Almost Famous

Farmers are having a moment. A story about us was recently published in a local free monthly newspaper called the Herald Business Journal, and after being online for a couple of days the reporter emailed to tell me that the article had been picked up by the national wire, which means it could get published by other news outlets. We have also appeared in several other magazines and newspapers, and were interviewed on the local NPR radio station last winter. And we are not alone. Our “land-mates” who grow vegetables here at the farm have also been published in magazines including Modern Farmer (a very hip national magazine for farmy folk), and one of the farmers was even recently featured in Glamour Magazine!

What does this mean? Why is this happening? One of the more obvious reasons is the increasing public awareness of our damaged food system, and how it’s affecting the health of our nation and our land. Authors like Michael Pollan are making these topics mainstream. With the publication of the excellent (and highly recommended!) book The Omnivores Dilemma, Pollan created a celebrity farmer out of Joel Salatin. Reading Pollan and Salatin books helped Andrew and I develop our rotational model for farming and allowed us to fine tune our ethical philosophy. We are certainly not unique. The nation is currently booming with young(ish), small-scale farmers. Many of us have no farming background, and did not decide to start farming until after graduating college. There’s even a name for this movement: we’re called The Greenhorns.

A local Seattle-based photographer recently started a series called the Female Farmer Project, and her work has blown up. She is now traveling the world taking photos of female farmers, and people are incredibly interested in this side of farming. The photos are wonderful, which obviously increases the appeal, but I think there’s something deeper going on. I don’t think this is just an interest in female farmers, although we are certainly getting some extra attention these days.

I think there is a strong longing somewhere deep in our genetic code to be outdoors. To experience the seasons, to feel the sun on our faces, to stick our hands into the soil and create life. Our ever-increasing dependency on technology has our society moving farther and farther away from these simple pleasures. Many people are able to compensate for this by going on weekend camping trips, creating a flower garden at home, or even jogging in a city park. But as I watch thousands of people descend on our neighbor’s pumpkin patch each October it becomes more obvious that there is a real desire to feel some kind of connection to farming, even if it is now merely a form of entertainment.

To look at photos of farmers, female or otherwise, invokes a sense of nostalgia, of longing, and sometimes even a little envy. I have had many, many people tell me that they wish they had my life. That they have dreams of owning a small farm one day, if only they didn’t have so many bills to pay! There is a side of farming that somehow now seems glamorous (I mean c’mon…Glamour Magazine!!!), poetic, and romantic. Of course no one is publishing photos of me crying hysterically while holding a disemboweled lamb that was attacked by a coyote. No one sees the days Andrew and I have a screaming match about something as silly as who should do the dishes because we’re both exhausted and stressed out. We rarely talk about the financial burdens of farming, although everyone I know seems to be aware of how little farmers make. And yet there’s still the appeal. Why?

Most farmers are passionate about what we do. We do it in spite of the challenges, we do it for the love of the work, the animals we tend, the crops we grow from seed to harvest. We do it because we want to feed our neighbors and friends, we want to provide healthy options, we want to undo some of the damage our industrialized food system has caused. So many of our peers are unfulfilled in their work lives, and so they see the contrast vividly. Unfortunately there are other sacrifices farmers make besides good incomes. Weekends during the growing seasons don’t often mean anything to a farmer except another day of work, or possibly a farmers market to attend. Days off the farm are rare, and for us that means spending hours getting everything on the farm ready for us to leave, and then arranging one or two different people to come take care of chores while we are gone.

Just like many other small business owners, I use my cell phone for work. I am constantly checking my emails, even when we are not on the farm. I’ll answer emails at 10pm at night if I think they need answering. This is what we call the hustle. We are not guaranteed success in farming, just because it’s currently a cool profession. We have to work and work and work our asses off to make this viable, and we’re still figuring out what viable even looks like!

One of the things that frustrates me the most is customers who walk by at the farmers market and say “oh! I am SO glad to see you. You’re doing such amazing things! Please keep up the good work!” and then walk away. Obviously accolades like this feel good, and there is certainly satisfaction in knowing that your work is appreciated. I’m sure this is obvious, but the best way to show appreciation to a farmer is to buy something she has grown. I realize not everyone is in the market for frozen meat when they happen to come across my booth, and that’s ok. Maybe you can sign up for my mailing list! Or stop in and ask me a question or two. Engage. Show me you care. And it’s even better if you can put your money where your mouth is. Lip service doesn’t go very far if we can’t afford to keep farming. Gorgeous magazine spreads are exciting but they don’t pay the feed bills.

