I wasn’t really sure what to expect as a WWOOFer. I figured I’d get to indulge my passion for learning, cut some travel expenses, and meet intriguing people. It was fair to assume I’d spend my time covered in dirt, probably sleeping in a tent, and doing a fair share of the more repetitive work that an inexperienced hand wouldn’t be able to mess up. I was certain it’d be educational and interesting and fun, but I didn’t expect to be so whole-heartedly and happily included as I’ve been here.
It’s my last night on the farm, and I’m surprised by how easily I’ve settled into the routine here in just a week. It’s funny how quickly I’ve gotten used to the rooster letting me know it’s time to wake up in the morning. Or how wonderfully satisfying it is to work in the soil and be able to look back and see real, tangible progress, and eat food that’s been produced right here. How comfortable it is to wake with the sunrise and know that the day’s work will be done by the time it sets.
I can’t be sure, because it’s the first farm I’ve WWOOFed for, but Homeward Bounty feels special. Kate and Jonathan are so welcoming and generous, and it was easy to feel right at home. The dog and the cats and even the chickens (as far as I can tell) are happy and friendly, and the land is so beautiful. Big fields in soft yellows and bright greens give way to rollings hills and snow-capped peaks, and Mt. Shasta rises magnificently over it all. The full moon was this week, but even still the stars have been bright in a clear, cold sky. My breath fogs and I’ve gotten used to Chessie, one of the cats, running towards me in the night, the sight of glowing green eyes bounding towards me bringing joy rather than fear of a wild beastie. In the morning, the ground crunches under my feet and the world glitters with frost.
I’ve learned so much – it’s crazy how much I didn’t realize I didn’t know – and happily soaked it in like a sponge. Kate’s a wonderful teacher, and hasn’t seemed to mind my endless questions. My hands are rough and cracked, but I know how to harvest lettuce, set up and store drip tape, weed a garlic bed with a hula hoe, pull up turnips and select them for both seed production and food, sow seeds in a greenhouse and in a high tunnel, recognize different families of seeds, and guide chickens back into their pen. I visited the neighbors at Hunter Orchards and Nicole and David taught me how to sow radish seeds and prune a peach tree. Every day has brought new lessons, and I’ve realized how much I missed learning just for the sake of it, rather than for a grade or my degree.
And it has been fun. I haven’t gone a day – or probably a waking hour – without a grin and a laugh. The joy and warmth here is contagious, and I find myself in love with the world and all it’s been giving me. From listening to music in the greenhouse to working in the field with Kate and another WWOOFer to shooting Jon and Kate’s engagement photos to an incredible dinner at David and Nicole’s last night to driving into town in “The Beast” and urging a passing train to blow the horn, I’ve been truly happy here. I haven’t minded the dirt under my fingernails or my perpetually messy hair or the icy mornings. It’s all been beautiful.
For not having any idea what I was doing, I think I’ve been able to help a bit here, and I’ve learned so much that I can share and expand on as I visit other farms throughout the country. I had no idea I could gain so much in just a week.
Tomorrow I set off for Ashland and then Bellevue. It’s bittersweet leaving here, but I’m so glad it was my first stop in my WWOOF experience; I couldn’t imagine a better way to begin the journey.