Wednesday, September 10, 2014
As travelers in Europe, Steve and I have stayed for part of several trips on organic farms. One of the best parts of the places we stayed was the opportunity to meet the Wwoofers who worked on the farms.
These mostly young people come from all over the world to volunteer, learn about organic farming, learn the language in the country where they work and to travel cheaply. They find their way to these farms through the World, Wide Organization of Organic Farms (http://www.wwoof.net).
Choose a country from the website. These farms are all over the world. For a small fee you get a list of farms for the country you are interested in. Then it is up to you to make the contact and determine if the particular farm is right for you, if they have room and work for you at the time you are available.
No worries you don't have to be young to be a Wwoofer either.
The deal is you work for a specified number of hours a day and in return you receive room and board and time off to explore the area you have chosen.
You also have the opportunity to learn about farming, ways to live that help to preserve the environment.
These farms are small independently owned and they need help with the gardening and other projects such as building and help with livestock, cooking and cleaning, hosting guests. You do not need experience, only enthusiasm. Initiative helps too.
Often these farms cannot survive without offering attractions for tourists as well. Some are bed and breakfasts. Some offer three meals a day. Others provide opportunities for yoga or horseback riding or adventure tours.
Wwoofers might be offered the opportunity to participate in these activities on their time off, another perk for the volunteer but it depends on the farm.
The Wwoofers we met came from Denmark, Portugal, France, Canada, the US, Australia, Holland and Germany, just to name a few countries of origin. Many of them spoke more than one language and were learning another.
There is no contract so if the placement does not work for the Wwoofer, he or she can choose to leave at any time. Often they find a farm more suitable for them and make their way to that place.
One couple told me that they initially went to work on a horse farm. It was in a very hot, dry climate. The owners severely rationed the water for the Wwoofers and the food was scarce. It was difficult living but they stuck in out, they said, because they felt they had an agreement to stay 6 weeks. After that they found a nearby farm that needed their help and they were treated as part of the family.
Another young woman told me the work she did was hard, heavy construction and at first while they were building the new farmhouse there was no running water, toilet facilities or electricity. She and other Wwoofers slept outside. But after 6 months as she saw the farm and buildings take shape she was proud to be part of the accomplishment. She felt part of something greater than herself and she had learned a lot about construction and farming as well as living off the grid.
A young man from Denmark has dreams of one day starting his own organic project off the grid. On the farm where we stayed he had developed a simple method of growing plants in plastic containers with a watering system that took little care. His excitement for the possibilities of creating ways to live by leaving a small footprint on the environment inspires.
Another young man form Quebec joked about how he and his girlfriend were learning to herd goats on a farm that produced goat cheese to sell in local markets. He said it took two of them and still they could not keep track of the herd. Another Wwoofer on the same farm came from a farm in Germany. She could stand in the field all day reading a book and know where all the goats were just by listening to them, move and eat and to the bells.
Whether they are there to work or for an inexpensive way to see the world, to learn a language or a skill to learn about organic farming, experience living off the grid or ways to help create a better world, these young people give me hope for the future. They have helped give meaning to my own travel adventures.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
A writer loves to see her books on the shelf in a library.
Better yet checked out and in the hands of kids.
And then this note from a teacher. A writer
also likes to know her works
are bing used creatively
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Also close to the sea and villages with cafes, Sagres and Lagos, hiking and adventure nearby this unusual get away has it's own kind of whimsy.
The mainstay of the organic farm and guest home is goat cheese made on the property and sold at local markets.
Besides the goats there are rabbits, guinea pigs, cats and dogs, chickens, a horse and of course the burrow to add to the eclectic ambiance.
On Saturday evenings you might find a pick up soccer(football) game, Wwoofers( more to come in next post), guests, neighbors and anyone else who might be around gather in this unique setting. You will find yourself in a horse corral playing with young and old from around the world. The dirtier you get the more fun you had.
Just witnessing the interest, the spirit and actual practical work on these organic farms off the grid gives one hope for the future of the environment and our children.
Friday, August 8, 2014
Johnny and Vio of Aqua-Ventura have realized their dream; an organic adventure tourist farm now located in the forest area of the Algarve region of Portugal. Still a work in progress it is a magical place built out of passion, creativity, a love of nature and home grown produce, shear hard labor and an ounce or two of perseverance, grit, ingenuity and faith that it could happen. Friends and family and Wwoofers(http://www.wwoof.net) help make it happen too. Pure Magic!
The main building overlooks the bamboo forest, fruit trees and the suspension bridge that leads over a stream to the organic garden, chicken coop and the well. It houses the kitchen bright with light and flowers and bowls of fruit where Vio prepares vegetarian and meat dishes that are part of the joy of this farm holiday.
The deck is covered with bamboo stalks for shade. If it rains in the evening you will be treated to sparkling water droplets clinging to the stalks in the the morning, a glistening natural decor.
There is also a dining room full of whimsy and color as is the living space perfect for reading or writing or dreaming. It should be no surprise that there is often music and singing in this gracious home full of life where guests are treated as family.
