My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

This article is about My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm.  Last week I posted an article about Wwopfing, what it was and some of the experiences that others had on the farm. This week I’m going to talk about my experience on the farm.  The first picture below is a view of the farm area from the top of the hill where we were working.  It’s a beautiful country view.

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm - ViewFomTheTop

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

I worked on a farm called Elisha’s Springs Farm in WV. A company called PermaEthos operates on the farm and they offer training, consulting, and community farming. The job description that I signed up for is listed below and was taken from the PermaEthos web site. http://permaethos.com/wwopfer-application/

  • As a PermaEthos Wwopfer you will work for the Tenant farms and the steward of the farm. A wwopfer has the opportunity to observe and be involved with the development of a PermaEthos farm which is under the guidance and consult of world leading permaculture experts.
  • My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

    My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

    You need to be able to lift heavy items multiple times a day. We ask for four hours a day of work for an assigned tenant farmer and then you are free to do as you please.

  • Wwopfers are provided with room and board.
  • Wwopfers have a great opportunity to get a feel for the farm and advance to an element partner position and become a business partner with PermaEthos.

As I mentioned in my last article about Wwopfing, I took a week’s vacation in the spring to go and Wwopf and also a long weekend in early summer to Wwopf.

While the average workday for a Wwopfer is 4 hours, that was not the case when I was there. We all worked twelve to fourteen hours a day, but I knew about the long days before I arrived. In April we were digging several thousand feet of swale on a mountainside. The swale had to be completed before the weekend because we had twenty volunteers coming to plant 5000 plants into the swale and on some other steep slopes.

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm Swale1

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

I knew what a swale was (a ditch on contour (future blog post)) from my permaculture training. Actually I knew most of what we were doing, but it was book smarts and not actual implementation. As a Wwopfer I got the chance to implement the principles I had learned and pick up all kinds of new skills. I became very proficient with the laser level and had several new calluses and blisters caused by a Rogue Hoe that I wrote about two weeks ago. I also got experience with a JIM-GEM KBC Bar, which is basically a spike on a poke intended to plant bare root trees really fast (a few blisters on this tool as well).

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm Swale2

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

The real learning from a practical standpoint for me was dealing with the animals. The daily chores involved taking care of the animals before we got into anything else. This included feeding and watering the chickens, ducks, cats, cows, rabbits, and pigs. We also went to a neighboring farm and picked up horse manure on a daily basis to add it to the compost pile. I learned a lot about how much I still don’t know about the farm animals 🙂  I have pictures of some of the animals I worked with at the bottom of this blog post.

I assisted in building three portable green houses that I wrote an article about last week. I did more filming of the project than building, but still learned a lot. I dug a few drainage ditches trying to alleviate the mud pits from the spring rain.

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

Oh, and there was electric fence. I was zapped by 6000 volts for the first time since leaving the military. I was repairing electric fence and forgot to turn it off once when I was repairing a break. Didn’t take long to figure out that it was still on and why the pigs respect that wire. I had the fence tester in the picture with me, but I just didn’t use it that time.

I learned how to troubleshoot electric fence and learned that they have solar charged electric fence controller for places where there is not electric. I bought one of those units the week I arrived back home to keep the deer out of my nursery stock.  I bought the tester as well to try and save myself from another jolt.

I could continue writing for several more pages on the lessons learned on Elisha’s Spring Farm. The key takeaway from this article is that Wwopfing can be a completely educational and fun experience. You can meet other hard working volunteers working by your side and great Tenant Farmers and Farm Owners. I know that everyone I had contact with were great people and willing to help others.

I highly recommend Wwopfing to anyone with a desire to learn and I believe that Elisha’s Spring Farm is a great place to do it.

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My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm Chicken

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm Ducks

My Experience Wwopfing Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

Wwopfer – Gazuntite – Great Escape Farms

Wwopfer – Gazuntite – Great Escape Farms

Gazuntite? No, Wwopfer is not a sneeze. It is an acronym. It stands for Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm. It is actually an offshoot of WWOOF or Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF is a network of just over 2000 farms that have workers come and work for about four hours a day for room and board. You go to the farm and work and in most instances learn as you go along. No experience needed in most cases. It is an absolutely wonderful learning experience. Wwopfer and WWoOF seem to operate the same except the Wwopfer is done on a farm that practices permaculture techniques.

