Moon

- chicken wings mmmm

- less laggy league

Text

On almost catching a fish

After a couple unsatisfying hours of CoD I get up for a change of pace.  My first impulse is to grab my kindle and head outside but as I step out into the courtyard it just doesn’t feel right.  I scan the sky while considering my options and after deciding that the rains seems to have moved off I head back inside, drop off my kindle, and go looking for a fishing rod.

I find the rod in a storage room downstairs.  What else do I need?  I don’t know much about fishing…ah!  There’s a net, I guess that’s useful.  Don’t I need bait?  I scan the room until my eyes fall on a dead fly on the windowsill.  Well…ok.  I impale the fly on the hook and head out to the pond.  It takes me a few casts to get the hang of it and by the time I do the fly is gone.  I’ve seen more bugs on this farm than I’ve seen this whole year in Prague so I figure something useable can’t be too far.  I grab a stick, dig around in the dirt, and find a worm before I know it.  It’s kind of tough to get the worm on the hook because its so skinny and before long its gone too.

I go scavenging again and after overturning an old dilapidated piece of wood I find a couple big slugs of the variety I’ve already slaughtered out in the veggie beds.  I grab one the slimy fuckers and get casting.  The problem is I have no idea what the hell I’m supposed to do.  Do I let it sit still?  Don’t they always talk about patience when they talk about fishing?  But aren’t I suppose to move it along so it looks alive?  Should I keep it moving, or jerk it around then stop and wait?  I don’t know so I just keep trying a bunch of different ways.

I think I feel a tug but it could be anything.  At some point the slug is gone so I go looking for more which turns out to be no problem except the as soon as I find them I have to beat the chickens to them.  I’m pulling along when the completely unexpected happens — something pulls back.  I start reeling in faster and now it’s unmistakable, there’s something hooked.  

I reel and reel taking a few steps back and before I know it I’ve got a huge fish flopping in and out of the water.  It’s way bigger than I expected to find in this pond, eighteen inches at least with a sharp pointed snout (can I use snout to describe a fish’s head?) which I will later learn is characteristic of Northern Pike.  I’ve never really made it this far into fishing and I’m kind of at a loss for what to do.  The line feels like its going to break at any second, the net is just out of reach, so I reach for the line to pull it in by hand.  Then all of a sudden the line is slack and the fish is gone.  

I realize my heart is beating and I’m exhilarated.  I’m going to get this fucker.  I go back for another slug and in my zealousness I end up slinging two slugs clear across the lake — the first plop is the hook, the second the slug 50 feet away.  Oops.  I find another, bigger, worm and hook that one up good.  

Cast, reel, jerk, reel, jerk, reel, reel, nothing.  Again.  Again.  Again.  I’m hooked.

"Nate!  Catch anything?"  "What? No…almost!"  "You coming to the pub?" "Pub…yeah…yeah I’ll catch up I gotta put this stuff away…oh, how do I get there?"  "Just keep going left." "Left, got it.  Just three more casts I tell myself.  Well, that one doesn’t count it hardly went anywhere at all.  Five to ten casts later I pull myself away, clean up, and head down the road into town.

It’s a three km walk into Votice and I didn’t think to ask the name of the pub they were going to but I figure there can’t be too many pubs to choose from.  I stop in at the first place with high hopes but scan the room and see no Americans.  I continue on but the next place is a herna bar and it’s hard to imagine them there so I double back and check the back patio of the first place where I find the gang.  Dinner is fine but I’m practically falling asleep at the table.  The walk back with Dar, Leah, and Kevin is really nice though.

Yet another restless night this time with very vivid dreams of light green watermelon (the inside, not the outside) and hammering nails into my own kneecaps to name a few.  Weird.

FRIDAY

Outside at eight and Ingmar assigns us to another day of strimming.  Today i take a weed wacker.  It’s kind of hard but kind of satisfying to lay waste to whole colonies of nettle and there’s very visible progress to be seen.  Still its tough and we’re at it for five hours straight.  While trimming out behind the back of the greenhouse something catches my eye and I stop to go check it out.

Yup.  That’s what I thought.  Ingmar you dog.  He’s got a couple peculiar yet unmistakable five leafed plants hidden behind the tomatoes.  I don’t know anything about growing these things but I can tell its not ready yet so I get back to strimming.  We call it quits at 12:55 and I’m definitely sore today.  I walk the long away around the back of the barn and pick two jacket pocketfuls of blackberries to snack on later.

