After the Badlands we went to Sioux Falls. The ten police prowlers in a motel parking lot (all there to arrest one compliant, middle-aged woman) we passed as we entered town helped us feel warm, fuzzy and safe. We made our way downtown to Monk’s House of Ale Repute. It was a wonderful establishment, but they were almost prohibitively expensive for our budget. Contrasted with the tavern itself, the area outside of it was an industrial district that smelled like a feed lot and sounded like a place where shipping containers were manufactured. The weather was hot and sticky as well. I began wondering if coming to this town had been a mistake.
We were ahead of schedule for our next WWOOFing stop and either had to get back in Charley and drive more to find some place outside of town to stay, or we could bite the bullet and just get a hotel for the night (there were no good AirBnB options). We were tired and decided to settle on a cheap hotel. Being rather unenthusiastic about our locale, we decided to head out for dinner to see if we could find something redeeming. And just as Monks was unexpectedly delicious and refined, there was an Indian restaurant called Shahi Palace that was phenomenal. In fact I had to rate it as second best in the world; Taj Mahal in Boise being the first (in my personal experience, of course – ask me for details). So at least there were two things in Sioux Falls that were wonderful! I’m sure there are other great things there, but in our short experience the rest of it was terribly cookie-cutter: Wal-Marts next to McDonald’s next to a mall, etc. The horizon was constantly obscured by the trees and low building-tops. It was shocking to me that no matter what direction you looked in there was zero natural landscape to be seen. It gave the impression that this monotonous sundry of urbanization went on to the ends of the Earth. I’ve never been in an urban environment that didn’t have mountains on the horizon, or at least large, interesting, old buildings at least. When you’ve never lived where that doesn’t exist, it can be very disconcerting. After our night’s rest we quickly got out of town and headed for the country.
We wound up on The Good Earth Farm south of Lennox, SD. The days on the farm were nothing short of remarkable. We worked hard and the weather was less than accommodating: hot and very humid (for a desert denizen). Yet we witnessed a full-scale CSA in operation and it was as intimidating as it was impressive. I’m glad that is not our plan to try to make a living with that business model; these kinds of farmers work so very hard for so little gains. I’m not sure I could do it! It’s painfully clear they do it in spite of the financial challenges. If you want to make a lot of money farming, you don’t start a CSA farm!
Regardless, I was awed by the dedication and courage of the owners, Jeff and Nancy, and the diligence of their interns and volunteers. They were all people full of heart, vision and no shortage of good humor. It was a privilege to help out in the small ways that I could. And, like SageRidge, it was so nice being surrounded by friendly (or at least tolerant) animals. Sure, with truckloads of beasties roaming around we have to watch our footsteps a lot more closely, especially when wearing flip flops or getting into Charley. But that’s pretty insignificant when considering the companionship and entertainment that goes with living with a menagerie. At least this time we only had to shoo cats (Felix, Pearl and Reinhold) away from getting into Charley; they were far easier to convince than a large horse I could name. And holding protracted conversations with turkeys was a new experience as well; one I’m very grateful to have had. It’s quite gratifying to yell “TURKEYS!” from 50 feet away and have 14 of them immediately gobble at full volume in reply. You could have call and response songs with them if you wanted:
Call: I’m working on a farm, working on a farm with… TURKEYS!
Response: GOBBLE! GOBBLE! GOBBLE!
Call: They poop all over the place, they poop all over the place, these TURKEYS!
Response: GOBBLE! GOBBLE! GOBBLE!
We ate a mostly vegan diet (in the five days around the farm the only non-vegan things I ate were two eggs, two slices of colby-jack cheese and three meals with some cheese used in the preparation). I thought for sure I would go into meat cravings and bowl old ladies over just to get at a burger like the one I ate at Tamarack Brewing in Missoula, MT or Tally’s Silver Spoon in Rapid City, SD. But in the two days since leaving the farm I only have had a little bit of ham once at breakfast. It wasn’t great. As much as I think I love meat, I still don’t miss it. Perhaps in the next few days a craving will set in? Time will tell, I suppose.
While on this journey there have been plenty of moments of disappointment or disillusionment. But as we have spent time with these (and many other!) wonderful, kind souls, we have gained a deep appreciation of how we are not alone in our feelings. We are starkly reminded that others have suffered far more setbacks then we have, yet they have not given up. So the disheartening moments appropriately give way to more hopeful aspirations. I believe we can finish our journey and succeed in the next endeavor: building our future home. We just need to keep taking each day as it comes and doing our best with whatever challenges are laid before us.