Sorry it has been so long since I last wrote. I got caught up in preparing to leave for Heifer Ranch and then my work here on the Ranch. I've learned a lot since coming to the Ranch, about hunger/poverty, about intentional communal living spaces, and about myself. In the near future, I will write about the statistics of hunger/poverty around the world that we tell our participants. For now, I want to tell you a little about what it's like to live/work on the Ranch and the self-awareness it has brought me.
As you know, I was accepted to work as the Village Caretaker at Heifer Ranch in Perryville, Ark. This truly is a jack-of-all trades position. There are four broad departments that volunteers can work under on the Ranch: Education, Livestock, Gardening and Maintenance. My position encompasses work from all of these departments, though I am technically classified under education. As the Caretaker, I am responsible for setting all of the supplies needed for our Global Village experiences (you can learn more about those here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi10qHUDh10); I care for the animals that remain in the village during our programming seasons; I am responsible for trail and site maintenance; and I plant, care for and harvest the gardens in the Global Villages. In effect, I do all of the behind-the-scenes work that keeps the Global Village programs running smoothly and effectively.The point of these programs is to raise awareness in participants about hunger/poverty around the world and to provide them with a simulated "real-life" experience of what the living conditions of the hungry/poor are like.
Since my position relies on program participants to be scheduled, I sometimes have quite a bit of spare time during the week. I use this time to work in other departments, occasionally maintenance, but mostly livestock. I've had the pleasure to bottle feed goat kids and lambs. Yesterday, I helped another volunteer chase down a sheep who was having trouble giving birth. I ended up tackling the sheep to the ground in the end so we could assist and was rewarded with a live baby. I've helped give sheep shots, soak their hooves and herd them from pasture to pasture. I also added AgroForestry to my resumé by helping maintenance to plant baby pine trees.
I live in Valley View Up, which is the upstairs portion of the volunteer house known as Valley View. For the sake of consistency, I am going to talk about Valley View Up and Down as one unit, VV. Within our household, there are eight girls and two boys. At the beginning of the Spring season (meaning the period where the new volunteers arrived), we set a chore chart. This included taking out compost, trash and recycling as well as general household cleaning like sweeping and vacuuming. The problem is, everyone ignores this chore list. Which means that recycling, trash and compost only get taken out when they start to overflow. Generally speaking, the house is pretty good at getting everything taken out at once. Someone just has to take initiative and decide they will be the ones to remove everything that week. The main problem with this many people in one household is the dishes and cleanliness of the common areas (kitchen and living room).
Dirty dishes are a pet peeve of mine. I have a tendency to get frustrated with them and do them myself, even when I wasn't the one who used them. Which, in turn, frustrates me even more. This week has been the best week out of seven, as far as dishes are concerned, so I won't go into any rant about them. My observation is thus, for myself, the hardest part of communal living is sharing dishes and others not having the same standard of cleanliness as myself. As far as the intentional living goes, everyone is really good at recycling and composting because we all really are for the environment.
A nice thing about communal living in a situation such as this is that all of my housemates are concerned with the same things as myself. Sustainable living is at the forefront of everyone's agenda, everyone has an appreciation of good food, and all of us have dedicated our time to volunteering to help educate ourselves and our program participants about the challenges the world faces. All of these commonalities mean that we are able to get along on a base level.
I am learning quite a bit about myself living and working on the Ranch. I'm learning that I like to take charge and delegate, I like to get my hands dirty, I enjoy working with livestock in addition to gardening, and I have a tendency to be hot tempered. I am attempting to make progress as far as the last point is concerned. Now when I start to get upset about some little thing going wrong, I take a deep breathe, count to ten and then joke about it (if possible). As far as the other points are concerned, they are driving me more towards having my own farm someday. It has always been a dream of mine to own a restaurant or café. I think that owning a farm where I supply a café of my own would be a fantastic career for myself. At the moment, this is no more than a dream, however, I do plan to look into it when I am finished with my philanthropist career.
Speaking of which, I am applying to work for another non-profit organization after Heifer. My FoodCorps application has been submitted and I am eagerly awaiting May when I will hear back from them about my advancement to the second round of the application. FoodCorps is a subsidiary of AmeriCorps who works to "teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from; build and tend school gardens; and bring high-quality local food into school cafeterias". Currently, FoodCorps has sixty sites in twelve states around the U.S. The application to work with them is highly competitive because there are only about eighty positions every year. I am very much hoping that this will be the next step in my career. Though I am unsure about where these steps will eventually lead me, working at Heifer Ranch has taught me that I want to continue working with food and helping to educate others about sustainable food practices.