I had been toying with the idea of WWOOFing for the last few years after hearing about it when I was working at the Casa Caracol hostel in Cadiz. At that point, it was an idea I pocketed but never acted upon. It’s only been over the last couple of years that I have been giving serious thought to my future. Where did I see myself in 10 years time?
Turning 30 has certainly made me take a pause in order to put together a rough plan for the next few years. Until now, I guess I could say that I have gone wherever the tides have taken me not really giving a second thought to a longer term plan. TEFL teaching has given me so much over the last 7 years of my life and I know that I can constantly improve as a teacher. Having said that, If I am honest with myself, my heart lies elsewhere.
So when I fast forward to 2024, where do I see myself? What I see is a little house with some land big enough to grow fruit and vegetables and to house a few animals. This little house will have been converted in to a small Bed and Breakfast where I can welcome people into my home and spend my days doing what I truly love to do… cooking!
The first step of my plan is to take a well-deserved break from teaching and get back in touch with nature. I felt it important to spend some time in the environment I am picturing my future self in. In reality my contact with the wild recently has been practically non existent. Not good.
So here I am, back in Sicily, a place I knew I would come back to after Mount Etna stole a piece of my heart back in 2009. This time, I am lucky enough to share this experience with someone who shares many of my philosophies and whose company enhances every happy experience in my life.
Volunteering on organic or self sustainable farms is the perfect way to get back in touch with nature and to meet new people. These new people can hopefully teach us valuable skills that we can put into use in the future. Along the way, we hope to share our ideas and philosophies and see some new and interesting places.
Our first stop has brought us to “Casa de Tizzy” on the foothills of Mount Etna, which is no surprise for those of you who know me! On this small farm live Tizziana, Santo and their 2 year old “bimba” Maya. They have a small area of land overlooking both the sea and the volcano and pride themselves on growing a little of everything.
The first week here has flown by. We live in our own little place connected to their home and are free to eat and try whatever we can get our hands on. We work in the mornings, enjoy a large lunch and are free to explore in the afternoons when we recover from eating!
Early last week, we cleaned and weeded the tomato patch from the summer harvesting the last of the sweet juicy cherry tomatoes of the season whist trying not to eat them all at the same time! We turned the soil and prepared it for the next batch of plants by laying large pieces of plastic with holes in for the plants to go through. Under the plastic are irrigation pipes to feed water if the rain doesn’t serve. Today we planted broccoli, lettuce, cabbage and fennel for the colder autumn season.
Also last week we spent a whole morning collecting olives whilst the next day was spent smashing them and putting them in jars in order to start the process of getting them ready to eat. We will flavor them later this week hopefully.
Over the weekend, we took some time off, enjoying a few thunderstorms (one far too close for comfort!) and doing some socialising. On Saturday night I met a few one of Tizziana’s friends, most of whom are fellow teachers, and was treated to a mini percussion concert in one their apartments. I also nervously played my ukulele in public for the first time and was encouraged somewhat by their reaction.
On Sunday we visited Tizziana’s cousin who also owns land a 400 metres higher up the volcano. There, we enjoyed stunning views of the Ionian sea whilst we helped what seemed like the whole family extended harvest the grapes for this year’s wine. The food was incredible and we ate and drank til all there was left to do was fall asleep under the sun.
Our return to work today has given us the opportunity to make wine on a smaller more intimate scale. We spent the early morning picking every grape to be found around the house. We then got rid of any bad ones and chucked the rest into 2 big buckets. With Santo and Tizziana only having a small quantity of grapes, no machinery is needed and so we were able to use the age old process of pressing the grapes with our feet!
We hope to spend at least another week here to see our plants grow and taste our olives. Unfortunately the wine won’t be ready until December so we may have to make a detour on our way back to sample some of our handiwork!