Many Hands Make Light Work ….

No words were truer when the small family of Luca, Fabiano and Giacomo grew by 200%.

7 woofers descended on Casale le Crete, a charming bed and breakfast located in view of the Simbruini Mountains in the Abruzzo region.

A couple of set backs and major changes over then past two years had seen too many jobs piling around the ankles of Luca and Fabiana. They needed some help! Calling all woofers, 5 nationalities arrived on the property to join in a working bee of the highest degree; to prepare the bed and breakfast for the busy summer season.

The house is warm and lovely with four different colored rooms for bed and breakfast guests. The food is organic where possible and vegetarian. Yes, you heard right. The week was vegetarian. We ate vegetarian meals, even in the 5 different nationalities that resided here. Antonio coped remarkably well and genuinely seemed to enjoy all the meals. Although there was just a couple of times I found him hiding in Cubby slicing salami from the 6 sizeable salamis he bought from Maniago! And, of course, his first meal out was………… well just have a look at the picture!!

Our host, Luca is a WALKER! If walking was a religion, he says he would be a priest. I have to disagree and would ordain him a Bishop at least. Walking is his life. He has been in the walking business for the past 20 years, his business organizes up to 60 walks a year, he leads at least 12. He was a founder of the very successful Italian National Walking Association, and is writing a book to be published in April this year “The Art of Walking.” He is invited to speak at dinners and conferences, on walking. He has created a business from the B&B of walking tours with donkeys. From 2 -7 days long, they are particularly popular with families and children. He is also forging a new pilgrimage, a 30 day walk across Crete. He also conducts walks called Deep Walking, incorporating meditation and spiritual exercise each morning. A dream of many years has been to build a labyrinth at his home to walk within. We helped him realize this dream and I walked the labyrinth a couple of times and definitely felt calmed by it’s curves.

Photograph by Reinhard Zach

Other than walking, he has been involved, for 9 years, on a project to save the Abruzzian Marsican Bears of which there are only about 50 left. He is also on a committee to organize a Fair Trade Conference in L’Aquila this year, discussing a new way of living and consuming. Setting up networks to purchase directly from the producer, in a personal, fulfilling and profitable way. Needless to say, the man is not idle!

Our hostess, Fabiana, met Luca about 3.5 years ago. A shared passion for walking and a natural life bought them together, they fell in love, and hey presto, 12 months later Giacomo joined them. Fabiana’s time is spent between running the B&B and caring for and nurturing both Gaicomo and Luca.

There was two main reasons we wanted to WWOOF. One was to meet locals, the other to stay active. This week certainly fulfilled both these wishes.

Firstly, we met locals, friends who came by to visit and meet the Wwoofers, bearing tools, help with labor, gifts of hazelnut trees, or delivering truly delicious little homemade cakes covered in chocolate and filled with jam, like a homemade wagon wheels, only more delicious.

Secondly, we were active ……………. Boy, were we active: Collectively, we dug the clay based veggie garden , caught up on the ironing, rebuilt the chook house, repaired the dog corral, and made a gate for the veggie patch. We transported a huge pile of donkey poo, one bucket at a time, to the clay bedded veggie garden and fruit trees………(feeling tired yet?.)………..we then collected donkey manure from the donkeys yard and dug out about 6 inches of compacted manure from their stable. We feed and groomed the donkeys. We built a manger and a compost heap.

Photograph by Reinhard Zach

Trees were cut down and all timber, branches and twigs, one armful at a time, was cut and stored into a nice brush fence line. Other timber was sorted and stacked and a huge triffod style bramble of thorned rose bushes were cleared from around the bees hives. Shutters were stripped and stained. Barrels were painted. In the end, we built and painted a labyrinth!!!

Tony peeled off with the boys to work on the building projects and much of my time was spent working with Magdalena and Natalja. Fresh, creative, beautiful 24 year olds, young, mature and contemplative, with a bright eyed enthusiasm for their lives. We had lovely conversations as we spent our hours working. The view, if we stopped for a minute to look across the valley to the sleepy eyed, snowcapped, Padiglione Mountain, was peaceful, often misty, and really cold. Natalja is Dutch, and a trained journalist and writer, living in Florence with her boyfriend Emilio.  She has a wonderful food Blog, in Dutch, but with great photos,  Magdalena is from Austria and came to Casale le Crete with her beautiful boyfriend, Reinhard. Still at university, she has a part time occupation, amongst other things, making creative installations for special events. A special project she worked on involved making 1000 white polyurethane creatures that were paraded around her city of Linz as part of Linz being the Austrian Cultural Capital for a year.  You can see some of the amazing creatures at the home page,  Meeting ALL our fellow Wwoofers was a bonus we had not expected. Thankyou to you all. Andrea, Natalja, Douglas, Reinhart and Magdalena! You were wonderful companions and colleagues, and certainly we all put our hearts into our jobs, many hands and friendship, “making light work!”

