Sunday, October 19, 2014

Eco-friendly WWOOFing at Chittering Acres.

When you know, you know. Pretty much right away, Patrick and I knew. The same was true for our first Australian WWOOF hosts, Andrew and Gina.

carved into the steps of the mud brick studio - 
aren't they adorable? 

Over the past few years Andrew and Gina have made a very happy home on Andrew's beautiful family farm in the Chittering Valley, and they are now eager to share their space with like-minded folks. A big part of this is their mud brick art studio currently in progress, which you can read about here.

But their vision is about so much more than that.

It's about their recycled pallet WWOOFer camp that will double as eco-friendly housing for folks who take classes at the art studio, or who attend a music festival at the farm, or who visit again a few years after their WWOOF gig to see how much the farm has changed (hint, hint).  We spent many a morning pulling pallets apart and removing nails, and Patrick helped build lumber shelves to neatly store all the wood.

collect free pallets 

use Andrew's homemade lever to pry them apart,
then pull out the nails 

turn the pallets into this lumber yard 

and stack it all here 

(We hear that the WWOOFer camp's communal kitchen/bathroom facilities - made from an old water tank, of course - are already underway and now that the wood is sorted and stored, we're sure that the camp will be finished in no time.)

It's about their organic vegetable garden and orange orchard that they generously share with their guests. 

best with peanut butter on sandwiches! 
don't forget the capsicum! 

best for mashed "potatoes" and ridiculous photo ops!

coming soon - bok choi! 
best for eating! 

best for homemade marmalade!

It's about the eco-stay that they've envisioned, where you will be able to watch the sheep meander across your lawn in the morning, take an art class at the studio in the afternoon, and enjoy a glass of wine with the beautiful sunset or moonrise in the evenings.

we'd pay for this view - wouldn't you? 

we'd pay for this view too 

It's about their creativity, in general and especially as it applies to reuse. Farmers are notorious for keeping things FOR.EV.ER. (And for good reason - we've seen many situations where a farmer pulled wire from 1978 out of their tool shed to magically fix a fence.) Gina brought a steampunk and sometimes kitschy eye to Andrew's eco-friendly hand-built farmhouse and surroundings, and the two approaches have melded spectacularly. In addition to the pallet bungalows and mud brick art studio, Andrew and Gina's creativity includes...

... repurposing caravans into guest housing 
(the next one will be tiki themed) 

... welding bits of metal into a beautiful, functional fence 
(panels slide out for easy rearranging 
and occasionally moving ginormous compost bins into the garden) 

... transforming old farm machinery into utensil holders 

... creating easy-to-recognize hats 
when picking up WWOOFers at the train station 

... turning used dishes into flower aht 

And so much more.

Most importantly, it's about their positive energy. Andrew and Gina welcomed us with open arms. They appreciated our efforts.  They were hilarious - the 12-14 hours we spent with them each day flew by. They listened to our stories and our ideas and shared theirs in return. They asked us what we wanted to learn and made sure we got the opportunity to learn it. They respected our choice to participate (or not) in their "pasture to plate" approach with a few of their sheep, and they treated the sheep incredibly humanely during this activity. Their approach to "home" and life in general was really an inspiration and they have given us countless ideas for our next life back in Oregon.

Andrew's mom Ann lives about a half kilometer away on the property and she epitomized the same positive attitude - sharing stories and meals while we helped her bottle feed her rescued joeys, prune her hydroponic tomatoes, shear the sheep... and set things on fire. (What IS IT with farmers and their fires?) We hope we have her spirit when we are 78.


30 minutes of raking aisles 
more than makes up for no weeding 

the wrangling is the hardest part 

after 30 years of shaving, Patrick's a natural 

WWOOFer Shannon: "um... LITTLE HELP HERE??" 

The Universe speaks in mysterious ways, and it's always right - you just have to be willing to listen. Our intro to Oz was initially supposed to be a 5-day camping trip with a couchsurfer host and his friends which sounded awesome.  But like many of our couchsurfing attempts over the past 18 months, this fell through about a week before our flight.

We spent our last few days in Nepal frantically searching for a WWOOF opportunity near our pre-arranged mid-October WWOOF gig in the Swan Valley just outside of Perth. Gina replied to our email inquiry the same day, saying "as it happens we do have a space, right in the dates you have asked for. Great eh?"

"Great eh?" has officially become the understatement of the year.

Andrew, Gina, Patrick and Jen 

Jen, Ann and Patrick 

good ol' Patch 

Thank you Andrew, Gina and Ann! Good luck with your future projects and we'll see you again someday, somewhere in the world!


  1. in related news, i drove by an alpaca farm on Central Avenue the other day on my way to Edgewater / =