Unlike usual WWOOFing exchanges where hosts provide accommodation for longer farm stays, Eoin has established regular day-long volunteering with a local host which he’s managed to keep going during lockdown.
I’ve been WWOOFing one day a week at a smallholding a few miles away from where I live. We normally have a home-grown, home-cooked meal for lunch and I am given any leftovers, produce, seeds, cuttings or seedlings that I want, to take home with me. When the lockdown was announced in late March I wondered if I would be able to continue. First of all, could I justify it given the limited reasons outlined by the government for leaving the house and secondly, would it be safe to do so?
Observing the 2 metre rule.
In the first case I could cycle to and from the smallholding as my daily exercise. Also in contributing to the production of food on the site, I could play a part (albeit small) in reducing trips to the supermarket both for the host site (4 residents) and because a small amount of produce is sold very locally (1 mile radius).
Clearing an area to plant herbs.
The safety aspect was something I discussed with my host. We agreed that if we changed our procedures and habits in a number of simple ways that we could continue:
- I would not go into the house at all (nature peeing here is fine and there are compost loos I could use)
- I would bring my own cutlery, mug and plate, which I would put out and stand back whilst my host filled them at lunch time.
- I would bring my own gloves and use hand sanitiser.
- I would use one set of tools which would then remain outside for three days before being reused.
- At all times we would observe the 2 metre social distancing rule.
After 6 weeks or so we have got into a routine which works for all concerned. No one is taking unnecessary risks. My host also wanted to know from the outset what my movements and interactions were in my ‘normal’ life, so that I would not be bringing anything with me to infect her or her household in which one person is shielding. I was able to reassure her on that score. We’ve also been fortunate in that the weather has been kind so we have been able to eat lunch outside quite comfortably. We have individual benches and lots of space.
With a bit of planning and forethought, day / local WWOOFing can still take place.
Words: Eoin Shalloo
Photos: Scarlett Penn