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    • Day 139

      Day 5: HelpX - final day

      May 19, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

      Today is my final day as a HelpXer for Helen and David.

      And as it's not raining we're finally getting j to the garden to plant those potatoes! We've got our earliest start yet, breakfast at 7 with croissants.

      Divia and I start in the vegetable patch we started with last week, before moving on to two others. We dug up the dirt, pull out any weeds and then rake it back over the ground.

      I'm responsible for planting the potatoes. I line up the pegs, pull up the dirt, place the potato and burry the dirt. This takes up all of our allocated time for today.

      For lunch we had 5 salads to choose from and muffins for dessert.

      While I pretend to pack up my room Divia is preparing for her nursing interview tonight in Skype with a university in Toronto.

      This afternoon we take a walk up to the ghost village. It's this old town, that looks to be built in the medieval period, that was abandoned by its occupants in the war. They took only what they could carry and everything else was left behind. It's still there now, spoons in walls, bed frames, tables and ovens.

      The view walking down was spectacular. Added bonus was the clear blue skies. That was a 2 hour return walking journey.

      But the walking wasn't over. While Divia attended her interview David and I went for a walk through the forest looking for mushrooms. It was, unfortunately, to dry and to early in the season. But we saw all sorts of plants, beds wild boars had made, badgers borrows and fox's toilets.

      For dinner we had:
      Seafood risotto
      Tiramisu and strawberry-misu
      Pink prosecco

      We played uno, but we regular cards and chase the ace. I managed an epic 3 match winning streak in uno to hold off losing to David, but I eventually succumbed.

      I've had an awesome time here. Manual labour is a very different kind of wok haha and I have a new appreciation and thankfulness for all the farmers out there.
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    • Day 137

      Day 3: HelpX

      May 17, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

      Today we are up at 8am. First task is to finish off the wood chopping job. David drives his tractor and cart down to where we stacked the wood cuts yesterday.

      His tractor is really cool! It has rope curled around the front which is pulled to start, you can see all of the machine sections and it has a little metal stick to turn it off. The cart off the back is a tip loader, but we have to tip it haha.

      We cart the wood up to his wood shed and chop it down, first with chainsaw then with axe, into pieces we can stack. He says he currently has 3 years worth of wood cut and stacked for them.

      For lunch today we are being treated to real Italian pizza cooked in the outside pizza oven that David has made. Bruno, their neighbour, joins us for lunch. It was such an Italian thing to do and such a treat!

      Helen has made the dough balls and we went outside to work on the marble table top. Bruno started and showed us how it was done. First up we rolled out the rough with a rolling pin. We sprinkled Helen's homemade pizza sauce as the base, then chose a handful of ingredients, some vegetables, some cured meats before putting either mozzarella or Gorgonzola.

      In Italy you share your pizza with everyone else. So when we brought our pizzas back from the oven, we sliced them up and shared them out. You might only get one slice of your own pizza. I love this sharing culture.

      Diva and I join David in a little mission late this afternoon. A local from another village has offered David a scooter, so we travel up to his village to collect it. The village used to be the main village of the area, but has since broken down. We wander into the local little bar for a piccolo vino rosa, before heading back home.

      Tonight Bruno has invited us down to his house for apivertor. We drink local red wine (the best I've had so far) and meats cured by Bruno himself. It was delicious.

      Bruno joins us for dinner at our house and a round of chase the ace.

      Dinner is:
      Pasta - salmon and vegetables
      Salad - garden salad
      Desert - mousse and wafer sticks

      I also try some homemade vodka sloth berries. It was good.
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    • Day 136

      Day 2 : HelpX

      May 16, 2015 in Italy ⋅ 🌧 19 °C

      Today the markets are on in the town, so instead of working in the morning, we shall work in the afternoon and visit the markets first.

      After breakfast we head down to the town. Diva and I go fit a walk through the Old Town. We see some markets, the oldest bar (coffee shop) in town, we walk past an old cobbler shop which is thought to be linked to the story of Pinocchio and take photos with the Pinocchio statue. We also visit a local corner store and walk around the seat working theatre in Italy, ___.

      The town is a beautiful, old medieval town. In our way back to meet Helen and David we stop into a local bakery - the smell was just lovely. In most of the cabinets is fresh pasta! Pasta of all sorts. There are also fruit pies, little sweets and a savoury delicacy called .... I had a potato one and it was yummy.

      David took us to his local pizzeria where we tried local focaccia and .... It's like a pizza based made from chickpea flour.

      While I was eating my ... In the street David asked if I still had the receipt. He said, that in Italy you must always haves receipt to prove to the police that you bought the item. If I couldn't show my documents to prove I'd paid for it I could be fined as would the suite who sold it for not giving me one. It's crazy!

      After lunch we worked in the forest cutting up trees that had fallen over for firewood. David would cut the trees with the chain saw and Diva and would carry them up the hill to the house.

      For dinner we have:
      Entree - pesto, tomato & cheese in squares of fill pastry
      Pasta - pest pasta, the pesto is made from stinging nettles
      Dessert - fruit salad with a coconut yogurt semifredo

      Tonight we are watching a movie that David and Helen really like called 'brother, where out thy?' It's a Cohen brothers film. It was really funny and enjoyable.

      We have a fire going again tonight. This time putting the wood in means a bit more haha. More wood = more chopping!
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    • Day 135

      Day 1 : HelpX in Pontremoli

      May 15, 2015 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

      For the next week I've decided to try my hand at HelpX (exchange). It's a website that was recommended to me when I originally at home. The premise ... "HelpX is provided primarily as a cultural exchange for working holiday makers who would like the opportunity during their travels abroad, to stay with local people and gain practical experience. In the typical arrangement, the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts."

      I'm staying in Northern Tuscany, way up in the mountains, in the town were Ponocchio is famous . I'm staying with a retired English couple, who have lived here for almost 11 years. They have their own house here and prefer to live off the land. So they have lots of vegetables gardens, fruit trees, wood stocks, animals etc.

      I arrived yesterday afternoon and was given a short tour, by my hosts David and Helen, of the small town before heading up to the mountains. Pontremoli was the last Pagen viillage in Italy and it also has the oldest working theatre here.

      David and Helen live in a beautiful old home, which they are constantly renovating or changing. The houses here all live on top of each other and there are no dividing yard lines. It reminds me of Beatrix Potter's farm and I forget sometimes that I'm in Italy. They have a double storey house and upstairs is a 3 bedroom apartment, which myself and a Canadian Helper, Diva (pronounced Diver) are staying in. The view from our balcony over the valley are just glorious!

      Last night we had apivertors downstairs before enjoying a lovely meal of pasta with local prochinni mushrooms, second course was a salad and third course was dessert. We also drank local red wine. The wine is served in those typical Italian wine bottles and has a dry cork on top. Due to the dry cork, when bottled, oil or vasaline is put in the neck of the wine to prevent the air reaching the wine. David tells us that when the wine is ready to drink they used to put horse hair (but he used paper towel) into the neck to scope out the oil.

      I have a lovely huge room with a massive bed and am basking in all it's glory at night!

      Today it's raining, which is a problem as a lot of the work David needs help with is outside. We have a delicious breakfast of croissants and cereal before we tempt the weather and head outside to dig up the patch for the potatoes.

      Unfortunately, the weather has other ideas and so we head inside to break up a concrete floor with a drill.

      Tonight we play some card games; scoupa, chase the ace and one other.

      Dinner is:
      Soy fillet in rescue of chicken
      Peaches in liqueur with a cream thing & biscotti biscuit crushed in

      I also handsome lemonceklo…
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