Leftover pasta and banana splits for lunch.  It starts raining right on schedule at 1:30 so I pop on Inglorious Basterds and Sam sits down to watch it with me.  After the movie I bum around for awhile until I get restless and head out to try my luck at fishing again.  I pick a bagful of slugs on the way out of the courtyard and head down to the pond.  An hour of slinging slugs and no bites later I pack up and head back into the farm.  One of the neighbors is walking her dogs as I’m walking back and we have a very broken Czinglish conversation.

"asdklj asieuaekj Ryba?"  Ah, I know that word.  It means fish.  "Ne ryba" I smile sadly.  She peaks into my bag of slugs and looks very disappointed "Neeee. askjkasjd as dkja jase ae hke."  I shrug sheepishly, "Neumim cesky, pardon."  "Neumim anglicky.  Rusky?" "Ne…." "asdjhasd ajsee akase j eh" she pantomimes digging in the dirt and looking for worms.  I pantomime back a worm to show I understand and she smiles " Yo! yo!  America?"  "Yo, California."  "Oooh.  California super!"  "Yo, tady super."  "Tady super?  Ne."  "Yo, yo, tady super and Praha super."  I point towards the neighbors house in a questioning way and she answers with a nod "asdjhk akse bebushka.  Bebushka mama."  "ooooh" I understand now.  We’ve reached the gate to the farm so I wave goodbye and she waves back "Ahoj!"

Dinner of borsche made by Sam.  A new volunteer from Buffalo, NY shows up named Stephen, and an early night because I’m exhausted.  

SATURDAY

Seven o’clock is starting to feel earlier and earlier.  It’s the usual breakfast of two eggs, toast, and coffee before meeting Igmar in the courtyard at 7:55.  Maria is sent to the kitchen to help Mia, Kevin goes off to keep working on the bees as usual, and Gerard, Sam, Stephen and myself are sent to take care of the animals.  After feeding the cats, dogs, chickens, turkeys, geese, goats, pigs, and peacocks as well as cleaning up the pig’s shit we go find Igmar for further instructions.

Two people need to mill more wheat and two people need to take care of something else.  I get assigned to wheat duty because I’ve done it already and Gerard comes with me.  Igmar gives his same militaristic spiel to Gerard about the million ways not to mill wheat which I can tell goes right over Gerard’s head because his english isn’t that great and Maria isn’t around to translate.  After Igmar leaves I reexplain how to do it via gestures and grunts and I can tell that Gerard understands.  Last time I was doing the positioning and the stacking but the containers are somewhere between 60-100 lbs when they’re full of ground wheat and my forearms were killing me so I opted for the more consistent but less strenuous task of bailing wheat from the 1,000 lb bag into the mill.

After we finish we meet back up with Stephen and Sam and after a few small chores we’re all sent over to a pallet stacked with plastic bags of wood pellets.  We have to move the bags from the pallet into a storeroom by hand.  The pallet has a metric ton in 15 kg bags.  It’s tough.  Very tough.  Igmar says we’ll do two pallets today but Sam loves to show how hard of a worker he is and eggs Igmar on into giving us another, and then yet another pallet.  By the fourth pallet we’re all completely pooped but we make it through and you can tell Igmar is kind of impressed.  He even let’s us off for the day around 12:25.  

I said something about my arms being sore before but now I really mean it.  I’m SORE.  I don’t even take a shower I’m so tired, I just scramble up some eggs, sink into the chair, and play the dumbed down console version of Civ.  After conquering the world around the middle ages I prolong the game for another 30 minutes or so so that I can develop a worthy nuclear arsenal.  I diligently allow the Mongols, the Persians, and the Russians to climb themselves back into the game while I pump all my resources into scientific advancements only to find out that this dumbed down version only allows you ONE measley ICBM.  Not even enough to destroy a single city let alone the world.  

I turn off the console in disgust and hop in a car with Kevin, Sam, Stephen, and Leah who are headed to a nearby town to check out a small brewery.  I can’t drink because of the metronidazole but it’s nice to take a ride and get out anyways.

