We ventured outside of the city to an eco-village called Eco Truly for a few days of volunteering and relaxation. All of the housing at Eco Truly is built out of mud-bricks, and the buildings themselves are actually called trulys. We spent our morning doing yoga and meditating, and then volunteered for a few hours after breakfast, usually helping to prepare the day’s lunch.
Everyone that lived in the village permanently followed a specific Hinduism path, practicing Hare Krishna. We were able to go to their nightly temple service and experience an amazing energy from their practies. We came back to the city a little earlier than expected because we truly missed our home here in Miraflores at the Backpackers Family House hostel. If anyone is traveling to Lima, I highly suggest staying at Pedro’s quiet, clean and relaxing hostel.
I tried to stop by the farm as much as possible before I left, and took my sister to the last Eleven Forks dinner of the season. We made shortbread cookies with homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam; as well as, radish crostinis. For the radish crostinis I toasted sliced baguettes with the olive oil I produced in Italy, then spread a soft Swiss cheese over top, and top the bread with very thinly sliced radishes that have been tossed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic. And finally, I garnish them with arugula and mizuna (and in the summer, I also add squash blossoms).
So many things are growing at the farm right now! Squash, cucumbers, and Kale were all transplanted a couple of weeks ago and the greens that were direct seeded are coming up strong. There’s some radishes and beets coming up too, and as always the garlic is getting even bigger! Today I direct seeded beets, radishes, arugula, and some other greens, while Ric roto-tilled and tended to the garlic, and Christie got some plants ready for the swap in the morning. I’m very excited to see what everyone brings to swap and sell tomorrow morning. Oh and we got some ducks!
For our first few weeks of volunteering at The Good Farm we had a core group of volunteers. There are quickly becoming more and more people each week, but I wanted to share this picture with everyone of the wwoofers who were here. Jessica is from Iowa and was here for a few months. She just recently traveled back to Iowa, and we miss her very much. Travis and Lauren were from Reno, Nevada, and were here for a week with their 2 cats. They will most likely be living in the wilderness this summer. Pictured from left to right, back row, Jessica, Christie, Travis, Emily, Isaac, front row, Ric and Lauren. Christie and Ric are in charge of the farm, which is located at Mariner’s Country Downs. Reggie Mariner is also a valuable member of the team, and does all of the construction projects.
After we finally settled into a new home upon returning from Italy, we felt the need to start supporting our local agriculture community in the Ocean City/Berlin, Maryland area. We originally looked into buying a share in a traditional CSA, but through one thing or another have now ended up in a more non-traditional CSA environment. CSA, or community supported agriculture, allows individuals or families to buy shares of a farms crop for the season. For example we would pay $300 in advance for a basket of produce received weekly straight from the farm during the season of May-October. Not only would this give us a discounted rate on produce, but would also give the local farmer financial support during a time of year when they are usually making the least amount of money. That aside, we decided to go the untraditional route, and have begun volunteering on a farm in exchange for produce, and whatever else comes along. The farm actually participates in the US chapter of Wwoof, but since we live only 15 minutes away, we are not fully wwoofing this time around. We help when we can, and take what we need. Our goals for the season are to learn to water bath can, pressure can, pickle, jam, etc… We also want to learn more about harvesting our own honey, and butchering some chickens. So far we have spent our days planting seeds, both directly in the ground and in seed trays; as well as, watering, building a trellis among other things, and learning a great deal about the process of a farm. The sprouts are beginning to come up and the garlic has been strong for months now. Tomorrow is our first community dinner of the season, along with a Kombucha seminar, and a very busy Sunday to follow.
We have settled into our new home, and plan to stay here for a little over a month with a small break soon. We have our own apartment next to the main house. The cats and dogs are always wandering around. We have decided that Zenzaro (italian for ginger) is our cat. He sleeps in our house every night now and sometimes comes in when it is raining. The other 7 cats are named Lucretzia, Kanella (cinnamon), Meggy (nutmeg), Gilda, Muton, Smokey, and 37 or Trente Sette. The dogs are named Gastone, France, and Bella.
