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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Organic Living

CANADA | Monday, 15 October 2012 | Views [706]

Homemade pickles and plum sauce. I learned canning and helped can them. They are now good for a few years.

Homemade pickles and plum sauce. I learned canning and helped can them. They are now good for a few years.

My WWOOF experience has taught me more than just about organic farming; it opened my eyes to "organic lifestyle", and it's much more than food, compost, and recycling.

Both of my host families are people who prefer and enjoy things made by themselves or people they know.  Foremost, of course, is food; they grow a variety of fruits and vegetables for their own consumption, eat what's in season, and preserve the rest so they can be enjoyed when out of season.  They trade food with others that fill a gap (e.g. extra milk for foraged mushrooms or eggs), or sell extras to neighbors or the local grocer.  They raise animals for food that the animals produce (goats for their milk, chickens for their eggs), or even for the animals themselves (my second host family is raising a cow and a water buffalo for their meat).  They love to cook, and prefer making their own bread, jam, fruit juice, cheese, yogurt, sauce, etc.  I am eternally spoiled by breakfast with fresh eggs (laid within the last 12 hours), coffee with fresh goat's milk, or freshly baked homemade bread (baked with freshly grind rye flour) with homemade goat cheese or jam (my favorite is K'concoction named "berry junction", made of huckleberry, blackberry, and strawberr).  They both have root cellars on their property containing food that can last them a few years; from potatoes to beets, onions to garlic, salsa and beans, everything is well preserved to last.  They also have extra freezers with lots of frozen food not consumed while in season: large variety of vegetables, fruits (berries freeze particularly well), and meat.

Besides food, both families are also very good at building and making things.  K (from my first host family) built the most beautiful and sturdy treehouse for his daughter, using wood mostly sawed from trees on his property.  S (from my second host family) can sew, tailor clothes (she finished a cute skirt in one afternoon), knit (love the caps and socks she knitted for her kids), and crochet, while her husband R enjoys woodwork, and built the shed, greenhouse, and chicken coops on the farm.  Even their two boys, ages 8 and 10, can knit and crochet.  They (as well as B, K's daughter) are capable of cooking simple food (scrambled eggs and cheese quesadillas seem to be favorites), and they have been taught to wield a knife handily; I was in awe with how B could cut a whole melon into bite-sized pieces with a huge French knife, and she's 10!

Another trait is obviously their love of nature, the environment, and the earth.  Both families love the outdoors and enjoy variety of outdoor recreation such as hiking, bicycling, skating, and kayaking.  Camping is in their blood.  The kids love to run around outdoors with no shoes on, roll around in dirt, and have no fear of insects and animals that many kids, even adults, may fear.  They plant beautiful flowers around their property, and can name the varietal of many plants and trees.  I was corrected several times by B when I could not properly identify a cedar tree (won't forget now!)

They most certainly follow the three R's of reduce, reuse, and recycle.  When buying honey (directly from a beekeeper), S uses her own bucket (about 10 gallons worth) so it's easy to store and can be reused.  Glass jars and containers are everywhere in the house, and plastics are mostly shunned (not just plastic bags, but also plastic containers, although Ziploc bags are used a lot for storage and also reused).  Both families use very little toilet paper and use washable "pee wipes" instead (thick palm-sized cloth cut from old cotton t-shirt), and paper towels and napkins are nowhere to be found (cloth towels and napkins only).  Both families have old-style wood-burning fireplace that can warm up the whole house, and paper that are normally recycled are used to start the fire.  

Composting is a way of life.  Both families create their own compost to fertilize crops.  Better yet, some food scraps can be fed to the farm animals; the goats enjoy corn stalks and raspberry leaves, while the chickens are less picky and eat almost anything.  The cow and water buffalo don't have a part in any of this, they dine solely on grass and hay on the property, true grass-fed beef!

Both families also chose to raise their children without TV, although they do watch movies on the computer (my second host family just started to let the boys watch movies, one per month, of the parent's choosing); for me, this was just like being in Mozambique again, everyone sitting on a couch, crowded around a screen!  K and M do not own a mobile phone, while S and R have one for use when traveling only.  Neither home has wireless internet; they believe the waves are bad for the kid's health, and thus use cabled connection only.  The only gadget B has is a music player/video recorder/camera (not sure what brand) that was handed down by her mom.  The two boys, on the other hand, own no gadgets of their own, just a family iPod that has songs loaded by their mom (she has them addicted to Glee soundtracks) and which the boys blast at home frequently.  The parents aren't anti-technology; they all use laptops for work or personal use, but they chose to have the kids not be exposed at a young age.  It's refreshing to see kids more excited about building and working on a treehouse than updating their Facebook account.

I'm impressed with the way both families have chosen to live their lives.  Some things were already part of my lifestyle so I was not completely in shock, and some things were new and which I will adopt myself.  One thing is for sure: I love all of their house pets!  The dog, Mika, with my first family is a gem; she's full of energy and I've had great walks with her.  Sidney, the cat from my second family, loves being around people.  She likes to sleep on my bed (well, it's probably more her bed), which I welcomed very much.  Can't wait to adopt my own pet again once I've settled down!

Tags: compost, organic lifestyle, recycle, technology

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