I began my lone WWOOFing adventure at a farm a couple of hours north of Springfield in Butler, MO. The farm…The Funny Farm. Only too suiting for myself, I think. Those who know me well, and those who really, really know me well will more than likely agree.
Rachael and the kids dropped me off on April 8th in the late afternoon. It was harder than I was expecting to say goodbye and let them drive away. It was comparable to what Rachael and I experienced our first night in Georgia when we began our WWOOFing adventure in June 2011. We both slept little, crying quiet to ourselves the whole night. We knew that we couldn’t go back and make it work and moving forward seemed to be too big, too difficult. Those feelings are much the same, plus some, that I was feeling after Rachael drove away. Except now, I had to do it alone. And Rachael had to do it alone. The whole two weeks we were apart was a roller coaster of emotions. Some days she was strong, believing wholeheartedly in what we are doing. Other days she was falling apart doubting what we are doing and wondering if there was a better way. I felt the same. We managed to flip flop our emotional psychoness in alternating unison. On her good days, I was having down days and vice versa. We gave each other strength and it was good. It has only been 2 and a half weeks, but it seems like much longer than that. We are moving forward though, learning and figuring out, slowly, what it is we are trying to figure out. To the adventure!! And gnomes!!
Back to the Funny Farm. The Funny Farm is new and is getting established. Susan, the host\owner, of the farm is a wonderful person. She was very inviting and excited to have me visit and work on the farm. She had a room built in the barn with all a lone guy could ask for; desk, bed, dresser, sink, cabinets, shelves, counter space, mini-fridge, toaster oven, induction burner, and my own shower. Not to mention a high quality saw dust toilet for all my dirty deeds. Lots of pun intended there. :0)
New paragraph. The weather wasn’t super cooperative while I was there. Weekends were sunny and weekdays were rainy and wet…or cold. I enjoyed both. I’m grateful for the moisture and grateful for everything turning green. It’s a beautiful time of year. Susan has a lot of awesome ideas and projects that she’d like to get accomplished. I was able to help with quite a few things during my visit. Our first project was figuring out a better path for getting to the barn. The barn site was leveled from the side of a hill and the grass hadn’t grown back on the sides leading down to the barn. With all the rain, it was a muddy, slippery mess. Susan had laid scrap lumber going down the hill to act as steps, but in my use of them, they were more like mud sleds. You’d take a step onto one and it would start moving, slowly, and you would sort of say a little prayer hoping you’d stay upright during the ride. Our solution was to chop up some old posts into shorter lengths, laying them on their sides in little trenches we dug into the hill and then semi-leveling the space between each horizontal log. It made stairs!! The picture below will probably make it make more sense. We dumped gravel on each step and tamped it down. The completed stairs were beautiful, functional and pretty much amazing. Most of what I do is amazing. Just saying.
The second day that I was there, Susan took me into Kansas City to pick up a few things. I had never been there before. We visited the Country Club Plaza and had lunch at Eden’t Alley. It was pretty cool. I’m not really into the big city thing, but it was cool seeing in person some of the hip places I’ve heard about. Susan had to make a trip somewhere later that week and while she was gone, I got myself busy. I have a tendency to work better alone…something about me talking too much or sitting and listening to conversations rather than actually working. I tackled a project Susan had been talking about wanting to get done; raised strawberry beds. The frames had already been made from some scrap lumber. I moved them, tilled up the ground around the beds, moved the beds pack, filled them with the loose dirt from tilling, topped the beds with compost (50 trips of two 5 gallon buckets each!), put plastic in the paths and covered with lots of straw. When I was done…amazing. I was glad to have accomplished something and to see the fruits of some hard work. Not only that, Susan was super excited to see it done. She spent time the next day planting the strawberries.
We planted lots of rhubarb, horseradish, cherry trees, 3 varieties of asparagus, lots of flower bulbs, potatoes and choke cherries. I really enjoy planting trees. I have my theories. Something about giving back long term and sharing that tree with others. It feels very connecting, to the earth and others. Another big project was taking down an old barbwire and cattle panel fence. It took me about 2 and a half days and left me more sore than I’ve been in awhile. It was nice to see the fence down. It wasn’t a very pretty fence and wasn’t serving much purpose as it was about 60 feet from the property line and couldn’t hold anything in our keep anything out. She’ll be able to scrap it and get a little bit back to help out for her other projects. Some of the other things we worked on included building a cold frame, potato boxes, draining a pond and cutting back cedar branches in the path of a new fence going in soon.
