6 Things I had to get used to when volunteering on a farm

While volunteering at this farm in Norway, there are a few things that have been very different from what my daily life is like usually. Some of them I had an notion of before I came here, some I had no clue about. Here’s six of them:

Living in Barracks

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Our whole livelihood right now is basically two barracks, one that has 4 bunk beds, the other is a kitchen (with no running water inside). Sleeping in the barracks is just like going to a camp as a kid, and sleeping with earplugs is a must for me.

The Toilet


… is a hole in the floor. The fact that it’s not very warm here even in summer, and that it’s a composting toilet where you’re supposed to “flush” with sawdust every time, means it’s really not as bad as you’d expect. The only bad part is that somebody, eventually will have to clean it out. According to Zeyang, that’s when “it gets so full you can’t even sit on any more”!

Dumpster-Diving Food

I’m almost the odd one out here, having never done dumpster diving before, most of the others had done it before.


Dumpster diving basically means you go around and look in the garbage containers behind supermarkets for anything that’s worth keeping. It might sound horrible at first, you’d imagine things like a dirty, half-eaten sandwhich, but in reality it’s not that bad. Things are thrown out because they are past their “best before” dates, but that doesn’t mean they’re inedible. Fresh produce could have just a single bad peach or tomato in a package, while the rest are all perfectly fine.


I was skeptical, and while doing the rounds for the bins maybe isn’t the most fun thing in the world, it is kind of exciting since you never know what you’re going to find. Things like 7kg of marzipan (just slightly dry on the outside), almost 100 euro worth of Norwegian brown cheese or 10 bottles of spray cream are fun to come across. I haven’t noticed my stomach being more upset than average, and nobody here has ever been sick from the food either.

We go around twice a week and almost always come back with a bunch of full bags. Things are cleaned and sorted the next day. We throw a bunch of stuff out on the compost heap, and once we’re done you’d never be able to tell it came from the bin! See the next point for even more proof of that.

Cooking for a lot of people

I was almost most worried about the mandatory cooking duty here. Everybody has to cook at least once a week, lunches or dinners are predetermined at the start of the week and you stop working one hour earlier. Once done, you ring the ship’s bell next to the kitchen and everybody shows up to eat. This week there will be seven people to cook for even!  The more people there are the less you will have to cook of course, when there were 4 of us the first week we had to cook up to 3 times a week. It makes a big difference if you get to cook right after we’ve had new food though.

It turns out I’m actually decent at coming up with something with only limited supplies available, I think one of my dinners was even called ‘fancy’ by someone! Everybody at the moment seems to do a decent job at it, especially since I heard stories of one guy who used to make ‘soup’ consisting of water and curry powder, every single day.

Living with 15 chickens and other animals


The chickens here are as ‘free-range’ as it gets, they’re free to go anywhere they want, though they never go beyond the farm buildings (which is a good thing considering the foxes and wild cats around here). That leads to some interesting situations like the day-long ‘battle of the manliest rooster’ we had last week (result: the underdog won and took both of the other guy’s girlfriends!), chickens venturing into the kitchen to loot the compost bin, or a frisky rooster chasing a hen underneath our beds.


There’s also a lot of wild house cats around that are mostly very afraid of us; some of them sprint across an entire field if they spot you. They get fed fish and meat from the dumpster (since we’re almost entirely vegetarian here). One of them even had kittens, one of which we found in the barn, he’d fallen or ventured down a floor so Will carried him back up to his siblings.

No more matching socks


I remember being amused the first day by Clare wearing both a red and green sock, but now I understand why. Every time I get back my laundry, I have about 5 or 6 non-matching socks. The others all claim they have never seen any of these socks, and that they don’t have any of my socks. Nils even says he only has one pair of socks and one pair he found in the barn.

I think this might be the hardest for me to get used to; I’m so used to having neatly sorted, matching socks, and keeping the non-matching ones until their twin socks come out of the next laundry. It seems like here, i’ll have to do like the others and accept the fact that my socks might not ever match again…


Despite all of that, I don’t see any of it as hardship or a challenge of any kind. It really makes me realize you can be happier while having less!

2 replies
  1. Luc
    Luc says:

    Hi, Laurens … That’s just a beautiful Zen post! Frisky roosters, composting, unmatched socks, and dumpster food; life on the edge in every possible sense. Peace, man.

  2. Annemie
    Annemie says:

    Dag Laurens,
    Ik lees nu pas je vorige-week post. Die sokken, je kent wellicht de poster van Gent, de straten met wasdraden vol sokken waarvan de tweede niet meer gevonden werd. Men had de Gentenaars gevraagd mee te doen, ze kregen bergen van die singel sokken, om het zo maar te heten. Nu hangen er sportschoenen, al een tijd.
    Meer Noors bloed in je dan Zweeds?
    Ik zie je blij zijn, daar let ik het meest op.
    En die traktor, ik toast mee. Drink jij eigenlijk champagne?


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