The Wonderful World of WWOOFing
Those of you that have been following our blog or Facebook page know that as part of our travels, we decided to WWOOF. [For more information about WWOOFing and the history of the organization, check out http://www.wwoofusa.org/About_WWOOFUSA and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WWOOF.]
Although we posted a little bit about some of our experiences and what it means to WWOOF, we decided that we should give you a little more in depth description of our first WWOOF experience – like how we picked the farm, what our hosts were like and what kind of work we got to do.
How We Found A WWOOF Farm
For our first farm, we searched the WWOOF website for farms in Georgia that accepted WWOOFers traveling with a pet. We knew we wanted to head south, and we figured farm work (i.e. outdoor work) in KY and TN during November would be a bit too chilly but that Georgia would probably work. Based on the weather and Knox limits, we chose a 12 acre family-owned farm in the Macon area with lots of animals and good reviews from first-time WWOOFers.
The farm provided free room and board in exchange for work on the farm, and lucky for us on chilly nights, the free room was indoors (FYI – not all WWOOF farms provide indoor accommodations]. Yes – we gave up stable jobs and a nice apartment in the town in which we grew up to be the equivalent of migrant farm workers (that’s for you, Linda C!) who get excited for indoor housing and plumbing.
Questions we were frequently asked by friends and family about this WWOOF farm was if we knew our hosts in advance (uh…no!) and if not, did we think it was kind of weird and risky to go live with strangers for 2 weeks? While we were incredibly lucky to get awesome hosts (more on them in a moment), I want to point out that this venture wasn’t as risky and weird as it may appear at first blush.
First, WWOOF USA has a forum for WWOOFers only to talk about the various farms and hosts so that you can check people out in advance. Second, there is no real contract between WWOOFer and WWOOF farm – if your hosts turn out to be mean or creepy or whatever, you can leave. And this goes both ways: WWOOF hosts are taking a risk when they allow strangers to come to their homes, but they too can boot out a problematic WWOOFer.
As for our hosts, they were wonderful and treated us like family coming for an extended visit – the kind of family you actually like, too! For the sake of their privacy, I won’t mention their names or even the name of their farm, but I will tell you a little more about them.
The female half of our host family was a Westerner living in the South – definitely don’t make her eat boiled peanuts or collard greens! She was an incredibly creative woman who had an incredible love and compassion for animals. Plus she was super friendly and instantly made us feel like her newly-adopted children.
Her husband was a total Southerner. In appearance, he was a cross between Dale Earnhardt and George Strait. He was fairly quiet most of the time, but when he did have something to say, it was either an important lesson on farm life, a hilarious story of his youth, or smart aleck comment to us 2 farm-naïve city kids. Our hosts were both definitely great teachers for first time WWOOFers.
What Did We Do While WWOOFing?
Our work on the farm was incredibly varied. As mentioned above, part of the attraction of this farm for us was the assortment of animals, and there was plenty of animal interaction on a daily basis. We learned how to blanket and unblanket a horse, and helped feed the horses, the pig, and even the iguana, turtle and fish. We learned how to corral chickens back into their coop and helped collect eggs (from chickens AND turkeys!).
Beyond direct work with the animals, we cleaned out horse stalls, helped paint a barn, prepared a room for another WWOOFer, laid stones for a courtyard patio, weeded and planted winter vegetables in the garden, helped can apples, and gathered pecans. The main thing we learned is that there is always work to do on a farm!
Since our hosts treated us like family, we had to act like family, too. This meant we helped cook meals, we took out trash, and we swept & mopped floors. But our hosts also made sure we had fun, too. Our second day on the farm, they took us to a turkey shoot (where Scott won the turkey that he smoked for our Thanksgiving dinner!). They also took us to Smiley’s, a local flea market that has anything and everything under the sun that you might want to find, from furniture to tarot card and palm readings – plus some great Mexican food! They even let us ride their horses – a first for Scott!
After such a great first-time WWOOFing experience, it’s going to be hard to beat what we had in Georgia, but it also has us excited for the next farm and the new opportunities to learn a new skill and meet new people.
Here are some pictures of our work at the farm and what we saw in the Macon area.