Being a farmer is definitely a cool profession and I’m very honored (and still a little bewildered!) that I get to call myself one. If there isn’t a reality television show out there about young farmers living in a tiny house trying to learn the ropes, I’m sure there will be soon. Farming as entertainment is great; but supporting your local farmers is even better. Every single one of you reading this blog has a (relatively) local farm you can support. Join a CSA. Shop at the farmers market. Don’t haggle on prices. Sign up for a newsletter. Send an email thanking us for our hard work. Smile at us. Be kind. Be generous. And remember all the hard times we have been through when you see us beaming at you from the glossy pages on the newsstand.

Our Press (so far!)

Monroe Monitor 2013
KUOW interview 2015
Mill Creek Living 2016
The Guardian 2016
The Herald Business Journal 2016

 

 

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Harvest on my Mind

I’m currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver (I know, I know…I’m way late to the party), and a passage popped out that I’d like to share:

“There was probably a time when I thought it euphemistic to speak of “harvesting” animals. Now I don’t. We calculate “months to harvest” when planning for the right time to start poultry. We invite friends to “harvest parties,” whether we’ll be gleaning vegetable or animal. A harvest implies planning, respect, and effort. With animals, both the planning and physical effort are often greater, and respect for the enterprise is substantially more complex.”

In all of our marketing I use the term “harvest” as opposed to “slaughter” as much as possible. On the one hand, part of my reasoning is to avoid the kneejerk emotional response words like slaughter so often carry. Of course, the reason slaughter causes an emotional reaction is because many of us are so far removed from where our food comes from that we are no longer accustomed to the reality that animals must die for us to eat meat. On the other hand, as Kingsolver says, we really do plan for, nurture, feed, grow, and tend to our animals for an entire season with the end game being the inevitable harvest of their meat.

This season has been a significant one in terms of learning lessons in animal husbandry, and often we have learned the hard way. Animal farming is an endeavor with steep emotional highs and lows. Our sows delivered amazing, adorable, healthy little piglets– a first for us. While we lost a couple that were not thriving (very common in piglet litters), we have been amazed at our success this first go-around. On the other hand, the weaner pigs that we purchased in from a breeder have had a harder time. We have already learned so much about how to raise our own piglets from birth that we can see all of the errors that took place before we ever got these other pigs to our farm. They were undersized and sickly, and after loosing four of them we have discovered with the help of our vet that they are suffering from worms and pneumonia.

Granted, both worms and pneumonia are common ailments in pigs, and we don’t put all the blame on the breeder. The weather patterns this season have been extreme, and when hot weather suddenly yields to cold, wet nights little pigs have a hard time adjusting. We raise our pigs outdoors on dirt, and worm eggs are practically inevitable. The difference we see is that the pigs we brought in had weak immunity, whether from being undernourished, or weaned too young, we’re not sure. One of them was also incorrectly castrated, a mistake we had to correct ourselves. It’s amazing what you can learn how to do with a good book and some YouTube videos!

Speaking of YouTube videos, check out our Turkey Tunnel in action! For those of you who aren’t in the loop, we raised enough money within 48 hours of launching our Barnraiser campaign to build our Turkey Tunnel! We are so grateful and overwhelmed by everyone’s support!

 

Circling back to the harvest theme, the weaner pigs (so named because they are purchased once they are weaned), are slated for harvest this fall. Their illness has set some of them back, and we are keeping a close eye on them to make sure they are gaining weight and acting healthy. Our vet came out and gave them some medications to help combat the pneumonia and worms, along with some vitamins. One of the medications was an antibiotic, a word that sends many a customer into a tailspin. A huge part of what we do as meat farmers is education, and the Farmer’s Market booth is our podium, soapbox, and pulpit. Today that will extend to my blog!

It’s true that antibiotic resistance is a huge problem, and agriculture plays a big role in this. Antibiotics are grossly overused in many feedlot and confined animal farm operations (CAFOs), for a couple of reasons. In some species small doses of antibiotics have been shown to increase feed efficiency, meaning animals will grow faster while consuming the same amount of feed. Same feed (input) + more meat (output) = more profit (duh). Regular doses of antibiotics also prevent illness which are very common in animals that are kept in close confinement without access to nature’s greatest sterilizer: the sun. Overuse of antibiotics can certainly pose a risk and we never give antibiotics on a regular basis for convenience or profit.

