Day 16 – With two more nights to go, I realise the animals on the farm have been the least of my problems. It is becoming evident that they are just as much to be used as I have been and the volunteers, who are here propping up the farm.
When I came as a wwoofer, I did not see the extent of the dilapidation, decrepitude, degradation and waste that is here. As a wwoofer, I tended the garden in exchange for food and lodging. I wasn’t responsible for keeping the farm running in terms of ensuring irrigation, basic systems and ongoing power and water to the house.
Everything seems to have been designed to create more work and none of the designs or systems make any sense.
There is well over $150,000 in equipment lying around the farm, exposed to the elements, rusting, uncared for – a truck, a tractor, tractor parts, trailers, fencing, plastic tubing, equipment for slaughtering animals, the list goes on and on. The generator leaks coolant and fuel and doesn’t look like it’s been ever serviced. One day, it will catch on fire, and there are no fire extinguishers to be seen. The irrigation system and the sprinklers are broken, only trickling water rather than spraying. The taps which I had been instructed to turn on cannot be found or do not work. The pigs do not have proper troughs for food and have to eat off the ground which is often muddy.
Being off grid doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sustainable or considerate of the environment. The cost in fuel and relative carbon emissions must be high considering the productivity of the farm. Water pumps are being run on petrol and diesel but seem ineffective as tanks constantly run dry, indicating the likelihood of leaks. In spite of the solar system on the roof, the generator must be turned on for a couple of hours each night to ensure continuous power. There is no hot water unless I light the fire. Apparently there is underfloor heating, but it was never connected, so the house is freezing. It is only the beginning of winter, and temperatures are already falling close to 0º C each night.
The fireplace is three foot deep and one foot high in ash. Who knows when it was last cleaned. The wood that has been chopped is too big for the wood fire stove, so I have learned to use an ax to chop it into smaller pieces. I must say it is a highly productive and effective anger management tool.
On about Day 7 the gas ran out. I had been shown where the gas bottles were, so the empty one was replaced with a full one, but the gas did not come. All day I waited, thinking it must take a while as the bottles were quite far from the kitchen. At the end of the day, I had to ring for help as I still had no gas.
Apparently they were not the right gas bottles, and the right ones were located elsewhere which I hadn’t been shown. Joyce’s son, Emrys, connected the bottle for me, and shortly after, Jess (the daughter-in-law) turned up saying not to forget to reignite the gas fridge. As the initial gas bottles that had been swapped over were for the kitchen down the other end of the house, that fridge also had to be reignited.
The next morning the fridge in the main kitchen was not cold. Google said a gas fridge needs to be serviced every year. Looking at the dust around it, it has probably never been serviced in the last 30 years. Google also said it could take up to 12 hours to cool, so I waited. By evening, it was still not cold – luckily I had moved the few items that were mine into the other fridge.
The following morning Jess turned up at 7 saying she had been up since 4am worrying about me in the house. Although it was a gas fridge, Joyce , some months prior, had switched it over to electric because the gas was no longer working, but hadn’t told anyone. Emrys had somehow still managed to light the pilot light when it wasn’t supposed to work. Jess had been worried that something would happen to the fridge and to me. She switched it back to electric but within a few hours it was clear that the fridge was well and truly dead. It, too, belonged in the cemetery down the hill. I told Jess if the other fridge stopped working I would be leaving the property.
It saddens and angers me to see the lack of respect or care for the land, assets or animals. As Emrys said to me, everything keeps falling apart here.
I am also paying for my own food and petrol to be here. I had accepted to look after the farm, because I was only trying to be helpful, but I did not realise I was propping up a broken system where freely offered help from many are being taken for granted.
On a more positive note, Jess, the dog, is now my best friend. She keeps wandering off but always manages to return. With a daily regime of ball fetching, home cooked food and lots of cuddles, she is no longer throwing up and is tending to stay close by. Whenever she hears the pots and pans going, she comes running into the kitchen and sits patiently ever hopeful of getting more food.
She has a tendency to roll around in something putrid, so I gave her a second bath for the week. She desperately tried to get away, as I struggled to keep hold of her collar and we both got soaked with the hose. She looked at me as if I had totally betrayed her.