The Four the Merrier

I am quite a solitary person, and although we were hosting Wwoofers for just 1 week at a time, having a relative stranger full time in your life was quite exhausting. We do provide a separate building for the Wwoofers, but when they arrive alone, we want them also to feel part of the family,  but cooking and heating separately all have a cost.  It was our Romanian Wwoofer who suggested that instead of waiting for the Wwoofers to find us and host them one at a time, we should put an urgent request on the site with specific dates for specific tasks and host a group for 2 weeks.  So we did. Within 3 days we had 10 offers of help for 2 weeks in Februay/March.  Some not so practical as they maybe had not read the dates we required or wanted to stay too long.  It was at the time the new Wwoof website was launched and my chosen 4 were a result of their patience with the glitches,  a friendly approach and enthusiasm for the project. A Canadian, a French couple and an English lad.

My 2nd exciting discovery was the No Dig Organic Home and Garden Book by Charles Dowding.

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This was a revelation. No fights with weeds, no constant hoeing, NO DIGGING!! just tons of lovely bulky manure and brown cardboard.  I became obsessed, stopping in the dead of night to pick up cardboard left by the side of the road or near recycling bins. I become a connoisseur of Midden Heaps.  Dry and layered or decomposed and squelchy.  I was happy to collect from any.  Layering like a strange lasagne, those weeds were going to be suffocated into submission.

And so with a variety of abilities and life skills The Fabulous Four, worked initially in strange Cumbrian February sunshine and then in very usual Cumbrian Rain, to tame the old chicken run, and renovate the hen house (more bulky manure) chop back the devouring perennials, remove weeds from the cobbles (by hand), move and use the 10 year old household compost to fill buckets ready for planting, move paving slabs from the lawn, create paths, fill bags and bags and more bags with manure and layer it with cardboard and when rain truly stopped play, to process wool ready for dying.  The only thing we have not yet done is plant some seeds.

They worked and lived together, sometimes we all ate together, sometimes I cooked and sometimes they did.  Everybody had companionship and their own space. It was a perfect arrangement, and new bonds and friendships made.  It felt more like a university field trip than a working party.

It Feels Like We are on Holiday

Winter is the best time for us to work with the Wwoofers as in summer our accommodation is needed to rent to tourists to pay the bills.  Winter is not always the best time for gardening, but despite the snow and the rain the messy RH bed was transformed in a morning into 4 raised beds, and the view was revealed by a day of dilligent hedge trimming.  Not only had we forgotten how breathtaking the view from the garden could be, but what it felt like to be a gap year student again.  The house was filled with Italian words, cooking from life experiences as a Bistro owners in Milan, before Viviana and Vincenzo dropped into the slow lane to Wwoof around the world. Plans were made to Ski in Romania (or the Ukraine because that is where the Romanians now go). Bheinn learnt how to do magic tricks, and everybody got beaten at Mario Cart.  But like all travel Wwoofing comes with the need for a lot of adaptability.  None of the Wwoofing stays have finished/started as planned.  A day late for a broken bicycle, an early departure for paid employment, struggles, to find a next host, or the public transport to accommodate that need on a budget. And none of us have finished a Wwoofing host or assignment without learning and becoming more than we were at the beginning.  So for today

Sogni D’oro, Noapte buna vise placute, Goodnight and Sweet Dreams

The First Wwoofer

Suilvan the “Naked” Frenchman

Our first Wwoofer arrived by bike in terrible Cumbrian weather having cycled from Portugal via Wales, Scotland and on this specific day from Dumfries.  He was travelling light, with everything (including his Ukelele) on the back of his bike.

No surprise he was very fit having cycled all that way, but his big surprise was his adherence to Barefoot running (and gardening).  As a running family who have spent many hours with massage therapists and physios we had many hours of conversation about the health benefits of the barefoot philosophy.  Our first Wwoofer was a brilliant English speaker and very hard working bringing about a huge transformation in the garden in just 5 days and joining in with our family life. I think the late autumn sunshine helped.  As we waved him goodbye both Bheinn and I had a tear in our eye. Our first Wwoofing experience had been a great success.

The Garden Begins

Gardening is not my favourite thing.  It is messy and hard work and we have a very large garden.  Mark, my husband had a go a few years ago when his mid-life crisis kicked in, but after the polytunnel had blown away 3 times, the last time permanently we both gave up trying to live off 2 beetroots, 3 peas and a large handful of Chard.  He bought a camera and I bought a guitar.

5 years later in 2019 and the barn redevelopment project is turning like a juggernaut from a building project to a money-making scheme and dream come true as far as being able to spin, weave and teach is concerned for me. I then realised the garden had been totally neglected and would require yet another large effort for it to complement the accommodation we were offering.

The penny dropped that many spinners and weavers I know dye their own yarns and a natural dye garden could be a fantastic add-on to the back to the earth philosophy of the spinning with wool from the sheep we can see from our back window and the idea of the dye plant garden was born.

So why go down the Organic route you may ask?  To be honest I was possibly persuaded by the notion of volunteer labour to help with the project in the form of Wwoofers.   Wwoof  means:

WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms, UK (WWOOF™ UK) [and] is part of a worldwide movement linking visitors with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange thereby helping to build a sustainable global community.(

As a student, many years ago I had travelled and volunteered around Europe and loved the idea that we could host volunteers from all over the world to help us develop this garden and share our incredible location.

Also I have always tended to reduce, reuse, recycle and help the planet as much as I can. So having read the information on the web site about the Henry Doubleday Research Association’s guidelines of how Organic Gardening began taking care to love and nurture the soil avoiding chemicals rather  than force change with artificial additives I was hooked.