Friday, 6 December 2013

Gone Wwoofing!

“Good morning, is this the Cottarton Cottage slave labour camp?” Amber asked, when I picked up the phone, implying that we actually have slave labour here doing our heavy lifting. I was working alongside my helper, and she was concerned that I was overworking him. 

Cottarton --- The summer view

We don’t have slave labour, but we do occasionally have Wwoofers --- not to be confused with an audio component. For our American friends, and other urban readers, WWOOF stands for WorldWide Opportunitieson an Organic Farm. You can look up their website. The spring and summer months see many restless souls wandering the world, wanting to discover it. Not content to be camera-toting tourists, they want to connect with ecologically minded people. Get to know the land from inside-out. Most are college age kids, but there are also occasionally the older types like ourselves. The WWOOF organization connects those people with homesteads or organic farms that could use an extra hand.

Having registered Cottarton on the website as a host (we are an organic homestead), I started to receive tons of email inquiries from prospective Wwoofers. Most were from France, Spain or Portugal. Often young couples, all trying to match up dates and our availability.  Sometimes I get requests from young single women, which is fine by me as long as Amber is here; otherwise it might be awkward.

Time for clearing beds and giving them their winter grass mulch

So far we’ve been very lucky with the young guys who each worked for a couple of weeks here. Perhaps it’s something in the Cottarton air, its magic perhaps, but so far we've had not only hard workers, really willing to help out, but really good company with broad interests, those with a somewhat mystical attachment to the Earth, able to talk about both ordinary and abstruse subjects. Often their English speaking skills are limited and we communicate in a mix of English and French. They’re trying to figure out what they want out of life and this is one of the ways they’re going about it..

And so I look at our land after our latest companion left and see that trees have been planted, the grass in the field cut, beds cleared and mulched, firewood chopped, fences mended, all sorts of tasks that would have taken me weeks to do on my own. Last year my companion built a flight of steps down to our creek. Our latest companion cleaned up the paint on our antique seed boxes. I suspect that as Amber and I advance into the age of creaking bones and thinning hair, I’ll be calling more for help from those kids who want to connect with the land and share our life here for a spell.

Seed boxes inherited from Dickson & Turnbull, the Perth seed company. On long winter nights our work companions helped us restore the old paint.

So far we haven’t maintained contact with our Wwoofers. Like  proverbial ships that pass in the night, they don’t meet up again. For two weeks we share stories, interests, inspire each other, and work side by side in the field. Sometimes we do some counseling; after all we're gray-heads who supposedly have figured out what life is about.

When we say "good-bye" at the train station or bus stop, there's a feeling on both sides that there's been an exchange of energies, that  both parties have benefited and that something good happened. 

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