A recipe for personal evolution

Jun 20, 2024

By Lily Castro

The past year, I have been studying my masters in Creative Writing in busy, bustling London (I am originally from the states) and have discovered that I am actually most happy when I am outside of the city and in nature.

I have included black and white 35mm analogue photos; I usually do color but wanted to focus on the feeling behind the pictures for my month at the farm instead of the distraction of color. 

Me, Lily 25, USA

With classes having ended in April and my apartment lease finishing the beginning of May, I opened myself to the plethora of experiences that can cross your path when you allow the universe to work its’ magic (I am not a wacky baccy smoking gal preaching the ways of the universe, simply your girl next door who has found that trusting myself has always lead to opportunities knocking on mine).

I went to class one day and mentioned I want to experience something I have never done before (like living on a farm), my teacher overheard, and said her girlfriend volunteered through WWOOF… that night I went home, researched this site, and sure enough the universe was back at it again with its’ magical way of giving, should you be open to receiving.

I can describe my first experience this past month of May in the steps of baking a chocolate chip cookie. Have faith, and read on.

How it works- get your ingredients

I went through all farm stays in the U.K, Ireland, & Switzerland (my top three places to be this summer) and favorited where I thought I might best fit. First and foremost, I made sure to read the reviews of each farm as I would with any online accommodation site, in order to get a feel for how others described their experience. Seeings we are all our own individual thinking and living beings, I took all reviews with a grain of salt but was looking for farms that exuded the most “warmth.” Being already so far from family and friends internationally, and leaving behind the city I had grown accustomed to the past year, I was now looking for a new place I could call home.

After reading more thoroughly, I felt drawn to the philosophy described by a certain farm here in Devon.

I took all the above and explained it to the farmstead I was most interested in. I was happy to find that my instinct of Middle Brownstone (the farm I chose) was correct in that I received the utmost kind and welcoming, with a dash of humor, response on WWOOF.

From left to right: Imogen, Gabrielle, Jesse, Dave

After a quick FaceTime to make sure both parties (me and them) were as cool in person as we were through words, I found myself packing up my London apartment and heading to Black Dog.

Mix your ingredients- add the chocolate chips, flour, eggs, and sugar into one big bowl
Upon arriving at the nearest bus stop, my two hosts (Graz and Dave) picked me up. Seeings I had done my research and met them personally before arriving, the only surprises I was met with was the utter disbelief at how much more beautiful everything was in person.

I was 1 of 2 WWOOFers the first week (a gal named Sammy from South Africa), solo the second week, and 1 of 4 girls (a French, a Spaniard, and a fellow Californian) the following three weeks. The variety of ever-changing guests quickly made up for my having lived alone the past year.

Most would not associate metropolitan cities with loneliness. You’re always surrounded by people on the street, in restaurants, on the train. There is constant noise no matter which way you turn your head. There’s the bus beeping at the taxi and the taxi beeping at the bus, the sounds of FaceTime rings in front of Big Ben and iPhone shutters in front of Buckingham. ’Twas exciting and exhilarating to have great chances of bumping into someone you’ve never met before at any corner.

However, it was that very fact of being constantly surrounded by strangers and artificial noise that I actually felt quite lonely. It was as if I was standing in the middle of Times Square and everyone was passing by in light trails with no time to stop and engage with one another.

Imogen and Billy debating T-shirt rights

When I wake up here at the farm, I find it hard to feel lonely. Not only am I greeted by two smiling faces each morning in the kitchen with a nice big cup of joe (or tea should you prefer), I am greeted by the (never ending) song of the birds, the blowing of the leaves on trees, and the worms that are living in their own tiny universes beneath the soil I am planting upon. I must mention the two friendly kittens that make their way to where I am gardening each morning in order to say their hellos and prevent my hands from sowing (why use hands for digging when they are so much better suited for back scratches?)

Lick the fork
A lunch bell is rung by either host around midday, a very wholesome and nostalgic gesture I might add. I had no idea what to expect in regards to meals, as working in exchange for accommodation and food was a foreign concept to me. I went into the experience preparing myself for anything and expecting to eat whatever was placed on my plate (to an extent) in order to broaden the horizons of my palate.

From left to right: Graz (POL), Gabrielle (FR), Dave (UK), Imogen (USA)

If you would have asked me last month to eat broccoli, I would have asked you to pay me. Somehow, I now find it delicious. Along with willingly eating so many other vegetables that I was quite lacking of in my day to day city diet, I found myself going to bed earlier, waking up earlier, feeling energy throughout the day, and never bloated. Who would’ve thought that the consumption of non-processed, non-GMO’d, garden to plate with a pinch of love foods could feel so good?

Dinner is a combination of leftovers, tea should you feel satisfied from lunch, a nice refreshing apple cider, or all of the above. I think this varies farm to farm, but I have hit the jackpot when it comes to nutrition.

Place in the oven and wait
At this particular farm, we are given two days of free exploration a week and have a set minimum of hours to help on the farm. With that being said, we choose our own start and end times, as well as the days we would like to help. I have found myself leaving the watch and phone inside and using the clock of weather as my only time constraint.

I have had the experience of learning how to sow (planting seeds), pot and re-pot (taking plants that need a pot upgrade and giving them a larger one), planting plants that no longer need a pot, weeding small scales, constructing pea & bean netting, and planting rows of baby trees that will have grown up with my emotional handprint on them in 10 years time.

Dave doing his daily rounds

In a few months, everything I have planted will be growing and ready to eat. So for now, we wait.

Serve and enjoy
I believe every farm on WWOOF will differ. I have my next farm stay in Switzerland in July. Although I am an avid writer, I am still finding it hard to encompass the enormous positivity this experience has brought to my life.

Dave, Graz and I

Within just one month, my outlook on life, food, and sustainable living has completely evolved. I thank the universe one more time for creating an opportunity like WWOOF in order for like minded humans to come together.

We hope you enjoyed this article and the accompanying photos so kindly gifted to us by Lily. We’re so grateful to Lily for being able to share the positivity described in these WWOOFing experiences and would like to wish Lily the very best of luck with the rest of her studies and for all of her WWOOFing adventures in the future.

If you’d like to find out more about this host then click here.

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