farm trip

A few weeks ago, the company I work for sent me up to their farm in northern California, to provide hospitality at one of the guest camps.

The camps are offered a few times throughout summer, and give those who are interested (and who can afford it) an opportunity to learn about sustainable farming, ethical butchery, and, of course, cooking techniques. The guests stay on-site, in luxe, semi-furnished tents directly adjacent to the land, the animal pastures, and very close to the harvesting facilities and processing plant. There are basic camps, advanced camps, family camps, and I think there might even be an all-women's camp. I was tapped for advanced camp.

For each camp, the staff is pulled from the seven locations (three in LA, four in the Bay Area) where our company has restaurants/stores. Typically, two front-of-house people are chosen for hospitality duties, two chefs for cooking, and a butcher for lessons on cutting meat.

It just so happened that on the day my camp started, there were some major internal changes in the company, necessitating the redirecting of the other front-of-house person to another location, to act as an interim manager. In other words, I ended up being the sole employee filling the hospitality role.

The campers were a mix of wealthy foodies, Silicon Valley bros, and professional chefs. With one or two notable exceptions, they were a warm and gracious bunch. They mixed well, and by the end of camp, particularly the two last dinners (on farm tables out under the stars), the vibe among them was really lovely. They truly had a blast, in no small part because two of the guests own a vineyard, and came loaded with case upon case of wine that the whole group blasted through. Jovial scenes a-plenty.

For my part, though, I was pretty miserable. My responsibilities weren't entirely clear at first, so I spent a lot of time trailing the camp director (a really sweet but somewhat disorganized man) around while he figured out - usually at the last second - what he needed help with. The camp was twice as big as usual (22 people instead of the usual 10), and they had brought in minimal local support. So it quickly became clear that what was really needed was someone to clean up after these twenty-two people, all day every day. That fell to me. Laundry. Dishes - oh god, so many dishes. Cleaning out bathrooms. Making coffee. Setting and clearing tables.

Once things really kicked in, I didn't stop running, for three consecutive seventeen-hour days. No, really. Up at 4:30, not back at our guest house until 11pm.

I don't mind hard work, or long hours. Believe me, I put in plenty of both at my job. But rather than earning my usual hourly rate, at camp, I accepted a stipend payment, for a camp that is actually longer than the other ones. I don't even want to tell you what it worked out to, hourly. But it was pretty insulting, particularly because all I ever wanted in exchange for my time and efforts was a chance to get up close and personal with the animals. I expressed that desire to several people in a position to make that happen. It didn't happen, though promises were made to me about taking fruit to the hogs, visiting the farrowing barn, and going out to see the lambs at pasture.

But it was a chance to get away from LA for a few days, and for that I am grateful. The scenery was amazing, the guests were great, and I ate like a king. And of course, I took a whole bunch of pretty photos for Insta-bragging, though now you know the truth that it wasn't as amazing an experience as it looks. That's your reward for reading here, rather than just my IG captions: the unvarnished, ugly truth.

"Lady, you think you got problems? I'm competing with thirty other single women for every eligible bachelor in this town."

The sunrises were lovely, as viewed through my half-asleep, barely open eyes. 

In addition to the animals, the farm has a garden (pictured) in front, and an orchard in back. One of the girls I worked with was a professional pastry chef, who made fresh tarts from the berries picked out back. 

Apple tree with swing attached. I didn't realize these things exist outside of children's books.

Pissed off several dozen bees cutting these for centerpieces. 

Pretty for sure, but it was effing hot in these tents. I was glad to be staying with the other employees in an actual house, with actual air conditioning. 

Bucolic, much?

My first smore. Really. 

A new wildfire sprung up the first day of camp, blocking the freeway and forcing a few of the campers to reroute through massive detours. I can't remember what fire it was, though, because there are so many these days I forget their names. The earth is dying, you guys. But gosh the end of the world is pretty. 

All-you-can-pluck asian pears. 

And finally, one last surprise for making it to the end of this lame post: my overlong chicken cam video.