Tag Archives: Wwoof

SEED… new beginnings

Richie

There comes a time when even the most devoted travel partners go their separate ways. After 20 months of conjoined aspirations, Richie and I are separating (temporarily!) to pursue individual learning pathways; acquiring skills, gleaning knowledge and shaping up for a abundant and diverse future together here on the Sunshine Coast.

Richie’s bitter complaints that the final leg of our overland journey from England to Australia lacked a permaculture-focus are finally being laid to rest. As the photo attests – Richie’s not only turning Australian but he’s turning Australian in a very perma-way. Today he’s off to experience what may be the most memorable perma-experience of his life: one month WWOOFing with Geoff Lawton at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australian in the Channon, Northern NSW.

While I’m beefsteak-tomato-red with envy, I have my own work cut out for me. It’s application time. Time to put my money where my mouth is. Yep, that writerly PhD that I fled to England (via India) to avoid in 2007 has returned to haunt me and this time, I aint’ gonna turn and flee.

This time, I have a story worth writing: mine and Richie’s story. A travel story. A permaculture story. An earth story. A story about seeds, ideas, social change, friendship and the beauty of the natural world. The encouragement and feedback I’ve received from you, the readers of Typo Traveller, have helped me to believe that the world is ready for SEED: a permaculturee travel memoir, and I’m ready to write it.

I’m currently in the process of writing a proposal and approaching supervisors to oversee the work. While Richie’s digging swales and tweaking irrigation systems, I’ll be writing literature reviews and pawing through old university transcripts for evidence that I’m a hardy, worthy, creative, credible PhD candidate.

In the meantime, if the writing becomes too much, and I find I need a break, there’s my parents’ potato patch to water; an ageing shed to pull down; Augustino corn to hand-pollinate; dill to plant; sourdough starter to feed; kefir to culture; my sisters’ herb garden to cultivate… and the beautiful Sunshine Coast hinterland to re-explore.

Did I mention books to read – Waterlog, Bird Cloud, The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Permaculture Design by Aranya: A step-by-step guide, Do Travel Writers Go to Hell…?

Bon Voyage lover-brother, Richie, go well! ‘I’ll see you soon…’

p.s Sorry about the photo, I couldn’t help myself! 😉

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Breaking crust

The farmhouse, Momavlis Mitsa

Saturday morning in Argokhi. There is work to be done: water butts to fill; pigs to feed; floors to sweep; tea to brew – but there’s no hurry. I sit on the steps cracking hazelnuts, listening to the sounds passing up and down the lane on the opposite side of the above-head-high metal fence. I hear ducks squawking, the lazy turning of cartwheels, neighbours fussing, the crank of the timber grape press, and the occasional sound of apples falling from the tree. It’s mid-autumn. Every warm day between now and Christmas is worth its weight in gold.

Working on Momavlis Mitsa (Future Earth) farm in Argokhi has ameliorated the discomfort of waiting for visas in Tbilisi. Instead of sitting like ghosts in some disembodying hostel, milking the wifi and kicking stones down Marjainishvili on the way to the Metro, we’re working outdoors, using our lungs and hands to lift things, fix things, bake things, grow things.

Creating new raised beds

Richie and Sam adding rotted compost to the soil

In the garden we’re asked to do things we’d never do at home, in our own garden: pull weeds, hoe earth, turn soil, plant monocultures and raise new beds without mulching them. I bite my lip as Inken, the 18-year-old longterm German volunteer, instructs me on how to break the ‘crust’ that has formed on the surface of the soil due to successive phases of watering and sunshine. We work the hoe forward while simultaneously walking backwards down the aisles. I wonder if I’m disturbing the roots of the small plants, and why there are no bugs or worms in the soil.

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Dogs in Heaven

Dino and Amanda are the type of hosts that every Wwoofer dreams of: fun, sociable, passionate and accommodating. What’s more, they cook great food and live in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited!

