There’s No Getting Around It

August 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

I didn’t know what exactly I was getting myself into before I journeyed to Denmark to volunteer on a self-sufficient farm. I figured it would be hard work, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

I wasn’t prepared for mucking.

Mucking is my hosts’ term for cleaning out the pigs’ stables. Using a combination of shovel and broom, gather the hay, straw, muck, and feces that accrue on the stable floors into a wheelbarrow. Dump the wheelbarrow’s contents into a massive pile of waste out back. Repeat as needed.

It usually takes my hosts about twenty minutes to get the job done. It took me three days. The first of the three was exceptionally hot for a Danish summer. By the time I finished, my work clothes were saturated with sweat. The pigs stared me down the whole time with their beady little eyes, their grunts reverberating throughout the stables.

I couldn’t seem to get those stables clean enough. I made repeated attempts the first two days. I moped, sighed, and muttered the whole way through.

My hosts took notice. They pulled me aside for any eye-opening conversation.

If I couldn’t take the intense labor that accompanies farm life, they asked, was I really cut out for this sort of opportunity? What was I doing here in the first place?

I haven’t been able to put that conversation out of my mind. I admit that I haven’t consistently projected my enthusiasm since I arrived on the farm. Mucking aside, there are many times in my first week of farm life when I’ve been pushed to physical and mental limits.

Oftentimes in these cases my strategy is to retreat into my own thoughts. To isolate myself from others. I recognize that I’ll learn nothing if I continue this.

Besides, no one wants a moody, disengaged person hanging around. Neither do I.

I need to remind myself what originally brought me to this place: my strong desire to connect with food and culture, as well as my desire to challenge myself to grow as an individual.

I need to engage more deeply with others rather than shutting them out. That’s what will make this experience worthwhile.

I consider these ideas when I work. I must say, it’s quite effective. Now I blast through my usual rounds of early morning and evening chores. Whenever an animal, especially Koko the cow, gives me a hard time, or when I step in something disgusting or can’t get something or other to work right, I shrug it off. I don’t let it stress me out, and I work through it. I happily take on new, challenging tasks.

I’m here in Denmark, doing things I never thought I would or could do in the first place. I’m meeting interesting people and becoming accustomed to a completely new lifestyle. I take every opportunity I can get to chat with my hosts, to ask any questions that occur to me.

I suspect that I’ve presented a distorted view of farm life. Sorry. I’m sure those glossy photos I posted not too long ago haven’t helped much.

Life on a quaint Danish farm is hardly idyllic. To be frank, in order to make this lifestyle feasible, you have to bust your ass. It can’t all be traipsing through dense forests and picking berries. Which is fine by me.


§ One Response to There’s No Getting Around It

  • martha wieland says:

    Emma… it sounds like you “got around it!”… Good for you!! You have come through with flying colors. That was quite a “test”. Grampa and I are proud of you! Love, Gramma

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