I recently spent a few weeks in Oregon. It was an amazing, and possibly life changing trip. Time will tell, but I definitely learned a lot about myself and some of the care as well as how much time goes into farm life. I was able to have this amazing experience thanks to the "wwoofing" program. The farm I stayed at was Riverside Farm, a unique little gem located in the charming town of McMinville, OR. McMinville is also home to great wine, The Spruce Goose, and a the country's second largest UFO festival. For the two weeks I lived at Riverside Farms I used a compost toilet, worked outdoors, had amazing local organic food, and lived in a red barn. This post is dedicated to my challenging but opening experience living in the red barn.
I have to say I was a bit weary of staying in a barn even though, they are quite nice in photographs. Many of my fears about farm life and being outdoors were realized. Creatures seemed to be even more prevalent here than when I have been camping. The first night inside the barn, with birds flying over my head, I laid on a bed that felt like a rock. The second night I moved into a space we called "the cave" with a far more comfortable bed, three walls, and sheets all around. I thought in this semi-enclosed space I would be more protected from the outside critters who had made their way into the barn. I was wrong.
My first night in "the cave" I checked my bed for spiders, then taking heed of what the previous tenants had said I decided to look up and check the ceiling. Above my head I counted 11 spiders. On closer inspection I saw that 5 were pregnant. Remembering Charlotte's Web, I was not excited about hundreds of baby spiders crawling on me in the night. Being a long time city gal, I was also incredibly squeamish about handling any bugs, let alone spiders. Normally I would yell for my husband or at worst quickly smash a shoe on the poor little guys, but I wanted to overcome this irrational need to kill something potentially harmless. With great fortune, Emily, a sweet English girl and now cherished friend, offered with no fear to catch them for me. She calmly caught each one, one by one in a glass cup and threw them out the window. I thanked her profusely, and she said it was no problem. For the first week this was our evening ritual, and she became my bi-nightly "spider woman". She was so sweet and so brave that it actually changed something inside me. By the end of the second week I was catching the spiders (now only two or three would gather) and throwing them out the window myself! Victory! Since I have returned to city life I have only once encountered a creepy crawler in my home, but instead of killing it or yelling like a girl for my husband, I put the little spider in a cup and sent him outside. I have always appreciated spiders' webs and the jobs they do, but I do appreciate them more as beings now. However, I still do not want them in my home. Sorry little dudes! Below is Emily on the left, and Charlie, the quirky and unpredictable Chinese girl by way of Wisconsin, on the right.
Another thing that took getting used to in our living space was the clutter. At first I found it a bit overwhelming, mostly because after years of being a bit of a hoarder myself, I have now become more of a minimalist thanks to my clean and organized husband. It was a bit of an adjustment to see so many big and little trinkets: rocks, shells, drums, and even a doll house covered in dust and spider webs. By the end though I could appreciate the beauty and love that was brought into this space from it's passers-by. While I still would not opt for quite as much stuff nor this aesthetic in my own living space, I could appreciate the uniqueness that was present in this one. I even came to enjoy the different sheets with their variety of patterns, decorating and defining the space.
above (bottom left): my cave
The final issue I had to overcome was the amount of flying creatures. Like spiders, I am not a big bird person because they are fast, small, and unpredictable. They are pretty to spot in forests or backyards, but having many fly around in my living space was a bit difficult. Also, I've seen The Birds. Alfred Hitchcock was a brilliant director, and was so successful at presenting horror and suspense that the emotions I felt during his film resurfaced on this very occasion.
While in general I am not too fearful of birds attacking me, having them fly over my head in an enclosed space was a bit unsettling. The other bad thing is they poop everywhere! Most days we could shoo them out by nightfall, but one night a few of these little swallows came in before we went to bed. Below in the barn they had made nests, and we were told that they were gathering for migration. Why they came to our living space when clearly their loved ones were outside and below us is beyond me.
The night they came in we got them all out but one. It was kind of sad because he kept flying into a close window we could not reach. Finally we decided to let him be. He was mostly very quiet and waited until morning to leave. Around one a.m. though I heard fluttering very near to my head. Waking abruptly from a deep sleep this startled me. I jumped up to turn on the light and saw a bat fly out of my cave. Now not only were swallows and spiders making home in my temporary home but bats too!! This was a bit much, and I came very close to leaving the next day. However, with support of my husband and Emily as well as a much needed weekend getaway to the coast, I was able to regroup the following week and survive!
Later Jackie, the farm owner, showed me a dead bat that had been caught and it really was quite cute. I wish I had taken a photo, but I felt silly being so scared of such a tiny, kind of cute creature. The bat never returned though.
Below is the lone swallow.
More unique decor
One of my favorite things about the barn though was sitting in the window and looking out at the farm. Below is this vantage with little swallows sitting along the telephone wire.
To find out more about the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms visit their website: http://www.wwoof.org/.