Retro: WWOOF – you've got to be barking mad

This is another excerpt from my RTW travels, this was my first experience of staying with a Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF) host, on this experience, I decided not to bother with any others. Not entirely because of the host, but rather because I would never feel comfortable eating someone’s food, even if I was working all day.

15th August 2002

Whoa, what a time. I arrived to stay with my hosts on Monday mornining, made the bus (which is more than I can say for those who were turned away when it was full) and found myself sat next to a guy from Portsmouth (that’s two guy’s from Pompey and one from Southampton I’ve met so far).

Anyway, so I get off the bus to be met by Christal, and I know the minute I meet her that we’re never going to be best friends. She’s originally from Germany but has lived all over with her husband Rolf. She’s deeply religious and very spiritual. We head over to her car where I have to climb in the back as she has two poodles – both ugly as hell – who get priority over me and get to travel in the front.

I’m given the tour, it’s a nice house, they have an acre with various trees (mainly cherry but also apricot, apple, almond, etc) and she explains about how to tell the difference by the leaves (as if I care). She has to introduce me to Prince, their Afghan hound, who’s a guard dog, and lethal apparently. Needless to say Prince looks harmless, and wouldn’t hurt a fly – he’s afraid of the cats! – but they all think he’s ferocious. Christal explains about everything and then we go for a quick trip around Beamsville and stop off to buy some stuff. We have to take the poodles everywhere, she won’t leave them.

In the evening I’m invited to hear an Aussie speak at the church Christal attends (Rolf, who’s a pretty all right guy – he sells and distribute spectacle frames from his office in the garage – goes too but isn’t into as much as she). Anyway, I accepted and I’m glad I did. For one, I got to go to a church that looked more like a small shopping mall. Inside it looked like a convention centre, it has cameramen and projection screens, the speaker was wearing a radio mic (like on TV) and it was just as bad as the TV shows you see (“Can I get an ‘Amen'”).

Anyway the guy (Peter Daniels) is a multi-millionaire with an inspirational story and was basically saying that it is a Christians duty to make a fortune. It was part business seminar, part religious ceremony, part motivational speach. He travels to churches all over, doesn’t charge them anything, tells everyone selling is the business to be in and then plugs his complete course for $1300, now I’m not cynical but…

Right, facts about Christal:

She has written a book on blood types and their relationship to dieting and spirituality, one quote I remember from the blurb on the back is that she has identified a connection between people with blood type O and the visitors from the 4th dimension idenitified in the bible (I kid you not) (Note: I didn’t even know there was a mention of visitors from the 4th dimension!).

She told me, when getting me to have lunch on the first day, that those more religious/spiritual need less solid food, so she doesn’t need to eat as much as everyone else. (Note: Christal was a tiny woman, little over 5ft and probably about 8st/112lbs and so didn’t need as much to maintain her bulk as someone like me – 6ft 14st/200lbs)

She performs a little ritual when she gets into her car the first time, she waves her hand around the steering wheel several times and waves in the middle.

She has a website at www.twinsoullove.com (visit it, see what I’m up against), which is her passion (she has business cards and bumper stickers for it) and keeps asking me how to get more visitors to it as she thinks she should be getting more (I keep having to bite my tongue from saying: “Try picking a topic someone is actually interested in”).

She has a mixture of Christian love songs and oriental music playing all day everyday in her office/computer room.

I’m sure there is more [unusual stuff], but my mind has blocked it from memory to prevent a breakdown.

So, what have I been up to? Well, weeding and pruning, and occasionally Christal treats me to a shopping trip (I sit in the back, dogs in the front) so that I can push the cart (that’s a shopping trolley to you), carry stuff, pack it in the car and unpack it when we get back. Today it was raining, and while she was dry under her umbrella I was getting soaked.

Basically then I’m an unpaid gardner (fruit isn’t their main business, it’s Christal’s hobby) so I do stuff while she swans about. Then I have Mike (he’s a lodger) tell me that I did nothing all day as there’s nothing to do and I refrain from the telling him to try doing anything in 34 degree heat and 100% humidity and maybe he’ll lose some of the (what I reckon to be) 400lbs he weighs.

In the advert it says 3-4 hours a day, I accompanied Christal shopping at 9:15 and finished at 4:30, with a half-hour for lunch and and hour down the coffee shop (Rolf goes to the coffee shop 3 times a day, like we [brits] would the pub, meets up with people and has a chat). I still feel guilty about being fed and housed not matter how hard I work, but am not getting any free time.

It’s an experience though, and I have fun most of the time (even if it’s biting my lip as the pastor asks for another Amen). I’m looking for the door though.

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