That said, our tagline is “Ethically Raised Meat.” In my experience that means doing what is right to keep our animals healthy. Of course as farmers this is always a tough call. We also have to balance reasonable expectations and costs with our ideals. If an animal is greatly injured with little chance of recovery, we sometimes decide that a quick death is most humane and practical. This happened recently with one of our turkeys that somehow managed to get his leg stuck between roosting bars in the turkey tunnel. By the time we found him he had been hanging upside from one leg for a while, and the other turkeys had treated him rather like a living piñata. The damage was great and so was his pain, so we made the decision to end his life. So too with three of the four pigs we lost.

However, when a group of animals is diagnosed with pneumonia but are not yet knocking on death’s door, we call in the vet and listen to her wise counsel. Giving our pigs a shot of antibiotics to keep them alive is an easy call for us. Not only for our ethics, but for our business. I find it hard to write about these things because most people want to see the good, fun, lovely bits of farm life, but there is real hardship in this work. As far as economics go, we are basically living hand to mouth (well, except for the fact that we raise amazing meat and have a great network of food-growing friends!)- so losing four pigs means more than the sadness of losing those lives. It means losing almost 800lbs of pork at the end of the season, and the money that we would earn from that meat.

No farm raising animals on any real scale can avoid loss – it’s an inevitable part of growing livestock. Our goal is to minimize this loss while maintaining our standards. CAFO managers may actually be able to claim greater success in terms of survival rates because their operations are so carefully maintained. Their buildings are climate controlled, they have an arsenal of antibiotics and other medications handy, and the feed is carefully tested in a lab to ensure optimal nutrition. I happen to think that despite all of this, our animals are better off. They sometimes get sick thanks to wacky weather, and sometimes there are freak accidents. But they are outside, engaging in natural behaviors, acting socially with one another, and enjoying a varied daily life. They are – in my best estimate- happy.

So here’s to the upcoming fall harvests, when pigs, turkeys and lambs will be sacrificed to feed our families. Here’s to the ongoing summer chicken harvests, which are long tiring days that end with freezers full of meat. Here’s to the goat harvests, where we always learn something new about other cultures (did you know that Nepalese people like to deep fry goat intestinal casings and eat it while drinking whiskey!?), and here’s to our momma sows – Tuesday and Emily, whose natural mothering abilities and wonderful piglets remind us of that never ending cycle we are fortunate enough to witness every season at the farm.

 

Chicken Shit

*** Sensitive reader advisory! As you can probably sense from the title, I use the word “shit” a lot in this post! I know there are other words I could have used instead, but when you’re talking about mucking out chicken shit there really is no better word to accurately describe the horribleness that it entails. Consider yourselves warned. ***

 

Last week Andrew and I mucked out our hen house. You may remember the beautiful mobile house that Andrew built early last season. It’s a lovely red barn-like structure built on a trailer, with next boxes, roosting bars, and small chicken-sized doors that can be locked when necessary. The bottom of the hen house is comprised of metal grates with holes small enough to keep critters out, but large enough to let their poo pass through. Or so that was the idea. Chicken shit is actually pretty sticky. It globs together, forming a thick cement-like paste as it dries. It had been several months since we last cleaned out the hen house, and when we recently moved it to a new spot we noticed there wasn’t the normal accumulation of shit (also great fertilizer!) underneath it. That’s when I opened the door and took a look, and a whiff.

A layer of hardened chicken shit cement about four inches thick had accumulated below the roosts. The chickens walk around on this shit floor, and then go into their nest boxes to lay eggs. That creates dirty eggs, which creates lots of extra work for me, as it is my job alone to clean eggs (by hand, using sandpaper!). We decided it was time to do some mucking.

Another feature of our hen house is that it has one human-sized door. This is great until you realize that you can’t reach the far end of the hen house without climbing through and under (shit covered) chicken roosts. Our longest handled shovels couldn’t reach. We did our best, me awkwardly straddling and scooping and passing full snow shovel loads back to Andrew to dump outside. We also angled shovels through the little chicken doors, doing out best to scrape and scoop what we could at awkward angles. Eventually we couldn’t do any more with our shovels, and we brought out the hose with a spray nozzle to finish the job. The water pressure at the farm isn’t terribly high, so it was a long, wet, shit-flying-everywhere process.

