So Thankful for Everyone Who Reads My Posts!!!!

I have been so blessed with many many wonderful, interesting, exciting adventures and experiences in the last four and a half years. But, some of the biggest blessings have come from the words of excitement and encouragement I get from those that are truly interested in what I am doing and how I am doing it.

I was extremely lucky to have a writer from the NY Times contact me to include me in an article he wrote. It was fun to do and the response has been so great. I am really  so humbled by the encouraging words and by the donations to help me to keep doing this wonderful adventure. Several of you gave me donations for a cup of coffee/tea. I included a few photos I took doing just that. Others wrote how proud and happy they are for me! I hope you can see the smiles in my face!

I am updating and writing several posts. Hope you all keep reading and enjoying. Please feel free to give comblloogments and ask any questions. HUGS and SMILES to all!!

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My Wonderful Adventures in New Orleans, Louisiana

My time in New Orléans ended the third week of December. I learned so much, saw so much and laughed so much that I am in love with this city. I usually blog about an entire place in one post, but I’m not going to do that with my time in New Orléans aka NOLA. I want to post about my adventures first and then I will post my blog on what I have learned about the people and their hearts and perseverance since the devastation of  Hurricane Katrina. I had previously visited The French Quarter three times in the 1990s. I was told, and found out for myself on this trip, that visiting The French Quarter is in no way really visiting New Orléans. That is why I chose to spend some real quality time all over New Orléans this trip. I am so glad I did.

The food!!!! OMGosh, the food!!!!!

I had an idea of some of the food stuffs that I wanted before I got there… Muffuletta (most amazing sandwich ever), chicory coffee and alligator bites. But I had no idea the culinary treats I would get to enjoy… I was lucky enough to couchsurf with a great guy, Vince. Between him and his neighbors I was treated to many many culinary delights. They also were kind enough to take me to all their favorite local pubs.  People in NOLA are apparently as serious about their football as the rest of the south and we spent each Sunday at a different pub watching the games. One of these Sundays two of my friends joined us from Knoxville, TN. Patrick and Will Horton are two of my favorite Downtown Knoxville people. Seeing them always puts a huge smile on my face and they give the best hugs ever.

There were two other couchsurfers with me and we all had a blast. I think the pictures below are worth all the words I could say… We laughed and reveled all day. Finn McCool’s, http://finnmccools.com/,  is by far my favorite of the pubs. The owners are so kind and fun. After meeting the owners,  Pauline and Stephen Patterson, the night before at a private party we went to the pub’s Christmas party that Saturday night. This is a bar full of locals with lots of Irish flare. The owners are from Belfast and had owned the neighborhood bar in Mid City New Orléans for several years before Hurricane Katrina hit. Once they were allowed back to their place they saw that there was extensive damage that left them questioning if they should even reopen. With the help of their many loyal customers they took 6 months and rebuilt.  I am so glad they did…

Oakland Organic Farm, Gurley, Louisiana

After Melissa got to feeling better after her surgery I put a Craigslist post for a rideshare to New Orléans, LA. I had flexible dates of about a week and decided to be ready when a ride came through. Yesterday I checked my email to find an offer of a ride for 11pm to go straight through to New Orléans. I wrote back that I would take it.

That gave me little time to get completely ready. With Melissa’s help I packed and got ready.

At 11pm my rideshare, Brian, showed up. We loaded up and headed off. I will say I am afraid of all night driving. I only had a couple of times where I got a bit nervous, but for the most part it was a very easy ride and went by really fast. Brian didn’t take any money towards gas from me. He said it was just really nice to have the company on a long trip. He is a chemist and was on his way to a conference.

Once in New Orléans I made my way, via the post Katrina shuttle bus (only $5), from New Orléans to Baton Rouge. It was a very comfortable luxury bus with free WiFi, but I was wayyyyyyy to tired to get online.

After I got to Baton Rouge I had to call the farm. Being Thanksgiving weekend there was no one to answer the phone when I had called the day before to say I was coming three days early. So I sat in the bus station putting quarters in the pay phone (I had not done that in years). Finally after several calls and messages I was told Prentiss, the owner with her husband of the farm, would be out to pick me up.

She is so funny and spunky. She showed up with all four of her kids. All of whom are under the age of 7. It is a beautiful drive back from Baton Rouge to the farm in East Feliciana Parish (this particular Parish is not considered part of the USA, because it and a few others were not bought as part of the Louisiana Purchase). She came into the bus station and held up a sign that said “HERE 4 MONDAY”.

