Our last US HelpX was with a lovely lady called Pam who lived on a small ranch (36 acres) just outside Petaluma, a nice little Californian country town. Jane was initially a bit dubious about this one, she was developing a touch of HelpX fatigue, the location was a bit northerly i.e. colder, rural i.e. not so easy to leave if crap and to cap it, our host had been very tardy about responding to emails asking for more information.
Pam is in her early sixties (although you would not think it to look at her) she has a lot of energy and boy is this needed. She is single, manages her ranch, has a hair and beauty salon in town and has her disabled daughter (who lives in residential care) home every weekend. She does all this and keeps a comfortable and tasteful home running with what appears to be inordinate ease, well except for her emails! Pam had only had one previous HelpXer and that was a while back and so unsurprisingly, this was not high on her to-do list. I guess being the busy person she is, and the dearth of helpx activity to date it was quite easy to mix up emails from two similarly aged couples enquiring about staying at the same. And she did and she double booked!
As it turned out we had a smashing time, all the initial reservations unwarranted, Pam was a star. A fantastic cook, with a very comfortable house in a beautiful location and (thanks to Pam’s chaotic emailing) another 50 something Aussie HelpX couple for company. This lovely pair had spent most of the last 5 years working and travelling in SE Asia and China with some European HelpXing thrown in. Robyn came across as a feisty and assured little pocket rocket, Steve, a tall, quieter less forward figure initially appeared overshadowed by his outgoing wife, but this was not the case. Stevo was his own man and as I came to appreciate over the next few days working with him, a very funny, intelligent and worldly bloke. Together they formed a formidable team and this had enabled them to change their lives, seize the opportunity and embark on a great adventure.
During our weeks stay Steve and myself played rancheros, fixing fences and driving a pickup round the place and generally enjoying the craic. Jane and Robyn got the less glamorous job of weeding and pruning, ranching ” it’s a mans world”, even if the owners a woman 🙂
Finally, I must mention Mitch who helps Pam out on the ranch, mainly cutting down trees. Mitch loves to chainsaw pine, that and hunting are his two favorite subjects. He is a surprisingly young looking 65 year old, a tall, lithe, mustached, baseball cap wearing, huge truck driving good old country boy. He likes to talk turkey
(literally, there are flocks of wild ones all over the place), trees and hogs. Mitch is not unlike a foo awd norfuk boys I’ve met, only writ large, California’s canvas is way bigger than that of Gods chosen county.
I loved to let him talk, whether about felling trees (the concept of planting saplings to replace them just never registered with him), the pros and cons of all sorts of machinery and most bizarrely of all, hunting wild boar. I would have liked to record Mitch drawling at full throttle, he did not swear as much as cussed. There was no effing but “shitloads” of this and “bastard” that as he colourfully described these events. I shall save the best of these for the dinner table back home.
All in all we had a fine week, good food and company (effectively a dinner party every night) and a lovely end to our American HelpX experience. On this trip we have learned a lot about our transatlantic cousins and the vastness of their land and we shall leave with many fond memories and some new friends.