Gut Ostler Organic Farm
1 April 2000

Hello all! Once again i have been having wonderful adventures and have had no time to write about them! Since i last wrote we enjoyed some of the karneval activities in bonn and köln including marching in the geistzug, an "unofficiall" torchlight parade, in the snow. We then stumbled into the fastnacht activities in bern, switzerland which included lots of small marching bands in outrageous costumes and lots of confetti. From there we enjoyed an indescribably (at least for the moment) wonderful week with a family in a small alpine (literally) village in southwestern switzerland. We continued our travels from there slowly up to berlin where we spent a week with friends we met in scotland six months before. And finally, from berlin we have returned to bonn where we are now on an organic farm called gut ostler.

Here on gut ostler we live in a bauwagon, an old circus wagon, and work really hard. It has taken us some time to clean the wagon out (since the previous resident, who had lived here over a year, left in a hurry) and get it levelled out, but we now have a wonderful little home for the next few weeks. The work is long and hard, but we have varied activities and we are learning a lot. It is also nice to be spending spring outside!

I have had tons of ‚firsts' on the farm since i have always been a city kid. Most of the work with plants is just like gardening only on a much larger scale, but i have never spent so much time around animals. I never knew the unique smell of goat cheese is the smell of goats! (the cheese will never be the same for me again now.) the first time i ever touched a donkey was to grab it around the neck to try to keep it away from the pig food, and i didn't have a second thought about it at the time. None of these sound particularly impressive, but it is a much different lifestyle than i am used to and i am enjoying it. The closest i had ever gotten before was having read charlotte's web. I was a little impressed by how much i can see that story in this farm!

My favorite character on the farm is helmut, the gander. The geese have a fairly large pen adjacent to both entrances to the main buildings. They alway "announce" arrivals. Helmut always runs up to the visitor with his neck outstretched in a very akward and funny looking manner. This last week he was actually hissing as people went by. I had always tormented him a little bit by blowing in his face, but i sitll noted the change in behavior. We discovered the next day that one of the nests of eggs hatched and there were 11 bright yellow goslings bopping around. This explained helmut's new behaviour. He had become quite aggressive. A couple of people went into the pen to put a fence around the goslings so the other mother geese wouldn't harm them. They had to go in with long sticks to keep helmut away! As this was going on the goat-herding dog, feldman, came up to see what was happening and stuck his nose near the fence. helmut bit him sharply on the nose! Feldman has kept his distance from the fence since then. I have been in a couple of times to feed the geese or whatever. I have had both extremes of helmut almost ignoring me and an actual wrestling match with each of us at the end of a long pole. After watching martin, the farmer, handle helmut i am less fearful of hurting him during these wrestling matches. Since my work pants are polyester bellbottoms my ankles are well protected and i usually don't bother with the stick. I feel bad for helmut. He is just trying to do his job as a new father.

Most of our work is sort of the typical farm work: feeding animals, weeding fields, harvesting vegetables and cleaning them, laying woodchips along paths, planting seeds and transplants etc. we spent much too much time trying to put our wagon on good supports with some kind of levelness. The days are long, 8 in the morning until shortly after six in the evening, but we have a cooked lunch late midday. We often will be working 2/3 days on saturdays. We have little time to do much other than cooking and eating dinner before we collapse into sleep. I am not complaining though. We have had a lot of fun and despite my exhaustion at times i feel really good. We are learning a lot about farming in general and organic farming specifically. We have fun people that we work with. And most of all we have almost unlimited access to organic food. It is really wonderful.

The only negative work experience we have had was when the rich owners in the huge house next door saw us laying woodchips and decided they wanted them around their trees as well. mrk. and i got the pleasure of this job. We grumbled a little about being some wealthy person's gardeners not being what we were thinking when we came to work on an organic farm, but we did think it was funny that we are technically illegal foreign workers doing manual labor and the irony was not lost on us. Since then we have not had any such "cultural" experiences.

So that is our current life. We often marvel at having made it this long and had all the amazing experiences we have had. It amazes us even more when we look forward to what we will probably still get to do including more travels in eastern europe, because we loved it so much, and also visiting more friends in germany and posibly scandanavia. Wow. I miss friends and family often, but i don't miss the stability and long-termness of being at home. I can hardly imagine it now actually! But it will come soon enough as the money will not last forever and that open ended ticket we bought expires after one year. We hope we can make it last that long!

I can honestly say i think of each of you often and hope you are well. it is always good to hear from home!

© Copyright Cheryln Crowl 2000