Photograph by Reinhard Zach

Of course, it was not all work with no play. All meals and afternoon teas were shared with great conversation and laughter. We were rewarded with free time, and all chose, you guessed it, to go walking!!!

Our first afternoon walk was inspiring. Whilst the Abruzzo landscape was rough and sparse looking at first sight, we wove in and out of many different vistas, a harsh but lovely environment, unsurprisingly home of such creatures as Marsican Bear and the Appienne Wolf.

Our final day included a group walk, traveling about 8 kilometers in 3 hours, we began in the ancient village of Cocullo traveling along a rocky snow sprinkled path that meandered with the river before leading UP to another ancient village, Castrovalva, drawn early last century by the famous Dutch artist M C Escher. Country side that, a life time before Escher, has seen Edward Lear (The Owl and the Pussycat) record his travels here, in verse. Luca is planning a Donkey assisted walk through these areas, specifically including information on Escher and Lears time here. You can stand in the spots that Escher painted, and listen to the descriptions from Edward Lear of the street you are standing in, realizing little has changed in over 1000 years.

We may not WWOOF for a while now, intending to mosey along and holiday. But we look forward to our next WWOOF experience, a little like a lucky dip, you kind of just close your eyes, pick a spot and turn up. Never really knowing what to expect.

A Lear Style word from our “Sizzleing Scott”, Douglas Harrison to end:

Dear Luca, Fabiana and Giacomo
Greetings from Ciampino
This grey and rainy day
Here is what I have to say:

Grazie a tutti for a great WWoof stay
Good food, work, laughs and some play.
We shared your day with three cats,
Two thin, one fat
All of whom said “miaaaaooww!”
And lovely Denise, who from time to time answered, “naaooooo!”
And Ella and Tao
White and bouncy, barking bow wow, how wow
And sweet-smiling Magdalena with her delightful, “wow!”
And four donkeys, who said
“Dank u wel,
For making our home
A four-star hotel.”
And Reinhardt who, for his part,
Built a gate, dug a bittle little, and did great computer art;
And Natalja and Antonio:
Their cards they did not show
My, how they fought hard
For that single, lonesome Euro.
And Andrea, who also dug, hammered and pushed the schauptruhe
Full of donkey poo, hard and gooey.

And is that is all there is to say, of this happy lot?
No! What about the Sizzling Scot?!
He just wants to say, thanks for good food, good wine, great time
And for reading this peculiar little rhyme.


4 Comments on “Many Hands Make Light Work ….”

  1. Natalja says:

    Dear Denise, What a lovely story! It represents our work and especially our fun really well. I think it says a lot that after just one week you can tell so much about us. And thanks a lot for the sweet compliments:) Fresh, creative, I had to look contemplative up in the dictionary! Such a pity we wont see each other in Florence, but maybe we can get together in The Netherlands. I think I’ll be there between the 29th of April and the 3th of May. Let’s keep in contact! Have a wonderful trip and throughout your blog I will keep spying on you guys for more juicy stories. Greetings to the both of you! Natalja

  2. Leah says:

    Denise you legend. I’m inspired. I smash the mattock once through my clay soil and I’m exhausted. Seriously, wow! good work. It looks so beautiful there.

  3. Birgit & Arturo says:

    Hi Denise, you are such a perfect travel editor. Birgit and me we always enjoy the new episode of your travel and wwoofer experiences 🙂 – and the strategy of Antonio on survival from a vegetarian week is just wonderful.
    In German we call this: Salami-Tactics
    We are looking forward seeing you soon!

  4. camminacreta says:

    Dear Denise, e caro Antonio,
    your story is very nice, we want to thank you again, for the big work done here and for the very nice words about us. We will follow your trip, and we put a link to this page on our website.
    Luca, Fabiana and Giacomo

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