Arriving in Southern California, my goal was to observe first-hand my home state’s problems, and make new contacts. Unfortunately, when landing I was broke…but now moved to the countryside to figure out life.
It was now close to 2 months of living in the tiny house.
During that time, I was finally getting into a good routine:
- keto breakfast in the mornings (food),
- computer work while listening to music on the speaker I bought for my birthday,
- and visiting Fallbrook every weekend with Juan (people).
While I was close to getting the 3 things in life that make me happy (Food, People & Music), it was still lonely on the mountain top.
That was all about to change.
On Dec. 15, my birthday, I finally made it to Temecula to try & renew my driver’s license.
DMVs are notorious in the United States for long wait times & their lack of customer service.
However, to my surprise (and despite having a 2 year old expired driver’s license), I was able to get my driver’s license the same day, with a brand new pair of glasses …
It was when I returned to the farm that day, where I met the angry owner again.
“Why are you still here?! You need to leave today!”
Calling up the non-profit leasing the farm, we agreed it was best for me to find a place in town, and in the meantime come up with a solution.
Finding a cheap hotel in town (Steak Club was still recovering from losing our courier service), I went to the Fallbrook Library, and decided it was time to get on the Wwoofing website (short for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).
Nearing the holidays, I was getting desperate…but as luck would have it, I found a “spiritual retreat” on the Wwoofing website, close to where I had been before.
A quick call, a reference check with Juan & I was picked up in town where we headed to the new place.
Farm #2: “Spiritual Retreat”
Expectations & reality are two very different things.
First, the owner and I did not get along. Getting out of the car when we arrived, I was accused of being on drugs:
“I’ve worked with addicts before, and if I didn’t know any better, I would say you’re on cocaine or speed.”
Was it my stress she was picking up on?
On top of this, what was described as “spiritual retreat”; was actually a house on top of a mountain, where ceremonies were done in the garage.
While there was a beautiful view (see above), I was now sleeping in an RV, with no insulation. It’s okay though, I can handle the cold.
What was not okay however, were the food standards.
Costco food, lack of protein, and quite frankly boredom. There wasn’t much work besides taking care of the animals…
This was a house with some of the worst cases of animal abuse, I had come across. The owner had 7 dogs, 5 goats, 3 pigs, 25 chickens, all in a small backyard.
The place was a mess, barren ground and overcrowded.
While I tried my best to accommodate the owner, we did not get along.
On December 21, 2022, I was kicked off “farm #2”.
Back in Fallbrook, getting close to Christmas, and quickly running out of money….it was beginning to occur to me, that I might be homeless for Christmas…
Fortunately, my greatest gift is networking.
At the previous “spiritual retreat” I had met 2 other Wwoofers, and Ben seeing that I was looking for real farm work, recommended I get in touch with Chuck Largin out near Tecate.
The place was far, but Chuck from what I heard was an expert in Permaculture and a key player in bringing CBD to the market.
I sent over a message, and on Dec. 23, 2021, I was invited over.
Renting a car was $200/day, I thus found an Uber and made my way down to Marquez Ranch.
2.5 hours later, and a lovely chat with a Persian driver (in California since 1990), and I arrived …
Farm #3: Marquez Ranch
The first thing to greet me was a giant Neapolitan Mastiff.
Though looking menacing, Mamba ended up being a sweetheart.
I then met Nat, Chuck’s significant other. We quickly chatted, then she brought me inside to introduce the others in the clubhouse.
Here is where I met Damian, a 28 a year old who had been there for 2 months, eating a bowl of cereal mixed with peanut butter…
The next person to meet was Chuck. After a 5 minute chat, I knew we were all going to get along.
What unfolded over the next month was as it turned out, everything I had been searching for since I had landed in L.A. 3 months back.
Finally, I was around good People, had my own Music, but food was lacking.
However, “Marquez Ranch” near Temecula was a beautiful, but very odd place.
