It’s spring, and in spring, we are always incredibly busy.
The farm is springing in to life, and we still have around fifty trees to prune before the olive blossom appears, which could be any day now. We have mowing to do, vines to tie up, bee hives to build, paint and site, and bees to source.
But today is Friday.
So, as per most Fridays, I am sitting on a yellow plastic chair, waiting to see our agricultural consultant, in order to attempt to get a number.
I must have this number in order to get the bees that I must get within the month of April. So every week I make an appointment at the farmers’ union offices.
And then every Friday I come along and sit on a yellow plastic chair, and patiently wait my turn, in order to request the “codice stalla” that is a prerequisite for becoming a beekeeper.
Knowing that we planned to start keeping bees in the spring of 2023, I started my weekly vigils to the farmers’ union in October 2022. Things take time here, and “she who fails to plan, plans to fail”, so I started my requests for a codice stalla many months ahead of Bee Day.
Sadly, autumn 2022 was “too early” to request a codice stalla for spring 2023, so in January 2023 I started again.
Some context here: I’ve been a Licensed Farmer here since 2018. My farming licence allows me to carry out mixed farming, that is to say arable and the raising (and breeding) of animals. I am also a qualified “agricultural entrepreneur”, having studied for 150 hours, and then passed the exam to become a Qualified, Licenced, Entrepreneurial Farmer (the pass mark is 100%). And I’m a certified organic farmer, having undergone three years of organic conversion, and passing my organic inspection every spring since 2019.
The president of our local bee keeping society (from whom we will source our bees) assures us that the application process can be done online, and takes two minutes. She has even offered to do the application on my behalf. However, this path, my union rep insists, is for hobby beekeepers, and Licenced Farmers can not be hobby beekeepers. Furthermore, he advises me that the president’s offer to obtain a codice stalla on our behalf, is in fact, a ruse to get us to join her beekeeping association, where we will be held hostage for ever more, and required to pay extortionate membership fees which are excessive and unreasonable, as my membership of the farmers’ union already provides me with help and assistance in matters such as this.
So, every Friday, I sit here.
And some weeks I am seen within an hour of my appointment time! This week I’ve been waiting for 1.5 hours so far, which is not bad, all things considered.
This time is not wasted time though!
So far today, I have cleared out all the old WhatsApp messages from my phone. I’ve completed all of the filing of my emails, and have cleaned out my spam folders, from all four of my email addresses. I’ve emailed a couple of clients, organised my diary, and marked some English tests that I should have done yesterday. I’ve also had an informal Italian lesson, this week’s subject being “The Evils of Synthetic Meat”. I’m still not sure if I am particularly bothered about this threat to Italian heritage, but I signed the petition anyway.
After six or seven appointments, I still feel no closer to getting the blessed codice stalla. I have never entirely understood why I need it, or why it is so incredibly difficult to obtain. The story varies, but the fact of the matter is that as a Licenced Farmer, I MUST have one, and my union rep MUST go to the ASL on my behalf to obtain it. And he is terribly busy, so I must wait. I cannot, must not complete the paperwork in advance. He must go, collect the paperwork, bring it here to this little office, then I must sign it, pay the bollo (around Eu20), then he will return the signed paperwork to the ASL, and bring my codice stalla back to the office for me to collect.
I keep thinking that I could circumvent the stalemate by sneakily popping to the ASL myself, thereby saving my very overworked (and trust me, the man is a saint, and even busier than he claims to be) union rep the several one hour round trips to the ASL that he is required to make.
But I can’t.
Because the ASL is only open to the public on a Friday morning, and I spend every Friday morning on a yellow plastic chair waiting to find out if I need to go to the ASL myself, or if I will confuse matters even further by reapplying for a codice stalla that has already been applied for.
So, here I sit.
Today, however, I have a Cunning Plan. I wonder if the husband of a Licenced Farmer can be a hobby beekeeper?
But it seems that there was no need for a cunning plan!
After a mere two hours, fifteen minutes of sitting on my favourite yellow plastic chair, it’s my turn to enter the office!
And the paperwork is ready!
I have signed various papers, I have paid the total bill of Eu48 (us organic farmers pay extra for everything), and now my dear, brave consultant will deliver the requisite pieces of paper to the ASL on my behalf, and we will speak next Wednesday.
On Thursday of next week (I already have an alternative appointment for next Friday), I will sit on a yellow plastic chair, until my wonderful consultant shouts “chi c’era?”, and I will go in to his office, and receive my codice stalla.
And I will be happy, and grateful to receive this gift.
Because, to live successively in Italy, one needs, more than anything else, to understand that patience is a virtue.
And having got my codice stalla, I will get my bees.
And my bees will be happy bees.
And I will patiently wait for my honey, and I will become a bee bore.
Because, one must have patience to get honey.
Because, cue Bee Fact Number One ….
Twelve worker bees work their whole lives to produce ONE TEASPOON OF HONEY …
And honey, like all good things, is worth the wait.