The first WWOOF – near a small township called Kendall

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It was a disappointing start to my search for a WWOOF host. Only one of a half a dozen replied to my inquiry for a vacancy. Even a woman whom I spoke to on the phone who asked me to email her my details didn’t have the courtesy to reply. Eventually I found a couple who were willing to take me on for two weeks. The woman was welcoming and friendly and her host profile sounded like she had an interesting farm with cows, chickens, ducks, fruit trees and a vegetable garden.

The farm was just over 130 acres up along a gravel road, a large part of it native bush. On my first day I was warned about snakes – red belly black snakes are common – venomous but won’t kill you. Brown snakes are dangerous but hadn’t been sighted yet by my hosts. Pythons also abound and on my fourth or fifth day, Molly and Musket, the two Italian working dogs were barking at a 2.5 meter python that was rearing its head at them. Snakes are not my cup of tea and I was grateful for the fly screens in my windows and doors to my granny flat where I was staying.

The first task I was given was to let the chickens and ducks out of their coop, feed them, clean and refill their water containers and collect any eggs. There were 12 eggs in a bed of weeds in the corner of what looked like it had seen better days as a vegetable patch but now had weeds almost 3 foot high. You would think the chickens and ducks were delighted to see a long lost friend by how they all came running towards me, but alas it was only because they knew they were going to be fed.

I spent the rest of the day digging out those 3 foot high weeds that were more like shrubs that covered an area of about 4 square meters. Next I moved onto a similar sized patch that had a giant thistle with stalks over an inch in diameter surrounded by more weeds. I had never done so much weeding in my life.   Two days later I converted the now bald patch into neat vegetable beds carefully planted with seeds of corn, spinach, rocket, lettuce, and beetroot.

I’m by no means an expert in any of this farming business but it was apparent that smart design and common sense are crucial. It eliminates so much wasted effort, resources and energy. With no proper drainage, the entrance to the chicken coop became a massive mud puddle after the water containers were emptied and washed. The property survived on tank water only, and water was precious. Yet, the containers of water were filled to the top everyday and most of it tipped out the next day, which did not make much sense to me. The ducks ended up floating in them by the end of the day.  That may be why they never ventured to the dam for a swim.

Some of the design problems are harder to eliminate – access to the farm was via a road on someone else’s property. This meant my hosts had right of carriageway but it was not like a public road and the owner of the private property could make life difficult.

He happened to be someone with a lifelong bee in his bonnet that needed to pursue relationships by antagonising and offending. He did not like anyone on his bit of road but there were two properties that had right of carriageway through it.  There was no other way to get to these properties.  Amongst other problematic incidents, one day my hosts found that he had parked his truck in the middle of the road to block access!  They ended up going to mediation to resolve their differences and would have pursued an apprehended violence order if necessary. Apparently when the mediator suggested an agreement where the neighbour was to refrain from harassing my hosts for a period of six months (in the hope that this would be the new order of the day), he insisted that three months was more appropriate!

My hosts were into cattle by the time I went to wwoof with then. They had a number of Galloway cows, Jersey cows and an Angus. Prior to the cows they had sheep, but tragically woke one morning to a herd in shock with one sheep floating in the dam and the rest with bite marks, having been attacked by a pack of wild dogs. Pigs had preceded the sheep.  They were being bred to be sold but not all managed to leave the farm. When they got too old, they cost too much in feed and hence were sold for meat.

Today, on my eighth day, I woke with a sore right eye and an inflamed eyelid. It was as if I had a stye but couldn’t feel the typical grain of sand. After spending the morning making chutney – a welcome change from the weeding – I went to the doctor and was told I had an eye infection. ‘Are you sure?’, I asked him. Antibiotics and an antibacterial cream seemed overkill for a puffy eye. I took myself to the pharmacy and asked the pharmacist who told me to try the cream and if it didn’t work in 5 days, to take the antibiotics.

More weeding tomorrow?

2 thoughts on “The first WWOOF – near a small township called Kendall”

  1. Sounds like a bit of a nightmare, Lisa. I’m very familiar (from my days with Helpx) with some of the things you mention – not with snakes thank goodness! I was troubled by how many people didn’t seem to have much of a clue about how to organize themselves or their lives or animals. Some people were absolutely lovely and it was a pleasure to help them, but the others….. well I just had to walk out. I think it’s particularly hard with WOOFING because a lot of those ‘farmers’ are having a struggle – high ideals but no common sense. I wish you well. Perhaps you could try Helpx.net and see if that brings you any joy. Wishing you all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Pat. It’s lovely to hear from you and I hope all is well with you. My next farm is a commercial organic business where the owner wants to pass on her knowledge. Really looking forward to learning as much as I can.

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