My first WWOOF Experience

If you’ve ever thought that spending time in nature sounded nice, have you checked out WWOOF?

WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and is exactly what the name says. It is an international network of organic farmers, who serve as hosts for eager travelers. It’s a chance to explore a different region/country/continent, practice some language, learn a skill, and develop amazing relationships you’d never expect.

I spent the last two weeks of my spring Eurotrip WWOOFing (yes, it’s a verb) in Basse-Normandy, France.

 

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A map of my route, for reference!

How did I choose a tiny town in Basse-Normandie? Simple. On the WWOOF website (you pay 20 Euro be a member for a year and then you have access to the catalogue of host farms in the country you choose) there is a list of filters including type of activity (IE permaculture, orchard, dairy, eco projects) and length of stay (one week, two weeks, 1 month). I had two weeks to farm; I was interested in orchards and eco projects. So I found La Fermette du Bellefontaine.

 

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A rainy day on La Fermette

La fermette means “little farm,” and that’s exactly what it was: a small scale organic farm owned and operated by a few friends. Each had his and her own plot of land and primary source of income: one is a vegetable gardener, one a seamstress, and my host, the master baker.

 

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For most French people, bread is life. It’s fresh, it’s inexpensive and it’s eaten three times a day. And why wouldn’t you eat it when the grain was grown and harvested three miles away?

As for eco projects, these included a composting toilet (of which I sadly did not take a picture, but I’ll leave that to you to research), an organic sewage system that uses water-loving plants to clean used water, and newspaper insulation. All created by my host out of his desire to “be as autonomous as possible.”

It’s amazing what you can learn when you least expect it, when you enter into a new situation with zero expectations. I left a lot more informed about steps I can take as an individual to reduce my impact and respect our planet. And I had the best cheese of my life.

 

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View of the town from a hilltop! Not pictured: the medieval fortress I climbed to take this photo.

 

 

 

 

Du Pain

There is nothing, I repeat, nothing, that smells better than freshly baked bread.

Nothing.

There is also nothing that tastes worse than the limp, plasticky loaves of double packaged grocery store bread that have been sitting on a shelf for at least thirty days.

I wonder, if one ate enough grocery shelf bread, could one live forever, like those loaves do?

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit unfair. I recognize the fact that most people lead far more important lives than I do and have far less time to lie in bed reading War and Peace bake fresh bread every day.

But, thanks to modern conveniences, I am here to tell you that having fresh home made bread need not be luxury, and it can be readily available.
Unless you live in the Mid-south area and would like me to bake your bread for you, which I would be more than happy to do!! Really. Ask me!

Here’s the secret…ready?

TRIPLE YOUR RECIPE.

There, I said it. Because creating sandwich bread dough (artisan loaves are a bit different, though still incredibly easy to prepare…more on that later) takes about thirty seconds, you can EASILY make three or four or more batches of dough AT ONCE, let them rise in separate bowls, bake in the oven, and then freeze the leftovers—or donate them to your lovely extended family, neighbors, strangers, et cetera.

Anadama Bread
Adapted from How To Cook Everything; Makes three small or one large sandwich loaf


Two cups bread flour
One cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup molasses
One cup goat’s milk, goat’s milk kefir, or buttermilk + 1/4 cup whole milk
Two tablespoons active yeast
One tablespoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dried apples
Two tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

In your food processor, combine the flours, cornmeal, yeast, and salt. Turn the machine on. While running, slowly add the molasses, oil, and yogurt or kefir. Process until the mixture turns into a ball. Add the remaining milk and let the dough process two or three more times until the milk is evenly distributed. Remove the lid and transfer to a large bowl that you’ve oiled with canola oil. Cover and let rise for two hours.

At this point, you can repeat the aforementioned steps up to three more times, creating four balls of dough. Let them each rise in a separate oiled bowl.

After two hours, punch down the dough(s) and fold in the dried apple pieces. Shape into a ball and let rest on a cutting board, covered, for fifteen minutes.

After fifteen minutes, use the heel of your hand to press the dough into a rectangle. Transfer each dough to a separate loaf pan. Cover and let rise for one hour.

If using one or two batches, heat your oven to 350 degrees. If using three or four, heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Bake for forty five minutes. The dough should be crusty but hollow-sounding when tested.

Your house will smell amazing. Invite guest over and serve them steaming hot slices of bread with butter, marmalade, goat cheese, and coffee and tea. If you have extra loaves, freeze them, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and foil and in a plastic bag, for up to six months. Store your fresh loaves in parchment paper, not plastic. They will mold that way!