“Thank you God for getting me off the farm”

Two bloggers tell of their time in the Picton, Australia community of The Twelve Tribes of Israel

Source: Life out of a backpack 2011/02/24

Sunday, 13 Feb:

Made it back to Katoomba safe and sound and went up to the Common Ground Café to find out the details about leaving for the farm on Monday.  It was a cold and rainy night so it was nice and relaxing to lounge around the hostel and just relax before leaving for the farm.

Monday, 14 Feb:

Disclaimer: Although this probably will sound like more negativity… the following story is not a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are not products of the author’s imagination or are used non- fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely because I am a moron.

Dorien and I went up to the Common Ground café at 5 ready to catch a ride to the farm, but were told they were having some car trouble, and that they were trying to figure out what was going on.  They asked us if we could just wait around a bit, so we sat around for about a half hour or so before they asked us if we wanted to have some dinner.  I ordered an apple juice, which was delicious, and tasted so fresh and a chef salad.  Fruits and Vegetables are really expensive here, so a salad sounded so delicious and since it was free I was so excited!  We finished our dinner, yet they still didn’t know what was going on.  We were told since they live in a community and there are so many people it is often hard to communicate.  So we walked to K-Mart so Dorien could look for a hat to wear on the farm just to kill time.  We ended up finally getting word that our ride was coming, yea!  While waiting for our ride, we talked to one of the workers named Tikva about the farm and she was telling us it was a community and that they all live together.  We were curious what religion was associated with the farm because they dressed very different and had this peaceful calm about them on their faces.  So I just asked what religion it was because no one ever told us.  We were told they belonged to the 12 Tribes of Israel, which I had never heard of before and at the time didn’t really know what to expect.

So, we get into a van with blacked out windows and I am thinking to myself, “this is kinda creepy, I hope they don’t take me into a field and shoot me.”  We drive to the half-way point between the café in Katoomba and the farm in Picton and switch into another van.  I feel a little weird about the whole thing, as all the others in the van besides Dorien were male, but everyone was very friendly and it seemed we were safe.  We finally arrived at the farm around 11:30 at night or so and Dorien and I were both dead tired.  We were told they had a “gathering” at 7 am and 7 pm every day, but that since we got in late we might be too tired for it in the morning.  Leaving it a little open-ended, we were unsure if we were required to go to these gatherings or if it was optional.

Tuesday, 15 Feb:

We set an alarm for the morning, but decided to sleep in since we got in late.  We woke up around 9 or so and went to have some tea and breakfast.  An older woman gave us some kind of green tea I had never heard of and based on the look on Dorien’s face I could tell she was thinking about the advice we were given in Katoomba to, “not drink the Kool-Aid” haha.  (Although, I had to explain to her what Kool-Aid was, guess they don’t have that in Belgium).  People at the hostel were joking and giving us a hard time before we left for the farm and many of the things they said turned out to actually be true.

After breakfast we went to work on the garden planting and picking tomatoes.  The farm itself was not what we imagined at all. It was directly on a busy road so you could hear traffic driving by.  We were told there was a creek that you could swim in, but it was so low and dirty you couldn’t even stick your foot in. We were told there were goats we could milk, but I never saw one.  Apparently, they have chickens, but I never saw those either.  The garden was nice, yet small, and un-kept.  However, the first day I still tried to keep an open mind.  We had salad for lunch with some bread and tuna fish, which was very delicious because the bread tasted homemade and the veggies tasted fresh.  After lunch we helped an older woman clean the main house, which looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for months.  I was beginning to get the impression they were just giving us the jobs they didn’t want to do themselves.  After cleaning, we worked on the garden picking weeds.

The people we met throughout the day were very nice, but the women all wore parachute pants, or what looked like MC Hammer pants to me, and had long braided hair. The men all had long hair pulled back in ponytails and long beards.  Don’t get me wrong, I wear things people consider to be weird, so I don’t really judge, but there was just something about the whole look that was just different. Sort of Amish meets hippy if that makes any sense at all. They also all had strange names and their leader’s name was… you guessed it, Israel.

