14 Feb 2010

Springing into Action

Hooray! I finally went to my allotment today! I was dreading seeing what state it was in as it has been a while since I last went. The snow and weeks of sub-zero temperatures didn't do as much damage as I thought. What a relief! I was amazed to see that I still have some rocket left - thanks to the fleeces. I pulled up the remaining leeks leaving just two small ones to enjoy next week.

My main concern was the herb spiral. I thought the snow would have caused some damage to some of the herbs, but they are growing back nicely. The rosemary and lavender were totally unaffected by the bad weather. My other concern was my lonesome globe artichoke. I planted four, but three of them were eaten by something in the early days of growth.The last time I saw the surviving artichoke, it looked rather frost damaged...but it is looking good now. I wish I had planted many more globe artichokes as they really are delicious. Unfortunately they are not available to buy where I live. In fact, when I enquired at the veg stall at the market, the assistant didn't know what a globe artichoke was! I think I will plant some more this year.

I didn't take my camera to the allotment so I have no photos to show. I can't bear to have a blog post without photos...it just doesn't seem right. So I have used a couple of random pictures from the website www.public-domain-photos.com

It was so nice to be on the allotment again. The sun was shining and it was warm enough to abandon my jacket. The allotment site is surrounded by trees and houses, which provide protection from the wind, making it quite a sun trap.  There were lots of people there today too.

I have had my plot for a year now. When I first went to see the plot it was covered in snow...what a contrast to today! It really did feel like spring was coming. I hope we have seen the last of the snow for this year. The clocks will be going forward towards the end of next month, so not long to wait for longer evenings.

It is the Chinese New Year today. It is now the year of the tiger. I am a tiger in the Chinese horoscope. A wood tiger to be precise. Apparently the celebrations last for a few weeks. If you want to know more about the Chinese New Year there is a link to a Wikipedia article here. If you want to find out what animal you are in the Chinese zodiac, there is an article here which contains a list of dates and a list of traits for each animal.  I am going to celebrate by cooking myself a Chinese meal...I'll be including my allotment leeks!

1 Feb 2010

WWOOFING (but not barking!)

I have been interested in organic gardening for years, but it was 2004 before I finally had a chance to have a go at growing veg. I didn't have a garden or an allotment and I wanted to go travelling anyway, so I joined WWOOF. WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, or World Wide Organisation for Organic Farmers. It is an amazing organisation that connects volunteers with people who need help on their land. The volunteer works in exchange for food and accommodation. The amount of hours worked and the type of work is agreed before the volunteer arrives. When I first joined WWOOF in Canada I paid just 15 dollars for a booklet with over 400 contacts. I could browse the contacts to find a farm that suited my needs in an area I wanted to visit.

In Canada I was a WWOOFER at three different places on Vancouver Island; I stayed with a Herbalist, helped at a market garden and stayed at Sungoma - a community for musicians and artists. When I returned to the UK I worked on a farm in Wales. After this I stayed with a family in Ireland. I then went to Spain for a year. I stayed at a community near Coin for a few weeks. I then went to volunteer with a couple nearby. I spent most of that year helping Gemma and Mike in Casabermeja. I spent the summer in France where I helped with a market garden, stayed with a couple who lived near some waterfalls, stayed with a family, at a herb farm and with another community. I returned to Spain and stayed at a community called Valle de Sensaciones. I also helped with the olive harvest near Orgiva. I also stayed with Gemma's friend John for a while. Most of these exchanges were organised through WWOOF, but a couple came through word of mouth or through VON. VON is an organisation that promotes cruelty free organic farming and they have a small list of farms/small holdings around the world that take volunteers.

In total I have stayed at 15 different places. Most were good, others were brilliant. Only a few places were not so good but I learnt a great deal from all of them. It is not just an exchange of food and accommodation - I had the chance to visit places I never would have gone to. I met some really interesting people and I learnt a lot about the many different ways of organic gardening, sustainable living and herb growing. I also had access to a lot of interesting books from which I also learnt a great deal. I had lots of free time for exploring new areas and for doing creative things. It is also very satisfying to help others. I would definitely recommend WWOOFing to anyone who wants to learn more about organic gardening or sustainable living. I also recommend it for anyone who wants a break, but wants to do something different. It is a good way to travel on a low budget and to see some very remote parts of the world. WWOOF operates in many countries all over the world and their website is here.

For anyone who is considering WWOOFing:

It's important to contact the host beforehand to arrange a convenient time to go. You should also agree on the the hours of work, the type of work and accommodation/dietary requirements. It is important that you don't get exploited, so make sure that the amount of hours and the type of work is good for you before you go.

There's not much allotment news at the moment. I was hoping to go this weekend to have a bit of a tidy up, but there was snow on the ground, so I decided against it. I'm looking forward to warmer days when I can spend more time on my plot!


Top: Kitchen at Valle de Sensaciones
Middle: Valley where I used to sleep in my hammock at Valle de Sensaciones
Bottom: Fire pit at Valle de Sensaciones