Harvest Festival 9/29

on Friday, August 24, 2012

Summer at Rickatee Ranch

on Sunday, June 10, 2012

Check out the start of our summer at the ranch.... Quick updates: We started the pumpkin patch when Momma Val came to visit. We planted well over 150 pumpkins so get ready to harvest in Dryden this fall. While you're here, you can check out the Zombie Run we are working on. There will be Zombies and running (more to come). Our newest addition to the farm are our three beautiful sheep Mama Fiona and her girls Tupela and Clementine. They escaped after having them for 12 hours, but with the help of some friends, they are back in the pen and chompin' on all of our grass. They will graze for us and we plan on using their wool. As the flock gets bigger, we will bring the rams to the butcher and use the hides...for whatever you use hides for (more to come). Joe and Jenny came to visit from Brooklyn and they were ready to work. Joe and Rick built the barnyard for the sheep, while Jenny and I planted and herb garden and cooked up some delicious food. We spent the day at Cayuga lake and had a picnic after checking out the farmers market. We got our first ice cream of the season at Toad's Too and the Shaw's had a chance to meet the delightful community in Dryden. Miles was born in February and he is the flyest little dude in town. Our neighbors, Lauren and Jake, share the little man with us as much as they can and it is fantastic. Jake mowed a path to the pond from their house so we can meet up in the field and go for walks in the woods together...it's out of a book. Katie and Evan went with us to Camp Mushroom where we spent the weekend learning all about mushrooms, how to grow and harvest them, how to prepare them, why they cure cancer etc. Day two was innoculating logs and waxing them. We brought home ten logs and then got a whole kit and innoculated 25 more on our own. This time next year we'll have 40lbs of shitakes...or shit takes, as we like to call them. Pre-party for the Avett Brothers at Rhody and Matt's house. The show was fantastic with an acoustic set that blew us away. We danced, sang and Evan asked me 100 times if I was going to Grassroots. Looking forward to having friends visit the farm this summer... we are hoping to have a BBQ in July. You are all welcome ANYTIME....especially if you want to work the farm. We're harvesting kale, broccoli, spinach, arugula, lettuce and some herbs now. Potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, garlic, onion, peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, and much more to follow. Things are good. Rick and I think of our family and friends every second. We are lovin' life together on the farm.

Anseo in Feckin' Ireland

on Sunday, July 12, 2009

So here we are, in the Graceland. A lot has happened since I last posted anything…just haven’t had time and energy to sit down and focus on writing I guess. I realized I haven’t spent much time writing on the blog about the work we’ve been up to, but more the sights we see when we have time off. Rest assured, we have been working and learning….almost too much at this point. We are starting to count down the days and research Vanagons for cross country. Seems as though we’re turning into farmers these past few days with sun kissed faces, sore legs and stained teeth.

Our last few weeks in Italy were spent living in a mud hut in the Bay of Baratti on an Etruscan ruin with a Dutch woman who grows flax and cannabis and has yet to wash her clothes in any conventional manner. We built an entire garden from scratch again in the tough clay soil of Tuscany…lettuce, carrots, misticanza (sounds like a porn name right?…its lettuce), beans, peppers, you name it. We got to label the garden and named it ‘Anterif‘. I drew a guy farting on the rock label for the beans…they loved that. We worked with a team of volunteer architects on the construction of a proper Etruscan mud/clay hut that will eventually house an enormous weaving loom where Frida (or the “Fritz” as we later nicknamed her) can spend her days living like an Etruscan weaving clothes out of cannabis, drinking too much wine, pooping into small clay pots and sacrificing small animals. Fritz loves Etruscans….she loves them…she really, really does and they were quite an amazing bunch of civilians but you have to pity people who try so hard to live this ancient, alternative lifestyle. There is a reason behind evolution. It’s similar to the Amish and Republicans…I mean, electricity is great! And a flushable toilet is certainly a real treat.
Of course, everything is a novelty for a weeks time. It’s fun to cook over fire and live by candlelight…poop in the woods, shower under a hose stream of ice cold rain water, plant and harvest for dinner, barter with the neighbors for wine and eggs, etc. Makes you really appreciate what you have IN YOUR HUGE REFRIGERATOR back home.

Fritz’s Dutch accent (paired with her outlandish and never-ending storytelling sessions), the arrival of Antonio, a drunk Italian 40yr. old Wwoofer (who looked exactly like the scary old man in Scooby Doo), combined with the process of wiping and placing your toilet paper in a separate basket (which was no fun to accidentally peak into) and the relentless mosquitoes…really made the final weeks in Italy a painful slide into a pool of homesickness. We longed for public toilets, airport food and speaking English…maybe even telling a joke or making a witty remark under your breathe to share a bit of laughter with some stranger. Landed in Dublin, ran to a pub for a pint and chicken wings and hopped on a train headed west to Sligo county.

