The past two weeks feel like both a blur and a lifetime. Just over two weeks ago, we were in London, and before that, in the States. We have only really been gone for three weeks… but it just feels like ages upon ages. Part of it may be that we aren’t really planning our trip ahead of time, just the next step. It has been tough for me to not know what every step in our journey is and when it will end, but this has enabled us to ultimately have better experiences, I think, because we are more open to them.
We started our Helpx journey on rocky terrain, but once we found and met up with the hosts we ultimately stayed with, it was smooth sailing. After our first night of meet, greet, and eat, we woke the next morning to see how to take care of the many animals on the farm.
This included 21 guinea pigs (all pets), a pony, 2 goats, 4 chickens, 2 tortoises, several fish in a small pond, and a partridge in a pear tree, minus the partridge and pear tree. They also had 2 insanely awesome dogs that made me really miss our own. Every morning and early evening it was our duty to feed and muck out the stalls/pens of all the animals. Let me tell you… chickens are some messy, smelly animals. They may produce some good food, but the amount of poop they produce is insane. The pony naturally pooped a ton, but it was all pretty much in the same spot and fairly clean (comparatively). Goats poop little tiny pellets… it’s kinda cute for poop. Chickens… I’m not sure whether to be impressed or horrified. I’ll just leave the poop conversation at that.
One of the goats, Millie, had a bit of a stubborn streak and an ability to pick out the weakest link to head-butt. Naturally, I was the target, though I don’t think she managed to successfully head-butt me. Boy, did she try though. The first several times I entered the animal area, she would come up and pretend to be all friendly-like, but soon enough the attempts to head-butt would begin. A couple times I tried grabbing her horns to stop the head-butting, but that was clearly the wrong tactic as it only egged her on. Eventually I learned that bonking her on the head with a little 1″x2″ stick does the trick. I tried lighting tapping her at first, which did absolutely nothing. After being reassured by stories of heavy thwacks on the head with rebar from an unimpressed service man, I dealt some heavier blows to the thick skull of the stubborn goat and eventually she realized that I would not put up with her wily ways. I only had to use the stick a couple times during the first few days, but I carried it with me every time I walked in… just in case. It was like my security blanket.
I was able to scratch her head and feed her grass and leaves soon enough without problem, but it took some time to get there. On that note… goats have an amazing ability to chomp through pretty much whatever you put in front of them. Even brooms, if they happen to be nearby. This photo is of Molly (the nicer of the two goats… she never tried to head-butt me!) attempting to eat the broom I was using to sweep up the pony stall.
One of the favorite parts of our days was feeding the guinea pigs. It seems like such an ordinary task, but when there is a horde of them… it’s just unbelievable. We realized that they started squeaking when they heard us coming towards their cage, but they did so even MORE when we swished some long, fresh grass at them. Their cries of excitement are immediate and joyous! Weeee! Weeee! Weeeeee! Sooooo cute!
The kids were a bundle of energy and fun every day. Jake was the oldest at 7 years old and full of curiosity (or maybe it was just an innate ability to annoy mom & dad with questions of who, what, when, where, why?). Taby was 5 and cute as a button.
The first full day we were there, both kids asked me to read them a book, though they first asked mom if I would read them a book as they were a bit too shy to ask me directly. I was delighted to be able to participate, so read a fun book to each when it was bedtime. Jesse also got his fair share of requests to read books throughout our stay, and it was absolutely adorable to see Jesse read books to the kids. During our playtime, we also got to make stone soup with Taby, which I remember making when I was little. A little of this flower, a little of that grass, a few rocks, some seeds, leaves, roots, etc. and you have a good looking soup! Even the stuffed animals joined in for a tasty meal…
In addition to the fun of the animals and kids, we also put a dent in some outside chores, such as weeding outside our little apartment, stacking and re-stacking firewood, burning some unneeded leaves and branches, and getting the pool ready for summer. We had amazing food every day, even if it was just a simple pasta with pesto. We learned that red pesto is even more tasty than green pesto! We heard many wonderful and inspiring travel stories from our hosts, which got me thinking more about where we might go next. We also had several opportunities to visit the small communities around the place we stayed. We managed to visit Sansepolcro a few times, Anghiari, and Citta di Castello – all gorgeous cities in central Italy, with the first two in Tuscany, and the last in the Umbrian region. Each of the towns is steeped in history and surrounded by tons and tons and tons of stone, and all with walls of stone around them. Each is beautiful, but probably one of my favorite views is looking out from Anghiari onto the farmlands beyond. Farms in Italy are so much more aesthetically pleasing than farms in the US!
The two weeks with our wonderful Helpx hosts flew by, but seem like ages. Maybe it is because we are different people after having been in Italy and with them for such a time. Maybe it is just a trick of my mind to think that it has been such a long time… but either way I know I have some amazing memories that will stick with me forever.