Dec 09 2007

Green Acres

Published by at 8:18 pm under Help Exchange,Italy,Northern Italy

So I don’t think Ben and I are cut out for the farm life. I think this epiphany dawned on us sometime between finding out we had to start and maintain the woodstove fire in order to have hot water, and when we realized the cows have to be fed/milked on schedule, twice a day, in order to stop their incessant moo-ing. Not to mention the rampant manure.

But we really did enjoy our work on the farm in Imola, Italy, and appreciated a more “authentic” and less urban Italian experience. Victoria and Davide, our hosts, run an impressively varied operation, from animal husbandry to a huge vineyard. Plus, Davide builds all renovations and extensions to their house and farm himself, making him the ultimate handyman. I can see why Victoria, a British ex-pat, stuck around Italy when she only came to visit, and promptly married the guy.

Needless to say, our work was diverse: from brick laying and grouting to planting bay trees. Our daily chore was feeding the animals. It’s hard to feed animals and operate a camera simultaneously, but we tried to film a video while feeding the cows and pigs:

(Of course the cows decide to be quiet on the one day we film. And I know, Brittany wielding a pitchfork is never a good idea.)

Other work highlights included Ben trying to maneuver a wheelbarrow full of hay up a very steep hill — and I mean full, as in the stack of hay was two times the height of Ben. Yes, it toppled. Ben returned to the room in a full sweat swearing that he’d never done anything so hard IN HIS LIFE and how in the world is HAY so HEAVY?

There was also the time, of course, when the pig escaped. Ben and I were happily cleaning bricks when we looked up to see a huge pig trotting across the yard. “Uh, Davide…?” we said, in unison.

“SI??” he replied, in that way that Italians have that make everything they say sound operatic and bellow-y.

“Is the pig supposed to be there?”

Davide sprinted into action, trying to create some sort of makeshift fence using boards and benches to funnel the pig back into its pen. I wish I’d had a camera for the moment when Davide was pulling on the pigs ears and Ben was pushing on its butt with all his might. Instead, I was jumping/screaming/throwing rotten apples into the pen in a feeble attempt to lure the pig back into its prison — and by “into the pen” I mean that most of my apples actually hit the pig and/or Ben because I have terrible aim. But that pig wasn’t going anywhere without a fight and a lot of ridiculously loud squealing.

Another task included occasionally watching Victoria and Davide’s two adorable daughters, Isabel and Charlotte. Isabel, who is three, took a liking to Ben and would bounce up whenever he walked into a room and scream in a cute Italian/British accent “PLAY! Let’s play!” She particularly enjoyed a game of catch where Ben would pretend to be scared of the object she was tossing. Ben, who doesn’t have much experience with kids, was confused.

Ben and Isabel
Ben and Isabel

“Brittany?” he said to me one night as I was stoking the woodstove. “Why isn’t Isabel tired of that game? I mean, she thinks it’s hilarious every time.”

“Just how kids are: easily entertained.”

“Yeah but…she wants to play it again and again and again and again. And again and again and again… ” at which point Isabel came bounding into the kitchen dragging something that looked like the mattress for a changing table. My questions about whether or not her mother knew she had that “toy” did not stop her from propping it up on Ben’s legs and demanding to be lifted up into his lap so she could slide down. Another game that lasted an hour!

The location of the farm allowed us to spend our free time exploring small nearby country villages. We also used our two days off to take awesome day trips to Bologna and Venice. But that blog is for another day, as I now have to work my current mission: to eat as many chocolate croissants as possible while in the land of their origin. I also insist on calling them KWAHSON DU SHOCOLAH in a heavy French accent and I think Ben’s about to go insane. At least he would be if he weren’t driving me crazy with his constant exclamations of “SACRE BLEU!”

NEXT: Return of the Daytrippers: Northern Italy »



One response so far

One Response to “Green Acres”

  1. Ben's Dadon 10 Dec 2007 at 8:26 pm

    I see a Travel Network video in your future. You guys will come home with some sweet skills!



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