It has been only a few days but I wanted to check in and let you know where I am, for those who are following along in the journey. From Thursday – Thursday of this three-week trip, I am spending my time on a very remote farm/homestead in the middle of Tuscany, in a little town called Castiglion Fiorentino. I am doing a workway (more one what this is at a later time) helping an older couple keep up their very large property. It has a vineyard, garden, chickens, two barns, and 3 houses on 450-acre, all built by this man Andro. As a 70-year-old, he has lived the life of 3 people and it is truly incredible. He bought this land 40 years ago, and built all of this slowly from scratch. It is a sight to be seen. This land is full of trees of every kind (to name a few: olive, cherry, pear, aspens, oak, etc.) and he has a story for every one of them. I’ve never known someone who has been fully sustainable on their own land, but this man has done it. He even used to have wheat, sheep, pigs, and so much more, but has slowly given them up to make it more manageable. This land, this place, is unlike anything I have ever seen. Since Todd and I have been talking about buying land for the last year, this is an incredible learning experience. I know now I don’t want 450 acres, that is for sure. 1-5 will do just fine!
What is different about this part of the trip from what I expected is it is hard work. Andro has so much land, and at his age he just can’t touch it the way he used to, so he needs people to help with little and big tasks. I have never felt more like a “city girl” in all my life, stumbling and tripping my way past logs, trees, vines, lizards, and chickens. We are doing everything from spending hours pulling giant vines, re-staining handmade windows on one of the houses, building a fence, and shoveling rocks. I am exhausted by the end of the day, but we are expected to have a 2 hour long Italian lunch and dinners with Andro, where every meal is a production. And I am talking every meal. Each meal is a minimum 2 hours, as preparing the meal and sitting to eat it is a sacred ritual in the Italian culture. It doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked, or how tired you are. We do not throw any meal together. And it must be enjoyed together, filled with fresh food and wine. I am not complaining about this part, as I love to eat. But Andro talks at you, not with you. It is almost like getting lectured from a college professor, where you can’t talk back because you truly don’t have the knowledge, so you just listen. Yes, it is great to learn things like how to make bread, the process of making ricotta cheese, the proper way to build a fence, and how he etches plates to make a living, but it is a lot when you can barely keep your eyes open from a long day, and you don’t get to say a word in those 2 hours. I know I will look back on this and laugh at his funny sayings and chaotic, hippy-like attitude about the way the world should work and how it does not work in his current state. I will remember his gratitude toward every living being, for mother earth and what it does for us. But right now, I could use a little peace. But I know you are given what you needed when you need it, and maybe this is what I needed. To learn and shut up myself.
re-staining the windows.
He built this house by hand!
My little house, connected to the larger house
the best part – the vineyard, where we get the wine from nightly
As you can see, the property is beautiful. The weather is always about 70-80 degrees, even at night. The only downfall are the bugs, which chirp and flutter around all day and night. I have more bug bites and scrapes than you can imagine! I would absolutely love to do a profile Andro and his incredible life. He was a musician, a hippy commune member, an author, a professor. All of this in one life, and you can see it behind his eyes with every story. I love that he preaches the importance of finding YOU, and your true self. So many people say it, but he truly does it. It is inspiring on so many levels. So I am soaking it all in, enjoying this moment, knowing it is exactly where I need to be.
I must note, what is different about this this trip over so many others I have done is I am so grateful to be here. To be traveling on my own. It has been unbelievably humbling, to realize the things we stress about are so little. To work my ass off in the sun for hours at a time, knowing some people have to do this every day. And to see we as humans all want simply the same things. To be loved. To work hard on something we are passionate about. To care for others. To live a full life that has meaning and depth – and to understand these things are measured in our own way, at our own time. I am lucky to be here, and I won’t forget it.
makeup free, sweaty from work, but hour to write outside? I’ll take it.