5 Things I have learned at the farm

Sitting in a now properly green garden, overlooking the barn on one side and the glittering lake under a glorious sunny morning after having finished the barn work I realized how much I will miss this amazing place and experience. I look back at the time I spent here as a stable/barn boy and I can picture all the exciting things I have done in my mind like little movie-clips, from driving tractors (4 of them), cut concrete bars, getting around working with cows and not being kicked once (although I banged my head around pretty much every single day in the barn), acquiring little by little more confidence and assertiveness having to take care of the horses…and the list goes on. So three days from my departure for the more on the road adventures of my RWT I think it’s time to put down a list of the 5 things I have learned being a farmer apprentice.

1)   Tractor driving is as near as it gets to a formula one experience

You would think that driving a tractor is not that much of a challenge. Well, I can assure you that driving one of this overgrown and power enhanced citroen 2CV is an art of its own. In my few attempts I have managed to get stuck in the mud, nearly tumble over on a side trying to get hay bales and brake few fences. Luckily enough AK is a very easy going person and his wise suggestion when I was sent out was: when driving a tractor never look back just go on and everything will be fine. Those fences did not get a look back.

Interestingly enough I discovered that driving a tractor is a completely difference experience  from driving a car, a tractor speeding at 22Km per hours on a dirty road will make you feel as you are driving at light speed on a rally race, try if you do not believe me.

A tip for you is to locate before you leave the farm with the tractor the switch for the 4-wheel drive. Among all the levers, buttons and whatnot in the “cockpit” you will be overwhelmed and at loss. However, is one of the most exhilarating and empowering drive ever, you will feel as the master of the road and nobody will challenge you if only because the front-loader can crush their car at a push of a button.

2)   The incredible Hulk was a calf

I experienced the birth of three calves during my stay, I took care of them, fed them and petted them trying to make them more use to human interactions. I was looking at this cute, sweet, clueless little creatures in awe till the reality behind them struck me. They are indeed little stubborn power factories; as soon as you will have to move one even of merely few centimetres you will discover that they have herculean force and psychic powers. In fact, they will be able to read in your mind that you want to move them in direction X and they will do all they can to make it impossible. However, despite this they still appear like the cutest little things in my eyes as long as I don’t need to move them around.      Calf at birth have the most beautiful and helpless blue eyes.

 

3)   Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide, a horse story

I love horses, let’s put it out there to start with.

Yes horses are majestic, gentle looking and very curious creatures. They exude power and elegance with a disarming sweet look in their big eyes. Yet, behind those eyes lies a psychotic mind. It took a while to get more comfortable with the horses, they are quite unpredictable and easily scared. When in “run for your life” mode they just loose the plot and walk over you without blinking twice. This Dr. Jekyll mode is switched on for the most trivial sounds. One amazing common factor is that all of them from the sweetest to the most nervous and uncollaborative one would really need to see a psychotherapist and I would not be surprised if a horse therapist would make big bucks.

A fun fact about horses I have discovered is that they do hide their poo, carefully envelop it in straw parcels inside their boxes. I think they do it to entertain the stable-boy with a morning treasure hunt.

4)   Hoovering is a farm business

I would have never thought this but in my time at the farm I found myself hoovering more then I thought. I hoovered straw, beans, hoat and whatnot down to water from the barn floor. Yes you heard me well, water; this is when the power of the hoover will make a big difference. When the winter started to fade the ground floor of the house was flooded and I found myself hoovering water from the floor trying to avoid the frogs. Yes, the frogs naturally comes with the water as I found out under the amused look of AK’s father when I came upstairs during a morning family meeting and said “erm I don’t know if it is normal but…there are frogs downstairs.”

So a hoover is as important a farming machine as a tractor. Boy if I am glad the Italian made industrial hoover was there!

On a side note I discovered that given a hoover, no matter the task or the place, I will enter in the same cleaning frenzy as when I clean my flat and well, the self fulfillment coming from it is directly proportional to the amount of stuff hoovered i.e. hundreds of kilos of beans.

