WWOOFing at Windsong

by Anna

There couldn’t have been a better way to conclude our tour of New Zealand than with our week-long WWOOF stint at Windsong Orchard in Renwick. For those unfamiliar with WWOOFing, it stands for “Willing Workers on Organic Farms,” or “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms,” and New Zealand with its bountiful agriculture is chock full of amazingly hearty and scenic spots to WWOOF. While having the opportunity to learn about organic farming practices and gain a more intimate local experience of the community, a WWOOFer volunteers his/her time in exchange for lodging, food and knowledge from their WWOOF hosts.

We have to thank Kate and Matt of TwoPackedBags for our discovery of Jennie and Bob and their orchard. Kate and Matt WWOOFed there last May, and upon reading their post, we knew we had to experience this place!

First off, Jennie and Bob are two of the coolest, headiest and kindest people we’ve ever met, and their passion for their fruit (which is, by the way, insanely delicious), their local community and working towards a sustainable future is immediately contagious. So are their fun-loving spirits and appreciation for the simple pleasures life has to offer. We loved listening to stories of their adventures.  They met in Mexico…Bob was down there sailing and Jennie had hitchhiked her way there from Canada…and since then, they’ve spent their time sailing the world (they spent 1 year and 1/2 sailing from California to New Zealand when their kids were younger), teaching ski lessons in Mammoth, CA and throughout New Zealand and beginning Windsong Orchard. Bob is a SoCal native and Jennie a tried-and-true Kiwi, so they now spend their time split between Renwick and Santa Barbara…not a bad combo!

Needless to say, Jennie and Bob made us feel at home right away, and quickly got us acquainted with our “blueberry cottage” attached to their work shed and surrounded by blueberry bushes on one side and plum trees on the other. The cottage was stocked with every type of spice and cooking ingredient, as well as home-grown veggies and herbs from their garden and fresh eggs from their chickens. Each day we’d throw on some gumboots and meet Jennie and Bob in the shed at 8:30am. We’d then go to work, which included tasks like planting new blueberry bushes, trimming table grapes to get them market-ready, picking and grading the quality of blueberries and plums, and a little weeding. At 12:30pm, we’d head across the lawn to Jennie and Bob’s place for a delicious spread of Jennie’s home-baked bread, scones, plum and blueberry muffins, and her home-made hummus, chutneys, etc. Then the rest of the afternoon we were free to explore the surrounding vineyards and breweries either on foot or on Jennie and Bob’s bikes. In the evenings we’d cook up a storm with all of our delicious, fresh ingredients and read our books while watching the sun disappear behind the plum trees. Could it get any better?

When not working at the orchard, we helped out with set-up, selling, and break-down of the Windsong booth at local farmers’ markets in Blenheim, Nelson and the awesome market in Marlborough that Jennie and Bob helped found (more details to come on this later…). It was such a fulfilling experience to see the process come full circle from soil to table, and have the opportunity to interact with the local community, which is truly passionate about supporting their local growers.

Johnny and I definitely left with a new admiration for the hard work and time that goes into organic farming and the local markets that benefit both local growers and the community. We were also inspired by Jennie and Bob’s way of life and loved feeling reconnected back to the land and earth. It was good to get our hands dirty!

Windsong: Jennie & Bob’s house on the left and our cottage on the far right
Beautiful blueberries
Outside the shed, next to the caravan Grape vines and the window to our bedroom
Loading up the van for the market
Our kitchen Fresh produce gave us plenty of cooking inspiration!
We even cooked up mushroom “puffballs!” Entering our cottage through the shed
Feeding scraps to the “chooks” Our cozy cottage
Johnny’s green (or should I say brown) thumb
Windsong’s fruit stand on the main road Certified organic
Trimming grapes by the quince tree with my helper Nalu the cat
Blueberries! Picking “Delights”
Johnny collecting his blueberry bounty
Bob grading blueberries So many antioxidants!
Jennie’s home-made frittata
Jennie and I workin’ the booth in Blenheim “Don’t be a bum, buy a plum!” – Johnny
Biking around Renwick
Jennie and Bob’s neighbors
So many lovely vines… Wine tasting at Mahi
Vineyards at Forrest
Beer tasting at Moa More brew tasting at Renaissance
Our local watering hole, Cork & Keg Grabbing an evening beverage with the locals
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