Buona Pasqua! After three weeks of school we were given two weeks off to celebrate Easter (thank you religious holidays in Italy). Myself and two friends, Emily and Suzie, decided to spend part of it wwoofing, both to improve our Italian language skills and be kind to our budgets. A week ago we left Parma to join two young families at their isolated farm an hour from Bologna, and we are now very glad we came, and very ready for a break.
Over the past four days we have helped with a number of tasks, some of which were backbreaking and others quite lovely. One day we took down a fence that was not only partially covered in barbed wire, but bordered a steep, raspberry-brambled slope (backbreaking). Another day, in the late-afternoon sun, we gathered wildflowers to dry for tea (lovely). Today we helped plant a vineyard. Sounds romantic, I know, but did large amounts of mud, manure, and rain ever factor into your vision of Italian wine production? My jeans and gumboots can attest to the fact that cow poop is in fact a very important part of the process.
On our very first day, Emily and Suzie generously allowed me the opportunity to stay back at the house and help two of our hosts make bread, pizza, cookies, and cakes in their wood-burning oven. Not only was it all organic, but the flour was freshly ground from grains they grew themselves. The honey we put on the bread? From their bees. The jam on our morning toast? From red-currants picked on the property. This work, in addition to the orchard, garden, animals, chestnut forest, and plans for cereal/legume/vine cultivation, amounts to a truly astonishing amount of labour for these farmers; I finished each day utterly exhausted, famished, and wondering how they manage to live this as a full-time life.
Aside from my general appreciation for small-producers, my language skills have also been growing. I am not even close to successfully carrying on a conversation, but some of my second-language nerves have been calmed and I’m bolder in my attempts to communicate. What comes out of my mouth is often neither English nor Italian, but sometimes it manages to be the latter and therefore I feel somewhat better about myself. I can string together basic sentences and understand what is being said to me, so long as I’m spoken to as if I'm a voice-activated telephone directory.
The learning process is not without its constant failures, of course. The other day, while looking at the shelf of cookbooks, Suzie and I accidentally translated a book called “Il Cucchiaio Verde” as “The Green Cook.” That evening I said “Sono cucchiaio,” to my hosts, in an attempt to explain that I had cooked for treeplanters. Later in Bologna, we discovered that cucchiaio does not mean cook, but spoon. I had told them “I am spoon.” Because all nouns in Italian are gendered and I had lazily dropped the definite article, what I had really said was “I am male spoon,” followed by “por albero” in a failed attempt to relay the concept of a treeplanter. So there you have it:
“I am male spoon for tree.”
Improved communication skills indeed.
The Farm, by Emily.
Emily's awesome shot of the preserves pantry.
Gumboots, muddy gumboots.
3 days ago