WWOOFING (sort of)

Really, all that free time was getting a bit ridiculous.  I was slowly becoming completely nocturnal, losing the ability to awaken before 4 pm and developing echolocation to find the best parties and club nights.  So, in an effort to not become a total bum (or an alcoholic), I’ve decided to start volunteering twice a month at Georgie City Farm, Edinburgh’s working farm located right in the middle of the city.  (And yes, twice a month should be sufficient to keep me out of trouble.)  The idea behind the farm is simple: people who live in cities deserve nice fresh food as well, and should be able to come and see where their food comes from.

I believe the proper term for it is “WWOOF” – to willingly work on an organic farm.  Although I’m not sure if Georgie Farm is technically considered organic, the animals seem happy and they are fed simple, uncomplicated feed.   No calf’s blood for these cows!  (I’m looking at you, America!)

I arrive at the farm at the ungodly hour of 8:30 am.  Being located in the middle of Edinburgh, they don’t have a large amount of space, but what they do have is well organised.  There are pigs, chickens, turkeys, cows, sheep, one horse and an owl, plus a garden.

I have to tell you right now that working on a farm is decidedly un-glamorous.  My fantasy of skipping through the fields gathering perfectly ripe peaches into my pristine white linen dress is shattered by the freezing cold and the well, excrement, which I learn it will be my duty to shovel up and deposit into a wheel barrow.  Also, I suspect that my fellow volunteers – a group of surly-faced youths, has just stepped off a chain gang.  Fortunately, they all turn out to be perfectly nice, their sombre dispositions having just been a by-product of waking up at the crack of dawn.

First, we feed the chickens.  The farm has tons of different varieties of chickens.  Each group is kept in a good-sized pen with about 4 or 5 female chickens (hens?) and one rooster.  There are also several unusually small chickens, which I learn are not, as I originally believed, babies, but Bantum chickens.  They have no meat on them, so I guess they are ornamental.  There are also larger chicken coops for the laying hens.  I learn that they each produce only about one egg per day in winter, and I can’t help but think sadly about all those factory farm chickens that are kept under artificial lights, producing far more eggs than they naturally would.  These chickens are lively and hilarious.  The roosters are constantly crowing, trying to outdo one another.

After the chickens are fed, it’s on to the bigger animals.  We clean out the pens of the horse, cows and pig.  The pig probably weighs more than I do, and she keeps propping herself up on her two hind legs to have a look around the outside of her stall.  She has two enormous front teeth – fangs, actually – so I avoid her.  Before I know it, the morning’s over.  I’m half frozen and I smell like you-know-what (which actually makes for a very awkward bus ride home) but it’s been a great morning.