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我的“农民意识”和一次农场经历

(2023-09-20 17:38:45) 下一个

记得在中国时有个籍贯(老家)的说法,填时要写父亲或爷爷的出生地,哪怕那是距离你的出生地有十万八千里的地方。

我的老家在湖北湖南四川交界的地方,是个鱼米之乡。没有见过面的爷爷是农民,爸爸没上学之前是个放牛娃。我是在大城市里出生长大,对农村老家只有4岁时回去的路上坐了火车,再坐汽车,再坐小渡轮,最后坐在箩筐里被挑着晃来晃去的模糊印象。 后来(因为晚生了点儿)很幸运没赶上被强送插队的年代,除了中学时学校组织的短期夏收秋收,和农村没有太多交往,更别提和农民的交往。

但不知为什么,我小时候特别喜欢农村姑娘红布花袄的故事,而且一直爱好种菜养鸡,所以五谷均分四体很勤。出国以后虽然没有养鸡的机会,但自己家的前园后院一定要摆几块石头,种花栽草,在有光没鹿的地方种点青菜。上班时每天干9,10个小时后筋疲力尽,有时下车连腿都不想迈,但一看见我的花草精神马上焕发,什么都不管先去问候它们。休息时浇完水坐在园子里,和它们说话,给它们唱歌,看着它们迎风起舞,真有点儿"采菊东篱下,悠然见南山"的感觉。

我明白在人的肠胃没有进化到可以消化塑料之前,这个世界一定要靠农民才能生存。所以职业农民很伟大,也非常辛苦,尽管有机器们帮忙。50岁那年春天里过生日的星期,我和先生利用假期去了附近一个有机农场做义工,歇歇脑子,用用体力,也借机体验一下这里的农民生活。 去了以后很有些感慨。于是把经历写了下来与同事们分享。发了后在公司里有些反响,有几位同事还因此专门去住了那个农场的B&B。
 
虽然我在文里提到了那个农场的艰难和不很乐观的前景,但没想到三年后农场主夫妇就闹分手了。做农民成功真不容易啊。

下面是我写的那篇农场英文小文。我偷懒就不翻译了。在农村生活过的博友一定会笑话我的农场经历和“幼稚”看法,献丑啦呵

另附一张我家大花猫在房前的照片。他也很喜欢花草,不过他是用牙齿来欣赏呵。

=====================================

All men were farmers sometime ago...

On this sunny April morning, my husband and I, both software programmers, drove through the rolling spring lands of eastern Ontario, and came to an organic farm with over 100 acres and a big animal barn.

Although the farm does have a B&B, we didn't come for the retreat. It might sound crazy to some people, we took our vacation time and came here to learn how farmers live today and to see if we can help out with some dirty and hard farm work.

We started to plan for this at the end of last year, after my husband found the WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms, www.wwoof.ca) site online. We applied for membership and read through the green book which lists Canadian organic farms that take “woofers”. We found a farm in Price Edward County about 3 hours away from Ottawa, near Picton, with an interesting description: in addition to being a certified organic farm, they live off the grid, being powered by solar and wind only.
 
We were happy and grateful that the farm owner accepted our request and allowed us to work and stay in the farm for shorter than a week (the minimum that most farms request).

We didn't know what to expect or what to bring, except some old clothes and old sneakers, plus four willing hands and two open minds. We entered the farm with loud greetings (or perhaps warnings) from the sheep, goats, roosters and ducks and under the suspicious stare of two alarmed donkeys. About 300 meters of crushed stone road led us towards the house, and just outside the house we met Achim the owner, a strong man with a big smile, and Jake the friendly farm dog.

Achim and his wife Ute came to Canada from Germany 6 years ago, and started the Reachview organic farm about 3 years ago, adding a B&B last year. Like many new immigrants, they have their share of hard life starting out in a new land, but they love this multi-cultured country. Trained as a mechanical engineer without much farming background before this farm, Achim (and his mother) had a vision about the environment and how humans should live and feed ourselves. With two young daughters (age 4.5 and 16 months), he and his family are willing to experiment, and at times struggle, to see if they can make their living based on the vision.
 
Part of the vision is to live off the grid with renewable energy sources. They built a house in the middle of the farm, simple but with many energy saving elements: big south-facing windows to take in the sun in the winter, smaller north-facing windows to allow cross breezes in the summer, a large panel containing pop-cans on the southern facing external wall for warm air circulation, and a rain water collection system for most washing needs. All electricity used by the house comes from two 3x4 feet solar panels and a 60 feet tall wind turbine that makes sounds like a bird singing all day along. A family of four, plus guests can live very comfortably.

