Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Day 10, Veenhuizen

We spent our morning in Amsterdam getting breakfast, checking out of the hotel and catching a bus to the train station. After three hours of traveling (a train ride, two bus rides and walking) we arrived in Veenhuizen; small town northeast of Amsterdam, where we will be working on a farm for two weeks.
We met Lambert (the farm owner) and the other helpers. There are two men from spain and two ladies from Taiwan. We asked what we could start helping with but Lambert informed us volunteers don't work on arrival day. So we wandered the farm (larger than I expected) and set up our room in the farmhouse (a little more... let's say 'worn in'... than I expected).
At 6:00 we headed to Lambert's house down the road and ate a dinner that Lambert's wife cooked. She cooks dinner every night for the volunteers, using vegetables from the farm. Wednesday night we got to eat roasted potatoes. I have a feeling we'll be eating garlic very soon (foreshadow).
After dinner we walked to a nearby bench and enjoyed free wi-fi, which we stole from the prison museum (an old prison) across the street. I hope we don't go to jail for stealing... har har. Jerrad tried convincing me that it's an active prison, which I'm still not 100% if it is or not. I almost googled it, but distracted by other magical internet attractions like Facebook, Instagram and this blog. After internetting we walked back to the farm house.
We knew we had a long day ahead of us, so we got ready for bed. We laid in bed, looked up and saw all 32 corners of the room covered with spider webs & daddy long-leg type creatures. Brave Mister Jerrad decided to take charge and assist all of the spiders outside the window. We finally went to sleep on our queen bed (an air mattress and twin spring mattress smashed together on a hardwood/dirt floor.)

Day 11, First Day Farming

Jerrad woke up on the floor (the air mattress lost its air) so we decided to squish together on the spring mattress the next night, since we're not getting enough of each other. After a quick breakfast in the farmhouse kitchen we headed to the farm to start our work day at 8am. We had a break from 10-10:30, lunch from 12-1, another break from 3-3:30 and our day ended at 4:45. All time in between breaks was spent harvesting garlic.
To harvest garlic, a tractor is used to uproot the garlic, then a human does the rest of the work: pulling the garlic from the ground, using a fancy de-dirt machine (lightly tapping the garlic on a foam gardening pad) to rid excess dirt, trimming the stem and setting the garlic in a crate for it to dry. Repeat 18,614 times.
Here are some fun facts about harvesting garlic:
-It's as much fun as it sounds.
-It's so much fun, creatures of all types enjoy it. Centipedes, spiders, flies, flies that bite, & beetles enjoy it so much they hang on and/or around the garlic all day.
-You no longer need to wear perfume, because you'll smell like garlic for days.*
-If you're looking to get tan, look no further! The sun beats down on you from 5am until 10pm in Holland.
-If you're looking to stay pasty pale, you don't need sunscreen. You'll be covered with enough dirt the sun won't be able to penetrate through to your skin.
-You basically get to do yoga all day. Unfortunately, you have to do the same pose the whole time. And instead of a yoga pose, you do a sort of semi-sitting, hunched over crouch for 12 hours that guarantees you all sorts of aches and joint pain the following day.
-You become one with the earth. And the earth won't come off of you no matter how hard you scrub in the shower.

*This only works if you and your significant other enjoy the smell of garlic.

While it definitely was long & hard work I'm glad we did it. It's my first time doing manual labor (don't judge me) and I'm happy to have the experience. I seriously have a greater appreciation for all the fruits and veggies I eat. I never realized how much work it takes to get one piece of produce to my plate. Plus, we get to meet people from all over the world and chit-chat with them all day. And we get fed.
After work and dinner, we all went to the closest bar which was a 30 minute walk. Lambert's friend William came along as well. We drank local beers and played darts. Not just any darts. We played the World Cup of darts. Taiwan vs Spain, then Holland vs America. Holland beat everyone. Jerrad said we were in the group of death, or that we were playing the number one seed (sports jibber jabber). However, we did win the bronze metal. After our walk home we went straight to bed.

