I have a feeling there's going to be lots of posts involving Hank.
Here's how it starts: I really want cows some day. There's a pasture on the land where we're staying and its just begging for some cattle. I want a herd. Bad. I realize that just scrounging cash and dumping some out there is not prudent - I've done what modern man calls "research." Modern "research" means google searches. My favorite is when its a controversial topic, because then "research" means they searched google and found sites that already agree with their view to find the prefered answer.
So, I've researched cows a bit. Even read a book or two (actual research), but I just know I'm not ready for it, and I don't have time now anyway with school and work. But I can schedule time here and there to go learn, and that's where Hank comes in.
I found out where a pretty serious grass-fed operation is happening. (If you're still eating corn pumped pseudo-cow, do some research). I went out there, but Hank wasn't there, so we bought some eggs, some chuck and a few organs and hit the road. I left my number and said I'd like to learn form Hank and in exchange I'll give some labor.
Hank calls me back, says he is reeeal interested. I'm pretty sure he mostly heard the "free labor" part.
"I hear you wanna get some experience around the farm," he says.
"No. I'd like you to teach me and in exchange for your mentorship I'll work. Will work for food-raising skills."
[Pause] ... "Sounds good. I'll be cutting hay until dark the next couple days, meet me at field x [insert country directions about curves and fences and "the" stoplight]."
So I head out there and sure enough, I see some people cutting hay. Hank's not there, but they don't seem to be bothered by an extra set of hands. And let me say this, all of the stories about bucking hay and stacking hay and almost dying with a hay bail in hand are all true. That was some hard work. And man was it good. I'm not using gloves for the first month here because I need my callouses back (the office stole them), but that bail twine nearly killed me. Throwing hay four feet up into a little hole in the barn was very difficult, to put it mildly. I missed 3 times and the other times were all I had, each time.
"'Till dark" is what Hank said, but it was the last day so this was "'Till the job's done." It was well after dark and I was feelin' it. Hard. But it was so good. I only did it for a few hours - the other guys were on there second full day of it.
We got back to the farm (its common to cut other fields and bring it to the farms where its used) and went inside the office. Hank pulled up on a tractor, made fun of me a bit and then shook my hand. If I had seen him first I don't think I would have been so forward on the phone, but I think he respected me already for it, which helped. He was huge. Giant. I'm in the promised land but this giant almost turned me back.
There were two shotguns behind his desk as he sat down. His wife handed me a glass of sweat tea. We talked a bit and to shorten the story up, he's very interested in putting cows out where I am. My overlord said Hank could use my labor to put the rest of the fence up and then it looks like Hank might give me some cows to look after as a learning experience. And I mean "give" as in watch over and he'll pay me in meat.
And thats what he did that day. Not only did I learn about hay and how it can burst into flames if the moisture is wrong, but I learned that working for food is a good way to be. Along with mentoring, I got 4 dozen fresh farm eggs and a big hunk of cow. So I'm now working my housing and food off, very part-time.
It really is amazing what happens when you just get out here.