As soon as we sat down to out first meal in Ireland, we missed Italy. Not that we wanted to go back….but my God the Irish can’t cook. They don’t spend any time eating together, preparing or presenting the food they boil….and they don’t drink wine with every meal. I think we just miss home…we miss the idea of doing all of these things back in our kitchen and in our own house.

We are on an organic farm now that grows crop to bring to market. We’ve been learning a lot about how the Irish compost, we are building polytunnels, sowing, planting, harvesting….cleaning plots of land planting potatoes…eating potatoes…learning a lot.

Started reading more Irish authors and I found ‘Murphy’ by Samuel Beckett at one farm to take with me on the bus. I must say the first page of the novel is probably my favorite of all time…and maybe it’s just because it was so definitive of where we’re at right now…or maybe it’s because of the way it sounds like a poem when you read it out loud…either way, I love it. The books not bad either. Irish writers are in a realm of their own…they know some secret about fiction and how to manipulate the language to fit a thought exactly….

‘The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. Murphy sat out of it, as though he were free, in a mew in West Brompton. Here for what might have been six months he had eaten, drunk, slept, and put his clothes on and off, in a medium-sized cage of north-western aspect commanding an unbroken view of medium-sized cages of south-eastern aspect. Soon he would have to make other arrangements, for the mew had been condemned. Soon he would have to buckle to and start eating, drinking, sleeping and putting his clothes on and off, in quite alien surroundings.’

Maybe the directional’s are a bit off, but I feel like this is part of what this trip has done for us (taken out of context of course because this is describing something with a completely different meaning in the story). Being far away from who you are and where you live makes the view so much better. We can’t wait to return home and look at America with different eyes. America is friggin awesome. There is this gradual point that we have reached where we can see an unbroken view of how we live, where we live it…with who we choose to surround ourselves…etc. And it is surely, now more than ever, “unbroken.” Our lives, sitting far away, have this different light on them…the same size cage as any other life around the world, but ours looks absolutely perfect from where we are. Finished, polished, brand new…we will be returning to a place we know nothing and everything about.

Shit…the green acres call….I could write about these feelings all day…but I have to get out to the farm. Rick will be getting some photos up soon, hopefully before we get home. We’re replanting cabbage, broccoli and carrots, rebuilding a shed and possibly going bogging for turf today…then climbing some mountain where you can see Scotland from the top…yippy skippy.

Cinque Terre pics

on Sunday, June 14, 2009

It was like we were on vacation. Probably the most beautiful place we have ever been.

Riccia.... 2 months later

OK, OK... We are a little behind on the pictures. We have about 30 gigs of photos and videos stored on my ipod. But we have been really, really, really enjoying ourselves, and have been without the internet most of the time. Who uses dial-up anymore?

Here, we have a bunch of pictures of our family in Riccia during Easter week. Absolutely wonderful. Enjoy.

The Gravity of the Pot

on Saturday, June 13, 2009


Today was one of the best days of our lives. But let me start with yesterday.

Yesterday, we spent the morning finishing up some painting in one of the bedrooms. This house, like many of the houses in Italy, is ancient….centuries and centuries old. It is an old farmhouse, which always consist of two levels. The top floor was where the family lived and the bottom floor was the stable where the animals live. Near the kitchen, there is a huge gaping hole that is covered by a cellar door. Here, the farmer could throw food down to the animals. Because they were eating organically in those days, the shit smell was not as fierce, apparently close to nothing at all (which I find difficult to believe after scraping shit off the floor of an old barn…that 16th century shit resonating underneath was certainly there and smelled a lot like…well, 21st century shit.) The animals presence also kept the house warm and acted as central heating in the winter. One big happy family. Most farmhouses like this are now bi-level homes. Italy likes their bureaucracy and makes it very difficult for people to alter anything has withstood the test of time. If there are seven rocks placed ever so structurally sound, as to resemble a wall or perhaps a terrace, you will spend your first 4 years of ownership begging the municipality to look at your plans to build 3 other walls and make a home.

As for Anagrazia, she spent 6 years waiting on lines and greasing the palms of local decision makers to create this masterpiece in the Cinque Terra National Park. She chose to simply leave the hole dividing the two floors (which is now blocked for privacy) and not put a staircase in…but she rarely throws scraps down here and Ricks farts don’t heat up the place like a barnyard animal might.

