After the horrifying drive from Kentucky to Arkansas we arrived at our first WWOOF (World Wide Organic Opportunity Farming) farm. WWOOF is an amazing program that connects eager to work and learn people with organic farmers that need a helping hand. You work on the farm for free and they provide your housing and all three meals. Fred worked on an organic farm back home in Michigan for three seasons and I worked on the same farm for one season. We love farming and travelling so this program really is a perfect fit.
We were greeted by the farm owner at Ozark Alternatives, Paul who welcomed us into his family and business. We slept in the loft of their guest cabin with two other WWOOFers, a couple named Sunny and Lon. In the almost two weeks we stayed there we fell in love with the place and especially the people. Paul and his partner, Amanda have two children, Oliver and Isaac. Oliver is 8 years old and Isaac is 5…and 2/3!
We immediately began helping put up their new hoop house –learning about carpentry and working as a team. We also weeded (a never ending battle in the organic world), harvested, and feed their beautiful chickens. Paul and Amanda (the funniest people on earth, besides their children) taught us how to pickle peppers, make and preserve jam, and also how to make a kick ass compost (shit lasagna, we lovingly called it). We all lived, worked, and played together all day every day. The love and organization Paul created in his home was astounding and inspiring.
To the disappointment of readers, the love and pure relief we felt being in that environment is too difficult to describe in words. And honestly, it is almost a little painful to reminisce on the great memories we had there because the wounds of leaving is too fresh.
However, something I can recount on vividly without initiating an emotional response is the five nights there when I was very sick. The source of The Sickness is unknown and only came at night and in the early morning. I was battling some bad intestinal happenings. The first night of The Sickness was the worst; I had to puke so badly! It must be understood that the farm was almost totally “off grid” and the bathroom system was a little different. There was an outhouse that had a toilet for liquids that led to a bucket and a separate toilet that lead to a large bin for solids (after use of the solid system you cover your droppings with woodchips). So you can imagine my confusion, in a completely new place, feeling sick and helpless; “is puke a solid or liquid? SOLID or LIQUID?! SOLID or LIQUID?! BUSHES?! What do I do?!” Swallow. Swallow, then hold my stomach in pain and although I couldn’t physically see the screwdriver/knife dancing with fire in my belly –it was there. All ended well though, the other WWOOFer, Lon, had some herbal medicine from China that worked wonders and really saved my stomach and sanity.
Communal living –all working towards the goal of a good healthy farm, is an amazing and freeing way to live. I don’t know of any other profession that merges daily conversations on religion and philosophy with satisfying, prideful labor.
It seems strange to simply arrive at a perfect stranger’s home and jump into their daily life and family. But Paul made sure we fit right in and everything felt natural and all the friendships were effortless. Fred and I were excited to get back on the road and keep our journey alive…but at the same time we both confessed we wouldn’t mind staying there for a long time.
We said our goodbyes to our new family after some harvesting and a nice lunch. I had no idea the pain of saying goodbye would be so heavy with people I only knew for two weeks. But man, on the three hour car drive to our next WWOOF farm there was mostly silence. Silence only broken by either Fred or I remarking “I miss everyone back at the Ozark farm…yea, me too. I wonder what they’re doing…” It was quite a tug on our heart.
I couldn’t have dreamed up a better first WWOOFing experience –it was task in itself to just try and let myself be open enough to the love and soak it all up. Truly, I felt the love in that farm –with those people, and it astounded me.