One of the neat things on her farm are the bird feeders. They attract lots of different birds and provide for a lot of interesting observing. I had never really taken the time to listen to all the different sounds birds make, how to tell male and females apart, how different birds ate seeds and the variety of different birds in an area. It was very cool.
My visit there, while only 2 and a half weeks, was a good one. Susan is a talker and I learned a lot about her and her life. She’s a very interesting person and has a lot of great ideas. Next year in fact she is hosting a workshop to build a straw bale house on her property. The farm was very cool. When you visit, you’ll see vegetables, flowers, trees, shrubs and vines, chickens, a goat (more coming soon), a gargoyle welcoming you by the driveway, wildflowers, birds, lots of gnomes, solar lights and a mini (meaning 3 feet or so) Easter Island guy statue. I would highly recommend a visit to the Funny Farm or even to spend some time WWOOFing there.
80 weeks is a good round number. Good and round, I guess. Tomorrow we are leaving Millsap Farms. Even now it seems pretty surreal. You get used to living a certain way and knowing that it’s about to change, significantly, has a way of not really feeling real until the change is done. We’ll say goodbye to the farm tomorrow and Rachael and the kids will drive me up to Butler, Missouri to drop me off at my next farm. They’ll then turn around and head back to Springfield where they’ve moved in with a friend. It’s scary, and it’s hard. It’s not just that though. It’s exciting as well. Rachael is making a lot of headway in her business. She’s learning a lot about the business and delivery of the service she has to offer. I’m excited to see new farms, meet new people and keep the adventure going.
The last week at the farm has been a good one. Spring is here and everything is starting to grow a little faster. The trees have buds, some are blossoming, flowers are coming out of the ground like magic, wasps are coming out, it’s getting warmer. It’s an exciting time. We are rushing to get fields prepped for planting and getting plants in the ground. We’ve filled up the Rye Field completely with transplants and a few direct seeded rows. Lots of cabbage, lettuce, kale, carrots and the like. The transformation of the farm is neat. High tunnels have been moved, the ground in being tilled, no-till beds are piling up with straw, green is becoming the dominant color again and the smell of turkey litter floods the air. It’s a beautiful thing.
The experience here at the Millsap Farm has been a great one for me and Rachael and the kids. It’s been a wonderful place to learn, explore and make friends. I feel like I am a part of the farm. That I’ve been a part and helped add to what it is for the people who live here, the interns and volunteers who work here and to the people that eat the produce we grow. I’m not too good with words and expressing my feelings about things. I have a lot of good memories being here, a lot of good emotions attributed to this place. It’s been home for over 18 months now. I don’t know how to say all that in a way that feels like it’s enough.
It’s a grand time.
We’re getting a lot done on the farm and getting ready for Spring and Summer crops. Some of the fields are tilled, beds marked and ready for transplanting and seeding. I wasn’t a part of it this year, but yesterday the farm got a bunch of onions and other vegetables out into the field. We also got in a shipment of raspberry, blackberry and currant cuttings to get into the ground.
It’s really been an amazing experience seeing the farm grown and change during the different seasons since we’ve been at the farm. We’ve seen the transition from Summer to Fall twice, two Winters and we’re into our second Spring. It’s hard to say which one is my most favorite as each period, each season has different types of qualities, but if I had to pick one, it would probably be Spring. Everything starts waking up, green takes over the brown, flat fields take the shape of the different crop contours and life gets going. Not all life is that exciting like flies, mosquitoes and ticks, but I guess they serve their purposes. A few days this week we’ve been able to watch a bald eagle circle near the farm. It’s pretty cool.
Rachael and I drove with the kids up to Ohio to see family on Friday. It’s not that bad of a drive compared to what we’re used to when traveling to see family. 10 hours is still a long time in the car. We’re staying with my folks who live about 20 minutes from Rachael’s folks. As a bonus, my aunt is here visiting and so we get to spend a little time with her. I’d also like to point out that during our Phase 10 game last night…well, I won. I sort of feel like the Universe conspired against the others to secure my dominance at card games. Just sayin’.
