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Published: October 3rd 2008
As part of my trip to Turkey, I wanted to experience life on a farm, sampling the simple yet tasty Mediterranean cuisine that this region has to offer. What better way than to do it without having to pay a cent! Well, there is a catch. Through wwoof.org
the deal is that you get free board in exchange for volunteer work, equating to about 5 hours a day. I know working on a farm is a hard slog, but for me it was something new, different and exciting so I wasn't sure it was really going to feel like "work".
With numerous organic farms scattered throughout the Mediterranean, the culling process was hard, as there were so many different types of farms to choose from that all sounded fantastic. But Pastoral Vadi
caught my interest because of its location, nestled in between picturesque mountains but close to the sea. There is also a river that runs straight through the farm, although it is dry at the moment. In terms of the accommodation, the mud brick houses that have been built on the farm was a main attraction (I think my strange affinity towards them is due to their primitiveness), not to
mention the range of fruit and vegetables that the farm harvests. It is also one of the larger farms in the region, with the space to accommodate up to 45 guests, giving me the opportunity to meet other people.
So when the time came to leave Kabak, the fact that I had met someone in Kabak that had actually visited the farm and had said that it was beautiful, made it slightly easier for me to peel myself away from the paradise that I had found, to make my way journey to the farm. The owner Ahmet picked me up from Fetiye, and when I met him and his cute, beat up, 1970's Datsun like car I knew I was going to love it.
We arrived to the farm as the sun was setting behind the mountains, and it was time for dinner. We wasted no time and headed straight to the fantastically built, outdoor kitchen equipped with traditional wooden stoves and oven, where I could smell the pleasant aromas wafting towards me. I met Gucsal, a Turkish Masters student from Istanbul, who had been staying there for a few days already, and since our conversation started with
the season is just about to start which means i've missed out!
how good the food was, I was in heaven.
I started "work" the next morning and I'm not sure that I was really prepared for it! Weeding was first on the list and there was so much to do. As it's almost the end of summer, it means having to prepare the fields to plant winter vegetables. I approached the big task with a little bit too much gusto and not enough technical ability as I ended up covering myself from head to toe in dirt! I even flicked dirt into my eyes and mouth! These weeds weren't just any weeds though, they were massive, and had roots the length of my arms! Even though it was back breaking work, it was strangely therapeautic.
When I wasn't weeding, I spent my time picking vegetables and in the kitchen helping prepare meals. I have to admit though that I probably need a lesson in how to not step on vegetables whilst picking them from the field! I must have accidentally crushed quite a few peppers, eggplants and tomatoes along the way. haha.
It's so good that the food I was consuming was so fresh and often picked from
the fields only moments before. Obviously the farm doesn't grow every fruit and vegetable there is, so some of the produce that is consumed is purchased from other local organic growers. Sure beats Tesco fruit and veg that are imported from another continent! I tried to take advantage of spending time in the kitchen by learning more about Mediterranean cuisine and I can't wait to get home and try some of the new recipes I've acquired whilst I've been here.
Even though I had to work 5 hours a day, I definitely felt like I got the better end of the deal. Being able to spend my afternoons lazing around either in a hammock, or in the treehouse, or next to the pool and then turning up for meals and being able to eat as much as I want was great. Everytime I wandered around the farm, I seemed to find a new place to relax. Ahmet the owner of the farm is an Architect, and so the farm is beautifully landscaped. I also managed to make friends with some of the animals on the farm. They currently have a horse, chickens, ducks, sheep and 2 token dogs, one
of which was so cute. Each time I started work he would come and find me and started digging up dirt like he was trying to help!
I also got the opportunity to visit another farm in the area. Another Turkish guest Seyda, was keen to go swimming at Green Valley
so we both trekked there in the midday heat. As it's Ramadan at the moment, less (Muslim) people travel during this time, so we were the only ones there so it was so peaceful and tranquil. We went swimming in the river there and it was absolutely freezing!
Of course this adventure didn't go complete without another funny story. Seyda forgot her swimmers at the farm (something that I would normally do) and as we started walking the 6km back to Pastoral Vadi she realised. Neither of us wanted to walk back to fetch her swimmers as it was a fairly gruelling walk in the sun but I couldn't tell her I was going to wait there for her while she went to get them (well I tried initially but I think she wanted me to go with her). So she made the decision that
a great spot to laze
we would only go back to get her swimmers if a car happened to drive past that we could catch a ride with. Now we hadn't seen one car on this unpaved road on our way there - and it definitely was not any kind of main road so our chances were slim. But within a couple of minutes, a guy drove past (in another beat up car with lots of character), and similarly to my incident in Kabak, his car was full - complete with a kayak and all! Seyda was much more determined to not let this guy go though, so she sweet talked him and I jumped on top of the kayak in the backseat (I had my knees to my chest and I was squashed between the kayak and the car door) whilst Seyda climbed into the front seat, but with her head out the window because the width of the kayak was taking up most of the front passenger seat as well. The guy seemed nice enough so we both thought we were set with a lift back to Pastoral Vadi and felt some relief for not having to walk all the way back.
old school tea making
reminded me of billy tea
Funnily enough the guy that took us back to the farm was actually someone that lived on the farm and so he was coming back from a trip to get supplies for the farm. So when we kindly asked him if he would drive us back to Pastoral Vadi, he told us that his car was having problems and so it probably wasn't going to make it all the way back, which meant that we had to walk back up the steep hill to the main road and all the way back to Pastoral Vadi! One other car did happen to drive past us, although by that stage we were almost all the way back at the farm, but we still didn't refuse the offer of a lift for the last km...
Overall, my time at the farm was a fantastic experience and whilst I probably didn't learn as much or get to complete the variety of tasks I wanted to, I would definitely do something like this again. The Farm Manager actually owns another farm right near Kabak, so I am very tempted to head there next time!
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