Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Yesterday Facebook reminded me that May 5, 2013 was the two-year anniversary of the last day of our very first WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) gig.

Which means that basically, two years and two weeks ago, we showed up on a fairly random doorstep on Gabriola Island, British Columbia, and two strangers welcomed us into their home (or in this case, their RV) and started teaching us about farming... And we never turned back.

We'd done our research and exchanged emails with this first couple a few times so we thought it would be fine. Free food and lodging for 5-6 hours of work a day for a few weeks - what could go wrong?

It turned out to be AMAZING. We absolutely could not have asked for a better intro to WWOOFing and we are eternally grateful to our hosts Linda and Peter; their lovely sheep Thelma, Louisa, Maiden Marian and her fellow lambs; their adorable Kune Kunes Tane, Kyra and Moana (who have since had babies!); and all those beautiful chickens!

Big Roo finding worms for his girlfriend

ladykiller Tane

and let's not forget nature's lawnmowers

We learned so much from this first experience alone. We really had no idea what we were getting into with this whole WWOOF thing but after our time with Peter and Linda we were so excited about what was to come...

Canada's and Australia's WWOOF programs were well worth the annual membership cost, and the international work exchange web site HelpX helped us find some additional awesome learning opportunities around the world.  Two years and more than a dozen farms later, we have so many fond memories:

our intro to nut trees,
chicken tractors and bees

where these gentle, amazing bison roamed

where our love (/obsession) for goats was forged
Earth's Harvest -
inspiration beyond belief

Richard's vineyard in the Czech Republic
where we stomped grapes by foot 
and made the best plum jam on the planet

 John and Yuki's farm and homestay near Chiang Mai
where almost everything comes straight from the land

Chittering Acres, home to eco-friendly lessons galore and
the coolest RV we will probably ever stay in 

Harris Organic Wines where we learned grapevine tending
and wine bottling from master vintner Duncan

Humpty Doo Apiaries, where Tas taught us
beekeeping skills, honey extraction and knot-tying

Julia and Dylan's self-sustaining farm in Lorrina, Tasmania 
featuring some of our favorite chooks

permaculturist and landscape architect Stuart
who taught us so much about designing our own home

Earth Matters farmer Greg, our first Hawaiian WWOOF host
with absolutely the most - we hope to see you again soon!

and Kula Mana Farms 
featuring "Kona snow" and all the mac nuts you care to eat

Hours (and hours of hours) of amazing experiences and farm-fresh meals intermixed with lots (and lots and lots) of tedious weeding/planting/harvesting/mulching/fence-mending later, we are still so eternally grateful to all our wonderful hosts. We look forward to adding more experiences to our WWOOF and HelpX resumes soon. (Can anyone teach us to make cheese? Will work for food and lodging, just sayin'...)

In the meantime, we hope that our extended families, barnyard friends and gardens are prospering this spring, and we really look forward to seeing everyone again someday!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Hey, remember when we sold all of our stuff to travel around the world?

Just over two years ago we were in serious purge mode in prep for our big trip. Many of our things were sold at a "friends and family" yard sale, which basically paid for our gas fund across Canada. Our follow-up public yard sale probably yielded another couple hundred bucks; a few bigger-ticket items including my car sold on Craigslist. A lot of things were given away too, like those duffle bags of work clothing that went to an organization that helps low-income folks with job placement, and the last of our usable kitchen and houseware stuff that was picked up by a woman whose family had just moved into a new apartment after being down and out for many months. So all of that was pretty awesome.


the morning of the "friends and family" sale

the afternoon of the "public" yard sale


It's just stuff, yes. But honestly, while it was easy to let most of our stuff go, it was very odd to watch our meager possessions dwindle down to almost nothing. Add to that, living in total chaos for about three weeks and not being able to find certain things, or knowing if we even still had certain things, was pretty stressful. (And the "public" yard sale, where strangers came through our apartment and rummaged through our stuff? Let's just say some of those people are... um... kinda weird... and leave it at that.)

But everyone who came through the apartment kept asking why we were selling all of our stuff so we got to tell our story over and over, which turned the stress into fun, and we didn't even miss 99.9% of the stuff once it was gone.

we were left with this stuff
which turned out to be more than enough

Right now my parents are in the process of relocating after being in the same house for over 40 years. As you can probably imagine, it's been quite an endeavor. Prior to our arrival they downsized quite a bit using these guiding principals as they sorted through rooms. When we got into town we helped them offload a lot more and pack up the rest.

For the most part, they've been donating unwanted items to their local branch of the Salvation Army. It's an organization they trust and donating is simple - just drop off a carload or arrange for a pickup. That's great. But not all charitable organizations are trustworthy (check yours here) and sometimes cold hard cash is much more helpful than a tax write-off.

