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The final WWOOF

Lilydale, Australia

I spent 10 days WWOOFing for the Groateurs, on their 2 acre property in the Yarra Valley, about an hour on the train from Melbourne. And a packed 10 days it was! From the off I realised that despite being 'retired', Patty and Victor were not exactly made for doing nothing. As they are working towards self-sufficiency, with a large, thriving veggie garden, fruit trees, and 5 chihuahuas (farm chihuahuas, prone to getting covered in oil and dirt, who gave me an extremely loud, unfriendly welcome when I first arrived!), two Dexter cattle, two sheep, 12 ducks, 14 chooks and one grumpy miniature stallion (with serious 'short-man' syndrome) nestled away in the paddocks and on the dam behind their house, they couldn't help but be busy!
Every morning we would go out to feed the animals, release the ducks onto the dam and the chooks into the yard (standing well back as we opened the hut door to avoid being trampled by claws and webbed feet), and muck out the cattle and pony stable. There was also the task of carrying Dot, the blind (ex-battery) duck, from the hut to the dam, and back in again in the evening, as she couldn't quite make it there herself. Her mate Twinkletoes was also an ex-battery hen, which Victor and Patty had nursed back to help through water-therapy (holding her in the dam everyday to let her swim and strengthen her legs, weaked by being made overweight and kept in a tiny battery cage) - she still walked with a slight bow-leg.

Along with the usual planting, harvesting and spreading stable muck on the veggie beds (yum!), the other tasks I did couldn't really be classed as work - from gathering and helping to bottle kilograms and kilograms of rhubarb from the gardens; going with them to collect unsold bread from a Lilydale Bakers Delight to feed to their animals (the shops throw out as waste almost 100% of their stock everyday otherwise!); accompanying Victor to the nearby dairy to collect litres of fresh milk for cheesemaking, and taking part in cheese-making and art classes. Patty was an accomplished artist, and ran classes from home and in community centres in everything from cheese-making to painting to indian cookery, bottling and preserving. I got to take part in the camembert and ricotta-making class, though I didn't get to try the camembert as it takes about 5 months to mature! As Mormons (no, not the scary you-will-be-converted ones, thankfully! And they kept caffeinated tea and coffee in the house for visitors too, phew) they had Sundays off, but even then Patty was keen to get me to do a painting project, which while not my thing at all turned out to be fun. It was all quite full-on, and although once or twice I would have appreciated a little time to myself, they were really open and generous people; I learnt so much and know that I can always email them with any questions about self-sufficiency, about which they were intense and enthusiastic mines of information.

After those ten days, armed with recipes from Patty and having donated some of my trashed clothes to them for rags and mulching material, I returned to Melbourne for one night before flying to Alice Springs for my red centre tour.

permalink written by  LizIsHere on November 14, 2010 from Lilydale, Australia
from the travel blog: New Zealand & Australia 2010
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