August 30, 2017

Meet the Hosts: Helenvale Station in Rossville

I wrapped up my first WWOOF placement about ten days ago, and have to say, this year is going to be amazing! I could not imagine my first experience with WWOOF going any better, it was above and beyond what I expected. Here’s a look at my (so far) favorites hosts, Steven and John, who solidified my choice to WWOOF around the country. The only hesitation I have going forward is that my first hosts at Helenvale Station set the bar too high for future hosts.

John & Steven with Crash & Gypsy
Steven purchased Helenvale Station, in disrepair a few years ago with hopes of getting away from city life in Victoria and running his own farm. The 160+ acre property has a long and interesting history including it’s own postal code, as the front building was formerly a post office outpost. I’ve been told the most recent residents were squatters and junkies who left it in shambles. After moving up to Queensland in late 2014, Steven and his father, Foss, have spent the last few years getting the house habitable and getting new crops in the ground. Steven’s son John also joined the crew a few months ago and has taken over the home renovation projects. And by the time I arrived in late August all the walls were whole again.

August 28, 2017

WWOOF Life - Always Dirty

This will come as a surprise to probably no one but myself, but being a farmer is a dirty job. Like really dirty. Not a single day has gone by when I haven't come home covered in dust, dirt, paint, poop, molasses, diesel... seriously it's another day, another stain.

And I'm not necessarily opposed to dirt. I hate showering so I guess I embrace it in some ways. Honestly the hardest thing to accept is dirt under my fingernails, that one I'm still struggling with. Instead of my usual manicured nails mine are now clipped and filed all the way down. That's the one attempt I've made at staying clean.

Anyways there is a reason I'm telling the world about my poor hygiene practices. I have a funny story to share with you.

That shirt should be white • Dirty knees and a dollop of chicken poop courtesy of Crash

A few days ago I went into town for a bit of pampering... because guys Ravenshoe has a salon! That is huge news. I had some extra time before my appointment so I even gave myself a mani / pedi before I left. So here I am walking through town just feeling like myself again! I'm at the salon and the esthetician is waxing my arms... "What were you doing earlier today?" she asks. "Oh I was outside working, sorry if I've got dirt on me." If only it was dirt! Her reply froze me in horror. "Oh no, you've got cow poop on your arm."

Yes. This is my life. 

Earlier in the day I picked up the dog to put him in the back of the truck, and he had just rolled in a wet pile of cow crap. I had it smeared all up my left arm and the front of my shirt. Luckily one of the guys who was helping had soap and a water tank on his truck so I cleaned off immediately. Well, I clearly didn't get it all.

And you know what, even though I left the salon completely mortified I was still on cloud nine.

August 24, 2017

Fishing on the Great Barrier Reef

If someone were to ask, I'm not one who necessarily enjoys fishing. However, if an offer to fish on the Great Barrier Reef comes along there is no way I am passing it up! And that opportunity was offered up by my first WWOOF hosts who are avid fishers and were keen to show Georgina and I the reef.

While I was staying in Rossville, Queensland we were very lucky the weather cooperated and we were able to get out on the ocean. Based on the size of my host's boat we needed near perfect conditions to safely handle the reef, meaning waves and wind had to be minimal.

We loaded up the car at 5AM and set out for the Bloomfield river ramp which is a few hundred meters away from the mouth of the river where it opens up to the ocean. From there we continued on for 45 minutes until we reached Pickersgill Reef, about 20km out.

Once we got out there it was slow going. It was difficult to find a spot where the fish were in big groups; on the sonar it appeared the fish were dispersing as soon as we set anchor. Our hosts have previously gone out and completed their boat's quota in a few hours. And during this trip it took a few hours before we even had any bites! Grandpa Foss caught the first fish of the day, and had probably caught at least ten before I snagged my first one. And while we didn't come close to filling our boat quota but we at least didn't go empty handed.

A blacktip rockcod - my first catch of the day!

August 2, 2017

WWOOF, What, Where, Why

When I was first planning my escape to Australia, my initial plan was to spend roughly three months in four major cities and fill the weekends with day trips to neighboring towns. At some point I decided I wanted to take a break from city life and go rural (yea, who am I?). After that idea stuck I started looking into farming options. It’s probably no surprise, but Australia has loads of options for farm help all over the country.

While I initially starting looking at fruit picking and seasonal jobs, I soon realized I am not fit for that lifestyle. Being paid based on the baskets or boxes of food you collect sounds terrible to me, and terribly exhausting. In a lot of cases I also needed my own transportation, unless I paid someone weekly to pick me up. And I'd never share money I earned schlepping crates on my back!

So instead of becoming a migrant worker I’ve become a migrant volunteer through WWOOF. The WWOOF organization, which for some reason has two acronyms, is a non-profit connecting willing volunteers with organic farms looking for assistance.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
Willing Workers on Organic Farms

In return for help volunteers receive free room and board. The rule of thumb is volunteers work 4-6 hours a day, 5-6 days a week. Guys, that is a lot of free time! Lots of time to hopefully keep the blog updated, read, study, be lazy, and ponder why I ever wanted a corporate job.

After committing to WWOOF, my plan for the year evolved into a trek around the entire coastline, spending 3-4 weeks on a farm before moving on to my next town. I’ve locked down roughly thirteen areas I want to explore and will look for volunteer placements in those regions. And when it’s time to move on I’ll schedule a few off days to explore the country between point A and B.