When my train arrives to Winschoten Station I am a bundle of nerves. My new home is only 30 minutes from where I stand, and I will be meeting my hosts for the first time. I walk through a sea of bicycles to the road in front of the station, searching. 

In all contact I had kept with this farm the notes were signed at the end, "Greetz Arthur and Benedetta." This signature, combined with the my excessive viewing of the Hop en Grut blog that is filled with photos of Benedetta, none of Arthur, had me a bit unsure of who I should be looking for, a man or a woman. Later, it became obvious that Arthur had been my main contact and that the blog was primarily his chore. Of course it would be filled with photos of his greatest love and not himself.

I set my luggage down and lean against a wall where I can easily be spotted and have a good view of my surroundings. A few minutes pass and a short, fat man with a shirt that reads, "Beef, it's what's for dinner," is walking toward me from his van across the way. In my mind, "Oh shit, no. Please, no." He is looking right at me.  As he gets closer and closer, a small European car with loud Indie music pulls up and stops very quickly. A tall man with wild, curly hair gets out. He is wearing a patched sweater in the brightest of rainbow colors, old jeans, and wooden shoes. In my mind, "Oh please, please let it be." The beef man asks, "Are you Malinda?" at almost the exact same time that the rainbow man says, "Jessica?" I jet past the beef man without eye contact, "Nope, not Malinda," as I am already engaging with the rainbow man, "Yes! Arthur?"

On the speedy drive home, Arthur and I discuss politics and the farm. He says things like, "Those Fascists!" and "Are you hungry?" It's perfect. His English is wonderful. Spoken with a British accent, as it was taught to him, we are able to communicate without any trouble. He is well read, intellectual, very opinionated, has a good sense of humor and a big personality - in the best way.

In the days to follow, I would come to know him as an excellent delegator. He offers welcome here that puts a worker in a different mind-frame. It's not really work when you feel a genuine sense of ownership at your "job," you see. He has created that sense for me. His direction is always clear and the tasks are fulfilling, even when they are shitty (lots of shit around here). When he delegates, the assignments are not perceived as an order, but, at the same time, he is not asking either. It's a fine line that he has mastered - a gift really.

When we get to the farm, after the drive, he gives me the grand tour with pride. The house, the caravan, the barn, the meadows, the sheep, the cats, the dogs, the chickens, the sun garden, the spiral garden, the tea garden, the vegetable garden, the pond...I can't stop smiling.

When Benedetta arrives from the market later that day, a sweet Italian voice at a high volume fills the entire home. We slowly become acquainted while dicing pears from the farm's orchard. My knife skills are pitiful in comparison to her swift cuts of the fruit.  She turns the cut pears into the most delicious marmalade I've ever tasted. During our brief conversation at the table, I initially perceive her as a bit reserved. I am so wrong.

As time moves forward, with observation, it is impossible to resist her warm and full-of-life charm. Each time she enters or re-enters a room where the dogs are, she speaks to them loudly in Italian baby-talk. It's obvious they like her best. When I am alone with the dogs I try to imitate her accent and dialogue, "Mi amore...spaghetti." It's quite offensive, but also quite effective. Benedetta is light hearted by nature and it is infectious. Her English is not perfect, but we are able to communicate just fine. Sometimes we will be speaking and then all of a sudden she switches to Italian and speeds up. We laugh when she realizes she's doing it. At times, when speaking English, she displays an expression of slight frustration that says, "I know I'm not saying it right," but often, when she's not, it's so much better - like poetry. My favorite example of this was when we were discussing the difference between tomatoes in Italy and in the Netherlands. With big hand gestures, she said, "I don't know how you say...it's...it's here, de tomat tastes de water. In Italy, is tastes de sun." I'm not sure she knew how beautiful that was.

Arthur and Benedetta, of Hop en Grut


  1. Arthur & Benedetta sound like such wonderful folks- I'm glad to know you are in such good hands.

  2. I love anyone who douses themselves in colors like they do. Benedetta looks so vivacious! I hope they keep you as entertained as they do busy. I'm thankful for you that you feels such ownership over your chores. I hope one day I am as passionate, skilled, and talented good at whatever I do as Arthur. Delegation is almost impossible for many people to do.

  3. I love your hosts already like they are family! We could not have asked for a better beginning of your WWOOF tour than Hop en Grut.