Andrew and I took turns, as you can only handle so much. Chicken shit is relatively odorless once dried, but get that shit wet and boy howdy! The ammonia almost knocks you on your butt. As I was bent outside the hen house, gasping for fresh air I caught an amazing glimpse of the mountains that peek out when the weather is clear. This got me thinking about life. I think a lot of life feels like shoveling and or spraying shit off the walls, but sometimes (or often, if you’re lucky) you get a beautiful mountain vista that brings your Chi back to center. Then when you go back into the shitty hen house you can bring that image of the mountains with you, and focus on the beauty that abounds despite the drudgery of the task at hand.

Things at the farm are slowly starting to pick up speed. We’re still planning for our season ahead, and have orders placed for our chickens and turkeys. We’ve had one surprise lamb already, and more lambs and goat kids are due any day. Just last night we artificially inseminated our sow Tuesday, and are excited about hopefully welcoming little piglets in a few months. We also have six purchased feeder pigs on the farm in preparation for our upcoming summer Meat CSA program.

After the four floods we survived in November, Andrew and I made a promise to each other that we wouldn’t have animals here at the current farm next winter. In theory that means we somehow find and buy our own farmland in the area, either small acreage nearby so we can go back and forth seasonally, or large space where we can move our entire operation. In practice I have no idea what this will actually look like. We certainly don’t have the capital that many land-purchasers have, and we probably don’t have much opportunity for traditional loans. Our low paying livelihood, in combination with our outstanding student loan debts doesn’t make us look like the most promising candidates. We have begun exploring unique opportunities to land access, and our fingers are crossed that something will come our way. Please keep your eyes open for opportunities in the greater Puget Sound region, and if all of my readers send out positive land-acquiring vibes out to the universe, perhaps she will respond.

While we wait for the next exciting chapter we are busy as ever preparing for the upcoming season. Our popularity is growing in leaps and bounds, despite having no products for sale at the moment. New people are joining our mailing list every day, and I’m fielding lots of new queries about our meat and the CSA. We are hoping to add a Seattle farmer’s market this year, and also increase our restaurant chicken sales. Big things are coming! We just have to muck around in some shit before we get there.

 

 

 

A Season of Growth

Two years ago Andrew and I were wed in a campground in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. We did not know what our future looked like, but it involved togetherness: on that front we were certain. A few months after we married I lost my job and we decided to travel across the US, exploring the great outdoors as we went. That trip was what started this blog, so I could share our experiences with friends and family (and for posterity, since I have a horrible memory). After our trip ended we decided to find fulfilling work outdoors, away from office cubicles and fluorescent lights. We landed on a farm in Snohomish, Washington, and after a (mostly!) successful season of farming I am happy to announce we have started our own business!

Obviously this has been quite a remarkable two years. What started out as an exciting adventure has become more than a job, it is a way of life. I have developed into someone I might not have recognized just a few years back. Or rather I have nurtured those parts of myself that were submerged, struggling under the overwhelming influence of commercialism. I shopped too much, I bought expensive makeup, I flittered my money away on things in an attempt to fulfill myself. I know it’s a cheesy troupe, but indeed it seems true that you can’t buy happiness. If I extrapolate my experience onto our society at large, I sense a great emptiness that we are trying to fill with junk. I suspect the lack of interpersonal connections that comes from cubicle culture and digital communication share some of the blame.

In this day, electronic gadgets are more highly valued than healthy foods, which of course I notice much more now that I am growing said food. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1950 a whopping 29.7% of total expenditures was on food. In 2012 this number landed at 12.8%. Of course there are many complicated factors which go into a statistic like this, but I have no doubt that the availability of cheaply made, mass-manufactured “food” products and the prevalence of cheap, unethically raised meats, eggs, and dairy are a huge part of the equation. People now balk at spending considerable money on food, although to my mind what could be more important than that which nourishes you and keeps you healthy? If we spent more money on nutritious vegetables, I bet we’d spend less on those ubiquitous pills!

In any case, where I once felt a need to acquire, I now put off going to the store and spending time and money when I could be/should be out weeding my beets. And maybe that’s really the crux of it after all: maybe when you’re farming (or otherwise working with your hands), you’re so busy and you get so tired from working hard that you just don’t have the time or energy for consumerism. It also doesn’t hurt that I have very little occasion to wear nice things. Either way, it’s a good thing because at this point I wouldn’t have the funds to support my old habits anyway! At the end of the day I feel more fulfilled than ever before, and I think a big part of it comes from living more in the moment, being outside in nature every day, and (honestly!) not having a television.

