WWoofing- what money can’t buy

Jill Palmer1 comment1962 views
Chris at station

You can buy an hour’s horse ride, or a joy fight in a helicopter. Or grass-fed organic happy cow meat for dinner.

But you can’t buy sunsets or conversations or new friends. And you can pay for a classroom education, but there’s no ‘off the shelf’ without-walls education product. Certainly not one that has in-built unpredictability.

But we enjoyed them all.

Welcome to wwoofing.

Jill digging a ditch

Wwoofing once stood for willing workers on organic farms.  All over the world, people are volunteering on farms and plantations. Basically, wwoofers do about 4hrs work a day, in exchange for food and lodgings and the opportunity to have a whole bunch of experiences and meet loads of people all of which fall outside their normal lives.

We just wwoofed for a month on a cattle station in remote Western Australia.

My daughter Cosi wrote a lovely Facebook summary of our time and she says I can share it with you all here.

“For four weeks one week ago, I had been living in a place where, even though it is winter your hair would dry in five minutes; and in the first fifteen minutes of being there you would have held a puppy, been bitten by a dog twice and been invited to go horse riding on a trail that leads to a big quartz snake made by Aboriginal people, you would hear stories of ballistic bulls and, sneaky snakes, savage spiders, and handsome horses.

For those four weeks I was living at a remote station.
Some people may believe that the only place, one learns is at a school, but seriously, in the first week I learnt about horse care, painting, cooking, cleaning, protecting precious rain water taps from unsuspecting toddlers whose main goal is to find said tap and turn it on, I learnt about playing with kids younger than myself, and how to deal with beef for every single lunch and dinner.

Banjo with puppy

In the second week I learnt how to bake apple pie, vacuum roofs, catch a horse that towers over you that isn’t even broken in, I learnt that in a few days I had formed a bond with a horse called Bindi, that she would walk behind me and jog slowly without a lead rope.

Cosi riding Bindi

 In the third week I named a puppy, I learnt how to plant seeds and collect eggs without being pecked, I learnt how to cook damper, and how to talk in an Aussie accent again.

Cosi with Eddy

In the fourth week I went for a muster, mustering six hundred cows, I learnt how to decipher the so called English the musterers spoke (it was so full of swear words it was hard to understand), I learnt how to roll a swag, and use what food you had to cook dinner with, I learnt how to drive a motor bike, and how to lift a tired calf into a car.

Cosi mustering cattle

The feelings that race through one’s body, when riding a horse at full gallop, or a motor bike, flying in a plane, or helicopter, and racing along in a bull buggy mustering are just so incredible, they show you what an awesome life you are living and how amazing the world around you is.”

It reminds me of that wonderful quote by Robert Kennedy about GDP. It’s about money, and what it can’t measure and doesn’t understand. He said in 1968:

(GDP) counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. 

It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities….. and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. 

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. 

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

I refuse to believe that time is money. Time is so much more. Money is just money. Time is opportunity and possibility and freedom and mystery and serendipity.

You can’t buy that.

Oil riding a motorbike


Toby with puppy

Of course, if you are hungry and poor, money dominates your thinking (and can deny you fullness of life) And if you are filthy rich and want to be even richer, likewise, money will dominate your thinking. But if you are working with your hands for your food and bed, and can’t remember where your wallet is…… becomes very small part of the story.

All I’m saying is this. A month spent without any money changing hands, meant that so many other things were able to. Thank you wwoofing.

Chris and Oli planting trees

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