Going from 80 percent mountains to 0 percent is just as hard as I thought it would be. If I don’t hike something soon, my bones are going to turn to dust. It’s been three months since I left Korea and though I love the scenery of home (I recently took my dad’s camera -don’t ask what kind, the film kind- out and took a series of old and abandoned lonely barn photos in the southern Illinois area) I miss the active lifestyle of a community that prioritizes recreation. With the recent onset of insomnia that I’ve been experiencing, along with the creeping thought that leaving Korea was a mistake, I downloaded Kayak.com’s app and now typically spend the better part of the wee hours of the morning looking up flights to Istanbul, India and yes Korea. One of those sleepless nights, my childhood friend Kaley texted from a few hours back in Mountain Time. I searched for flights to Seattle for the heck of it when she told me she was WWOOFing in Eatonsville, Washington. I found a $300 round-trip and booked the flight 48 hours later.
Here’s how WWOOFing works. You work on a farm and all of your living expenses are taken care of during your stay. Kaley has been doing this for about a year. She spent three months on a farm in Denver and the last six months at Left Foot Farm in Washington, where she recently took on a hire position because she loves the work so much . She tends to goats. The lovable dwarf kind, milking them and nursing the newborns (called kids), selling milk to local creameries and stores and yeah muddling through the muck and the mire in between. WOOFers stay in their own private cabins and with Mount Rainier right in their backyard, they take advantage of the community kayaks and paddle under the mountain at Alder Lake on their days off. I’ve never been west of the Rockies so I dipped into my Korea savings and got psyched for the week of farming and exploring ahead of me.
Already on the schedule. It was cold and rainy when Kaley and Gracie picked me up at Sea-Tac Airport that evening. I met the farmhands made up of recent college grads; a couple political science majors, international studies, a business grad and an agriculture student. Some interested in making a career out of farming and some just wanting to learn a skill or do something different. All of them equally awesome. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that people who work hard as a team alongside nature every day for a way of life they believe in, are usually exceptional and interesting people.
Kaley’s boxer, Spike, noticeably concerned for one of the struggling newborns.
This sweet dog pays special attention to and licks the baby goats that are sick.
Goats on the milking schedule.
These are some happy goats. They came right in, single file up the ramp and even fought each other for their spots.
They’re given a cup of oats while the farmers attach the suction tubes and start the brief milking process.
Each utter is thoroughly cleaned and sterilized before the tubes come in contact with the utters. The milk is kept natural and bottled directly.
Kaley takes me to feed the kids that they are weening off their mother’s milk.
Back at the lounge, one of the girls labels goat’s milk soap that she made earlier in the day.
And I start in on the farm’s nightly tradition of settling down on the couch with a microbrew.
On the morning of day one on the farm, the soaps and bottled milk are ready to be taken to market or sold at the storefront and everyone’s started on their chores.
Getting a look at the place I’ll call home this week. It’s overcast and foggy but rural Washington still looks starkly different than rural Illinois. I’m in love with the trees.
Kaley and Gracie’s “tree fort.”
One of the guardians looking especially majestic as the sun peaks out on the farm (either a Great Pyrenees or Pyrenean Mastiff).
Some of the girls opt for a mid-morning break to take me on a run a few miles down the road.
Passing by mother and baby donkey on a neighboring farm.
Snapped a cute picture of Kaley playing football with the owner’s boys when we got back.
Doing business with the local creamery.
Paige feeds poor little Arthur who has pneumonia.
Moving all these super pregnant goats to the nurseries.
This billy goat gets his hooves trimmed. After he got away from Nicole, and escaped from the open gate (possibly my fault).
I got to name this one, born last night. I wanted to name him moose because I think he looks like a little baby moose.
But the farm has a long running naming system, where the kids are named in relation to their mother. This little fella’s momma was Poppy so I went with Opi.Cinnamon gave birth to Toast and Crunch last night.
Getting ready to muck all the stalls.
There was a point where so much goat poo was on my hands, arms, face and jeans that I stopped futilely wiping it off/smearing it around and just accepted: This is me now.
I’ve said the same thing about hiking on the Appalachian Trail, physical labor, the direct effect of my efforts (here, happy bleating, grazing goats) in front of me, makes me feel accomplished in a way I don’t usually get to experience at a typical job. Also it just feels good to work. It’s difficult but simple. No insomnia this week.
The crew’s cabins.
Livestock puppies being extra cute.
Unlike the dwarf goats, these little piggies will not be used for their milk. Fortunately, I have more pictures of adorable baby goats for you to think about instead.
This was a strange sensation but I wasn’t about to stop it. I didn’t know how affectionate and playful goats could be. They are like tiny hoofed puppies and follow you everywhere.
It physically hurt my being to leave them on my last day.
Seriously considering a life of homesteading.
Follow Left Foot Farm happenings from breeding, kidding season to sales at the interns’ blog at: http://leftfootfarm.com/blog/