Okay I realize most people check in here to read about life on the farm, not about my personal hippie revelations, so let’s get back to it! This spring we had NINE new baby goats come into this world. We had two sets of twins and a set of triplets all born within a few days of one another in early March. And then a month later…my little darling Gretchen kidded a set of twins too! Her twins are special: not only are they like my grandkids (heh!) they’re genetically unique. They are 75% Kiko and 25% Boer, and because of this they look different too. The little girl is all white with one brown spot near her ear, and her bigger brother is all brown with a little white patch on his forehead. They are extremely adorable and love to be scratched, just like their momma. Gretchen is a great mom too, which is a relief since this was her first time kidding.

With spring came the rains, or rather, the rains stayed, and we had the wettest March on record with 6.65” of precipitation. This was about double the average, and boy did we feel it. The farm developed a few new “lakes” in some of the pastures, and our road was impassable for a couple of days. We were anxious to work the ground, but when nature has other plans, on the farm you must be patient. Now we’re well into April and the weather is doing the fun Washington spring thing, where one day it’s so sunny and warm you’re in a tank top and the next day there is a hailstorm. Thankfully we have had plenty of time to get things growing, and we’ve got quite a variety of plants in the ground and in the greenhouse.

Which brings me to our new business! This year we have decided (with the help of Eric, the owner of Chinook Farms) to develop our own company: Bright Ide Acres! We are doing basically the same things as last season, but in a larger capacity and with more independence. Our CSA membership will be capped at around 40 boxes, and we will be attending a Sunday farmer’s market in Snohomish. We also expanded our animal operation significantly. Our animal counts for the season (not including goats) will be: 20 pigs, 600 broilers, and 100 turkeys! We still have a relatively small egg laying flock, which is unfortunate because demand is outpacing supply. In other words, things are going great for us and we’re actually expecting to make minimum wage this season. Hooray! You can visit our farm website here: www.brightideacres.com. I have a mini farm blog there too, but if you want a good fix of farm photos you should like our page on facebook: www.facebook.com/brightideacres. I’m obsessive about taking and posting farm photos, especially this time of year when all the animals are young and adorable.

That’s been our spring, in a nutshell. We are chugging away, getting things ready for the crazy, busy year ahead. Farming can be fairly stressful at times, and I often have anxiety about the upcoming season. But in those moments I take a deep breath, sniff a calming blend of essential oils I keep handy, and stick my nose back in those beets. When things get overwhelming, there is no better way to come back to the moment at hand than by sticking your fingers (and toes!) in the dirt for a while.

The Best Vacation Ever Part 3: Eastern Australia (Part 1!)

After catching a red-eye flight to Brisbane, Andrew and I picked up a rental car, something we were quite nervous about. Of course we’d been in Australia for two weeks already, and had sort of gotten used to the idea of being in a car on the left side of the road, but actually driving said car was another story. First of all, all of the buttons and gadgets are reversed, so every time we tried to signal we wound up just turning on our wipers. Which is a problem, because in Australia signaling for every little turn or lane change is extremely important. We were on the receiving end of a few angry honks over the course of our trip, although we did do our best to rapidly shut off the wipers (after muttering curses) and flip the right lever in time. The other real challenge to driving on the left is that the driver instinctually veers away from traffic and winds up driving on the shoulder. This is where being a passenger is extremely difficult. I kept yelling at Andrew to “get off the shoulder!” but when I got behind the wheel, I wasn’t any better.  Our goals for driving from the airport to my cousin Cathy’s apartment were simple: 1) don’t get lost, 2) don’t cross a toll road, and 3) don’t drive on the wrong side of the road. As you might expect, we accomplished all three of these mistakes on the short drive over, but sometimes learning things the hard way is the best way. And thankfully no one was injured (except our poor wallet which kept having to shell out for those pesky toll roads!)

Cousin Cathy is awesome. I’ve gotten to “know her” a bit through the magic of facebook, so I knew we’d be friends, but actually being with her in person was like being with a family member I’ve known all my life! She and her boyfriend Lee were very hospitable, and let us loaf on their couch while we were in Brisbane. We arrived in the morning before they left for work, and after a nap we hit the walking trail that follows the Brisbane River. We wound up spending over three hours walking the city, checking out the local scene and cursing at the rental bicycles that require some kind of membership card, stymieing casual tourists like ourselves.  That night we met most of my Australian relatives (being part of the Jewish diaspora has its perks!), as we celebrated cousin Larry’s 23rd birthday at a Nepalese restaurant. Afterwards we hit a few bars that were sort of “American themed” in that they had taxidermy animals only found in the wilds of North America, and country/rockabilly style music was the flavor du jour. It felt a little bit like when we went to an Australian themed bar in Hong Kong: the names of things were right but the vibe was very foreign!

