Madeleine Zimmermann / Allegheny College Env. Science + Studio Art / Class of 2018
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,or the birds in the sky,
and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.” [Job 12:7-8]
“Madeleine, have you ever heard of WWOOFing? Makenzie and I want to go to the Southwest over winter break and WWOOF.”
It was early September and I was sitting around a table with some friends at our student-run coffee shop. I was plunging my tea leaves in and out of my hot water. I had never heard of WWOOFing and I didn’t have nearly enough money to travel to the southwest over break but later that night I went back to my house and pulled up the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms site for the United States.
Three months later and I was packing up a suitcase with a ten days’ worth of clothes. Within those three months I had overcome a stripping case of pneumonia, the death of two of my friends, and the long list of struggles that came with my dad losing his job after 20 years. I was in much need of spiritual rejuvenation.
Driving to Chardon, Ohio was more than a cosmic coincidence. My grandmother lived in a town over and for the first time since her passing in 2011, I drove by the exit to Chesterland. Continuing on to Light Footsteps Farm, I passed the same Marc’s in Chardon she loved to go to every weekend that we visited. It was at that moment that I realized that this was a homecoming for my soul.
After over a week of Michael and Christine sharing their home with me I’ve been given some time to reflect on my experience. In that time I have cleared paths and planted trees. I have butted heads with societal ideologies (metaphorically) and hungry goats (literally). I have witnessed the healing power of the earth in the jars on Christine’s shelves and sun that warms new life. In that time Michael and Christine have shared their honest opinions and advice on everything broad to specific: from general medicine to geriatric health care, childbirth, and vaccinations. They have shown me what it means to be a pioneering family wrestling to spread knowledge and heal the earth while still being genuine. Christine has taught me how to find empowerment in my womanhood, how to establish internal affirmation even when societal norms plant doubts and fears, and how to fearlessly be a caretaker. Michael has taught me how to question reality while still being confident in who I am and my place within the environmental community, and how to be an expert learner above all else.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once defined a weed as “a plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” Spending time with a family who is building their lifestyle around permaculture, I’ve been able to find virtue in every living thing, and even do the same for the “weeds” in my life.
Mui Mui and Lucky brush noses
Scooby watches the snow fall from inside the warmth of the barn
the morning sun glowing from behind the treeline
Christine explains how herbal tastes can convey their actions.
the snow didn’t last long / Margaret (another WWOOFer) and Cora’s salutation to the sun
Vincent poses for the camera
Vincent and Lena wait to go on a walk
Margaret and Lena
the chickens scratch through the new straw
Scooby proves she is civilized enough to get food for herself
new product photos
radish sprouts in a tabletop aquaponics system
goodbye new friends, until next time
Learn more about WWOOF.