WWoPFer - Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

WWoPFer – Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm

When I was Wwopfing twice this past year I met several other Wwopfers. There were seven of us in April and at least four of us in June. They were having a large workshop in June and it was a little difficult to tell who was a Wwopfer and who was a workshop attendee. All of the people I worked with have some kind of story and I’ll share a few below.  The picture shows the Wwopfers and the Tenant Farmer, Jesse.

I worked with one guy in his low 20s, Jonathan, who is WWOOFing his way across country. In the early spring he worked a farm in Georgia. In the late spring he was at Elisha’s Spring Farm in WV with us. He headed out to the mid-west in early summer. He had plans on going to California and ending in, I believe, Idaho in the fall. Then he was coming back to the east coast to make some money for his next adventure. Along the way he was stopping at historic sites, going to concerts, meeting up with friends and seeing the country. That is something I would love to do, but it is something that can only really be done when you are in your teens or twenties, as you don’t have as many responsibilities then.

There was another guy at Elisha’s Spring Farm, Matt, that spent quite a long time there. He was there before I arrived in mid-April and was still there in mid-June when I went back and he didn’t really have plans on leaving. He said he averaged about four hours a day performing farm chores and then did day trading (stocks) in his off time. He came up from Florida in a camper and just had it parked in the parking lot. He lived in his camper and the farm supplied him with electric and water hookup.

Another guy, Kyle, sent me an email detailing his thoughts of Wwopfing. I could not write it any better than he wrote it, so I’ll just paste it in the way he wrote it.

“I am having a hard time coming up with things I did not like. The people, the farm, even the work all contributed to a positive experience.
My biggest let down was how long I could stay. The week I was there was packed with so much stuff it felt like two weeks – it really felt like two weeks, my hands finally felt better after I was home for a week. All I was thinking about was, “Is there any way I could quit my job and start being a farmer now”, but like in most things a solid plan and steady steps will get me there. Everything I can remember was great, if there was anything I did not like I have forgotten what it was.”

Some of the other people that were there in the course of my two trips were photographers, engineers, construction workers, farmers, recent high school graduates, and a few that are transitioning jobs and just looking for something different. I myself took a week’s vacation in spring to go and Wwopf and a long weekend in early summer to Wwopf. I will write another post on my experiences and some of the things I learned. The one thing I will tell you now is Wwopfing was an absolutely wonderful experience and everyone I worked with and worked for were great people and I’m glad I had the chance to meet them and get to know them.

As for my actual experiences, you’ll have to wait until next week.

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Rogue Hoe Review | Rogue Hoe as a Wwopfer Tool

Rogue Hoe Review | Rogue Hoe as a Wwopfer Tool

Rogue Hoe Review | Rogue Hoe as a Wwopfer Tool

This post, Rogue Hoe Review | Rogue Hoe as a Wwopfer Tool, provides information on how we used the Rogue Hoe on a farm installing swales. The Rogue Hoe is a tool that can help you in the garden if you have a lot of ground to shape. I used it when working on a farm as a Wwopfer earlier this year putting in swales. We put in thousands of feet of swale and the Rogue Hoe was one of the go-to tools for all of the guys working on the project. It is a very sturdy tool that can stand up to a lot of different people using it over a long period of time.

The Rogue Hoe is actually not a specific tool but a series of tools made by a company with the name “Rogue Hoe”. Rogue Hoe is a family owned company out of Missouri. They make heavy-duty implements for a variety of purposes to include farm, garden, trail building, and firefighting.

The implements use recycled agriculture disc blades for the heads. On their website they claim to hand craft each implement. I know that when I ordered mine they sent me an email telling me they were making it and it would take some time. It did take over a month before it arrived.

Rogue Hoe Review | Rogue Hoe as a Wwopfer Tool RogueHoe

Rogue Hoe Review | Rogue Hoe as a Wwopfer Tool

The model 70HR48 is the hoe I used as a Wwopfer and the model that I bought afterwards. The 70H part of the part number refers to the hoe part of the head. It is a 7-inch hoe with a very sharp head capable of cutting roots and sod. The “R” part of the part number is for a rake end on the opposite side of the hoe end. The rake end has 5 tines, each about ¾-inch wide and very sharp. The spacing between the tines is about 1-½-inches. The implements can be ordered with 48 or 54 in handles and there are options for ash, hickory and fiberglass handles. This implement weighs right around 5 pounds and you feel each of those pounds by the end of the day.

