You know you’ve arrived at a good place when you want to be part of everything around you. In the morning, when Ingo assigns chores, every task appeals to me. It’s a good feeling to know that no matter what I’m working on, it’ll be stimulating. The only disappointment is that I can’t be in several places at once. I’m glad Ellen and I don’t have any plans or commitments after this place – we can drink deep of the opportunity until we have our fill.

When we left on this trip, we agreed we wanted to be someplace where Ellen could do veterinary volunteer work, where I could taste and try cooking good local food, where Ellen could research medicinal herbs, where we were in a supportive place with a friendly local community, and where we could meet people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. This farm has all of those things. Everyone there, from the baby to the farmers to the volunteers, speaks at least two and usually three languages. Everybody has some skill to offer, which is enthusiastically shared with the others. We are thriving here.

Just the list of projects to work on sounds fun – building a cob oven, constructing a greenhouse and nursery for newborn chicks, sheering the sheep, seeding logs with mushrooms, making a snail farm to raise escargot, clearing a field to plant blackberries and coffee, lining a pond with concrete to hold water to raise tilapia, and designing and building a barbecue area. We are also welcome to think of other projects and enlist other people to work on them. Ellen, for example, blamed the goat’s abscessed foot on the mud in the goat yard, so she dug trenches around the yard to drain the water.

While Ellen is working on mostly animal projects, I’ve really enjoyed working in the kitchen. I adore cooking for large groups, and nobody seems to mind if I take charge of organizing dinner every night. Sometimes I think I’ll let somebody else have a chance to manage the kitchen, but when nobody has stepped up to the plate at five o’clock, and it’s raining and cold, and most of the volunteers are still out working and will want something warm in their belly when chores are over, I end up cooking anyway. I’ve had the chance to try out a new fruit, babaco, which is in the papaya family, looks like an overgrown starfruit, and is very sour. It makes a delicious cake, by the way.

Overall, though, the best part of the farm is the atmosphere. All the volunteers are around our age, in their late twenties mostly. They all know how to work hard, and enjoy doing so. The family, too, are down-to-earth and no-nonsense, with big dreams and the organizational skills to bring their ideas to fruition. Unexpected events and changes of plan are taken in stride by all of us, and we have enough people to solve any problem. Ingo, the farmer, goes over lists of activities and projects every morning at breakfast, and again at dinner, matching skills and interests with tasks on his lists, but as the day progresses, we all feel free to join somebody else’s crew if they look like they need assistance, or reach out for a helping hand on our own project if that’s what’s required. Ingo refuses to call the atmosphere a community – that’s too “hippy” for him – but it’s all the community I need. I think we’ll stay awhile.

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