All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

I wanted a wwoofer

I was green with envy. Why do I always miss out?
Answer, because I don't generally know that there is anything happening that I will be missing until after it has happened and I have duly missed it.

Friends in the next department are in the hospitality business, the sort of place where people start booking for the next year at the end of their current holiday, and they have a huge organic garden. They used to have pigs, sheep and poultry of all sorts too, but it all got a bit too much , so it's back to the fruit and veg and a few chickens.
There have been a few health problems too, which did not make keeping things going very easy, but they, intelligent and resourceful people, have found the solution. They have wwoofers.

When they first told me about this system, I thought they were talking about dogs...well, I would....and visions of St. Bernards in stout green jackets hauling little carts to and fro filled my mind, an appealing vision, but totally inaccurate. What they actually had was human help...the wwoofers turned out to be Willing Workers on Organic Farms and they have been a godsend, not only in terms of physical help but also in injecting variety into their lives. Different people, different cultures, different all leavens life in the country.

The latest wwoofer was a young French guy but they have had all sorts, Chinese Australians, Americans, artists, postgraduate students, youngsters touring Europe and all with lots to offer.

I immediately started to think of all those jobs a wwoofer or two could help with at my place and the imagination was running overtime......I could get the spring cleared out properly and repoint its' stone housing, repair the bridge to the island, move the soft fruit beds, get the watering lines sorted out properly....all the things I want to do and never seem to have time for.

Then reality set in. My friends are open, hospitable people, glad to see a new face and ready to accommodate its owner.
We, on the other hand, have become recluses, embedded in our daily routine and circle, somewhat like trolls busy turning back into rocks, and I doubt we could cope with strangers in our midst any more. It has been a sobering realisation.

In our time we have been the family Borstal...the misbehaving youth sent down for hard labour by their parents... the family holiday centre in the sunshine, a staging post for friends, and we have enjoyed all of it, but whether we could now cope with someone new I do not know. I think not. In theory I would love to be able to talk to someone of a different generation with a different culture, but the effort to prise myself from the rock would be have to explain things that are taken as given by our own circle, to have, in the end, to question or - horror - change my way of life.

Other friends scoff.
'It's only a question of feeding and watering them and giving them a comfortable bed.'

I don't think so. I see what our friends do, and it's not just a question of creature comforts, though there are plenty of those. Our friends give their time and their interest too, they include their wwoofers in their family life so that they are truly in a home while they stay there.

I am ashamed to say that I don't think I could do it and any less would not be fair to potential wwoofers, so, unless anyone can offer St. Bernards in stout green coats, I'm back to being on my Jack Jones in the garden. Still, if I'm missing out, it is entirely my own inflexible fault.


  1. I know exactly where you're coming from. Don't feel bad. I couldn't do it either.

  2. Ayak, dreadful to realise how hidebound I have become, though!

    Would you be kind enough to accept the Blogger's Best Friend award...on the top of the blog on the left? It is to mark bloggers kind enough to leave comments and constructive criticisms...if I could find one that showed a brain I would award you that as well...thanks for all your encouragement.

  3. I would be delighted to accept...thankyou. Oh please don't even think about giving me an award that showed a brain...if I had one I'd be dangerous! xxxx

  4. Quite hideous, even the thought of it.

    I'm always suspiscious of those working for free unless it is for a charity.

  5. Ayak, yes a brain is a dangerous thing...

    Mark, as far as I can tell from friends, it is a way for youngish people to finance their travels...a bit of work in exchange for room and board. It must be open to exploitation, though.

    I just can't bring myself to barter my privacy for help in the garden.

  6. I saw the wwoofer program on line and thought it would be interesting, since we are both experienced gardeners and my husband can build or fix anything. And then I realized that when we are traveling the last thing I want to do is work! Visiting yes, working no. We do enough of that at home.
    But when I was young I would have loved to do it and I would have had the energy.
    We would probably be welcomed everywhere because one thing my husband can fix is....computers!

  7. Zuleme, it seems a great way to travel, cutting down on hotel costs and being useful at the same time.

  8. Great! We have the same thing over here who arrive for a free bed, they're called relations!

  9. Grumpy Old Ken, I like my relations coming...they're used to me and I'm used to them...I just don't think I can adjust to someone totally new living with us for a prolonged period.

