First volunteering - Yodfat

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Middle East » Israel » North District » Yodfat
April 21st 2009
Published: October 6th 2009
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Spring blossomSpring blossomSpring blossom

On the way to Yodfat we passed through the Menasheh region to see these lovely flower fields
Liz goes volunteering and Ram stays at home to work the garden

I left Haifa on 12th April to head for the hills and Yodfat where I had agreed to go help out on a goat farm -חלב עם הרוח (Chalav Im HaRuach - milk with the wind) - for a week. I had previously gone to the farm to talk to the owners about helping, and have to say, at the time they did not seem to be that friendly, but you know me, I always like a challenge so thought I would go along anyway. If I didn’t like it, there was nothing stopping me from leaving.

So I arrived, down a very pot holed bumpy track, at the farm on the Sunday afternoon to find Dalia the owner was away until Monday afternoon. The rest of the family were there along with Brent, the American volunteer, who was given the job of showing me round and giving me details on how to look after the baby goats and the puppies, this was now to be my twice daily job. The rest of the time I was to help wherever needed, this was mainly in the garden.
Chalav Im HaRuachChalav Im HaRuachChalav Im HaRuach

This is a life Amnon and Dalia started sixteen years ago

There was not a free bed for me on the first night so I had to sleep on the floor in the dining room (sheer luxury to what was to come). So I made myself at home, and hovered around the living/kitchen area until it was time for supper. This turned out to be a fairly major event as there were twelve of us for supper, which I thought was busy, but compared to the rest of the week, it was a quiet night.

The morning coffee gong goes at around 6am, so the start of the day is coffee or very sweet tea and a biscuit. I then started my day with the baby goats, this involved mixing their milk feed, feeding them, herding them out into their yard area, making sure they had water and giving them hard feed and garden weeds for the day. I then gave the puppies food and water, washed the bottles, feeders and buckets before heading off into the garden. The first couple of days I spend clearing a seating area (Dalia referred to it as the restaurant), of weeds and stones, weeding three flowerbeds, sifting the soil and adding compost
My RoomMy RoomMy Room

I have to tell you about my room....this was a hut on top of the goat pens, beautiful views, it had a straw roof was very basic, with lots of gaps in the wooden panels
ready for planting. The rest of the week my garden duties included even more weeding, watering the vegetable garden, helping pot up seedlings, and clearing the main pathway up to two of the outside dining areas. I then made mosaic edges of about 18 inches each side of the path using broken crockery, it all looked pretty neat by the time I had finished.

The breakfast gong goes at about 10am, and this is a feast of fresh bread, home produced goat yoghurts and cheeses, lovely fresh salads, fruit and nut compote, humus and various other delicious items all conjured up by Dalia, who turned out to be quite a chef.

Part of the farm income (I would say a fairly large part) comes from Dalia running a restaurant, quite a unique one, with little seating areas in the garden under carob trees, or in areas shaded with bamboo and straw rooves, and on the veranda's overlooking the valley. It is all a bit like being at a Bedouin feast, as the seating areas are all covered with an array of wonderful hand woven rugs, and you sit cross legged on the floor on thin cushions.

Footpath in the makingFootpath in the makingFootpath in the making

After breakfast I just continued pottering about in the garden weeding and clearing
breakfast I just continued pottering about in the garden weeding and clearing, until the gong goes a couple of hours later for a snack, normally a lovely juicy melon. After this more gardening until 5ish when I head up to the goats again to feed and bed them down for the night. I then normally finished the working day at about 6.30ish, and headed to my new room for an hour or so before supper.

Supper was always a feast of the most amazing food, all fresh produce, wonderful salads, rice dishes, home reared meat, and always a minimum of 12 people around the huge tin plate dinner table, and up to I think the most whilst I was there was twenty two of us. This is how the week went on, and reading it now it sounds pretty boring, but I have to say it was anything but. The farm is buzzing all day long and half the night with Tel Aviv guests heading to the 'country' for lunch or with the never ending trail of friends and locals who just pop in to visit Dalia, Amnon and their family. Most of their friends were really interesting people,
The restaurantThe restaurantThe restaurant

