Trove is a wrap

Our last two weeks at Trove have passed by very quickly.  We house sat for the final 10 days of our stay while Barbara and Ugo were away on tours.  During that time we got into a comfortable routine – waking up around 7:30 each morning, enjoying coffee and breakfast before starting our “work day” around 9:00. Mid morning we stopped for a coffee (and to give my aching muscles a rest) and then we would continue on until 1:00 or 1:30 at which time we would have our “shower” while the paid workers (doing the renovation work) were away on their lunch break.  Then it was time to have lunch.  After that, our time was our own to spend as we pleased: reading, researching, writing, photography, touring around, and going for walks. During this time we visited the town of Cortona which is the location where “Under the Tuscan Sun” was filmed.

As you know, my job was to get the garden under control.  It was a large, terraced vegetable garden that was completely over grown with weeds.  I was surprised to find so many plants under all those weeds – I think Ugo must have planted earlier in the springtime but then didn’t have time to maintain the garden.  I was also tasked to purchase more plants – anything I wanted – to fill in the empty spots in the garden.

Following Barbara’s suggestion, we went to the Tuesday morning market in Sinalunga to purchase our plants. This presented something of a challenge as nobody spoke English and most of the plants were not marked, at least not in any way I could recognize.  I bought what I knew although who knows if the pepper plants are green or red or yellow, or what type of tomato plants I bought.  I guess they’ll find out later on in the season.  The other challenge at the market was getting served. Barbara warned me about the pushy little Italian ladies who would have no qualms butting in front of me.  Sure enough, a very old lady butted in front of me but I let it go since she was just buying one item.  But when a young couple started to go next, I tapped the man on the arm and said in English, Excuse me but I am next in line, and then proceeded to point out what I wanted.  His wife pulled him back and he had no choice but to defer to me, even though he probably had no idea what I just said.  By the time I had decided on the plants and got them purchased, I was exhausted and had had enough of the market for one day.

I must admit I found it physically challenging to work for four hours in the garden each day. I tried to break things up by taking time to water the garden, do some weeding, do some planting and then some more weeding.  The weeding was back breaking work, with weeds that were so tenacious I had met my match. By the end of our stay, I had cleaned up all the vegetable gardens and was quite happy with the results of my hard work.  As an added bonus, all that physical labour was good preparation for the upcoming Camino de Santiago.

Chris had the task of refinishing the original windows in the kitchen – we’re talking windows that were hundreds of years old.  At first glance, Chris’ gut told him the windows were beyond repair and should just be replaced but Barbara put forth the case that she was just trying to buy some time with them – just a few more years.  And so Chris spent the better part of two weeks taking apart the old kitchen window, sanding it down and removing the layers upon layers of old paint, scraping years of gunk off the window panes, trying to flatten severely warped windows that were curved like bananas and grumbling throughout the entire process.  He said it more than once: I could be spending my time making beautiful windows instead of wasting my time on a futile exercise, if only I had the proper tools and the proper environment and the proper supplies.  I think that sums up Chris’ big challenge with the HelpX experiences so far:  he finds it very frustrating not being able to maximize his skills and to have to settle for a mediocre outcome.  In fact, it drives him crazy and he really struggles to cope in the situation.  He puts pressure on himself by taking off more he can chew and then he tends to get caught up in working incessantly and forgetting to have fun in the process.

The end result:  A refinished kitchen window that
Barbara thought was wonderful.

During the last few days of our stay, we enjoyed the company of the next pair of HelpXers, a young Aussie couple, Amber and Alex.  We had been given the responsibility of picking them up at the train station and then showing them the ropes at Trove which we did.   Lucky for them, the weather warmed up so having a “shower” was not such an ordeal. There have been some downright chilly days at Trove this past month which made us yearn for indoor plumbing.  But this last week has been warm again.  We did a few excursions with them since they needed to become familiar with the area and Alex needed to get used to driving Barbara’s car. One evening, we went back to the Abbey in Sant’Antimo in time to hear an unusual service: four monks clothed in white robes singing Gregorian chants.  It was a unique experience to observe.  The scenery on the way home was incredible as we were treated to a beautiful sunset over the rolling Tuscan hills.  Magnifico!

Last meal with Barbara and Ugo before they entrusted their house to us.

The month at Trove passed by in a flash. It was the longest period of time we have stayed in one place and we both enjoyed having a break from being on the go.  We soaked up the peacefulness and beauty of our surroundings, but I was surprised at how isolated I felt being out in the middle of nowhere with minimal social interaction. Equally surprising considering the picturesque landscape, I never felt completely relaxed at Trove.  I found the circumstances we landed into, with the renovation and all the associated upheaval, to be a little unsettling and certainly not what I was expecting.

In spite of the minimalist kitchen, I enjoyed preparing tasty, nutritious
meals for us all month
My secret cooking tip from Tuscany:
add high quality olive oil (like that produced on the farm)
to anything and everything! 

In the end, I think we made the best of the situation and turned it into a win-win: Ugo and Barbara expressed a lot of appreciation to us for our contribution and our ability to cope in somewhat trying circumstances.  On our part, we got to experience living like a local in the Tuscan countryside in the springtime, we saved a lot of money since we had no living expenses for the month, and we got to meet some wonderful people and make new friends.  On that note, Trove is wrap.

Category: Europe, Italy
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One Response
  1. Angus says:

    You guys are troopers. I don’t think I would have put up with the conditions and isolation the way the two of you did but it certainly was an adventure. Speaking of which I have an adventure for Chris waiting in my basement. I’m thinking of adding a room and a bathroom and now that I know that Chris works for a bed and some food it may be the right time to tackle this project and I won’t make him shower outside nor poop in a bucket :)