April 12th 2016 – ?
This WWOOF (official site) was a desperate leap into uncertainty. In the end, it came up roses… as long as you point your nose away from the composting loo.
It’s always a gamble when you accept a WWOOF position. This one was a little bit special though. After several experiences of WWOOFers looking for a free ride and not being very competent workers, this host had decided to put up quite a confronting profile. The plan: to deter useless WWOOFers and prevent the need for mothering them. Fair enough.
Still, arriving at the gate, I found myself thinking, if there were any other WWOOF hosts wanting WWOOFers at the time, I’d be going there instead. Turned out to be a case of who dares, wins though. For a number of reasons, I’m glad I came. It’s a kiwifruit orchard being converted (slowly but surely) into a permaculture farm. It’s in the very early stages, which in itself is a valuable thing to experience. It’s all well and good seeing mature properties, but in all likelihood, if I ever get my own plot, it’ll start out pretty rough.
The first thing that jumped out was the relationships the animals have with one another. As a budding permaculture farmer, Lynda believes in letting nature take its course wherever possible. That includes having animals intermingling despite species divisions. She also takes a gentle approach to managing them, which is nice to see. I’ve NEVER seen fully grown sheep that are so friendly and personable. Not hard to see why though, when you consider the usual way a mob of sheep is handled (and when). While most are chased around by dogs and man-handled to be drenched, wormed or castrated, Lynda’s had been hand-reared and trained using reward-based handling. Granted, this approach would not be very practical on a larger scale, but it is nice to see nonetheless.
The weather! The hours of work just kind of breeze by when the sun is shining, the air is still and there’s not real noise but the occasional person falling out of an airplane. Actually, just the whole vibe of Motueka. It’s a slow-paced and very calm sort of place. The moon and stars shine brightly and unobscured. It’s the sort of place where people really value face-to-face meetings and community. In fact, in following up a few leads on potential onward WWOOFs, I was pleased to be asked to come by in person rather than talk on the phone. Many songs have been sung while fencing the days away. Many f*&#ing wires have sprung back and cut or bruised my hands. Many fences have also been built. In fact, that’s really all I have done with myself on the farm for the last three weeks except the odd lap of the farm, picking up horse shit. Well, there was that one time where the alpacas escaped into the neighbour’s orchard, but there’s nothing like pretending one is a sheep dog (alpaca dog?) to wake one up in the morning. Life is good.
Life was especially good in that first week, when I discovered my brother from another mother. Perhaps one of my parents found a little hanky-panky near Naples at some point. Who knows? But somehow, the advent of Francesco, the super-WWOOFer happened. This dude loved to work more than anything. I like a good honest day’s work as much as the next man, but that’s not where we hit it off. This guy was just as obsessed about the impending zombie apocalypse… nay… MORE obsessed with it than me. (FYI, I jest. As does he. I know there’s no chance of zombies. Alas, I’m dead serious about the inevitable collapse of the system of things as we know it) It was very satisfying to see someone pay the correct amount of reverence to the “Zombies, Run!” app which is so often blaring from my bum (i.e. my pocket). Anywho, it was one of those times you just find a friend who you really hit it off with. Here’s to serendipitous meetings and single-serving friends. So far all of my co-WWOOFers have been good sorts here actually. Perhaps there is something to be said for scaring away many potential WWOOFers with discouraging profiles…
By far the best thing though, has been the opportunity to catch up with a wing of my family that I have not really known well for the rest of my life. In particular, I was incredibly fortunate to be offered an opportunity to take part in some disability support (through Manawanui) work for my cousin. Not only do I get to hang out with my cousin (who is lots of fun) but I can do so without the feeling that I should be finding ways to make money. My cousin gets help bridging the gap between school and adulthood. His parents get a much needed helper while they put in an incredibly hard slog running their business. I get to hang out with my cousin and get to know him better. It’s a triple win situation and to be honest, I really enjoy the challenge.
There is also a yurt. I’ve been curious about yurts for a while now. I’d heard of them and seen a few from a distance, but never properly experienced one. Yurts are cool.
Something I’ve been meaning to cover for a while is poo. It’s a bit of a shit topic (you’re welcome) but it’s very important to pay attention to your poo. Oprah and Dr Oz told me so once. This transition to living off the fare that is served up to me (largely organic, basic and grown on the property or within the local community) has had a big effect on my digestion. I know this because I am also mostly living with compost toilets, so my ‘donations’ look up at me an give me a little wave every time I drop the kids off at the pool… or at the sawdust mill? There is much to be said for whole grains, unrefined fruit and vegetables, fresh herbs and (in my case although opinions vary on this) a meat-free diet. My poo is wonderful. It’s the perfect model of intestinal health. And given that this and oral health (haven’t had a filling yet –at age 33- and don’t see the need any time soon) are said to be two of the most important indicators of overall health, life is looking very healthful indeed.
With ‘health corner’ or ‘the poo diaries’ finished, the other thing here has been the number of opportunities. You may recall a particularly stressful week a couple of weeks back (see “The Worst Week So Far”). Since then, life has gone from strength to strength. From no income, I actually somehow managed to be overwhelmed by too many jobs. There is also an abundance of opportunities for communal living here. Two in particular seem to be options for the near future. One guy who has a strong background in farming and a lot to teach me about a lot of different aspects of a successful sustainable life is my likely next host. The feminine half of the hosting equation also has a lot I can learn from too. A Steiner school teacher and all round positive and lovely person, I feel like they (and their family) are going to be a great WWOOF experience.
Riverside is another unique opportunity. New Zealand’s oldest sustainable community (and previous home of 15 years to the aforementioned WWOOF hosts), this place is an important place to have visited. It shows me a model that works. It’s one thing to be idealistic and imagine utopian communities living off the land. It’s another to see people living the life. It’s encouraging. It’s also something I intend to check out more thoroughly. There are several intentional communities in the area. That was, after all, the sole reason for making this trip south in the first place. I’ve checked out a few directly and have learned a lot about a few more through talking to locals. The isolation of Tui Community really appeals. The apparent anarchy of The Graham Valley (Graham Downs Renaissance) Community is interesting. A couple of others are buy-in types of places that are prohibitive to me. Riverside feels different. Watch this space. I have a feeling there is some type of future there.
If you were paying attention to the top of the post, you may have noticed it is open-ended. That’s because a one week stay has turned into something else. Motueka is home for now. We shall see how it all unfolds. There’s plenty more still to come.