Monday, March 23, 2009

I'm off to see the wizard

Well I left yael bernier's place today, and it was hard because I had such a good time There. They are good people making an honarable living. The people I met in wine country were some of the best warmest people I've ever met. I am headed today to oz farm in boonville. It's
They run a community supported agriculture program that provides 150 families with weekly fresh produce, as well as a retreat center that hosts groups, to relax in a natural environment I guess. My friend naomi worked tree for a few months a few years ago and she had a blast so I'm sure I will too.

Did I mention how nice and friendly californians are? Sometimes I think it's because of all the pot they smoke, but that's silly. Maybe it's just because the weather is so nice that people just have to be real pleasant. Either way, i don't feel like such a stranger even though I am. I skyped with my friends back on the farm in Israel today. It was a bad connection but t was so nice to hear their voices. I am going to try again soon.

I got a good sounding guitar today for a reasonable price, the guitar I came with had crappy sound so I'm happy about that. Rock n roll!!!!!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

rantings of a wwoofer

I’ve been working the past week at yael Bernier’s place in Sonoma County and it’s been so amazing, definitely my best farm experience so far in my travels. I feel very included here, feel at home. Yael even told me she doesn’t like wwoofers who act like guests, feel at home!

What kind of work have I done? Weeding, Preparing beds for crops by rototilling, adding compost and feather meal(don’t ask!), then seeding, transplanting(moving seedlings into bigger containers, and planting. What have I seeded and planted and weeded? Chard, peas, lettuces, radicchio, turnips, carrots.. I’m eating very well, though I had too may beans the last two days and I’m not the most fun person to be around right now.

The berniers are a really funky family. Paul comes from a family of engineers, tinkerers, and he has a shop on the property full of all sorts of tools and equipment and some of the machines he uses in the grapes with his tractor are homemade. His son took a recumbent bicycle and put an electric motor and batteries in it and I’m gonna take it out for a spin in the next couple of days. Cool huh?

Tonight, after dinner, I went with the berniers to the Dry creek Valley Association annual dinner, where besides talking about buerucratic paper woerk kind of stuff, local area residents were discussing water. The local governments are trtying to build a system that would give wine growers in the area sewage water for irrigation so they can take the fresh water for something else, probably more developments. So it was interesting to see people getting involved with whats going on with their local regional resources. Water is a complicated subject. It’s not something that can be easily solved, because it’s not something that is just local. Fresh water is always moving, traveling downhill. What the people do with water upstream effects the people downstream. I would love to see rivers and streams flowing with water, teeming with life. But It sounds like more and more rivers are being dammed or tapped almost entirely for human uses.

Lots of people have wells and pumps on their properties, and I can tell that more often, people will have to deal with the fact that their wells won’t pull up water because water tables will have dropped past the wells. What it comes down to is ridiculous consumption of fresh water.

Biggest offenders: Agriculture, Industry, Home Use. I’m on an organic farm but even here I see row crops with no mulch on them. This is an indicator that farmers don’t care about conserving water, with prices so low why conserve? I think that the cost of water should be raised. I don’t know if there are other people out there who think the same way, but as long as it’s ridiculously cheap nobody gives a crap. But they do give a crap, into their toilets which they flush down with perfectly good drinking water, same stuff that comes out of the tapm, same stuff that’s been filtered and had fluouride added to it. Drinking water and poop. That makes sense to you? I am a proponent of compost toilets, They don’t use any water, and produce great compost which can be used to grow more food, thus closing the food cycle. Some people are grossed out by the idea of pooping and the poop not disappearing magicly down a drain. I’m grossed out by the system most homes have nowadays.

I'll be headed next week to Oz Farm. My friend Naomi, worked there for a few months a couple of years ago and had a blast, so i'm gonna work there and hopefully have a good time doing it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Weeding, Weeding...