The next day Cathy and Lee took us to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where we met up with her sister Jen and her hilarious toddler Eric. We roamed around the exhibits, marveling at all of the marsupials. I had a hard time getting it through my skull that there are very few mammals in Australia, so I kept asking “that’s a marsupial too?!?” We fed and petted some kangaroos and wallabies, and we got to watch a couple platypuses swim about. This was especially interesting because they’re only about a foot in length, and totally adorable. For some reason I assumed they were man-sized! Of course the highlight of this trip was getting to hold a fuzzy, sleepy koala while I got my photo taken. According to the collection of photos in the gift shop, I joined the likes of such celebrities as Marilyn Manson, Cher, and Daft Punk, so I know it was a real fair dinkum experience. (That’s also something almost no one really says much, but I think it’s great anyway!)

That night Cathy made us a delicious lamb roast, which is one of the most amazing things about Australia. There, lamb is very commonly consumed (and I love lamb!), and most meats are reasonably priced and raised on pasture. The beef industry is starting to mirror ours however, and the grain-finished feedlot model is sadly catching on. As a side note, as a farmer who raises hens, I know from experience and research that eggs do not need refrigeration in order to stay safe for consumption. The FDA has strict rules in place to reduce any chance of contamination or bacterial growth because of the kinds of conditions most egg laying flocks are maintained in this country. In Australia, unrefrigerated eggs are the norm. Grocery stores just stock them on the shelves, which I found to be very refreshing since most Americans are deathly afraid of leaving eggs out on the counter.

The next morning Andrew and I set off down south to a coastal town called Byron Bay to meet an old friend of mine for lunch. Unfortunately we didn’t know that driving into New South Wales meant a time change (time zones generally don’t shift when you drive south!), so we totally stood my friend and her husband up by mistake. Happily Byron Bay was a quant little town that reminded me very much of Ocean Beach in San Diego, with oodles of young hippie types milling around and lending a very laid-back vibe to the area. We wandered down to the beach and set up our towels to soak up some sun, when all of a sudden a commotion appeared. A semi-circle of people started walking up the beach towards us, and it took me a minute to realize they were following a snake. Now, where I come from the only snakes to worry about have rattles, and I’ve worked in animal sanctuaries and the like for years, so snakes do not bother me one bit. I just watched this horde walk towards me as the snake slithered by, obviously just trying to get under a rock somewhere. He got within two feet of me, and all of a sudden this lady starts yelling at me: “Get AWAY! Get AWAY!!! That’s a BROWN snake! Are you CRAZY!?” The normal thing to do would be to jump up and run after hearing that, but my mind said “what the heck is a brown snake?” and I stayed right where I was. I know enough about snake behavior to know he wasn’t threatened by me, nor was he showing aggression, so I didn’t sweat it. Later on I did some research and learned the “brown snake” is the world’s second most venomous ground snake. I learned an important lesson in that moment: you can’t really be afraid of all of the deadly, poisonous wildlife of Australia if you don’t know what to look for! Next time, I guess I’ll give the snake a wide berth!

Later that day we drove up into the mountains to spend the night at Border Ranges National Park. We found our campsite in the dark, and crawled into our tent to listen to exotic and, at the time, slightly terrifying creatures of the night. Very similar to our night outside of Yellowstone (remember? When the wolves or bears walked by while we were roasting marshmallows?), I laid awake waiting for the tent to get ripped open by claws from the Drop Bear or some deadly creature while Andrew snored merrily away next to me. The next morning we hiked up a small trail that opened with beautiful panoramic views of the mountain ranges, which cemented it as one of my favorite places we visited in Eastern Australia. Especially after later experience and consultation from Cathy revealed the loud noises were likely caused by adorable possums (not to be confused with American opossums…they’re very different, people! Look it up!).

Our Eastern Australian adventures are diverse and plentiful, so I will post a couple more blogs rather than overwhelm you with one giant one. But stay tuned to read about hiking on a dingo-infested island, giant fruit bats, camping in near cyclonic-weather, a rain-forest fail, sea turtle hatchlings, and more! (Sorry for sounding like a commercial! I don’t get paid for this, I swear!)