Brief Ferry Ride at Night and a summary of my first WWOOFing experience.
17.09.2010 - 15.10.2010 20 °C
So, there I was. I had somehow managed to navigate Vancouver's transport network and brought myself a Ferry ticket to Vancouver Island from Tsawwassen (which, incidentally has become one of my favourite place names- say it a few times and savour the way it feels in the mouth, good eh?).
When I arrived at Swartz Bay (also a good name, actually) it was dark, very rainy and busy. I had arranged with Carol (my host here) to be picked up at The Royal Oak Exchange on the bus route, only problem- the bus was full. And when I say full, I mean packed like sardines, you could barely move, people were sitting in the luggage rack at the front of the bus, the aisle and on that little raised area around the drivers seat, yeah, full. I suppose that will teach me to come to Vancouver Island on a Friday night, when, as far as I could tell, the entire student population of Vancouver University had decided to come to Victoria for the weekend. Anyway, I managed to convince the bus driver to let me on none the less and spent the first 20 minutes of the journey squashed up against the dashboard with my 20 kilogram backpack crucifying my shoulders. I think the driver must have felt sorry for me as he said I could take off my bag and place it on the dashboard(!), this helped a little, but I still had to spend the second half of the trip holding it in place to make sure it didn't fly into the driver on sharp turns. So, good times.
Anywho, I eventually managed to get off the portable people compactor and was greeted by Fred, Carol's husband and was brought back to the farm for a sandwich, a little wine, and, most importantly, a warm bed.
So, after a night in a warm bed, which didn't creak like the screaming of the damned every time I rolled over (a major improvement over the SameSun hostel beds) I awoke early, still fairly jet-lagged and had a nice hearty (read: huge) breakfast of porridge and toast with peanut butter. Honesty time now, I love peanut butter, a lot however no one else in my family did, so I never had it growing up, and now, my girlfriend Pinaz doesn't like it either, as such I am taking the time this year to eat as much of the stuff as humanly possible. Where was I? Ah yes, food. Large meals would become a recurring theme when it comes to WWOOFing I've found. 'Work on an organic farm?' I though 'excellent, maybe I can burn off some of the excess body fat I put on spending 3 years studying for a computer science degree' but nooooo you work hard, you eat hard. Looking back (after two months of WWOOFing I can honestly say I have never eaten so much good food in my damned life (sorry Mum) but them I suppose manual labour does require a lot of calories. Ah well.
There was something I was going to say... yes WWOOFing, that's it. 'What in the name of hell is WWOOFing?' I hear you cry. Well, it stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It used to stand for a couple of other things, but capitalising just the first letter of words is hard work, so just go and look it up if you want and/or care. So, yes, I am a volunteer on an Organic farm, sweet.
Right, so, whilst I was on Victoria Farm I got up to lots of interesting things (thanks mainly go out to Carol for pointing me in the direction of excitement filled days out), however I will be commenting on each of those is separate blog posts. (Aside: why isn't 'blog' in Firefox's built in dictionary...*grumble grumble grumble*) As such I will just be highlighting the exciting things that happened on the farm in this post, which, as I type this, I realise could get quite long, so strap on your seatbelts and lets go, shall we?
A little about Carol and Fred. Fred is a lecturer at the Royal Roads university just up the road (but more about that in a future blog post) and Carol spends most of her time running the farm. They moved to Victoria from the prairies a few years ago and are still trying to get the farm back into shape after it was left abandoned for a few years.
Right, ok, onto WWOOFers. So, first off: Cody. Cody is a Canadian from Ontario, he decided to move away from the frigid prairies and come out to the East coast. He figured WWOOFing would be a good way of getting to know the place cheaply before looking into getting a place or a proper job. Interesting, as Carol and Fred are both from the United States the other WWOOFers are from international locales, Cody was the only Canadian in the house whilst I was there.
Cody is very much into his forestry and conservation work, and we spend many hours discussing what it is like tree planting and doing fall and burn work to get rid of the Mountain Pine Beetle (which is killing off many of British Columbias pine trees because they in turn are not being killed off due to rising temperatures in the region). And yes, the latter is basically just cutting down trees and setting fire to them in the snow, if that doesn't sound like the perfect job, I'm not sure what is.