Besides, you don't know who gets your items when you donate to any of the various large charities nationwide - donating is a feel-good but faceless transaction. You also don't know whether your items actually end up being sold; the desk that the Salvation Army wouldn't take a month ago ended up going to another organization where it still sits in the parking lot, for example. And sometimes these organizations won't even take certain items (cribs, mattresses, painted furniture) for safety reasons.

So I'd like to offer five alternate suggestions for offloading your stuff. Yes, some of these methods take a little more patience and time than others. But seriously, if you've quit your job and you're about to travel the world, what else do you have to do right now? (And if you're still employed, hire us to offload your stuff!)

First up...

1. Community yard sales - personal garage sales are a HUGE time sink and often not worth the effort. Multi-family or community yard sales are just a fraction of the time sink and a small investment (usually $5-20 to rent a table) but the yield is higher, and they're also a lot of fun! We signed up for a small community yard sale in "the country" figuring that would be a better place to sell some of Mom's kitchenware and home decor. Turned out we were right.

one beautiful farm, one beautiful day,
one hundred dollars in sales

also a great chance to practice the stress-relieving coloring
that's all the rage for adults these days

We netted about $80 after gas and tolls, we cut our truck load by 60%, and we made some great new friends. Seeing as how we had nothing better to do that day, I'd call that a success!

I also found a local Facebook community yard sale group. I'm not sure how common these are, and the items posted ranged from crap to really nice things, but I'm good with any resource that lets me sell something while wearing my PJs.

went for $20 (it's twice as many years old)

handmade in the '60s -
soon to be a nursery dresser

turn your living room into Downton Abbey
for just $20

dates back to when furniture was made of actual wood
(take THAT, Ikea)

This Facebook yard sale page was great for the larger items we would never have carted to an actual yard sale, and because it was local there was a better chance of a bite (versus Craigslist where people from hundreds of miles away scan ads).

And then for things you can't sell at yard sales, there's always...

2. Freecycle - keeping good stuff out of landfills since 2003. It's so simple: sign up for your local yahoogroup, post an offer, read through responses and pick your recipient, and leave the stuff on your porch for pickup.

went to a woman recovering from hip surgery -
she will donate to the local library after reading

as seen in pictures from 1972 -
the recipient will paint and use to store dog leashes, gloves and other randomness

went to an antique fan -
Salvation Army wouldn't take it because it's painted

went to another antique fan -
craigslist wouldn't let me sell it because of the lock recall years ago
(even though the lock had been retrofitted for child safety)

went to a bell collector -
which I have not been since 1987

went to a psych hospital library -
apparently the patients love these

Lots of other randomness went to Freecyclers. We also offloaded several bags of leftover community yard sale items to a woman who organizes household items for military families at Andrews Air Force Base.

(You can post "wanted" ads on Freecycle too. I haven't had much luck with this yet because I've usually needed something pretty quickly. I'm looking forward to trying this when we settle down and have more time.)

A few notes on Freecycle... One, people are flaky and life happens. Just be patient. Two, the goal really is to reduce landfill (and recycling) waste and almost anything is fair game - I've offered everything from partially used Bath & Body Works hand soap to a bucket of clean plastic forks; people offer plants from their garden, appliances that don't work, jars of random nails from their shed... you name it. Three - Freecycle is the best place to find (and offload) free moving boxes.

And seriously, if someone on Freecycle won't take it, there's always the "free box" concept... Leave it outside and watch it disappear.

gone in 12 hours
(so was the defunct dishwasher we left at the curb)

Don't want to sell it or give it to a stranger? Try offering it to...

3. Friends and family - circulate pictures through emails and ask everyone to share widely. Who knows, your second cousin might want your old roll-top desk too.

Holly Hobby went to a WWOOF host's new daughter

most of my childhood bedroom set went to friends and family

happily donated to a good friend who loves this stuff

But wait, there's more.  If you have quirky stuff or period pieces, try...

4. Local theaters!  Call your local high school drama department or community theater manager. My old high school's thespians were happy to get a vintage Polaroid camera and sewing machine for use in upcoming productions. These places would probably take spare wood, used paintbrushes, and half-gallons of paint too - set construction ain't cheap and the arts ain't exactly rich these days.

you're welcome, ERHS...

... I hope these are useful someday

And finally, there's always...

5. Craigslist - really only worth it for bigger-ticket items, and when you have a lot of time before you need to get rid of something. The NordicTrack and the pine dining room set both sold for about 75% of the asking price (which was actually better than I expected), but it did take about a month before we found good buyers.

(and then I had to run outside)

(and then we had to eat on the folding table)

We still took loads to the Salvation Army on a regular basis and there's nothing wrong with that either. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Habitat for Humanity's ReStores for donations.  Sometimes, though, you just want to know that the person getting your item will really appreciate it. That's where the methods above come in.

Hope this is helpful for anyone going through a downsizing process this spring. Any other tips are welcome, leave a comment!

We now return you to your not-so-regularly scheduled travel blog posts...  Great Smoky Mountains National Park, here we come!