Brief garden update. I harvested our last cauliflower, a cabbage, some broad beans and strawberries today. This morning, I sowed more sunflower seeds as the germination rate of my previous sowings was rather disappointing. I pulled out some swan plants that had died and the wwoofers helped to chop them up into smaller pieces, making them easier to dispose of. The girls helped me by doing a bit of weeding and planting some more spring onions. After lunch, we potted up some lettuce, spinach and cornflower seedlings into trays. The girls also planted cut-and-come again lettuce seedlings into some containers. You might recall seeing a picture in a previous blog post of them in trays. Today’s photo is of a bearded iris purchased from Carolyn Ansell, which has just started flowering.
I’ve already written about hosting wwoofers but I’d like to add a bit more info and elaborate on some points I previously made. Read together, I hope to provide a more complete picture. What is wwoofing? Wwoof stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. Wwoofing exists in many countries around the world and each country has a separate website. Hosts provide accommodation and food for travellers (usually with working holiday visas) in exchange for some assistance around the garden and/or farm. The purpose of Wwoof as an organisation is to educate people from all over the world about sustainable and organic growing practices. It is therefore essential that hosts are prepared to spend time with wwoofers to explain how things are grown. I usually work with the wwoofers but not all hosts can do this if they work during the day or are limited physically. I try really hard to make wwoofers feel that they are working with us, not for us. You have to be prepared to allow someone else to work in your garden. Some wwoofers are better than others. Sometimes, you need to learn to let go and forgive them if they make mistakes. For example, the wwoofers staying with us at the moment pulled out my wildflowers when doing some weeding, even though I had explicitly explained that they were not weeds several times.
Yes, wwoofers are strangers who you let into your home and life, but in my experience, you have a higher chance of being hurt by someone who is very close to you than someone who you don’t really know at all. As Lynda Hallinan said, wwoofing is hit or miss. You never quite know what a person is like until they have actually arrived and started wwoofing. All you have to go by is their profile, feedback (if any) and communication between you, all of which can sometimes be deceptive. Like all relationships, it’s a two-way street and communication is key. Generally speaking, the more effort the hosts put in, the more they will get out of it, not just in terms of work completed but also having their lives enriched by often highly talented and intelligent individuals. If either side is unhappy about something, it’s best to speak up soon. I used to hate confrontation, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learnt how to deal with these sorts of situations. We have hosted wwoofers who we couldn’t wait to leave and ones that we wanted to live with us permanently. Although you can try to iron out any issues nicely, bear in mind that you might receive bad feedback on your profile from wwoofers if things don’t go smoothly, which can deter future wwoofers from contacting you.
Wwoofing does come at a personal cost, even though the work is unpaid. Aside from costs associated with food, lodging and wifi, hosting wwoofers can take a lot out of you, both physically and emotionally. Some people are travelling as a means of escaping their problems and their issues can leave you feeling very drained. It’s also not always easy instructing and managing other people in the garden. There are times that I feel it’s easier to just do the job myself.
After some bad experiences (and even before we noticed that theft had occurred), mum and I stopped having wwoofers for awhile. We eventually returned to hosting wwoofers when we felt that we could cope again. If you’re in it for the long haul as we are, I recommend that hosts take a break from having wwoofers if it starts becoming too much for them. In the discussion forum on the Wwoof website, even people who have been hosting wwoofers for over 25 years have done this and recommended we do the same when we started having problems. Both mum and I agree that we need help if we want to maintain the garden as it is and hosting wwoofers suits us for the time being. I strongly believe that there’s a season for everything and we’re determined to enjoy being hosts until it has run its course. To make it work, we have learnt to take the bad with the good. I certainly don’t want to put anyone off becoming a host but I think it’s important to go into it with your eyes wide open. Happy to discuss this further with anyone who is thinking of becoming a host. I have lots of minutes which roll over on my phone and I never use, so I’m happy to give you a call.