I’ve held off writing anything for a couple of weeks now, despite it being in the back of my mind. At the start of October I left Toronto for another volunteer place on another farm with plans to stay for the whole month. Still buzzing from my time spent at Keppel Croft in August and ready to get out of the city again, I think I had built up a naive expectation that all farms that accepted wwoofers would have a similar philosophy. How wrong could I be...this place couldn’t be more different.
However, I don’t want this to be a lengthy run down of my many gripes here. If I had written this a week or two ago it probably would have been, but I’ve realised that when expectations are shattered, the best thing to do is to try and find the positives in the situation and then try and work out what I am supposed to learn from the experience. I’m not even going to name names or say exactly where I am, suffice to say it’s a small beef/arable farm with cats, dogs and a few elderly ducks and chickens as pets. Run by a couple who think they’re living the good life and can talk the talk, but have little idea of the methods they profess to follow, it’s been a challenge to say the least.
Probably the most important thing I’ve learnt here is tolerance and an understanding that not everyone thinks the same way as I do. The past couple of weeks have been frustrating for a lot of reasons. I’ve met people both good and not so good who have views and outlooks on life that couldn’t be more opposite from my own and even as someone who is always open to considering an alternative perspective, my patience has been tested to the extreme. A day or two in and I was ready to pick up my things and leave again, not caring where I went, but desperate to escape the stressful atmosphere, sure that there was little good to be found here. A day or two later I had learned to make the best of it and that an honest and direct approach to issues usually created at least a truce and a bearable working environment. Almost two weeks in, and admittedly whilst looking forward to leaving in a few days time, I can finally see the lessons I was supposed to take away from this experience.
What I’ve learned is not to sweat the small stuff. The evidence here of the effects of stress on people is quite scary. I’ve learnt when to raise concerns and try and debate my point and when it’s best just to take a deep breath, bite my tongue and let something go. I’ve learnt that if I don’t like something then I have two options - to try and change it or else move on. Most importantly though I’ve seen that even in very negative places there are always little things that make it all worthwhile. Take this morning for example, watching the cows emerge from the morning mist as the sun came up over the fields at 6.30am or sitting in a barn alone for seven hours sorting potatoes with just a semi-feral cat for company and suddenly realising how quiet it is away from the city. There have still been lots of things that have made me smile amongst the wtf?! moments. I’ve also learnt a whole multitude of other things too for future volunteer placements. I will ask far more questions of a potential host before relying on their wwoof profile information or their website in the future and never again do I want to spend any length of time with self professed healers/alternative health/nutrition specialists. Doing manual work for 8+ hour day in return for two small meals – a bowl of porridge and a bowl of soup - isn’t fun and it’s even worse when you’re told it’s good for you!
In a couple of days I will leave here and head back to Keppel Croft for the rest of the month. Whilst Tuesday really can’t come soon enough, I’m glad I stayed here long enough to be able to smile about the experience and be excited to leave more because of where I’m going than because of where I’m leaving.
Thanks too to my partners in crime here – it’s been umm.....interesting!