Monday, October 29, 2012

… and that’s how I decided to become a pig farmer.

So pretty much since I decided to become a farmer, I have been looking for an internship.  Part of the education for a farmer is working on a farm to gain experience.  This is paid work, but because you are a student, the pay is lower and the farmer gets a huge tax break, so it works out for everyone involved.

Provided that the farmer can afford it and wants to spend the time it takes to train a student.

The school told me, “Oh, just drop by a farm and talk to a farmer.”  Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?  Just waltz on up, knock on a door, and they’ll just be so glad to see you!  ‘Cause Danes are like that.  They love to be stalked to their homes and imposed upon!  *BANG* *BANG* You in there, give me a job manhandling your animals!  I have no experience but I’m KEEN!!

How I want to appear:

How I’m afraid I actually appear:

Let me let you in on a little secret, something you may not be aware of, I have a little itty bitty social disorder of some sort.  I am terrified of meeting new people.  (I also hate calling people.  If I can get out of it, I won’t call and order pizza; I’ll make someone else do it.  The only thing worse than calling someone and having them pick up the phone, is to call someone and have the answering machine pick up.  OMG!!  PANIC!!)

I know, I’m an extrovert, damn it, I’m not supposed to have a social disorder!

I hide it well… well, sort of.  I babble.  I’m aggressively friendly.  I smile a lot. (This behavior, by the way, is totally wasted on the phone.  Nothing like hanging up the phone and realizing that your lips are glued to your teeth in a rigor mortis grimace that NO ONE COULD SEE.  Although… probably a blessing, that.)  Most people seem to read this as “out-going and extroverted” and I suppose that’s just fine.  But I really, really, really hate the first 15 minutes with a new person.

Going round to someone’s house, knocking on the door and not only meeting a person for the first time but ALSO trying to sell myself as a future employee?  Hello, you’ve just described my own special hell!

I make out like I can talk about what I’m good at, but I am sooooo not. 

Also, I really hate rejection.  I know, no one actually likes rejection, but some people can just shrug it off and move on.  I need a moment, especially if it is a particularly cold rejection.

And now I’ve been rejected a LOT.  Some farmers are very nice, saying that they’d like to have a student, but they can’t afford it.  They invite me in for coffee and go through their contact list, trying to think of a farmer who might have the money for a student.  Those are the rejections that I can handle with grace and aplomb.  I get back in the car and drive to the next farm without any great soul-crushing disappointment.

Then there are the farmers who reject me because they have sons who work the farm and don’t need students.  This one is a bummer because who knew farmers wives were so fecund?  Maybe farmers just happen to breed boys, because lord knows my husband’s non-farming family tends to breed girls.  There’s an idea - does standing for hours near a copy machine kill off Y-chromosome carrying sperm?

For some reason, farmers with sons are not interested in inviting me in and helping me find other farmers.  They aren’t particularly mean, they just sort of matter-of-factly point out that they really have all the free labor they need and close the door.

But then there are the sudden, sharp rejections.  No reason offered, just NO.

Those take a bit to recover from.  Was it something I said?  Is it the appearance of an older woman asking for an internship?  Is it because I’m foreign?  (Probably not, because a high number of farmhands in DK are from Eastern Europe.  Hell, *I* can speak English and Danish.  And I know choice swear words in Polish.)

I started talking to farmers in April.  By the time that school had started in September, I’d spoken to pretty much every dairy farm on the island that has been known to take students.  I even talked to the farms that had never had students.  Just in case I was the one to convince them to.

“Oh, by the way,” the school said to me at the beginning of October, “you need to have an internship before you start your next semester, November 1st, or we won’t let you continue at the school.”


So I had to consider working on a pig farm.  Pig farming is a hard business.  I wasn’t particularly convinced that it was for me.  But as part of our education, we had two days on a dairy farm and two on a pig farm.

I wrote a bit about the dairy farm, the glorious rainbow and dedicatory tires, but I didn’t write about the pig farm.  It’s very different work.  Pigs require more hands-on work than cows and pig farms are much larger than dairy farms.  (I will go into more detail in another post, but I’m trying to get at least ONE post up this week and I’ll need to stop writing at some point!)

Anyway, one of the major benefits of working on a pig farm is the hours - you don’t start at 4 or 5 in the morning and you don’t have a several hour break in the middle of the day and you are done well before dinner.  This meant that I could look off the island for an internship.  Ferry boat schedules: the bane of my existence.

I’d looked off the island for a dairy farm as well, with the idea that we might have to move.  It still didn’t work.  Obviously I intimidate dairy farmers.

So I started looking at pig farms on the island and then farther afield. 

One of the other things that I did manage to accomplish in my rounds of Danish farms is talk to many people about farming in Denmark.  Specifically about the job market.  The second in charge on the pig farm I did my two-day practical on was originally educated in dairy, but couldn’t find work on a dairy farm.  He now has some cows of his own at home, but pays the bills by working 7-3 with pigs.  Several of the teachers at the school pointed out how everyone wanted to work with cows and few with pigs, mostly because of the bad press pig farms get.  These statements are backed by the sheer number of job ads for pig farmhands and very few for cows.

And so I made a decision.  I was going to have ONE education that is actually marketable.  One education in a growing field, where I can use the education I get and be paid for it.  And get that nice 6-week vacation that Danes go on about.  And that permanent residency that I hear so much about.  I was going to be a pig farmer, damn it!  The best damn pig farmer EVER!

I finally got an internship on a pig farm on Wednesday.