We get back to the farm around 19:30 and I force myself to sit down and write this out before I get any further behind.  Dinner is borsch again which personally I didn’t think was all that great the first time but that’s ok because Kevin’s making wood-fired pizza tomorrow.  I anticipate another early night and hopefully a better night’s rest due to exhaustion and the winter blanket Mia brought out for me this afternoon.

I don’t have many pictures of the farm to share that really give you a sense of the place, just snap shots of odd moments throughout the day (and also what may possibly turn out to be the crown jewel of my dead bird collection).  But Kevin is here on some sort of journalistic mission writing an article and some blog entries so I’ll link you to his flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/36618821@N02/sets/
**protip: look for the ones that say Votice

Photo
Text

WEDNESDAY

Today I ate two eggs; fed and watered kittens, cats, dogs, chickens, roosters, geese, peacocks, rabbits, and pigs; scooped pig shit; forklifted pallets; milled 1000 lbs of wheat; raked a field of nettles; took my fifth dose of metronidazole; and helped make pasta for seven all before 13:38.

It started raining yesterday pretty hard right after my shower so I decided to stay in for the day.  After putzing around for awhile without settling on anything satisfying I decided to browse the game selection.  Fifa ‘0 something, Civilization, Call of Duty: MW3, and Resistance 2.  None of them really jumped out at me but I decided to play CoD anyways and see how far I could make it through the campaign.  It was a good way to kill time but man that franchise has really gone down the drain.  I remember downloading the original CoD demo and fighting my way through the hedges of western France 1944.  What a game.  Now its just these ridiculous USA vs Russia WW3 story lines that they make bigger and bigger in a failed attempt to add some grandeur.  Oh well, guess I’ll try Civ next time.

After a couple hours I gave up and hung around with people until Dar’s dinner was ready.  After dinner we all agreed to watch a movie but had a really hard time finding something everyone would agree on.  It didn’t make it any easier that they actually have a pretty decent movie collection here: 2001, Gladiator, Collateral, Inglourious Basterds, the Monty Python Collection, and The Blue Planet amongst others.  We eventually settled on The Life of Brian which I’ve never seen but within ten minutes of starting it everyone except for Leah and I had cleared out.  I thought it was pretty funny, very very Monty Python.  

The movie finished up around 9:30 and I found myself pretty much the only one up.  I checked my photos and found that finally after three days of uploading they were finished.  I’m pretty happy with a few of them, I think my favorite is of a guy looking out over Paris from a park.  It really made me wish I had a better camera phone.  I think if I had an iphone 5 I wouldn’t even bother carrying around a DSLR, the cameras on those things are amazing.

I set up myself by the router and busted out my mouse to squeeze a game of League in before bed but ended up just chatting with people online.  Alec and I messed around awhile on tumblr trying to find a good solution for a joint travel blog.  Unfortunately almost every good combination of Two Boys One Blog were taken but I think we’ve found something that will work.  While we chatted I tracked my flickr stats to see if people were looking at my photos or not.  It registered 5,939 views but I think that’s a really bloated figure that combines a number of different stats.  I think a more realistic number of unique visiters is closer to 100 which I’m very pleased with.  If only they would speak up!

THURSDAY

Another restless night for me.  Getting very nervous about my highly questionable visa status again.  I wish I had booked a flight out of Spain or Italy where they don’t give a shit instead of through Sweden.  Hopefully exhaustion will kick in before too long and override my anxiety into a better sleep cycle.

Its threatening to rain again so I think I’ll hang around here this afternoon again.  It’s Dar’s last night so the plan is to walk the 30 minutes into town and go to the pub for dinner tonight.  It’s very tempting to catch a nap before then but I want to work on sleeping through the night not the day.  Either way I need to get in the shower  because I’m covered in flour from working the mill.

Text

Maria, Marketa, and Nitz.

My first dinner was an all organic farm fresh lasagna, salad, and garlic bread feast. Everything except the cheese and the bread was picked earlier today from the fields and greenhouses.  Not bad.

After dinner everyone headed out to take care of the night chores real quick and I tagged along.  First we booted up then head out into the dark.  The whole experience was so farmy and surreal to a suburb boy like myself that I couldn’t stop laughing.  We replaced the water and the food in the chicken and rooster pens as cats and kittens tumbled around our feet.  Sam is a bit of a farm boy from Minnesota and he showed me the ropes.  

