Monday, February 6, 2012

Polyface -- Day 4

I panicked when I woke up on Friday. I was so sore and stiff that I couldn't move any part of my body. I lay in bed, frantically trying to figure out what to do, and hoping dearly that I wouldn't have to holler for Lydia to help me up. Then my cell phone's alarm went off; it was 6:45 a.m. I had exactly 15 minutes before I needed to be outside. Outside to do morning chores for the very last time...

 After about two minutes, I  finally managed to heave myself out of the little bed, and then limped around as fast as I could; trying to locate my hat and leather gloves in pale morning light. I was dressed and ready in record time. I even beat Lydia, who had gotten up before me. Chores were blissfully the same. I love habit. I hauled 40 lbs. of chicken feed and 20 lbs. of oats to the chickens; saying "Hello" and "Goodbye" to the rabbits as I passed them. I threw hay to the hogs for what would be my last time, and smiled at their soft snorts and squeals. Michael the dog tagged along with me, Lydia and Leanna as we finished up what we needed to do. 

 Breakfast was relatively quiet that morning, as we ate with Theresa. Joel had left earlier to fly to California to speak at some sort of conference, so it was just us girls that day. 

 When we finished eating and cleaning up, Lydia said goodbye.... Her time was up, just like mine was, and she was going back home. That was hard... We had just been together for the last 90+ hours, and now we would most likely never see each other again. I still don't know what her last name was, and she doesn't know mine. Lydia, if you ever stumble upon this little blog of mine, I MISS YOU!!! 

But there was no time right then to feel glum, there were still jobs to do outside!! Everyone who was left gathered 'round the walk-in freezer, and we waited for Eric and Noah to arrive with twenty thousand pounds of frozen chicken. Our job was to move all that chicken into the freezer. Noah arrived with his truck load first, and like a band of ants we got busy! There were only nine of us, so we lined up Navy-style and formed a chain. Admittedly, it took us awhile to get a rhythm going, and for everyone to find a good spot, but we did eventually get going smoothly! Box after box was stacked at the back of the freezer... Light ones weighed 40 lbs. and heavy boxes weighed 60 lbs. or more. The thermometer in the freezer read 0 degrees. Cold. It was 23 degrees outside and that suddenly seemed balmy and warm to those of us who were in the freezer. Our breath was visible in ragged puffs, and we were all wishing for a tissue. After twenty minutes of working, my soreness either wore off, or I just no longer noticed it. We worked quickly; warning the next person in line of the weight of the box. I must admit that I was extremely grateful for the spot I was in. Ches was in front of me, and when he had a particularly heavy box (like, over 60 lbs.) he would bypass me and hand the box to Shrader, the next guy in line who was behind me. My conscience nagged at me a bit for allowing Ches to do that, after all I was at the farm purely to work, but I really was grateful for the small courtesy. We were all a team that morning. Everyone helped everyone, and together we stacked all 20,000 lbs. of food!! Awesome! When we came out of the freezer, we all took off our hats, gloves and coats. Twenty three degrees suddenly seemed almost unbearably warm. 

 It was eleven 'o' clock when we finished in the freezer. It had only taken us two hours, which surprised me. With the job now over, Jeremy got ready to leave. His flight back to Texas was taking off in just a few hours, so he had to get a move on. Another round of handshakes went through and as I said goodbye he curiously asked why I wasn't coming too. I was leaving today as well, why wasn't I on the same departure flight as him? Yes, I was leaving today, but not by plane. I was awaiting the arrive of my Aunt and Uncle who would be taking me to Maryland with them until the next week. I half wished I was going on the same flight though... At least then there would have been a familiar face around as I once again navigated the monstrous sized Atlanta airport!! 

 For the next 20 minutes, Daniel showed the rest of us around their processing shed, and we all talked about butchering. Then everyone got ready to head back up to the woodlot and clear some more wood. 

Except me.

 Now it was my turn to say goodbye to everyone. My Aunt and Uncle would arrive at any time, so I had to stay behind. I hugged the girls and shook hands with the guys. Savannah and I tried not to cry. I don't know her last name either, come to think of it... In fact I don't know anyone's last names, except the Salatin's of course, and Eric's. We were all on a first-name basis but none of us ever mentioned last names. 

Watching everyone leave in the tractor was one of the hardest things I have ever done. More than anything, I wanted to run after them and join them. I would willingly to the work all over again!! I slowly walked back to Grandma's house to pack my things up. Grandma had already left, so I left a note saying thank-you. When I finished, I went to wait with Theresa...

 Now, I really was quite excited to get to stay with my Aunt and Uncle. We were going to go to Lancaster, Baltimore, D.C., and all sorts of other neat places! But I must admit that my excitement was rather dampened that morning. I wanted to stay at Polyface. 

My Aunt and Uncle arrived soon after, and we eventually loaded up in the car and began driving away. The others had just come down from the woodlot, and were unloading their haul as we passed them. I leaned out my window and shouted goodbye. They all waved and shouted back, and that was finale of my visit... Nothing grand. Nothing huge. Just friends saying goodbye for what would mostly likely be the last time.

Everyone working on wood.

I cried that night. I was now in Maryland with my Aunt and Uncle, and I was homesick. I had never been homesick before, but I was sure feeling the effects now! I cried and cried and cried... I wanted to go home to Polyface. I missed everything about it; I even missed hearing the TV blaring at 2 in the morning because Grandma had forgotten to turn it off. I missed Michael, the hogs and the cows. I missed the Salatins and all the employees there. I missed Savannah and Lydia. I felt ridiculous for crying. I never cry, and here I was bawling like a baby! But I couldn't help myself. I knew that there was a high chance I wouldn't return there, and now I know that I won't.

 Polyface definitely made an impact on me, and changed me. As I think about it, the biggest change I see is probably just how I view tasks. Before going to Polyface, I always unconsciously divided jobs into A. something I could do. Or B. a job for the guys to do. Things like hammering, heavy lifting and other things like that were always on my mental list of "guy jobs". Now, I view every task as something that simply needs to be done, and it's my job to see that it gets done. I definitely have more confidence in myself now, and hopefully it'll stick around and not slowly dissipate. I learned about teamwork at the farm, and what it feels like to be in a close-knit family. I learned what it means to go above and beyond the call of duty, and how to stick to a task no matter what. I learned many tips and tricks in the farming trade, and I am excited to implement them here in Oregon. My tears are gone now. I can cry no more for Polyface. I don't think I will ever go back to that little farm in Swoope, Virginia, but I am so thankful for the four days I had there. It was a blast. :)

   Thus ends my Polyface Farms saga.


Anonymous said...

you are a good story teller.

Stacey said...

Lydia is now interning at Averys Branch Farm in Amelia, VA. I processed chickens with her one day at the farm. They're online...maybe you two can reconnect :)