Turns out, Pippi Longstocking inspires the strangest people. For January, I’ve been staying and helping out in a small farm in Ontario, Canada that looks like Pippi was at the very least involved with the building of it. The owner and his tenants could definitely be the “Where Are They Now?” of the stories from Astrid Lindgren.
It isn’t what I expected, to say the least. But honestly, even with the ad on HelpX, the mailing back and forth, and the mantra of “Don’t expect anything and you can’t be unpleasantly surprised,” I didn’t know what to expect. The little volunteering experience I have is in the branch I work in. My little farm experience doesn’t go beyond driving past them, or visiting them because they have petting zoos (baby goats are so cute).
So how did I end up here? Well, after my absolute USA debacle, I needed a grand gesture. A massive kick to start my life again; the change that would make me feel I wasn’t in the waiting room any more. After some quick research it turned out that I could quite easily get a working permit in Canada, and after three months and $200 Canadian spent, I got one and went for it. Do you need a working permit for volunteering work? No, of course you don’t. This is a story in steps.
First, my boyfriend and I had a holidays vacation in Toronto. Cool town, but not very green and nature-y. And being by myself after those two weeks, I wasn’t looking forward to travelling by myself to see beautiful Canada. Well, what’s close to nature and yet reminiscent of civilisation? An organic farm! Or, that’s close to how my brain went. If I was going to try New Things, why not farm life?
Lords, did that take some adjusting. It’s not just the different surroundings and the different work, you move in with a stranger you’re going to help out, but not in an employed way. This guy is big on creativity, so wanted Ideas from me on a daily basis and motivated to view the place as my own, because that way it would be much easier to see what still needed to be done. What needed to be done every day? Dinner. It was about the first thing he told me, food is the helper’s responsibility. And there my spoilt bum went: from having first a father, and then a boyfriend, pretty much taking all cooking responsibility to being the responsible one. Somehow along the way I turned into a cooking and baking monster, but that’s another story.
What else you do on a farm in winter? Shovel snow, gather wood, gather more wood, keep the wood stove going, sew things, mend things, clean things, bake bread, repeat. And even in the most menial, the most I’m An Educated Woman, What Is This? jobs, I learnt that satisfaction can be found. Yes, I spent two hours on that bathroom but good lord can’t you see how good it looks?
In the way, I learnt that I’m not just a slightly spoiled, but not pampered, city girl who has the brain and the smarts to find ways to be useful and add to the bigger picture (also an amazing feeling). That the rooster accepted me and that the horses talk back when I talk to them are just the cherries on the whipped cream.
Still, it’s not for everyone and I don’t know if I would recommend it. It’s a strange relationship, volunteer and not-employer. It’s roommates but more; employee and employer, but less. There’s people in your life you may have never met (because you’re not into farming, into meditation, into dumpster diving). But for me, right now, I think it was real good. If I can survive a farm, why would I be unable to survive finding a place and job in a new city? Heck, at least they’ve got central heating and a proper internet connection!