Wwoofing in France:
~ A Zen Secret Garden of beauty and majestic wonder.
The land of beautiful France, this majestic landscape, a cornucopia of fragrant flowers and plants, Mother Nature, our wise teacher. When we find the time to sit in silence and listen, she whispers through the wind, the trees, the springs, the oceans, the flowers, the sun, the mountains, the animals.
“Wwoofing”, what does this term exactly mean, howling at the full moon? A hippie with flowers in their hair, trekking through the vast wilderness, an Australian traveler doing a ‘Walkabout’, a wandering nomad with their herd of lama’s, or maybe a traveling gypsy in a wolf outfit?
During my travels from Africa to Bali, Indonesia, Thailand, South East Asia, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands, USA, U.K. and Europe, I’ve only just discovered the new experience of “Wwoof”, ( World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).
A word or term that is used to describe a person, who volunteers, to work on organic farms doing a few hours of work per day, trading their skills which can be gardening, planting, harvesting, cooking depending on the speciality of the farm and the season the hosts wishes to take on Wwoofers.
People from all walks of life decide to Wwoof, from the traveler to students, city professionals needing a change of lifestyle to yogi’s, permaculture enthusiasts or people wanting to simply just learn about organic gardening, permaculture and bringing some of their Wwoofing experience into making their own garden at home.
My first Wwoofing experience begun in France. Greeted, by a warm and hospitable host family including their pets, Nimbus, the ‘Professor’ pet Donkey, 2 dogs Kora & Kali, geese, hens,sheep, cats. ‘Animal Farm’ at its best (George Orwell’s novel, a reminder of a good book to read).
Christophe and his family introduced me to their traditional way of daily French life on the farm. Including delicious French croissants, baguettes, wine and cheese (not to forget!).
The daily life as a Wwoofer, is varied and I had days of being a chef (a keen foodie), for the hosts, Wwoofer’s and visitors from Paris, volunteering for the day on the host family organic farm.
During the day, included weeding, preparing the soil for planting in the garden, planting seeds in little pots for the greenhouse and watering the garden. We planted a variety of vegetables, spinach, beet, potatoes, herbs, basil,thyme, rosemary. Also aromatic plants, lavender, rose, chamomile, mallow (mauve), which they plant by the summer time.
A green and purple curly kale garden was a surprise discovery, a ‘secret garden’,shire from J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The ‘Hobbit’. Being a vegetarian, this is one of the most challenging green veggies to cook, digest and eat. But the good news is, a new discovery on eating green and purple kale with a splash of my vinaigrette recipe. 😄 Which became a popular dish for everyone!
Christophe, is very knowledgeable about permaculture and organic farming and opposes to any pesticides used. He encourages farmers to have an organic approach towards their farming, but it’s still an on going process.
He explained the importance of the intricate ‘phosphorous and sulphur cycle, system. Phosphorous, is a vital nutrient fueling organic productivity on land and in water. The rich important minerals within the soil are combined with phosphorous, are the magnesium, calcium, aluminum, iron, which are all absorbed in this natural cycle, the plants, including the animals (during their migration), a process which extends from the oceans to the land, this cycle feeds the soil and plants, which we humans then eat from our veggies. Kale is particularly rich in these minerals.
See the diagram for further explanation:
My experience with Wwoofing has been a great educator and given me a new found appreciation for organic gardening, with no pesticides (Monsanto is definitely not part of this organic food chain in this context). Say No, to GMO (genetically modified organism)!
I also learned, the essentials of planning your organic garden, how vital it is and how and where you position and plant your veggies, fruit, herbs in harmony with the natural cycle and rhythm of nature, the seasons, the birds, bees, insects, animals, trees. Knowing when to plant, sow, reap, harvest. Cultivating and watering your garden, adding rich compost, soil and earthworms (a vital insect to enriching the soil).
In the process of Wwoofing and gardening, this had me reflecting upon the question I asked a politician, from the House of Lords, at the Houses of Parliament in London, during an environmental/fair trade conference, I was invited as a blogger (social media).
My question I put across, was the concerns of the younger generations, living with our current issue of environmental change and adapting to a more organic ‘green conscious way of living? How this presently, affects the younger generations and how we can educate? His answer was fair and valid (see my previous blog post on this interview, at the Houses of Parliament).
I believe, gardening, can have a positive influence for the younger generations, encouraging more schools, globally to bring organic/permaculture gardening into their weekly curriculum. To bring an understanding and connection back to nature and animals and begin to take care of their own organic gardens.
French culture love their salad and I enjoyed picking the fresh greens from the garden daily. Including green and purple kale (of course), spinach, spring onions and their beautiful, edible flowers, to make with salads, capucine, (nasturtium), pissenlit (dandelion), lavender and violette.
Kale is a superfood green veggie and we do need healthy greens, just as plants do. Connecting to the process of photosynthesis and the sun energy, which transforms green chlorophyll for plants to grow.
Photosynthesis in plants, can be compared with the human digestive system in that they both break down vital elements to produce energy that is used for nourishment and growth. Some of this energy is used immediately and some is stored for later use. including more greens in your daily eating has many health benefits!
My Wwoofing experience, has taken me back to my roots in Africa, where I once had an organic garden of fruit and veggies
The reconnection to nature and understanding how the intricate biodiversity of the natural world, is all interconnected, like a complex weaving of a spider web.
A deeper understanding, that humanity does need the oceans and its rivers, streams, waterfalls, trees, insects, bees, birds the diversity of flora and fauna, as we need the ground soil, its minerals, sulphur, and how this process all flows together as one vital source.
I was honoured to see just after a few hours been born a baby lamb, one of the most touching moments during my Wwoofing experience!
My Wwoofing experience has given me the inspirational to have my own secret garden again, this time in South of France.
It’s been an enriching and happy experience in many ways. Being a passionate freediver and scuba diver and my love for the ocean, I enjoyed the connection of being back to the earth’s soil, it is very grounding. I appreciated giving back to Mother Nature and living within a Wwoofing community.
The great part of Wwoofing, you also get to meet many interesting like-minded people. Some are looking to become self sustainable or living off the grid and working harmoniously within a local community. Or others just want to learn more about making their own organic garden, even within an urban living environment. Bringing nature into their home.
Thank you ( Merci) to my host family in France and the amazing fellow Wwoofers and helpful gardeners I’ve met upon my journey!
Namaste~ consciously green living
words written by Colleen, Eco Blogger
Kale Vinaigrette Recipe:
a tablespoon of a good quality mustard
a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar
a clove of garlic crushed
a pinch of sea salt
x3 tablespoons of olive oil
To Cook Kale –
Add small amount of water in a glass bowl, add chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, the green tip of leek chopped
Rinse your kale and add to the bowl, pour a small amount of water over the kale and cover with a lid, put into microwave for approx 3 min. Or cook Kale for 5 – 10 min in steamer (which you prefer).
When cooked, drizzle vinaigrette over warm steamed kale – Bon appètite!