When I signed on for seven months apprenticing on this farm in Kentucky, I agreed to live in a camper. It’s part of the apprentice rite of passage, as far as I’m concerned, to put yourself in a less-than-ideal living situation with an often-harder-than-expected workday. The whole experience begs the question, How bad do you want this? Unlike most apprentices, I already knew I wanted to farm in some form or another. I’ve also already lived in a camper (on farms in France and Idaho) and lived through harder-than-expected experiences as I’ve traveled solo around the world for the past two years. Living in a camper on a farm in Kentucky would not break me, I declared, as I renamed the camper “the castle” and declared myself queen with the chickens and cows living around it as my subjects.
Tough-girl face aside, when farmers Adam and Gary suggested I move from the castle into a house on the farm that renters had just moved out of, I can’t say I was disappointed. I lasted five months in the castle, including six weeks with a castle-mate. (A castle-mate of the human variety, that is—the mice and ants were there all along.) I should point out that the camper is a nice camper–I wasn’t suffering in my living conditions–but it isn’t exactly a house. In fact, in the house where I am living now, the bathroom is nearly as large as the whole camper.
In some respects, I feel like I survived a bad five-month reality TV show. Episodes were named “Why is there Mouse Poop in my Bed”; “The Water Heater Only Holds 5 Gallons”; “It’s 23 Degrees, and the Outdoor Composting Toilet is Unheated”; “The Cow is Peeing Directly Under my Window”; “Where the Eff are all of These Ants Coming From;” “What’s That Smell”; “Dear Wind, Please Don’t Blow Over my Trailer”; “Oh my God, the Ants”; and “Guess How Many Mouse Turds are in Your Boot.”
Overall, I think I was good-humored about the trials of castle living. I actually appreciated having a composting toilet–except on those unbelievably cold nights/mornings–because I think the amount of water we waste while flushing the toilet is obscene. I also liked having the chickens and cows around, rather than being animal-less at the new house. I only had one emotional breakdown in the castle, toward the end of my rein as queen, and that was caused by ants in my cereal due to an improperly closed container. I’m a little jealous of future years’ apprentices because they’ll likely get to move directly into the comfortable house where I’m staying now. I also feel a little bad for them, as they’ll miss out on the character-building experience of castle living.