WWOOFing – Texas Style
For our second WWOOF experience, we went to a small family farm outside of Houston, Texas – a great place to hang out for 3 weeks during January. [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.]
As we did for our first WWOOF farm, we’ll respect the privacy of our hosts and not reveal their names or the name of their farm, but we will tell you more about them.
She was a Canadian cowgirl and lawyer who made her husband kill a rabbit on their second date – clearly a woman who fits in in Texas! He was a native Texan and software engineer who was a master with PVC – he showed us how to build a rabbit hutch and constructed a hot dog launcher for an upcoming Mardi Gras parade. They were hilarious and fun, teaching us tons about running your own small farm.
Our hosts were wonderful about exposing us to more than just farm work, too. They told us about the fabulous Yaga’s Chili Quest & Beer Fest. They took us to our first full length opera – a networking event for our female host’s firm, a dress rehearsal of La Traviata at the Houston Grand Opera. And they took us to an awesome pre-Mardi Gras party for their upcoming parade in Galveston.
Our Tasks on the Texas WWOOF Farm
Our days on the farm began at dawn when we would help feed the 4 horses, the burro, the cow and her calf, the 10 rabbits, the 3 peacocks, and, toward the end of our 3-week stay, the 3 chickens. This included gathering clover from the yard for the bunnies and peacocks. And then our days got much more awesome – we rode horses along trails, bayous or irrigation ditches for 30 minutes to an hour each day. We were always joined by at least 1 and sometimes up to 5 dogs (that’s right – even Knox was able to run the trails with the horses some days!).
The rest of our time was spent mulching and weeding, dismantling an old jungle gym, and helping build a new rabbit hutch. We helped with meal preparation and doing dishes, too – a great opportunity to spend time with our host family and learn more about them and their lives.
And farm life always provides opportunities for adventure! When our hostess discovered during milking one morning that the cow was coming in heat, we got the chance to load up the cow & her calf into a trailer (WAY tougher than we ever imagined!) and take them to a farm on the other side of Houston for breeding. This meant that Scott got to drive roughly 14,000 lbs of F-250, trailer and cow – a definite new experience. Plus, we got to walk around the bull’s farm and see even more animals – another great photo opportunity for Edie!
We took a couple side trips on our own, too. First, we took a little day trip to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. Although we intended to go hiking, we ended up just driving around and doing an auto tour of the marshy area – thanks mostly to the crazy number of mosquitoes that swarmed the moment we opened the truck doors and the lack of actual hiking trails (it’s setup for an auto tour, not hiking).
Our second little trip was to Winnie, Texas, for a great Cajun dinner at Al-T’s Seafood & Steak Restaurant with a fellow bus rider and friend of Edie’s dad, Leslie, and her husband Kevin. Over crawfish, catfish, and etoufee, we spent a wonderful 2 hours talking about traveling.
Finally, since we were in Texas, getting some barbeque was a necessity. So off to Houston we went for some excellent barbeque at Goode Company BBQ. We actually wanted to go back to Houston for a concert by local band Honeybrowne at The Armadillo Palace, but after an afternoon of Mardi Gras partying, plus a 6-hour drive looming on Sunday, we decided against going to a 10:30pm concert. Yeah, we’re old, you don’t have to say it.
Local Food Finds
As you’d expect, in a small rural suburb of a big city, there’s a good bit of local food to find. While the closest farmer’s markets were 30-45 minutes away, there are plenty of people that raise their own eggs, plus a great farm market a short drive from our house called Froberg’s Farm.
Froberg’s carries tons of local produce (and some non-local, as well), including seasonal options from their own farm next door. Over the course of three weeks, we visited a good 5 or 6 times to pick up food for various dinners, from salad fixins to beets (roasted with blue cheese) to cabbage (braised in white wine), plus fruit, nuts, coconut, and dates.
Next door to Froberg’s is Greak’s Smokehouse, a local staple for all of your smoked meat needs. This guy had marketing down pat. The first time we walked into Froberg’s, he was walking around the produce area giving out samples of smoked sausage. We had already planned to visit him to pick up some sausage, but ended up walking out with two things. The next time we visited him was to get some bacon. Then he offered us some Jalapeno-Cheese Venison & Pork sausage…so we got bacon and sausage. It’s like crack: the first hit’s free.
Our final local food find was Mustang Bayou Farms, where we purchased 5 dozen eggs over 3 weeks. This is the kind of place that you can find most anywhere since raising chickens takes very little space. So we’re always on the lookout for “Eggs for Sale” signs in front yards. On our last visit, we ended up chatting with Kara for a good 20 minutes, swapping stories, petting her 5 Great Pyrenees, and learning more about her farm. While they specialize in goats, their eggs are nothing to sneeze at and it’s always nice to be able to meet the people that raise your food.
Becoming Local Food
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that not only did we eat local food, Scott actually became local food a couple times. This area of Texas has fire ants everywhere, large mounds of them. Several times we had to stop working in an area to lay down some fire ant killer and come back the next day. Unfortunately for Scott, a fire ant or two got to bare skin a couple different times and left a few itching, burning marks. Luckily it was just a few bites each time, not an entire fire ant colony.
Here are a few pictures from our adventures at the Texas farm.