Exchanging Help

Our cat Shanti is a great help when you need a lap warmer on a cold day. Other than that, she’s pretty lazy and not much help at all with household or garden chores.

I have always wondered about communal living.  Not too sure I could actually live in a commune but the aspect of shared work and reward has always appealed to me.  The next best thing to committing to living in a commune, is to invite travelers into your home and the perfect platform is through the WWOOFING network or HelpXchange.  Having signed up, we have access to an international array of helpers, with a diverse set of skills, background and expertise.  Recently, we have had a raft of travelers contacting us and asking if they could stay.  The hard part is turning them away, and over the last 3 weeks I have had to turn away at least one a day!  It is amazing how many travelers are visiting New Zealand, and all willing to help out!

We grow enough food for 2 families, achieved through hosting helpers who get on with 4-5 hours per day, of helping around the garden and home while we are out at work!  In return, we offer them a accommodation and food.  They have access to free WiFi and all the food they can eat!  We are picking beans, cherry tomatoes, plums, apples, pears, courgettes, beetroot, rhubarb, Daikon radishes, kohlrabi, capsicum, squashes and peaches at the moment!  Plenty to share! Help to pick it and of course, help to eat it!

A couple of years ago, we had a request from a Dutch/Kiwi couple.  Seeing that she was a graphic artist, I thought of a job we had been meaning to tackle for some time.  My daughter had recently moved out of home into a flat and her once-was-a-teenager room was looking tired and in need of a new lick of paint.  Perfect!  Now we had help to do just that!  Amber and Ross arrived knowing the task ahead of them.

We went to the local hardware store and were shocked that 4L of paint could cost $150.  Being a Frugal-Scrooge, I declined the store’s offer to sell me the expensive house-paint.  My husband was a little concerned, whatever would we do?  No worries, I reassured him.  I would create some paint for the job, using what we had stored in the shed!

Rusty old tins needed to have their lids prised off with pliers, and then sieved through an old sock to remove the rust and bits of paint skin!

Off to our garden shed I trundled.  Rummaging through all our old leftovers I scrounged off a commercial painter some nearly 10 years ago, I prised off their rusty lids and proceeded to pour them through an old sock, into an old paint bucket.  My only requirement was that it had to be water-based paint.  A litre of pink (yugh), a litre of yellow (mmmn), 100ml of dark grey and a few scrapings of cream.  I was unsure of the result…. Beige?  No!  Pink?  No!  Peach?  Not too sure.  So I gave it a name; Strawbeige!

Strawbeige paint, all ready to cover the walls of the bedroom upstairs…..

Our willing workers were a little unsure of my colour but optimistically set about the task and like Trojans, they covered every blimp, scrape and pencil drawing (yes, a legacy of bored teens).  Then Amber was given her next challenge: to create sumptuous lotus flower stenciled images on the feature wall, ala-Bollywood style.  Of course, I have a little Gaudi-gene in me!

She crafted the perfect lotus stencil and then proceeded to painstakingly paint all the images by hand!  Love it!  Now it’s a guest room for friends or our children and their partners to stay in this romantic Lotus Room. Calm, peaceful and a touch exotic.

Peter from Hungary writes his name in the concrete pathway he has just laid.

Over the years we have had so many travellers stay, met some amazing people and had wonderful help. This is the best form of reciprocal collegial help. All it requires is a warm, clean bed and three meals a day in return for willing helpers who will try their hand at any task assigned to them. And we have made many special friends at the same time. We have had umpteen interesting conversations and debates.

Lea from France helped me make a beautiful bean frame, weaving willow branches to keep the bamboo together.

Sometimes projects are better with two heads to figure things out, helpers are perfect when it comes to these chores! And of course, you have an extra pair of hands too!

Ivan from Spain helped repair this deck of the cottage, using recycled fence palings.

Helpers also learn new skill sets. Ivan had never done any woodwork, by the time our decking project was finished, I am sure he would be able to build himself a house!! Anyone can sign up as a helper, or as a host. It is a wonderful community of sharing. Our helpers have been aged from 17 to 56, age is no barrier or indicator of skill or maturity.

Nico brandishes our electric chainsaw like a pro.

Nico from France helps to fell a tree in the garden and develops upper muscle strength at the same time! Who need a gym membership? Just join the HelpXchange fraternity!

Caitlin from USA helps to mulch all the pruned trees.

How fantastic to have a helping hand. We have had help for a myriad of tasks, like pimping our letterbox, weeding, painting, pruning, cooking, cleaning, and even had a wall mural painted specially for us by an American mural artist, JJ Muzacs. I mean, how can one live in Mural Town, and not have your own mural??

Stained Glass Buddha by JJ Muzacs. Check him out on FaceBook.

Often people will comment on our lovely garden and I always mention the helpers we have had to create this little piece of paradise. So if you are inspired to make friends from the far flung reaches of the world, this is the way to do it!! Go on! You won’t be disappointed. It is a rewarding experience.

Namaste.

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2 thoughts on “Exchanging Help

  1. I love this! It’s amazing what you learn though these exchanges, have definitely learnt a lot my self in our few we have done.

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