Capturing an experience such as this, is difficult to describe in words. However, I feel it necessary to spread the joy that we have experienced, and so, I will give it a whirl.
Our Wwoofing (see my last post ‘Gone Wwoofin’ to learn about woofing) hosts, Jim (from England) and Irini (from Greece), are fabulous! They have been sculpting the land they live on for 15 years. And when I say sculpting, I mean sculpting! With the help of numerous Wwoofers, they have turned a hillside of prickle bushes and scrub brush into a venerable landscaped oasis.
Brilliant plants, constantly bursting into various colours, line impossibly adorable pathways, that lead to even more adorable cottages. We have spent the last two weeks absolutely in awe of the utter beauty around us, that looks like it has been dropped from the heavens.
On a daily basis, we inspect the plants, and constantly find something new that we didn’t know existed before. Some days I feel like Alice in Wonderland, completely aware and wide eyed, discovering new and exciting plants and nooks and crannies, around every corner.
Yes, there has been work. But it’s been the sort of work that provides so much reward. At the beginning of our time with them, I asked Jim what he expected in terms of how many hours we needed to contribute in a day, in exchange for our accommodation and meals. We are both very honest, hard working people, and the last thing we want is to be taking more than we are giving.
Jim’s answer wasn’t exactly cut and dried. Instead of demanding 5 or 6 hours per day, Mon-Fri,
with weekends off, he attempted to explain his philosophy while successfully sidestepping my question.
It became clear to us, quite quickly, that Jim does NOT do the nine to five routine. He is more free wheeling and doesn’t conform to any sort of “societal standards.”
So, it was no surprise to me to hear his philosophy on the whole Wwoofing process. His philosophy, in basic terms, is that humans are meant to interact, learn things from each other, inspire each other, help each other, lean on each other. We are meant to cooperate as a community. We are meant to trust in each other, see the good in each other, celebrate each other’s talents, and help each other to improve.
He really wants nothing more than to see people learn and grow, as they contribute to the improvement, and overall vision of his property. And his hope is that they will take their learned knowledge out into the world, to positively contribute to the growth of humanity.
He and Irini, have created, from scratch, a place where people can come to explore themselves. Whether it be through Wwoofing, as a guest, or as a paid customer in the cottages, they encourage a space of personal freedom, inspiration and growth.
While his property isn’t technically a “farm”, and we haven’t learned much about what we set out to learn originally (about growing different foods in other parts of the world), we have come away completely inspired, and better as humans than when we arrived. If it wasn’t for some amazing travelling that we still need to do, I would be super excited (and still will be at the end of the trip), to get home and tackle my yard!
They operate the development of the property using perma-culture techniques. Everything that is pulled out of one thing, is used somewhere else. We started out constructing a pathway, and my thoughts were that we need to get it done as quick as possible, which is the hurried, more corporate way of things. However, we spent more time sifting the soil, removing rocks, combing through massive piles of rocks, to find just the right one to line the path, and getting everything ‘just right’ before moving on to the next step.
For example, the stones we pulled out of the surface of the pathways that we built, were piled up to be used to build walls, or become filler for areas of the property that needed to be raised up a bit. Like I said, everything is used, nothing is wasted.
Jim made it clear that slow, intentional steps, are more important than rushing about, and doing things hastily, therefore possibly creating problems in the future. He also assured me that if he felt our work wasn’t a fair exchange, he would let me know. Good enough.
We worked away on an area of the property that started out as a few small plants (and when I say small plants, I mean massive Rosemary bushes,) and ended up as a sculptured garden, with pathways and rock walls, ready to be transformed into another garden oasis. Jim was pleased with our work, and we are thrilled with what we accomplished. As a first Wwoofing experience, we both couldn’t be happier with the results!
Our work days ran from approximately 9:00 or 9:30, and ended pretty much when we had finished a section of what we were working on. Sometimes it was 4:00, other times it was 2:00. As long as progress was made, everyone was happy.
Our evenings were spent in Jim and Irini’s house, sometimes with other Wwoofers, around the fireplace. Here, many philosophical conversations were held, as we imparted our individual views on the world to each other. Incredible meals were constructed by Irini (and sometimes Jim), and we generally followed that up with a movie or tv series of some sort.
Our accomodations were spectacular! Normally, Wwoofers stay off the main house, but because another girl was there before us, we were able to stay in our own guest cottage. Let me tell you, it may well be the cutest fairy tale cottage that I have ever stayed in!
In the summer (but also year round if necessary), these beautiful cottages are rented out to vacationers and the like. It’s called ‘Living in the Garden’, and let me be the first to tell you that, YES, you will be living in the garden!
Because they are both artists themselves, they have a special knack for attracting similar craftsmen, that are doing artist retreats, or who come to help with working on the property, in exchange for the chance to work on their art and become inspired. They are open and welcoming to many different arrangements, because, as Jim insists, their aim is to inspire.
Jim, himself, is currently creating the most magnificent Men’s rings from scratch (but will also do Women’s by request), which, in his words is “managing to finance our way through the diabolical Greek economic crisis.” His years of craftsmanship are paying off, and he feels extremely lucky to be able to survive in the hard economic times that the entire country is facing.
Our days on Paros were not all filled with work, we did a couple excursions to explore this island, and also a trip to Antiparos, a neighbouring island. But those stories will have to wait for another post.
For now, I would just like to wish everyone an amazing Christmas! We are so very thankful to be exactly where we are, and hope that happiness and joy is finding everyone, today and always.
We are off to Santorini tomorrow! Can’t wait to see this amazing spectacle.