WWOOFing through Cali
We have officially proclaimed ourselves WWOOFer to all of California. We've been trying to find a place in the woods to live in for a few months now, and both our work schedules and also the restrictions of living on forest/park land has made it a somewhat ridiculous process. What we think we want is simple:
A wooded/forest area with relatively moist air/soil that has some undergrowth where we can park our enormous 150 lb tent at the edge of a meadow. The forest would have some deciduous and have some pine and be of relatively moderate elevation (2k-3k). There'd be a stream or bubbling brook or small lake or some such thing nearby where we could wash our face, collect water and fish without getting some gnarly bugs in our intestines. There'd be bears and snakes and mountain lions for sure, but they wouldn't bother us. We would live among them, tracking their steps and learning skills. We would cook our grains and forage for little greens and make fire and cordage and maybe sing or get naked. No one would bother us. We'd set out our solar panel each morning and work for a concentrated four hours on our "day" jobs before commencing our primitive skills routine. We'd eat the occasional fish and drink the occasional beer and go on as many hikes as we pleased. There would be rocks nearby to climb on and explore, different topographies where we could bring our foraging books and observe the flora and tons and tons of deadwood and sticks and fluff for fire.
I mean really, doesn't this sound like the situation in any woods you've ever camped in? Well, we've learned a bit about the West coast in our travels and a bit about the regulations of forests and parks. National Parks have pretty strict laws and many times no dispersed camping (the kind where you pick your own site). National Forests on the other hand are more lenient. Hell, they even let you cut some trees down and haul away the lumber. See, the former is meant for preservation, the latter for simply parcelling off land so it won't be overdeveloped. Like, OH, woops, there goes the rainforest. On either of these lands, the longest you can stay is 28 days; in a lot of cases that's the length of stay you have for the year.
On the west coast they have this dry, dry land and all these forest fires. Many times they're from butts being thrown out the window, sometimes lightning, and also campfires that people improperly put out. The proper way for dealing with camp fires, in case you were unawares, is to first select a site clear of brush (or clear it yourself). Then cut a circle in the dirt and pull back the humus, making sure there are no roots or such things. Build your ring and make your fire. Then when you leave, douse, stir, and feel the ground. Once you've done enough dousing and stirring and you feel no more heat you can safely leave your camp. You could go through gallons if you've had a big fire for a few days. Many people don't take the time. A fire can sometimes smolder underground for days, maybe even weeks, if improperly put out. And guess what - you're responsible for the taming and damage you cause.
During fire season, open ring fires are banned. Since building fires is one of the basic skills, we're forced to look elsewhere. First we scouted the deep woods of northern California. Deep as in I wouldn't dare go in there to search for you and haul you out. Problem is, it's harvest season for the #1 California cash crop: marijuana. In some of these remote idyllic spots, usually old lumber roads, there lurks members of the Mexican mafia and other growers, waiting with guns to pick you off if you find one of their grow spots.
So as of yesterday, when I finally got in touch with a good friend of my brother's, Justin, who's currently working for John Jeavons in Mendocino, he told me about WWOOF and I looked it right up in the Google. WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms and is a network of farms that take work/trade most of the year. It's intended as a way of educating us kids on how to farm and giving farmers the opportunity to get short-term help much needed when they're starting up, doing renovations, or during harvest.
It's quite remarkable what you learn when you have to formulate a letter about your intentions. Here's what we came up with:
My boyfriend Matt (31) and I (28) both grew up in New England around many family farms and gardens. My mother has had an organic raised-bed garden in the backyard along with fruit trees, berries, and many perennials for years. Fresh farm produce, quality meats and dairy are among the most important things to us and we've always wanted to learn more about sustainable farming.
Well, after both working in NYC for roughly 8 years, last fall Matt and I began traveling across the US, working remotely. We spent some time in Santa Fe and Portland, OR and just last week drove down to central California. We are in pursuit of returning to the forests and gardens of our childhood and learning to live sustainably off the land.
We are currently looking for a place where we can live in our tent in a forest/woodland setting, have potable water, and practice basic primitive skills (cooking, bowdrill, cordage, foraging, etc.) which we have learned over the last year. Except for clean water and a campsite, we have most of our needs covered. We discovered WWOOF through a friend who is also working on a farm in California.
Getting the opportunity to work simultaneously on a farm would be a true union of our homesteading pursuits. Admittedly, we have more knowledge and familiarity with sustainable agricultural practices than we do in "dirt time" practicing them. That's where your farm comes in! We know some about biodynamics, permaculture, composting, animal husbandry, alternative energy, green building and are eager to learn more. We're quick learners and enjoy a hard day's work.
By trade I'm a writer and photographer and Matt is a partner in a web company. I'm also a cook and currently working on my first cookbook, the focus being an approach to cooking whole foods using old world techniques (soaking grains, slow cooking/braising, canning and preserving, using small pieces of meat to flavor other foods) but that also takes advantage of the flavors and techniques of other cultures. I myself am half Indian (my dad is from Kerala in the south), and so some of the roots also stem from South Indian cooking.
Since we'll still be doing our web jobs and need times for skills, we can offer collectively 20-30 hours a week. We are friendly, no-fuss people and are good communicators. We are both handy, motivated and organized. We don't smoke or do drugs and don't have pets or children although we're happy to be around both! We have our own tent, implements for cooking, towels, blankets, etc. We have our own food, but would love to trade dairy, meat or produce with you. We have our own solar panel and internet. We are looking for a stay of 1-2 months starting now.
We'd expect from you a forested/wooded place to pitch our tent in relative quiet from other people and where we can practice primitive skills, work our respective projects, and read. We'd need to be able to collect deadwood and water from a potable source or a stream/creek/pond where we could take water and clean it.
Thanks for taking the time to learn about us. We hope to hear from you!
So there you have it. Cross your fingers we get an email back. Maybe we'll be WWOOFing it all over Cali.