The story of a young dutch couple who came to the UK to go WWOOFing and ended up becoming WWOOF UK hosts!
In the words of Josine: “My husband, Jan-Pieter, and I were born and raised in the Netherlands. We felt increasingly disillusioned with the pressures of modern life there – and longed to distance ourselves from the rat race. Both our families taught us how to grow our own vegetables from a very early age, and when we married, we decided to grow our own vegetables in the tiny back garden we had at the time. The joy it gave us was tremendous!
After two wonderful holidays touring Scotland, we discussed the idea of leaving behind the hustle and bustle of our life in the Netherlands and moving to Scotland to live a simple, self-sufficient life. But living and working in a different country is very different from spending just a week or two there on holiday! So we decided to go WWOOFing there for a year first, and see what would happen…
Happy WWOOF hosts with happy WWOOFers!
In January 2006 we travelled to the far north of Scotland to WWOOF at a smallholding near the west coast. Boy, was life different there than it had been in the Netherlands! Our WWOOF hosts not only grew all their own vegetables, but they also kept chickens; cows (for milk); sheep (which they sheared) and guinea fowl which made the most wonderful noises and – as it turned out (rather unfortunately for them) – the main ingredient in a wonderful soup, too!
That was the start of a nine month long WWOOFing experience, staying with seven different WWOOF hosts. All of them had gardens of their own (some with animals, others not) and some of them even sold the vegetables they grew.
Photos of Josine and Jan-Pieter whilst actively engaged in WWOOFing.
We relished the whole experience and it really opened our eyes. When we returned home, our minds were already made up – there was no doubt, this is where and how we wanted to live our lives too! On returning to Scotland, we were fortunate enough to rent a house in a tiny village called ‘Pool o’ Muckhart’ in Central Scotland. Our landlord allowed us to grow vegetables in the garden there, and from time to time the chickens belonging to a neighbour across the road would pay us a visit. My husband and I both found work – Jan-Pieter continued to work freelance as a Web Developer and I found a job in a health store in the neighbouring city of Stirling.
Eventually we planned to move to a quieter part of the country because our back garden faced onto a really busy, noisy road. It was in the health shop where, again by sheer good fortune, one of the customers happened to be renting out a cottage in a secluded spot which seemed ideal. Situated in Glendevon, about 20 miles from Stirling, hidden in the hills with 1/4 acre of land on which we could grow whatever fruit and vegetables we liked, we took up residence in ‘Glensherup Cottage’. When the landlord offered to sell the house to us, we couldn’t believe our luck.
But that’s when the hard work really began! The land was mostly covered in grass, so we began the arduous task of digging over the ground, starting with the front garden. It soon occurred to us that maybe we had bitten off more than we could chew. It was difficult for us to admit it, but we needed a little help. That’s when the idea began forming – why don’t we become WWOOF hosts ourselves? We would be able to share our knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for growing and harvesting from the land; offer comfortable accommodation; good food and in return get that little extra help we needed. 2013 was our first year as WWOOF hosts and it’s amazing how much we accomplished with the help of the six WWOOFers who stayed with us during that time.
We built a greenhouse from scratch; and a chicken coup (which now houses five ex-battery hens). We made six gallons of wine from fruit we had grown ourselves and collected from the wild. We made over thirty jars of jam and sauerkraut as well; and grew enough vegetables to last us for over 10 months! Not bad for such a small piece of land!
Our next project is the building of a ‘five senses garden’ – five borders representing our five senses – as well as a bed of medicinal plants and herbs in our back garden. Once again, we’re going to need some help if we want to make this a reality; and on top of growing and preserving our homegrown vegetables and fruit, it’s shaping up to be another busy year.”
**Update: March 2016**
“With the help of WWOOFers, we are now self sufficient in all our vegetables year round. We eat sauerkraut, chutney and pickled vegetables in winter and fresh vegetables in the rest of the year (occasionally we supplement with weeds from the surrounding area, nettle soup is super tasty!).
We’ve only got one chicken left of the 5 ex-battery chickens, she is called The Hooligan and she is really famous in Stirling and surroundings! That’s because she is a right character with lots of adventures.
I write about her and the garden in the shop’s monthly newsletter and I’m sure a lot of customers just read that part!
We’ve also been filmed by the BBC’s Beechgrove Garden last year and appeared in the show in May 2015 building a bog garden.
We still have contact with some of our own WWOOF hosts and it’s good to know they still take WWOOFers too.”
Many thanks to Josine and JP for their story. If you have an inspirational WWOOFy story of your own please do share it by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org