We are parked on a private 80-acre ranch/farm in the Hill Country of Texas, roughly 2 hours west of San Antonio. We are trading labor worked on the farm for a full hookup site, laundry and some other side benefits (a bit of community, access to tools, etc).
Why Are You Doing That?
A number of different experiences, ideas and desires sort of merged together into a search of an extended farm stay.
In no particular order:
- A few months ago I was given a tour of a urban farm in Pittsburg, PA and it opened my eyes to the world of organic farming.
- We’ve been wanting to eat more fresh produce and learn to cook in healthier fashions.
- We wanted some gardening experience.
- We had a good experience camp-hosting last winter in Mesa, AZ so were open to a similar engagement this winter.
- My daughter expressed a desire to “learn how to ride a horse” - as opposed to just “taking horse rides”.
- My son wanted a way to earn some money and needed (we felt) some experience doing more physical labor.
- I wanted the chance to do some outdoor physical labor again.
Somewhere all of these merged together into the idea of finding a private farm to work on. Somewhere big enough we could park the RV long-term. Somewhere in the south where it typically stays above freezing all winter long.
How Did You Find the Farm?
It took some google-fu and asking in different discussion forums but eventually I ended up finding http://www.wwoofusa.org/. I paid the $30 membership and then used their site to locate a number of farms.
I put together a detailed description that I would use when contacting different farms. My goal there was to answer as many questions up-front as possible.
We are not the typical “wwoofers” so needed to be able to explain ourselves. Out of 10-12 farms I contacted we came up with 3 strong contenders who could get their minds around who we are as a family, what we were looking for, and could accommodate our RV needs.
I had phone or email conversations with these 3 farms. One we just didn’t get a good vibe about working together so ruled them out. Of the remaining two one had a better situation for the boy being able to work, so that was our preference. It also happened to be further south which worked to our advantage as we timed our arrival with a cold spell that further north turned ugly with ice and snow.
What Are You Doing There?
This farm doesn’t have a long history with WWOOFing which I think is a benefit as we get to have a voice in defining the arrangement.
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- Fed animals
- Cleaned possessions and construction supplies out of horse stalls
- Watered gardens
- Prepped another garden for tilling
- Organized PVC inventory
- Helped with backhoe flat tires
- Cleaned out an unused apartment
- Trimmed trees
We’re still finding the right groove of tasks and hours-spent but are feeling good so far that this arrangement will work out.
In addition to chores-for-our-site Miranda has been getting some informal horse riding and care lessons and Harrison has started doing for-pay construction helping.
How Long Are You Going to be There?
We committed to a two-week trial arrangement. If at the end of that we all like each other yet our goal is to spend a good couple months here.
What’s It Like?
We’re happy with how we’re been treated - the farm owners are involved in their church and we’ve just decided to attend with them as it’s easiest.
Having the local connection has been great - we’ve been well introduced and already have a Christmas party to attend (and have even been asked about singing in the choir).
We are parked in a remote part of the farm. There is a barn behind us but otherwise I can look out any window of the trailer and not see another structure or public road.
I can see other houses off in the distance in the hills but they must be mostly weekend or vacation homes because at night I don’t see their lights. It’s very private and quiet.
In the last week the only people down the road to our trailer have been the owner, us and the telephone guys getting our internet connection hooked up.
There are numerous deer, wild turkeys, jack-rabbits, and road-runners. The owner’s horses are allowed to run the property and two of them just galloped by as I write this. The neighbors have goats, chickens and donkeys that we hear.
The first days were/are a “settling-in” time. We had to use the owner’s internet while we sorted out DSL options and got that installation scheduled. We have figured out the wash machine and hung a alot of clothesline for drying.
Groceries are a challenge we need to overcome. We have a spare refrigerator to use but have to learn how to shop for longer periods than 4-5 days.
We took our first grocery shopping trip this weekend and with factoring in the holiday we wanted to stock up for at least 2 weeks. We drove 130 miles, were gone 7 hours, and spent $450. But the upside is that drive was the first we’d taken in a week.
Christmas is another puzzle this year. With shopping so far away, not really *needing* anything, and with everything this engagement is giving us I wasn’t feeling like buying stuff to give just to have stuff to open on the holiday.
At this point it looks like we’ll spend some time on Christmas identifying some charities to donate to as a way of blessing others in the name of Christ.