5)   Behind every single glass of milk there are infinite tales and stories

From now on every time I will use milk I will take a moment to thank the people who produced it. I feel like every single drop of it is a vessel of stories and tales, about the farmer who milked it, the intern who spilled it, the family gatherings, the hours of work in the fields to produce hay, the Kms of tractor rides, the birth of calves, the marvel of sunrises and sunsets in the barn, the escaped cows waiting for you in the middle of the barn first in the morning, the sadness of a cow getting too sick, the look in the eyes of kids coming in a barn for the first time in their life and meeting a calf. The list goes on and on and I would like to take this occasion to thank all the farmers that work 24/7 and 365 days per year to produce what we perceive as a common beverage. I wish that everybody could understand how much work goes into it and what heroes are the farmers behind it. So please next time you drink milk try to listen to it and you will probably hear of one of the thousands of stories whispered by every milk bottle.

Enjoy your achievements

It is nervous breaking to wait for news from my bank in Italy that is supposed to sort out my trivial, yet major, problem with the credit card limit. I keep looking at the positive sides and think that it is just a small bump and I should not stress about it as bumps will come and I should embrace them with calm and serenity. Unfortunately I have been known among some of my friends as the worrier more than the warrior so shaking the old cape for the new placid and smoothly following the current one is a bit of a challenge.

I am committed to this and I am doing it, I am still struggling to find my style and my edge in reporting on my experiences to you. I embarked in this blog of chronicles as a personal project, but I also hope that it will help me in reach and inspire people to let go and follow their dreams in their ways and schedule for small that they can be. There is no dream small enough to be call that, every dream is a world of its own and should be looked after and visited as much as possible.

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My mind is full of ideas and projects I would love to take forward, a vortex of not properly planned things and seeds of which I get glimpses while they peek out from the eye of the cyclone. It is still quite hard to concentrate on one of them, to explore it more properly, to select and weed out the ones that are just too difficult to achieve or not relevant. I guess I should give myself some time and figure out my pace and stronger interests while I am on my path. And I hope you will be patient and supportive with me.

In the last period lots of interesting things have happened to me, challenging myself as a stock photographer in Cape Town under the scrutiny of the world most selling stock photography company, interviewing fashion designers in both Finland and South Africa, working as event photographer at burlesque shows, working in the farm from where I am still writing all this, having a big NY burlesque site asking me to run a photo gallery and article about the Helsinki burlesque festival (HBF), and others to count. Interestingly enough are all things that a few months back I would have never thought would have happened. It is easy to forget how much I achieved and done in the past few months, I do one thing  and archive it switching immediately to the next problem not cherishing the results obtained. The “problem solved, focus on next one” mind frame coming from my PhD upbringing need to be re-trained to learn how to take pleasure and enjoy the fulfilment of completion.

Did you ever feel the same? Try to think about it, when was last time you took the time to look back and took the pleasure in a task you completed?

So I am leaving you with a mission if I may, take few minutes and focus on the last small or not so small achievement you overtook, dust it from the shelf of “done that forget about it” and embrace the pleasing sense of accomplishment. I am sure it will give you an energy boost. I have just finished painting two massive doors for the new horse riding hall and despite my lungs are obliterated with the fumes of the paint I feel pleased with myself.

If you do take the time to do it let me know how it went, sharing your achievements is even better.

5 problems that keep you from leaving for a Round the World Trip

Greetings,

It is approximately 2 months now that I have committed to a year of Interactive Travelling around the world. I am still as excited as day one and I am trying to plan the first part of it. I wanted it to be as unplanned as possible. I knew this choice was romantic more than realistic, but I am now completely aware that it is just a mythical goal and the path to it is paved of procrastination, sleepless nights and commiseration. As a result, enough with this romanticism and let’s make my walk on that path so far, a positive part of my journey.

Being a scientist I am good at analysing and deconstructing problems to more manageable ones, so why not start doing precisely that? Well, here lay the mind trick, is easy to say but difficult to do when you keep stressing about the results and details.  I already started my adventure by relocating in a farm and working here but I will consider myself on the road only when I will have broke free from Finland. Realizing today that despite all the pointless details I was stressing about I fully overlooked the need for visas for some countries I want to visit, tipped the balance on my favour. So here my list of problems that I feel kept me from committing to my final step so far.