Spent the day weeding onions and garlic at yael's son zuriel's crops. had fun talking to him about different methods and techniques in sustainable farming. Last night Yael cooked up some halibut and I put some butter on it with lemons. deliscious!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Good Work, Good people, good food, good fun

So I am at Yael Bernier's farm in Geyserville, Ca. She grows vegetables for local restaurants and grow grapes for at least one winery. Today I trellised peas, transplanted tomatoes and echinacea, washed carrots with some gleaners(they go around to different farms collect leftovers of harvests for local food banks), moved irrigation hoses, made lemonade, and had a wonderful dinner of pasta with orange tomato sauce, fresh ground parmesan, leftover curry from last night, and coleslaw. Last night we had a delicious chicken curry which a family friend made, and roasted asparagus, baby portobellos, and winter squash.

I have only been here a day and I am just so happy, this is a much better environment for me than Vincent's Place. There aren't any other wwoofers here but there is a twenty something mexican that works here so maybe I'll hang out with him. tomorrow after work i'll bike around town a bit. there are vineyards everywhere and some creeks too. Yesterday, before I got picked up by Yael in healdsburg I hung out with some people who work at a microbrewery in town and I got free beers which were really delicious and I talked to a guy about mushroom cultivation, which i am getting more and more excited about every day.Signing out, Dani. - Oh yeah Happy Purim! I bet my friends in HavaveAdam had a really good time.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Headed to Yael Bernier's farm in Geyserville today

Yep, I finally managed to escape San Francisco. It was hard, what with all the people in the streets with flowers in their hair. But really, the people make that city, not a bridge or a park, or stores, or cable cars. I met such amazing people, people from all walks of life and I am a better man because of it. Like everyone else in this world, I have lots of preconcieved notions about things, a lot of which comes from tv and movies. So talking to homosexuals, talking to stoners, shroomers and acid freaks, talking to just sme guy on the street for a local perspective, it all helps me to grow and understand my world.

I hitchhiked for the first time in the good ol' U. S. of A today, and I got two rides. Both times I was picked up within two minutes of thumbing(which I didn't actually do cause it's illegal but any other sign like a hand out or an actual sign that says N or S is ok, someone told me.). The first, Lauren, has her own yoga studio, so she's super cool. We talked about her travels in central america and meeting Israel travelers (who hasn't). She gave me a very refreshing take on how the economy affects different people differently.

Now I'm in Healdsburg, which is sort of a touristy town, with wine shops and antique stores and plenty of free wifi. I'm sitting on the grass, with my laptop in my lap and the sun on my neck, eating chocalte chip cookies. Could life get any better? Yael Bernier will be arriving in a few hours to run some errands and pick me up as well. here's what the book has to say about her place:

We farm row crops and grapes in Sonoma County, north by about 75 miles from San Francisco. We farm sustainably, selling our grapes to a couple of small wineries and our row crops with an emphasis on garlic to restaurants and customers at the local farm market. Our farm is in Dry Creek Valley, a well-known wine grape region. The terrain is diverse with a beautiful valley, rolling hills, and coniferous forests. We have farmed here for over 30 years and one of our sons, Zureal, is now involved in the row crops. We farm 14 different varieties of garlic and greens, fruits, and root crops from spring til winter. Our work consists of greenhouse seeding, transplanting, cultivating, maintaining irrigation systems, harvesting, delivering and selling of produce. Sometimes vineyard work, as well. Our house has an extra bedroom with twin beds, and we’re able to host two people. We prefer you to stay a few days to a week or two. Most days we work until noon or a little after, with market days longer. Bicycles are available to ride to town, 7 miles. Car transport is possible, too. Bus service a short distance from our house. We eat organically with occasional meat. We speak English and Spanish.

