First Week WooffersPosted: February 18, 2011
The three of us were on cruise control today. That is Antonio, me and the Cubby. A deliberate move away from the Auto Strada took some negotiating between Ezzi (that’s our Tom Tom, short for Ezmeralda who tends to favor Auto Strada routes), and Google Maps on the Ipad……. (we really love that!)
A truly beautiful drive today, across a mountain pass where we saw snow again and I had to fight the urge to go find my skis and head down a slopey paddock. You know what kind of countryside we are in when the road signs say, beware of falling rocks, jumping deer and cows! And you see a restaurant called “Nedo d’Aquilla” or “Eagles Nest!” Winding roads revealed ragged little cliffs with a cluster of stone buildings perched on top. Reminiscent of times of feuding families wanting a good vantage point. We have bordered Tuscany and arrive in Umbria.
Our destination is our First Wwoofing Assignment. at the Cembini Cultural Center, property of Maura Beltrame and her son, Paulo. Maura and her son are restoring her late fathers 50 hectare farm on the outskirts of Aquasparta, Umbria. She has a dream; to create a Cultural Center that’s a home for artists, musicians, writers, intellectuals and philosophers.
The WWOOFer SOS email attracted us for a number of reasons. The jobs were described as helping to sort a collection given to them, of over 14000 books on agriculture. and to help set up a horse and donkey riding center. The add called for a preference for artists and musicians but we thought we would apply anyway.
Its a funny thing to drop yourself into the very heart of someones passion, life and family. Like being a temporary office worker, you are instantly an integral part of the system, but you don’t really belong. You don’t know the established politics of the relationships around you, or the protocols. You are simply there, as a peg, for a short time and gone.
I think both Tony and I underestimated how challenging this could be. Added to this Maura has a big picture that is not always easy to understand. She can talk at 100 miles an hour and even Tony had trouble interpreting her for himself, let alone for me.
Virtually single handedly Maura is driving this massive project. There is the house, the Taverna, a small church she has created and had consecrated. Her artist flair is evident in the rocks she has found in the property resembling the shape of fish. She has embedded these in the wall of the tiny church, behind what will be the alter. There are a myriad of other buildings whose scale and light are quite beautiful and will realize their potential in time, being transformed into meeting halls, stables and accommodation.
The farm is certified organic and the only income at present is gleaned from selling the organic hay and timber collected from the small wood on the property. She has found some very old maps that suggest an original Roman road cut across her property. She hopes to find it, something as lucrative as finding a gold mine!
In her spare time, Maura is a Donkey Trainer and Musical Director!! She has composed and directed a series of musicals on the lives of the Saints, St Francesco of Assisi is her favorite. You can see more of her work at http://www.cembini.it She hopes to include herself and her Donkey, Pilo in some future musicals.
4-5 hours work as day left us plenty of time for exploring the surrounding countryside, often with Paulo as guide, proud of his Umbrian heritage. He is an intelligent, young philosopher, drawn to Celtic and Pagan history.
As far as WWOOF work goes, I think this was a pretty good gig. Our main jobs involved rubbing a waxy, oily product into thirsty old wood, firstly on the floor of the Taverna, then onto the 50 or so old scaffolding planks recycled from her fathers building business, being given new life as shelves in what will be the Cembini Cultural Center Library. The work was mundane and often left us questioning its purpose. In defense, we developed our own WWOOF creed. “Ours is not to question why or how, we are WWOOFers and we just DO!” I like to say “It’s all character building.!” Antonio likes to say “He’s enough of a character already!”