Today it rained ALL day, so we could not pick olives, and there wasn’t anything else to do really so we read a lot and relaxed. This morning Roberto and Emanuela took us to the local market in Pitigliano, which was really fun. We ate porchetta sandwiches as a snack, which Roberto said is one of their market rituals. We sampled a lot of cheeses, I think all different types of Pecorino. Because they are originally from Venice they are particular about the quality of their seafood. There is a fisherman at this market whom we met that they bought calamari, salmon, and a dried-salted fish from. We will be eating the calamari tonight.
We left Florence mid-morning on Monday and caught a bus to Grosseto. A few hours later we were on our way to Pitigliano to our new farm. I was very nervous on the bus ride because we had to tell the driver to drop us off at a stop not at a station. This meant that we would pretty much be sitting on the side of the road hoping we were in the right spot and would be getting picked up soon. Luckily we have an Italian phone now so we called Emanuela and Roberto as soon as we got off the bus and they were there in less than five minutes. Our new farm focuses primarily on olive oil, and is beautiful. Roberto is an engineer, so the house, and the guesthouse we live in, are magnificent. There are 8 cats, and 3 dogs, and they are all very friendly. We are really happy here and are looking forward to learning more about olive oil.
We took a three day weekend in between Potentino and Podere Marco Polo to go back and visit Florence. We had become Friends of Florence cardholders on our first visit so we had several places still left to go to. It rained the entire weekend, non-stop, but we were able to do almost everything we wanted. We stayed near the Duomo in an apartment, which our friends had found through Airbnb.com and recommended. We had the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had, went to a beautiful bar, had Chinese and Mexican food, cow intestines (tripe), and visited Cibreo Trattoria, a restaurant our first farm highly recommended we visit. speaking of our first farm, on our walk to the trattoria we ran into Drew, the guy originally from Oklohoma, that we lived with on our first farm. He was volunteering at a market near where we were staying, which we also visited. So we also saw the Duomo, the Pitti Palace, and The Acadamy (where Michelangelo’s David sculpture lives). We walked through the Boboli Gardens, and also down the Ponte Vecchio. If we could go back for another day or two I would definitely go back to the palace to see the main gallery there and the royal apartments; as well as visit some of the smaller churches.
On our last day at the castle we spent many hours picking as many olives as we could. We were in the fields until almost dark, which normally wouldn’t have been great, but the sunset was beautiful and so it made up for it. Oh and we had white truffle scrambled eggs for dinner.
To return the favor to William for bringing us ice cream, we through him a cocktail hour. I made a grappa with lemon, mint, and lime; as well as, a vodka infused with rosemary. We also had a cheese board with fruit, jams, and bread.
A few nights later I took over “pudding duty” and made crepes for everyone. They were delicious and we put nutella and maple syrup on them.
The owners of the estate were Sally and Charlotte Greene, a mother-daughter duo. Charlotte was gone most of the time, so we became very good friends with Sally. She had a lot of stories to tell and was married to the nephew of Graham Greene, the famous British actor. she was very very nice, and loved to sing and dance, which we did quite often with her.
One week when Charlotte was away, Sally’s brother William came to visit. He was so nice that he brought us ice cream while we were picking olives. He works in the agriculture business in England, but also lives part time in South Africa.
The town that was closest to us at the castle was Castel del Piano. We walked through it to get to the Chestnut festival, but also visited it once as well. Definitely not a personal favorite, but worth checking out. This is also where we caught the bus to go to Florence on our last day.
Two weekends ago, and then again recently, we were able to go on a tour of the castle with guests staying there. Alexander showed us several of the rooms including a library, sitting room, bedroom, bathroom, and breakfast room. Later when his friends were in town he showed us to his personal perfumery where he gave us a tour of some of the world’s rarest scents. (one of which is cat anus hence the picture of our new friend Ralph)
There are also pictures here of various dinners and lunches which showcase the castle as well. It even had its own church.
All we do now is pick olives, olives, and more olives. As the days have gone on we have both been getting very high up in the trees, Isaac started climbing to the top a lot sooner than I did, but I’m getting used to it now.