Friday, August 16, 2013

On the Farm

Naomi and David had already been on the farm a few days before we got here, so they taught us what the daily chores were.  In the morning we feed 16 dogs, 4 horses, a bunch of goats, 2 baby goats, 2 rabbits, 2 baby cows, and a young yak, then we water the gardens and potted plants.

Baby Goats
"Fuzz" the Yak
 Naomi and I help in the kitchen a lot making cheeses and preparing various foods for canning.  We also picked a TON of blackberries our first week here.  The blackberry bushes in California are as big as houses. 
Giant Blackberry Bushes
The boys do a lot of the outdoor labor: digging fence posts holes, splitting wood, mending fences, etc.  We all do chores like pulling weeds, planting, mulching, herding cattle, and milking cows.

I learned to milk cows our 3rd week here.  Thankfully we have a milking machine and don't have to do it all by hand.  There are 3 small Jersey cows: Buttercup, Ginger, and Daisy, and 2 large Holsteins: Sue, and Princess.  All the cows are pretty trained and know what to do, but every now and then someone acts up.  Daisy is the adolescent cow who likes to do things her own way.  Sometimes she tries to go out of turn or wander down the road when we cross them back into their pasture.  She's been pretty good lately though, so I think she may have just been testing us newbies.  Princess is pretty mellow, but she has one vice: her dang tail.  I cant count the times I've been smacked in the face with her tail while milking her, or whacked in the side when letting her out.

Although the cows normally cross the road from the pasture to the barn just fine, just the other day, Sue, the big Holstein spazzed out and decided to run down the road instead.  Of course Princess followed her and we ended up chasing them all over the road, driveway, yard, and neighbors yard.  I didn't see what was going on until I heard Naomi and Dan yelling for me and ran out of the house just in time to stop the two cows from running straight down the road into the mailman's oncoming truck.  Luckily, they decided to veer right and go where they were supposed to in the first place.  

The only other thing you have to watch out for with the cows is their rear ends.  Cows don't poo like dogs, horses, or goats; cows are much messier.  It splatters and splashes, so you have to keep a good distance.  And whatever you do, if the cow starts to cough, RUN.  They can launch it at you over 6 feet away.  Basically, cows are a lot of work, but when one Holstein can produce up to 4 gallons of milk in a day, I suppose it's worth it.

Since we've been here, we have gone on a few outings.  Our first weekend here we went to a large reservoir nearby.  It was beautiful but difficult for swimming.  It has been super dry here in California this year so the reservoir is really low.  We had to climb down a 75ft, granite encrusted, steep dirt slope to get to the water.  It was worth it that day, but too much work to go back.

The past few weekends, we have been going to a local campground/resort to swim.  They have a gorgeous lake with a beach on it that we don't have to climb down.

Just across the street from the farm is a 11 sq mile vineyard/club that we sometimes work at.  Chris, one of the owners of this farm, keeps some of his animals over there and helps out with the animals the animals owned by the vineyard.  They have donkeys, pigs, yaks, water buffalo, Arabian horses, camels, turkeys, ostrich, and probably other animals that I haven't seen.

A few weeks ago, one of the donkeys had a baby jack (boy) but rejected him.  The mother gave him quite a beating so they separated them.  When he was a week old he came to stay on this farm and we get to take care of him.  He is adorable.  We bottle feed him several times a day and take him on walks to get his strength up.  When his mother attacked him, he tore a tendon in his hind leg.  After just a few weeks of being here the vet said his tendon was almost completely healed.  He doesn't have a permanent name yet but Naomi started calling him Pippin because he gets second breakfast.

Yesterday David went to work for the winery helping them move crates of wine that they don't sell anymore to the dumpster.  They gave him a bunch of wine for all his work...then we went dumpster diving for the goods they threw away!  We got 34 bottles of wine for free!  Chris went first and got a lot more than us.  He is friends with the owners so it was technically "okayed" for us to get the wine.  Free and legal!  Now I just have to wait until Christmas to drink it...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Our Journey Across America

We left on a Thursday evening and drove late into the night making it somewhere past Chicago. We stopped about every 2 hours so Dan could stretch his legs and I could use the restroom.  By this point I was about 17 weeks along and the baby was already making less room for my bladder.  Dan joked that we would have to stop on the side of the road every 20 minutes...luckily that never happened.

The second day we made it all the way through Iowa and stayed in the western half of Nebraska.  Of all the states we went through to get here I thought Iowa was one of the most unexpectedly beautiful.  I loved the rolling hills of trees and farmland.

