Have you ever wanted to break out of your element and try something different and exciting? Well that is exactly what Angel, the girls and I had in store for us when we decided to become WWOOF volunteers for a week. For those of you who are unfamiliar with WWOOF, it is an acronym for WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms, the specifics of the the opportunity are discussed directly between the host and the volunteer. Usually in exchange for a few hours of work (manual labor) per day, they provide you with room and board for a specific period of time. This organization operates all over the world with specific countries or regions having their own sites, which provide you with a list of hosts in that particular country or region. Being that we are living in Bulgaria, we became members of WWOOF Bulgaria, for a small fee. Each country has different membership fees or some are free.
Once we became members, Angel and I read through all the host profiles to find people who could offer us the experiences we were looking for and who we think we would be compatible with. We were looking to learn about wine and winemaking, organically if possible. Angel and I are rather moderate and easy going. Some of the hosts offered a more rustic and natural experience, but we wanted flushing toilet and shower access, plus people who weren’t living a strict lifestyle, like no alcohol etc… (after a hard days work I need a cold beer) We were also looking for people with children, so our girls wouldn’t be bored. We finally found the perfect hosts, so we contacted them and hoped they would like us too. We had exchanged some e-mails and few phone calls and we were set.
Our hosts would be Jo, an amazing artist and printmaker and Grahaem a talented winemaker, plus their two daughters. Both are passionate about food, wine and clean living. In Bulgaria, they are working on becoming international garlic mavens.
In the car driving to Bulgaria’s Valley of the Roses, near Kazanlak, is where you can find Dabovo and I was a little nervous about spending 10 days with virtual strangers. When we arrived, the girls all got along well right off the bat, but I had little doubt about how they would spend the week.
The girls being silly at the river.
Our first task was to set up our abode for the next 10 nights, which was something I was really looking forward to… sleeping in a tent! Seriously, I wanted to unplug from life under the stars, which were gorgeous by the way.
Tent sweet tent!
The work that Angel and I did was divide along sexual boundaries, the men did the heavy lifting and we did the women’s work, which I didn’t mind because it was hot as hell and I have no idea how to put a roof on a barn, but peeling garlic that was a tedious task, which turned into a slight compulsion during our stay.
The guys up on the roof
Jo and Grahaem, had planted 5 decacres of garlic that need to be sorted, broken down and peeled. I spent most of my time peeling loose cloves of garlic. I couldn’t keep my hands off the stuff. I even developed garlic calluses. What are those you ask? Well, the first few days the garlic juice burned the skin underneath my nails particularly my thumb nail, which was my primary peeling tool. By the third day a protective barrier had formed under my nail and it hurt no more. I am not a masochist, but there was something very zen about peeling the garlic. Once I establish a rhythm the hour zoomed by. The fruits of my labor would eventually be smoked or if it was substandard, pureed to make an organic anti-fungal garden solution.
Jo sorting garlic.
Me sitting in a chair peeling garlic… you can see my feet!
Loose garlic for peeling.
Early on the boys decided to switch their focus from the barn roof to building a cold smoker for the garlic. Jo found some interesting instructions on-line and the boys managed to recycle an old wardrobe for the body of the smoker… it was quite stylish! The process was long and a bit complicated as they were trying to be cost effective with the build, but the results were fantastic.
Grahaem hard at work.
The left side of the wardrobe is for smoking the garlic, the right side could be used to hand or dry garlic, cheese, meats… endless possibilities!
The burning basket for wood chips.
The 22lb (10kg) of garlic that I peeled. You don’t realize how much that really is.
A tower of garlic ready to be smoked!
Stoking the flames with Angel’s favorite fire tool… the air pump.
Both Angel and I are really glad that we gave the WWOOF-ing experience a try. We made some great new friends and learned some new things about garlic, construction and permaship. Our real interest was learning about winemaking, which we did during our evening conversations over some fantastic food and wine. We now know that our next adventure is going to be working a wine harvest in California next year from August to December. We tried to find a position this year, but our time frame wasn’t flexible enough to accommodate the vineyards.
If you are interested in garlic, you can find them at Tears of Orpheus, your one stop shop for all you organic garlic needs, plus a gorgeous smoked garlic to really add a kick to any meal. You can shop online and view their products here. If you become a “Liker” on their Facebook page, you get a discount!