I had decided to do a Workaway. I was stuck in a rut, bored and needing adventure. I’d been spending a lot of time in front of a computer, writing, doing courses and had put pressure on myself to achieve goals and keep working hard. There had been a time when a week was the longest I’d spend in one place. So I needed a change of scene.
Restrictions in Germany were still quite strict which made travel problematic, but it was only an hour’s drive to my new home. The deal with Workaway is that you work in exchange for bed and board. Hosts can set their own parameters but something like 4 or 5 hours work per day seems common.
Farm is perhaps a grand word for where I was. Joris and Leonie have around 10 goats, 5 or so chickens, a couple of geese, dozens of cats (ok only about 10 at the time…), and an elderly dog. That first evening I was welcomed incredibly warmly. We had a drink and a lovely dinner and got to know each other.
My first full day, and it was raining. Joris and Leonie both went off to work, leaving me with a choice of several jobs. It was liberating to be told what to do and not be self-motivating.
I spent the drier part of the day weeding the potato patch - under the watchful eye of both goat and cat. It was great to be outside in the fresh air, and watching the potato plants appear as the weeds were cleared away.
By the end of the day I was tired, but in the good way of feeling physically spent. So much better than sitting at a computer all day! I also had plenty of time for yoga and reading.
Over another delicious dinner, with vegetables from the garden, I got to know more about the motivations for the farm. Of course, veganism was brought up quite early on, but we agreed that the most important thing was for people to know where their food came from. Would you really eat the chicken if you had seen it’s living conditions? Or if you knew what cocktail of drugs and hormones were fed to mother cows to get the milk you drink? Joris and Leonie are working towards self-sufficiency. Already they produce a healthy crop of vegetables to keep them going throughout the year.
Goats are strong and heavy. So when a mother and her babies are wandering around the wrong part of the stable, there’s not really that much you can do about it. Chief goat Selma went to have a look through the doors of the other pens, tried to steal their hay, attempted to break into the feed shed and trod on my foot. Obviously these goats only understood Dutch, none of my pleas for cooperation were listened to.
Eventually I convinced her that her hay was just as good as everyone else’s and the babies followed her in, with the gate slamming quickly behind!
Joris and Leonie both had taken holidays from their regular work for the second week that I was there. It was really fun to be part of a team (and not take full responsibility for goat escapes…) The weather shared our enthusiasm and we had beautiful sunshine to inspire us to work harder.
Our first team project was to dig holes for the fence posts of the new paddock. The goats needed more space and a change of scene. The experts (not me!) measured and marked out the new fence line while I dug 70 cm deep holes where I was told. I really enjoyed the physicality of using my muscles, sweating in the sun and chatting to my friends.
It’s amazing how a shift in thinking can cause a physical change. I had given my time to the farm and therefore released myself from the pressures of writing pitches, learning German and cramming each day full.
I haven’t mentioned the puppy! Olla joined the family during my stay. I think he’s the absolute best.
The pandemic has caused us all to rethink our interactions and priorities. I found rejuvenation and renewal so close to home, by changing my mindset. I was reminded how important exploring and meeting new people is to me, and how simple living is rewarding in a different way to being productive at a computer. And it was certainly the case that my fresh mindset allowed me to focus on projects better when I got back.
Thank you Joris and Leonie for us a wonderful break. I already know that we'll meet again, especially because the puppy is soo cute!
Have you done a workaway? Would you consider it? Tell me why in the comments below.