Saturday, March 28, 2009

A few quick things

... since this computer refuses to open the post I had all typed and ready to go.

1) The other day I had some downtime so I walked out into the cow pasture a ways, and scared the hell out of three deer. I came over the top of the hill and was about 40 feet away from a buck, who the strangest barking noise I have ever heard before he and his girlfriends ran off. Then as I walked back, I surprised a young cinghiale [wild boar].

2) Each day I understand more and more of the Italian conversations around me. I'm still having trouble responding, but am at least learning new words daily that I can sometimes string together to form terrible half-sentences.

3) I think I've figured out the secret to Graciela's cooking. Olive oil.

4) The smell of chives will always remind me of yoga on the front terrace. They grow amongst the grass and wildflowers there and are crushed as you move through the asanas.

5) After just a few weeks, I am getting noticably stronger. When I got here I could lift bikes off the hooks where they're stored, but couldn't put them back up. As of this week, I can. I can also hold a full chatturanga pose during yoga, and throw bales of hay around . Still can't lift them above my head, but maybe next week...

6) I'm on duty this weekend which means that I'm in charge of all the animals [pigs, chickens, horses/donkeys, cows, sheep]. I worked from 8 am this morning until 6:30 tonight, with about an hour's break for lunch. Would have had more downtime but two groups of pigs busted through their fences and wandered down to the farmhouse for a little lunch in the olive orchards and I had to bring them back to their respective pastures. I'm turning into the pied piper of pigs.

7) On a related note, the more I work with pigs the less guilty I feel about eating them.

Also, new pictures!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Oh Shenanigans

Animales interns had a crazy day today!

Greg and I walked up to Pig Hill as usual to feed the miaili and miailini and check fences. At some point Nello, the giant polar bear-esque boar, escaped from his pen and wandered into the mill where we keep all the grain. The pictures don’t do this guy justice— we guess that he weighs around 500 pounds— but he’s not very excitable, so we chased him at a snail’s pace back into his pen and went to feed the rest of the pigs further up the road.

Then it was time to check the fences. They’re divided into three main sections, and two of them weren’t working, so we started walking to the back pasture where the third section has a breaker. Once you figure out which sections aren’t working, you have to walk along the fence until you find the spots where the current is broken. As we walked, we came across a sow who had just given birth to nine miailini. We found another sow last week while walking fences, so we knew what to do more or less. We went back to the mill to get buckets to carry the piglets, and returned. The tricky thing about collecting them is that the mothers can become upset and step on them as she tries to protect the “nest.” We put the 9 mialini into three buckets and then encountered the next tricky thing: actually getting the mother to follow you. The first time we did this, Giulio was with us and the sow came along pretty easily. The sow today refused to follow, despite our pleading “Qua! Qua!” [“Here! Here!”… the Italian equivalent to “Sooooeeeee!”].

Even after we grabbed sticks to prod her along she refused, sniffing around her nest looking for the miailini and making all sorts of strange and angry sounds. We assumed that, like the sow last week, she would follow the squeals of her babies, but this one was particularly stubborn. At one point I actually thought I was going to get mauled, because I tripped on some of the thick underbrush and fell backwards just a few feet from her, with a bucket of squealing miailini in my arms. Fortunately I still had my prodding stick in hand so a somewhat panicked thwack on her nose kept her away. According to Greg, pigs do bite. Hopefully I won’t find out.

Friday, March 13, 2009

First Week

I don’t know how to begin.

It’s been a week since the interns converged in Siena and headed to the Tenuta di Spannocchia. We’ve already settled into a steady rhythm, eating breakfast, working from 8 to 1, lunch from 1 to 2, and then work again until 5. After that, free time to bike or talk a walk around the grounds or write in a journal or collapse in a patch of sunlight and wait for what is certain to be a spectacular sunset across the valley from the front terrazzo. Sometimes we get out our yoga mats and practice sun salutes until the sun disappears below the mountains.

At 7 each evening we meet in the dining room for Spannocchia red wine, and then the dinner bell sounds at 7:30 and we get to experience Graciela’s unbelievable Tuscan cooking. Dinner really is an experience, with the primo then secondo followed by insalata [I’m still trying to get used to salad after dinner] and then last but most certainly not least, la dolce. The interns are usually back to the house we share, Pulcinelli, by 9. We build a fire in the fireplace and play a card game or read until, one by one, everyone goes to bed to prepare for another early morning.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Greg and I were craving some good ol' fashioned American food before we head out to the farm, and stumbled upon what is probably Firenze's only diner. It's also the only place I have seen wi-fi in the city so far— go figure. There are some things only a burger, fries and a milkshake can cure.

Blogger seems to be broken and refuses to upload any pictures. If you click here you can see pictures through my facebook account!

Ciao Firenze!

I suppose it's the best possible news I could give you... that I haven't yet had time to update. I have been having an incredible time wandering the streets of Florence, eating gelato (usually more than once a day), and getting to know two of the interns, Greg and Max, I will be spending the next three-ish months with. The three of us met up a day after I arrived here, in the Piazza della Signoria in front of the outdoor copy of Michelangelo's David.

Even after 5 days here, it seems unreal to walk by the Duomo or across the Ponte Vecchio, impossible that I could be in Italy. Today we spent the afternoon exploring the Uffizi Gallery, coming face to face with thousand year-old paintings and sculptures as well as the frescoes inhabiting the ceiling space. My thoughts are fairly scattered right now and we're getting ready to venture out into the rainy night in search of fresh, hot pastries sold from the back door of a bakery near the River Arno.

As soon as I find a wireless internet connection I'll post pictures... and I promise to have a more interesting update for you soon. Tomorrow we're heading to Siena, and on friday we're heading to the farm! There's just no way to explain how excited I am. Ahhhhh!

If you want to check out the official Spannocchia farm blog, click here. And you can read a fellow intern's (Max) blog here.