We’ll probably be in Ohio for another 4 or 5 days and then head back to Missouri.
We’re grateful to all of our friends an family that support us the best they know how. Life is hard and would be impossible without some kind of support. Life has been good to Rachael and I and we never go wanting. We have what we need and we seem to get to where we need to. So I guess a big Thank You to “the powers that be” for making it so. And by “powers that be” I mean myself of course. :0)
This last week was my first full week back at the farm after having ended my temp job with the Springfield Parks Department. We’ve been going at it hard to start getting our fields and crops ready for Spring. The seedling table is full, the paths next to the seedling table are full and there are lots of seedlings. The point I’m trying to make is that there are a lot of plants, that are babies, that are starting to grow. Yes.
We’ve also been finishing up a lot of projects that were started last year, but never got completed. We’ve got hot air blowing through a few of our raised beds, hot water running through the seedling table and several places where miscellaneous “stuff” has piled up is getting cleaned and organized. The farm is looking really good.
We waited all week for the soil to dry up enough so that we can get out in the fields with the tractor and start plowing and tilling. We didn’t get as much as we wanted, but we have several rows that are tilled and a section of our big field that is plowed. As much as I don’t want to like tractors (they compress the soil, burn up diesel fuel, pulverize the earth, they’re loud and require lots of maintenance to keep running, etc) there is something that feels awesome about looking back at a fresh plowed or tilled field that’s just awesome. I don’t know. Some kind of disconnect in my head. Or just…it is.
Rachael’s younger sisters visited this week and worked a day to earn room and board during their stay. I seems like they had a good time and Rachael had a good time.
We’ve also changed our plans again. We do that a lot and we’re aware of it…just keepin’ it real. We have decided, mostly, it’s sort of complicated, that Rachael and the kids will be moving in with a friend and I will continue on WWOOFing. I’m looking at heading West. Colorado maybe, even Montana and eventually Washington. Just thoughts really. Rachael is going to continue working on getting her business rolling and keeping them kids educated.
By Adam Kunzler
Just wanted to update the blog…yep…with our current status. I completed the internship the beginning of last November. It was a great experience and I’ll probably share more about that later. After the internship I started a temp job with the City of Springfield Parks Department doing maintenance on the Greenways Trails spread through Springfield. The job has been very educational and has helped me learn a lot more about trees, backing up trailers, and doing controlled prairie burns.
Rachael has been building a health coaching business, teaching cooking classes and working with local businesses to try and start up health education classes in the city. On top of all that, she’s still home schooling the kids, maintaining a social life with new friends, and still participates in different farm activities.
Ready for a surprise? Here goes…
We’re getting ready to begin the next chapter of our Big Adventure. Sometime the last week of March we’ll be heading out of Missouri and looking west to start the WWOOFing thing back up. Our goal is Washington, but we’re pretty much open to whatever direction the Universe has us go. We are really excited and a little scared, but that’s part of what it’s all about.
Our latest project at the farm has been the construction of a chinese style solar high tunnel. For those interested, here is an article that talks more in depth about the design and why and also some good resources for learning more. The basic idea is that you have a high tunnel that has an earth berm wall on 3 sides and the non-berm wall is south facing. It’s dug down into the ground, providing dirt to use for the berm wall. In the construction of ours, we used big concrete blocks (2′x2′x6′ and weigh nearly 2 tons) along the three berm sides and then back filled the dirt. The rest of the construction is similar to a traditional high tunnel with metal poles and greenhouse plastic. The other main difference is that there will be some sort of insulation layer on the inside of the ceiling that is rolled up in the morning and rolled out in the evening.
The idea is that during the day, solar energy, or heat, is trapped in the greenhouse and stored in the berm walls. The berm walls act as thermal mass and are a great place to store heat and act as insulation. Think of adobe or other similar earth building techniques. The heat is then trapped in the high tunnel at night by the insulation layer on the ceiling that is rolled out in the evening. The heat from the berm wall escapes into the high tunnel during the cool night temperatures and keeps the air temperature up, providing better growing conditions for the vegetables. Theoretically, you’ll be able to grow summer produce in the winter time. Think watermelons in January!!
I also want to point out that a lot of those blocks on the north side…yeah, I stacked those with a big ol’ excavator. :0)
Here’s a link to that article again for a better explanation: Solar Greenhouses, Chinese Style.