Western Nebraska
Day three we went the rest of the way through Nebraska, all the way through Wyoming, and all the way through Utah after dark.  Nebraska was so flat you could see for miles and the sky in Wyoming was definitely it's highlight.  Utah was the only state I didn't get to see. 

Southern Wyoming
We stayed in Wells, Nevada that night.  When we stopped we noticed one of our tires was making a squeaking noise.  We decided to check it in the morning.

When we got in the truck the next day the squeaking had transformed into screeching.  Dan pulled into a gravel parking lot and took off the front passenger tire to see what the problem was.  The bearings in the wheel hub were completely shot.  Great.  It was Sunday and the only place open wanted to charge $80 just to tell us what was wrong with it, which we already knew the answer to.  We couldn't find a car parts store and the next town was 50 miles away.  We weren't sure if we would make it that far without launching the tire off the truck.  We didn't think we had a choice but to try and make it.  About 20 seconds after we got on the highway I spotted the parts store.  We made an illegal U-turn and went back to Wells.  The store had the part we needed, but we still had the problem of no one to put it on the truck.  We made an appointment for the next morning and found another hotel, this time with a pool.

The next morning the truck was fixed in an hour and we were on our way again.  That was a huge relief.  We were beginning to think the truck had a vendetta against us.  I was more than ready to get out of Wells.  For awhile I was afraid we were going to be stranded there and be forced to find jobs and stay.  The people there had been amazing and there was a pretty mountain nearby, but overall I was sick of the flat, dry, rocky landscape.  It was a small town in such a vast landscape that it felt weirdly claustrophobic.

The pretty part of Wells, NV
That day we made it the rest of the way through Nevada and into California near sunset.  As soon as we crossed the border from Nevada to California the landscape began to change from plain rocky hills to forest covered mountains.

Finally, after 5 days on the road, we had made it to California.  We made it to the farm around 9pm, were reunited with Naomi and David, had a quick dinner, and settled into our lodgings for the night.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Homemade Pregnancy Stretch Mark Lotion

Now that I am almost 5 months along in my pregnancy, my belly is starting to grow rapidly.  I love using essential oils and have been wanting to make lotion for a long time now.  Since I'm nowhere near a store to buy a lotion for my belly, and I have a stash of essential oils on hand, I figured it was the perfect time to learn to make it myself!  I couldn't find a full recipe exactly like I wanted, so I ended up developing my own recipe based on two other recipes.  The first is a recipe in The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, by Valerie Ann Worwood.  This is an excellent book on how to use essential oils.  The recipe I drew from in this book (on page 213 if you have the book) was for a massage oil specifically for pregnant women targeting stretch marks.  However, I wanted more of a lotion than a massage oil so I found a stretch mark cream recipe online ( and combined the two.  Here is my recipe.

  •  3oz coconut oil
  •  3/4oz beeswax, grated
  •  3/4oz cocoa butter
  •  3 tbsp. sweet almond oil
  •  6 tbsp. water
  •  2 tsp. vitamin E oil
  •  3/4 tsp. lavender essential oil
  •  3/4 tsp. tangerine essential oil
  •  1/2 tsp. lemon essential oil (this oil may be irritating to the skin so make sure you aren't sensitive to it before you use it)
  • In a small sauce pan melt the coconut oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, and almond oil on low heat.
  • When oils are completely melted, mix in water vigorously until oils and water are combined and smooth
  • Remove from heat and continue to mix oil and water until mixture cools to room temperature and is a creamy consistency
  • When the mixture is room temperature stir in vitamin E oil, lavender, tangerine, and lemon essential oils thoroughly
  • Store lotion in a dark glass container or clear glass container.  If you use a clear glass container be sure to store your lotion in a dark place.  My lotion fit perfectly into a half pint canning jar.
(For pictures of the process go to the lotion recipe link listed above.)

After using this lotion for only a few days I already love it!  It really soaks in and moisturizes my skin.  I even use it as a hand cream.  It does leave a slight waxy residue, but I don't mind this at all.  Another nice thing is that it doesn't wash right off your hands like some store bought lotions do.

Before you use any essential oils, make sure you research which ones are safe to use while pregnant.  Here is a website that lists which ones may be dangerous:  You may notice that I have used two oils on this list in my recipe: almond and lemon.  However, I used sweet almond oil not bitter, which is listed, and lemon is only listed as a possible irritant.  I know I am not sensitive to this oil.  Use your own discretion when making lotions for yourself.

