Canada Sabbatical Pt. IV

I’m not keen to write about the previous week of our journey – the second WWOOF experience we had planned, but I’ll do it anyway because it seems like the right thing to do – chronologically speaking.

Prior to arriving we were sent an email stating the mosquitos were really bad this year, and a text with a pin location on google maps. The pin was a bit dodgy but after only one u-turn we found the driveway. A dirt road led us up a hill and looped in the center of the farm. We drove around the loop as a dog followed us barking, and we peered out waiting to see a glimpse of a host. I’ll note that we didn’t stop and exit the vehicle largely due to said dog that we didn’t know and didn’t have owners in its company (the pervious farm we stayed at had a similar looking guard dog that was kept fenced on account of his inappropriate behavior with newcomers). A gal appeared and we slowed the vehicle, exited, and were greeted with “you could have just parked anywhere.”

How I felt during our five days on the farm was that I was too slow for the laid-back party. Always catching up to chill out. Never quite up to speed.

It felt a bit like middle school, a horrible time in anyone’s life but admittedly I probably have a few semi-healed wounds from those years that got a bit sensitive when picked last to go to the farmers market. There’s a bit more to it than that, but there’s no use blathering about the personality clashes between myself, Cam, and the hosts. The point is, we are messy beings, all on our own little missions, and we don’t always mesh with each other.

So that was the first ding on the experience.

The second was the mosquitos. Yes, we were warned. No, we did not anticipate just how bad it was. On our first night one of our hosts walked us around the property to show us the area and their different projects. We walked through a wooded area and my jeans were blanketed with mosquitos. Yes, it was dusk, we were among trees, I was wearing tight fitting jeans. No, it wasn’t expected that I would have a colony of blood sucking flies penetrating my jeans that were sprayed with repellant 10 minutes earlier. It’s hard to really paint a picture of how bad it was, but imagine it’s snowing, then imagine every snowflake is a mosquito.

Ok I’m exaggerating, but not by much.

The final ding that had us packing our bags and being willing to flake was simply the lack of a WWOOF experience. From what I understand, it’s typical that farmers be on the farm to teach, guide, and foster some sense of community between themselves and volunteers. Our hosts worked other jobs so were unable to fulfill those objectives. To give credit to the hosts, they work hard on and off the farm so there is definitely room for admiration in that regard. She runs a superb organic store in the nearby town; he works at a silica plant down the road. Both contribute to the workings of their permaculture farm and construction of their earthship.

It was a challenging week for the situations listed above, plus some, but that we had that experience is almost too perfect. We needed a challenge, a blow to the ego, a test in patience, a fuck you from the universe to our master plan.

There were definite moments of joy, appreciation, and education dispersed throughout the week mind you. I learned about earthships – “a type of passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials” – and participated in the making of one. Theirs is made of earth filled tires and hempcrete bricks. It’s an awesome design and construction. Washing dishes each day I found greater appreciation for eco-friendly ways to adapt simple systems. The dish cycle on this permaculture farm is to rinse washed dishes over a pan, the pan of rinse water is boiled to use for washing dishes, the dirty dish water drains into a bucket which is used for watering plants. I didn’t love doing dishes three times a day, but I did have respect for the way in which it was done. It will make me think twice about my house habits in the future. Sharing meals and stories with the two other volunteers was a breath of fresh air on a hot day of work. They are a couple from France who have been WWOOFing and exploring the US and Canada for the past year, with hitchhiking their main means of transportation. From their stories and positive energy I was reminded to laugh and trust in others.

Since leaving the farm Cam and I have joked about our five days there, but it really taught me a lot – how to work as a team through tough times, how to live a particular lifestyle of purpose, and how to strive every minute of every day to channel my inner zen while being bombarded with bug bites.

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