But no fear. If you want to curl up in solitude in the main house spaces or your own cottage space, walk the grounds or take off for a longer hike up to the lake or across the hills to the beach, no one will disturb you. This is a great writer's retreat with much to inspire.
No surprise to know there is an outdoor oven perfect for pizza and a fire pit for paella and community. The family dogs enjoy a cookout here too.There is a well(great for cooling beer when necessary). Some living quarters include private bathrooms with plumbing and others offer an outdoor shower(lovely to bath under the stars) and outhouses. Living off the gird means solar electricity for light, refrigeration and other amenities. And it works! The best of both worlds with a commitment to saving the environment.
The environs close by provide pristine beaches and hikes for all ability levels. The towns of Sagres and Lagos are near by. Lovely sparkling white villages tucked away all along the beaches, trails, paths and back country roads provide natural entertainment and /or a meal of wine and seafood. Here can be found cafes, restaurants and boutiques where the Euro is strong but the prices are reasonable.
A kilometer walk to the village of Pedralva will offer a pizzeria and a restaurant/ bar where the owners are happy to chat or leave you to use the free Internet.
A short hike to a near by lake is an easy way to an afternoon or early morning swim. Johnny has dreams of a house boat for more accommodations along with other exciting ways to add charm and the exotic to this get- away spot.
Aqua-Ventura still offers kayaking, rock climbing, hiking and surfing. Some of the best in the world.
A night on the beach? You got. it!
Johnny and Vio and family will help coordinate the holiday you are looking for if it is adventure and the opportunity to stretch your ability or something quieter. Try both.
Check it out on http://www.aqua-ventura.com.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
I have herded sheep, sheared sheep, carded, spun and woven wool. So the Sheep is Life celebration is a high point every year. It is a fiber arts workshop organized by The Navajo Lifeway organization. (navajolifeway.org )
This year Rebbecca Shepard taught us how to felt a sheep herders hat.
As with all things sheep it is not as easy as it looks.
Who knew we would have to start with uncarded raw wool?
I have carded before. Believe me it is a labor intensive exercise for this beginning.
We layered the wool on top of the pattern for a hat. The word of the day became "more" issued forth by our gentle task master.
Maybe not more soap…suds ran across the table and dripped over the floor, down our arms and legs before we finished.
Definitely more of this. Rubbing, beating, pounding the fibers together. More, More, More…Who knew you could build up the upper arm muscle while felting a sheep herders hat?
Flip it all over like Navajo fry bread and more? Really?
Cut it off the pattern.
But after all that rubbing and pounding and beating and molding we had a finished product.
I might not try this at home yet.
But I definitely want to make a scarf next. You begin with silk and add the wool. You use bubble wrap and I suspect more muscle power.
If you are interested, we hope to have Rebbecca come to Chinle for the scarf class or contact her about making a hat. She lives near Many Farms so we can do it! Stay tuned in late summer or early fall.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
And too a good reminder of the difference an author visit can make.
The power of words, of books and sharing and reading can be awesome!
Dear Ms. Williams,My name is Laura Scherb, and I am a rising junior at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Growing up, I attended Heritage Elementary in the Franklin Regional School District, where one year, you were a visiting author. I very distinctly remember reading your book Tap-Tap and becoming enamored with the idea of Haiti. I interrogated my mom to see if that was where the car that we had just sold went (it wasn't) and imagined painting our new van to be a tap-tap car in Murrysville (I didn't). Instead, I declared that I was going to move to Haiti and be a French teacher there (using the French that I had yet to learn), and for a year, that's what I told people I was going to do when I grew up.The years passed, and I forgot about Haiti. When the earthquake hit, I was upset to hear that so many lives were lost or changed forever, and I think I half-heartedly helped with a bake sale to "do my part." I promptly forgot about Haiti and went about my life in a bubble.The next time I thought about Haiti was during my first day of classes at CMU, in fall of 2012. Everyone in the humanities college here is required to take a freshmen seminar, and mine happened to be all about The Uses and Abuses of Haiti, modeled after Paul Farmer's book. The class engaged me, and all of the sudden, Haiti didn't seem that far away at all. By happy accident, I found out that my RA had been to Haiti three times in high school and was interested in helping me to get a group together to travel there.A year later, after wading through wads of red tape from the university's side of things, we were an officially recognized organization on campus and on our way to Port-au-Prince. We spent spring break there in March of 2014 working with several schools, women's rights groups, and refugee camps in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding areas. We donated over $6000 and worked with the groups to find out how we could better equip them to accomplish their missions. We returned to Pittsburgh in the middle of a snowstorm, fired up and determined to make a difference.The world is such a small place, especially where Pittsburgh and Haiti are concerned. I was so excited to learn that we have mutual friends in Haiti and in Pittsburgh, especially since it was you who inspired my love of Haiti so long ago. I would be honored to be featured on your blog, and I wouldn't mind at all if you used my name. I would welcome any questions about our group (CMU in Haiti), our work in Haiti, or my journey that was propelled by your book.
Best wishes, and thank you for captivating me with your words,Laura Scherb