Voluntary work had been one of my bucket list to do during my year in Australia. As well as working in a Farm. On my 9th month of my working holiday visa, I still couldn’t figure out how I will do those things, since you know… I was kinda ‘stuck’ in Sydney for a long time – for the sake of saving money!
Until one night, I had a dinner with a friend from Germany, Ramona. She introduced me to a brilliant program named WWOOFing – stands for Worldwide Opportunity on Organic Farm or Willing Workers on Organic Farm. It is a program where you can work in exchange of food and accommodation. Yes, you won’t get paid for this work. The kind of work are vary, but mostly work in organics farm. The amount of working hours usually between 5-6 hours for 5-6 days a week. It all depends on the agreement that made by the host. Ramona did it once in Byron Bay, and she seemed very satisfied about it.
So through this program, I could do voluntary work in a farm!! Such a perfect solution, right?!
I checked the web that Ramona gave to me, it’s www.workaway.info and heck lots of interesting farm I wanted to go!! It got me couple of weeks until I finally decided to contact one of them, named Tiger Hill Permaculture Farm in Tasmania. I chose Tasmania, because it’s one of the place that I really wanted to go after the Great Barrier Reef. And why permaculture? it’s simply because I never heard about it before, would be very good if I learn something that completely strange in my ear, wouldn’t it?
I got so excited when Paul, the owner of the farm replied to my message. And after getting a letter of agreement from him and a phone interview, Paul agreed to accept me as his volunteer. Yayyy!!
On my arrival day to Hobart, Paul picked me up at the airport with his crane truck labelled “Tiger Hill – Permaculture” . He got off from the truck, welcomed me with a warm hand-shake, and off we went to the farm. During the trip, Paul gave an introduction about Permaculture and how his farm works in general, what project he has made with previous volunteers and what he aimed to do in the future. From the way he telling me the story, he seems very passionate and into Permaculture with all of his life. And also, the way he elaborate and pick words were really good – I found myself easily catching up towards what he explained.
It took about 1 hour to get to Buckland where the farm nestled. When we arrived, Paul took me for a quick tour on his farm. Showing off his awesome works on the bungalow – bathing house – and the bella digga (beautiful dam -in Spanish). I couldn’t hold myself not to be amazed of all the work. Especially the bathing house with a water heater system that he built from scratch! Super cool!
At last, he showed me the garden where I will work at, just located next to his house – fenced with electrical wire so that no animal can come in and harm the plants. The garden consist of 7 beds, 4 of them were fully planted. The rest was not active prior to previous harvest time.
I didn’t expect much about the accommodation and food that will given to me during my voluntary, but what I got in Tiger Hill was waaayy beyond my expectation. Paul allowed me to sleep in a spare room in his house – which surprisingly very comfortable – more than I could asked for! Usually, he placed the volunteers in the bungalows up the hill or the one next to his house. But maybe because I was all alone – no other volunteers at that time – so he gave his spare room to me. 😀
On addition, the food he provided were absolutely delicious! Paul likes to cook, and he IS a great cook. He said he always made it just based on his intuition, never specifically learn cooking. Sometimes he watch cooking show on TV or youtube, but never really follow the direction. What makes it cool, almost all the ingredients come from the garden! Amazing isn’t it!?
I should say that I really had a good time on the farm. There’s always a new thing to do everyday, in other words I have something new to learn everyday! From as simple as how we use the garden tools properly or how the life-cycle of compost is. Paul always give a clear explanation about what – why – how the things are work supposedly. I felt like in school – seriously!
On my first day, I need to do weeding in 3 of his garden beds. Weeding is removing the unwanted plants that grew on a ground where other plants are cultivated in it. It seems an easy job, but its actually not that easy. Because we need to be careful not to pull the plants together with the weed – especially for an amateur gardener like me, kinda hard to differentiate which one is weed, which one is not. Those weeds will go to the compost bin, that will be used to help enrich the soil later.
Paul planned to expand his garden. So on the second day, we were focusing to clean the area that will be expanded. Removing straw from the garden bed, undo all the irrigation pipe off the ground, removing the fence, removing and transplanting plants. So tomorrow, the tractor guy can do his work without any particular difficulties.
My 3rd day continued to assist Paul watching the soil crusting work. And helped him spreading the fertiliser and green manure on the ground that has been tractored.
Other activity I have done called ‘propagating’. Propagate has multi-definition, but it also can be the process of cultivate seeds in a small pot/tray of soil, each minipot/cell holds one plant to reduce the risk of root injury when being transplanted later. They need to be taken care of – giving them enough water and heat so that the seeds can grow well and the root is strong enough to be transplanted outdoor. Yep, it will take quite a while.
Luckily, Paul has some pots of growing seeds from previous volunteer that are ready to transplant. So I could have the chance to transplant it by myself.
For the record, I was afraid and very disgust of a creature named worm! Seriously! But transplanting means you have to dig the hole and put all those baby plants inside carefully with bare hands -no gloves or you gotta hurt the babies! I have no idea how many worms has encountered my fingers – geez! But – I feel proud I can do that though! Hehehe…
Propagating – checked! Transplanting – checked! Then turn to harvest! Yayy! No, of course not harvesting those baby plants that I just moved to the bed. It will take months to get them ready. Paul has 2 beds full of potatoes that need to be harvest. I never – ever realise that harvesting is such an exhausting activity, really! Especially for harvesting potatoes! Since those potatoes are growing underground, so we need to dig them. How? Paul used fork to dig and flip the soil, so I will be able to collect them all and put them in the basket. Again, it sounds easy – but trust me it is not! We need a day to complete one bed, and decided to do the second bed next time. Haha!
Then next step is to clean them. When cleaning potatoes, we have to brush the skin gently to get rid of the soils that cover them. All of these potatoes will be kept for next volunteer consumption. So basically everything in the garden is prepared to feed the volunteer, and current volunteer will harvest or plant for the next volunteer. That’s how this farm works! Cool, eh?
Hard to believe that I had done so many things within a week! I was sooooo lucky to be a volunteer in Tiger Hill with Paul as the host! All the tasks allow me to experience the whole process in farming. Besides, I really adore to his passion towards permaculture and how he made the effort to make his permaculture dreams come true. On top of that, his commitment to give back to the community and nature also very inspiring!
One thing that I will always remember from him, is that I need to observe more. He noticed that I always being rushy when doing something, and ended up making mess or being not effective. Hehehe… y’right, Paul! :p
For you guys who are interested in doing WWOOFing or learning permaculture in particular – simply check on their website www.tigerhillpermaculture.net or their Facebook Page
This is a really good place to learn – I guaranteed!! 😉