Thursday, September 29, 2011


**Spoiler alert, there are pictures in this blog, if reading on your phone you might not be able to view them
   First of all, let me begin by bringing everyone up to speed as to the whirlwind of this week. I think most of you know either from me directly or via Facebook that I have left the farm and am now with a new host. But just to merely announce that is so boring so let me give you the juicy backstory of how it all went down... It all began on Tuesday with the arrival of a new WWOOFer. Kylie actually arrived Monday night, fresh from a chile pepper farm in Tuscany. While putting shit around the cabbage and harvesting more green beans the next morning, she was telling me about the the chile pepper farm and what a great experience she had. (sidenote, I totally remember this farm from the list and even briefly thought about it) It is apparently a HUGE operation so in addition to WWOOFers, they also have paid workers. The WWOOFers work only till lunch, sometimes an hour or 2 after but then they would get to go to the beach or do whatever. Everyone was very appreciative and loving, it sounded like a big family. After hearing that she was coming from the opposite end of the spectrum, when she asked what Colle Paradiso was like it felt only right to be completely honest. As I told her what my last month was like, the hours, all the work in the house vs outside, etc she was appalled obviously. She realized too that they had lied to her, telling her she would have 2 days off --- HA! As we finished in the garden, it was time to move into the house and begin cleaning the floors before the final coat of sealant. We first had to sweep, then vacuum all the cracks, then mop the floor with rags on our hands and knees. Caterina swept the rooms and then par for the course she left. Kylie was stunned....she was so pissed that Caterina left to go inside and just sit on the computer. It was like she held up a giant mirror to show me what many people at home had said and what I knew in my heart to be true...... they were abusing the system. Because I have never WWOOFed before and had been alone, I just kept telling myself that "this must be what it's really like." And granted, Kylie admitted that she was coming from a truly exceptional farm and that she was very lucky in her experience but that in no way changed the fact. The WWOOF standards are 5-6 hours (at the very most 8, but only a day or two out of the week) 5 days a week, and that it is a COOPERATIVE effort, a chance to learn as well as exchange culturally. It is not free slave labor. And yet, that is how they treat it. I'm not saying they needed to be shadowing every job I did, but there were quite a few days when they would leave for several hours and just have me doing their work for them. 9 times out of 10 they would ignore me at mealtimes and only talk to themselves unless I made a point of starting a conversation. And recently they began  arguing ALOT and right in front of me!) Even at lunch that day, they didn't ask Kylie anything about who she was, what she did, where she was from....... she and I ended up having our own conversation. She was determined to email the last farm and go back ASAP and pushed me to put a back up plan in place as well. My only chance was to email Riccardo, the man who picked me up from the train station when I first arrived. Sam and I also ate dinner there on Sam's last night. I was worried that because he is their neighbor and friend it might be too awkward, but I had to try. I emailed him that afternoon and got a response that evening. Kylie too heard back from her farm and they were thrilled to have her back. She planned to leave the very next morning. I figured that I would help them varnish the floor and leave on Thursday or Friday. I knew that they were not going to be happy that the new girl was bailing so early because according to them they had had a bout of bad luck with WWOOFers leaving early. Huh. We ended up having worked 9 1/2 hours that day She couldn't believe that I had been there almost a month. She said to me, "Now I understand why I came get you out and for me to realize that I want to go home earlier than planned."
     At dinner that night she told them she wuould be leaving the next day. She actually said she was going to visit family for a week and would email them whem she as coming back, but they knew she wasn't. They were not happy because they said they really needed the extra hands this week with painting the floor, etc.
I was debating when I would have to tell them my plans, but then the moment presented itself the next morning at 6:48 am, 2 minutes after she walked out the door. Marco said something about her leaving and then preceded to tell me that I would be painting the floor alone that day because Caterina would be gone most of the day and he had to do something else in his woodshop...and then I launched into it.
I said, " Yes I'm sorry to see her go. So the timing of this is really bad I know, but I actually have made plans to leave early as well. I plan to help you finish the floor but then I am going to help Riccardo prune his olive trees till I go to Rome."
He was silent and staring into his coffee and seething, and said "Well I guess that is life....... But I do not understand why people cannot honor their agreements."
I then told him that while yes, I was leaving early and leaving them without a WWOOFer for a week till the next one was scheduled to come that I had gone above and beyond for them, and worked my ass off. I said I appreciated their hospitality, but that I felt they were not honoring the WWOOF standards. And this is where we got into it........ He knew what the guidelines were but he said that farms are 8-10 hours of work a day and that he knows other farms that ask their WWOOFers to work that much to which I said, Yes but that's not right. We (wwoofers) are usually coming long distances, and paid a lot of money to get ourselves here and volunteer our time to you , that should be respected. You cannot take advantage of that, this is not free labor for you, it is meant to be an exchange and a cooperative effort.
Yada, yada, yada...... and then I went to feed the chickens and when I came back he had told Caterina and then she and I REALLY got into it on the stairs. Gawd forbid she be asked to run HER OWN FARM. She stormed out and Marco said he thought it would be best if I left that day. So I texted and emailed my Plan B if he could come get me asap because I smartly had packed the night before....within the hour I was gone.

    As my Facebook status metions, my PLAN B rocks!I have my own room, my own bathroom, there's WiFi so I can use my own computer and we have been pruning the trees together. Today I worked a little more on my own and for close to 6 hours in total, but because I was enjoying it. I am also eating the way I expected to eat in Italy. Riccardo is lovely and generous and laid back and has the coolest dog and gaggle of cats. I can breathe a huge sigh of relief for the next 7 days :-)

Sooooooooooo now, because I have WiFi -- WHO WANTS TO SEE PICTURES??!!

Just landed, headed to hotel
 my exit

 headed to the train station
 Colle Paradiso (main house)

 the stable and chicken house
 one of the olive groves


 Green Beans

 they obviously have lots of leftover tomatoes

 these are the dried persimmons I mentioned in my last blog or two ago
 interesting huh?, I'll find some cool way to make this into something
 one of maybe 6 times we ate protein
 the figs were ah-mazing!
 kitchen with the tiniest stove ever, child size
 I sat facing the fireplace, the chair that's pulled out

 the WWOOF room
 the computer room, living room, and extra bed

 first day pruning the trees

 2nd day
 Shall we dance? Doesn't it look like the one tree is dipping the other? Love it!

Post Colle Paradiso... went grocery shopping with Riccardo and Bardo in Poggio Mirteto
 Riccardo's beautiful home....he restored his grandfather's old farmhouse

 my room!!!!
 his olive trees
 arty photo
 one of the cats, Rori, the baby

 Sparky, the oldest (he's 12)

 in addition to olive trees, he has an almond tree (l this one), apple trees, fig trees, peach trees, oak, elm, cherry, quince, etc
 me writing this very blog :-)

    Obviously, I have more than these pictures but I didn't have the energy or patience to upload them all for those of you on Facebook, be looking for a new album in the next day or two.