August 26, 2015

WWOOF 2: Lewisburg

Don't laugh.  Here's what I've found out: it's not too difficult to get tour guides with Tinder.  "Here a week and looking for a pal to show me where the cool kids hang out."  That kind of thing, maybe something that says "ABSOLUTELY NOT INTERESTED IN ANY HANKY PANKY," and then just listen to your gut and don't get in cars with strange men or do anything sketch.  Anyway, that's how I wound up several beers wiser at Reptiland with a brand new tattoo.
Ahem.  Let me start from the beginning.
I got to Dancing Bear Farm just before nightfall last Thursday.  We'd stopped in Portland, Maine on the way, which is a really charming little seaside town that smells like fish and sells pizza on the street.  I was enamored.  We also swang through Scranton, home of The Office, for a little Wendy's action and a snapchat selfie that said "Great (Michael) Scott!"  I'm hil-AIR-i-ous.  I made a road buddy on the way, you know those cars that just happen to be going the sameish direction and the sameish speed as you, so you kinda drive with them for looong stretches of highway?  Mine was a little blue Subaru carrying a sleeping woman and her mountain man beau, and I was so sad to see them go that I did two little honks when I exited.  Call me crazy, it had been a lot of driving.  Dancing Bear turned out to be less of a farm and more of a B&B.  Therese showed me where to put my stuff, which was sort of a garage-turned-bunkhouse, and that's where Bix and I slept.  The next morning was a whirlwind of whisks and recipe books and blackberries cut in half while I helped make muffins for the farmers' market.  I visited the farmers' market too, a tiny operation that had an impressive selection and was overrun with barefoot children.
The next morning, Therese set me to weeding.  I weeded for hours and hours and hours, pulling dandelions and purslane from the mulch beds.  I got good and sweaty and spent the afternoon lazing by the pool with a popsicle... every WWOOF farm should have a pool.  The chickens needing feeding so I did that, and the recyclables needing recycling, so I did that too.
AND THEN...  "I got a free tattoo.  I could not believe it.  The guy said, 'Do you want a tattoo,' opened up the [door to the tattoo parlor], he said, 'It's fo free!'  And I said, 'Sure.'"  Quote by Rebel Wilson in Bridesmaids but also now by me too.  What ha happened was, one of the Tinderboys was a tattoo apprentice and he offered to give me a tattoo, and I thought about it and decided I had wanted a tattoo for a dag long time and I was always too much of a sissy to do anything about it and now that the opportunity was being dumped in my lap I had better darn well say yes.  So that's what I did.  I rolled up to the Axonic tattoo parlor of Northumberland the next night to find one extremely tattooed man and one not-so-tattooed man and the not-so-tattooed man was the Tinderboy.  He said, "I'm Alex," and we all three went inside and drank Yuenglings and Alex and I made sideways faces at each other while the extremely tattooed man (who was the owner of Axonic) told us about his alien conspiracy theories and how he used to be a bouncer and also a convict and how he was superior member of the human race because he had red hair and an unnervingly large tongue.  And then it was tattoo time, and Alex stenciled it out in green beforehand and I said it was good and then zip zap zop he tattooed three of the bittiest dots you've ever seen down my side and I left an #inkedchick with joy in my heart and Orion's Belt on my ribcage.  Orion's always been my favorite, he's just up in our winter skies with his belt, three little white dots that are the only constellation I can reliably find.  It's comforting up in the night sky, and now I've got that constellation all day, year round.
Sunday I got up and walked Bix around some fields.  Therese was holding a Quaker meeting at her house, so I went to that.  It was small, just six of us, and we all sat in silence mostly for 45 minutes.  I had a hard time focusing, but I've never been good at any kind of meditation, and I don't have much practice anyway.  We watched a video that talked about why Quakers don't take communion or read scriptures or sing hymns.  It's because they don't want to say things that aren't honest to them in that moment, which I think has a lot of value to it, but I personally also like some guidance, some prompting, and I like the hymns.  It was nice though!
After lunch I went to Reptiland, which was the absolute bees knees.  I have two complaints, and one is that it was kind of depressing to see some of the animals in the smaller habitats because one of the tortoises had actual tears in its eyes and I KNOW I'm anthropomorphizing but I'm also not kidding, and the other is that the thing they called Dragon Talks was just about komodo dragons and wasn't a discussion of dragons throughout history and theories about where they stemmed from and why they're so prevalent across cultures with possible clips from HP, LOTR, and GoT like it should have been.  (I ought to create Reptiland curriculums.  And maybe design some happier terrariums for the tortoises.)  BUT apart from those two issues, I had an absolute blast.  I got a different Tinderboy, Chris, to accompany me, because who wants to go to Reptiland solo dolo (actually that could be real fun on account of how much time I could reasonably spend chatting up the Gaboon vipers and the poison dart frogs and that flirty little box turtle.  NEXT TIME).  Tbh my favorite part was the dinosaur exhibit.  There were real live giant plastic dinosaurs that moved their heads and tails and squawked and one of them sprayed water from its mouth and, you guessed it, spritzed me from face to thigh.  I petted an emu and that turtle flirt I mentioned earlier, and we saw not one but TWO pythons and did pretty poorly on some snake trivia.