Once back at the farm I got the tour. We, the WWOOFers, are housed in the former slave’s quarters. Very cool. This place is over 200 years old. And met all the current WWOOFers. All but one are leaving in the next few days and the next wave wont be here till the beginning of January. Prentiss then gave me a beer and sent me upstairs to take a nap. I had been up over 27 hours by that time. I was ready. I only slept about an hour and a half, but it was good.

I came downstairs and hung out talking with everyone before dinner. Dinner was amazing. Hutch made venison stew with Deer he had hunted himself with carrots and onions from the garden. Freshly made bread with garlic butter and homemade grits. incredible!!! That and a glass of wine and I was ready to go back to bed. Happy!

The next day I woke up to see how really pretty all the property is. I spent the next two weeks doing everything from Farmer’s Markets to laying drip irrigation. This is a property that is antebellum (pre civil war). So amazing. The WWOOFers are housed in the attic of the former slave’s quarters now refered to as the bunkhouse.

The entire two weeks I was here I ate the most wonderful freshest food available. Meat hunted from the land and vegetables from the garden with the dairy from a farm up the road.

The propierter took all of us to dinner and dancing at the Magnolia. A place in St. Francisville. So fun and such a family place to go.

Oakland Organic Farm, Gurley, Louisiana

On my one full Sunday there I went with a French WWOOFer named Karine. We borrowed the farm bus and went exploring. It was so fun to see her drive the large (especially by France’s standards) van. We went to the Mississippi River ferry then to Clinton and finally to St. Francisville, Louisiana where we visited a two hundred year old to present day cemetery. It is by far one of the most beautiful cemeteries I have ever seen. It is at Grace Episcopal Church and has Live Oak Trees with Spanish Moss everywhere. There are gates and statutes for full family areas. I just couldn’t get over with the haunting beauty of this place. I still get chills when I think of it.

Grace Episcopal Cemetery in St. Francisville

Next stop a couple of weeks playing in New Orleans before heading to Miami…

Visit to Knoxville November 2010

I left Knoxville, Tennessee after a visit that was supposed to be about 10 days and ended up being exactly a month. I wanted to see Marley mostly and then see a few friends as time permitted. Well I got to see Marley only twice in that entire time, but I did see many friends. That part was great.
It was very hard to say “goodbye” both times to Marley. She thought I was home to stay. She has gotten so big since I’ve been gone. She is a busy girl and played with my friend’s 7 year old boy for most of my Welcome Home Party, but that was fine. I just loved seeing her and hugging her. The second time I saw her we painted a picture I had started for her of under the ocean. It was wonderful just spending one on one time together. We painted and talked about everything. Plus the picture came out really good. It is going her room. Marley and my ocean painting


The way to Knoxville was via Nashville. The original plan in Nashville fell through at the last-minute. Literally. I was boarding the plane in San Francisco and found out by text that the friend I was meeting there had to go to Atlanta instead.

That left me getting on a plane with no plan. Luckily I sat in the very front (the best leg room too) and got to talking with the stewards while I wrote out a sign saying I needed a ride. They let me make an announcement. Although I found out later that many of the passengers thought it was a joke. No one came up during the flight so upon landing instructions the very kind stewardess made the same announcement.

At the baggage claim a couple of people made various offers. Sadly I picked the unknowingly chose the “conspiracy theories” guy. Could have been interesting conversation if he wasn’t a bit nuts. Gave me lots to talk about when my friend, Melissa, met us in Crossville, TN.
It was wonderful to see my great friend Melissa. She is at such a happy and fulfilling time in her life. It made me so happy. I stayed most of the time at her house with her and her daughter, Megan. We spent so much time laughing and playing it was awesome.

Now the reason I stayed longer than I intended was first the WWOOF property I was going to work at in Georgia fell through at the last-minute. I searched WWOOFing hosts in several southern states and I received an offer to WWOOF at Oakland Organic Plantation in Gurley, Louisiana. I told them I would be there on November 20th. With that time frame in mind I was free to enjoy Knoxville for an extra week in a half and see most of the people I wanted to and make some extra money cleaning houses.
I was cleaning Melissa’s mom and dad’s house and her mom had to go to the doctor because she was having intense pains in her chest and back. I was left to the house cleaning. She was upset when she came home, because she found out she had shingles. Not only did that mean weeks of pain it meant that she couldn’t help Melissa after her major surgery, which was the reason they had me cleaning their home to begin with. The decision was made that I would stay for a couple more weeks and take care of her. Her mom was not happy and inundated me (and everyone else) with instructions for how to take care of her baby.
That left me leaving at the end of the month. But with that I had plenty of time to hang out and relax.
My dear friend, Louise, and her lovely husband, Pierre, welcomed me at their home for several nights also. This gave me plenty of time with them. They are from Canada and relish in relaxation. I loved it. I went back while Pierre was in Canada on a business trip and stayed for two more nights with Louise. We went to the movies, took a walk thru Ijam’s Nature Park, and Market Square. It was so nice and so relaxing I also spent Thanksgiving with Louise and Pierre at their wonderful friend’s home. It was so fun and such a beautiful place out in the country. I was the youngest so I got the children’s table since there was not enough room for me :). We played Canadian Rummy. I have to get that card game. I have so amazing and loving friends. I am very blessed.



