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.
I’m not sure how long this will be, not so much because I’m pressed for time but because I spent the morning helping to castrate piglets, and my hands are so tired I can’t quite form a closed fist. I am one of 3 animales interns, strangely enough with the guys I met up with in Firenze. What are the chances? We’re in charge of the pigs, cows, sheep, horses, donkeys and chickens on the farm. In the morning we slop the pigs and check fences to make sure that no cingiale, wild boar, have knocked down a wire and broken the electrical current. We ride bikes down a twisty mountain road to feed the cows as well, and a few times have helped Max with the sheep. Apparently it takes a while for sheep to get used to you, so mostly they ignore him while he tries to move them to a different pasture or herd them into the forest to graze. He’ll be in charge of them for one month, then I will take over, and then Greg. I feed the chickens each day and collect any eggs they’ve laid, taking them back with me to Pulcinelli for the interns to use. Then I feed the horses [two] and donkeys [three].
There are different projects to be done each day. Today, as I mentioned, was piglet castration. Greg and I spent yesterday laying fence and building them a temporary “pig palace” in the olive orchard. Then this morning we herded them into a smaller enclosure and, one by one, grabbed the males by their legs and restrained them as Giulio castrated them. I think there were 10 or 12 in all. They squealed bloody murder when we first grabbed them, but actually didn’t seem to be terribly bothered by the actual process. A half hour later they were rooting around in the mud, oblivious to the fact that one day in the next year or so, they will become very tasty prosciutto.
The interns have two Italian classes a week and the occasional field trip as well. Tomorrow [today, by the time it actually gets posted] we’re going to Siena for the day. This weekend we’re going to drive a half hour away to some natural hot springs. This is probably the only weekend all the interns will be free, thanks to some other volunteers who are currently on the farm. After this though, there will always be 3 of us here, to make sure there’s hot water every day, take care of the gardens, and feed the animals.
I still can’t believe I’m here. This place should only exist in fairy tales, but instead I can climb to the top of a 700 year-old tower to watch the sun set if I’d like. The olive orchards freshly pruned, the vineyards ready to leaf out any day, the mama sheep with bells around their necks grazing while their lambs snooze in the sun… Everything I want to tell you about this place is swimming around in my head and I can’t quite figure out how to explain it all. The greens we have for dinner have been picked just that morning by two of the people I live with. A few nights ago we had sausage made from a cinta senese [the breed of pigs raised here, local to Siena and endangered] that was running around in a pasture a week ago. It was hands down the best sausage I have ever eaten. But the food is another post entirely.
End of our time in Firenze and Siena
Tenuta di Spannocchia
Fattoria e Trattori