WWOOFers not working

Our year WWOOFing in France and Ireland has both monetary and practical motivations: we see WWOOFing as an inexpensive way to travel while gaining a bit of farming/rural life experience. More than this, we also hoped to find an authentic experience of place through this type of travel - to share people's lives and live as they do, rather than passing through as an observer.

Our time at Glensallagh Gardens exemplifies the uniqueness of traveling as a WWOOFer, and why WWOOFing is not, well, work. 

The end of our first week at Glensallagh coincided with our host Jules' 50th birthday feast. We were invited to join, and dined on some spectacular food with an even more spectacular group of local characters. We were regaled with tales of the village and local habits, and were initiated to inside jokes such as Sminky Shorts, short animated films that encapsulate the local accent and attitudes.

Jules and Sally sample homemade candied almonds, just one of the delicious foods made by Jules and her friends. Sally is the owner of Woodcock Smokery, and an accomplished smoker of wild-caught, locally sourced fish. We enjoyed her salmon butter for the rest of the week after the party.

At the party we also met Jeffa, the owner of Durus Farmhouse Cheese, who invited us to visit her facility the following week. 

We watched Jeffa and her assistant pack the afternoon's cheese, and were impressed at the efficiency of the operation. This little creamery produces some 20 tons of award-winning cheese a year, all processed by hand in small batches. Jeffa exports to the USA, primarily to New York City and the East Coast.

We even got these nifty slippers to wear in the sparklingly-clean facility. Our visit to Durus got us excited for our fall return to France, when we will be volunteering at Ferme du Cascades, a dairy farm in the Pyrenees. 

With all the foodie inspiration from Jules' birthday celebration, Heide decided to cook dinner for Richard and Jules and our other fellow WWOOFers. The menu included Heidi Swanson's Green Pea Soup, Stuffed Chicken Breast, and mini Chocolate Lava Cakes with candied violets (edible violets are one of the crops at Glensallagh).

The Lava Cakes turned out spectacular, thanks to a recipe from Suzanne Kay, a fellow WWOOFer at our last host farm, La Bergerie. So thank you, Suzanne! 



50 grams soft unsalted butter (plus more for greasing)

350 grams best dark chocolate

150 grams caster sugar

4 large eggs (beaten with pinch of salt)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

50 grams plain flour 

  • Unless you are making these up in advance, preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6/400ºF, putting in a baking sheet at the same time.
  • Lay 1 of the moulds on a sheet of doubled baking parchment. Draw round it 6 times and then cut out the 6 discs as marked. Press them into the base of the tins.
  • Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar, gradually beat in the eggs and salt, then the vanilla.
  • Now add the flour, and when all is smoothly combined scrape in the cooled chocolate, blending it to a smooth batter.
  • Divide the batter between the 6 moulds, quickly whip the baking sheet out of the oven, arrange the little tins on it and replace in the oven.
  • Cook for 10-12 minutes (the extra 2 minutes will be needed if the puddings are fridge-cold when you start) and as soon as you take them out of the oven, tip out onto small plates or shallow bowls.
  • Serve these with whipped double cream, creme fraiche, creme anglaise or ice cream. Garnish with candied violets and/or fresh violets. 

Disclaimer: these candied violets are a bit of a pain. If you want a wee culinary challenge, enjoy!

Violet flowers, at least 20 in excellent condition with stems still attached

1 1/2 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla extract

Caster/fine sugar (to sprinkle)

  • Heat the sugar and water until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the extract to the sugar-water.
  • Dip each flower in liquid sugar mixture with a pair of tweezers. Set on wax coated paper and dust with extra-fine sugar. Make sure that each flower is well covered in sugar.
  • Using fine scissors, snip the stems off.
  • Lay the sugar-coated flowers out on wax paper to set. Move the flowers to a cool and dry place to set for 24 hours or at least overnight. 

Besides food adventures, we were given the opportunity to take part in another local tradition: sailing. 

Heide's cousin Erika Krugel lives just a few kilometers from our host farm, where she and her husband, Edmund, own Rossbrin Boatyard. Edmund asked if we would like to help crew his boat for a weekend sailing club race out of Skull Harbor. Would we, indeed. 

Patrick and Edmund looking the part. Edmund was patient and helpful with us, his novice crew. 

Edmund and Heide manning the spinnaker sail. We had very gentle winds for the race, which was perhaps all the best for a couple of (very) beginning sailors such as us. 

Though we did do plenty of work at Glensallagh, as Patrick detailed in his last post, we also feel like we got to know the area of West Cork and got a bit of local flavor through all of the interesting people we met along the way. 

Besides Richard and Jules, we also enjoyed meeting the other characters on the property, particularly Pola. A wiry-smooth terrier mix, this dog has an incredible amount of attitude and style for one so small. Any trip in Richard's mint-blue VW van included Pola riding shotgun, on one's lap, barking and smiling out of the open window. Thanks Pola, for being such a source of entertainment these last weeks. We have felt so at home. 

Trip planning. Our next ride is going to take us from County Cork along the rugged Beara Penninsula, over Ireland's highest mountain range, Macgillycuddy's Reeks, into County Kerry, over the Shannon River into County Claire, and, finally to County Galway and our next host farm. We look forward to the ride, and to seeing what our next WWOOF placement has in store for us...