|Distant view of Ostara Farm|
Towards the end of May we received a call from our friend Sean in Big Sandy Mush. As it happened, his intended season-long interns had not worked out, and he was wondering if we could give him and his wife Tara a hand on their farm. Having already agreed to volunteer at Bonnaroo, our schedule was restricted, and we were only able to help out for a few days. We left Mountain Gardens on Friday morning, and stopped in Asheville on the way to Sean and Tara’s. We went back to Amazing Savings to stock up on camping food for Bonnaroo, and headed on down Leicester highway.
|Our spacious camper|
We arrived at Ostara Farm and were greeted by Tara. While helping shell peas we were brought up-to-date on the goings-on of the farm. They have a small CSA and a large flock of chickens, and they sell the eggs to the French Broad Co-op in Asheville. Tara pointed out our accommodations and graciously made sure we had everything we needed. We were staying in the 25’ trailer Tara and Sean had lived in for 9 months while the construction of the house was completed. It was by far the best trailer we’ve ever stayed in, and we were surprised to learn it was not up to the previous WWOOFers’ standards. After Sean came home from work and we had settled in, the four of us sat down for a delicious breakfast-for-dinner.
The next day was their scheduled CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) workday, where CSA members who opted for working-shares, “paid” for their weekly veggies partly with labor. In addition to Tara, Sean and ourselves, Jasmine, Eric, and Elizabeth joined us for a day of cultivation. We weeded, mulched and manured beds, and dug holes for future trellises; a surprising amount of accomplishments for the number of people present. Our farm labor was rewarded by Tara’s yummy lunch of casserole, salad, and millet. Later that day while Randy weeded, Holly and Tara made yogurt and pickled two gallons of garlic scapes (the seed head and stalks harvested from developing garlic). We made fermented pickles by putting the scapes in a whey-based brine, covering it, and letting it sit on the counter for a few weeks.
|Sean and Holly create a new bed|
Sunday morning we walked up to Kale and Kin, the neighbors’ farm, to borrow their tractor. The walk was delightfully scenic, and we enjoyed picking a few roadside mulberries on the way. Tara and Sean had saved the topsoil from the construction of their home, and Sean used the tractor to mold it into garden beds. Our hours of raking, shoveling, and removing rocks resulted in two gorgeous new garden beds and accompanying landscape fabric-covered paths.
On our last day Sean and Randy put up trellises in the new beds for cherry tomatoes while Holly harvested garlic and cleared out garden beds. To jazz up weeding, Holly listened to a few bands that were slated to play at Bonnaroo, and deepened and expanded her love of Dispatch. After our farewell dinner, we all played an entertaining round of King’s Breakfast.
Regretfully our stay at Tara and Sean’s was the shortest of any farm, and too quickly it came to a close. By noon the next day we were on the road to Bonnaroo.
* * *
Around 6:30 we arrived at Coffee County Highschool for our volunteer check-in. We received our schedules and ID badges, and proceeded to the campground, looking forward to the volunteer BBQ scheduled for that evening. We did not, however, anticipate the first of many agonizingly slow queues at Bonnaroo. Over the course of almost two hours we slowly made our way to the campground; the cause being thorough vehicle searches for prohibited items.
|Our not-so-spacious campsite|
Worried that there would be no food left, Holly ran ahead and grabbed plates of BBQ. The staff member in charge of searching our vehicle took one look inside the car at our overstuffed jumble, decided he did not want to open that can of worms, and waved us on to our campsite. After setting up camp, Randy wandered around and caught some live music while Holly tried to sleep through the excited raucous of fellow volunteers.
