You know how I said I was going to spend the next month at a farm?
It didn’t happen!
But I did spend a week there, and it was definitely the most bizarre week of my life thus far, and therefore one I feel the need to share with you lovely lot!
I think it’s fair to say the fact I intended to live and work on a farm for a month took a lot of people by surprise. I’m not your stereotypical farmhand, and I have no shame in admitting that in many ways I’m a ‘typical’ girl – I love glitter, dancing, fairy lights, nail varnish, chocolate ice cream and all things in between! I’m up for anything most of the time but I’m hardly renowned for being a huge lover of animals and manual labour.
But one of my reasons for coming here to Australia was to take myself out of my comfort zone and do things I would never normally do – and I’d say living in a caravan on a permaculture farm fits that bill rather nicely. Especially sharing afore mentioned caravan with a huntsman spider!
So, PEACE Farm! PEACE Farm is a permaculture farm about an hour and a half outside of Melbourne, Victoria, and was my home from 5th-12th January. PEACE stands for Permaculture, Education, Art, Community and Enterprise. I’m still not entirely sure what permaculture is – it’s an abbreviation of permanent agriculture – but it was advertised as somewhere that would involve planting/harvesting crops, feeding the chickens, milking the goat, helping out in the kitchen and general farmhand duties. With regards to introducing me into the world of farming this sounded like a good place to start.
If I had to condense my week into one word it would probably be bizarre. I would wake up every morning at 6am and feed chickens. Me. Kate Lewers. Feeding chickens! And the rest of my day would continue in as equally a bonkers a manner – I would shovel compost, plant seeds, mulch, plait garlic, bake a zucchini slice and many other things I wouldn’t touch with a barge pole if I was in the UK! But when in Rome and all! Here are a few of the slightly more traumatic, stand out events my week consisted of:
– I unsuccessfully milked a goat, twice. A lot of it ended up down my leg, but thankfully this jug always ended up sort of full too!
– I fertilised freshly planted corn with chicken poop, and spent the rest of the week consciously not putting my hands anywhere near my face.
– I got attacked by a rooster.
– I witnessed two lambs being born! Here they are, three days old…
– I bathed alongside cows in a dam at the end of a field.
– I craved tea and Tim Tams like there was no tomorrow. All we ate was produce fresh from the farm, so someone needs to create a Tim Tam tree please.
– I had a cold shower in the goat enclosure.
– I used a self-composting toilet.
Talk about being out of my comfort zone! I wish I could go into detail about every single funny story from that week, but this post would just be so mammoth so they’d probably be better in book form! But whilst there I would lie in bed every night and do nothing other than laugh, because if anyone had said to me before I left in October that at some point in the next year I would bathe with cows and scrape chicken poo out from under my nails I would not have believed them!
But I did! And it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. I learnt so much in the short time I was there as the farmers place a real emphasis on educating and informing their volunteer farmhands, as they do not necessarily need the help but they are keen to pass on what they know to willing workers, which is an attitude I have a lot of time for. The three host families are some of the most kind, welcoming, selfless and interesting people I’ve ever come across, and I cannot get over how beautiful the scenery was that I got to work alongside.
I won’t lie it did take me the week I was there to settle, as I was pretty overwhelmed and shed a few tears every now and again. I did also eat an alarming amount of bread, as at one point that was all the host families seemed to provide in addition to eggs from the chickens and salad from the gardens. Needless to say I left feeling a lot more bloated than I came, and I don’t want eggs on toast for at least a month!
If I could I would have stayed longer, but it’s left me with some hilarious stories, a fair bit of knowledge and a new found respect for all things farm related. Plus I think we can all agree I pull off farmhand chic rather well…
I’d like to conclude this post with a few tips for fellow WWOOF-ers, especially those who, like me, have never undertaken a role like this before and therefore don’t know what to expect!
1. Research the farm. I cannot emphasise this enough, especially if you’re a rookie with regards to farm work. The more you know, the better!
2. Bring snacks. Ideally 5 days worth, as that’ll probably be the next time you get a day off, and therefore you will have to survive 5 days until you have the chance to venture into the land of people to invest in whatever it is you’re craving!
3. Be up for anything – just say yes to any jobs even if it intimidates you a little. It’s all about the experience at the end of the day.
4. If you’re unsure of anything, ask. At the end of the day the work you are doing will affect someone else’s livelihood if you seriously mess it up.
5. Wear a hat. And sunscreen. And bug repellant if possible!