It’s like I have a blog or something…

by Katya Simkhovich

Holy cannoli it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  It seems I wasn’t able to find time between all the eating, drinking, and exploring of the nearby countries of Luxembourg and Belgium while we were staying with some family friends in Northern France.  And time to write was ever more scarce during the insufficient five nights we spent in London.  There were quite simply too many sights to see, too many museums to visit, too much money to spend, too much tea to drink, and too many things to buy in Camden Town.  And only now, after spending two weeks on a farm in Culcheth, an hour or so away from Manchester, it has occurred to me that it would probably be a good idea to actually pretend that I have a blog.

Good work, Katya, good work.  That sort of dedication is going to get you really far.

Enough self-criticism.  There are more important things to discuss.  Such as my experience in and impressions of the french countryside.  Let me sum it up as briefly as I can.  The french countryside is stunning; I have never felt so profoundly about a landscape. I have also never felt so well nourished.  I forgot what hunger was during the 11 days we stayed with my mom’s old university friend from Russia. Our day would begin with a leisurely breakfast that would begin with fresh coffee brewed italian style and freshly squeezed orange juice, which would then be followed by a selection of pastries, leftover desserts from the day before, a selection of charcuterie, and chocolates.  This was followed by lunch just mere hours later, at just about the same time I had half digested my breakfast.  This is when it got typically french.  Our gracious hosts would insist we have wine upon sitting down for lunch.  Often this escalated to a couple of glasses of wine.  And maybe a beer.  Well ya know… when in France…

Our afternoon would then consist of some sort of car driving, sight seeing, museum attending, and rain.  It seemed that we had unluckily arrived at the rainiest period of the year – there was always rain.  There was also always wine.  At one point, I recall there being three bottles of red wine open at one time.  It was repeatedly suggested that we help consume them to the best of our abilities.  We tried our best to do so.  Despite the copious amounts of wine (and also belgian beer) we drank, we ate even more.  Amongst the many delicious things we ate for dinner, I most vividly recall frog legs, snails, quiche lorraine, pot au feu, salad nicoise, coucous with a fantastic selection of roasted meats, beef bourguignon, and rabbit.  And dinner was always followed by a marvelous selection of cheese.  Cheese, marvelous cheese.  How I love you so.

And each day featured a different dessert.  Naturally.

Before those 11 days in France, I don’t think I had ever enjoyed such a large concentration of extravagant eating and drinking in such a short period of time.  And I didn’t even gain that much weight, my jeans just got smaller.

With suitcases full of slightly tighter fitting clothing, we departed for London.  After five nights, I was left with the impression that if we were to have stayed any longer I would have had to sell myself into prostitution to afford it.  In justification of the obscene amounts of money that were spent, I feel it is fair to say we had a smashing time in London (despite the persistence of the rain).  Also, our attempts to eat/drink all things typically British included steak and ale pie, beef suet pie, fish and chips, scones, a traditional English breakfast, and beer.  And just when I thought I had spent all the money I could possibly spend, we went to Camden Town on our last full day in London which luckily turned out to be sunny and warm.  And it’s possible I spent more in the market in Camden than I had in the past four days.  I have no shame.  I also have no money.

Thankfully, just before my remaining savings dipped into the negatives, it was our time to depart from London and to head up north near Manchester to start our farm experience through an organization called WWOOF (world wide opportunities on organic farms).  The way it works is you contact farms you would like to volunteer on, they respond with a yes or no, you arrive at the farm, you’re given a place to live and food to eat and in exchange you work an average 6 hours each day and you get two days off every week.  We are currently residing in a comfy two bedroom caravan in a field enclosed by an electric fence and with a lovely view of the pigs.  The toilet in the caravan is good for one thing, so the other thing requires ducking underneath the electric fence and running to the toilet in the house.  I don’t think further elaboration is required.  Conveniently, the shower in the caravan doesn’t work either, so showers must be carefully timed and taken also at the house.  And the stove is out of gas.  And the main heater doesn’t work, but we still have heat in the form of two space heaters.  All minor inconveniences really.  In fact, I think it gives the place a bit of character.

A typical day begins at 9:30.  We feed the pigs.  Water the plants in the polytunnel.  Make sure the cows have enough water to drink.  Let the chickens out of their coop.  Let the goose out of his coop.  Clean out the poopy straw from both coops and replace them with new straw.  Gather any eggs the chickens may have laid.  Run around with the lambs just for fun.  Mill pig food.  Accompany any hay or straw deliveries.  Cook lunch.  Eat lunch (super important).  Do other farm related things.  Feed the pigs again.  Water the plants in the polytunnel again.  Check on the cow’s water again. Maybe take a shower.  Cook dinner.  Eat dinner (extra super important).  And then we have the evening to ourselves.

Life is simple.  I take every opportunity I can to get dirty.  I’ve had chicken poop splatter in my eye.  I have dirt under my fingernails and I don’t care.  There seems to be an unspoken agreement to not give a damn about appearances and I am relishing not wearing makeup.  I intentionally walk through deep muddy puddles.  I would chill with the pigs for hours if I didn’t have other things to do.  I wish I could pet the chickens.  I also wish the sheep and lambs would accept me as their own.  I’ve been nibbled on by horses, dogs, the goose, pigs, and sheep.   I’ve been threatened and hissed at by the goose on multiple occasions.  I’m incredibly pleased to have the opportunity to cook legitimate meals twice a day for everybody.  And I’ve eaten the most delicious meat of my life here, from the pigs and cows raised on this farm.  Notably, the pork sausages have forced me to reassess what a sausage should taste like.

There’s loads more I could ramble on about, like a certain double decker bus and its owner who reside here on this farm.  Or about a certain baby lamb.  Or about how I feel fully equipped to travel back in time to become a 1960s housewife.  However I will leave this precious writing material for a later time.  Like for when I haven’t already written eight paragraphs and included an overwhelming amount of pictures summarizing the past month of my life. Till next time!

Cheers, friends.