A KOA campground is no place to maintain a blog. There are usage restrictions, lack of privacy, and the slowest internet on the planet, all designed to keep you focused on the Cable TV provided for your RV. I'm in a tent I'm situated by the dump station this time, a subtle reminder that RVs rule and tents drool. I need to get out of this KOA vortex. So easy, so terrible! I can't upload photos here, so I'm writing and hoping for better WiFi tomorrow.
Just before I left Maine, I had a moment of panic when I realized that I may not be able to cover the majority of nights with house sitting as I had planned. I signed up for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), created a profile, and then started contacting farms as my plans needed filling in.
I had no idea what to expect when I headed toward Circle T Farms in Brooksville, FL last week. I worked as a farmhand in Maine a couple of times and know my way around a greenhouse and a field, but this was a permaculture operation. The term is familiar to me (especially because on of my best friends has become obsessed with it over the past 18 months), but the practice? Not so much. Essentially, permaculture seeks to work within the current structure of the local ecosystem instead of bending it to the needs of one specific crop. For a much better explanation, see this article as a jumping off point.
I arrived in the middle of the morning after a long drive through endless strip malls, which suddenly petered out and became sandy, pine-filled farmland. Circle T is an unassuming place. It looks like your average countryside ranch home from the road, except for the dozens of dump truck-sized, steaming mulch piles covering the front of the property.
The farm is a little over a year old, so many projects are in their infancy, but there is an impressive amount of work being done by Koreen, Steve, and Debbie, as well as volunteers and WWOOFers. I arrived two days before the start of a 2-week intensive permaculture design course that was set to be attended by about 15 students, so things were understandably chaotic. In 48 hours I learned a lot through asking questions and making mistakes, which always feels incredibly awkward, but is just as valuable as my preferred method of having a structure and defined expectations. Farming demands constant flexibility and since this was my first time doing any truly useful work in two months, it set me back a bit, reminding me that I am now in the position of student by choice. I may not like the delivery method, but I can always learn.
I spent much of the first day spreading cardboard and then mulch across the front lawn, building the first layer of a large bed for peanut or sweet potato around the tress already in place. A local landscaping company dumps mulch at the farm a couple of times a week in a win-win for everyone. Circle T doesn't have to pay for the mulch they need and the landscaping company doesn't have to pay for the disposal of useful material.
I was most interested in the microgreens operation that is just gaining steam; right now the focus is on finding a local market, which shouldn't be difficult - the greens are delicious and so, so beautiful, never mind good for you. There is a meditative quality to mixing soil and seeding the trays. A couple of hours in the barn reminded me how much I loved spending time seeding at the farm I worked at when I first returned to Maine.
I ended my two days at Circle T by taking photos of the microgreens, the tiny, endless landscapes of nutrient dense plants that captured my imagination and kept me coming back to the greenhouse to watch them grow (see more photos on my Instagram account). I felt accomplished and useful after working physically hard and also providing Koreen with some photos to use. Something clicked during these two days and it was clear to me that I had finally found that elusive rhythm.