Peppercorn Creek farm community

We were told many times throughout the day about the “gathering” at 7 pm, which they do every night before they have dinner, so we felt we should go.  This is when it becomes clear to me that I am not going to make it a week on the farm. The “gatherings” consisted of everyone standing in a circle. The men all wore these braided bands around their heads and the woman all wore these bandana type things on their heads.  It began with music, which consisted of one guy playing the guitar and others shouting out songs they wanted to sing.  Many of these songs had different hand gestures that went along with them, while others had people holding hands running in a circle inside the circle dancing. After many songs, people would just go around and talk about things they were thankful for, like suffering, or happy about, like living in the community and that their children were going to be able to grow up in this great place. They also kept yelling out, “Thank you Abba” and “Yes Yashua.”   The whole thing was very bizarre and a little out of my comfort zone. I felt that all eyes were on us and that we were supposed to be participating, and while not the most religious Catholic I know, I still wanted to remain respectful to my own religion while respecting theirs.  I didn’t get the impression this was okay…it seemed as if they were trying to convert us!  The “gathering” lasted about an hour, and then we were supposed to have dinner. I could tell by the look on Dorien’s face she was about to lose it.  We snuck off and she was almost in tears.  While the “gathering” was not what I expected and not something I wanted to partake in for the next week, I didn’t get the impression we were in danger or anything crazy like that.  However, Dorien and I both felt it was pretty much a cult and that we didn’t want to stick around too long.  Being on this small farm though, we were seldom alone and didn’t have much time to discuss a plan of action for getting off the farm.  So we went to dinner and suffered through it. A woman asked my name and I told her Jennifer and she said, “That was my name in the world.” I wanted to say to her, “You are still in the world crazy!”

Starved, we should have been excited for dinner, but it was salad again, corn on the cob and bread.  Laying on the top bunk that night my stomach started to growl… then Dorien’s started growing…. then mine again…then both together….at this point we both were laughing in our misery.

Wednesday, 16 Feb:

The following morning we really didn’t want to go to the gathering, so we discussed it for a bit and finally decided we should not be forced to go because it was not our religion, so we get back in bed and moments later hear a knock on the door.  Dorien and I both remain silent and don’t say a word…then a second knock, so Dorien gets up and the old woman who made us clean the day before was yelling “gathering, gathering, gathering” outside the door, so of course Dorien says, “We’re getting ready.” Haha. The things we say and do under pressure.  So we go to the “gathering” and this is pretty much the last straw for me. There were only 5 of the 40 people who live on the farm present, so tell me why we had to get out of bed and go.  So over it at this point.  They tell us we are going to be going to the new Common Ground café they opened in Picton up the road.  It was terrible and we were so ready to leave.  (And, just as a side note for anyone who has ever been to the Common Ground café or heard about it, they do not use the ingredients from the farm in their restaurant.  All of the ingredients are store-bought.  Yes, they are good ingredients and the food is delicious, but they buy it just like everyone else).  We worked until 3 and decided we had to get out of there or else we were going to be at the café until 11 pm because Wednesday’s they do pizza night until 10.  So we just told a random person at the café we had to leave, walked back up the street to the farm, packed up our stuff, and found a guy and told him we were leaving.  He was actually very nice and gave us a ride to the train station, but the whole thing was very awkward.  I think they were as happy to see us go as we were to leave.

If interested in more info about my Peppercorn Creek Farm experience in Picton, check out their website: http://www.twelvetribes.com/whereweare/global/australia/peppercorn-creek-farm.html

I also found this article while I was looking up more info about them online and thought this quote was applicable to my experience.

“They are there to prey on vulnerable people and that’s why they are in Katoomba,” he said. http://www.bluemountainsgazette.com.au/news/local/news/general/controversy-continues-to-brew-over-sect-cafe/1236847.aspx

I guess I am a vulnerable person.  We got on the 4:30 train and headed back to Sydney because we had no idea where else to go.  At this point we really didn’t care where we went…we just wanted off the farm.  The second we got off the train we went to a hostel near the train station that Dorien had stayed at before, dropped off our stuff and went to eat because we were starved from all the salad we ate.  By this point, I was really regretting eating a salad for my last meal before going to the farm. I ate a huge burger and had some beers. Goodnight, thank you God for getting me off the farm.

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