Alright, y'all, I have to start a new paragraph because it is PLOT TWIST TIME.  So when I had been convincing Chris to go to Reptiland, he said he'd halfway made plans and I told him to just invite whoever he'd made plans with, but when he showed up alone I had figured that hadn't worked out and possibly someone was not quite as enthused about Reptiland as I was (what??!?).  Turns out, she showed up when we were nearly done and was waiting in the parking lot when we got out.  The three of us when to Thad's for ice cream, which I highly recommend because it costs $1.50 for a waffle cone with two scoops of ice cream in it, and after trying about every flavor they had I ordered red velvet cake and something mocha chippy.  The three of us got a table outside where we slurped at our cones.  "So how do you two know each other?" I asked Chris and Hannah.  They exchanged glances, and Hannah said, "We met on Tinder."  "No way!" I said, "We ALSO met on Tinder.  How long have you been friends?"  And that's when I found out they'd also found each other through this doofy app on Friday and then gone on a date on Saturday and then it was Sunday and the three of us were sitting there with our ice creams, two Tindergirls and a Tinderboy.  We had a good laugh, especially Chris, and then we drove the back way to a bar in downtown Lewisburg where I got a sour cherry bier that tasted like a Warhead.  And gods-be-good, I HAD TO PASS A HORSE-DRIVEN BUGGY.  Hi, Amishland!
That was the night I got home to a full dinner table and a plate just waiting for me to fill it with corn on the cob and potatoes, and in the seat next to me was (drum roll) the other WWOOFer!  She was only there Sunday through Wednesday, but we would be sharing the bunkhouse, and honestly, if you'd ask me to cook up a more perfect partner-in-WWOOF, I wouldn't have been able to.  We're both right in the middle of our twenties; I've got Orion's belt down my side, Kara's about to get all of Orion on her back; I like talking about deep dark secret stuff with people I've just met, so does Kara.  We got along swimmingly and spent our days weeding and exploring and talking and making faces at each other when people couldn't see.  On Monday, we drove to Lewisburg to See The Town!  Turns out, the town is closed after 5 especially on Mondays, and when every restaurant was operating on their not-so-Monday-friendly summer hours and we were staaaarving, I asked Siri for pizza places near me and found Larry's, which was half a mile away and had four out of five stars so we said, "Let's go!" and hit the sidewalk.  When we found Larry, he turned out to be a takeout only kinda place but we were super hungry and extra super thirsty and they just so happened to be having a large-pizza-and-2-liter-drink-for-$8.99 special, and we said "YES."  We waited at the lone picnic table they had on the sidewalk outside, and when a guy showed up with his cigarette, he sat down at the same little table.  When our pizza came we were still all facing towards and when we opened the lid to the pizza box, Kara and I looked at each other, and her face said NOPE all over it.  "DO YOU WANT TO TAKE THIS SOMEWHERE SO IT CAN COOL OFF," she said.  "YEAH," I said, "LET'S GO TO THAT PARK WE PASSED!" and we slammed that pizza lid down faster than you can say "Larry's" and were outta there and away from that cigarette-smoking, pizza-leering dude in no time flat, giggling like maniacs.  The next day, Tuesday, we drove back to Market Street at a nice safe 1:30 and visited just about every store on the whole four blocks.  Collectively, we bought a wallet, a pair of leggings, a clip-on doggie bag holder, socks that said "kick this day in its sunshiny ass," and a kitchen sink (actually).  There was an art store, and we both wanted to buy just about everything in it, so if you're ever in Lewisburg, check out Brushstrokes.  It was a great day, and we rounded it out by watching Elizabethtown and ogling the hell out of Kirsten Dunst.  "I'd say on my best day I might look as good as wet Claire..."
On Friday evening, TinderChris and I went to Knoebels, amusement part extraordinaire (the K is not silent), where I had THE ABSOLUTE BEST TIME.  We rode the Twister (the best one!) and the Cosmotron (it goes backwards!) and the Impulse (not worth the wait!) and the Spinning Wheel (pee first!) and the Phoenix (twice in a row!) and ate amusement park pizza.  There were dogs and kids and rides and food smells and things to win and loud music and people absolutely everywhere, and I was in heaven.  Biggest-grin, dancey-feet, twinkle-finger heaven.  The next day we hit up the Little League World Series for a while and then confessed to each other that we didn't really actually like baseball all that much, so we went back to Knoebels instead.  It was even more crowded this time around, and we waited almost an hour for a minute-long ride (the world's only wooden bobsled roller coaster!).  I told the sisters in line behind us all my really stupid jokes, and the fourteen-year-old responded with a slew of dirty pick-up lines.  Then we rode the Twister some more, and got a funnel cake apiece, and the kid behind us on the swings screamed bloody murder the entire time because his mom wouldn't let him get off.  Hooray, Knoebels!
So THAT, in a rather large nutshell, was the crazy adventure that was Pennsylvania.  I'm in Indiana now, racking up as many interesting stories as I can.  Peace out, more later.

