My Volunteering Journal: Episode 1 – Volunteering at an Organic Farm or How I was Up to My Knees in Horse Sh*#$%

83420744I know what I was expecting. I envisioned myself majestic like Meryl Streep in “Out Of Africa.” Wandering through vast green fields, smelling the harvest, and looking fabulous while assisting in the cultivation of produce.

The reality: I find myself holding a hoe, up to my knees in year old horse manure, under the watchful eye of a man who I’m sure Rob Zombie is disappointed he missed for “The Devil’s Rejects” casting sessions. I’m sure if I don’t complete the job of spreading the manure evenly to create a lettuce bed I will end up underneath it.

How did I end up in this predicament? I decided to do a unique project for my first volunteering journal. I decided to go to an organic co-op and help harvest fruits and veggies and then come home and make pies. Perfect. Nutritious. Back to my Kentucky farmer roots. “Will feel like home.” – I think.

So I drove all the way up to North Malibu a place only 30 miles from my LA home, but in traffic far enough away that I should have just brought a tent. I find the dirt driveway located between sprawling mansion and park in the only spot available between two Mercedes. Clearly not Kentucky.

“The farm” stretches in front of me. Not majestic - rather a series of rough patches sown into dessert like hills. “Edward,” a bear sized biker man who keeps the land, snaps me out of my disappointment. “What are you doing here?”

“Volunteering. I left you a message on your phone.”

"No. You didn't."

“Well I did. Is volunteering a problem?”

“Not usually, but today it is. Do you have any kind of recording device?"

“No.” – but I wish I did.

"I guess I can use you since you’re here.”

Bad choice of words. I pull my baseball cap lower over my eyes in an attempt to hide as he leads me deep into the scrub brush.

“Watch out for rattle snakes,” he grumbles.

Great. So without much ceremony or explanation I am walked to the top of a large pile of manure and put to work. It’s hard work but oddly satisfying. At least I’m getting a work out. After I’m done Edward gives me a spine-shattering slap on the shoulder and grunts “Good job. Next project.”

Oh good. Now the sweet smelling strawberry patch. Now picking apples from the trees like I did as a little girl. No. Actually I now have to build a shed.

I sit on a stump after constructing the roof staring out at my hard work. Not a green field in sight. Is this farm even growing enough fruit and vegetables to get by? "Edward" strides up and hands me vinegar lemonade and a small paper sack of vegetables.

“Good job. Thanks. We needed those things done but never enough time.”

I sip my sour lemonade. It’s funny how sometimes a “thanks” from an unlikely source is all you need to have a good day.

Join me next month in my attempt to clean up the world’s beaches in one day. Ok not just me – it’s Heal the Bay’s annual Coastal Clean Up on Sept. 20th. Should be good fun.