The previous tenants had been charity called Pets for Vets.
As a concept, using animal therapy to help military veterinarians with PTSD is a beautiful concept.
But what resulted was a dumping ground for people’s junk.
California was amazing in this sense. The material wealth was overwhelming, but also resulted in huge amounts of trash
That was neither here nor there.
Chuck & Nat had been brought in to turn the farm around by the owners. Looking around, I put my entrepreneurial skills to work and identified what needed to be done.
Finding a new home, I already had People & Music, but there was one thing to fix
This place was running on glucose. With little money, the group had been going to charity food drives.
The pantry was full of breakfast cereals, vegetable oils, beans, rice etc.
Powered by carbs, it was time to change things, & change to powered by protein.
Helping to put together a timetable, meal plans were put together, and I immediately found a nearby place with the other Wwoofers, to buy beef & other keto supplies.
Packed with nutrients, it was the first step in getting everyone back to health.
The next step was to get organized. As with most farms (and entrepreneurs), the place was trying to do too many things at once.
Mind mapping & laying out the farm plan according to the Keyline Scale of Permanence, we got to work.
Using this farm design methodology, we worked through the 10 Layers: Climate, Geography, Water, Access (roads), Forestry, Buildings, Fencing, Soils, Economy and Energy.
Water was the first thing to fix. Talk about challenging …The last time the place was farmed, the owners failed to mark where the water pipes were.
First we had to figure out where the water pipes were …
Trenching out the pipes, at some point I was the one to cause a leak in a pipe….talk about embarrassing.
This was a blessing in disguise however, as we found water coming from both directions (someone had crossed the wires). 2 days later this was fixed.
Next was returning fertility to the soil, so we could begin a market garden. Finding some cast iron bathtubs, we moved these into place, gathered the cow manure at the bottom of the farm, stuck this into the tubs, and tossed in some worms to start vermicomposting.
Worms, love nitrogen rich materials, including dead plant matter, manures, coffee grounds, and nitrogen rich food scraps.
What results from worm’s digesting this, are worm castings (great for soil building) and worm juice. This natural fertilizer is teaming with microbes that can enrich dead soils.
Clearing brush, taking care of chickens, time flew by. Christmas with the new family was the most memorable I’ve had in years. Getting into a rhythm, I had finally found everything that makes me happy …
People, Food & Music
No sooner had we gotten into our stride, when everything came crashing down.
Now up to 8 farm hands and beginning to transform the farm … the owners kicked everyone off the farm.
What I had found when first arriving, was the fact, there was no contract between the owners & farm managers.
Differing expectations between the owners & managers were to blame again. This time, a misunderstanding on budgeting & expenses.
Fixing the water pipes had cost close to $10000…and I was personally out of pocket for $300 in food expenses.
I had been guilty of differing expectations on the first 2 “farms” … but hey, third time getting kicked off the farm … at least this time it wasn’t my fault.
To further compound problems, someone forgot to pay the internet bill.
Steak Club was running into problems again, the courier failing to pick up packages in Poland … resulting in near insolvency when InPost failed to show up 23 times in the next 2 months.
The group thus found itself in a “hostage situation” with no way of communicating with the outside world (cell service barely worked in the mornings).
As the fallout from the situation unfolded … it gave me time to reflect.
The most complicated part of any farm, are people.
The owners over the past 6 weeks … was it ego?
Everyone lives in their own reality.
What did I learn. To use a simple contract (see below), to help manage expectations.
Saying all this, it could have been worse.
At least now I had a “new family“.
I did try and call up the non-profit, who had been leasing farm #1.
Unfortunately, the farm in Santa Barbara was still a no-go and I would have to wait.
So, at the start of February, I moved with Chuck, Nat, the dogs, chickens & RV, back into the city … specifically into a backyard in National City, San Diego, USA.
What I was to find there, was yet another eye-opener, observing what it was like to live in a poor part of urban USA.