August 20, 2015

WWOOF 1: Greenbush

Maine!  Maine.  Wild and wonderful Maine (that's actually West Virginia, but the only state slogan I can remember for Maine right now is "open for business" and there is nothing remotely romantic about that).  The drive up two Thursdays ago was full of tolls and mixed feelings about the highways, some of which were lovely and smooth and separated the trucks from the cars, some were trafficky, some had bridges and trees and service plazas and creeks at said service plazas, some were flat out boring and left me reaching into the cooler for caffeine fixes.  Nine-hour drives are never actually nine-hour drives, as it turns out.  They are more often twelve-hour drives, which is good and well if you like being on the road from 8 in the morning to 8 in the evening.  Bixby doesn't.  I'd rather not.  Such is the life of a cross-country WWOOFer, I suppose.  We drove Pennsylvania to New Jersey to New York to Connecticut to Massachusetts to New Hampshire to Maine, and hellooooo/goodbyyyyyyyed through all of them (that we could, anyway, the North ain't so great at marking state lines sometimes (damn Yankees)).  After all that, and after being in Maine for about a million years and almost going to the beach and not going to the beach and seeing a rainbow, we met the owner of Wolf Run Farm at a boat ramp in Greenbush.
Jim is about what you'd expect from a man nearing sixty living alone down a three-mile driveway in Fumbuck Nowhere, Maine.  He's soft-spoken and somewhat shy but friendly, full of stories and awkward silences, shorter than I had realized at first.  He gave animal attributes to humans and human attributes to animals, particularly his wolf-slash-border collie Angel, who he thought the world and more of.  I stayed on edge the entire week, irrationally convinced I was not going to leave the farm at the end of the seven days.  As he got friendlier with me, I became less worried about being murdered and more worried about being held hostage.  Every compliment he gave made me more uncomfortable, and on Wednesday before I left, when he told me I didn't need to leave so soon, I actually felt my stomach clench.  The truth of the matter is that he was perfectly nice and very much so wanted me to have a good time, I just have an overactive imagination and had been reading too much Game of Thrones.  He sent me off with two jars of string beans and a blanket his mother had crocheted, for goodness' sake.
So.  Last Thursday, when I got to Greenbush, I followed Jim's SUV as best I could down the driveway, poor George Weasley the Hyundai Elantra bouncing through the potholes and puddles.  We pulled up to the house, a strange little thing made out of new wood, old doors, and maybe some magic.  It almost could have been gingerbread.  (Jim is a carpenter, and he'd built it himself from the ground up, except a man with one arm had laid the foundation.  The kitchen and dining area and living room all shared one high-ceilinged space, and the library and bathroom and a couple bedrooms were down a short hallway.  Above the smaller rooms was what Jim called a loft, but it was walled off from the rest of the house.  For a week, I lived up the tiny stairs behind a moon door, where there was a couch and a bed and some leftover furniture and brand new hardwood floors.  It was a sweet little room, shaped like a trapezoid because of the slanted roof, warmer than the rest of the house.)  I hadn't eaten dinner, and Jim said he didn't have much food, so he sent me off into the garden to pick whatever I wanted.  Bixby promptly ran away, and by the time he'd come back he'd lost most of his off-leash privileges.  I ate nothing but vegetables that night, green beans and snow peas and cucumber and tomato cut up and salted next to squash I sauteed in a wok.  The next morning, we went to Hannaford, where Jim handed me six twenty-dollar bills and told me he'd wait in the car while I got food for the week.  I spent $64 on beans and rice and spaghetti and veggie burgers and sandwich materials, all the things I eat at home.  When we got back, the routine started.
Every day, I'd work a few hours in the garden, eat lunch, work a little more, read, maybe take a nap or go for a run, shower if I ran, cook dinner, watch a movie, and fall asleep.  We went to town a couple times, but otherwise the routine was unchanged.  I made it through two-thirds of A Dance with Dragons, watched nearly all the movies I've got saved on my laptop, and found out I could run for twenty minutes straight (although I could not outrun the horseflies).  My favorite chore was weeding; you'd start with a messy row and end with a clean one, and all you had to do was know which plants were the good plants, because all the others were bad.  It's a very cut-and-dry task, no wondering if the beans are big enough or the paint is smooth enough.  I'd start with a row overgrown with dandelions and horseweed and a million other weeds sucking the nutrients out of the soil and finish with a row of happy vegetable plants working very hard to make peas or broccoli or zucchinis.  My second favorite task was picking blueberries, for obvious reasons, and my third was painting the Queen Anne headboard for the bed Jim had bought on one of our trips to town.
That was the week, really.  It was slow and fast at the same time but more than anything it was quiet.  Bix and I drove to Pennsylvania a week ago today, which I'll post about shortly cause HELLO I'm a little behind, to a bed and breakfast, and I am so excited to be here and talk to people and take a real shower.  The skies are so big.

