How To Be A Farmer…

Today is an auspicious day, as it is now one calendar month since we became the owners of an Italian farm, in the beautiful Sabina countryside, one hour north of Rome. It is peaceful, tranquil, gorgeous, and everything we hoped it would be.

Of course, this is no surprise. This expectation is the reason why we jumped through so many hoops of fire, and completed the 50 steps to buy a farm that I have written about before.

We have worked hard and learnt lots of important things during this first month, and I thought that today would be a good day to share some of the learning points:

1. Italian farmers do lots of bureaucracy. My first farming task was to sign up for water and rubbish collection. Of course, the very lovely lady in the commune wanted to see proof that I owned the house, which I didn’t (and in fact, still don’t) have. Luckily, people are very, very nice, and warm, and kind in Sabina, so having asked me the name of the ladies from whom I bought the house, and the name of their father (who died in 1996), she accepted my ownership claim. Completing the task of signing up for rubbish collection and water took a mere one day off work, two visits to the commune, and three hours of appointments. And now all that I need to do is drive to an office an hour and a half from home on a Tuesday morning between 0930 and 1130, and I will have bins, from which rubbish will be collected every Monday. Easy peasy!

2. Husbands of Italian farmers find it difficult to focus on any single, specific task, because they are surrounded by a veritable feast of power tools, boy toys and gadgets, all of which will break at the slightest thing. Husbands of Italian farmers, therefore, are unable to complete even the most basic of tasks because of the ever growing list of things that need to be fixed. In the unlikely event that you are able to get him to use the one piece of serviceable equipment left in the inventory, he will disappear to the very bottom of the land, wearing ear defenders, in order to “create a path to the nut trees” using a functional hedge trimmer that he has stumbled across.

3. Husbands of Italian farmers think TV is really, really important. In order to achieve viewing of the royal wedding (ok, that was for me), grands prix, golf, and some random soccer event in Russia, in which his nation is not participating, approximately three hours of daylight must be used every Saturday and Sunday finding the satellite signal. Of course, the effort is futile, because the satellite signal cannot, or will not be located. Gadgets to be acquired in support of this task: starting with a simple compass and swear words, and then continuing through several phone apps, and eventually to a sort of mini space station, which can find the signal, but refuses to transmit it to the telly.

4. Particularly due to lessons two and three, Italian farmers rely heavily on neighbours (to fix broken stuff) and family, to knuckle down to all the tasks that Italian farmers and their husbands have no time for. Cue arrival of la suocera (the mother in law) and her husband. At this point, the house will start to become hygienic, and the farm will slowly, but surely, stop resembling a plant graveyard, and start to look like a plant intensive care unit. Of course, the arrival of la suocera will also involve the consumption of industrial quantities of food and wine. This, however, will be of no consequence to our plucky farmer, as she will be so busy doing the manual labour (for the power tools are all broken, or in the possession of her husband) that she will, by the end of this first month, be as lithe and lean as a butcher’s dog, albeit a rather flea bitten elderly one!

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