This is a guest post by our recent Wwoofer (World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms-an organization that connects volunteers to farms throughout the world).  Herma is from Holland and we really loved having her here.

A few days ago I posted a picture on my Facebook of a beautiful orange-pink sunset with the caption: “I don’t think anyone can appreciate a good country-song until they’ve visited Lucerne Valley”. That’s how I would describe my experience here on the Flip Flop Ranch; living the life that Johnny, Willie, and Hank sang about.

Sunset over the vineyard

On a searing hot Friday morning I got off the bus, blinked against the bright sunlight, took in my surroundings and immediately took out my camera. I had to capture the wide-open spaces, the enormous blue sky, and the dry hills surrounding me. With some effort I walked the mile or so to big white house at the end of the dirt road and was greeted by some of the loveliest, most enthusiastic dogs I have ever encountered. I had a nice talk with beautiful red-head Serina, who stole my heart the first few hours of my stay here by buying me a nice cool bottle of Dr Pepper. We spent the afternoon hacking away at several pounds of plums – ready to be made into some delicious jam – while discussing the many cultural differences between Americans and Europeans.

However many differences there may be though, I found myself getting on with this family incredibly well. Over the past few days I got to feed animals with Thomas while discussing some of the most quintessential American topics: baseball and guns (guns you say? Yes, guns), I weeded and de-grassed Tashelle’s garden in the blistering sun, and swam with lovely Vanessa who, at just fifteen years old, I already know is going to make an excellent marine biologist or pastry chef (anyone who has had the pleasure of tasting her home-made chocolate-chip cookies will never want to taste anything else again).

What I’ve learned here is that farm life is by no means an easy life. It takes an enormous amount of dedication, hard work, and passion to keep a place like Flip Flop Ranch going without any room for lazy days. There’s always animals that need feeding, gardens that need weeding (unintentional rhyme), jam to be made, meals to be cooked, dogs to snuggle with, and at the end of the day there’s even a lot of reality TV to catch up on. Add to that the fact that every single member of this family has a career and/or passion outside of the farm and I wouldn’t be able to tell you where these people find the energy to get out of bed every morning and start their day. However, if there ever were a family that adopted the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” as their personal mantra, this would be the one. These people love to laugh with and at each other and constantly found ways to keep me on my toes by making me the butt of their jokes (all in good fun though).

Flip Flop Ranch may not be the coolest place on earth (I mean this literally – of course I had to visit in the middle of a heat wave), it may not be surrounded by ‘lush forests’, and it may not be glamorous but it sure is a good place to learn about what America is really like: it’s hot and dry, it’s hard and dusty, it’s beautiful, different, hilarious, accepting, warm, and about every other positive adjective I can come up with. Before my big trip to the United States my father told me to think of these words at least once a day every day: “Lof zij de Heer, goed is het leven”. This line comes from his favorite Psalm, 147. It literally translates to: “Glory to the Lord, life is good”. The rush of city life may have blurred this from my memory a couple of times, but here at Flip Flop Ranch, looking at its beautiful sunsets every night, I had absolutely no trouble remembering my father’s words. Life is beautiful at Flip Flop Ranch, I’m very sorry I have to part with it.