I'm having trouble figuring out which farm to got to next. I've always been "heading north to Oregon" but that won't work anymore, I have a limited number of farms that were interested in me, and while some of them are geographically close to me right noiw they don't need anyone till april so I might head up to some farms then backtrack and visit other ones. As long as I hitchhike that will cut transport costs to practically nothing, which is good cause the last farm(not enough food) and the bay area kind of took a bit bite out of my wallet, no matter that i couchsurfed the entire time. I didn't pick up that mini amp I was thinking about, but I hope to do it before my next farm cause i really need to start making money and playing guitar in town would be fine. I did get a new used guitar but I have to have it fixed for a lefty this part that guides the strings on the frets.

Friday, March 6, 2009

San Fran is awesome!

I find it so interesting that in everything I do, I learn something. No, I've never studied in a university, I haven't written papers since high school. Of course there isn't only one way to learn. There's an infinite number of ways. If you go ask an aboriginal tribesman who taught him everything he knows, he won't say he learned it in school. School doesn't mean anything to societies where every one is teacher and student all at once. And that's how I feel in my travels here on the west coast.

I've been doing research for farms to visit at a cafe on Haight street, what once was one of the major hippie streets in san francisco, and still retains that to some extent even if it's been commercialized with stores for hippies, head shops etc. I'm sitting at a table that has a card on it that says "Make friends! Invite some strangers to your table". And that's what I did, talked to a bunch of really nice people. And I'm talki ng to people on the streets all over this city, and the responses are positive, people who like people. It's a good feeling.

I might buy a guitar tomorrow. The guitar I have doesn't make much sound, and I just don't enjoy playing it. I left my nice guitar at my parents, cause it's gigantic, heavy, and really nice and I didn't want anything to happen to it. But I found a guitar that's really nice, not too big, and not too expensive. Who am I kidding? It's really expensive, for me. But quality is important. I'll just take real good care of it. And I am going to buy a clip-on amp that I can just clip on my belt, I'll be able to make more money on the streets when more people can here me. I Rock!

Tonight I went to an outdor poetry/music/whatever thing. people were rapping and giving speeches and poems and ukeleles. it was so san francisco, just what I imagined it used to be. And some of them were really good. It put such a smile on my face, knowing that more than just the drug culture survived in san francisco. There is so much art and so many artists.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

making progress on the farm hunt!

I am going to be in san francisco for another few days, and then it's on to my next farm in the santa rosa area north of s.f. Because I had a number of not so great experiences at my first four farms, I've taken a different approach and written many of the wwoof farms, organic volunteer farms and ATTRA farms, an emaill explaining what I am looking for. I'm hoping they won't all be pissed off by an impersonal mass email though I wrote the nicest letter i could. And if they see my blog they will hopefully see how honest and transparent I am. I print it here for you:

Hi, My name is Daniel Kra, I am 25 years old and I am WWOOFing(or working/volunteering/whatever) my way up california through to at least Oregon, wwoofing a week or so at a time on farms( or more). I am looking for good educating experiences and warm friendly people to work and play with. I am also looking for a place to stay and work long term, doing sustainable work(growing food(let me grow food for you!), natural building etc). I feel I cant commit to a long term stay until I've worked there at least a week, and I am relying on public transportation and rides to get around so it's inconvenient for me to just come and visit unless I could stay and work for at least a week. I wish I knew which farm was perfect for me, and I would just go there, but I can't so i want to visit a good number of places. I am writing to you because you were in the ATTRA directory and I was told by a WWOOF host that ATTRA farms are more suited to what I am looking for. So I thought I'd give it a shot. I don't usually write mass emails, but I know what I want to do more or less and I'll do anything to achieve it. I appreciate your time.