A side note, Italians are also not very fond of their country. It is really fun to think about and discuss with them (however briefly)…but they could give two flying cow patties about their country…they have no pride in what they stand for, who represents them…I would venture to guess that a home-grown Italian doesn’t even know the colors of the nations flag. Pride in their food on the other hand…pride in the cleanliness of their bathroom….pride in not showing up anywhere on time and not working more than 3 straight hours on any given day…this is where Italians shine! Rick and I were so excited to be ambassadors for the US…to boast about our new president and how we would once again embrace the power of hope and change and bring the world at large to peace everlasting…and we found out, rather quickly…that Italians couldn’t give a shit. Yeah, they are psyched we finally got our heads on straight and got rid of GW, but they have no concern with changing the world…for proving that they carry the torch for world peace…or for shouting from the mountaintops that they dodge their taxes. They just want al dente pasta, banana hammocks on the beach and the 10 hour work week with health benefits. Simple.

So, to say the least….we are enjoying this kind of lifestyle. Anagrazia brought us with her to Vernazza yesterday to be part of her yoga class. We meditated for two hours in an old church on top of a mountain in one of the most quaint and colourful villages in Cinque Terra. Anagrazia translated for us which made it even more pleasant. Her Italian is like a soft, poppy, love song and even when she speaks English it seems to flow together without any harsh vowels or monotones. Always up and down with her stories…her voice fluctuates and creates mini music scales…honest, every time she gets on the phone its like someone is running their finger up and down the keys on the piano…I wonder if she’s constantly telling stories that begin with deep insight and end with a joke…and vice versa….so, inside this church, the floor was cold marble, Anagrazia set up her tapestry on the floor where the priest would deliver the Eucharist and we created a circle in places of the pews. The statues had no arms and faded color with chunks of stone missing from their faces. It was spooky…and at one point before I closed my eyes and saw St. Francis staring at me with one eye and no limbs, it was intimidating. I felt as though my religion was falling apart. All this talk of energy, the world being created from atoms and plants….it started to make me question what I believe in. But that is another story all together…I am happily married to faith of any kind right now….considering where I am. We just returned from our private beach. Our own private stretch of the Mediterranean. I only wish I could describe it in words…The setting, like the sunset and the stars, has never been the same on this mountain. It changes every day. Today, the waves were fantastic. They were enormous. They took my breathe away! We went down our zig zag path covered in landslides, through countless spider webs silhouetted in the sun wondering when the boulder would come crashing down on us…getting closer and closer, the waves getting louder and finally the beach is in view. Down at the bottom of the mountain we can see the huge transparent waves crashing on the dinosaur egg rocks. A beach of the smoothest, roundest rocks. The path ends and we head into some pine and brush…then we scale the cliff face very carefully down to the beach. The rocks are being pulled so strongly that they sound like thunder. Not rainstorm thunder….the thunder that you hear when the electricity cuts out…the roar of thunder that scares your father from the television. They pull the rocks off the shore just as quickly as they dump huge boulders onto the surface. It is so scary that it is beautiful. You can see directly through the emerald waves, 12 feet high…straight to the horizon. The sea, at a distance is so choppy…it looks like God is shaking out the sea like we shake out the sheets. Huge swells of wavy water chopping up and down making a mist that coats the sky, the sun and the mountain and makes it all look as if none of it is real. Its off with the clothes and into ridiculous mode, jumping from rock to rock in your bare feet balancing yourself to get to the water and dodging the waves. It is impossible to look cool walking around on a rocky beach…but none of that matters…we are absolutely alone…no one in sight for miles…and even if there is, we don’t care, we cant care….its far too perfect to worry about anything but being completely butt naked jumping from rock to rock under the Mediterranean sun. There was no chance of a swim today…not with the waves dropping off boulders imported from France…so we sat with our backs to the sea and let the waves crash in over our heads. Covered in salt, we took pictures in the sun, silhouettes of our bodies with the sun glowing behind us. It started to set and the moon showed up pulling at the waves even stronger. When we left the sky was turning pink and purple…orange and yellow...the sun was headed for the horizon and the path was shady and cool.

We tried to cook for Ana…she lets us cook with her every meal which is very relaxing, but typically she just cooks for us. We were excited to show our new skills…but our frittata didn’t flip and got stuck to the pan so we just had a scrambled omelette instead…she didn’t seem to mind, but I bet she told her friends about it and had a laugh. Anagrazia really loves us. We work in the garden, let the wind swing us on the hammocks under the pine trees, make flower arrangements, paint, build fires, make rock gardens, clean gutters….we laugh, we sing and we eat…all day. She asked us to come back next summer and help prepare the house for the market and get things ready for her move to the Philippines. I lost track of what she was saying after that….I could only imagine returning to this place and sharing more of these sunsets over the sea and that secret, sacred beach with her for just one more month…maybe we will.

Plenty of pictures on the way...hopefully we can get around to it tonight...we are back in Tuscany now in the toy shop...but we have markets every night in small beach towns. We actually sold a couple of the toys we made...