I KNOW!  Talk about cutting it close!

Is it what I had in mind when I started this crazy adventure?  No.  Is it something I think I’m going to be good at?  Yes. 

And to ensure that I am guaranteed gainful employment for the remainder of my working days, 
please …

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Application for 25 hour days

Good lord, I’ve been busy!  Of course, other bloggers who are just as busy as I, or even busier (although it’s hard to imagine that it’s physically possible, I commute by ferry boat, damn it, surely that counts for something!), still manage to write posts.  Even if the posts are really short!  Surely I can write a short post!!  I can be brief and succinct!!!

Bwahahahaha!  Oh, it hurts, it hurts! 

I really shouldn’t compare myself to them, obviously.  They didn’t spend two days last week living in a caravan and getting up at four in the morning, dressing in the cold and dark, sneaking out to the car without waking husband and child, all in order to milk cows and spread hay and stack tires for six and a half hours.

Why yes, that *is* a pity banjo you hear me playing!

Actually, I really enjoyed my hard labor.  I just wish there were a few more hours in the day so I could nap, get my own chores done AND write a blog post every now and again.  I’ve got so much to talk about and instead I need to write two reports on my past two practical assignments on farms, two days on one pig farm and two days on one dairy farm. *  In Danish.  Balls.

I suck at writing Danish.  I suck because I write Danish in the same way that I write English, but alas, you cannot directly translate English to Danish (professional translators are laughing at me right now and pointing out that this is why they earn the big bucks).

Shakespeare’s “’Tis better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all,” for example, does not directly translate because you cannot use the word “better” when comparing two bad things.  You can say one is “worser” than the other or one is “less bad,” but never can you use the word “better.”

So back when I was in Danish class, I wrote a rhetorical question in an essay, asking if it was better to have higher unemployment than fewer hospitals, and the response was “You cannot say this, these are the same things.”  Which led to a hilarious debate on the welfare state and Danish stupidity - possibly not the best when trying to argue for a higher grade, but THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL!  I finally got the Danish Boy to explain later that night.  It took him a while as well, because he didn’t know what was wrong with the sentence or why, just that it was fundamentally wrong, and we had a good debate going (if by “good debate” you mean one person crying and the other looking like his head is about to explode), because he could completely understand me IN ENGLISH, but NOT IN DANISH.  Then, I demanded, “WHICH OF THESE IS THE LESSER OF TWO EVILS FOR FUCK’S SAKE!?”  Because nothing solves an argument like yelling biblical quotations and swearing.  And suddenly he had an epiphany.  “It’s BETTER!” he cried.  “I BEG YOUR PARDON!!” I shouted, now ready to set fire to Copenhagen and declare Danish to be an outlawed language of a subservient peoples who would cater to my every whim, mostly by NOT SPEAKING DANISH IN MY PRESENCE.  “You can’t use the word ‘better’.  You have to say ‘worser’ or less bad,” he explained.  “THAT’S STUPID!”  I replied, calm as ever, envisioning the high energy explosive that I would set under the Little Mermaid’s ass.  THAT’LL TEACH ‘EM!  “I didn’t make up this language,” he pointed out.  Damn him, he’s right.  Maybe I’ll hunt that particular asshole down and give him a carbonic acid enema.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I got a 2 on the written Danish portion of my language exam.  A 2, by the way is just passing.  As in “we understand that you wrote a series of Danish words that by themselves are fine enough, it’s just that the arrangement is incomprehensible because we have rules that we made up on a whim and deviation creates chaos in our little brains and besides which, you made 7 basic grammar mistakes in your email to your Canadian friend who wouldn’t understand Danish anyway, but we’re sick bastards who make you write emails to foreigners in our damn language because, as we previously pointed out we’re sick bastards.”

By the way, that paragraph?  Probably doesn’t translate into Danish directly either.  Danish: a language as inflexible as the rye bread they want you eat for lunch, day after day after day.

So it’s a good thing that I didn’t want to go to university anyway.  Even if the program would be taught in English.  Because my Danish is just not good enough to get into the “upper level” Danish class to prepare me for taking the exam that would qualify me for college level classes.   That’s like not doing well enough in junior high and therefore not being allowed to take high school and therefore not allowed to go to college.  Denmark wants us to be “educated” but not to a high degree, apparently. 

Anyway, ranting aside and back on the farm….

As I was standing on the retaining wall, waiting for the next load of tires to be delivered unto me (goddesses of modern agriculture demand offerings of tires), I was looking out over the rolling hills.  The some of the fields were golden with ripe corn, others the dark, earthy brown of freshly tilled soil, others still were bright green with clover.  On the clover covered fields were happy black and white dairy cows, munching away and lowing to one another.  Towering overhead were three very white modern windmills, powering away in the wind.  The sky was bright blue and punctuated with swiftly moving, puffy, white clouds that brought sudden downpours.  One particular cloud was busily pouring rain on what I suspect is Germany.  Because of the angle of the sun, a rainbow suddenly developed right then and there, arching across the sky, from one hilltop to another.  It was glorious.  I really could have used a camera.  But who the hell brings a camera when doing farm labor?  This is why I need a really awesome phone, just sayin’.

But it was one of those moments where you go, yup, this is what it’s all about and this is why this shit is awesome.

*Okay, I may not have to write some essays.  Some say I do, some say I don’t.  I’m going to have to figure this out before I spend an evening trying for subject-verb agreement.  Because otherwise, balls to THAT!