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.

Steven’s goal is to open a stall at the front of the property for locals and travelers to pick up fresh produce. While that goal is a few years away yet as the trees and plants need time to mature, they are well on their way. So far they’re planted over 50 different seeds ranging from fruit, veggies, herbs and nuts. There is a variety of fruit trees planted including banana, coconut, mango, jackfruit, apricots, peaches and papaya. They’re also growing pumpkins, corn, peas, tomatoes, peppers and lettuce. Anything that can grow in the soil here, they’ve got it planted. There are also 100+ chickens running around, and hopes of adding cattle once the fencing has been updated. Ideally in a few years the property will be self-sustaining.

Plants on plants on plants.

One of three chook (chicken) pens. 
While Steven may own the property, the keeper of the house is a red heeler cattle dog named Gypsy. Gypsy and her pup Crash are the only female presence among the three generations of male lineage. Crash was only ten weeks old when I arrived and she stole my heart in a minute. I genuinely tried to persuade Steven and John to let Crash travel with me for the next year. My plan was to train her as my personal bellhop.

Babies! Seriously... how cute is Crash!?

So here’s this property in far north Queensland, in the tiny town of Rossville, where the neighbors are sparse and the closest grocery store is 25 minutes by car. What’s so special about it? To be frank, when I first arrived I thought I was doomed. I was about to throw in the towel the first night I crawled into bed. Upon arriving at the property two pythons appeared in the yard, there was a five-inch spider in my room, several geckos watching me sleep, and I was told a bat lives upstairs where the bedrooms are. There’s spotty wifi and no mobile reception… so I laid in bed a couple of hours after arriving thinking “What the fuck am I doing here!?” I (shockingly) managed to sleep through the night and by the end of day one I would have signed on to stay for a month.

As this was my first WWOOF placement I had no idea what to expect in terms of a schedule, work load or responsibilities. You’re supposed to have time to explore, but I didn’t know how that would fit in day to day. After day one on the farm I knew Steven and John were going above and beyond what was expected of them as hosts. The guys take it upon themselves to make sure their guests see everything there is to see in the area. John acted as a personal tour guide for the 2+ weeks I was there. While we would spend the morning getting a few hours of work done, most afternoon were spent exploring local waterfalls, swimming holes and look-outs. We had a field trip planned for almost every day I was there. And while I understand WWOOFing is supposed to be a way to explore new areas, I never expected I would encounter hosts who would be so generous with their time and local knowledge. I truly experienced Rossville as a local.

For any WWOOFers looking for hosts – I cannot recommend Helenvale Station enough (Host ID QZ109). Be prepared for some work in the gardens and some work in the house. The work hours will seem short and the days long. I guarantee you’ll be so comfortable with their way of life you’ll want to stay longer.

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