Sunday, March 29, 2009


Just a quick update.  I'm leaving this current farm and going up north to Chiavari, a town near the coastal Genova.  This farm was great and I loved working with the animals, but I'm ready to learn about cultivating some vegetables and really getting to know the farmers.  Hopefully I'll be able to post soon after arriving at the new farm.  

Here's a look at the past few days.

This is Marco's accommodations.  Marco takes care of all the animals and has become one of my favorite people on the farm.  He's just a mellow guy who keeps his calm even when half the goats have run away to the olive grove and the others, with the kids, have followed the sheep into the stable.  I think this wooden house fits him perfectly.  

Most of the kids have been born.  It's amazing how fast they grow.  Two weeks ago they were just born and learning how to walk.  Now they are running all over the place, hanging out together, and jumping down cliffy slopes.  Yesterday I got to actually watch a birth.  It was pretty incredible to see something enter the world and experience its first minutes. 

The weather has been pretty extreme lately.  One day it will be nice and sunny and I can work in a t-shirt.  Then the next day it will be rainy and windy.  In any case, its still beautiful.

Oh, did I mention it snows too?  I was in the fields with the animals and it started coming down.  Crowding around the goats for warmth I thought "How crazy is it that I'm a shepherd in the south of Toscana and its snowing?"  It was really a cool experience (pun totally intended).  

When I'm at the next farm I will miss the animals.  I have grown attached to them and have enjoyed working with them.  I'm really lucky to have gotten this photo.  She's a tough goat.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sono un Pastore ( I am a Shepherd)

I live on a farm.  I’ve been here for just over two weeks and I like it here.  The place is beautiful.  The work is hard.  The food is good and the family is nice.  The farm sits on the top of one of many hills, overlooking a valley of woodland.  In the distance you can see two towns, a dormant volcano and a bunch of isolated farms like ours.  

Here’s the office area/storage space of the farm.  The farm is called Podere Il Casale.

Basically I am a shepherd.  I work with Marco, a mellow animal-lover, and together we take care of the sheep and goats.  My days pretty much surrounds one goal: feed the animals and make sure they make milk.  Cleaning and filling troughs, shoveling hay, bundling olive branches, taking the sheep out to the fields and even hand feeding lambs.  There are about 150 sheep and 40 goats on the farm.  That's a lot of mouths to feed!

During my day these guys get in my way.  Every morning as I'm shoveling hay, they eat exactly where I'm working.  I think they  think I'm there to serve them fresh hay for breakfast.  They are goats who hang out with the sheep because they think they are sheep.  At  first I had negative feelings towards them, but I’ve warmed up to them and I think the feeling is mutual. 

When I first got here there was one other volunteer.  Fisherman Bob, a 65 year old retired Alaskan fisherman with a heart of gold.  He’s one of those people that you are just glad to have met and hope you’ll cross paths with in the future.  He left to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain a week ago. 

During my first week here the sheep started having babies.  These lamb were born the night before I took this picture.  It is a really cook sight to watch something explore the world for the first time.  Since then all the lambs have been born and all but a few kids have been born.  The farm is full of baby animals. (Casey, you'd go nuts!)

Speaking of goats…I’ve come to favor them over the sheep. They are just smarter, more affectionate and (the best part of all) they don’t complain.  Plus they scale rocky slopes - now that's impressive.

On the farm there are a bunch of animals.  Here’s one of the peacocks that loves to show off.  There’s also hens, a donkey, a pony, a duck, a ton of cats, two dogs, the sheep and the goats.  There is always something amusing to see when there are that many animals around. 

Here’s Ben, the watchdog, doing what he does best. 

If any of you have seen Into The Wild, you’ll get this.  This isn’t my accommodation, but I wish it was.  It’s a pretty cool hang out though.

Here’s Marco taking the pony back to its pen.  The sunsets here are amazing with insane colors warming up the Tuscan landscape.  It's a nice way to end my long day.  It's starting to warm up now too, so I can stay out a bit longer to enjoy.

Enough said.