December 14, 2011

Winter Share and Europe

I’m tapping my feet to the beat, 107.1 Country is playing the latest honky-tonk. Caffeine is pulsing through my veins, a chill is in the bones, it’s 8:55. If I get to work early, I like to take the time to relax until work starts. I call it my ‘office work’ time, doing paperwork, reading another paragraph or two from the book I’m working on. Then I get out of the truck, and the bright, clear December dawn is banishing the sharp morning chill, replacing it with the feel of a sun-warmed face that peers off in the distance towards the tunnels. You lift the plastic up, like someone curiously lifting the cover of a new car, to see how the greens are doing since you planted them months ago. They look like something from Jurassic Park, especially the kale, which clearly belongs to the Mesozoic and not our era. Luckily, they’re healthy, lush, and ready to harvest.

We’re quite proud of the greens this year. We planted plenty, and got lucky with an exceptionally warm September, and hopefully you’ve noticed the bounty! Today we harvested December’s spinach, kale, and choi. We already bagged your apples on Monday (to the soundtrack of the Lord of the Rings. Two of three of us are in a re-read, it made sense). The Chuckies, as I call them (the two Vermonters) bagged root crops on Tuesday, and tomorrow we’ll all descend on popcorn bagging and a little more greens harvesting. Friday we’ll pack the boxes with everything and load the truck. From there, Ted takes over as driver, and you’ll enjoy a nice view as you open your (perhaps) first present of the holidays!

In the back of my mind as I work, I rehearse to myself a million questions. Did I get those tickets yet? Hosts confirmed, languages being studied? Because yes…the rumors are true. I’m going on a four month sabbatical from Windflower, from home here in Washington County. The first leg is Turkey, there I’m visiting old friends from college for several weeks, then going on to WWOOF. WWOOF (pronounced just like woof, like a dog) stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. It’s an international organization with branches throughout the world. The premise is simple- hooking up farmer-hosts with volunteers, who receive room and board in exchange for labor and experience/knowledge.

My first stay will be in Turkey after visiting friends. I’ve made arrangements with a dairy farm an hour outside of Istanbul. The supreme irony is that I’ve grown up my whole life in Washington County, the premier dairy county of New York, and never worked on a dairy farm. My first experience on one will be thousands of miles away, across the ocean, in a world apart.
My second leg of the trip will be to visit a friend in Germany for a few days. From there I move on quickly to my next host, in the land of Brittany, in the west of France. My host farm is a homestead engaged in market gardening, in a small village nestled in a part of France known for its Celtic language and customs, descended from 5th-7th century Briton Celts fleeing from the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England. The farm is near to a region fabled to be the gates of Hell, but hopefully my part will not turn out quite that way. It’s about ten or fifteen kilometers away, apparently a mist-filled region of rocky hills and valleys where travelers have lost themselves for thousands of years. It adds a bit of adventure to think that if I miss the right bus stop I might be in Hell!

After about a month there, I’ll take a ferry trip across the Irish sea, landing in Cork. I’ll spend a few days in independent travel in Ireland to see where some of my family came from, and then I head to the region of Gweedore. It’s a region of four or five towns in the far northwest of Ireland famed for retaining the old Irish culture and language. Partially because of this, it’s the center of traditional Irish music, and contains the hometown of Clannad (and therefore Enya). The farm raises rare heritage breeds of pigs and cattle for slaughter and sale, along with growing vegetables for home use.

From there I take a bus to the airport, and return to my home. By then, home itself will be an exotic destination, I think. Always it’s such that when I come home, I have new eyes to see the world with, including my own!


  1. Slightly off topic, but I was always under the impression that WWOOF stood for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms... weird!

  2. Not quite off topic! I've heard several variants, in fact. I guess it was never set in stone, because I've heard a minimum of three different versions- mine, yours, and one other I can't remember now.