As I reflect on my first week at Songaia, it’s worth noting that I’ve only really gotten my hands in the garden once. There are several reasons for this, and thankfully it’s not typical of a week here. I also appreciate the mental gestation period it has afforded me. In this time I have adapted to and begun to process my first WWOOF experience, my first glimpse into permaculture, even my first time on the west coast.
My first day of work was more a community work-day/garden day-off, and I spent it helping prepare a supply shed for Journeys, a rite of passage organization that shares Songaia’s property. That evening I joined in a Circle, what I understand as a monthly gathering open to all that serves as an outlet for expressing concerns, visions, or anything to guide and maintain the collective intent of the community. The underlying focus of this Circle was on facilitating an open dialogue between Songaia and Journeys.
By Sunday I was ready to get into the garden. Having little experience gardening and none in permaculture, I was pretty lost on the majority of terms and ideas being tossed around, and knew I just needed a little immersion. In the morning we formed a small bed in the west food-forest using chop-and-drop, a self-explanatory method of preparing a spot for a bed that takes a fraction of the time of pulling, digging or tilling. We then put down cardboard and a base layer of composted horse manure and planted tomatoes, creating individual mounds at the base of each. When the tomatoes were in I went to help Brian and Brent mulch a brush pile, before returning to the garden to plant pumpkins, watermelons, and cantaloupes. I was familiarized with the irrigation system in the garden, which ideally delivers water directly to each plant (or two) in its own mound.
The first factor in all the free time I’ve had was arriving late Tuesday night, the day before the interns’ weekly three days off. By my third day here I had been oriented, recovered from my jetlag, toured the waterfront in Seattle, and seen views of the Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier from the trails at Discovery Park. A big factor in where I decided to WWOOF was my desire to see the Pacific Northwest, and the people here at Songaia have been super helpful by offering rides and recommending points of interest.
The most enriching experience for me thus far has been the Farm-Tour. Along with hosts and WWOOFers from four other farms in the area, we spent the day driving to each one for tours and the spreading of ideas. Some of the most functionally impressive and aesthetically pleasing innovations were the thick, terraced, raised-beds along the hills at the Ananda farm. They were formed by woven, fence-like walls of sticks and arranged so as to create leaf-like, vienate patterns in the paths between them.
The day ended with food cooked over a fire and shared by the whole group at Cama Beach.
The tours and interactions throughout the day left me inspired and wanting to get back into the garden. We talked and watched the sunset as my first week passed. While at first I had been a little intimidated by the laissez-faire approach that the garden crew took to directing my work, I came to see that it was rooted not in expectations beyond my capability, but in an openness to creativity and what I’d learned is a basic principle of permaculture: “interact and observe.”
Garden bloggers are community members, volunteers and interns at Songaia.