Permaculture in Action

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No More WWOOFers.--Part 1

What an amazing journey we have had with WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). It started over 6 years ago and since than we have had more than 200 WWOOFers.

We had been talking about it for a couple of years and it just never seemed quite the right time. But really it was just about not knowing how it would all work, so we bit the bullet and just went for it. We had the accommodation....

...but had to work out things like meals, showers, toilets, work schedules etc. And driving down to the central coast one day we got a phone call from a young German man looking for a wwoof experience. We just looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and said OK let's do it. We learnt a lot from this young man in regards to how we wanted our wwoofing to evolve. We learnt that we needed to have 1 short shower a day. We needed to have separate bathrooms - he walked in on me in the shower. We needed private time - evenings were our own.  As time went on things changed as we got more used to having someone sharing our space.

It was April of our first year on the farm that our first wwoofer started. After him came Nate from Canada, via Fiji. He came for just a couple of days but loved it so much that he stayed until the day before he flew home to Canada. We were still at the very early stage of developing the mandala gardens and the work involved digging out the paths by hand. He dug the paths in one mandala- that's paths around 7 circles...

He was so happy with his work and what he had accomplished that he said to Mark that he reserved the right to name his mandala. Mark was also impressed with his work and said OK.  Nate named his mandala "Nelson". That bought a smile to our faces and Mark decided to name all the mandalas after Nelson Mandela's family.

Nate was also a great cook and would often ask if I had an idea for the next meal. If not he would be happy to rustle us up something.  Which he did with ease, using whatever we had on hand. We still have 'Nate potatoes' every so often. That's potato chopped up small and fried with onion, garlic and spices, Nate especially like chilli.

Another favourite was Wong Yong from Sth Korea. He came to us in the summer of that same year. We were still constructing mandalas. Wong Yong had just arrived in Sydney when nearly everything he owned was stolen from the hostel. He still had one small back pack and passport and a small amount of money but had lost everything else including his bus tickets that would take him on a tour of Australia. Someone at the hostel told him about wwoofing so that's what he did. He came, and in the heat he also dug paths. What we didn't realise at the time was that he wasn't used to the heat , and not one to complain, stayed out in the sun and got sunburnt ears. We had to be more careful. But he always had a smile on his face. I commented on how happy he was considering his misfortunes in Sydney. He said that he was so grateful that all his stuff was stolen otherwise he would be sitting on a bus for 2 months with other Koreans and that being here with us was the best holiday he could have.  He would have been happy to stay with us for the rest of his time but we thought we knew better and so packed him off with a friend to do some wwoofing further north. Within a day he rang us asking could he please come 'home'. We were just off for a small holiday of our own and said that he could come back after that. But while we were away his grandmother died and he had to rush back to Korea, so we never got to see him again.

There was Marion from France... I wanted to adopt her!

And Rose who painted the mural....

We had just cleaned up in front of this wall before Rose turned up. It was a blank wall and one of the first things you saw as you pull into the yard. Just screaming out for a mural. I turned to Rose and an off hand sort of way said "I don't suppose you paint?" And Rose said that she did as a matter of fact. She had studied visual arts at Uni.  And so the painting of the mural became her job. Poor girl, what she really wanted to do was garden, but she committed to doing both. And so committed to finishing the painting was she that she was putting the finishing touches to the wall moments before me dragging her away so she wouldn't miss her train!

Such wonderful memories. More tomorrow. See you then.


  1. Kate, that's just lovely. Am looking forward to instalment #2! xxx

  2. Hi Kate, I've been reading your blog for ages but don't think I've commented before. Love the wattle and daub, I used to work in historic houses which had lots of wattle and daub for maintenance - after 150 years or so, it does need a little work! We used to have woofers in town and have considered it again out here but don't know how they would cope in our 50s caravan. Did you know Lynette West? She was a friend of ours. Thanks for dropping by. Alison

    1. Hi Alison. Yes we did know Lynette and have very fond memories of her. Mark did his BD course with her. She was one very amazing lady. We have have had wwoofers in caravans and some have had to sleep in tents. So glad you were able to leave a comment.

  3. Friends of mine here in Tassy have had WOOFERS for years. They claim that their children were educated about the world by talking to the lovely people who came to work and live with them. I don't doubt it for a minute. it would be a wonderful experience for kids and for making lifelong links around the globe.

  4. Kate, what beautiful stories. I really enjoyed reading this one. We were WWOOFERS ourselves when we first arrived in Australia. We lived in a caravan with a toddler and a dog and travelled along the east coast, wwoofing in a couple of places along the way. I look forward to your next post...

  5. Absolutley lovely to read this... how precious and what a wonderful idea! Thanks for sharing Kate xx

  6. What great experiences you had with WWOOFERS. I love your stories Kate, especially about Wong Yong and him wanting to come back 'home' to you. The accommodation you have is excellent, they must jump for joy when they see it!
    Love the mandala garden arrangement, my hubby was reading up on that - nice to see your photo of it.
    Thanks for popping over to my blog. I have had just a tiny taste of yours and shall be returning... I'm sometimes a bit slow on visiting, but I always get there! Cheerio for now :D)

  7. What wonderful memories you and Mark have made Kate. I didn't even know what a WWOOFER was until you taught me. I love seeing the mural on you shed, that is amazing. Can't wait to read the next chapter.