So while I was off on this WWOOFing thing, what exactly was I doing? Well, I’ve come to understand that each host farm approaches WWOOFers and their role differently. Some farms have their volunteers camping, or living in their own accommodations. But all basically provide food and lodging to WWOOFers in exchange for labor. No money changes hands.
At Ardunan Farm, the WWOOFer is responsible for basic care and feeding of all the animals, morning and evening. Also, the WWOOFer might be asked to help out with other odd jobs around the farm. The two volunteers before me helped get the hoop house structure up and in place. The two coming after me would continue on that project. During my time there, I helped where needed with the litters of piglets (three sows had babies while I was there plus a fourth was close to delivery) and helped weed and prepare the raised beds to receive seedlings.
David and Gillian provide a very nice room in their house with its own bathroom for their volunteer(s). Plus, they cook for them. David does the cooking and he’s an excellent chef. They also keep the fridge well stocked and coffee, tea and biscuits about. The house’s washing machine is there for your use. What they don’t provide is any kind of transportation. Generally their volunteer gets one full day off a week. But often there are big chunks of time during the day that the volunteer can pursue their own interests of reading, watching tv, hiking, or doing some odd activity like perhaps… Knitting!
At 8 each morning, I would throw on my “outside clothes” and head out the door. First I’d pull on my weeklies and pick up a plastic egg crate. Then, I’d start my rounds. Check the trailer that had the incubator and new chicks in it, make sure temp and humidity were in the right range, feed and water chicks, count to make sure they are all thee. Next, on to the “special” chickens to check their food and water and let them out of their coop. (All bird types get put away in housing at night due to feces and other predators.) Next, let the regular chickens out of their house, pick up eggs, check food level. Then let out the ducks in the two outside structures (about 25 ducks) and cover their food so the crows and other birds don’t eat it. Check their houses for duck eggs (great big, beautiful, pearlescent things that Ardunan Farm sells to local restaurants for use in baking). Head to the barn. Release the ducks housed in the barn. Check for more eggs. Cover their food bins. Let them over into the pig yard and be sure to secure the gate because the clever pigs can shove it open, escape, and cause general mayhem. By now you realize the pigs are driving you CRAZY with their squealing. These are the five girls and seven boys of about three months old, living in the barn. Scoop out their buckets of feed and throw it into their pens. Make sure it goes in the middle of their pen and not on that side because it’s where they sleep and not on this side cause it’s where they poop.
Stop, take a breath and enjoy the respite from squealing. Say hi to Scooby. He’s probably flitting about the barn, hoping to peck at some dropped feed.
Pull out several buckets and portion out scoops of food for the pigs. Place a bunch of overripe bananas per pig into the feed buckets. Load the feed buckets into the wheelbarrow- half for now and stack the half you prepped for the evening feed over in the corner and cover them. Take the wheelbarrow up to the pig yard. Rattle the pig food buckets a bit to let the pigs know where you’re putting their food. Apparently they don’t see very well. And don’t touch the electrified fence while you’re moving among the pig pens. Ouchy.
Return the wheelbarrow to the barn. Throw bananas to the young pigs. Take up huge armfuls of straw from a round bale that is taller than you are and drag them over to the penned pigs. Then climb over the pen fencing and spread the straw around so the pigs have something nice and new to root around in. ( I know it sounds funny, but they really did smile and get all happy when they had clean straw.) Pull out some buckets and portion out sweet feed for the sheep. Cover and set aside. Pull the big tarp back over the giant pile of feed bags and weigh it down on top, tuck under at bottom. Shoo out the chickens from the barn. Close the barn door. At the top of the property, drag the hose to fill all the pigs’ water troughs. Then fill waters for ducks and chickens that are scattered around the property. Then drag hose over to sheep are and fill water troughs there. Then return to barn, scoop old, dirtied water out of pig troughs and transfer to buckets which you then take outside of barn to dump. Repeat until you’ve emptied their troughs. Fill with clean water. Sigh with relief because that’s the final and hardest job you do in the morning. Shoo out the chickens once again. Close the barn door.
You at now covered in mud to your knees, your back aches, your arm stings where it brushed up against some nettles, your shirt is wet from sloshing some pig trough water back on yourself, you are sweaty and there’s straw in your hair and down your shirt. However, you can take off your Wellies at the door and sit down at the table. In seconds there’s a steaming mug of coffee in front of you and soon after a big breakfast arrives as well. Take a load off. You might have some weeding or piglet duty, but you’re essentially free until 8 pm at night, when you do it all again but in reverse. Oh, plus feeding the sheep and convincing the chickens and the ducks to go back in to their houses for the night.
So , that’s the gist of my work on Ardunan Farm. Additional anecdotes and observations still to come.. Alas,it’s 10:30 pm here and I must sleep.