Uitzicht bij Ferme du Bout du Monde
Travel stories

Week 13 – Arriving at ‘the end of the world’

We spent the weekend in Amsterdam on Pim’s father’s boat, and went to the podcast festival we mentioned last week. On Monday morning, we left again, going back exactly the same way we came. But where the outward journey a week ago had been rather smooth, it was different on the way back. It all started at Amsterdam Central Station, where our QR codes for checking in gave an error message and our bicycles did not fit in the lift, causing us to almost miss the train. But the real trouble started in Belgium, where we thought we only had to stay on the train until Luxembourg. However, due to a problem that was unclear to us, we had to get off at the last Belgian station and wait for a bus that would take us ‘somewhere’. In the end, the bus took us to the first station in Luxembourg with our bikes and we could continue by train. We arrived back in Luxembourg a lot later than planned, and got caught in a heavy downpour. We were very glad to be able to have dinner under our tarp at the campsite at half past 7.

On the boat it was leaking when it rained, and Els still thought ‘fortunately not in our tent’. However, the next morning we were woken up by the next huge downpour and it really started to drip in the tent, especially above Els’ head and near Pim’s legs. Not a nice way to wake up and we were really worried… A leaking tent feels quite unsafe. For now, we assume that all the condensation that had accumulated during the night was released from the outer tent and could therefore wet the inner tent. In any case, we quickly packed some things and clothes and took it easy because it was raining all morning. On Tuesday, we went to our volunteer place 40 km away and were not expected there until 5.30pm. When we left at 11.30 the sun started shining and during the lunch break we put up the tent to dry. Els could also use her birthday present to clean the tent; a mini dustpan and brush. It was a beautiful cycle route and at exactly 17.30 we arrived at ‘Ferme du bout du monde‘ near the Belgian town of Arlon. There we were welcomed by our hostess Katy, her husband and her little son. It is a large house with a piece of land next to it with a starting food forest and a large vegetable garden. There is also a beautiful view over the hills, but with a road rustling in the background and high-voltage masts, mankind is not really absent from the landscape.

The family will soon expand, they are looking for more housemates, and there is a lot of renovation work going on, so in short, there is a lot of movement. We were given the activity room, a large room with an air mattress, as our bedroom. We are expected to work five days a week for about five hours a day in and around the house, and in return we are allowed to stay here and get meals. 

It always takes some time to get used to a new place and that is also the case here. We will stay for at least 10 days and then we will see. Our hostess works full-time and therefore does not have much time to guide us in our work. Fortunately, we can regularly consult with her in the evenings or ask questions. We are also here to learn more about permaculture, a combination of permanent and agricultural. The idea of permaculture is to design a form of agriculture that gives a permanent yield. To do this, natural processes are used, which are manipulated in such a way that they provide food, material and shelter, without disrupting the natural processes. Important in this, we understand, is good design and an open mind to learn from the things that work out well and those that don’t. It is important to have a good understanding of what is going on with an open mind. As we called it in an earlier blog: ‘a dance with nature‘.

There is a large library so we can have fun with literature. We don’t know much about gardening and permaculture ourselves yet, so our chores focus on other things as well. For example, in the past few days we have transformed a thistle field into a rose bed, including racks to climb on. We also removed a lot of thistles from the vegetable garden and started making garden furniture from pallets. And after that kind of activity, there is still room to do yoga on the roof terrace. This weekend we explored the little town of Arlon a bit more. It is nice to have a clear rhythm and to be able to help someone. It’s nice that soon people will be enjoying our garden furniture here!

Besides volunteer work, Pim is still working on his dissertation (almost to the printer!). Els is thinking about a 4th paper on the question of which factors influence whether local system integration works (or not). On our journey, we encounter many projects in which multiple functions and goals are combined and stacked. Often, several parties and interests are involved, which can make it difficult. But when it works, the added value is considerable. That is interesting and fun to delve into more. 

We will be here for the next week and hope to learn more. Our latest plan is to then slowly (and probably again with many detours and stops) descend to Italy… But everything remains uncertain and the corona situation is far from stable. We shall see!

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