Marc and I spent May long weekend hiking on the Height of Land trail and canoeing on Wakami Lake, but we spent the last one working in the garden. We’ve got a neat little arrangement this summer — we’re working on my parents’ micro farm in exchange for accommodations. Kind of like wwoofing at home, except we get to share in reaping the benefits come harvest time.
No, I’m not barking, and yes, I can spell (winky face). Wwoofing is a global travel phenomenon.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms makes it possible for volunteers to locate organic farms that provide food and accommodations in exchange for labour. Workers benefit from the chance to learn about sustainable agriculture from the hosts.
Travellers love it because they get to experience local rural culture without having to splurge (more expensive lodgings usually isolate tourists anyway).
Our Wwoofing at Home Lifestyle
As for Marc and I here in French River, our arrangement includes taking care of the farm animals. We’ve already got two cows and about a hundred chickens.
It doesn’t look like we’ll have any beef to spare, but we may be able to sell thirty to forty chickens in August. We’ll see when the time comes!
It's always been hard for me to eat meat because of ethical reasons (see my e-book, Memories of a Carnivore, for entertaining anecdotes about my journey towards vegetarianism). Living on the farm, I do eat the meat we raise because I know how the animals are treated (well!), I know what they eat (no hormones!), I know they are not confined to cages — in short, I can't object (other vegetarians might, but I've got my own life to live and they've got theirs).
I still like to eat vegetarian several times a week and I only eat meat at dinner, mealtime with the family. But I do feel good about supporting my family in making healthier decisions for themselves and the environment!
Less controversial for me are the laying hens we're getting in a few short weeks. With 35 hens, we'll have about six or seven dozen eggs to sell per week by the end of the month. Exciting times, especially since I just read in Alive and Fit that eggs are the gold standard for a nutritious breakfast.
And of course, I'm super excited about our garden. It's got green onions, Spanish onions, beets, radishes, turnips, two varieties of cucumbers, carrots, pumpkin, zucchini, corn, potatoes, Swiss chard, lettuce, green and yellow beans, peas, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers...
It's possible I missed something! It's way bigger than I ever imagined we'd be taking on. I'm fine with that!
We've also planted some herbs: sage, basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and lemon thyme.
Cooking with fresh herbs is incomparable. We love making lemony sauces with lemon thyme, adding rosemary to roasted potatoes, making our own pesto with basil, flavouring veggies with oregano and parsley, and throwing some sage in our homemade pasta sauce.
Best of all, we can keep the herbs going all year!
Although we don't think we'll have enough of most veggies to sell, we do think we'll have some extra cucumbers to get rid of. We don't expect people to come over crazy for cukes, but those who want to grab a few while purchasing some of our other products just might get the chance!
Between gardening and taking care of the animals, there's not much time left, but we're still making kombucha and we're still committed to picking berries all summer. Strawberry season is upon us so make sure to place your order!
Speaking of fruit, my father decided to have his own agricultural adventure and planted saskatoon berries, three varieties of apples, cherries, plums, and grapes. We're most looking forward to apple jelly in the fall (smiley face).
It's true that some of our trees aren't indigenous to the region, yet many locals report tremendous success with grapes and cherries. All our trees erupted into beautiful tiny flowers and now, there are already minuscule grapes in the trees. Unbelievable!
We're happy to announce that we're adding another product to our list: homemade granola! We use as many local ingredients as possible and we're very proud of our delicious granola.
We use biodynamic oats from Manitoulin Island, a variety of nuts and seeds, and dried fruit. And we use tasty Ontario peanuts, too. For flavouring, we use any of three combinations: local maple syrup with local maple butter, local honey with organic peanut butter made from Ontario peanuts, or molasses with almond butter.
We've also decided to invest in a Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator this year so we can make our own dried fruit from the berries we pick, which we'll use for our granola once we've got 'em.
Concerned about some of the ingredients?
We're able to accommodate specific requests. Don't hesitate — try some!
We made a batch this week with almonds, cashews, Ontario peanuts, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds (for iron), sesame seeds, flax, wheat germ, bran flakes, raisins, currents, cranberries, molasses, and almond butter.
This combination retails at about eight dollars per five hundred and fifty grams.
As a CouchSurfer, greeniac, natural nomad, and lover of all things local, the concept of wwoofing at home really does it for me. Living in a trailer all summer and working on a farm in exchange for accommodation makes for a pretty cool staycation.
Of course, there's one more benefit to wwoofing at home — I can host CouchSurfers who want to learn more about Northeastern Ontario and French River. Not only can I now offer the experience of discovering a rural location historically and culturally significant to Canada, I can also offer an agricultural learning experience that is highly sought by independent wanderers. I'm happy to host a
quasi-wwoofing experience for travellers looking to discover French River! (Update: I don't live on the farm anymore, but I still welcome CouchSurfers!)
It truly is the life here, and wwoofing at home is just making it so much better (smiley face).