Along with the sheep, cows, chickens and brewers, you’ll also spot WWOOFers here at Black Isle Brewery.
What’s a WWOOFer? WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (or, alternatively, Willing Workers On Organic Fams), a global network of organizations that connect people who want to live and learn on organic farms and smallholdings with people who are looking for volunteer help. WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. Volunteers give hands on help in return.
Today we chat to Lauren from Canada, who’s been WWOOFing with us since October…
Lauren at work on the brewery mural
So Lauren, is this your first WWOOFing stint?
I’ve worked in Italy, Turkey and Portugal – two to three months in each place. Some WWOOFers hop around a lot more – a few weeks here and there – but I like to stay longer and become comfortable with a place and get the real flavour of it. You interact with people on a deeper level than you would if you were just living your own private life. It trains you to negotiate and work with people – how to get along, how to make a contribution, how not to step on toes.
What drew you to Black Isle?
The whole brewery aspect was very enticing! I’m personally into brewing – I like fermenting things. Beer, cabbage, kombucha (fermented tea). Fermented things are so healthy for you! So I was drawn to the whole aspect of an organic brewery on a farm. There’s the brewery, and the sheep, and it’s all so cyclical with the spent grains going to the animals. I really wanted to see how all that worked because basically it’s my dream future.
What does a typical day on the farm involve?
When I first started in October I was mostly working in the garden, harvesting food and putting the beds to sleep for the winter, plus working in the kitchen. Now that it’s colder my tasks are more willy-nilly. I’ve been working on some inside projects, such as painting signs for Jocktoberfest and working in the furniture restoration workshop.
Lauren and camera-shy friend in the garden
What’s your favourite thing to do on the farm?
I really like gardening but when it’s cold my hands freeze! So I’ve been enjoying being in the workshop recently. I’m also working on a big mural for the Brewery. Since there’s so many animals on the farm and great Scottish wildlife, David was keen for it to include animals. I didn’t want to make cheesy so I thought it would be cool to have a bunch of anthropomorphic animals partying at a jazz bar, complete with a band. I feel really lucky to be given the opportunity to do such a fun job.
Tell us about your love for art…
I’ve been into art since I was a kid and did a visual arts programme at high school. Since then it’s been difficult to keep it up when work came into it. I realized I need some structure – like anything holistic in your life, like practicing the piano or jogging or learning a language, you have to keep it up or it goes away. So I started the Building Project two years ago when I was in Montreal. I spent an hour every day drawing a random building. There were a few rules: the building was chosen depending on where I could find to sit comfortably (otherwise you freeze your butt off) and I wasn’t allowed to listen to music, because that would shut off the surroundings. When I was music-free, people would stop and chat about what I was doing, which was great. It’s also been nice travelling in Europe with new types of buildings to draw. I always feel good when I finish a drawing – it’s so important to have these small rituals.
What’s the most memorable task you’ve done on the farm?
Definitely weeding the pond! It was a rainy day so we dressed in head to toe in waterproof gear then got into a little dingy the size of a dog’s bathtub. We were pulling the weeds into the boat until we were almost sinking, then paddling back to shore using rakes for oars. Then we’d lug the weeds onto the shore and paddle back out again. It was… memorable.
What’s your favourite Black Isle beer?
It changes all the time! In bottles I like Blonde, it’s so flavourful – grassy and really nice. At the pub I like Porter or Red Kite, they’re really awesome beers on tap. I’m excited to try some of the rarer beers – I really want to try Black Run and I’m stoked about the new Barley Wine.
When you move on from the Black Isle, what will you miss most?
The beauty. The milk. The Aga. The dogs! My temporary family. There are so many nice things about living and working on the Black Isle. It’s a beautiful place and because we’re up north, the light is incredible. I’ll miss everyone as soon as I go and I’ll never forget them!