Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hot Boonies

I have been melting at my new farm in Briatico, Calabria in the toe of the Italian boot (an area where i have never been) for the past week. When I left Tuscany, I thought it was hot…
But at least for my last free day in Tuscany, I spent it in the Tuscan costal town of Grosseto in the blue refreshing Tyrrhenian Sea. Maaike and I lounged the day away, front row to the sea, on our lounge chairs and big beach umbrella. We went to order ourselves a Pina Colada only to find out they don’t make them there and instead walked away with a cocktail of prosecco (sparkling white wine) blended with Campari. This cocktail is a red bitter dry concoction – about the most opposite you could get of a Pina Colada.
As we sipped away at our drinks, a little Asian lady dressed in a cool white t shirt and pants walked up to us and asked if we wanted a massage for half an hour for $25. What a deal…an ocean front massage!
She brushed the sand off of our bodies and proceeded with massaging my face. Oohhh that feels nice. Then as she got to my back I thought,
“Hmmm… her hands are really rough they are kinda scratching my back…ooohhhhhh I think I am sunburnt there…and there…”
I had made my own conclusion that maybe she is a gardener by morning (without gardening gloves) and a masseuse by afternoon.
As she massaged my legs, her scratchy hands felt good going over the nasty mosquito bites I have been accumulating.
She finished with my shoulders and neck and by that time I had had about enough. I ran my hands over my shoulder and realised that I was a shiny mess of oil and sand. Of course it wasn’t her hands that were dry but the fact that I had been in the salty sea on the sandy beach all day and she should have recommended that we at least showered before the massage. I guess I shouldn’t complain, I mean how many women pay big money to have a microdermabrasion process done (using natural products to boot)?

So this new farm in Calabria is…different. I have come to realise that the write ups WWOOF presents to us are not always accurate or maybe things change over time. At this farm, my worst nightmare has come true. I have no access to a hair drier!!! All along the way I kept saying to myself, “as long as the place has electricity for my hair blower, I am fine.” The WWOOF post read like this, “electricity from solar panels.” In this case it means lights only not general electricity. I have used a hairdryer for the past 15+ years of my life…
I will let you read the post for this farm:

“Two hectare organic farm, which Giuseppe and Mattea have cultivated for choice not necessity, is in the hills 4 kms from the sea and surrounded by Mediterranean scrub. It has always been organic, for 15 years it has also been Biodynamic and now it is omeodynamic. Orientated to self sufficiency: olives, fruit, vegetables, aromatic herbs (Oregano, sage, rosemary etc), chickens and bees. Help needed all year round, accommodation in shared room for a maximum of 2, the family lives in the village 4 kms away. We expect WWOOFers to be responsible and to work hard. Electricity from photovoltaic solar panels. Water heated by solar panels or wood stove. Use of bicycles, canoe, internet and archery. Meals typical Calabrian cuisine with home produce….”

Giuseppe greeted me at the train station in Vibo Valentia Pizzo – he looked very different from the typical Italian faces I am used to seeing. Brown (as opposed to the blackish) hair and blue eyes. As we drove into town to pick up Mattea, his wife, he told me that I could pick up some food because during the week, meals are on my own and I get to eat with them on weekends. Hmm…ok I thought that was ok that way my meals are on my own time and I can eat chicken and yogurt and watermelon …ok that is not so bad.
As I made my way through the grocery store, Giuseppe met up with me and took a look at my basket.
So far I had a big container of yogurt, veggies and half a watermelon. I had not made my way to the meat yet when he said,
“Oh this yogurt. There is no fridge at the farm so maybe take some smaller ones so you can eat them once you have opened them.”
Of course…no electricity...
Needless to say I didn’t get the meat, but cans of tuna - which is still great. I have had a few meals with the family and they are awesome – they eat MEAT as in BEEF and potatoes as well as other delicious Calabrian cuisine. I am in heaven.

It is well over 30C during the day here. The water for some reason is not very cold and with the heat and no fridge it makes life here a bit difficult. You know there are those hot summer days where after working outside you can’t wait to down a glass of cold Pepsi and ice? But I mean at this point I am not even thinking about a cold Pepsi but just a glass of cold water dammit!

Because it is a stone kitchen it seems a bit cooler. I have learned that single servings of yogurt can stay out of a fridge for at least 6 days and still be good but watermelon needs to be eaten in 2 days.
The other scorching, boil an egg on a cotton-ball, hot Calabrian day, we were invited to the family’s house for supper. I was in disbelief as I watched Mattea dish out the macaroni soup. That’s right, macaroni in a HOT water broth. I thought I was going to die from heat exhaustion. Inside my body was burning. Luckily Francesco (the son) pulled out 6 ice cubes from the freezer and I put 5 of them in my red wine and let them all melt in my mouth. I don’t think they have heard of eating things like cold pasta salads.

This past week I had Verena working with me. She is from Germany but has been studying in Rome for the past year so she is helping me wonderfully with my Italian.
We spend our mornings weeding and mulching the oregano and tomatoes and sometimes going with Francesco to harvest veggies from the other garden. Giuseppe is only here on the weekends and then goes to Basilicata (another province) to work.

Tonight, I think that you should all thank God for the person who invented the Slurpee machine. You don’t realise just how lucky you all are to have them!!! You know it is so strange that a country that can get this hot isn’t over run by slurpee machines. I mean here we are in Canada snow and ice for 8 months of the year and mid twenties in the summer and there are slurpee machines everywhere. It is like they are there in case we go through winter withdrawal or something. At least thank God I am not having any chocolate attacks. They don’t have it here because it is too hot to keep it in the stores for the summer. YIKES!

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