On Moving to Petaluma, CA and My First 2 Weeks at Green String Farm!

[Written sometime around June 16th?]

First of all, I sadly noticed a few days ago that my blog about being accepted to Green String Institute somehow disappeared. I am sure I double-checked it when I posted and it had text so I have no idea how/when/why this happened. Hoping I stumble upon a draft or something somewhere, but for now it’s gone.

Before I say anything else I want to link to my main Green String Institute Flickr photo album HERE. And a cool one of our communal meals HERE. There are almost certainly duplicates in the main album, and I’ll work on updating it and deleting them when I have wifi access!

That said – I made it to Petaluma! My last days in Philadelphia were hectic and busy even though I did my best to prevent it. I found out the same day I was accepted to Green String that my landlord was selling my house, so my original plan to store things there for summer was thwarted and I had to quickly move everything I own. I lived on Mole street for six years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere after moving out of my childhood home, so it was bittersweet to be packing up and going after so long… and there was a lot of stuff.

My last week in Philly was insane because I was stubborn and felt bad asking people to help so I ended up moving 85% of my house alone. I was still moving my belongings at 11am the day I flew out (at 4pm). Talk about down to the wire. I ended up not ever having a going away party and spending my last night in Philly alone at The Dolphin with some friends who work there and then staying out way too late at an after hours social club. It was much less stressful than a big party would have been but I definitely wish I had said an official goodbye to more people (I barely saw anyone unless we worked or circused together).

I flew into Oakland and spent a short night at Sarah’s (who was unfortunately out of town) house and her super kind boyfriend drove me to the farm on Sunday (May 31). We stopped at In-and-Out and I had a double-double animal style without tomato, it was glorious.

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I was fourth to arrive out of nine and it was so exciting to wait and meet everyone I’d be interning with this summer. Our intern group is pretty diverse, with students coming from Israel (Adirchai), China (Cynthia), Colorado (Madi and Mollie- originally from CA and NJ respectively but coming from college in CO), Philly (duh), and different areas of California (Dylan, Jordin, Nita, Stephen). Our ages range from 18 to 32+ (Cynthia is older than me but won’t say by how much). So far things are going smoothly and there haven’t been any significant squabbles. I actually think I may be the only disliked one in the house? Meh.

 

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Summer 2016 Interns! Clockwise: Cynthia, Stephen, Dylan, Adirchai, ME!, Jordin, Mollie, Madi, Nita.

Basic information about the internship

A handful of friends have been confused about what this internship is and what I’m going to be doing here, so I decided to give some basics in this post and first-week reflections, then have some other posts about specific days/lessons/whatever I get time to write down.

Green String Institute is a non-profit internship program focused on educating a new generation of farmers on how to respect the earth and respond to the needs of their environment as they raise food (I copied that from the website, you can read more here). The internship is three months long and includes 5 hours of (paid) work followed by 2.5 hours of class time with Bob Cannard on weekdays, one weekend day off, and “two” hours of chore work on the other weekend day. You live in an intern house with up to 11 other students, and bedrooms are shared between 2-4 students. Interns take turns cooking lunch and dinner for the whole group (2 students per meal) on weekdays but each group makes their own decision about weekends (we are not doing communal weekend meals because a lot of people leave). The downside to our schedule is that we are never all off at the same time for group excursions. Another bummer is that chicken chore requires being on the farm at 8:30pm to put them to bed, so if we all went out it would have to be late, and then half of us would be working at 6am the next morning.

Our typical day goes as follows:

6:00am – 6:15am Morning stretches (implemented by the farm’s insurance company, but actually super helpful and a nice way to start the day)

6:15am – 7:00am Morning chores, which rotate weekly (Chickens, box washing, watering, harvesting, housekeeping).

7:00am – 11:00am Fieldwork. This varies depending on what needs to be done day-to-day. Tasks vary between pruning, weeding, hoeing, transplanting, rock picking, etc etc.

11:00am – 1:30pm Lunch break (also crucial naptime break for those not on lunch duty)

1:30pm – ~4:00/5pm Class with Bob

4/5pm – end of day – Varies depending on your chore. Watering chore works again after class, chickens work again at 8:30pm as previously stated.

I was still half on EST the first week, so waking up early wasn’t too difficult. The problem is that I was staying up until 9-10pm PST and end up not sleeping a ton, so the first few weeks were really exhausting and it basically felt like I went clubbing every night for a week straight. Not having to take care of the chickens until 9pm on the second week definitely helped me sleep a little earlier, but I am writing this mid-week 3 and I only just started feeling kind of normal and caught up on sleep this week.


First week Reflections

It’s insanely different in Petaluma than in Philly, but somehow being here hasn’t felt weird at all. When I arrived I immediately felt comfortable and at home, it honestly just felt like I was supposed to be here. I’ve never felt this way in a new place so it was really comforting. I live in the middle of a vineyard and I still can’t believe it every time I walk out the front door and see beautiful landscapes everywhere.

I think the coolest thing has been being able to walk out the front door and pick meals (or tea!) from our garden. It’s convenient, and has had me experimenting with produce I didn’t even know existed (mustard greens, specifically). The first few days I was really intimidated because I had no idea what any of the things growing were, but just a few weeks later I can look around our garden and the farm in general and identify so many different things! It feels great!

While the first week was physically and mentally draining while I adjusted to farm life, it also showed me just how much I am meant to be here and reminded me of why I came. Bob is amazing in ways that can’t really be put into words. Sure, he has some quirky beliefs, but overall I think if Bob were given the opportunity to educate more people he could save the planet. It’s both refreshing and sort of depressing because it has made me aware of how terribly we treat the planet. I knew next to nothing about farming when I arrived, but I feel like I’ve already absorbed so much from Bob (and our grads and coordinator Suzie), I can’t imagine how full of knowledge I am going to be by end of summer.

