Shoveling chicken poop, harvesting vegetables, sowing seeds, planting and replanting plants, feeding pigs, collecting eggs and being so dirty at the end of the day that even the chickens don’t want to be near you might not sound like a dream vacation to many but to us, 3 weeks of life on a farm sounded pretty awesome. The South Farm, to be exact.
Once again, we found The South Farm on the “life-changing-when-it-comes-to-traveling-long-term” website, Workaway. I am telling you…if you want to see the world, have wonderful experiences, do things and meet people that you never thought you would, you have to sign up for Workaway! There are even opportunities in the states! I mean, the hosts provide food and lodging so it’s really a no-brainer…right?
Anyways, back to The South Farm! We had no idea what we were really signing up for. All we knew was that it was a farm, in England, with a wedding venue. Who needs to know more?
Well, our day-to-day tasks differed everyday but the best part about working on The South Farm was the incredibly funny, and overall amazing people we got to work with! Rob, who was our host, is the Smallholding manager and he oversaw all the little and big things that we did while we worked. Eva, who was our ringleader, was a farmer and she was the one who gave us our jobs for the day and worked alongside us. Nadine, who was another Workawayer from Germany, was our work buddy, our constant entertainment and just a lovely lady in general. No matter what we had planned for the day, it was all fun because we laughed and joked and had a ball while working everyday!
Now, for the nitty-gritty. Yes, we shoveled poop. Lots and lots and lots of poop. But, if you give it the name “compost” it doesn’t sound so bad. And to be fair, there was other stuff in there too like old food, eggshells, mud, soil, browned leaves, rain water…. never mind, I guess not matter how to say it, it is still a bit gross. But, it is great for gardening! Speaking of gardening, that is how we spent our days. In the morning, we would rise and shine with the farm animals, harvest whatever veggies the kitchen needed for a wedding or an event they might be having, wash said veggies, sow seeds, replant plants in one of their many poly-tunnels, clean around the property and basically do whatever needed to be done on the farm! And lets be honest, there is ALWAYS something to do!
My father will probably kill me for saying this but I have fallen in love with gardening. Why would he kill me, you ask? Because HE loves to garden, and he loves his garden and when I was younger, he would ask me to water his beloved plants and I would through a fit. Full on ragger tantrum. I would have rather done anything else! It was so bad that I would water the ground AROUND the plants to make it look like I actually watered the poor, innocent plants. Well, my plan obviously failed because the plants would die…and I murdered them with my stubbornness and deceitful ways. What the heck was the big deal? Why couldn’t I just enjoy the fresh air and help those plants live a long, beautiful and green life?
Well, regardless of my childhood hatred for watering plants…Sean and I have a complete new respect for the way plants grow, what fruits and veggies can be planted in which season, and just the overall process and patience that goes along with keeping a garden. And we are talking a BIG garden on The South Farm. It’s hard work! But at the end of the day, as we delivered the fresh veggies and herbs to the kitchen to be cooked, we felt like we were sending our kids off to their first day of school. Go make those mouths proud!
After a day full of gardening, stopping for tea and cakes, gardening some more, devouring a hot lunch made by Rob who is an AMAZING mastermind in the kitchen, and then gardening some more…our bodies were covered in dirt and things that I don’t care to think about. Hot showers, a cup of tea, dinner and maybe a game of monopoly and a pint were all we had energy for! We would scrounge around the farm for dinner inspiration and whip something up with the fresh veggies or the wedding venues kitchen would provide us with an amazing meal. And then on other nights, Rob would grace us with delicious things like kebabs, chili or pork belly! Each night, we would all end up at the table and talk about anything and everything. Even as we sat at the table during teatime and a piece of cake (or 3), we shared stories about home, friends, family, experiences and we would laugh. We would laugh A LOT. Bringing people together from 4 different backgrounds (American, English, German and Slovakian to be exact!) made for some incredible conversations…and a few “Uhm, what did you say?” moments.
When we weren’t covered in muck and getting our hands dirty in the soil, we were taking in our beautiful surroundings. The ground was flat, the grass was green and the fields went on for miles and miles. Around 4pm, when our work day was over…the sunset would illuminate the sky with pinks and purples and let us know that it is time to take a moment, say a prayer and then get inside for an evening of connecting with others. Like I mentioned earlier, we did most of that at the dinner table and bumping into one another in the kitchen while making kale chips or grilling up hamburgers. But other times, we took our chitchats and funny stories to the local pub. We would all hop onto our (questionable) bikes, and ride along pot holes full of water, cars that drive on the other side of the road with the light from the moon or headlights from cars guiding our way. Needless to say, I was terrified and subjected myself to the embarrassment that was a children’s size helmet, with a flashing light attached to the back. Can you say nerd? But once we entered the cozy pub, we felt as if we had just walked into someone’s living room…dog included! The warmth radiated through our bodies and the ales made our cheeks all rosy. The Christmas decorations and the warm fire delighted my soul in such a way that it made me want to cry!...too much?
Asides from working on The South Farm, we spent many weekends visiting our dear friend from California who lived just about an hour away from where we were. Chris hosted us for Thanksgiving and we made a complete disaster of his kitchen as we prepared a giant turkey and all…. and I mean ALL the trimmings for a Thanksgiving feast that was accompanied by a huge side dish of laughs. It may not have been the traditional Thanksgiving that we were used to, but it definitely was one of the best! I had to remind myself that only the US celebrates Thanksgiving…so I was confused when I didn’t see any hype about the amazing, food filled holiday. And then my brain came back into action and had the realization that went something like…”ohhhhhh………….that’s why everyone is celebrating Christmas already.” Can we just forget I ever had such a thought?
Another Workaway trip for the books! We have added The South Farm to our growing list of wonderful experiences, incredible people, and amazing places that we have uncovered with Workaway. As we reminisce about our time there, there are a few things that we wish to remember when we return to our life in the states…. gardening is NOT the devil, watering plants is fun, poop (ahem, compost) is really good for your garden, being outside does wonders for your soul, work hard and you might actually grow something you can eat, support local farmers, eat local and eat fresh, gather around the table and get to know the people around you, Thanksgiving is only celebrated in the US (but that shouldn’t keep you from celebrating it anyway!) and even though you look like an idiot…always wear a helmet with a flashing light when riding a bike!