(View of farm from my bedroom inside the common caravan)
It has been an interesting experience spending the last 2.5 months volunteering at an organic vege farm in Nottingham. Growing up in an urban environment, I’ve always craved for the simpler pleasures of life. And being in a country big on farming, especially using organic methodology, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to dive right in and get my hands dirty.
Signing up for WWOOF (www.wwoof.org.uk) was the starting point to connect people like me to hosting farms. It works like an exchange; volunteers get food & accommodation in exchange for their time and labour. And so, immediately after my travels round Europe, I packed off again and headed towards a family-run farm near Nottingham.
Being in a working farm is definitely not to everyone’s cup of tea. Accommodation is very basic, volunteers stay in caravans and share a common toilet & shower in addition to the kitchen and living space. Heating comes from the basic wood burner in the common caravan or mini portable electric heaters in the individual sleeping caravans. We are lucky to have a TV, but avoided the idiot box for more sociable activities.
Work is not too hard on the farm as we drew closer to Dec. With shorter and colder days, there is less planting to be done and just more harvesting and maintenance jobs e.g. lotsa weeding. My fingers are now scaly and have a chocolate tinge from the constant exposure to the soil and cold. Another downside to working outdoors, especially during these winter months is the cold and windy elements. We still continue to work when it drizzles, but sanely find refuge when it pours. Probably that’s why i have started drinking more tea these days, instead of my usual caffeine kicks. Won’t OD from having at least 5 cups of tea everyday.
Despite working for free, the rewards for me are plentiful. Firstly, the joys of living more in tune with nature. Waking up to birds chirping outside my window, savouring the beautiful sunrise and sunsets, watching the moon cycle and night sky filled with brilliant stars, working with rich soil and watching plants grow etc. Secondly, eating good nutritious food and being introduced to more ingredients, especially since the onsite farm shop buys in variety of fruits, vege and organic foodstuff. Nothing tops picking juicy leaves from the variety of salad plants and tasting the burst of flavours in my mouth. Even the smell of plants being picked fresh is wonderful.
Besides the serene countryside and awesome food, I have been blessed with the company of 3 other volunteers (Czech, Italian & English) at the farm who share similar passions for food and cooking. We never run short of people wanting to cook – definitely have put on weight because of more dairy intake and lack of intense exercise. In addition to learning more cooking styles, I have also learned more about their lives in their country.
What lies ahead for me in 2009?
I aim to learn as much possible from working on these organic farms and living a more responsible & sustainable life on this planet. It is this newfound passion that i hope to develop for my future life ahead. Not only to sustain myself, but also to share it with others so that more people can make a difference to the world. The challenge now will be to create the space for me back home to live it out, amidst the mainstream societal rules and expectations. Bring it on!
(View of farm from the bottom field)
(Having lunch and enjoying the warm sunshine outside)
(Caravans – common caravan can be seen behind the little sleeping caravan in foreground)
(View inside the common caravan – living quarters, kitchen and my bedroom in the back. Picture with Italian gal and Czech volunteer)