Quite a unique one, with little seating areas in the garden under carob trees, or in areas shaded with bamboo and straw rooves
writers, artists, poets, local Bedouins and the like.
I mention in my subject box Snakes and Scorpions. Well this is where I had face to face encounters with both, firstly the snake. This was a fairly small, brown thing that looked pretty harmless, so I didn't bother too much about it. However, had I known how dangerous it was I don't think for one moment I would have treated it so casually. As for the scorpion...well luckily for me (and quite unlike me) I had been taking care whilst lugging and picking up rocks, and I picked up one particular rock to find this lovely jet black scorpion looking a bit angry with tail up…....the rock was VERY quickly dropped back down. I went in search of someone to tell, to have Dalia tell me I should catch it and remove the sting....luckily for me by the time we went back to the rock, it had disappeared, thank goodness.

I have to tell you about my room........this was a hut on top of the goat pens, beautiful views, it had a straw roof was very basic, with lots of gaps in the wooden panels so at night a howling
Dalia - farm ownerDalia - farm ownerDalia - farm owner

I made friends with a quite remarkable woman, Dalia.
gale blew through the room. The straw from both the ceiling and the goats down below seemed to cover the floor most of the time, the roof leaked when it rained, which I found out the hard way on about night three, but by this time I was so tired I couldn't even get up to move myself from beneath the drips, and I am sure one night I spied a tarantula (it was quite big, with hairy body and stripy legs). After talking to Leo, (another volunteer, from London, but he had been in Israel for just over two years in a monastery (silent order!) practising to become a monk) he confirmed that it most probably was!

I think when I turned up at the farm asking about doing some volunteering there was great suspicion as to why an ‘oldie’ like myself would want to go and do hard graft on the farm. I think they were even a little doubtful that I would manage to be up and about and do the jobs required. By the middle of the week, the suspicion had turned, I felt, to respect, it seemed that people were coming over to admire what I had been doing, and by day five Dalia was asking me to stay, which I took as a great compliment.......firstly because the Israeli's don't ever seem to give any praise or thanks, secondly because I don't think she is the type of woman who would ask many people to stay on. I returned the respect. This is an amazing family, Dalia, Amnon, Amnon's son Pnoel and his wife Heilla, their young son. Amnon's daughter Alumma and her husband Jacob, and their young daughter, all living this very hard life, all living in an array of Tepee's, Yurts or huts, living the organic life, all seemingly happy, with few mod cons.

This is a life Amnon and Dalia started sixteen years before. When they took over the piece of land they farm there was nothing there, everything that is there now has been built by them, which is fairly hard to do when you have to milk the goats twice a day, by hand, run a restaurant, make wine, make cheese and yoghurt, smoke the cheeses, grow the vegetables, weed the vines etc etc etc.

Amnon is up at 4AM every day to go into the dairy they have in the town of Yodfat, to make the cheeses. They have obviously made quite a name for themselves as they have had government officials, celebs, and celebrity chefs all finding their way to Dalia's lunch table. This is a life that I loved for a week, but I have to be honest and say, there is no way I could keep up the pace for much more than a couple of weeks. As it was, each night I was in bed by tenish and out like a light until 6am (that is if the bloody dogs weren't howling outside my door, but that's another story).

Anyway, the day come for me to leave quicker than I could ever have imagined, and I was despatched with cheeses, hugs and requests that I come back soon for supper or a visit.

Reflecting now, I had a great time. Hard work, I experienced the birth of goats, the death of one and a puppy, very sad, I met some great people, some have invited me to go visit them in their homes dotted around Israel, and made friends with a quite remarkable woman, Dalia.

I am sure there is so much more I could waffle on about. Also so much I have left out that you will no doubt hear about at some later date. But seeing how much I have already written, I don't want to bore you even more than I already have, and you have the next instalment to look forward to or to delete upon receipt. I am not sure if this will be Jerusalem, helping doing some building works, it may be Jordan or the Negev helping in trekking centres, no doubt you will find out soon enough.


29th March 2010

Nice journal Liz
Hi Liz! This is Leo from the farm. I hope that you and Ram are well. Can you include a link to the farm's website on this page of your blog? Just search for 'goats with the wind' on Google and you'll find it. Thanks for putting me up in Haifa, Leo +

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