I stirred awake, not knowing what time it was but realising I had woken up to the crowing sound of a rooster and the crack of dawn peeping through our bedroom window.
It’s day two on the farm, technically our official day of farm life, though we were initiated yesterday. Groggily, we got up a little past six in the morning to get ready. We had no real idea what we’d be doing today, but expected to be busy the moment we meet the owners downstairs.
To our surprise, Yi Hsing was still asleep and A Deng was no where to be found. ‘Ah, could’ve slept in’, I thought but taking advantage of the unexpected free time, I went about farm-venturing to see just how much land this family farm covers. Fields of yellow and strips of green took over the neighbouring hills. Ah what a sight in the wee hours of a beautiful day!
Work finally began with the sounds of honking geese, clucking chooks and squabbling ducks. We took to the pen, wincing from the extreme noise they were making while they were waiting for their feed.
Once every animal was fed, it was our turn to fill our stomachs, and breakfast came literally scootering into the warehouse. A Deng rode his scooter to the city and brought back fresh, hot 湯包 (tang bao: soup dumplings) for breakfast. At 50 NTD a box (which holds eight of these squishy, mouth-watering delectables), they were far better than any dumpling I’ve eaten in Taipei. A Deng, who has been here all his life proudly proclaims with a gruff voice that he starts every morning with them. Sleep-ins and extra good Taiwanese breakfast…If this is farm life so far, it suits me just fine.
After breakfast it was straight back to the sweet potato fields to pick up where we left off yesterday. Whatever ease I thought of the work the first time was completely absent today. It was doubly hard to weed the vines under the sweltering heat. I was damp all over from sweat and there were moments I struggled to pull the weeds, even with two hands and my heels digging into the earth. It wasn’t at all bad, however! Quails would shoot up into the sky out of no where (which would scare the begeezes out of me), and we even caught sight of a little deer, no bigger than a large bunny hopping for its deer life (pun intended). Yi Hsing said that the poor fella stumbled onto someone’s farm and was attacked by a dog. Now rehabilitating in the sweet potato patch it was understandably frightened of anything that moved.
By midday we were still out there hacking at the weeds. Panting for a break, I went to the silo where A Deng was shovelling grains of rice into a giant hole covered by an equally large grate.
The hole is in fact a chute that sucks grains into a dryer. Here, a constant flame dehydrates the rice for further processing or storage. I stepped onto the grate, careful to not let my feet slip through and followed A Deng’s movement, dragging the mounds of rice into the hole below me. It was a nice change from weeding, and I enjoyed the smell of the roasting rice grains. We used an air hose to shoot what little leftovers there were into the chute. Every grain counts.
Before we knew it, it was lunchtime and we sat down in the warehouse again to eat together. Lunch was 水餃 (shui jiao: boiled dumplings). I’m starting to see a trend.
Belly full with dumplings once again, I was allowed a little kip before heading back out to the field. I’m starting to not enjoy weeding, even if the resident hen who I took the liberty of naming Clucky, would drop in next to me to keep me company. By 3.30pm, we were only halfway through the field, and even Yi Hsing called us in to rest.
Thankful, I left dear Clucky but as it was still day out, we made the most of it by heading to a nearby waterfall. Fengxiang waterfall is only a 30 minute drive away and I was especially excited to swim after toiling under the hot sun. We found this place with one of our favourite blogs, Follow Xiao Fei. However we were sorely disappointed to find out it has since been closed. A sign read that three people had lost their lives here, and locals didn’t want a fourth victim. Damn. If that doesn’t scream caution, what does?
So we found ourselves at a nearby creek instead and had a splash around before heading back to our farmland home in time for a modest dinner. Both A Deng and Yi Hsing eat little for dinner, and though I usually don’t hoard on rice, I ate two bowls due to an unfamiliar hunger that has taken over. Working the fields has boosted my appetite and I need all the energy I could get.
Tasked with washing up afterwards, I was surprised to find they use tea tree leaves ground into powder as dishwashing detergent. Since water used here are all redirected back to their farms, natural products are used whenever possible. It required more elbow grease than usual but I like the fact they do things differently here.