Friday, 21 July 2017

Dipping a Toe into 'HelpX' Waters

Hollyhock
Another slow-news week and this time I really will keep it short. In the last post, I warned the reader that I'd not much to say and then went on a medium sized epic about concrete and what not. Not this time, I'm afraid - genuinely just plodding along the old familiar paths but about to embark on a new adventure, namely hosting some volunteer labour for the price of bed and board. Yes. A big change - instead of adding to the amount of man-hours we NEED in a day, we are adding to those available. Step forward the on-line service, Help-X.

From their own website (http://www.helpx.net/) "HelpX is an on line listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farm-stays, home-stays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation."

Black Marans hen decides to take a turn at this broody-ing.
So on one side of this arrangement are loads of places like ours with too much to do in the day and weeds taking over the veg' gardens, buildings in need of repair or, at the right time of year, lambing, sheep shearing or any amount of other livestock tasks PLUS spare room(s) and a willingness to take in complete strangers and feed and accommodate them.

Might be man-junk and old paint tins but at least it's TIDY.
On the other side, thankfully, are an army of people whose idea of the perfect holiday or the best form of research into whether they'd like to do this job for real. They just have to get themselves to you and then do, the general rule says, around 25 hours work for you per week. The rest of the week is theirs to go touristing, shopping or what ever they fancy. They live with you as family.

The 'bird house' still needs white lime at the far end in the
goosey bit. You can just see the broody bird holding the job up.
Both sides register their existence and advertise their wares on the Help-X website, with a view to trying to attract interest from the other. We, the 'hosts' have to make our place sound and look enjoyable enough to hook some volunteers and they have to apply to us and convince us they are the kind of volunteers we'd love to have around.

Amusingly, on the website, each side can see the other's previous 14 transactions/emails so while this negotiation is going on you can tell that your applicants are also applying to many other places. It is a bit like an E-Bay auction and we 'lost' our first 2 sets of applicants and began to wonder whether these people were looking with half an eye to the 'down-time' and hitting the night life and clubs and pubs of an anticipated nearby city. Perhaps, out here in the wilderness we'd never attract anyone.

The Hubbard meat-birds half way there at 45 days
But, No! No need for pessimism. Earlier this week we got a possible 'bite' from a couple of lads from Spain. These guys had a quick conversation with Liz on the website e-mail system and have now gone as far as booking flights and asking for directions to us from the airport. I do not want to tempt fate and say too much too soon so I will stop here and promise more on this when it is really happening.

We like a decent sized "new" potato on this farm. These are just
volunteers from the compost heap.
We are very excited and planning how we will feed them and what we will put them to work on and so on. We want them to be very happy with us and very happy here as well as wanting to be delighted with them. It is our first little dip into these murky waters, though we know of several friends who have used these websites before and have a long and happy history of using the volunteers.

Messing with the sour dough starter. Every now and then you
must split it and 'discard' half. A friend suggested make a 'gallette'
pancake/crumpet to eat with butter and honey.
Some are 'Help-X' but others use the stricter ORGANIC farming service "WWOOF" (website wwoof.net - the acronym is for the Worldwide Federation of Organic blah blah Organisations but is not in English). WWOOF volunteers are known as 'Wwoofers' but we are not sufficiently organic to qualify. Our new friend Anne, working with my Sligo-based Texel sheep owning chums, is a Help-X volunteer. She is in the middle of a 6 week stint there, she is delighted with how it is going and I know that Colin and Alayne are over the moon with her.

There now! You don't get a dog's ear-'ole on
every blog, do you? Towser is now all clean
and a healthy pink. More comfortable too. 
More on this later. Oh, and if you're into this post so quick that you saw it without pictures, an apology. The camera battery went flat as I was trying to download pictures (actually at the exact second that having selected the pics I wanted and chosen the destination folder and reached for the 'Paste' button). You will just have to be patient, like me, while I charge the battery and can then get the thing to boot up again.

Purple loose-strife
Until next time, then.

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