Every WorkAway experience has its great aspects, and its less-than-great ones. That is what makes it challenging, but also rewarding. Really, it is a lot like a description of life. Nothing is ever quite what you expected it would be, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Upon arriving at Le Moulin Foulon, I could quickly see that there was a lot of work that could be done. In fact, after Mia had shown me around, pointing out possible projects I might undertake, I became a little overwhelmed. I have discovered that my mind and body do not deal very well with too much information too quickly. However, if I give myself some time for all the information to sink in, I can begin to sort out what is useful and what isn’t. Rather quickly I realised that I would not be getting all these projects done during my stay. And that is OK.

What made this particular stay challenging was the style of communication. I don’t recall even one really in-depth conversation with Jonathan or Mia, my hosts. Fortunately, there were two other young volunteers who brought some lightness to the somewhat subdued atmosphere. It may be a myth that the Finnish people are withdrawn or introverted, but Mia did seem to fit this description and even said so herself. Jonathan was a bit more communicative, but like Mia, seemed focussed on little one-year-old James more than anything else. Or baking his daily loaf of bread. He also constantly followed the BBC news reports…never a good sign.

Each volunteer was expected to cook dinner once a week. Mia’s reasoning: “I got tired of being asked with every dish if this was typical Finnish”. To me, it felt more like an excuse to get out of something she didn’t enjoy doing. On the positive side, this was the first time I had to rely on my sparse cooking skills. By the end of my stay, I had managed to prepare three wonderful meals for us all. In my reality, a small miracle.

As neither Mia nor Jonathan seemed terribly versed in construction skills, I had to rely more on my intuition than any specific instructions they could provide. However, they were happy to purchase new tools upon my advice. So, with a new power drill, hand saw, some small hardware and a pile of lumber, I set out to replace the dilapidated roof on the little ‘cabin’ which straddled a creek in back of the house. I had never constructed a roof before and had only a simple sketch of what was needed, but thanks to internet and some trial-and-error, I managed to pull it off.

Other projects included:

  • Using an old door to close off the entrance into the wine cellar
  • Replacing the wooden ceiling in one of the toilets
  • creating a more practical way to control the level of the spring-fed pond in front of the house.

In retrospect, the pond solution left me with a bit of a silly smile on my face. I spent a good deal of time working out which pieces of PVC to use to control the level of the water. Only once I had the whole contraption in place and the pond was filled, did I realise that the big valve I had placed in the line was actually pretty useless. And it was the most expensive part. Oh well, even I can’t get everything right all the time. 😉