I was last WWOOFing 15 years ago when I was single and in my 20’s. Working with others on their smallholdings brought a kind of happiness to me that rests in my emotional memory. It was only when my partner and I were planning our summer holiday with our children that WWOOFing flashed backed to me. We have two boys aged 4 and 6. They thrive off being outside and free to make up their own rules, play games, make mistakes and take risks. They love campsites as do Ian and I. But we need purpose, to make things, to problem solve together, fresh air, company and a glass of wine. We hoped that WWOOFing would also give us the chance to learn more about rearing chickens on our allotment and some practical learning on ‘No dig’. Our boys love animals but haven’t yet experienced the responsibilities of taking care of them. Finally, we needed a host that would let us pitch our tent on their land and be willing to have the four of us but only one adult available to work at any one time.
I renewed my WWOOFing membership online and set to writing a profile and reading host’s profiles. I worked out that I could use the filter to check which hosts would accept children and then quickly worked out that sending lots of meaningful requests was the best way. I had many rejections from hosts that were full or couldn’t host 4 of us. Then a host in Shropshire replied and it truly made my day. She had the availability but it wasn’t until we talked on the phone that we both realized that everyone’s needs could be met. The location was perfect and we could break up our journey north with 4 days WWOOFing. It proved really useful swapping mobile numbers and email addresses early on so that we could keep in touch with arrival plans.
‘I want to go back to the farm’ – The 4 year old
‘The eggs are delicious’ – The 6 year old
‘I’d never thought of just leaving plants on the allotment to seed and saving them’ – Ian
‘I love doing the seed collection on my own, one job and no interruptions’ – Lorraine
After 4 days we left our WWOOFing home glowing from the fresh air and good sleep and brimming with the sense of purpose and full of our own stories of achievements. Each day started and ended with a visit to the giant rabbits and the hen house. The children happily did the chicken feeding before their own breakfast, always hopeful that there would be a fresh egg. The children wanted to know more and more about the animals and their care, as we left the small holding they started reflecting on what it would be like to have to feed our own chickens twice a day, every day!
The site where we pitched our tent was perfect. We had access to a compost loo, fresh water, electricity and a small marquee to shelter in on those rainy days. We loved making home, sharing our experiences with each other, exploring the field and the smallholding. The boys loved the mud after the rain. We could eat at 5pm and put the boys to bed when they were ready. We made a washing line under the marquee to hang the wet & muddy stuff to dry. The days evolved and we each knew what was expected of us.
Ian and I shared the jobs and tackled them when the weather was fair. We cleared a vegetable bed, collected seeds in the polytunnel and separated tree saplings before planting them into pots. Danny loved collecting the mole hill soil in the wheelbarrow and Ben collected plantain and dandelions for the rabbits. Our host was very understanding and spent time answering our questions, explaining her methodology to us and finding jobs that we could leave and come back to depending on weather. We learnt so much and none of us felt underused or overstretched.
Everything we were doing was feeding into the system. The eggs we ate came from the healthy chickens that we fed, the poo was fertilizing the plants that were flowering and the seeds that we were harvesting. The trees we planted were absorbing the carbon we were releasing when we cleared the chickweed from vegetable beds. In our minds we were joining the dots bringing us closer to a peaceful mind and the food that we eat. We left with a spring in our steps and a seed planted in our joint emotional memories, we’ll be WWOOFing again.
Author: Lorraine Cummings
1- Scarlett Penn
2 – Lorraine Cummings
3 – Scarlett Penn