  10. We don't have any hotel costs in France since we host French friends here in NH and they welcome us in France.
    And part of our last trip was with our favorite client here who rents a large house and offers friends a room with bath for a week at a time.
    We stayed in a hotel once just because we thought a night on our own would be nice but we could have done without it. And I missed being with friends even for a night!
    My favorite part of travel in France is meeting people, I treasure the connections we made and the sightseeing we did with friends. Since we live in a gorgeous spot in the mountains here and have a guest suite we are able to have guests come for weeks at a time and have plenty of privacy.
    So, that means you too! Book ahead!

  11. I'm fast becoming an avid fan.

  12. Zuleme, Mr. Fly is checking flight costs...beware!
    I was touched that the French wwoofer we met at friends left a kind message about just made me realise all the more what we have foresaken in living our own enclosed life.

    Jimmy Bastard, here's tae us...wha's like us...damn few and they're all deid.

  13. Hello! Since you live in France, you are aware of the multitude of crazy laws around "employing" people. I'm sure that you know that it's illegal to let anyone do any "work" for you if it's something a trained professional could do. I.E., cousin Jean can't come reroof your house because he's not a paid charpentier... So stupid, but alas!

    Glad you visited my blog. I'm enjoying discovering your's.
    Best to you!

  14. Ah Fly you really mustn't worry about feeling like this. I am not sure I'd want to do it either as I very much like be immersed in my own thing each day and not have to justify or explain why. I'll come and give you a hand some time and I can't promise a St Bernard, but perhaps an over-friendly black lab and a licky Beauceron x.

  15. Dedene, yes indeed! And the difference between 'l'homme a tout mains' and someone allowed to use machinery....and the difference in their insurance....I wouldn't mind so much (no, thinking about it I probably would still mind) if the so called professional was anything other than a trained con man. When I think what so called professionals have done to turn my hair white in their time...

    Frances, bring on the dogs a tout pattes....

  16. There was a single man who lived near here some years ago, and he worked the WWOOF system. He installed a toilet (wooden box) in a spidery shed, and after use you had to throw a handful of sawdust into the box. That was the organic part No. 1.

    All his prospective WWOOFERS were young ladies, from all over the world, and their work consisted almost entirely of mixing cement, moving breeze blocks and filling holes in walls, during the daylight hours.

    Come the night, then he had designs upon them of a different "organic" nature. Few of them stayed more than two days.

    I think it would be harder work entertaining and nurturing foreign strangers than doing the gardening work oneself.

    After you with Frances, please. :D

  17. nodamnblog, Mr. Fly has suddenly become enthusiastic about wwoofing.....

  18. Well I think you do yourself a disservice. I understand how unsettling it may be to have a stranger in your house but you always seem so warm in your blog and comments I think you could make a wonderful host.
    We did some woofing when we were considering moving to France. We used it to research regions of France and learn as much as we could from the hosts on gardening and many other projects.
    Maybe you should just find some people you are comfortable with to come for a working holiday. Many hands really do make light work, we put our roof on with a working party of our paramedic colleagues!!

  19. Hi there... I came over from France and the Unknown... I have to say that as a family we took part in several woofing placements while we were travelling across France and Spain. I don't know much about your situation but as we are a family, we wanted our own space. We were always able to strike a deal with hosts that meant we would have our own accommodation (static home / a gite) and sort out our own food and in return my husband would work 6 hours a day. We would all get together once a week for a dinner and our experiences have always been fab :-)

    I think basically you can adapt it to suit your own needs / the woofers needs. Our experience shows that the younger single travellers want to be part of a home and really 'experience' family life. But the older / family woofers just want a free place to stay, experience of the area and experience of a 'lifestyle' ie: looking after animals, working the land etc. They don't want to be hanging around you all the time being annoying ;-) so, don't be put off if you really want your spring cleared - you just need to find the right woofers!

  20. Roz, we have had a lot of help from family...I suppose that the problem is that M. Fly is not well and though the house is large, it is only one house.

    Alice, welcome from that super blog France and the unknown. As I said to Roz, we only have the one house...though there is another one 3 kilometres away.

    You have all given me a lot to think about....I shall ruminate and try not to poison the planet with too much methane while so doing.