Rants, Ramblings and Nothingness

A messy collection of random stuff really!!

Woofing log: Summary

My woofing journey in Bitterna Åsa just ended last week. A month (almost) full of many things which I found to be very valuable as well as highly enjoyable. As a reflection for myself, which might also be useful for fellow woofers or future woofers, I would like to summarise my experience in this blog entry.

I spent almost the whole July with a really nice couple Erland Carlsson and Carina örarbäck and their family. Both of them were master mariners from Gothenburg’s archipelago and have decided to run a farm in Bitterna, around 50 minutes of train ride to the northeast of Gothenburg. The farm is around 15 hectare and the main produce is rapeseed oil (rapsolja – in Swedish). The couple shared that confusion sometimes arise when orders were made due to the name of their enterprise (Oliviaeko). First customers tend to associate the name to olive oil, but the origin of the name was actually taken from their youngest daughter’s name instead. It’s nice to hear that this has not stopped them from getting loyal customers though.

The farm itself grows many different things, such as: raspberries (hallon), sea buckthorns (havtorn), rhubarbs (rabarber), red beet (rödbetar), potatoes (potatis), spring onions (gräslök), and some flowers that I can’t remember the names. They also have sheeps (får) that are raised for their skin and meat, as well as bees (bina) for their honey. This is actually my first time working in a farm, so the experience was quite overwhelming during the first few days. I have learned to appreciate things like organic produce that I used to have taken for granted from this experience.

To be able to eat the food that you have grown or raised yourself feels really good. They are not only fresh and taste better, but since you grow them for your own consumption (as well as selling of course), you want them to be as natural as possible, devoid of any chemicals and poisons that haunt the food that are produced by industrial farms. To be able to put the food you are eating into your mouth without worry is worth the small jump of price we are paying, in my opinion. I remember that watermelons used to be very sweet with a lot of seeds in it, but nowadays, the common ones are the ones with almost no seeds but they are not as sweet as the ones that I have tasted during my childhood. It is time for us to start to understand how food is being produced, only then we can appreciate the value of organic food. This is one of the most important lessons I have learned during my woofing journey.

So what do I think about woofing other than learning to appreciate farming and organic food? Well, of course not all is rosy, and the work is not for everyone. It is a hard and tiring work which requires physical endurance or strength. The work itself can be boring since a lot of them are very much repetitive. You will be far from the entertainment centers that you might be used to. If you are a non-laborious type of person, dislike being under the sunlight for hours, afraid of small wiggly worms and pesky bugs, and very dependent of your latest gadgets, this is definitely not for you. But if you are still interested, then please continue reading.

Beside all of those unfavorable conditions, woofing can be truly fun. Of course I can only testify from my experience in Bitterna, but according to fellow woofers that I have met in Bitterna, the conditions are generally the same, with some minor differences here and there. So what can I benefit from woofing, you might ask? First is meeting different people along the journey. I have met a lot of people that I normally will not cross path with, and it is a really great feeling to be able to listen to their stories and their perspective of life. Oh, of course if you don’t like to be social, this is really not for you.

If you are interested in learning about different cultures, woofing offers abundant opportunity for you. I have lived in Sweden for almost a year but I can only say that my exposure to Swedish culture is very limited. I am studying in an international programme (although half of my classmates are Swedes) and almost at all times, I heard English. Swedes are generally good at English and this condition will force someone lazy like me to progress slower in learning the language. In Bitterna, majority of the conversations were in Swedish. Although I was only able to listen to them without understanding more than ten to twenty percent, it was a learning opportunity that I won’t get anywhere else. It is now easier for me to listen to Swedish compared to a month ago. I don’t understand most of it of course, but the experience helped me hugely. Besides the language, I’ve learned a great deal about Swedish culture. From their appreciation of fika (coffee break), their tasty cuisine, interesting habits, ethics and so on.

Woofing can also be an economical way of travelling to different parts of the world. Food and housing is guaranteed, just sweat for a little during the day, and you are up for a real treat. WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) website has a lot of opportunity in many parts of the world. You just need to register and pay a small amount of annual membership fee, choose your preferred country (ies) and communicate with farm owners for vacant spots at their farms. In Sweden, the busiest period is during April/May to October, but there are still works need to be done all year round. In the end, it is still you call. If you are ready to work hard and open you perspective, there are a lot of things to be gained and learned.

With this blog entry, I would also like to give my deepest appreciation to Erland and Carina and their family for the opportunity given and their warmth and kindness. It was also really great to have known fellow woofers such as Valentin, Emmanuelle and Marion. It was a moment that I will always cherish and appreciate. Vi ses senare!!

P.S: Some pictures will follow!!

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August 4, 2011 - Posted by | Eco, Farm, Sweden, Woofing | , , , , , , , ,

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