I’ve been spending as much time outdoors as possible lately. Lunchbreak naps in the sun, and strolls through Oz Park.

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Monday on the farm! Today was a lot of good hard work. Philippe, the owner of the farm, was putting his big plans into action. We started the day by removing a bed of root vegetables  to make space for new beer and wine garden. There are plans to grow barley, hops, and grapes! The large wooden poles mark out a grid for the new plants.
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The root vegetables we removed (I have no idea what they’re called!) were popular in World War II, when “victory gardens” enabled people to eat healthily despite the strict rations.

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We layed out a bed for the root vegetables in another part of the garden. I was impressed by the precision used to lay out the rows of plants. They had a plan in place, measured it, and checked it several times as we dug trenches for the plants. I’ve always wondered how cornfields are planted in such precise rows, and though most of the farms in the USA probably use machinery for it, it was really nice to see the manual way of tackling the problem. There was a little bobcat that helped us dig the trenches, but some rows, along the tent and the greenhouse, had to be done by hand. Good hard work!
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Lunch was couscous with squash and cilantro. We all eat together in one of the big tents.
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Tuesday the farm delivers its crops. There was a table full of the fresh vegetables we’ve harvested over the last week:

20141020_124852I took a rest in the sun before returning to work.
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In the afternoon, we harvested the pumpkins. I keep forgetting it’s late October (today I said something about it being August), but this was a welcome reminder. We were taught to cut the pumpkins so they have about 6″ of stem still connected, which helps them stay alive/fresh for longer. We cleared out one of the greenhouses and laid a bed of straw for the pumpkins. Sunlight, not necessarily heat, also helps keep them alive for weeks or months.
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After we finished the work day, I took a walk in the woods with some of the farmhands.
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The dutch girls cooked dinner tonight: garden salad, couscous, onions & vegetables, and DUTCH PANCAKES! What a treat! I was surprised that they made the pancakes with cheese on top – twas delicious! We also enjoyed them with maple syrup. Yum! The girls went to bed early, but I stayed up a bit to wash my dirty hiking clothes, and pack my bag for my departure tomorrow.
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Three other women girls who are WWOOFing at Mamajah Farm arrived yesterday. Myrthe, Iris, and Marieke are 18, 17, and 16 respectively, and are on a two month trip to different farms around Switzerland. They attend a democratic high school, where the students vote on issues along with the teachers, and have a many more options for their education. Their trip to visit and work on farms was approved to be a part of their education, how cool! Myrthe has already graduated and is taking a “gap year” to figure out what she wants to study before starting university. They invited me to join them on a trip today, as they can purchase a pass for unlimited travel for very cheap. I enthusiastically accepted their offer, and said it didn’t matter where they chose to visit: I’d like to go everywhere! Our tickets were only 32.50CHF (swiss francs) each, and covered pretty much all the busses, trams, and trains in the country. It was really nice to simply follow the girls rather than navigate and make decisions for myself. The girls were excellent company, so intelligent, curious, fun, and up for anything!

We started with a train to Montreux, about an hour from Geneve. From there we transferred to a beautiful classic train that took us to Gstaad. At times, we went through dark tunnels, that revealed the ambience of the train car:

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Marieke wanted to “be in the snow”, which requires an ascent high into the mountains. We took a bus to a cable car that would have taken us 3000meters high to Scex Rouge, a mountain in the Diablerets, but the cable car wasn’t running. October is the slow period between the touristic summer months and the skiing winter months, and many of the lifts were closed for seasonal maintenance. We took in the view and tried to figure out an alternative plan.
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We grabbed the bus back towards Gstaad, and the nicest bus driver told us several options for hiking and nature-viewing. It didn’t sound like snow was possible to find, so we abandoned that mission. The bus driver dropped us off at one of the few operating cable cars. It took us up to Wispile, about 1900meters high.
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We stopped for lunch. I had rosti, a traditional Swedish dish made of potatoes and cheese. I’m not sure if the egg on top is typical or not. It was delicious, and gave me plenty of energy for my upcoming hike. But this is a heavy meal! As hungry as I was, I couldn’t finish it all.
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We hiked along a trail called Wanderweg, Wonderway. It took us five leisurely hours in beautiful sunshine to hike to Launenensee.
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All along the way there were fountains of freezing cold fresh mountain water. It was unbelievably delicious, and so refreshing!
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The trail ends at a beautiful lake. In the picture below, you can just see it behind the little cabin.
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Below is a picture of a little channel to guide rainwater down the mountain. It’s made of guardrail, how resourceful!
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We finally arrived at the lake, and stopped at a waterfall nearby.
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We arrived in Lauenensee just in time to see the last bus leave for the day. We decided to quickly dip our toes in the lake’s water, and then hitchhike a ride back to the train station. I carefully rolled up my pants, preparing to wade into the shallow lake. See the picture below? It looks like it’s just a foot deep, right? WRONG! I hopped into the lake and ended up waist deep! Ah! Cold! But at least my laptop and phone were dry, so I didn’t mind much.
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The girls and I split up in pairs, and were lucky that the first two people we asked for a ride kindly obliged. Marieke and I got a ride from a nice couple in their convertible. I took the second selfie of my trip on the way:
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We arrived at Gstaad, tired and hungry. Luckily we found a small market that was still open. We grabbed some local Swiss cheese and bread, and took the train to the train back to the farm.
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 Song is “Thoughts and Clouds” by Lullatone.

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Saturday morning I had an 8am appointment with my counselor in Lakeview. I had been looking forward to this early morning ride all week, but when the day finally came it was pouring! I hesitated, but headed out into the storm anyway armed with a spare change of clothes and my laptop in a trash bag. Classy!

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Afterwards I scooted over to Heritage Bikes for some handlebar tape, a cappuccino, and refuge from the rain. It’s been over a year since I’ve stopped in, and the coffee/bike shop is as cute as ever! I especially loved the chandelier made of bike wheel rims.

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Sunday’s weather was much more beautiful! I took a detour on the way back from brunch at a friend’s and ended up finding a small bike path along the Chicago River, near Diversey Ave.

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I pulled over in some tall grass and meditated. Ugh. I have mixed feelings about meditating. I like the idea of stillness, being present, and spending time noticing your thoughts and feelings. I just don’t like the emphasis I’m receiving lately on simply observing my thoughts and not getting overly involved with them. We’ll see. The Headspace app is super convenient and great for beginners, if anyone’s curious.

 

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Anyway, I kind of decided that I’ll be going to brunch and on a bikeventure each weekend before I leave Chicago. Keep posted for more!

Top photo from www.heritagebikes.com. 

 

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This beautiful creature paused and watched me as I sang “The Peacock” by Beirut. For a full five minutes, it watched me as I fumbled with my phone, taking pictures and singing all along.

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The sun is the only thing I need to feel deep peace and joy. Thanks for shining on me, Alma.

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I often stress myself out when there are two things that I love so much that I can’t choose a favourite. I’ve been stressing on ranunculus vs. poppies as my favourite flower for months. And yes, stress IS the appropriate word.

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The picture of the poppy is by Anni Jones. (thank you!)

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