Reflections from a WWOOFer

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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.

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Mui Mui and Lucky brush noses


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Scooby watches the snow fall from inside the warmth of the barn

 

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the morning sun glowing from behind the treeline


Christine explains how herbal tastes can convey their actions.

Christine explains how herbal tastes can convey their actions.


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the snow didn’t last long / Margaret (another WWOOFer) and Cora’s salutation to the sun


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Vincent poses for the camera


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Vincent and Lena wait to go on a walk


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Margaret and Lena


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the chickens scratch through the new straw


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Scooby proves she is civilized enough to get food for herself


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new product photos


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radish sprouts in a tabletop aquaponics system


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goodbye new friends, until next time

 

 Learn more about WWOOF.

 

 

 

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A dose of sunshine

We recently returned from visiting family in California for a week.  We had a wonderful time sharing in each others company, and it was fun for Baby LF to play outdoors in a different climate.

Here in Ohio, we still try to get outdoors every day even if it’s snowy and cold, but she really enjoyed this new type of outdoor play.  When temperatures were last warm here, she wasn’t quite old enough to enjoy sitting with a shovel and bucket.

She especially took to the ocean water and it had me wondering if she might be part mermaid.

Maybe some of you who are also in the thick of snow will enjoy seeing the sunlight and warmth.  (Which, funny enough, we often heard was “cold” to them – in the 60s at times – ha ha!).

IMG_0295 Continue reading

The Solstice Within & Without

“The winter solstice happens in nature around us.  But it also happens inside of us, in our souls. […]   In the dark place of our soul, we carry secret wishes, pains, frustrations, loneliness, fears, regrets, worries.  Darkness is not something to be afraid of.  Sometimes we go to the dark place of our soul, where we can find safety and comfort.  In the the dark place in our soul we can find rest and rejuvenation.  In the dark place of our soul we can find balance.  And when we have rested, and been comforted, and restored, we can return from the dark place in our soul to the world of light and new possibilities.”  – John Halstead
FullSizeRender-25I finished my holiday gift gathering last week.

This week, I rested.  Continue reading

Prevent Colds & Flu with DIY Elderberry Syrup

There are so many great ways to support your winter health with herbs.  Starting with simple dietary additions (like garlic!) and ending with soothing choices to make your cold or flu more tolerable and shorter, herbs are my go-to for prevention and treatment.

One of the tastiest herbal allies, however, is the elderberry.

This shrubby perennial plant has been used as medicine for centuries to support health and well-being.  I often see it growing naturally in moist soils, but it has also historically been planted at the edge of gardens as the protector of the garden.  Even its name, Elder, speaks to its wise and respected role in our collective medicine chest.

Elder’s lacy, delicate flowers, and bright purplish-black berries can both be used for their medicinal properties.  The flowers are diaphoretic meaning that they help to lower fevers by inducing sweating.  It is a common ingredient in many cold-care tea formulas.

The berries are rich in vitamins C & A, flavonoids, phenolic compounds, beta-carotene, iron, potassium, and phytosterols.  They are often used in prevention and treatment of colds because of their ability to boost the immune system.  As an antiviral, they are helpful in treating upper respiratory viruses including colds and flu, but have also been used in treatments for other viruses such as herpes and shingles.  Elderberry’s effectiveness is not just an “herban” legend, but its ability to reduce the duration of the flu and to fight viruses has been published in a number of scientific articles (links to abstracts in the resources below).

As a food, elderberry can be consumed as a jam, wine, or in pies, but it’s easiest to use as preventative medicine or for treating cold and flu when made into a tasty syrup.  Luckily, it’s really pretty easy to do, too!  I even made a handy graphic . . .

Elderberry syrup Continue reading

Immuni-Tea: Herbal Immune Support (that’s Delicious!)

Although we’re getting closer to the end of winter (I think…I can’t tell by looking out my windows today!), it’s still as good a time as any to talk about a tea that was formulated to help prevent the last of the winter (or beginning of spring) bugs that might still be going around.

This tea is very simple to make and it tastes DELICIOUS!

Previously, I’ve provided recipes for a honey and onion syrup to help with coughs, colds, and more, and I have also provided instructions for making an echinacea tincture.  The honey and onion syrup how-to actually remains my most popular post to this day.  Given that, I thought I’d also share this brew that has nipped this family’s winter bugs in the bud.

This tea is composed of three ingredients: echinacea (Echinacea spp.), pau d’arco (Tabebuia spp.), and an herb to flavor the blend (cinnamon, orange peel, licorice root, etc.). I like to use cinnamon — yum! Continue reading

Gratitude Sunday 3/2/14

Today I’m joining with Wooly Moss Roots to celebrate Gratitude Sunday.

G r a t i t u d e  *  S u n d a y

{Sunday’s heartfelt tradition. A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful. A list of gratitudes.} 

This week I am grateful for…

6 Ways to Stay Happy Until Spring

It’s the time of year when people start counting down the days until spring.  I begin hearing a lot of complaining about the cold, the snow, and winter in general.

I understand. It definitely will be nice to feel warmth, wear sandals, and get into the car without scraping off ice.

However, we’re doing ourselves a disservice to wish away the rest of this season.  Despite how it might feel, winter will end, and there are even ways to enjoy the rest of it.  Continue reading

The Day After the Solstice

I’m late in wishing you a Happy Solstice and  Festive Yule — one of the most promising Earth-based holidays of the year (the light returns!), but you’ll have to excuse me for I am often distracted by my favorite gift of the season. Continue reading

What is Balance?

As we move closer to the Spring Equinox and many struggle to feel content and whole in the last days of winter’s grasp, I would like to share a guest post by De’Anna L’am. Continue reading