Dana and I arrived in Walla Walla ten days ago, and a lot has happened since.
I got a sweet thirty year old Schwinn cruiser bike that will last forever. It has big wheels, a heavy frame, rides like a dream, and only cost me 150 bucks including lights, helmet, etc. I need it since downtown is four uphill miles from the farm, which is a really nice bike ride. Coasting home is pretty fun too.
The farm itself (West End Farm) is a lovingly cared for five acre plot of land, three of which are farmed for vegetables and flowers. The land has been lived on and farmed for 36 years by Bob, a seeker who rode the back to the land movement in the late 70’s (oil prices skyrocketing, American hostages: maybe we better figure out a way to unplug from the worldwide economy…) with a group of his friends who dropped out one at a time until he was the only one left. He is the groudskeeper at Whitman College, the local Liberal Arts establishment, where he went as a student. In addition to Bob, Dana and myself, the farm crew consists of the farmer Alice and her friend Jesse. Both Alice and Jesse went to Whitman as well, where they majored in Environmental Studies. We grow rare and heirloom varieties of veggies and flowers for sale at the Farmer’s Market in Walla Walla and by CSA shares. Alice has been running the farm here for three years now as Bob moves towards retiring, and this is the first year she has had live in, full-time help, and we should be able to really maximize the land. Part of that process will be building a hoop house (temporary green house) this March, so that we can get an early crop of tomatoes and a late crop of salad greens (the two most profitable crops for a small farm). Right now we are preparing the beds and planting the starts in the permanent greenhouse. I’m learning a lot here. It feels like I’m on full scholarship with room and board and a personal instructor in a place I love with a super-awesome interactive classroom. Already I’ve learned how to prune fruit trees (there are seven hearty apple trees and seven hearty walnut trees).
There is a public library (where I use the internet) with an excellently diverse collection of DVD’s. Already I’ve watched Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and the first four episodes of Glee, and have Rocky, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Triplets of Belleville in my room.
The newest and currently most exciting news is that I got a part-time job working at an orchid nursery that is next door to the farm. The nursery, called Orchidaceae, is a quite impressive operation. They have a large (1 acre?) climate controlled greenhouse that feels like the jungle, where all sorts of orchids are in different stages of growth, culminating in outrageously decadent blooms of many different kinds. I mostly pot baby orchids, securing them in a mix of soaked fir bark and Perlite that will be their home for the 1-4 years it takes for the plant to bloom.
Being in the same place as Dana for the last five weeks has been one of those all permeating pleasures. Occasionally I forget or take it granted, and then it sneaks up on me again. It is a delightful dance. In honour of my newfound employment (that came from an initiative she took) we went out for a nice Valentine’s brunch this morning.