The most surprising change in the first few weeks has been how little I care about my appearance. I hadn’t given it much thought before coming here, but realized mid-week I don’t really look in the mirror that much. We shower every few days because you are just going to keep getting grimy so why bother. I wake up, grab my farming clothes, throw on a bandana and a cap and leave for chores (after breakfast). I wear the same things repeatedly without feeling self-conscious. I saw a photo of myself on Friday and laughed because my hair looked so crazy and I hadn’t even known. I’m pretty sure I’ll have dirt under my fingernails for the rest of my life, and I’m already used to it. My standards for “clean” are on a whole new (lower) level. TL;DR I’ve never cared less about my appearance and it is incredibly refreshing.

My friend Ginger, who is the one who suggested I apply for this internship, said it best in a recent text:

I think that’s why so many women are drawn to organics. You can be your mind and your body and your soul, you don’t have to be your face.

I agree whole-heartedly and couldn’t have put it better.


I initially started writing this on my first day off and am finishing it on day nineteen, so it may be a little disjointed. It never got posted partially because we don’t have wifi here (well, the farm store does but I’d have to drag my laptop over there and haven’t yet), and partially because I was way busier than anticipated during my visit to Oakland and forgot to post it.


Weekend Two Recap

I finally got to see Sarah (and Adam again!) Saturday until Sunday. Sarah picked me up at the farm and we all went to get Sushi in Oakland. It was delicious and they had $5 gigantic beers for happy hour. I hadn’t eaten much and ended up drunk pretty quickly, totally okay with it. I also tried my first sake and did not care for it. We hadn’t made concrete plans and ended up going home and playing Mario Kart while eating pints of Ben & Jerry’s. It was perfect. Sunday we intended to go to both the West(?) Craft Fair in San Francisco (at Fort Mason, where my conference last year was!) ,then to a music fair, and THEN a street fair in Oakland. We only made it to the craft fair because we stopped along the way, whoops! Still a great time, though.

I originally planned to write and post some blogs Sunday morning but Sarah surprised me by waking up early and treated me to a Beauty’s Bagel for breakfast. They are truly out of this world.

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I curled my hair and put on makeup for the first time since arriving in California. It felt weird to see myself with my “face” on, and I forgot how damn long it takes to make oneself look nice when you’re not just throwing on farm clothes and running out the door. It’s definitely a much different world here. I’m curious what it will be like when I go back to real life. Or if I ever will really return to real life? I still don’t know. In the meantime, here is a pretty accurate representation of the state of my hands at most times, and the “cleaner” state of things. Needless to say, standards of cleanliness are a lot different out here, and it’s nice.

 

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My “clean” hands

We walked to Fort Mason from the Bart and stopped at Musee Mecanique, a museum of all old arcade games and such. Naturally, Sarah and I got fortunes from every single fortune telling machine and read them aloud to one another while trying to find parallels between the fortunes and our real lives. Afterwards, we went to Boudin for lunch. Watching how they make the bread was actually really awesome and exciting. I never knew watching a gigantic wad of dough fall down a chute and into a bowl could feel so satisfying. Sarah and I got Chowder Bread Bowls and neither of us could finish. In retrospect, we should have shared but neither of our brains were capable of making that decision when we ordered because we were so damn hungry. I was supposed to be weaning off gluten this weekend but I couldn’t resist. I ate so much sourdough in that bread bowl that I was physically uncomfortable for literal hours. I have no regrets.

 

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Boudin Chowder Bread Bowl

We made it to the craft show a lot later than anticipated, which subsequently led to us missing all of the other fairs, but it was fine because the craft show was pretty cool. Most items were extremely well made, but insanely overpriced (or maybe appropriately priced and I am just poor). I hadn’t planned to but I couldn’t pass it up and bought this print and a card by the same artist. I relate to/want all of her things now. We headed back to Oakland and stopped at Blick on the way where I bought way more paint supplies than intended… so I guess I better start making some damn art while I am here (and selling it!)!!

 

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Craft fair at Fort Mason!

I also asked Sarah if she had any extra prints/art lying around I could borrow until August so I could finally make my bedroom more home-y. All of the following are from her except one post card from SocialPS! And the prints I purchased. This one small change has made my living space feel a lot more comforting.

 

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My bedroom wall! The center print and mermaid are from the craft fair, all other stuff is by or from Sarah.

My time in Oakland/San Francisco with Sarah and Adam FLEW. This weekend off definitely went too fast, especially because I feel like I wasn’t productive at all, but I am still glad I got to spend some quality time with Sarah, it’s so strange/exciting to be able to see her more than every ~2 years now.

We obviously stopped at In and Out on the way home Sunday night for dinner, where I finally behaved myself and got my double-double (no tomato) protein style (no bread).

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The weekend away from the farm was nice, but a little weird. I have gotten so used to being here all the time that leaving was strange and sometimes I’d forget that I am living here in California ON A FARM. I definitely need to allocate out off-farm weekend time better and make sure I am resting inbetween, though. Our weeks are pretty tiring and if you don’t rest properly on your days off (or at least if I don’t), it makes everything that much more tiring during the week.

That said, I am writing this on the farm after finishing my watering chore and need to head back home to try to read/paint/acroyoga/do anything to not fall asleep at 6pm.

Until next time…


Links in Post:

  1. Green String Institute Internship Photos
  2. Green String Institute Communal Intern Meal Photos
  3. Green String Institute Website 
  4. Musee Mecanique
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About tamarahala

Tamara is currently living in Petaluma, CA as an intern at Green String Institute! She is a mixed media artist, student aerialist, and former neuroscientist.

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