The other Wwopfers and I used mainly the hoe end of the implement to cut up grass and soil chunks and shape the swales. I used the rake end a few times but usually preferred the hoe end. We also used the hoe end to loosen soil and level out the bottom of the swale. If you notice from the picture the very end of the implement is very flat. Having a flat end on the end of a pole made for a very nice tamper to assist in shaping the swale.

My assessment of this tool is that it is a must have if you are doing any kind of trenching, swailing, trail making, or any function that involves shaping the land by hand. My only caution with this tool is to be careful, especially when you are tired. The ends are very sharp and it would be very easy to hit and cut something that you didn’t intend on damaging (such as yourself).

The item can be found on www.groguehoe.com and the implement I purchases was the 70HR48. This particular item is listed under the “Fire Fighter Tools” link. The item I bought cost $69.65, but because of the weight there was an $18.50 shipping charge bringing the total to $88.45.

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Todd McCree at Great Escape Farms

Todd McCree at Great Escape Farms

Todd McCree at Great Escape Farms

Todd McCree at Great Escape Farms is a description about the owner and his journey into forest garden design that spurred several new businesses.

I figured that if you are going to spend time reading my blog, then you should know a little about me, and how I acquired the knowledge to write about these subjects.

Todd McCree at Great Escape Farms

Todd McCree at Great Escape Farms

First the basics… I grew up and went to school in Pasadena, MD, joined the Air Force for a four year enlistment, then went to the University of Maryland where I got a BS in Computer Information Science and got a job as a Network Systems Engineer. There… that’s out of the way. So what does this have to do with gardening and plants? Not much. It’s the side jobs where I got my experience.

While going to school I held several jobs, some before I was a teenager. I spent several pre-teen and teen years mowing lawns during the summer, raking leaves in the fall, and shoveling snow in the winter. Sometimes I would help my parents or an employer (any neighbor who would hire me) plant trees and gardens. I had a garden of my own for many years and assisted my father with his planting endeavors.

As time went on I graduated to a “real job” in my sophomore year of high school and went to work for a local mom-and-pop shop called Joe’s Plants and Garden Center. There I worked at tending the nursery stock, selling products, assisting customers and every once in a while perform onsite landscaping work for clients.

Then I went on to the Air Force, College, and work. I did a little planting here and there, but not a whole lot. In 2001 I moved to a new house that had a lot of property (about a half acre). I got into landscaping and making the back yard look nice, put in a pond and garden and enjoyed it.

In 2012, my wife and I bought a 10-acre parcel of property in West Virginia. This property had 42 mature fruit trees on it. I was very excited about the thought of fresh fruit, but had no idea how to take care of them. So I started researching and the more I learned, the more I realized I didn’t know.

I now subscribe to a dozen magazines, watch YouTubes all the time, read books at night on many different subjects and listen to about 30 hours of podcasts every week while I drive (yes, I drive a lot).

Recently I have taken two permaculture design courses. I have submitted one project for grading and will submit the other after I pass the first. I have also taken a plant propagation course and I am signed up for a Soil Biology course and a Bee-keeping course. I have attended several seminars and tours on Permaculture and sustainable farming.

I have been on a working farm twice as a Wwopfer (Willing Worker on Permaculture Farm). During these stays we put in several thousand feet of swales and planted into them. I also did day-to-day farm activities with the animals (pigs, cows, horses, ducks, rabbits, chickens, and barn cats).

For the last two years I have been doing plant propagation, both hardwood and softwood, and this spring put in a propagation bed with intermittent mist system. I planted 48 different varieties of cuttings ranging from fruit trees and bushes to ornamental, just to experiment and see what grew. I had fairly decent results and plan on propagating and selling the plantings in 2016.

My ultimate goal is to farm, blog, and sell plants for a living when I retire from my “geek” job in a few years.

Please provide feedback to Todd McCree at Great Escape Farms by commenting below.