We are amazed by how much work one person can do on the farm, as that is basically what Achim does: run the farm mostly by himself, 16 hours per day at busy times, with a bit of help from his mother who lives nearby. There are about 20 goats, 30-40 sheep, a dozen or so white rabbits, and probably more than a hundred birds including different types of ducks, chickens, quails, roosters, and two big turkeys, all living in four portions inside the big animal barn. Most of the animals are free to wander around outside the barn into a fair sized fenced in area which includes a small pond. As a certified organic farm, no chemicals or antibiotics are given to the animals, so their living quarters need to be kept fairly clean to avoid any diseases.
 
On the second day into our stay, the sun was hot in the middle of the afternoon, and after more than 3 hours planting onions in the field under the sun, we were happy that Achim asked us to clean out some of the stalls inside the barn. But boy the smell when we stepped into the stall and started lifting up the wet dirty straw filled with bird urine and droppings, and cleaned the wet floor. I kept telling my husband (and perhaps myself) that we don't mind cleaning for the chickens, but the smell could really send some people away if you are not prepared. On top of that, there was one big rooster which thinks itself as the protector of the barn and launched three vicious attacks on me while my husband was away on his water trip, I had to use a big brush to fight it away.

Before cleaning the chicken stalls I was wondering why Achim keeps so many roosters (about 10?). After the rooster attack incident, I started to think these roosters could be of better use, so I offered to cook a rooster feast. I didn't tell Achim, but confessed to my husband in secret that the meat would be very tasty. Only later on I realized that the rooster slaughter and feather cleaning would take some very valuable time from Achim’s busy spring schedule, and that was probably why he didn't seems interested at my rooster feast idea. To my relief, Achim's mother, a very nice lady, stepped in to clean all dead roosters after the execution the next morning.
 
Although there are more than 100 acres of land on the farm, Achim told us most of the land is not good for farming as the soil layer is not very deep and not rich enough, that is why most of them are filled with wild Juniper tree bushes. There are 7 or 8 fields that are cleared, some are seeded with hay and alfalfa for the animals, and there are 2 or 3 with better soil for organic vegetables and sunflowers. Being organic means that soil can only be fertilized in two ways: by applying compost made from the animal waste (composted for 2-3 months), or by planting nutrient rich plants (for example red clover) and leaving them in the soil. So the smelly wastes we cleaned out from the barn are really gold to farmer eyes.

Being organic also means very labour intensive field work, as lots need to be done by hands instead of machines. Achim has prepared a bag of onion seeds (about 25 lbs) for us to plant as that is probably one of the simple jobs on the farm.

On our first onion planting day, my husband and me each planted two rows, one row for regular onion and one row for green onion (same seed as regular onion but picked early for their green tops), on the vegetable field next to the house. The field is really long, probably about 250 feet or more. For some reason, we always seemed just more than half way from the end every time we stood up to stretch our legs and backs. We started just past 9 am (quite late by farmers time), and finished the 2+2 rows only after 12:45pm. We felt quite slow and not sure our work could pay for our living.
 
But Achim seemed happy with our planting, so we were asked to do more the next day, on part of the good vegetable field next to the barn. My husband came up with the smart idea that we separate the task: one person to lay the onion seeds in the row with proper spacing; the other person to set them root side down and cover the row; kind of an assembly line operation (that did improve our planting efficiently by about 30%). To award my husband, the thinker of the day, I offered to be the cover up person that needed bending down all the time. My back and legs were so hurt at the end of the day that I needed a massage.

I was a bit embarrassed to admit to Ute that I had an emergency treatment of rubbing alcohol in the middle of our first night in the farm. Achim asked us to clean a small field (about 40x50 feet) on the side of the house that afternoon, and I tried to impress everyone with my gardening skills and forgetting about my computer occupation injured arms, that I just kept raking away for a few hours without stopping. Achim probably didn't see my work at all afterwards, but I woke up in the middle of night with my right arm burning and sore at the same time. Dear husband also had sore legs after the onion planting, but felt somewhat better than me, so when he closed his eyes, he only saw onions and fields and dreamed about that all night along.
 
Life is tough on the farm, especially on the organic farms. Although part of Achim’s vision was to be self-sufficient for his family, they do also have bills to pay. The organic onions sell for a bit more than the regular non-organic grown ones, but not too much, and there is no way Achim can afford to hire help. His organic fed ducks must be checked by a government certified place to which he needs to pay $12 per duck to just get them killed, adding to the cost and time he grows them, so he would not make money even if he sold his ducks at $6 or $7 per pound.