1) Say goodbye to friends and the old style

You have probably like me dreamt and waited for something like this a long time, you finally leave your job, box your stuff and notify friends and family of your plan. But after that the time start to slow down in your mind and only every now and then you realize that it has actually flew by and not slowed down at all. In my case I put this down mainly to the fact that I am quite unease to say bye to my friends. I have great people around me and despite I am use to move from country to country I am the ultimate sentimental when it comes down to friendship. The only thing I can say about this is to embrace the fact that it is not a goodbye, you will be seeing them again, no matter where or for how long, the good ones will stick around and your relationship will just evolve in a different direction; but that is how things go in life anyway.

For the old life style, well yes I already kind of kissed goodbye to that with no regrets but some of the old me is still trying to resurface at times and the only thing is to keep looking forward and probably start to speak to myself into the mirror repeating “Mirror mirror on the wall…” oh no wait this is the wrong quote, but you get what I am aiming at. I will start from tonight, let me know if you get any results yourself in case you try.

2) Reading blogs to plan carefully and find the answers to all your questions

Now, this can sound contentious but actually it is true. Because I found out that there are many people that have experienced a similar journey and they wrote about it, I convinced myself that all their knowledge would have provided me with all the answers I need. I am actually sure that would be the case, there are very good ones around and I got some great tips but I also spent hours if not days on checking them, studying them and ping-pong myself from one link to the other. All good stuff, and I am happy I did it and I will keep doing it but first and foremost this is a PERSONAL journey and I have to find my way not patch together other people ones.

So stop reading to plan, just plan your own things and read others’ stories to enjoy, be inspired and share. But just in case, Rob from Stop having a boring life (SHABL) has a very good list of travel blogs that you can see here if you want a taste of them.

3) Bureaucracy

There has to be a reason if my brain ignored the visas issue so successfully. I like bureaucracy as the next person and I am trying to avoid it and postpone it as long as I can. This is the wrong approach. I luckily never got in trouble and I am trying to straight things up, but a healthy relationship with bureaucracy is critical, especially when you will have to deal with it on foreign and unknown soil.

Prepare yourself, take copies and PDFs of all the documents you need and send them to you by email for online access to it as well, just in case your hard-drive will give the ghost on you when you most need it (and we all know they have the tendencies to do that sort of thing). By the way, Jodi at Legal Nomad has a very good resources page from which I quote here about the visa issue so I suggest you to go down there and have a look for more info.

For American Citizens, entry requirements are here; for Canadian Citizens, entry requirements are here. IATA’s global visa database is also a great resource for anyone – plug in the country you’re from, your resident country and where you are headed.

I am not an American citizen, but go figure you probably are.

4) Looking for the needle in the haystack

I found myself researching the most trivial things. I am postponing the open travelling because I am not sure which portable hard-drive is the best, which online backup service to use or which kind of bag to buy for a year long travelling in unknown conditions…really?! I mean come on stop fidgeting START booking flights! That’s what I would suggest to anybody telling me something like this so I will take the lead myself and drop now all this researching. If a bag is no good I am sure I will find a better one if needed in a new place.

By the way, do you have any practical advice on any of the above issues? I can do with some help.

5) What about the end?

We all have jobs, we are all experiencing the economical crisis, we are all preoccupied for the future. Well I am, and there is a part of me that keep screaming that I am crazy and that a year of travelling will be a black hole in my CV. I will not find a job. I will find myself having thrown away years of studying and a safe future.  Mmm, not sure about the last point, safe future in Postoc-land is an euphemism.

The point is, if you have the opportunities and you find yourself in a situation in which a crazy but dreamt about experience is at reach, reach for it. Will I regret the choice? I don’t know. Will I regret having splashed around money instead that having focused on ways to keep them? I don’t know. Will I think forever that with my knowledge I should have found better ways to change my life? I don’t know. The list of I don’t know may well go on endlessly, and I think there is no solution to this circle of thoughts. What I know is that sitting here and procrastinating is not helping in anyway, so better go on with the plan and invest in things I will certainly enjoy and myself.

I don’t believe in future telling glass orbs nor I actually believe in the power of the 8 ball answers, despite I would trust the latter more.  Thus the way out is a no-brainer, stop stressing about what will be because you will know it only when you get there so you better sit and enjoy the ride and scenery as long as you can. At least you will know you are the one who sat on the driver sit of your life and this thought is soothing and empowering me.

I will end with a quote from Maria Robertson that I think sums it all up:

‘Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.’