August 5, 2015

as my weather app calls it, Norritown, Pennsylvania

I'm writing this from my college laptop - little trooper, who'd have thought it still worked?  My 2008 MacBook and I are in Pennsylvania, visiting Lauren and Ryan and their sweet puppy Piper.  We drove up from Occoquan, didn't leave til late, made a couple of stops, and still pulled in right after 5:00.  The drive started out nicely.  We drove along the Washington Parkway, which was lined with low stone walls and grass and trees, a nice change from 95.  I look forward to all the big name places I go: Baltimore, Delaware, you know.  These were both... somewhat disappointing.  I'm sure they have parts that are absolutely lovely - some of which I encountered, like a giant pile of junk that greeted me as soon as I got into Baltimore - but tolls?  Unimpressive cities?  Highway driving?  Not that cool.  BUT I will say that I drove over some nifty bridges.  The Baltimore Harbor Tunnel was slightly terrifying but I also felt like I was in a car chase scene in an action movie, so it might have been worth the $4 toll (speaking of, I need to get more cash, yikes).  The Delaware River was so wide it made me nervous.  That's a river?  That's not just a static body of water?  It goes somewhere?  I am accustomed to streams and creeks, and even things we call rivers down in the south, but dude whoa.
So after all that wonderful driving (eff you, I-95, eff you a lot) Lauren and Ryan also had cheese and crackers waiting for me.  Have I mentioned how I have the best friends?  It was a much quieter couple of days than DC was.  No crosswalks, pigeons, surprise water bowls, or parking garages, and more Netflix, lounging, and Thai food.  We did manage to walk a decent bit.  Once I decided not to do Philly, I slept in, and then Bix and I went for a run at Valley Forge Park in King of Prussia, PA (ACTUAL NAME OF TOWN).  It was such a gorgeous day, not as hot or humid as North Carolina but definitely sunshiny.  We ran-walked the five mile loop, which was mostly fields dotted with "authentic" soldiers' huts and a real live castle-turned-chapel.  We flopped down in the shade for a while, and I showed Bixby how to whistle an acorn top, and he showed me how to roll around in the grass, and then we drove home.  I took the last guaranteed normal shower I'll take for an indefinite amount of time (I haven't asked any of the farms about the shower sitch.  We can take any bad news as it comes.), finished up Orange is the New Black AND The Bachelorette (Team I'm Not Really Sure She Made The Right Choice), and ate a whoooole buncha popcorn while I packed up for the coming week.
Exciting news - I think I've nearly confirmed my next farm.  This one is in Indiana, and it looks really amazing.  Stars for days.  They've got a yellow lab too, and I'm hoping he can teach Bix some farm dog skillz.  Like not chasing chickens.  Or eating cats.