Achim mentioned that although some big food stores have started to carry more organic food, they normally push the price very low when they buy from the farmers. And the stores sell the goods with much higher prices to make bigger profits for themselves. To fight this, Achim and his fellow organic farmers started an organic farmer's cooperative, to exchange produce between themselves and to set up booths in farmers markets (mostly in Toronto now), to sell their produce directly to the customer, so we get fresh organic food, and the farmers get a fair price. Also this gives people more of a sense about healthy eating and living. "Farmers do this for the love of it. It’s something in your blood, even when you’re loosing money", Achim told us. He would be happy to see more people start paying attention to our land and to plant things organically for themselves (even with a planting box if they live in an apartment), and to buy local produce whenever possible. A sustainable lifestyle, including producing and buying more locally grown food will become necessary as we face declining oil supplies in the coming days.
 
Achim does not know if he will succeed or not, but he will have to make a decision after this year. Beside the busy farm work, he will try to do some independent consulting work and seminars on renewable energy based on his experience and his own home setup. For Ute, even with 2 little ones to care for, she decided to open a B&B to help out with the family expenses, and to give city people a chance to come to the farm and live off the grid, to see the animals,  and to eat organic eggs, bacon, breads and cup cakes which she cooks everyday.  Their daughters, Leah, the bright 4 year old one who speaks 3 languages (German, Persian and English) and is always thinking, and the 16 month old baby who is always smiling and laughing, will for sure be good helpers for Dad and Mom in a few years time.

We had a big stewed rooster feast on Thursday night: Achim's family, his visionary mother and retired father, my husband and I, even Jake the dog had a big plate of left over rooster bones for a treat. Achim went back to his office right after supper, probably working on his renewable energy course, which left Ute, his mother and father to talk with my husband and me about our lives in Germany, in Iran, in China and of course, in Canada.  With our stories and a bit of Tao philosophy, we also knocked down a big bottle of red wine.  
 
Next morning, packed with 5 dozen fresh eggs and a big dead roaster, we hugged Ute and the baby, and waved goodbye to Achim who was up in the field already.

A couple onion seeds dropped out from my husband's pocket that he used for storage during planting. He sighed, "I will never look at onions the same way". Yes, after days (Tuesday to Friday) on the farm, with no TV, no newspapers, no Internet, hard labour work and healthy organic food, our bodies are tired but fitter and our heads are happier, and we will never look at our food the same way.

All men were farmers sometime ago, and all men (and women) will be farmers sometime again, hopefully all green and organic…
 
 
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阅读 ()评论 (27)
评论
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 '阿芒' 的评论 : 谢谢!同问阿芒好,好喜欢你的自画肖像啊!
阿芒 回复 悄悄话 农民的生活接地气,有泥沙玩的童年生活很幸福,很幸运我家里小时候有个园子,是玩着泥沙长大的。那大花猫漂亮啊,特别那坐姿,大老板的架势,试看天下谁能敌。
问好北岛
HanxueClear 回复 悄悄话 回复 '最西边的岛上' 的评论 : 也谢谢你跟读我的流水帐!能在Victoria 退休养老,真是太幸福啦,羡慕你!你英文Assay写的生动有趣,特有人情味儿,我一字不落的一口气读完。
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 'HanxueClear' 的评论 : 谢谢喜欢和支持!刚读了你写的儿子(在我们维多利亚)婚礼博文,多省心暖心的孩子们啊!
HanxueClear 回复 悄悄话 太喜欢这样的生活了,真希望你的最后一句总结能实现,有一天我们都能成为农民!现在各种杀虫剂,杀草剂,化肥,对土地的伤害太重了,都担心有朝一日人类被自己毁了。
我想退休后去环境保护组织去做志愿者,给保护地球出点微薄之力。
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 '石假装' 的评论 : 是啊。拜读过你的回忆,很感人!
石假装 回复 悄悄话 我在农村生活过,与大自然打交道太辛苦。
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 '晓青' 的评论 : 谢谢!
晓青 回复 悄悄话 喜欢这样的生活篇!
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 'plum59' 的评论 : 老乡太客气啦,谢谢回访!
plum59 回复 悄悄话 北京人回拜北京人。中英双语开博,写的真好!容我慢慢读了。
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 'yy56' 的评论 :欢迎来做客!谢谢喜欢和鼓励。我们去过凤凰城(儿子在亚利桑那读博时有个小Condo),冬天很舒服。我家大花猫也是亚利桑那人,特别喜欢晒太阳。

你的文笔很好,别离开时间太长哦!
yy56 回复 悄悄话 听菲儿介绍,来这里做客,谢谢你用这篇特殊的经历为文城开了一朵别致的花,我特别希望下次回城可以看到有更多的人用中英左右开弓,更希望读到像你这样独特的经历。

