a WWOOF love story

May 19, 2018

This is a story that is both beautiful and painful to tell Christiane (Chrissy), my wife, passed away on 30th March 2018 after fighting cancer for eight years.

We met twenty-nine years ago, in 1988 whilst travelling in New Zealand and WWOOFing at a community called Wilderland. It nearly never happened though; I had been in New Zealand for four months already and was about to leave for Australia in a couple of days, when, whilst in the midst of writing a letter to a friend, I felt that I had ‘missed something’. In that moment I decided to go and WWOOF with a couple I had met a few months previously when I was WWOOFing on an orchard in Keri Keri. Dan and Edith set up Wilderland in the 70s and were on a rare trip away when they had called into the orchard I was at to buy some fruit; we got chatting and they invited me to come and stay with them – but only when I had stopped smoking as it was a ‘drug-free community’!

Fast forward a couple of months and I arrived at Wilderland, my first ever community, surely they all disappeared in the 70s I thought! The community had a shop on the main road and I was greeted by a guy with lumps of hair that you might call dreads, ‘Hi Man my name is Gem’ he said, a half moon, star and sunshine tattooed on his face and forehead. Where was I, I wondered?!

After a couple of weeks spent weeding, picking fruit and helping in the shop, a German woman called Heike arrived and told me ‘I have a German friend coming who knows you!’ I insisted that I did not know any Germans, but she was clear, ‘Chris Reid, blue eyes, curly hair and in New Zealand!’ Well that certainly sounded like me, but I was sure it wasn’t! Chrissy arrived a few weeks later and of course we had never met, but she had met my doppelgänger at a party in Germany. We chatted picking stringless beans, I had a tent and no camping gear, she had all the gear and no tent; maybe she wanted to buy mine?

It was a magical time; we spent four months there, we went on a trip to a Gypsy Fayre where house trucks and converted buses would converge and sell their produce. We went on a protest against gold mining, spending the night chained to each other in a bus blocking the road! We slept on a platform at the top of a 50m tree that had been struck by lightning. We weeded long rows of cucumbers, picked oranges and avocados and spent more and more time together.

Then it was time for us both to leave; she went to visit friends on the south island, I went north to help my friends convert their bus to live in. We arranged to meet at an Equinox gathering on the South Island; I couldn’t get her out of my head (or my heart) and knew something special had happened.

We met before the Equinox and spent the next sixteen months travelling and WWOOFing together. We went to Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, all the time thinking about how great it would be to live in a Community, growing food organically and wondering where and how we could do it. After Thailand I returned home – I wanted to study and save the planet somehow, Chrissy went on to India and Nepal. We left things open and agreed to meet in London before she returned to Germany. Eight months later there she was and that was it! As soon as we saw we each other we knew – soul mates – best friends – all of that and more.

In 1992 our daughter Joy was born and we still travelled even when I was studying, spending six months in Holland, one year at a community in Germany as permaculture apprentices. We eventually settled at Redfield Community in the UK in 1995. Since then we welcomed our son Franz and have hosted many WWOOFers from all over the world, happy to be able to give something back and thankful for that magical chance meeting – or was it fate, meant to be? Chrissy even ended up working for WWOOF, putting her skill with numbers to good use for an organisation that she held so close to her heart.

Chrissy was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2010 and after a number of chemotherapy treatments, she underwent a bone marrow transplant in March 2018. Unfortunately, despite her positive attitude, bravery and what appeared to be initial success, Chrissy unexpectedly passed away in her sleep on the 30th March. We had an amazing twenty-nine years together and I will always be grateful to WWOOF for bringing us together. XX Chris

Christiane’s family has set up a donations page where they would like to support two charities closeto Christiane’s heart: Grow to Grow and Macmillan.

Christiane was passionate about organic food, gardening and helping to inspire others to enjoy working outside in nature. She loved the idea behind the charity Grow to Grow based at Bore Place, an organic farm in Kent helping inspire young people through working outdoors. In fact eight years ago Christiane helped work through the finances when the project won Big Lottery funding with a little collaboration from WWOOF. To this day project founder Paula Conway remembers her regular and dependable support with gratitude. The family would love to help support the work Grow to Grow does in future.

Macmillan was a huge source of help, advice and support throughout Christiane and her family’s journey with cancer over the last eight years. They would like to give something back to help the charity continue the amazing work assisting others in similar circumstances. 

In addition, WWOOF UK will be setting up a fund in Christiane’s name. Chair of Trustees Tony Chalcraft said ‘We really wanted to capture who Christiane was with the scheme we set up in her memory. For that reason we’ve decided to create scholarships or bursaries to promote farming and cultural exchanges with young people from Germany.’ We will let you know full details as soon as the fund is established.

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