I would like to explain, what it is exactly that I am looking for, regardless of the fact that I might just work for you a week. I am looking for a place where I can work with people not just for them. I'm fine working by myself but the ability to discuss ideas is important. Ideally I would eat with my hosts at least one meal a day. I like to work hard but i need to eat 3 square meals a day(I am a pretty good cook) and time socializing( family, friends, and community are important to me).I would like the ability to pursue ideas of my own and turn them into projects that could make me and the owners some money, food or just to make life easier. Some projects that I am interested in pursuing include : cob anything but especially thermal mass heaters, perennial food systems(food forests- I have already been on four farms and none of them had herb gardens which I found surprising), mushroom cultivation, and site design (I need to practice permaculture design and I would love to map out your farm and leave you with a plan to maximize the potential of your property, especially water elements(swales etc.) i still have a lot to learn so i am looking for people to learn with and to teach by doing.

I see myself in a year or so living in a small cob or other natural materials structure which I built, continually adding perrenial fruits and vegetables to the landscape, selling mushrooms (that's one of the things I'm really excited about., organizing workshops(for money and some for free if there are neighbors and towns nearby. I have ideas for events like free movies projected onto something outside and then charging for chai and home made beer and snacks. I'm just looking for people with land to share my ideas with them. I don't have enough money to buy land right now and truthfully even if I did, I'd still need equipment and a truck. I'm hoping that with the resources of an existing farm I can make enough money to get a truck. I still need to get a driver's liscence(I know, right? I've been living very locally everywhere I've been and I never really needed it. So that's one of the first things I'll do when i finally settle somewhere.) i do have a few bucks, some of which I will invest in my projects or our projects. i want to be able to come up with ideas and make them happen.

A little bit about me: I have been living in Israel the past six years, I spent a total of a year and a half working on three different Kibbutzim( a kind of agricultural commune) I have spent the past year on an educational farm in Israel(Hava V'Adam .(I'm originally from New Jersey) I have completed a 72 hour Permaculture Design Course and was apprenticed to the farmer for three months. I have worked with cob and stone terracing, straw bale, homemade greywater systems. I am very well read and informed about most things permaculture/ sustainable living and am very good at explaining things to people and I am also very good with kids. I don't have enough building experience( carpentry, plumbing etc), more at agriculture, but I want to learn more about natural building among other things.

I'm a really hard worker and I'm really fun too. I play guitar and am very entertaining and funny.

So if you could let me know if you think I would fit on your farm and you have room for a worker for a week or two anytime over the next six months that would be great. Or if you know of somebody with land or people developing land, land trusts cohousing etc, please let me know. I am currently on break for a week in San Francisco and my next place will be around the Santa Rosa area. I'll definitely call you if you respond by email or phone.

My phone number is 973-280-2261

Thank you,

Daniel Kra

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Still in San Fran

Couchsurfing is a really fun way to travel. We are staying at ben's apartment, he loves in the sunset area and he's so mich fun. He made us burritos for lunch after we got to his place yesterday and last night we went to his friends house where they were having a jam session in the basement.

It's been raining off an on since a week and a half ago. And that's good cause California has been experiencing a drought for the past three years. Though as a traveler I must say it's not always fun to be outside in the cold rain especially when I have 35 pounds of stuff on my back. Which leads me to my next topic of conversation.

If I am going to continue to travel from farm to farm for a while, I am going to have to lighten my load. I am going to go through my stuff on the next couple of days and try to streamline and balance things out. I also have a tent, sleeping pad and sleeping back tied to my pack, the sleeping bag is huge. So maybe I'll buy smaller lighter equipment, Maybe a trade in, craigslist, I don't know.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Berkley, where it all really started

So we are couchsurfing at Richard's place in berkeley. he's an electrical engineer and father of two by a surrogate mother, he's gay but wanted to have kids. He's built a beautiful house and theres a really cool stream in the back. We walked around berkeley last night and he showed us where some of the first free speech protests happened and we talked a little bit about the changes that took place here after world war two. It's just a really hip college town I guess. Gonna read about some farms and make some calls today.

yesterday leo and I played guitar for an hour at fisherman's wharf in s.f. and made 6 bucks. woo hoo. it was fun though. and there was a really cool farmer's market full of heirloom vegetables and mushrooms, and free samples of stuff .