October 21, 2010

Pee Paw's Scramblies

From the beginning of the trip I thought it would be cool to find a band of hippies living off the land and join them, a la Easy Rider.   Wwoofing at Old Oak Homestead fulfilled that desire.  I “wwoofed” (see www.wwoof.org) at Old Oak for three weeks, giving me plenty of time to get to know the other people at the homestead, and some people from another homestead, as well as getting a good feel for the nearby town.   Old Oak was a fairly small property, with one house, a barn, and two small huts, trailer, 10 chickens, a vegetable garden, greenhouse, and an awesome dog named Buster.  When I arrived I was greeted by the other wwoofers, Matt and Meg (and Buster).  They showed me around and got me situated in the loft in the barn, which I shared with Matt.  Meg lived in the old trailer which was abandoned by a bunch of hunters who stayed here for a few weeks a few years ago.  It still had wheels, but it wasn’t going anywhere.  After a cold outdoor shower, and an equally cold beer, I got to meet Barb, Kenny and Joe. 

Barb (Barbra Trent: Academy Award winning documentarian) owned the place, and was more or less our “boss”.  She was more than a little bit crazy, but we all loved her.  I’d say she was in her mid 60s, and she was still living in the mid (19)60s.  The first thing that struck me about Barb was her sleep schedule:  Awake by noon, in bed by 3am, perfect for life on a farm.  She would often come mozey over to our outdoor kitchen/living room/patio with a martini in hand at midnight when we were getting ready to go to bed and start talking about our plans for tomorrow, or sometimes just wanting a snack.  She was certainly knowledgeable about organic gardening though, and she treated all the crops, and even the pests, with great respect, like she had personal relationships with every plant.  Actually she did, she told me all about them.   Barb also partied more than anyone I knew at college (except for freshmen year), and she could put all the tam-tams dancers to shame with her groovetastic shakes jiggles and twirls.  The other wwoofers seemed to get a bit annoyed with her nonsensical requests and never-ending presence, but I thought it was just hilarious.

Kenny was the other permanent resident at Old Oak.  He lived in a small hut which he was still building while I was there.  Kenny was a master of wood:  Lumberjack, carpenter, fire tender, and collector.  Kenny respected wood in all its forms, and despite being in the business of felling trees, he would often refuse to cut a tree down if he felt it wasn’t right.  Hanging out with Kenny I learned how to split wood, and use a chain saw, and had a lot of fun doing it.   Kenny kept all of his tools in perfect condition, and truly believed that if you show your tools love, they will show you love right back.  One of the best days there was when Kenny and I biked into town for the Carrboro music festival.  To tell the story properly you first need to know what Carrboro is like:  Hippie Heaven.   Everything was local, organic, fair trade, and vegan, and everyone in town seemed to somehow have enough cash to support all these crazy businesses.  Imagine if everyone in Vermont won the lotto and started speaking with a southern drawl, that’s what Carrboro was.  Also, everyone seemed to have awesome bikes like this one http://yubaride.com/utility-bicycles-models.html.   The Carrboro music festival was a pretty big deal, and although it started raining mid day and all the outdoor venues were shut down, there was still a bunch of music going on.  Kenny and I went to pretty much every venue, and at least three times Kenny accidentally walked back stage with the band, I guess he just looked so much like a musician that nobody questioned him.   We saw some shitty bands, and some decent ones, but my favorite was a sick ska band (whose name I forget) who played at a really cool venue named Cats Cradle.  After a long day of drinking, rocking out, etc., I was ready to try to find a car to throw our bikes into, but Kenny had his heart set on biking back, so we did. 7 miles back to the homestead in the pouring rain at midnight along dark, misty country roads with only my tail light.  It was awesome.

The other wwoofers, Matt and Meg were my age, and we got along well.  They were both really chill, and fun to hang out with.  Matt was really smart, and knew a lot about pretty much everything, especially organic gardening and bees.  He was living a debt free life by not going to college, not owning a car, not paying rent and not paying for food, and he was really making it work.  Meg was a really nice person, and really funny too.  A lot of our humor was like the blue color comedy tour, only in a sarcastic hipster kind of way… if that makes any sense.  Meg also worked at a hippie grocery store in town, and every time she got back from work she would bring all sorts of amazing treats home, diverted from the trash (actually Weaver Street Market composted its expired food).  We ate really well, mostly because of Meg.  We ate Scramblies for every meal, just like Pee-Paw used to make.  Scramblies consisted of whatever vegetables and greens we harvested from the garden scrambled together with rice and beans from Costco, and sometimes served with fancy bread from Weaver Street.  Our best scramblies was when Meg brought home a pound of fresh alfredo sauce and homemade pasta which we mixed with sweat potatoes, okra, tomatoes, jalapeños, string beans, and some other stuff.   We imagined opening up a food truck in Carrboro which sold nothing but the daily Pee Paw’s Scramblies, and the fact is, it probably would have been successful.  The only thing about eating at Old Oak was that I ate more than Matt and Meg combined, which got kinda awkward at times, but I simply explained to them that I will never let food go to waste, and therefore, out of precaution, I will just simply eat all the food before it has a chance to go bad.

The small community surrounding Old Oak was very inclusive.  Everybody knew everybody, and everybody was pretty cool.  Joe was a guitar teacher who lived down the road and left his dog buddy with us every day.  Nearly every night when Joe got back from work to pick up buddy he would come by with a 6 pack and a pipe to share.  He carried around a ukulele and used it to play name the tune / stump the band all the time.  He also sang songs with an Elmer Fudd voice extremely well.  Very close to us was another farm which I had applied to wwoof at, called Picards Mountain.  It was owned by a multi millionaire who designed an environmentalist's mecca.  It was a really cool place, and we got together with the wwoofers there to cook pizzas in their earth oven and hang out a few times.  The two people I got to know best there was Rachel and Daniel.  Daniel was a dreadlocked vegan, who drove a purple Caravan, fresh out of highschool and learning how to live completely off the land.  He and Rachel both knew pretty much every wild plant and if it was edible or usefull or not.  The three of us had a great walk in the rain one day identifying herbs and such.  Daniel was the only wwoofer I met who actually had a solid life plan: Go to California and grow weed, make weed butter, and use the weed butter to operate a gourmet catering company for rich potheads.  Everyone else, including me, had no idea what they wanted to do with their life.  In fact, none of the other wwoofers at Old Oak and Picards Mountain knew what they wanted to do after wwoofing.  Rachel was a really cool down to earth person, and she ended up biking with me for two days after I left.

Moral of the story is wwoofing is great, and I plan on doing more of it.  I basically spent about $30 for the entire 3 weeks, and that was entirely on beer.  I met a lot of cool people, got some experience working in an organic garden, and did a lot of chilling out.  I already made some contacts with some farms in Florida.


  1. what wonderful characters to brighten your horizons! Glad you are making friends and meeting people you might not otherwise meet; sounds like you are gleaning the rewards of your freedom on life's road!

  2. I love it! I'm so glad you had such a great experience here James! We loved you being here and really miss having you around. I'm sorry to hear about your wreck, but i'm super glad you're ok. Its not the same bringing home my loot from work! Don't worry...we aren't wasting any food :)