Tuscany-Pisa-Cinque Terre...Back to Tuscany

on Friday, May 29, 2009

I have written so very much about Tuscany…its long shadows and hills that catch the sunset like a hammock…the secret garden that Katrina brought us to with caravans, honeybees, bamboo forests and elderflower (that we picked baskets of to make a sweet drink) and a hidden lake with a rickety old dock for the perfect cannonball, about picking cherries and tending the raspberry garden, about making toys and hiking with our dog Cindy….but I will have to save that chapter for the book so I can bring you up to speed.

Here we are in Levanto…region Liguria in the Cinque Terra National Park region. Anatheia is the name of the organic farm where we now live with host AnaGrazia our ex-physicist, professional sailor, permaculture specialist, published author of Bach-flower remedies, herbalist, yoga teacher, technology consultant, vegetarian...plus she can cook! She doesnt care if her car gets a bit dirty, which is one of the seven deadly sins in Italy, she loves to tell us stories about the moon and the stars and her sailing adventures…oh yeah, she is a sailor too. She plans on selling this gorgeous plot of land in the next five years to build a 20 foot sailboat in the Phillipines and sail around the world with friends spreading the word about how to live organic. She is worried about this life change…she thinks about it sometimes she says with difficulty…but she breathes and she finds strength and decides she can do whatever she likes. If you think you can do it or if you think you can not do it, you are right. She is a hippie…and we love her. She has given us all kinds of advice about life, spirituality, gardening…she is patient…an ex-teacher as well. She is smart and doesn’t make you feel stupid (a wonderful and very rare quality) and she has a sense of humour…an old-fashioned one…but she laughs nonetheless and her broken English makes you want to squeeze her cheeks and pat her on the head.

Her book is written in Italian, but part of it says….The Project (what we are working on at the farm) The Garden of the Flowers for the Psyche….The garden is the metaphysical place where we softly meet ourselves; it is the mountain, the hill, the wood, the field and the sea where we contemplate the nature; it is to ask the help of the flowers to know ourselves, it is Anatheia, it is the earth. Anatheia is two Greek words combined anthesis which means the blossom of flower and eia! Which means oh wonder!. Pretty deep stuff. We awake to the sun behind the mountain preparing the coast with a soft hazy light. It is completely quiet here until around 9:00am when the hikers start using the footpaths above some of the terraces. We work in the gardens and here them pass…Germans, Italians, Americans…they are typically the loudest. It is nice to hear them chattering far away sometimes, only voices, not a word can be deciphered. Every now and again we here the neighbors chickens cawing as well, but not much at all. The wind takes the pollen from the pines and sweeps it around the sky in faint yellow swirls. The air is clearly different. It is clean and fresh and smells of absolutely nothing. Sometimes I feel like I am in a Petri dish….so tiny next to the sea. The waves crash down below and the shore seems a stones throw away, but we are hidden deep in the mountain on a bed of terraces underneath the olive trees. Mid-day, we are napping in a hammock or hiking to one of the five towns of Cinque Terre. Afternoons we spend on the land taking breaks to laugh and talk about what our farm will be like. Its just us…no other Wwoofers…and AnaGrazia leaves us on our own. When the sun starts to set over the mountain, we set the table where the view is just perfect and eat our dinner. Tonight, a bed of asparagus with two eggs over easy on top. Salt, pepper. Some bread and mascarpone. It is delicious and simple. Rick and I volunteer for dishes and sneak some cookies…by the time we are finished, the moon and the stars are bright enough to light up the mountain…we are the only living souls in the darkness and we are completely surrounded by fireflies. They go off like fireworks all over the land. The army of frogs sing for hours as soon as the last ray of sun disappears behind the mountain. There are a few distant sailboats…the waves are calming down.

Hiked to Levanto, slept in the park after gelati. Schools out…the sound of kids on bikes, running to the playground, watching them learn how to do cartweels. Screaming at each other in their little Italian dialect. Parents and grandparents sitting on park benches…they always are frantically talking with their hands and seem so upset about something and then, out of no where in the conversation, with no change in intonation or any exclamation, they break out in laughter. Every story is a tragic comedy….and every instant in their lives is extreme grief and guilt mixed with fall to the floor contagious laughter.

Clouds rolled in, and I could feel the shade on my face and the cold breeze from the ocean…but no rain.

The footpaths in Cinque Terra are very well-maintained and we can hike everywhere. Days are busy…but there is so much time to think, relax, write, read….and we are taking it all in. We feel home tugging at us sometimes. Drinks with friends, everyday conversation with family that you don’t have to work at…laughing so hard your stomach hurts and your eyes water…