August 4, 2015

first comes love, then comes DC

Bix and I are currently packed and ready to take off after a really wonderful and busy couple of days in the nation's Capitol. I grew up going to DC probably at least once a year, so I've done all the touristy things a thousand times (or 25, whichever), but they still haven't gotten old and (crazy dog lady here) I wanted to show Bix the monuments and visit the people I know and love in the DC area.
We rolled into Occoquan on Sunday afternoon and Erika and Danielle greeted me with cheese and cherries and Nutella (I love them). We all lazed around the apartment and took Bix and Erika's greyhound Millie on a walk until Daniel got home and we ate Mexican food with Erika's family, and then we rounded out the day by watching The DUFF. It was a lot like college, honestly, but without the homework. 
Monday Bixby and I were mostly on our own, and I was dead set on visiting the heart of DC. Parking downtown is obviously kind of a nightmare, but some things you don't really appreciate until you experience them. Two of the garages I went to told me they'd valet park my car in the deck and therefore would need to keep my key, and this small town girl in a big city was not a fan of that idea, so I found a deck where I could park my own car and proceeded to leave my window completely open all day. Without getting robbed - high five, DC! We were getting lunch with my uncle's girlfriend (partner? she's basically my aunt, they've been together my whole life), so Bix and I took the morning to tour a neighborhoody area. We found a pet store, lots of dog dishes filled with water and ice, and a dead squirrel. That was probably the highlight of Bixby's trip. Donelle and I ate at a place called Lincoln which was ohmygosh good and also legit fancy. I've been watching too much Iron Chef, but the dishes were actually plated, and I was impressed. I had blueberry watermelon lemonade, a peach salad with blue cheese and pistachios, and buttermilk pie which didn't look much like a pie but came with sweet corn gelato (?!?) and more blueberries. Long story short: it was delicious and everyone was super great about Bix and the waiter gave us water for him to drink in a big old napkin holder. 
With clear eyes and full bellies we headed for the monuments. I got slightly turned around, so our first stop was accidentally the White House. Hello, Obamas! Bix was a big fan of the pigeons. (Dogs = children in a whooole lotta ways.) We got back on track and saw the Washington Monument, the World War II memorial, the Reflecting Pool, and, of course, good old Abe Lincoln. Quick FYI to dog owners - we didn't have a problem at the WWII memorial or obviously the Washington Monument since we didn't try to go up in it, but a guard at the Lincoln Memorial did ask if Bixby was a service dog. Bix also tried to chase some ducklings through the pool, which seemed a little taboo, but maybe not, since I personally have walked through the pool (when they had emptied it), and so has Forrest Gump. I thought it was strange that we didn't see a single other dog around the monuments, but I guess most people don't bring their pets on vacation with them. Missing out, y'all.  
We got to see a less touristy side of DC when we met my high school friend Jack at the Colonial Heights metro station. Bix rode an escalator! And he will probably never let me talk him into riding an escalator again. It was an experience. We had to dash a couple miles back to the car to get it out of the garage by 7 (6:55, PHEW) and then we toured Jack's new house, which is hella cool, and we set out to find a restaurant with outdoor seating. We wound up at Yamas on U Street, which was Greek food and very good. I had a gyro type thing, and Bixby ate his first falafel. Look at me, eating falafel! More importantly, it was so, so good to catch up with Jack. We hadn't seen each other in years (how??), but he's the kind of friend who you can pick up with right where you left off. As of sometime this month, we have been friends for ten years. Not sure how it's possible that I was 15 ten years ago, but there you go. 
And then goodbyes, and back to Erika's, and the tail end of Sixteen Candles, and now we're just being lazy before our drive to Pennsylvania to see (drumroll please) Lauren! And Ryan! And Piper! We've got Netflix and wine on the menu for tonight, and maybe we'll check out Philly tomorrow, who knows!