Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Old Rebecca had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!
So, it's official: I have a plan. And not just any plan...I've got a summer plan unlike any summer plan I've had before. The details have been squared away, and am leaving in less than 48 hours.
This summer, I'm going to go work on a farm. And not just any farm--I'm going to work on a mountain farm in the Austrian Alps.
The idea came to me on a dreary winter's day on a train. One of the popular vacation trends in Austria these days is to take your family to a farm for a week or two and chill out in the countryside. And I thought to myself, 'Why not work on the farm?' As soon as this idea took hold, it didn't let go. Nevermind the fact that I've never been on a farm before or done any sort of manual labor or even worked outside. Nevermind I've never gotten within arm's length of a cow. Nevermind I hate spiders. And I hope I'm not allergic to hay.
I knew immediately that I wanted to work on a farm in the Austrian mountains, and more specifically in Tyrol. I don't know why Tyrol exactly...I just knew it was famous for its mountains and it sounded nice. That, and the Tyrolean dialect would be a new challenge. As I researched my options, I randomly found an organization online called WWOOF--World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Basically, with WWOOFing you have the opportunity to work anywhere in the world on an organic farm in exchange for room and board. And since I was looking for a cheap and long-term way to spend my summer, WWOOFing seemed like the perfect fit. And although I'd never heard of this organization before, the minute I started mentioning my plans to my friends, I learned that my friends or friends of my friends had had WWOOFing experiences of their own!
Of the 211 farms in Austria, only 7 were in Tyrol. Since this province was my first choice, I carefully read every description and decided that my first choice would be the following (translation mine):
This mountain farm resting at 980 m above sea level has been farmed organically since 1983 by the Messners and their 6 children, whose aim is to undertake this task energetically and dynamically. They want to survive as farmers in the EU, to preserve nature, to bring the old ways back into style, and to trust the Lord God. On the beautiful Tyrolean farm you can learn how to make cheese and bread, woodworking, the harvest and production of herbs and herbal products, and the extensive manual labor in the field and garden. You will be assigned to the milking of the 17 cows and 12 sheep, to the harvest of the hay, to the field/forest/garden work, and to the collection of the herbs.
Here my opportunities seemed broad and varied, and so I contacted the family and arranged to work for a month on their farm...starting Thursday! Most of my resposibilities this time of year will involve the hay harvest and working to collect and dry the herbs, however there may be opportunities here and there to work with the livestock. It's in a place I'd never heard of that seems like a cute little village in the mountains. I don't know if I'll have cell phone reception up there (I hear that's very unlikely), and I probably won't have internet access, so you probably won't be hearing from me for awhile. I expect to more or less become a hermit for the next month.
I'm very excited about my upcoming farm life--thrilled to be working outdoors every day, thrilled to be doing manual labor (yes! it's true!), and thrilled to learn a way of life that is so foreign to me. To live in a self-sustaining environment will be so educational, and I hope to learn a lot and gain a new appreciation for the food we eat and the hard work that brings it to us.
Wish me luck!