A Gal From Texas Comes To Maine

Howdy from Texas! My name is Anna Guillory and I’m a WWOOF volunteer (what’s WWOOF? Check that out here!) who has spent the last ten days at Fernwood Nursery with my lovely, lovely hosts, Denise and Rick. I recently graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in Art Education. I wanted to take the time to WWOOF the summer before starting a job teaching high school art and I decided that Fernwood was the right fit. I first heard about WWOOFing from my cousin at the disinterested age of 14 and never thought I’d be doing it now. Through school, I became interested in learning about sustainable living and organic gardening and I was making artwork centered around these ideas. I thought WWOOFing would be a good way for me to inform myself as an artist, as well as bringing back some insights to my future classroom and students. Increasing one’s knowledge of gardening, the biology of plants, and how things grow, etc. can often give us a much better understanding of how we look at things in the world. My WWOOF experience has helped accomplish this and being here at Fernwood has inspired me to look at things in the natural world more closely. I found Fernwood Nursery back in March when their WWOOF site had posted that they were looking for volunteers. Being an artist, I was really interested in how Denise works with her sheep. Fibers and textiles are something I have always wanted to learn more about, and I was equally interested in the farm and nursery aspect. It was a win-win! I’ve heard beautiful things about Maine, and wanted to see another part of the States. All that being said, it has blown me away! Aside from my interests in coming to learn and experience farming, it has been an incredibly healing place for me to be before beginning a new season of life after college. Working with Denise and Rick and learning from them, as well as just being on their property, has grounded me and been a rejuvenating experience. I had almost thought I wasn’t going to be able to come to Maine but Denise and Rick were flexible with my change in dates, and have proven to be ever too generous with my needs. I’m glad to know they will always be people I can count on and available to me. Denise asked if I would write 10 things I’ve learned during my stay. If you do the math right, that’s one thing a day, but I know there are many more things I could list and I am certain I will only continue to build upon them after returning to my life in Texas.There are also some photos included of some great outings and projects, so enjoy!

Ten things:

1.Ephemeral plants bloom in early spring and often go dormant in the late summer months ( this I did not know!!)

2.How to make a hyper-tufa vessel ( I’ll be carrying a mini hyper-tufa vessel home with me, yee ha!)

3.Weeds can be edible ( like purslane and lamb’s quarters and chickweed!!) and super good for you!!

4.How to make Beet and Fruit Kvass ( yum, yum, thank you, wise woman, Liz!!)

5.How to make lemon balm pesto with freshly picked garlic scapes

6.Felting with wool from Denise’s Blue Face Leicester sheep

7.Skirting a fleece

8.The importance of seed saving ! (oh my, how very, very important! I watched this while at Fernwood, SEED: The Untold Story)

9.What a hula-hoe is and how to use it ( and boy did I use it!)

10.Not all flying things ( bugs) are harmful, only some. (and only if you develop a phobia and run like the dickens to escape them)<

In addition, while here in Maine, I also traveled to Rogues Bluff with a Teardrop trailer, hiked a local trail (Haystack mountain) and picked wild blueberries, learned to shingle an outbuilding on the farm, learned some plant propagation techniques, harvested vegetables and herbs, and had the pleasure of mingling with some of the local community and to discover how welcoming and friendly Maine people are!
Now back to Texas where I’ll be certainly pondering all the wonderful experiences and things I learned during my time in Maine. My wish is to call upon all of the valuable lessons learned from my WWOOF experience and to apply them as best and often as I can in my life back in Texas. Have a great summer, my Maine friends!

A trip Downeast for a picnic with the teardrop trailer!

A super yummy picnic, that is!!

A hike up Haystack just a mile from Fernwood!

This Thing Called WWOOF

Helping out in the gardens, our recent lovely WWOOF visitor...Zoe!

Helping out in the gardens, our recent lovely WWOOF visitor…Zoe!

We have spoken of the WWOOF program many times before. In the organization’s own words; “It is an exchange. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles“. As many may know, we have been a WWOOF host for about 5 years.The visitors who have come to help and be a part of the daily activity here at Fernwood have been a true delight. Of course, the extra set of hands to help with our busy lifestyle….tending gardens and animals, running the nursery, maintaining this choice of sustainability, is a great help to us. Even if a visitor comes to volunteer without any experience in farming or rural living, their enthusiasm and eagerness to help and to gain skills adds to the energy around the farm. Each WWOOFer that comes almost always leaves as a dear friend. We miss them when they leave. For us, the WWOOF exchange is not about ‘free help on the farm’ but becomes a wonderful opportunity to share experiences. We can teach folks about plants and how to raise sheep or about making cheese, and in return we get to learn more about how people choose to live in other parts of the world. Last year we had an incredible WWOOFer from Italy ( Cristina, hi!), a retired attorney from New York (Hi Kim), the nicest, most enthusiastic guy from Columbia ( would love to hear from you, Jaime!), a returning WWOOFer and UNH student (Hannah!! See you in July!), and right now…..Zoe, who we’d like to keep around for the rest of the summer but who will be off to experience another farm and WWOOF opportunity soon. At the end of a long day of weeding or moving sheep fence, there’s nothing better than sitting around the dinner table sharing stories and engaging in lively conversation. We have very much enjoyed being a WWOOf host and look forward to all the new volunteers that find their way to Fernwood! This thing called WWOOF…awesome!

World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms

Picture 997For several years we have been mentioning the WWOOF program that we are hosts for. It is a volunteer program based on the exchange of work for room and board. For the people working on farms, it allows for an opportunity to see another part of the world, travel in a fairly inexpensive way, live with others in a community, and learn a new skill. We have been hosting WWOOF volunteers for about 5 years and have had wonderful experiences. For us, we have been just as committed to making sure the experience for the volunteer traveler is as rewarding as the help they give us. Usually we ask for about 4-5 hours of work a day in exchange for room and board. We want the folks that visit us to feel at home, to have enough free time to see the beauty of Maine, and to experience the lifestyle of a small rural community. There is a lot more to it than this prearranged barter of work for board. Our WWOOF volunteers come as WWOOFer’s, but leave as friends. We almost always hate to see them go. Most recently we had a three week visit with Cristina from Milan, Italy. She was awesome! We loved having her around, we loved all of our meals together, sitting around the table chatting about everything under the sun. We learned a lot about life in Italy, she learned a lot about small rural towns in New England. She was an amazing help here at the nursery during our busiest time of the season. On her time off, Cristina was able to bike or hike and visit the wonderful lakes we have near by. IMG_1387
Last season we had visitors from Columbia, California, and a young friend from right here in Maine. Next week another young college student is arriving from Connecticut. She contacted us and expressed an interest in learning more about growing her own food and sustainability. I think she’d also like to play around with some fiber. We can surely make this happen…….plenty of wool kicking around! Since being part of this awesome exchange program we have considered WWOOFing ourselves. You can WWOOF at any age, and can pretty much go anywhere in the world. Where would we go? I’ll have to think about that!