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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Life is Like a Tray of Appetizers - Part 1

Change has been one of the constants in my life, but it seems like change, along with my emotional gauge, has been dialed up several notches as of late.
Nearly one month has passed since leaving Lake Louise, and in that month I did two separate homestays and attended one festival, sprinkled with brief interludes in Calgary. The homestays were more specifically WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farming) arrangements, working in exchange for accommodation and food.
The first homestay was in Turner Valley, just south of Calgary by about 1 hour. My hosts were immersed in the flourishing permaculture movement of the '80's in Australia. Learning permaculture was my primary goal for being there, as it aligns with my future long-term goals.

However, I simply came at the wrong time - there was a gap in their work schedule, and not much gardening to do. I spent just under 2 weeks before moving on earlier than planned. Despite this I did learn a lot and had some cool experiences.
Turning the compost over into the adjacent compartment
I helped my hosts slaughter their 5 chickens, as well as pluck and gut them. The family had grown close to these chickens, which they kept for 3 years, significantly longer than most owners normally do, since hens’ peak egg laying age is just around 6 months. Thus, it was a heavy emotional event for all involved, including myself. I held their bodies while their heads were decapitated, and cried a little as I felt their lives draining away, and their souls escaping. This was a difficult but necessary experience in my mind, because I have always wanted to take responsibility for the meat I eat, instead of living in the ignorance that buying ready meat affords me. Being part of the slaughter, I felt like I honoured the chickens’ lives. And in return, they gave me healthy nourishing broth and meat.
The family also owned 5 meat rabbits. Much of my daily work revolved around the rabbits and chickens - feeding them twice a day, and scooping a lot of poop! My other tasks included raising seedlings in the greenhouse to eventually plant in the ground - a symphony of squashes, tomatoes and decorative flowers.
A two-headed chicken!
Oh, and there was lots of weeding. And jumping on the trampoline with the two rambunctious kids.
The second homestay was with another family who ran a yoga studio and retreat centre. Their ranch was nestled in the gently sprawling Rockies foothills, and they owned three horses, around 15 chickens, 3 dogs and 2 cats. Sadly it was only for a week, as I had a great time and the family was generous and fair. I gave back equally in effort, putting in hours of weeding and preparing garden beds using techniques such as sheet mulching, which kills the weeds and provides fertility for future plants. My favourite task by far though was collecting honey from last year’s beehive, by setting the hive frames in a hot oven to melt the honey, separating the wax, and straining it into jars.
A frame of honey being melted in the oven
The weekend I arrived on the ranch, a retreat was held there by a group of people to do ayahuasca. While I couldn’t participate in the ceremony, this was an omen, because my curiosity for psychedelics was mounting and I was eager to debunk the myths surrounding them.
More on this in Part 2... stay posted!

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