After three months of being a tourist I am beggining to get itchy fingers. I dont remember the last time I went 3 months without working or studying. I like to learn and be active. I have discovered that in the last few weeks that I seem to fall into a hole of laziness if I do not keep myself occupied. Not really my cup of tea. And so, without further ado, I head countrywards.
Wwoofing is a worldwide program that involves staying on small organic farms and working in exchange for food and a bed. In the process you get to meet people, exchange cululture, learn about organic farming and whatever else your particular farm may be doing. In each country there is a list that you recieve apon joining and within can be found a description of all the farms that take wwoofers and you can contact them individually.
I contacted four in Sicily that sounded wonderful and recieved an immediate reply from one I was super excited about. A married couple and the lady’s mother owned a farm where they had 6 dogs, 4 cats, 2 donkeys, fruit trees and olives… They have a woodfired oven which they use to make bread and pizza and sometimes they make cheese.
And now I am here and it glorious.
My hosts are named Sylvio and Miki and Miki’s mother Gueseppina and together they run this rocky sicilian farm. They have a huge 200 year old renovated house and like anywhere, there is plenty to do on the farm…
There are two other wwoofers here, a retired American couple from Cape Cod, who escape the winter snows each year by Wwoofing somewhere warm. They have their own farm on the Cape where they too have a renovated old house and grow fruits and vegetables which they sell to some very lucky local restuarants.
Guiseppina is 74 and one of the most sprightly ladys I have ever met. She cooks, cleans, gardens, irons for the locals, helps with the animals and keeps their beautiful home as clean as a pin, all with a huge smile on her face and a warm laugh.
Since I arrived we have learnt to feed the donkeys, pruned, cleared fallen trees, burnt brush, collected firewood, cooked many incredible meals with many exclamations of, ‘Buono! Buono!’ and occasionally, ‘Buonissimo!” and even sometimes ‘Bella Sape’ which is Sicilian for ‘Beautiful food!’
Guiseppina speaks not a word of English but we have been communicating with the help of wild hand gestures, some mutual words and the occasional use of the dictionary till we arrive at our final point whereapon we both start yelling, ‘Capito! Capito!’ … ‘I understand!’
Two days ago I made some homemade pasta using a rolling pin. I was a little nervous for two reasons. First of all because I have never made pasta using just a rolling pin (I normally use a pasta machine) and second because I was making pasta for some full blooded Italians and the Nonna of the house…
They loved it! They told me to stay forever and never leave and everyone was laughing and the wine was local and plentiful and it was a grande moment indeed.
The morning starts with fresh espresso that fills the kitchen with the rich smells of roasting coffee. After our morning work Sylvio takes us for a tour of some the local scenery. Nearby there is a large estate owned by a Baron. I kid you not, a baron. On top of the hill there is a small castle that we go to see.
Let me paint a picture for you. It is technically still winter and when the wind blows from the north you can feel the chill. But today the sun is shining and the north wind has stoppped and before long we are taking off our big coats. We stop the car by a gate and begin the walk up a long driveway bordered by fields of coarse brush, tenacious little flowers and flourishing wild fennel. At the top of the hill is a small castle. Sylvio tells us that hundreds of years ago the baron would come to this small castle-atop-the-hill, climb to the top and from there he would use his spyglass to select beautiful girls that would then be sent to his house. Or so the story goes. On each side of the castle there are rose bushes that are still hibarnating but apparently each bush is a different colored rose. You can see all the way to the sea from here and many of the land you can see is owned by the Baron who doesnt even live here. He visits in the summer but normally he lives in Syracuse. There is a huge old olive tree that I fall promptly in love with. It is gnarled and twisted and filled with holes and has so much character I feel I could spend a summer reading while sitting in the nook of one of its wrinkled branches.
Next up is the Barons summer house. It is vast and ancient with sloping fields of olive trees and an orangeria (a garden full of orange trees for strolling in) a pool the size of a small ocean and beautiful little garden nooks. There is a huge old olive press that was pulled by a donkey back in the day. And nobody lives here most of the year. There are workers to look after the olive groves but other than that it is mostly abandoned. It is breathtakingly gorgeous.. The only reason we are allowed to see any of this is because Sylvio seems to know the caretaker. At least I think he is the caretaker…
After walking around with our mouths open for half an hour we get back in the car to go to see some 4000 year old tombs. They are really just big holes dug into the side of the mountain but it is a little crazy to be inside something that people were buried in over 4000 years ago. We find 4 little spears of wild asparagus and gently take them back to the house.
I spend the afternoon making biscotti (the real name is Cantucci) because I mentioned the night before that I knew how to make it. This is a more exciting task than usual due to the fact that this family grows almonds and they happen to have some. So for an hour I crack open the little beauties with a hammer and ‘the special rock’ and bake them into biscuits. The house fills with the aromatic scent of almonds and orange. After a lip-smacking dinner of penne with broccoli, fresh ricotta fritters and steamed fresh artichokes with with yoghurt dipping sauce we consume the crumbly cantucci with local moscato and laugh till our sides hurt after Gueseppina tells us that her friend, apon hearing that she was hosting a chef, tried to set me up with her son. Apparently he has 100 cows. Well there you go.
Tomorrow we make fresh ricotta, and, weather permitting, we will light up the woodfired oven and bake pizza for dinnner….
Note : Due to the fact that my camera is currently slightly broken there is no pictures for the moment. I will do my best to rectify the situation as soon as is possible.