The actual music venue (“Centeroo”) didn’t open until Thursday, so we had 36 hours to entertain ourselves. On Wednesday we roamed around the campgrounds watching from afar as crews feverishly did finishing touches. That evening we met some of our neighbors, including the band Applebutter Express who were playing the next day at Bonnaroo, and saw their impromptu performance in front of their campsite.
|One of the many Kafkaesque lines of Bonnaroo|
Our second experience with Bonnaroo lines occurred the next morning waiting for Centeroo to open. The line was wicked long, our water bottles were empty, and it was crazy hot. So, Randy selflessly left to go fill them up, but as soon as he left the line started moving pretty quickly, and Holly was swept along into Centeroo before Randy returned. His phone was out of commission, but luckily we found each other at the volunteer tent. We had just enough time before our first volunteer shift started to check out Applebutter Express’ official performance. They have a great, energetic bluegrass feel and did an incredible Eleanor Rigby cover. We enjoyed their music so much we bought their CD before heading off to volunteer. Volunteers agree to work about 18 hours in exchange for a free T-shirt, free showers, 3 meal tickets, and, of course, free entry. After checking in at the volunteer tent we were sent to work at a café, where we bussed tables and poured drinks. The café was next to one of the stages, and we got to hear several bands while we worked, including Rubblebucket, Dub Cartel, and the Dirty Guv’nahs. After our shift ended at 10 pm Randy dragged Holly to the Cinema Tent to see Laurel and Hardy shorts with a live score preformed by Steven Bernstein’s MTO plays SLY. We both really enjoyed seeing the shorts as they were originally presented with a live orchestra accentuating the storyline. Then we walked the 20 minutes back to our campsite and collapsed.
|9 am yoga|
|Bike generator powering a bubble machine|
|Chad Stokes everybody, Chad Stokes.|
|Holly is christened a Balloonicorn|
On Saturday we didn’t work until 9:30 pm, so we had most of the day to enjoy the festival. We happened upon the Casey Driessen Singularity, which was a one-man fiddle show. Through the use of live recording he was able to construct musical layers that grew into crazy compositions. Then we took advantage of free scoops of Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Caramel Buzz, before settling down to listen to some artist interviews on social justice at Rock the Earth. First Dennis Casey and Bob Schmidt from Flogging Molly were interviewed, and then Chad Stokes from Dispatch took the stage. It was fun to hear the band members talk about how they work to make the world a better place, and we got to hear some music too. Next we hustled over to a different stage to catch the tail end of Hey! Rosetta and then Trampled by Turtles. After their set ended we rushed over to see the second half of Flogging Molly’s performance. Tuckered out by our music-going, we found a shady spot (a quiet spot was impossible) under some trees and took a nap. Refreshed by our siesta, we decided to explore the carnival-themed game area. While waiting in line (again) we ran into Randy’s friend Toni. We had a fun time hanging out and catching up while swapping Bonnaroo stories.
We tried our luck at “Smack the Uvula,” which we both totally aced, then epically failed at “Balloonicorn,” but redeemed ourselves with “Flunko.”
On Sunday, the last day of Bonnaroo, Randy woke up early to catch a show at the Cinema tent while Holly slept. Then we made lunch and went into Centeroo, in time for a wild fermentation workshop at “the Acadamy.” The Academy offered sustainable workshops and demonstrations on such subjects as mushroom inoculation, cobb building, and kombucha. Because we’ve been WWOOFing, we already were familiar with many of the topics. After the workshop we headed over to see Group Love, then caught a bit of the Beach Boys (long enough to hear “I Get Around”), and then snagged a spot up front for Ben Folds 5. Ben Folds kept pausing the performance to take pictures of and videotape the audience. Following Ben Folds was the Shins, so we held our ground in the second row. The Shins played a great concert, but by the end of it we were pretty beat from another day of nonstop music. We had a few meal tokens left, so we wandered around trying to find the most bang for our buck. We enjoyed our gyro, sandwich, and beans and rice for a theoretical $24, thankful that we made it through the 4 days without spending a single penny.
|Iconic Bonnaroo clock|
Monday morning we woke up to pounding rain, which conveniently soaked everything we were about to pack up. We jammed our soaking wet tent and sleeping bag into the car, and waited for the long snaking line of exiting traffic to dissipate. While waiting we realized that many people had simply abandoned their wet campsites, leaving useful articles behind, and we started walking around “groundscoring.” We found a yoga mat, sleeping pad, two perfectly good folding camp chairs, three tarps (but we could’ve gotten 30), a flashlight, and some oranges and unopened Clif bars to tide us over while we hunted. We had to restrain ourselves because of our limited space, but were quite content with our new treasures.
|Desolate post-revelry wasteland|