Gloucestershire, October & November 2015
It’s been nearly six weeks since we left Crooked End Farm*, in the Wye Valley west of Gloucester. Finally I’m feeling the sharp edges of our experience smoothing off. The frustration and disappointment are starting to ease and instead of the mud and mess and chaos and disorganisation and gastro bug that ran rampant through our caravan immediately coming to mind, I find myself instead smiling and thinking of the funny stories, foreign accents, laughter, smiling faces, silliness, great cooking and beautiful new friendships we made.
Crooked End was supposed to the flag ship farm of our trip, the place where we were going to bunker down and learn all we possibly could about running a successful multi tiered, permaculture based, farming enterprise; pigs, sheep, market gardening, a cafe, farm store, holiday accommodation and a CSA style box system…. It sounded like farming Utopia to us. Skipping the minutia, Crooked End wasn’t in any way shape or form what we expected. And Utopia it most certainly was not.
Despite making me question everything I believed about permaculture, despite the less than favorable living conditions, despite the disappointment that our expectations and the reality didn’t match up, we did have the opportunity to make the best out of a bad situation. Together with the other WWOOFers we were pretty much left to our own devices, which meant we could put some of our farming theories into action, try out a few things, be proactive and test out our (or rather Wallys) knowledge of how things could be fixed or made more productive. I enjoyed being in the farm shop and it was an enormous confirmation of my suspicions that such an enterprise is an entity to itself and not merely the added value many people make it out to be (there in avoiding the possibly costly mistake of setting up our own farm shop / cafe). We also learned plenty about how each of us cope in adversity, what happens when things don’t go to plan, the importance of having a plan in the first place, time management, scheduling, the role of WWOOFers (both positive and negative), the enjoyment of teaching, the requirement for family and farm life balance, being realistic about your skills, your circumstances, your finances and the absolute necessity to stack your enterprises not scatter them. We learned that whilst a dream is great it is nothing without action.
Most importantly every day we were there we were reinforcing the belief within ourselves that what ever farming path we decide to take we possess the skills and the attitude to work it out – we don’t need to copy someone else.
But if I’m completely honest, the real reason we stayed were the delightful, intelligent, funny and lovely human beings we shared our lives with. No amount of adversity could ever beat the feeling, if just for a few fleeting hours a day, that you are twenty-something again!!
*whilst Crooked End was a pretty average experience for us as WWOOFers it has a fantastic farm shop and cafe plus a gorgeous cottage they rent out for holiday accommodation. Go stay. Just remember to pack your wellies! www.crookedend.co.uk