While we were outside we saw that the geese had gotten out so we hopped a fence and corralled them back in.  Then we had to go around and lock up the outside chicken coops so foxes wouldn’t get in but most of the chickens had already taken refuge in the trees.  It’s pretty bizarre to look up and have your headlamp illuminating six bright chicken eyes staring down at you from plum, pear, and apple trees.  This farm feels so much more like a farm than Eilot ever did.

TUESDAY

Everyone went to bed pretty early but poor sleep habits and congestion kept me up.  I got up just after seven to have some breakfast and tea before working at eight.  I looked around the kitchen for awhile for eggs before being told that I had to go get them myself so I strapped on the work boots, headed over to the egg collection room and signed out two eggs.

At eight we waited around outside for Ingman?  Ingor? the owner of the farm and Mia’s husband to assign us roles for the day.  I’m sent out to the greenhouse to help the Czech “babushkas” who work on the farm in the morning.  I’m beckoned into the greenhouse by a woman in her sixties or seventies and right away she starts yammering directions at me in Czech.  After a few minutes of pantomiming I’m assigned the task of watering the various vegetable beds in the greenhouse which I apparently am doing wrong because she comes over several times to yank the hose away from me and do it herself.

After she beckons me to follow her and the other old Czech woman outside around the barn to the vegetable beds where again she pantomimes instructions to pick green beans.  While picking the beans I come across a huge red slug which I know I’m supposed to get rid of.  I pick it up and make to toss it into the grass when I’m stopped in my tracks by a harsh “Pozor! Pozor!”  She then takes the slug from my hand, puts it ceremoniously on the ground in front of me, and stomps the living shit out of it.  She looks up at me with smile, “Tak yo?”.  Tak yo.  Now I’m a snail killer.  

After a pallet of green beans we head over to the yellow beans.  Another pallet in she stops and points to herself, “Maria”.  She points to the other woman, “Marketa.”  She points to me.  ”Nate” I fill in.  ”Nitz” she replies.  ”Nate,” I say again more clearly.  ”Nitz”.  ”Na-ate” I enunciate.  ”Nitz,” Maria repeats.  ”Nitz,” Marketa agrees.  ”Nitz” I conceed.  ”Maria, Marketa, Nitz” I repeat.  

Another pallet later Maria points to herself and Marketa and then towards a cluster of houses down the road.  Then she points to me and back towards the rest of the farm.  ”Tak yo, nasled” “dobre, nasledano, dobry den!”

I find Leah, and both of the Spanish volunteers working with weed wackers in a totally overgrown field.  There’s only two weed wackers which Leah and the Spanish guy are using so it’s my job to go through with a sickle and cut down around the fruit trees.  It’s easy at first but becomes progressively more difficult as the ratio of nettles to grass increases.  By the time I have the brilliant idea to put on my long sleeve shirt which is around my waist my forearms are already wrecked with nettles.  

We continue until 12:45 or so, then spend the next twenty minutes scooping up everything we’ve cut with pitchforks, and rolling them in wheelbarrows to the pig sty.  As I walk past a window a glance over to see a young man in work boots and gloves with a pitchfork slung over his left shoulder and two sickles in his right hand looking back.  By 1:10 we’re back in the living quarters eating left over lasagna and banana splits.  I take my second dose of metronidazole and then sit down to type this all up.  Kevin and Sam hop in Kevin’s car to head up to Prague for the afternoon while others take showers, naps, and lounge. I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself.  Definitely a shower is in order and then maybe I’ll take a walk or pop on a movie.

My camera phone pics should be finished uploading by this evening so I’ll post a link then.  Not a bad first day.

Text

On the road again: a blog resurrected.

So where did we leave off?  Let’s see…oh that’s right, I remember now.  It was just about a year ago that my Dad showed up in Ramat HaSharon and we hopped on a bus headed as far north as we could go.  After a night or two with his old kibbutznik friend on  Kibbutz Naot Mordechai we caught a ride up into the Golan Heights and began our trek.  The Golan Heights is a mountain range separating Israel from Syria which Israel annexed to give itself a little bit of a tactical advantage (apparently it wasn’t very fun for the farmers down below having the Syrians lobbing mortars from time to time).  We hit the Israel-Syria border and then head downhill through a Druish village and stop in for a quick visit in the crusader castle Nimrod where I meet my old high school friend Alon in the parking lot.  Small fucking world.  The details have escaped me now but use your vivid imagination to fill in five days of treking through hills, fields, and highways along the Israel-Lebanon border to eventually end up in the mystic town of Zfat.  From there we hop on a bus to Akra where we take it easy in a really cool hotel built right into the old city walls.  

