WWOOF !

I renewed my WWOOF membership yesterday. Don’t worry WWOOFing isn’t some strange club for sexual deviants in Chichester (my life isn’t that interesting !).

It’s an acronym that stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

This is an organisation that connects volunteer workers with host farms. The WWOOFer as the worker is known, usually has to do between 4 to 8 hours a day for 4 to 6 days a week, it varies from farm to farm.

In 2007, I worked for 3 weeks at Guillem Danne in the beautiful Haute-Garonne in a remote village called Cassagnabere, about 40 miles South west of Toulouse.

It was one the most enjoyable holidays i’ve ever had. The farm has been there since the 1700’s, the present owners Pascale & Christian for about 10 years now.

Christian is also a meteorologist working for France Meteo. He showed us a very interesting video one night, showing the time years ago when he worked in Antarctica.

The was an abundance of wildlife at the farm. Raptors flying overhead, a pond full of frogs, lizards everywhere, and as you can see from the photo – snakes. Nicolas here caught this one somehow, they move really quick, he got bitten catching it, but they aren’t venomous.

The work was very varied, I started off digging vegetable beds, clearing waste ground etc. As the temperature quickly got up into the 80’s, we had to stop by midday, have lunch (Pascale is the most fantastic cook), and then laze around keeping out of the sun for the rest of the afternoon. We’d do another couple of hours early evening.

I’m not a great one for laying about doing nothing though (unless i’ve got a book to read), and as I had back-packed down there with full camping gear, I could only take one with me, that didn’t take me long to finish, the journey there took me over 30 hours (1 bus, 2 coaches, 3 trains !).

So I started to find extra things to do. They had some bikes for the use of the WWOOFers, so I fixed them up a bit. I found a pile of broken wooden garden furniture, repaired them and then painted them. I soon became known as ‘The Fixer’, so I didn’t do so much gardening after that.

You can’t see it here, but to the right of Jonny, on the end of the barn, is a building that was originally an old chicken house and pig pen. It is being converted to a B&B, so we soon got involved in working on that. Jonny is making up a batch of crushed rock and saturated straw, this is a traditional building method in that area. Thin branches are collected, cut to size and fitted into the wall space you want to fill. The straw is then woven through the branches, and covered with ‘mud’. When this sets, it is very strong.

I spent about a week hauling rocks to the top of that wall behind him and cementing them in place, that wall is about 25 feet high, the rocks and cement had to be pulled up in a bucket, every so often the ladder I was on had to be moved along, so it was very time-consuming.

I became good friends with Pascale & Christian, and last year they sent me an e-mail asking if i’d like to go out again and run the place while they took their holiday in August. Too right I did ! Unfortunately, in June, my Father became very ill and I had to cancel.

Can’t wait to go again.

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