How it all began... continued

The plan was to start out for Texas first for a conference Naomi and David wanted to attend and to visit Dan's sister, continuing on to California from there. Naomi and David bought a little RV and Dan and I would take the truck and a homemade box trailer that we still had to build.  This meant we would have to sell both my VW Beetle and Dan's Audi.  We listed them on Craigslist and started packing and sorting all our things.  It's amazing how much stuff you can collect over the years.  We could only take what would fit in the truck and trailer so a lot had to go.  We had a huge garage sale with Naomi and David and then another one at my moms.  We had about four weeks until the departure date so we figured it would be enough time to get ready.  We were wrong.

We didn't have much money, so selling the cars was key.  They wouldn't sell.  We advertised, and re-advertised, and answered emails and phone calls about them, but no one would come.  It was beyond frustrating.  Finally, after several weeks, I was able to sell my car.  Dan's truck needed a new differential so that's where the money went.  This was the week before we were supposed to leave.  It took all week and we were beginning to think we wouldn't make the deadline.  We were also beginning to doubt we would have enough money to make the trip.  We finally got the truck back and the very next day the torque converter went out.  That was a huge blow.  We had to use a huge chunk of our travel money to get a new torque converter.  We finally conceded to the fact that we wouldn't be making the trip to Texas. We still needed to buy tires for the truck and finish building the trailer.  We needed the Audi to sell just to have enough money to go to California.  Naomi and David left for Texas and we stayed behind.

That week we felt pretty hopeless.  We still went through the motions of getting tires and finishing up the trailer.  We had a few phone calls about the Audi that got our hopes up then let us down.  We didn't know what we were going to do.  Eventually, through the grace of family, we figured out a way to afford the trip while leaving the car behind.  Finally, we were able to set off for California! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How it all began...

I have been dreaming about traveling to the west coast since I was in high school.  I was going to buy an old school bus, convert it into an RV, and set off for Oregon.  That was pretty much the full extent of the plan.  I'd figure out a way to make money while on the road by selling art or being a shipment carrier.  All through college I dreamed of this adventure; the only problem was, I had no one to share it with me.

In the summer before my 5th, and not so final, year of college I met a guy, fell in love, and got married... all within about 5 months.  Because I was still in school and his job didn't pay much, his parents let us live in their somewhat finished basement.  It wasn't much, but it was perfect for the time being.  We had our own bathroom, laundry was nearby, and it was only a short walk up the stairs for food. 

As the end of the school year approached, we started to discuss what the next step was.  I really didn't want to stay in the area.  Although Dan wouldn't have minded staying, there weren't any readily available jobs for him. We are both very good friends with another couple that wanted to get out of Mansfield as well.  We had joked around about all moving away together, but it was never very serious, until one day one of us was so fed-up with their job that it became a serious option.  We talked about it, and the four of us decided to make it happen.  We made a date to get together and make a game plan.  The night before that date Dan and I got a BIG surprise.  We were now expecting an extra passenger.

We had planned on waiting a few years before having kids so this was a huge curve ball.  I wanted to keep it between us for awhile, however, I knew we had to tell Naomi and David.  I was afraid that this news would keep us from being able to move away.  I knew that relocating as a group would be cheaper than on our own.  My fear was that we wouldn't be able to do it by ourselves.  The next day we all sat down to discuss a moving plan and Naomi could tell something was up.  We told them the big news and they were just as shocked as we were.  David laughed and showed us a list he made up with "what if" questions and the first one was, "what if someone gets pregnant".  We all talked about it and they said they would still like to move with us.  I was so relieved.  Thankfully we are blessed with awesome friends who love us enough to go through crazy times with us.

We made a list of places we'd like to live and started to search for jobs.  We knew we would need to start near a city to accommodate our array of careers.  Together we were a welder, an engineer, a clothing designer, and an artist.  We decided to start searching near D.C.  Over the course of a few weeks we applied for jobs and searched for places to live.  After almost a month we had been turned down for a few jobs, for not already living in D.C., and not replied to by a ton more.  We began to lose hope.  We got together again to discuss finding a new location.  Naomi mentioned she would like to look out west.  We asked what state she had in mind and she surprised us with California.

We were all excited about moving out west because we felt that it opened up more job opportunities for us.  Dan and David were both tired of working inside and wanted to find jobs outdoors.  Naomi and I were excited about being in a state with more artist opportunities than Ohio.  One day, Naomi and David came to us with an idea.  They had found a website ( that sponsored organic farms that needed people to work in exchange for food and a place to stay.  This was perfect for us.  We could look for jobs when we got there and avoid the problem we had with D.C. employers, so we emailed a bunch of farms and waited for replies.  We got several responses, chose the one we liked the best, and set a date to move.

To be continued...