Brent picked us up at the bus stop in Anghiari and gave us a ride to his farm, Valle di Mezzo, a few kilometers away
. When we arrived at the farm, it was exactly the picture I get in my mind when I think of Tuscany. Rolling hills with a mix of woods and fields surrounding ancient stone villas, wisps of smoke rising from their chimney's, random patches of olive trees, a big friendly herd dog greeting us in the driveway, sheep in the pasture and goats in the barn. There was a beautiful two bedroom, two bathroom guesthouse that we were sharing with another helper named Brian and we settled in to the second floor bedroom that had a wonderful view across the valley. Brent was right about it being pretty quiet though. Without milking or cheese-making happening, there was very little work to do. We joined Brent one afternoon to take the goats out for a walk in the woods, did some clean up in the barn and helped feed the goats, sheep, chickens, pigeons and rabbits a couple of times but that was about the extent of the work to be done with the animals. In our ample spare time, we went for a hike through the hills above the farm with Brent and his dog Bobo, joined Brent on a trip in to town and went with Brent for a visit to his other farm a few kilometers away, which is now used as a summer rental villa. The rest of our spare time was spent reading books about goats and cheese, gathering and cutting firewood and trying to keep warm!
Speaking of keeping warm, it turns out that by heading to Italy two and a half months earlier than we had planned, we don’t really have appropriate clothing for the season
. We tried to find some winter clothes while we were in Bangkok but the concept of "winter clothes" does not really exist in Thailand so the best we could find was windbreaker jackets and long sleeve t-shirts. I guess we could have bought some clothes in Italy but maybe due to our Scottish heritage, we have not been able to bring ourselves to pay Italian prices to buy winter clothes for only a few weeks when we have winter clothes back in Canada. So we have been wearing just about every piece of clothing we have, all at the same time. I have one pair of jeans that I have been wearing every day since we landed in Rome, Robin has been wearing a couple pairs of pants in layers and we both usually have four shirts and a windbreaker on and are wearing two pairs of socks at the same time. While this HAS been keeping us warm, it’s hard to do laundry when we are wearing almost everything we have and we hang our laundry to dry which takes a couple days. It was one thing to wear the same clothes every day in Rome and Assisi but now we have worn those same clothes while hanging out with goats and sheep for four days. I don’t think we smell that bad because it’s too cold to break a sweat but I do feel a bit sorry for the poor guy in the Mercedes Benz who stopped to give us a ride while we were walking from the farm back to Anghiari to catch the bus.
As lovely and relaxing of a time as we were having, we had really hoped to be able to do a bit more work around the farm and have opportunities to learn more but it was just not the right time of year for that. So after four days we decided we had enough relaxing and should spend our time seeing more of Italy so we said good bye to Brent and Brian and spent a couple of days in the town of Arezzo, 40 minutes south west of Anghiari.
After a lot of relatively lazy time hanging out on the beach in Vietnam, we were ready to spend some time doing some work. We had been planning to find a farm or two in Italy to volunteer on and wanted to try our hand at working with some animals this time. We found a great looking farm in the Tuscany region that raises goats and sheep and makes cheese! We love cheese, so this sounded like the perfect place. We contacted the owner of the farm, a friendly guy named Brent who is originally from the United States but has lived in Tuscany for the last 22 years and asked him if he needed any help on the farm. Brent told us that things on the farm were pretty quiet in January and there is no cheese making going on but we were welcome to come by and stay for a week anyways. We could help out a bit with some clean up and do some preparation for all the goat kids that will be born in the next month.