It’s 94 degrees out, unseasonably warm, but it’s cool inside our little apartment up here on the mountain this afternoon. The screen doors are open, my new friend The Cat is sleeping out on our front step in the blazing sun waiting for her next feeding (yes, not only do I LIKE but I am actually obsessed with a cat) and I’ve been listening to Anthony play the same chords on the guitar for the past two hours. Mercifully we just had a break in the music when we went outside to hang our washed clothes on the line. No dryers, because Europe. He actually sounds really good — he’s learning a song though so it’s just the same tune on repeat. But we are so relaxed, aka tired from today’s work, that it doesn’t matter. It’s the beginning of our third week WWOOF-ing here on the farm. We are the only volunteers, and the two other people with us on this 650-acre olive estate (yes, 650 ACRES) are Tolo, the farmer who runs the place year-round, and the farm’s owner, who just arrived from her home in the States. We’re up in the Tramuntana mountains, in the northern part of the Spanish island of Mallorca. The cute little town of Pollenca is just down the hill, about 15-minutes by car or 2-hours on foot (we did it last week in flip-flops – not the brightest move but all good). Up here though it’s just the four of us, with no one else in sight for miles. There are other residents who make plenty of noise: sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits, wild cows (seriously — I thought the bull was going to charge me the other day) and bees. We have bee hives, people. We (yes I consider myself part owner after three weeks) also have huge gardens and groves and orchards, with vegetables (I can’t believe how excited I was to see kale), fruit (strawberries, cherries, oranges and apricots are my favorites here), herbs (I have cut back so much rosemary and it makes me cry that I can’t bring it all home) and flowers. And, of course, olive trees. Everywhere, olive trees, The farm presses and sells olive oil every fall. It also rents out the property as a guest house, sleeping 14 in the main casa and an additional dozen or so in two smaller houses nearby. Hence the pool and ping-pong table and soccer field (Anthony harasses Tolo’s kids to play constantly – I think he missed his calling), beautifully landscaped roads and hiking trails ad nauseum. This place is heaven for a vacation, I imagine. For us, it’s paradise with a (semi-)early wake-up call. We have worked our asses off, yes sheep herding and cleaning the pool (yayyy for my job as a lifeguard in high school and college) and scrubbing cement tiles, but also baling hay, watering the animals, raking rocks (my personal favorite — I want to impale myself on an olive branch just thinking about the possibility of doing this again tomorrow), pulling weeds, pulling more weeds, still pulling weeds, cutting back every kind of bush/flower/tree in existence, picking strawberries (I’m in solidarity with the migrant workers), raking leaves (did I mention this place is 650 ACRES), cleaning out the chicken coop (Anthony took the bullet on that one) and pulling more weeds. I’m sure I’ve missed something in there, but that’s the gist of it. We wake up a little after 7am during the week, start working at 8, have a quick break at 10am, which is when the Mallorcans have breakfast, then we’re done at 2pm. In exchange for our blood (my arms look like a cutter’s), sweat (always, like an animal) and tears (like last Friday when I mistook the just-planted tomato vines for weeds YAY WEEDS and pulled. every. single. one), we stay here for free. And the farm buys our groceries as well. We take hikes in the afternoon, go to the beach or jump in the pool on hot days and sit outside and stare at the stars at night. The stars are incredible. We’ve seen some amazing skies in the past three months — Bolivia and Chile were the most memorable — but up here on the mountain there is NOTHING around us. And at night, when the other two souls have gone to bed, which is early (#farmerslife), it’s pitch black as far as we can see. Not a sound except for the animals and crickets and not a light or car for miles. We take a flashlight and wine to the pool and just stare at the sky. Weekends are the same, just without the early alarm. I’m enjoying the hell out of this place. That’s not to say this is something we’d do again — it’s HARD WORK, harder than I expected, not the romantic olive farm tableau I pictured, and there are days, like today with the raking rocks, when I question why I agreed to do this in the first place. The manual labor, the working with broken parts because nothing here is wasted or thrown away if there’s a chance it can still be used, my new normal state of being covered in sweat and hay, which is sharp and hurts by the way — hay is not the soft feathery substance I imagined — and the constant digging of thorns out of my socks/shoes/shirts, even after doing laundry. My neck and back are a knot of sore muscles, my skin is crispy (never has so much SPF been used on one person) and I have blisters on my hands that won’t go away. But it’s a short stint for us. To the people with whom we’re working this is their lives, their source of income and their years of hard work. So we bust our asses not to let them down (still crying about those stupid tomatoes) and we give it our all. But we are also learning a ton. We did this originally because we wanted to learn about food, where it comes from, the process it actually goes through to get to our plates. Obviously much more than we can learn in a month, but it’s a start, and we now at least have the smallest of ideas, far more than we knew before. And we’re living on a gorgeous island (I always knew Mallorca for partying, not agriculture, so see already I’ve learned so much), up in the mountains, on a FARM. A really NICE FARM that looks more like a house out of a Van Gogh painting. This could so have gone another way. Last week we got eggs from the chicken coop — literally picked up the hen, reached into the nesting box where she’d been sitting, and took out the still-warm eggs. We made breakfast the next morning with kale from the garden and those eggs (they are strictly for food here — they don’t hatch because there’s no rooster). We also sheared sheep — the farmers get almost no money for the wool, but they do it once a year as it’s better for the animals. And no it doesn’t hurt the sheep — that’s the first thing I asked. So I tried it. And LOVED IT. Think I did ok. The sheep happily ran back to their friends afterward and I happily decided this could be a viable employment option if the job market looks less than promising upon our return to civilization.
The photos will explain what the hell we’re doing much better than my insufficient writing skills can. I’ll be in the barn.
See Anthony’s video of the farm aqui.
FYI: see the little cluster of house near the lower left corner of the photo below? That’s our farm and the main house. You can see the other two houses, all part of the same property, both above and below it. The rest of the mountain has nada. It’s breathtaking to think it’s just you alone (and a ton of sheep) on this giant section of earth.
**Thanks for the title Mama. xo