Next Killian and Clare. These two are an Irish couple from the Galway region in Ireland and have just spent the last 6 months living in Toronto. The decided they wanted to get some jobs working at the resorts in Whistler and figured they stop off near Victoria for a couple of weeks.
They were a lot of fun chatting too, especially our discussion about the animosity (or lack thereof) between this generations English and Irish population. Something which Carol found interesting was the fact that, despite K&C live on the West coast of Ireland, and I live on the East coast of England we shared the same time zone. Something which is probably a little weird when you live in a country with six of the bastards.
Finally there was Katherine and José. They are Columbia originally, but have lived in Canada for about 5 years. They are moving to Victoria on Vancouver Island so that José can go to the university and work upgrade his nursing qualification. They are WWOOFing for a couple of months to get used to the area before getting a place of their own.
The farm has a resident population of chickens. Their are, broadly two categories these birds fit into. The peaceful, dumb ones that live by the pear trees, and the violent, sociopathic ones that live out in the fields. Also, if I've learned one thing from my time there it was that chickens will eat almost anything. So, that's good to know I suppose. I think it put Cody off of the meat, I just don't care that much however.
Also partolling the farm is Bijou. A Border Collie, who is getting on in years, but who had only been on the farm about 2 weeks when I arrived. Despite her advanced years (about 9 I think) she was always full on energy, absolutely loved chickens to heard and had a lot of fun barking at raccoons. All of this paled in comparison for her love of shovels however. It was literally impossible to do any digging whilst she was about as she would attempt to eat your digging implement. Yes, despite allusions of intelligence, she was just as dumb as most dogs. Very cute though.
So onto work. Well, I mainly moved earth, I'm going to be honest. The previous owners did a lot of landscaping to the farm, like digging a drainage ditch around the edge and then just dumped the waste soil on top of the fertile, growing land. Well done genius'. Anyway, as a result Carol and Fred are doing a lot of work to flatten out the farm and expose the good soil once more. That is where I and me fellows came in. Dig the soil, rake the soil, move wheelbarrows full of the stuff. The work was hard and at time boring, but not unpleasant, at least it gave me a chance to work on my biceps! When I wasn't landscaping I was digging potatoes... which is done by moving soil. Ah well I suppose it was the best. One of the few times I branched out from earth moving and had a crack at mowing the lawn the lawnmower caught fire. Perhaps leaving me to play in the dirt was the safest thing after all. Yeah, the lawnmower fire, now that was fun. I stopped to move a bit of wood that was obstructing my mowing path, went back to the things and pulled the chord. WHOOSH, flames. And an almost full tank of gas. I'm going to be honest here, I ran away. I ran away like a little girl. And the worst thing, there was not a thing I could do about it. I had to just stand and watch it burn from a distance. I honestly had no idea whether the gas tank was capable of building up pressure and exploding. After a few minutes it began to spurt (burning) petrol out over the grass however, at ts point I figured it was safe to return, the threat of explosion now gone. I dumped buckets of damp earth on the thing and finally put it out. It was too late however, the thing was a write off. One of my biggest regrets about my time here was that I have no photos of any of this, ah well, it will live in my memories forever I suppose.
There was another fire at the house (this one entirely not my fault, I promise).I am a little hazy on how exactly it started, in fact I'm pretty sure no one knows. All I do know is this. It was Canadian Thanksgiving. Cody and I were watching a movie The Paper when we heard Fred call, a slight panic in his voice for us to come downstairs immediately. Now, Fred is one of the most easy going, chilled out people I have never met, if he sounded even mildly concerned, you know shit is getting real. Cody and I came down to see the kitchen was on fire. Things were a little panicked, but no one was hurt and the fire was put out with minimal damage to the house and no need for the fire department. The whole place did smell quite strongly of smoke for quite some time however. The Thanksgiving ham was unharmed however and afterwards we went out for some beers. So everything worked out in the end.
The weather here was weird. It started off very wet and then, bam, sunny for about 3 straight weeks, which is apparently kind of crazy. I did manage to get a pretty good tan going from working out in the sun all day however, that along with my crazy guns is giving me a figure all man kind would be jealous of... ok maybe not, but still.
Next time: It's a mini adventure.
Ok, I hope that keeps you going for a while, including photo upload time I've been staring at my screen for over 2 hours and my eyes are starting to go. Hope you had fun reading it. Speak to you later.