50 New Friends – A WWOOFer Retrospective   5 comments

One of the particular joys of farming at R-evolution Gardens this season has been the chance to meet so many amazing people throughout the course of the year. Ginger decided that for the 2011 season, she was going to start bringing WWOOFers onto the farm to help out with the expanded operation. Rather than it being just her and an intern, like it was in 2010, it was this year going to be her, two part-time interns (Emily and myself) and somewhere in the vicinity of 50 WWOOFers.

In other words, a bit of a jump in personnel.

My fellow intern Emily, me, farmer Ginger and two-time WWOOFer and movie night-instigator, Erin.

Of course, the 50 WWOOFs didn’t all arrive at once. They were spread out over the season, arriving for stays of two weeks or less, with usually two or three being on the farm at any one time. Yet, it still was a certain kind of madness having the constant influx of new faces and helping hands. At the same time, it was a certain kind of lovely to meet so many incredible and heartfelt people, all of them interested in growing food and living more sustainably, their excitement and enthusiasm a constant lift.

While this year was my third farming experience, it was my first one with WWOOFers. And I liked it. No, actually, I loved it. Having these people cycling through provided uncountable moments of friendship and good conversation, work and play, new perspectives and unique bits of wisdom. It’s a special person who decides to go live in a tent for a few weeks on a farm and trade their physical labor for food. It’s the sort of person who has moved herself to an honest questioning of our society’s functioning. It’s the sort of person who seeks good work, good food and good community. It seems to be the sort of person who tells good jokes and asks good questions and makes smart observations and enjoys a good sweat, either from labor or a sauna or both. My kind of people, then, and I’m lucky to have met every one of them.

There are memories galore. From chopping wood and exchanging books with Matt–who walked away from our farm with a new tattoo inspired by this place, as well as the intention to return next year–to the ginger ale-making session with Cori, Sarah and Kyle. From cob-oven pizzas made with a multitude of different WWOOFers to long conversations with Erik about Derrick Jensen and farming and future plans. From the late-night summer bonfires with strumming music to the burrito adventure with Skyra and Erin. From wood hauling with Casey, Sarah and Karen (so appreciated right now as that wood burns and pushes back this winter’s day chill) to listening to the easy conversation between Matt and Kaiti next to a bonfire on the beach, to sitting by the river on a hot day with Jed, Alex and Erin, to talks of dating in Portland with Christine. From so many amazing meals made by Kate, to Matt and Minjie bringing a bit of Chinese culture to the farm, rocking the authentic fried rice and talking mooncakes, to the always-amazing Leigh-Ann and Jena initiating us into this crazy WWOOFer adventure via their hauling and spreading of gravel and their getting covered with chicken shit (a rite of passage!) Not to mention, Leigh-Ann’s continuing friendship when she moved to Cannon Beach, providing me some wonderful evenings of beer and good conversation up north. From Glen’s thoughtful conversation, steady presence and smart insights to Erik’s fantastic handwritten instructions for growing mushrooms to Aaron’s calming presence and hard work. From a night of music and burnt cookies with Laura, Sky and Rob to conversations about basketball with BJ. From Julie and Kevin’s dangerous over-consumption of Rooster sauce to Kevin’s drunken nudity (oh, tequila!) to Tiffany and Michael’s enthusiasm for weeding and faux-theft of M (see the adorable picture at the bottom of this post.) From our wonderful overlapping of two different Nicks, to Ally’s listening skills on our drive to Tillamook (sorry for the babbling.) From the steady hands and farm free-styling of Marguerite and Alex to Rachael’s cob-oven cobbler and condemnation of this coffee-connoisseur’s caffeine over-consumption. (That’s how you do alliteration!) From conversations about Buffy with Piper to conversations with James about how to make a little money with this lifestyle. From going in to Portland to see music with Liza and Sean and snagging ourselves some free fries to the odd relaxation of our final WWOOFers, Nicky and Darci, who showed up after the markets were done and the CSA appreciation dinner over and with everything finally having eased down from the utter craziness and stress of late summer. It was nice to have that last couple WWOOFers to be more relaxed with and to have a sense of cyclic-closure, as they represented some kind of approximation of experience to the rainy, more-relaxed first WWOOFer experience with Jena and Leigh-Ann.

Casey and Sarah, flexing those muscles after an exhausting day of non-stop wood hauling and heaving. An extra thanks to them as I burn that same wood now to keep warm.

All these WWOOFers provided not only their perspectives and work and friendship and energy, but they provided an extraordinary social scene in a somewhat remote setting. While we have a town of great people nearby, that town isn’t huge and the farm is still about nine miles from it. With my past farming experiences, I’ve often found myself feeling isolated to the degree that I have to somewhat crazily head out on a semi-regular basis to a local coffee shop or bar or both just to hang out and be in the presence of other people–even if I’m not actually interacting with those people. This takes a bit of a financial toll when you’re pursuing a life that provides little to no money, so having the WWOOFers here this year really helped with that. I very rarely felt the need to leave the farm to fulfill some social longing. If anything, I was anti-social at times, needing a break from the constant interactions, and I apologize to those WWOOFers who hit the farm during those anti-social periods of mine. Sometimes I can’t help but just want to hunker down in my yurt with a good book and my own thoughts.

In celebration of all these kind souls who helped us work, play and grow food this year, Ginger has put up a more comprehensive WWOOFer retrospective on the farm’s website. I encourage all to check it out. It’s highly entertaining, with photos of most of our visitors, some thoughts from Ginger and quotes from the parting notes everyone left in the WWOOFer book at the end of their stay. You’ll even see a few pictures of me scattered throughout that post. We really were blessed to have so many incredible people work with us this year. A huge thank you to all of them–you really made this year happen, in so many different ways.

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Posted December 13, 2011 by Joel Caris in Farm Life

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5 responses to “50 New Friends – A WWOOFer Retrospective

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  1. Hey Joel, It’s matt (the crazy who got the tatoo lol). Thanks for the nostalgia…it’s so easy to forget what great times I had out there with all the rush of school and “work” here in Maryland. Speaking of books, I hope you will acknowledge my screen name/user name as the epiphany of siddhartha, which I don’t expect you to give back and quite honestly I don’t plan on giving you back Wendell Berry until I actually understand what he’s saying lol…maybe this June. I’m loving the blog, keep up the good thoughts.

    • Matt! No problem on the nostalgia–it really was more Ginger, who was slaving away on that post late into the night yesterday. But it was good to go through the WWOOFer book and think back on everyone and try to actually remember the specifics of some of the many fantastic moments that took place this summer. You definitely have to come back next year–the bath house is awesome! I can’t even say. You need to see and experience the finished product of all your hard work.

      I acknowledge the screen name, most certainly, and I meant to email you awhile back to let you know I had read and quite enjoyed Siddhartha. But, like it sounds you need to do with good old Wendell, I certainly should give it another read. A slower read, at that. I think there’s much more I can get out of it.

      Glad you like the blog. I’ll definitely keep up the thoughts, good or otherwise. I’ve been trying to write a particular post all night that’s proving very elusive, even though I think it could be really good. Hopefully it’ll be up at least sometime tomorrow. We’ll see.

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