I think I’m starting to believe in fate.
It’s been a crazy couple of months on Quadra, filled with adventures and mis-adventures, happenstance and straight-up, no-joke synchronicity. Every day it seems I’m stumbling blindly, yet gladly into another chance meeting, nutball conversation and potential life-changing experience. Take, for example the morning I got off the ferry and found that my rear bike tire was flat…
I had no pump, no spare tube and no damn cell service. I was an hour and thirty minute hike to the nearest repair shop and there’s no way to warn my work that I’ll be late.
Panic was just extending a hand to introduce itself when I spied my salvation parked right there in the ferry guest parking: A bright white Nissan Cube car! It was the only vehicle on Quadra that I could identify on sight (it’s a Lego block on wheels!) and belonged to a co-worker of mine from the HBI. I couldn’t remember her name, or what her position was… But whatever, I needed help!
I scuttled up beside the car, towing my crippled bike behind me and flashed my most ingratiating (read: weasliest) smile; “Heeeeeeey, um… It’s me Shawn from work…”
Her name is Robyn by the way. Since that fateful morning I’ve learned how freakin cool of a person she is, but back there, leering desperately in her window I kind of expected the cold shoulder… Or maybe pepper spray. But this is Quadra! Island of generosity! Robyn, without missing a beat (or knowing who the heck I was) tossed my bike on the back of the cube and told me to get in.
“I’ll drop you off at Island Cycle, but we have to stop off at my place first,” she announced as I buckled in and silently thanked whatever Gods had granted me such a break, “Oh, and there’s one other thing… *rummaging* Here! I need you to hold this!”
She handed me a large cardboard box, a foot square and deep; the kind used to ship bulk orders of eggs. The car sped out of the cove and I stared with childlike wonder at the wriggling yellow mass inside the box. Chickens! Baby chickens! There must have been forty of them stumbling and cheeping all over each other. It was hard not to Squeeeee at their uncontrolled adorability (shut up, it’s a word now!), but I toughed it out and kept my man cred relatively intact… Alright, I did coo a bit, but quietly.
We shot across the island and arrived at Robyn’s family farm, nicknamed the “Disco Thistle Farm” due to the profusion of wild thistles on this part of the island. The climate is hotter and dryer here and the soil is sandier. Imagine most of Quadra as Oregon and Disco Thistle’s little nook as Southern California and you’ll get the picture.
And what a picture it is! The farmhouse, made from reclaimed wood by Robin’s husband Shane stands sentry over vast rows of organic vegetables, forests of herbs, mobile chicken condos (also made by him!) and pens of livestock in various states of maturity. A self-sustaining homestead! All the food a family of four needs to survive is grown on premises. Hundred mile diet? Try ten feet from the back porch!
I helped Robyn acclimatise the newborn McNuggets to their pen by dipping their beaks into their little watering hole (so they know where to re-hydrate!) and then gently hustling them under a heated straw-filled chick-condo. One by one they wandered and blinked and fell over and generally made themselves at home in the cutest way possible. Man, they melted my heart… If only chicken wasn’t so tasty.
We bid farewell to the mob: Ginger, Lefty, Tanya, Sanders, Jeff, Jeff Jr. (he’s smaller) Mick, Keith, Mongo and the whole gang and went to collect some eggs from the older hens and feed some stale bread to the pigs.
The kids were eager to get at the grub and rushed us with such intensity that I kind of feared I’d fall over in the panic. It was a mosh pit of snouts, noise and hairy, pink sausage-bodies all bouncing around. The Kaiser buns didn’t stand a chance.
Next door the older hogs spend their days languidly rooting around and meditating on their eventual bacon-hood. I stared into the all-too-human eyes of one big-daddy pig and rubbed his wiry-haired snout. “Don’t stress buddy,” I said, and meant it, “You’re loved, and appreciated by good people.” He blinked and snorted his dis-interest. What amazing animals!
As I waited by the Cube car for Robyn I grazed the wild berry bushes (why do Quadra Island wild berries ripen before CR ones?) and imagined myself someday having an oasis of self-sufficiency like this one.
Jenna Woginrich’s book Barnheart was filled with anecdotes of carving out, tooth ‘n nail a small piece of farm life amidst an overdeveloped, urban-centric, apathetic food and financial system. Staring around at Robyn’s family farm I realized that it can be done. It’s actually possible to build your own home, grow your own food and take yourself out of the mass consumerism game! You just have to have the passion to go all the way… Like Robyn and her husband have. And you better be ready to work boy!
Anyway, to make an already rambly story short: Island Cycle was able to fix up my blown tire the next day and provided me with a rental bike to keep me from missing my ferry home, no charge.
Like I said, synchronicity! My head was spinning with all these new found acquaintances and lifestyle possibilities (Would Crystal move to Quadra? I dunno) as I tied my apron for a hard night of service. Remember that all this had happened in the early morning, I hadn’t technically begun my work day yet!
Amazing how a flat tire can change everything!