Right from the beginning, when our Wwoof Espania membership came through in the post and long hours were spent pouring over the host list, I knew I wanted to stay with Dino and Amanda at Can Col. They’re Wwoof profile said it all: “young couple living in a 17thcentury renovated farmhouse in the lower Pyrenees… surrounded by woods and silence for many miles around… we make our own bread, pasta, game sausages, pâtes, marmalades and jams… and we grow our organic vegetable terraces from which we eat all year round.

After arriving in Figueres, we were met off the train by Dino, Amanda and their two dogs, Rita (mother) and Lucy (daughter). It was a wonderful reception full of tongue kissing (from the dogs) and excited yelps (from the dogs also).

Dino (Italian) and Amanda (Catalan) spoke brilliant English, and it was nice to be able to talk freely about their lives, as well as our adventures on the road.

After several peaceful miles driving through fertile valleys we began the ascent into a rugged uninhabited mountainside, covered in a forest of holm oaks, chestnuts, walnuts and wild apple trees. Great ridges and crusts of limestone jutted out like stern eyebrows.

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‘La Granja’ Life

On day 58 of our ‘Overland to Oz’ adventure we arrived at our first Wwoof: a finca in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Andalusia (Spain). The bus from Malaga took us along the coast road as far as Orgiva. From there it was a forty five minute hike up a rocky river bed to the steep white village of Bayacas.

Having divested ourselves of 5.79kg of excess belongings we were feeling lighter and more mobile than ever. “All we need now,” we said, as we trooped uphill, “is a 2-person tent and a saucepan for self-reliant off-road living.”

Shortly before nightfall we crested the ridge behind the finca. “Is this La Granja?” we called over a gate painted with images of free-ranging chickens. We were in the right place!

Our host, Kate, was expecting us. She showed us to our cassita: a rustic stone cabin with a timber and bamboo roof, wood burner, double mattress, 2-hob gas cooker, solar lights, table, two chairs and a few shelves of books/objects left behind by previous Wwoofers. It was a joy and a relief to be alone in our little cassita with a plateful of leftovers in front of us, and the night closing in outside. Very peaceful.

In the morning we joined the gang (4 others Wwofers + our host) to commence the day’s work. We cleared brush, stacked firewood and were shown about the finca.

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‘Bye Bye’ Maroc – ‘Hola’ Espana

It took a massive effort of will to leave Marocco. We’d been there 8 weeks and had a hell of a time (in a good way!). We weren’t prepared for the strangeness of re-entering Europe.

By morning: Tanger.

By mid-afternoon: Algeciras.

Morocco.

Spain.

Two cultures with much in common (but world’s apart) separated by the narrowest stretch of water. We were flummoxed!

Europe posed new problems for us – like how to keep from munching through our meagre budget in a matter of weeks. A combination of Wwoofing, hitch-hiking and Couch Surfing was the key. Within the space of 2 days we’d tried all three of these money-saving/people-meeting techniques and were pleased with the results.

Bouncing along in the backseat of a Toowoomba couple’s mobile home we grew confident that we could overcome our Euro-dollar poverty (1st world problem!) without missing out on exciting new experiences and the odd ice cream or cold beer here and there.

In spite of our feelings of deep love and fealty to Morocco we opened ourselves up and let our new host culture do its work on us. Bull fighting colosseums, gelato, catholic fervour, flamenco fever, and gorgeous houses with fine balconies and timber shutters won us over.

This was not Morocco. This was something different. A different aesthetic. A new way of behaving. A different climate… a new opportunity. I christened myself anew: ‘Nina of Espana’ by bathing in the Mediterranean. It was bloody freezing!

It seems fitting to say ‘goodbye’ to Morocco and ‘hello’ to Spain with a flutter of photos. Can you spot the differences?

p.s Family and friends are on our minds every step of the way – we’re coping daily with homesickness and the desire for togetherness. We carry you with us at all time. Love you!

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