A Taste of Farm Life

Trip Start Oct 26, 2006
Trip End Aug 2007

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

During our thousands of kilometers of cycling through mostly agricultural areas, we both developed a desire to have the experience of working on a farm. It was about half-way through Greece that we started the process of looking for a farm through an organization called WWOOF. An acronym for "World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms", WWOOF serves as a matchmaker for both the organic farmers looking for some help on their land, as well as people like us, "Wwoofers", looking to live a part of the simple life by putting in some hard work on a farm in exchange for food and a place to stay. Similar to SERVAS, the travelers (or wwoofers in this case) get access to a list of the farms, and a short description of them and the type of work that would be expected of you. You then pick one or several farms to write to and see if they are in need of help during the period you're interested. Based on your inquiry and whether or not the farmer thinks you are qualified/dependable/interesting enough, they tell you 'yes' or 'no'. In the end, rather than pick a country first, then the farm, we looked at all farms in Eastern Europe that wouldn't be far off our cycling route. Our search included key words like "animals" (for me) and "solar power" (for Seth). The only farm that met this criteria was Eva & Alan Durant's farm in southern Hungary in a little village called Kiskassa. Through several exchanges of emails, we agreed on the final 2 weeks in July. The only downside was that Eva had already had some holiday time planned in Romania with some friends, which meant we wouldn't get to enjoy a full 2 weeks of her Hungarian homecooking and getting to know her more. And unfortunately for Alan, that meant he had to put up with a lot of OUR cooking. In the end there were a few days of overlap when we did get to enjoy a few of Eva's fantastic meals.

Eva and Alan moved here to Kiskassa after living in England for most of the past 30 years (they also lived in Australia and another part of Hungary for a period of 4 - 5 years). Alan is British and Eva is Hungarian. After retiring from their jobs in Manchester, they decided to move away from the hustle and bustle of England and back to farm life in Hungary. Here in Kiskassa they have an organic "smallholding" with 2 milking goats (each with a toddler), a big, hairy Hungarian pig, 2 cute, plump Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, 9 egg-laying hens, 2 dogs and 2 cats. Aside from the animals, they grow everything you can imagine in the fields. Unfortunately this year has not been good for farming in Hungary, due to the lack of rain/snow in winter, spring and summer, so work in the fields was limited for us. Normally we would have been weeding a lot, but there was not much point since most of the crops were dead anyway.

So with no crops, what did we do on the farm? ........you may be asking. On a daily basis our morning routine included helping Alan with milking the goats (by 9am.....goats like routine). Actually, we were only able to milk Clover, as Clarey (Clover's mom) does not like being milked and therefore is a royal pain in the ass. Alan has figured out how to get her to cooperate, and as goats like routine and as little change as possible, Seth and I gave up early on trying to get her to cooperate with us. With that we had fresh goat milk for our coffee everyday! We then fed and watered the chickens and stole their eggs. The pigs got fed with a sloppy mixture of day old bread, goat's milk, grain and water. They were highly entertaining with their squeals of excitement when they could here us mixing up this slop in a bucket outside their pens. We picked apples and pears off the ground from a neighbor's trees to feed to the goats and pigs. We threw sticks again and again and again for Gus the dog. We filled the mudhole with more water so that the pigs could slop around and give themselves a good coating of mud to protect from the 100+ degree weather. Then throw more sticks for Gus.

On the crops side, primarily we took care of the greenhouse by watering it in the evenings. We also picked whatever had come ripe from the tomato, paprika and cucumber plants. One project we had was to weed the greenhouse and pick out all of the nasty vineweed, or what we would call "morning glory", that was taking over and strangling the plants. On occasion we would also go up to the upper field to water the young fruit trees and Eva's strawberry plants. In the evenings we watered the flowers and other plants in the front garden.

Other than the animals and crops, we helped Alan with renovating the old stables that he wants to turn into more of an entertaining room for when they have dinner parties and such. So we went to work (along with 18 or more Belgian boyscouts that stayed for 3 days) with filling holes in the wall with cement, then plaster, finishing off the floor with some bricks, and just major cleaning in general.

During our stay on the farm we also celebrated my 33rd birthday! It wasn't too eventful, but we did make a fantastic dinner with a new recipe we found on epicurious.com. We of course got a great bottle of local Hungarian wine to go with it. No cake, but I plan to make one once back in the States with all the right ingredients and cooking supplies.

We were also in Kiskassa during the nearly weeklong summer festival. There was a goulasch feed up in the soccer fields, a parade, and some very good entertainment from the local belly-dancers.

Once back in Seattle and getting settled, we have vowed to make our best effort to keep our lives as simple as possible. Our goal is to support local, organic farmers, and only buy meat that we know of its origins and that the animals were treated well. It is amazing how few ingredients it takes to make a great meal, as long as the ingredients are fresh and not processed. I would like to carry on my bread making that I started in La Grave, and grow as much as possible in our tiny little garden back in Seattle. I don't know if we'll ever be able to eat a store-bought tomato again! We very much enjoyed our stay in Kiskassa on Eva and Alan's farm and hope that we were able to provide some benefit to their farm. We hope to return there one day!
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