Almost three weeks ago saw us leaving Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. This marked the end of Phase One, resting and exploring and in general being in a vacation mode. December 13 saw us arriving at our first actual “farm” to work at. Phase Two. It has been a busy three weeks, thus the lag in writing, full of interesting experiences and work.
For those who may not know what WWOOF is, it is an organization – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It had it’s birth in New Zealand and has now spread throughout the world. The point of the organization is to connect people who want to learn about organic farming with farms who are willing to teach and feed in exchange for the labor of these volunteers. For a nominal fee you can sign up with the WWOOF organization of your choice, like USA or New Zealand, and search by region and farm description.
We chose southern AZ to start our WWOOFing adventures in, mostly because the weather is pretty nice this time of year. We sent out letters to farms in Arizona and New Mexico, introducing our family, our goals for learning, etc. We got about 15 responses back from farms willing to take a family.
We are currently at the homestead of Kyle Young, Erda Kroft, in Arivaca, AZ. It is in the territory where the Apaches roamed and not too far from where Geronimo ultimately surrendered. Arivaca itself is in a valley surrounded by mountains. Beautiful, though brown this time of year.
We came here with the intention of staying just two weeks, but within a few days we decided we would stay longer, in the hopes of being able to learn to build a wood-fired horno oven for baking things like bread, tortillas and pizzas.
The things we have been learning can’t really be fit to a scope and sequence … but I am confident that if we keep on, the pieces will fit together into a useful tapestry for the future warming of our own homestead.
A list of what we have been doing:
Transplanting seedlings, butchering roosters, fermented fruit chutney making, moving a LOT of dirt, building a new garden site, sauerkraut making, planting seedlings in the new garden, fence building, free amendment hauling (A.K.A. getting manure from another farm and being confronted by a snorting, protective male llama). And now horno oven building. Here are some pictures of the beginning stages. Here is a link to a finished (small) horno that Kyle has built before. http://www.erdakroft.com/wood-fired-oven-workshop/
Our host is a single guy in his late 50’s. A natural builder, he has built his home and
outbuildings out of cob construction mixed with bamboo. He is the type of guy who knows a little bit about everything.
The food we have gotten from Kyle, though not plentiful for a family of 6, has been great. Stewing rooster, Black Copper Maran eggs that are worth $5/piece, biodynamic persimmons, grapefruit and lemons…and we have been introduced to other local farmers for grass-fed meats and greens. There is still a shortage of available raw milk, which is understandable with the lack of good pasture in this area. 150 years ago this whole area was a lush pastureland with head high perennial grasses. Due to heavy ranching and overgrazing it is now predominately populated with mesquite trees and cactus.
Two weeks ago I found a gallon of raw milk at the Food Conspiracy Co-op in Tucson…for $13 a gallon. I ignored the organic milk next to it for half the price and made a home for the Save Your Dairy raw milk in my cart, with only a small pang of monetary guilt.