I registered Nový Mlýn on a website called workaway.info earlier in the summer. I was looking for volunteering opportunities – so I could go and stay on a farm where I could learn about looking after lamas, or organic apple farming. The deal is that you provide food and accommodation, and your volunteers will work for 5 hours each day, 5 days a week. It took me a while to realise that people might want to come and stay with us here on that basis, but filled in the application form as prettily as I could. I had no idea how much interest there would be with a project like ours… but quickly discovered that a calendar was necessary to organise visitors!
Up to today we have hosted Jess, Rosie, Sian, Caro, Helen, Rachel, Rosie (2 – our research shows that 66% of English women are called Rosie), Esther, Matt and Andrew… ten people… and only three people have ever left!
We started in June with individual visitors – though the house was often full with family, friends or the Global Agents for Change (team of 20 riders plus film crew). We doubled our numbers when Sian and Caro were here at the same time… then Rachel arrived as well. Caro and Rachel have formed a crack baking team – they’ve really shown us how far you can go with the new oven – with a constant production of cakes and pies to keep our energy levels up.
Currently we have Rosie and Esther here too … they had been volunteering at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales for the past year. I have heard a lot about CAT so it’s wonderful to have visitors who have spent a considerable amount of time there. It’s been really great to compare notes with them about all sorts of eco technology – high and low.
Sian is leaving today. She has worked like a trooper and is incredibly strong – she also blasted a lot of my students’ stereotypes about women… her job back in Australia was working in explosives in an iron ore mine – and her ovaries are fine!* Sian single handedly shifted tonnes of rubble away from the kitchen & we suspect would have dug her way back to Australia given too long. We now have a cellar with lighting and a concrete floor, walls in the hallway, stripped and varnished floors in all the bedrooms, a hot shower, washing machine, oven and freezer – (all post Sian developments). She’s been great fun to spend time with and we’ll really miss her sense of humour. Our plots to keep her here have so far failed – (finding a Czech for her to marry – for example) but we hope she’ll come back some time.
It has been really useful seeing how the house operates with 7 visitors… though Matt and Andrew (also from Australia) have their own camper van so I didn’t need to find a bed for them. Andrew has contributed way more experience in chopping wood than I was expecting from a design specialist!
Over recent weeks we’ve eaten some really fantastic meals (though, now, cooking for nine, people are a little more daunted by the task!) and been introduced to the idea of desserts (not at all usual for us two). We’ve heard lots of new music and been educated in many different ways. By the end of October we’ll be down to one or two visitors and things will quieten down for mid winter – I can’t now imagine Nový Mlýn with only us here!
(*My Czech students often warn me that certain types of work are bad for the ovaries and so, as a woman, I shouldn’t dig or lift heavy things).