At this point we find our adventurers back in Ramat HaSharon.  My Dad heads home the next day and I have around a week left.  I still have some notes I jotted down on my phone about that time so I’ll just go ahead and post them raw:

"Tlv art, porter sons, dancing camel, yafo.  Musuem is closed.  Fuck.  Porter is too.  Need sahde and a bathroom bad.  Headed towards Allenby, maybe a cafe?  Bathroom at habima, musuem there closed.  Sit down to gather myself on Rothschild and get a text from Noa.  She lives down the street, meet up for brunch.  Invites me to spend the night cuz ever yom Kippur is a party in Tlv.  Really really want to but promised the Katz I’d be home for dinner before cars stop running.  Last bus is at 3 so head home early.  Hopefully I can find a way into town tomorrow, maybe bike?  Dinner then Dexter.  Borrow a bike the next morning after lots of warnings about the heat.  At first nothing seems different.  As I leave the quiet streets through something is definitely amiss.  Bigger and bigger streets but no cars.  More and more groups of kids on bikes.  Soon I’m on a 6 lane street with bikes going the wrong way, trikes going down freeway on-ramps.  It is very humid but I’m grinning.  Finally back on a bike and with a whole empty city at my disposal.  Would be 28 days later if it weren’t for all the people out on bikes.  Ride all the way down the beach to yafo then back up to meet Noa.  Joint and backgammon with her friend Zach and head back around 5.  More Dexter.  Musuem is closed Sunday so not sure what to do with myself.  Lounge til noon then doreet drops me off at herzilya beach.  Really nice, walk 4 miles home around 5ish.  Mac n cheese, platoon, and Dreamhack for the rest of the night.  Last day in Israel, walk to the store to get bread for Doreet.  Also get iced coffee and a croissant while reading GoT.  I’m pacing myself because I want it to last my flight home but it’s addictive.  Art musuem is great, 3 hours wasn’t enough.  A lithograph of Zapata spoke to me, I would’ve bought a print if I could’ve.  Also Canadian photographer Jeff Wall.  Happy hour at dancing camel: American pale ale and eve blonde.  Finally some ales and decent ones at that.  Zeppelin Beatles Doors Lou reed.  Walking through the streets of tel aviv listening to Elliot Smith and a light drizzle.  This city truly comes to life as the sun sets.  Almost makes me wish I was staying."

After a long hot three months I’m back in Irvine for a brief three days before headed north yet again to Portland.  Ten perfect pouring days in Portland.  I was received like a rock star, got to see all my closest friends, and lazed around that wet city that I love so much.  I stayed up all night to beat The Last of Us, drank fine microbrews around town, and pedaled my heart out on borrowed bikes.  Those ten days were plenty to make me doubt my next move.  I was just so comfortable and happy back in Portland that it seemed silly to be moving away again.  Fortunately, ten days of building anxiety and relative social isolation in Irvine was enough to get me psyched on the Prague idea again.

As for Prague, I don’t really know what to tell you.  How do I sum up a year in a paragraph?  I’ve tried to write this part over and over again but there’s no way to do it any sort of justice.  Prague (the city, the experience, the people) was amazing.  The city is affordable, charming, and happening.  The winter was rough and I was miserable at times but the people I met helped me pull through.  I owe such a debt to the friends I made in Prague.  When describing my living conditions to a friend back home he remarked that it sounded kind of like a commune.  It was kind of like a commune and its hard to imagine I’ll ever be in such a unique, effortless, or loving community again.  That’s really all I can say for now.  Maybe as I travel I’ll have more time to process and perhaps even put down some of my experiences in words.  

And now finally we find ourselves smack dab in the present.  Stepping off bus 134102 in Votice I scan the main square for Mia.  I spot a small asian woman who I’m betting is her, swing my pack around my shoulders, and head over.  She waves and asks if I’m Nate.  Sure am.  Is she Mia?  Sure is.  My pack goes in the back of the pick-up and we’re off towards Mia’s farm Statek Otradovice.  Mia begins explaining to me on the short ride that I am one of eight volunteers currently, that she and her husband moved to the Czech Republic fifteen years ago and spent the first eight in Prague before headed here.  I can tell right away that she’s Californian from her accent so I ask her where from.  She’s from Newport and most of her family lives in Irvine.  Small fucking world.