Day 12, Finishing the Garlic Harvest

We got to start work later on Friday at 10am, since we worked late the previous day (and all drank beers/played darts pretty late). The day started out great because we had a lot more helpers than previously. The helpers were from Holland, and they come by a few times a week. One of the was named Plurma, I think. We had 5 rows of garlic left to harvest, and the first 2 went by super duper fast. I was in great spirits. Before we knew it, it was lunch time. After lunch we lost a few helpers so the work took a bit longer, but we finally finished harvesting the garlic! I was so tired of constantly smelling it.
One thing I've noticed being here is that I have a more positive outlook on things. Jerrad might not agree with this, since my first reaction to everything is OMG, NO, WORST THING EVER. But I can't help that; I'm naturally a negative Nancy. The more positive attitude comes in a little after my first response. It has to. Otherwise the next two weeks would be miserable. Here are some examples of my change in attitude:
-Beetle bathroom: I was first very upset when I saw the shower because there were beetles around the drain. I'm not a fan of bugs. I soon told myself it could be worse because, "Oh sweet Jesus, thank god it's not cockroaches.
-Crawl space bedroom: At first glance our bedroom looks like a perfect place to keep a human and torture them; very small windows (that could be easily covered), multiple tiny closets (perfect for locking up children in), dirty wood floor with different types of stains (great for disguising other stains that may come about) and it's the absolute corner of the house (where no one can hear you). So at first, I was a little nervous about the room. But once we put our twin mattress with clean sheets in it, it wasn't too bad. Plus, we are so tired at the end of every day that I don't have enough brain cells left to worry about any of it!
-Monotonous tasks: When doing to same task over and over (cutting the stems off of garlic) one might get bored. I'll be honest, I got a little bored. However, the more repetitive the task, the more exciting any variation is. I found myself being really happy to trade jobs with Jerrad. Instead of being a stem trimmer, I was a dirt-getter-offer-of-garlic-er. I never thought I'd be so into smashing garlic into a foam pad.
-Rotten garlic/egg hunt: The first day we farmed, we were told to toss the rotten garlics aside. This meant we would throw the dead ones behind us, next to us, in a pile of stems, etc. So when we finally finished harvesting the garlic and Plurma and I were told to check the entire field for rotten garlic and collect it, I was a bit frustrated. Instead of getting mad at the fact that we could've kept them in one area from the beginning (rather than having to dig for them all over later), I quickly channelled my competitive side. I told myself we were playing a Dutch version of an egg hung; Find the Rotten Garlic! I kept looking over to see how many Plurma had. At first it looked like she was winning, but that's just because her bucket was smaller and she was going for the larger (read: easier) rotten garlics. I was spotting the small tiny bundles. I found myself getting giddy when there were two right next to each other. For the record, I totally won the egg hunt.
As you can see, I've totally had an attitude adjustment. I'd write more, but I have come up with some positives to not having any internet in the farmhouse. 

horsing around

our bedroom

backyard chickens EVERYWHERE



Una & Cynthia

Freshly washed hands

Hey look, I'm happy

National Geographic

Dirt for days

darts & beer


left to right: WIlliam, Manuel, Roger, Lambert


  1. So jealous of every part of it, even the bug part didn't make me not want to be there with you guys. Oh and your room looks so much bigger/better than you described! I'm pretty sure I stayed in shadier hostels in CR. I think manual labor teaches you to be more appreciative. I helped build a house for a week in Mexico two years ago and I was so happy to not be shoveling rock and dirt after my 6 hour stint. Your pictures are so awesome and your new friends look so picturesque. I love the 'National Geographic' photo too! We miss you guys! You're getting such an awesome experience!

  2. Awww I miss you! Our room size isn't the issue... it's the "wtf is this splattered on the floor/mattress?" that's the issue. But I'm getting used to it! Plus, some volunteers just left so we took over their larger room. Upgrade! P.S. Today a bug flew into my face and Jerrad goes, "Who are you, Kelsey?"

    1. Ahaha, that made me LOL for realz. Maybe I sent some of my luck with you, I haven't been hit in the face by anything (bug or mammal) in a few weeks. I'm happy to hear that you've gotten an upgrade; still using that 'we just got married' line aren't you? Don't pee on the floor this time though, I'm pretty sure you'd get bad interwebs reviews for that.