Petra Mattson is a WWOOFer who spent five months WWOOFing in the UK during 2014 and she shares her impressions and reflections with us.
I am waking up around eight o’clock, fully aware of the cold surrounding my warm island of beddings. I have to remind myself that I am Swedish before putting down my feet on the cold wooden floor and quickly getting dressed before heading downstairs to help with the fire. There is no time for breakfast, first we must see to the animals. Wishing them all a good morning as we make our way through the feeding and the milking procedures, I get a glimpse of the shy December sun and start to remember the cocky July one. It seems like it was yesterday when I first arrived to the UK, amazed at the first sight of the coast as the ferry from Calais slowly reached Dover, and eager to know everything there was to know about organic food production and sustainable living.
But the landscape has changed a great deal since the beginning of July and so have I, perhaps not so much in my conviction of the necessity of a more sustainable society but more so in my own approach to reach it. But that is another story which I will not bore you with at the moment. Instead, I would like to welcome this new season by sharing some of my unforgettable memories from the previous ones.
I am neither a country nor a city person. I grew up close to the forest and I am used to strolling about among birch trees, conifers, wild flowers, deer and occasionally elk. But I am not used to being on a farm. Therefore, I have had countless of ‘first times’ these five months, none of which I will ever forget. Perhaps a few of you have had similar experiences? The first time a hen passes you in the same moment as she lays an egg and instead of sitting on it, as I thought they always did, carries on as if nothing has happened. Or the first encounter with fifty bullocks running towards you when there is no chance you will be able to beat them to the gate. The first time you manage to catch Dennis, the chickens’ escape artist. The first time you have a cream tea (which is not tea with cream on top of it), or when you taste some new peculiar looking vegetable like Romanesco or celeriac, or when you finally learn how to pronounce nasturtium. Like I said, the numerous ‘first times’ are countless.
There have also been ‘first time’ memories which hopefully will be my last. If someone as much as mentions clearing brambles I will be off. My love for blackberries has definitely gotten a turn. How you English people survive the blackberry jungle I have no idea and I have no wish to find out. Weeding amongst stingy nettles is another far too familiar memory. I wish I could say ‘bye bye’ but I will probably see you guys next summer. Unfortunately Sweden is not too cold for them. Getting up before six o’clock to go to market is not a favourite moment but the early morning is definitely worth the effort. I would not, for the world, forget the satisfaction of meeting the customers and seeing how the produce (which you have been a small part in caring for) changes hands. That is how it should be!
I have also found a new love during these few months – chickens. I have not been to a single place which has not kept chickens and what an incredible animal! Vicious and cute at the same time and how they make me laugh when they run, like small dinosaurs. Thanks heaven you are small and I am not! Besides chickens there are a few other characters that I will carry with me, and that I must admit I have been tempted to fit in my rucksack; the dogs, ever so cheerful and friendly who always welcome you with great affection; the cats who have been friendly enough to give me their permission to stay at their place and sleep in their bed; the kid goats who do not have to do so much to gain my affection as long as they want a cuddle. There are however a few characters who are not welcomed in my rucksack; the slugs who ate my rocket (sorry for feeding you to the ducks); the organic rats who are too heavy to be running on top of my caravan’s roof; and last but not least Gandalf the goose, for me you will always be Saruman.
My WWOOFing adventure is coming towards an end and within a couple of days I will be back on the ferry to the mainland with a rucksack full of memories. I hope that the upcoming seasons will be as great as the ones I have experienced and that more ‘first time’ memories will come about. Last I would like to thank all my hosts and fellow WWOOFers for an amazing experience. I have learned so much from each one of you, not only about organic food production but also about different cultures and ways of living.