As we drive she asks me about my previous farm experiences and what kind of work I’m comfortable doing.  We pass two small ponds and Mia waves to a man operating a weed-wacker.  “He’s making room for the new beehives.  You might be helping with that.”  We pull up along side a long yellow two story building and pass through a large gate on foot which opens up into a beautiful courtyard lined with flowers and herbs.  I’m introduced to her daughter, a Korean volunteer named Sonya, and an American volunteer named Leah who are doing chores in the courtyard.  

First things first we put my bag down in my room which I’m sharing with an Irish volunteer.  Expecting something similar to the corrugated tin shanty town of Kibbutz Eilot I’m shocked to find myself housed along with the other eight volunteers in a beautiful yellow building which lines the western end of the compound.  Fresh sheets, hardwood floors, a lofty ceiling, two full bathrooms, a big screen TV, a playstation, composting, recycling, and a view of the sprawling Czech country side are all part of the deal.  

Mia takes me back outside to complete the tour.  I say hi to a few more American volunteers, I meet three of the twenty farm cats, I tour the herb garden, the drying room, the preserves room, the laundry room, the pig and goat pens, and the chicken coops.  The entire time Mia hasn’t stopped talking about what will be expected of me and what I can expect in return.

Work starts at eight each morning and we work until one in the afternoon.  We work five days a week with two full free days.  Breakfast and lunch are on our own (with food provided fresh from the farm) and dinner is eaten communally each night with everyone taking turns cooking.  If we want to eat fish, she adds, then we have to catch it from the ponds.  Each morning our job for the day is assigned.  Maintenance, garden work, canning and preserving, kitchen work, feeding the animals, and setting up the bee hives are the main projects right now.  I’m very pleased to hear about the variety of work I’ll get a chance to do and also to hear that I won’t just be dusting the desert for two weeks.

It’s just about one now so my timing’s perfect.  I’ve missed work entirely for the day and the volunteers start making their way back to the living area for lunch.  I can tell immediately that this is no Kibbutz Eilot and I mean that in the best possible way.  Everyone here is happy and smiling.  They don’t want to leave.  The work is fun and satisfying.  By now I’ve met all of the volunteers except two who are traveling on their day off.  Everyone is just about my age except for an older American man.  Dressed in overalls and sporting a big toothy smile with a country drawl he’s straight out of a movie.  “Yup one got me good there huh?” he ask/tells/laughs while pointing to a swelling bee sting just under his left eye.

I sit down for lunch with Sam and Leah and chat about the farm, where they’ve been traveling recently and where they’re going to travel next.  Mia comes with a list of groceries for the farm and hands Sam her keys.  They’re all headed into town to grab supplies and for a chance of scenery.  They invite me along but I opt to stay in to unpack my stuff, start a load of laundry, and of course begin typing this all up.

After a brief afternoon nap (it’s not easy work having goodbye parties) I go out to hang up my laundry.  I notice a strange sensation while doing so and look down to see a fluffy grey kitten licking my toes.  S/he sticks around while I finish up and then follows me as far as the pig pens before getting scared.  To be fair, the pigs are kind of scary.  I head out the gate and through the plum and apple orchard towards the ponds to see if I can see any fish.  I circle around looking for a good place to cast off from but no sign of anything except bugs, chickens, and blackberries so I go ahead and eat some berries.  I head up the dirt road for about thirty minutes, taking in the scenery and picking the occasional blackberry and raspberry.  There’s also apples, cherries, and the kind of plum you use for slivo.  The only downside is I step through some nettle which stings up my feet a bit so next time I’ll have to wear real shoes.  The landscape is very reminiscent of Oregon or Washington.  Rolling green hills densely wooded with fields cleared out in between.

I run into a couple volunteers playing with a handful of (seven week old) kittens back inside the farm and learn that dinner tonight is lasagna.  They also confirm that there definitely are fish in the ponds because my Irish roommate cooked one of them last week.  My new goal is to catch a fish and cook it before I go.

I know it’s a little too soon to be making judgements but I gotta say, I like this place.