I took many many baths while I was in Knoxville. I hadn’t had any while I was in California.
I had two welcome home parties (one Marley with Marley and one with great friends), I went dancing with Melissa and our friends, played for Halloween, went to a male revue, several movies, and lots of walks. It was a lot of fun to go to the downtown YMCA and see all my former guests. I adore them and they seem to adore me!

I knew when I left Knoxville that it was time for me to leave. Being back knew it even more strongly.  I felt such a huge disconnect while there. I certainly miss people from Knoxville. I loved getting all the warm welcomes and hugs. They meant so much to me. There is just a lot of  memories but no future for me there. The entire time I felt restless and anxious to be going again.
Melissa recovered really quickly from her surgery and I was able to leave on the 28th of November for the next farm in Gurley, Louisiana.

Farm in Enscondido, California

My first week at the farm

My first week at my first farm, Hidden Valley Retreat and Spa, was a lesson in perseverance. There is a huge discrepancy in the  proclamations from Hidden Valley on the WWOOFing site & in Host book and what they offer/expect from their WWOOFers.

To begin though I want to say that it is by far one of the prettiest and enchanting pieces of property I’ve ever seen. There are extensive paths throughout the expansive gardens. Old heirloom roses of every variety everywhere. There are herbs, exotic trees, and flowers of all kinds. Benches to sit on and meditate all over. This is the perfect place for being alone with your thoughts and read or paint or just enjoy the view. It was owned and originated with Dr. Bernard Jensen:

Although best known for his work in iridology, Jensen was a noted proponent of a variety of alternative care methods including nature cure, hydrotherapy (such as colon hydrotherapy), fasting, reflexology, color therapy, polarity, glandular balancing, homeopathy, herbology, acupuncture, craniopathy and personology.

He owned three sanitariums, the last being the Hidden Valley Health Ranch in Escondido, California. He said he saw more than 350,000 patients in this life. For many years Jensen maintained an office in Los Angeles where he would see patients. He also saw many patients at his office at the Hidden Valley Health Ranch. The original ranch was more than 100 acres (0.40 km2). When this was sold, he began seeing patients at his office above the original land site. For numbers of years he taught iridology workshops here at the site closer to his home.

The original purpose for this property is close to my heart and my beliefs for self-care & self-awareness. This being the case and this being the philosophy that is purported in their blurb I thought it would be the perfect place for my foray into WWOOFing. I was wrong.

The current owners, who have owned it just over three years, are not involved with the property as a peaceful and organic endeavor but as a commercial enterprise. They know nothing, nor do they strive to learn, about ranching or organic/green practices. They do not look at WWOOFing as an organization for furthering interest in the environment and health of all, but strictly as a way to “advertise” the property for financial gain. There is NO effort in keeping the property organic and running it the way it was intended by Dr. Jensen.The only goal of the new owners is to have it as a money-making venture with as little monetary output as possible.

With that said the way they treat WWOOFers is as a kind of third class citizen. Work and work with no thank you, no down time, no recognition just suspicion. One of the benefits of room &  board is the board part aka  food. They give food to us once a week. Only one meal per days worth. This is not the norm, nor what they say they provide in the Host Book. The property is very far off the beaten path and not where one can just go to get something to eat. Especially someone without a car. They offer pick-ups and drop offs from Escondido proper, San Diego or Oceanside. Another false claim. They had me walking or HITCH HIKING to get back the Sunday before last. That is when I decided I was leaving the farm.

The accommodations are also different from what is told in the Host Book. There the owners have said that we would be housed in the converted barn. Not true. I was in a mobile home (a mobile home would be fine, but not one that would be condemned if anyone with authority were to see that it is housing people) with a bed that sloped downward. Rotten water that only trickled out of the rusted faucets and a toilet that had so much rust that it looked unusable. The heat didn’t work in my room so I was very cold. I was given a space heater that made a horrible and scary sound all night long and smelled horrible. And the whole place was filthy  not dirty FILTH. With all kinds of junk and trash spread through the porch and sides. Enough about the conditions. This is some of the things I accomplished while being there:

Such a beautiful place. I worked so hard. Very proud of myself.

Next post: my adventures in the real world aka beaches and coffee shops during my Hidden Valley time…