Hard work, done with good intention, love, in community with others, and with purpose, is always satisfying and rewarding. My weeks WWOOFing have made that statement real in a palpable way. Gardening, working in the fields, physical labor– you see the results of your work; and when working in harmony with the earth, you feel the results as well.
Today was satisfying and rewarding:
Number 1: In the morning, the Tatou residents (Tatou is the name of the vineyard block where there is a house for WWOOFers and part time employees. Currently there are three of us living there who are all Americans, one is working at the winery and me and the other are WWOOFers.) served up the eats for the weekly Wednesday Smoko, and I must say we did a decent job: whole wheat banana muffins, greens-feta-leek frittata, and apple-rhubarb crumble with homemade whipped cream. We each worked on one of the parts of the menu; and I think we impressed the Seresin staff (though I must say my frittata was a bit on the salty side and undercooked– it could have been better!) with the efforts.
Number 2: A few of us went to Raupo, the biggest and further-away vineyard, to make compost. In this case, making compost on a large scale is like making a huge parfait of hay, gorse (a yellow-flowered plant that is a weed) clippings, fermented skins and pulp from last year's Pinot grapes, and a cow-poo/water slurry (yum!). So we just pile a layer on layer of each of these things, and the cow poo slurry involves scooping up the stuff in a bucket and then flinging it on the big compost pile. You don't want to splash that on yourself, but I (and everyone else) got drops and smears on ourselves.
We were using pitchforks, rakes, buckets, our hands to make all this happen. It's a cool process, compost making. We make a huge long heap, probably about 4-ish feet tall and 20-30 feet long (I'm a terrible judge of distance). It took a half day to make it with six people all doing different parts. You forget that you're flinging cow-poo because you're making nice conversation with other people about life, movies, farming, biodynamics, cow poo, hypothetical situations (would you rather be a peasant living in London in the Middle Ages or a native American in America before the colonizers come but during the time of battles among different tribes?). I can see how you really get to know people working in the fields.
So that huge heap will sit for about a year or a year and a half, decomposing, getting recycled into the earth by lots of little insects and worms; and it becomes a beautiful soil for the plants on the Estate.
As at my previous WWOOFing place, I'm learning so much everyday from everyone that works here. A lot of what I'm learning is simple and commonsensical, about returrning to a more natural way of farming and taking care of the earth– but isn't that really what life is about? Getting back to basics. Not making things so complicated. For example:
- Don't feed the plant/ vines. Instead, feed the earth and soil around it. All forms of life need to do some kind of work for themselves, to create, to struggle a little, to be stressed a little. In conventional farming, farmers feed the plant they're trying to grow and make life so easy for those plants that there's no more character left in the plant. In biodynamics, the belief is that the more natural way is to listen to Earth's natural life path and foster that, and that character in the plants creates a better plant and is better for the Earth. So they use preps called compost teas that feed the soil which makes the creatures in the soil, like worms, happy which makes the soil better, which then makes the vines grow better fruit. I love that idea of “happy” plants and creatures.
- Use what's local, from the region. For example, they use seaweed from a mussel farmer at the sounds just north of here that gets fermented and then turned into some of that compost tea I mentioned. They use the poo from the cows which graze their fields for the compost. In fact, the other WWOOFer and I were shoveling up cow paddies from the fields yesterday which then got used in the compost parfait we made today.
- Use the rows between vines for gardening because it's available space and it just makes sense! I think I mentioned this before, but it's not only just using available land but it also brings in insects and nutrients to the soil that wouldn't exist otherwise. And it's a way to feed the staff and Michael Seresin and his people with organic, biodynamically grown food.
These are all such simple principles, really, but in today's complicated, technologically-driven world, I think it really is a revolutionary way to think and approach life.