人生美好,能一路上栽满奇花异草,值了。
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 '无法弄' 的评论 : 同在北京生长的老乡好!你刚回去过觉得不认识了,那我如果再回去会更认不出了呵。

看到你博文照片里和平里的旧筒子楼很亲切,我有一个非常尊重的(煤炭部)忘年交就住在那儿,以前每次去看望她都要去那儿的稻香村买点儿点心。
无法弄 回复 悄悄话 我对籍贯也不清楚,我在北京出生长大,老得写妈爸的甘肃,我才不管呢,就写北京,谁愿意改谁改,我不管,现在连北京都懒得写,北京变得我都不认识了:)
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 '水星98' 的评论 : 哈哈,我也今天才知道我们是同“籍贯”的“老乡”(我母亲是汉口出生)。我虽没当过知青,但能理解你们当时的苦闷。希望过去不再(故国)重复啦。谢谢。
水星98 回复 悄悄话 今天才知道最西边的岛上博主是一位女性,太不好意思了,哈哈哈哈。我在加拿大BC省没有机会到农村去体验,但是在中国的农村体验了三年。那个体验和在加拿大完全不一样,每天劳动强度大,吃的极差,这些都还可以克服。看不到将来,没有出路才是最闹心的。写得好!
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 '冯墟' 的评论 : 说的对!
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 '兵团农工' 的评论 : 谢谢77级兄弟来访。希望大家都幸运,65岁以后不用为生活奔劳啦。
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 'diaoerlang' 的评论 : 是啊,我父亲说过他大嫂生小孩后没几天就要下水田干活呢。
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 '菲儿天地' 的评论 : 谢谢菲儿读了全文和鼓励。接受你和林兄的意见。我一是懒,二是忙(马上要去日本看看),人工翻译是二次创作要花时间,哪怕是自己写的呵。

关于亚马逊:我自己在思科做了十年,知道美国高科技用人有多狠,但亚马逊不是一般的狠,是很毒狠。我知道有华人老实孩子在那儿被逼无奈跳楼的,还有不听话提意见的被制造理由裁掉。所以小朋友要小心,做好二手准备。
最西边的岛上 回复 悄悄话 回复 '林向田' 的评论 : 谢谢林兄!软件翻译的有一点儿干巴巴,但是大意还算准确。不过看到机器把“有机农场义工”的小体缩写翻成“低音炮”,觉得咱们人类还是有不会被机器取代的希望呵。
冯墟 回复 悄悄话 你们城里人是应该尝尝当农民的滋味,哈哈。很好的体验。当农民不容易。
兵团农工 回复 悄悄话 很高兴你写的故事发生在我住的城市不远的地方。

农业生产需要强健的体力,健康的身体。

我觉得超过65岁,有些农业活干不动了。

比如说清理牲畜的粪便,使用工具挖地。

闻了牲畜粪便的臭味之后,鼻子要好几天才恢复过来。




diaoerlang 回复 悄悄话 靠天吃饭,农民不容易,像博主说的故乡上几代农民更辛苦,整年脸朝土地背朝青天,要是再遇上灾年战乱政局更迭,那就是方方莫言杨继绳们笔下的描绘了。

菲儿天地 回复 悄悄话 赞有内涵的农民文,一个字一个字地拜读了,这样的生日体验真是特别,让我想到了博友平等性女儿拿到大学录取通知后去献血的事情。我家女儿小时候过生日,有一次就是把生日收到的钱捐给了动物中心,然后那天在那里做义工。西岛夫妇在有机农场做义工的经历非常特别,有意义,描述得也很生动,让我对有机农场的产品有了更多的了解,也知道了一些他们的运作,以及如何定价等问题,真是受益匪浅。

同意林兄,如果加上中文翻译会更好。:)
林向田 回复 悄悄话 我用软件帮你翻译了前几段:

从前所有的男人都是农民

四月的这个阳光明媚的早晨,我和丈夫都是软件程序员,他们驱车穿过安大略省东部春意盎然的土地,来到了一个占地100多英亩的有机农场和一个大动物棚。

虽然农场确实有民宿,但我们不是来度假的。对一些人来说,这听起来可能很疯狂,我们利用假期来到这里,了解农民今天的生活方式,看看我们是否可以帮助解决一些肮脏而艰苦的农活。

去年年底,在我丈夫在网上找到WWOOF(有机农场的自愿工人,www.WWOOF.ca)网站后,我们开始为此做计划。我们申请了会员资格,并阅读了绿皮书,其中列出了加拿大使用“低音炮”的有机农场。我们在普莱斯爱德华县发现了一个农场,距离渥太华约3小时路程,靠近皮克顿,有一个有趣的描述:他们除了是一个经过认证的有机农场外,还靠太阳能和风能生活。
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