New Adventure for me, Volunteering on a farm in north Florida, Blue Springs Recreational Area, Marianna, Florida

It seems that it is official that I will not be going to Albuquerque to volunteer at the Balloon Fiesta this year. There is a new lady in charge of the volunteers and the RV area and since she cannot guarantee an electric connection for me, I decided not to go out there. I don’t want to dry camp for 6 weeks. This also means that I most probably will not  be going to Texas either.

I went online to Workamper and various volunteer job websites and after several phone calls, I think I found the perfect place for me to volunteer this year. In Havana, Florida, which is about 15 miles north of Tallahassee, Florida, a lady named Lorri has a farm and due to health issues she needs help on her farm which is called Hurricane Creek Farms, it is not the same as the one in North Carolina. This is named for a nearby creek. It seems like the perfect place for me to help out this year.

On my way to north Florida to the farm, I stopped for a few days to visit my friend Cindy in Yulee near Jacksonville. It was nice to see her again and catch up on life.

I arrived safely at the farm. Lots of animals here. It’s a pig farm with more than 100 pigs from cute little babies to full grown adults including a 400 pound male named Porkchop. Here is an album of photos I have taken so far since I have been here.

We have not done any fence work yet, only had to fix a spot or two where the animals could get out of their fenced area. I am quite impressed with part of a fence where pallets are used as a fence. Very clever how they were attached to create a sturdy fence.

There are 9 very large protective dogs that guard the property and us, 2 horses, several cows, goats, ducks, geese, and chickens. These dogs are great watchdogs and very large. The pigs that roam free like to lay in the dirt next to my camper. The adults lay against the sides of my camper and the little ones crawl under my camper. Sometimes when I am in the camper I feel it moving which means an adult pig is getting settled into the dirt against my camper van. We put some pallets around the camper so the pigs can’t lay against it. The bottom edges have red dirt along the sides from the pigs wedging up under the van as close as they can get.

I’m parked in the shade under a large live oak tree. I have electric hookup using an extension cord. There is a water connection near where I’m parked. There is a large pond on the property which the animals love, I think especially the pigs. They like to go in and cool off in the early evening after they are fed. The other animals also go there as well. Lorri told me that the pigs don’t have sweat glands so the mud and water keeps their body temperature cool. We have had LOTS of rain, almost every day, so there is lots of mud. There is not any grass here, it’s all pretty much sand and dirt.

I got to hold some baby pigglets from a day old to 6 weeks old. They don’t really like being held and they voice their opinion loudly. Eventually, a few of them quieted down and enjoyed being cuddled and they fell asleep in my arms.The newly born pigs are soft like a puppy and they have floppy ears. They are also the size of a newborn puppy and are born with their eyes open and with teeth. Several of the new babies have white feet like their daddy.

Even though the babies have short legs and are small they can keep up with the larger and older 6 month old piglets and even the adults. They run so fast I can’t catch them. The hair and skin on the older pigs is stiff and not soft at all, even at a couple of months they have bristles. I remember years ago buying boar bristle hair brushes. Now I know why the bristles on the brush were so stiff and hard.

One mama pig had 7 babies recently. I see them running after her frequently, all in a pack usually. One day I saw them sleeping and they were laying on each other in a pyramid, it was so cute. I didn’t have my camera with me so I couldn’t get a photo. Sometimes the mama is laying on her belly and the babies want to eat so they keep nudging her until she rolls over on her side.

Since I have been here several pigs have had litters, one was a new mom and she evidently either didn’t feel well or didn’t know how to take care of her 3 babies, so Lorri brought them into the house and she gave them to me to hold for a while, they were so soft and probably only a few hours old, a day at the most. They were about 4 inches high and about 8 to 10 inches long. Lorri made some milk type formula and she and I took the babies and put formula on our finger and put it in the babies mouth letting them figure out how to suck or lick the formula off of our finger. After numerous attempts and our persistence, they finally learned and then we put formula in bowls and the little ones figured out how to drink the formula. They are now in Lorri’s bathroom and we feed them every 3 hours like a puppy. They make a mess walking through the formula and after they are fed they curl up together and go to sleep.

One of the more experienced moms had babies the other day, we only saw two and don’t know if she had more and something happened to them, or if she only had two. I learned that the moms go into a trance during the birthing process and for a while after. One of the new moms took hay from a bale several hundred yards away and carried it by mouthfuls to a spot where she made her nest to have her babies. I couldn’t believe all the time and effort that must have taken her looking at the distance she had to take hay and how many trips she must have made. The photo in the middle shows the pig, her nest, and in the background the round bale of hay in the distance. The pictures below are two different mamas who had babies a day or two apart. One made her nest on a tarp, the other on a bed of hay, both had two babies one of each litter had white feet.

There are several large round bales of hay in the yard near the house and last night I saw a large mama pig laying down eating hay from the bale and one of her babies that is several months old standing and eating. It’s really something to watch the pigs when it’s feeding time. They come running like a stampede from all over the yard following the tractor with the bread. They also like to stay near the carport where the bread is stored hoping they get some extra during the day, and of course they do. I give them some when I am working on the bread, now they also follow me when I am walking around the property thinking I have more food for them.

At least once a week, sometimes more, we go to Tallahassee to a small beer brewery and get a large tub of mash leftover from the brewing process and it gets fed to the animals. We also go to a bread outlet in Tallahassee about once a week and get a large trailer of outdated bread. The bread is in trays and we have to physically throw each loaf of bread into Lorri’s trailer and we usually fill it. I think it’s about 4 feet wide by 5 feet high by 12 feet long. Then my job is to take the bread out of each bag and put it into five 50 gallon drums every day so it can get fed to the animals. It takes me about 2 hours to fill those containers. It’s not really hard, but it gets really hot and I get soaked, and I try to keep a portable fan blowing on me while I am working which cools the temperature down from 90 degrees. I also try to do it later in the afternoon or earlier in the morning so it’s not the heat of the day, and I am in a covered carport while working on the bread.

It’s really sad to see how much bread is wasted and not used by the expiration dates. I think of all of the people in our country and around the world that could use this bread. However, the bread company says they can’t give it out to people for their food. Some of the bread is getting moldy and I am sure they don’t want to take chances of people getting sick. To discourage the sale or use of this bread, they slash the plastic wrapper which is helpful to me when I am taking the bread out of the bags. If the bags are not cut, I cut them open with a knife. I found out after the first time or two that it works better if I wear my work gloves when doing the bread, and I also wear a headband/bandana to keep my hair and sweat out of my eyes.

Lorri and her parents are very nice to me, I eat meals with them and I brought my own pots and baking pans and I have cooked several meals and numerous desserts. Like me, they all have a sweet tooth!!! And I get to take a shower in the guest bathroom, and I use their washer and dryer for my clothes. This is an improvement for me. When I am in Albuquerque I wash my hair and my body using a hose at the faucet next to my camper and I wash my clothes in a bucket. I could have driven to a laundromat but it wasn’t always convenient. It was easier to wash them by hand every few days. Although, I didn’t get as dirty and sweaty there as I am working on the farm here.

One day recently, we took a day off and drove to Marianna, Florida, about an hour away and went to Blue Springs Recreation Area, where I took lots of pictures. It’s a county park with a spring fed lake that also has a cave and crystal clear cold water. It was a really nice park. I didn’t go in the water, I was told that it is very cold. I sat under a tree and read a book while Lorri and her friend went wading in the lake every now and then to cool off. I was going to go in a bit later in the afternoon, but that didn’t happen due to an unexpected thunderstorm.

Due to the heat, I make sure that I drink plenty of water, and some coconut water, to keep hydrated. I also take naps during the day as I need them. And I make sure to eat during the day including dinner. Most of the time my pain is not too bad, I still have some days that are more challenging than other days, so I take it easy when necessary.

 

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One Response to New Adventure for me, Volunteering on a farm in north Florida, Blue Springs Recreational Area, Marianna, Florida

  1. Stacey Cooper says:

    Love your stories! Can’t wait to see the pics !

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