we went to the beach on Wednesday. Although our business is tourism, we are lucky to know of a place that is only known by Italians so this means many less people. In fact, the beach was fairly empty because the day was hot - there was a hot wind blowing, wipping-up the waves which was very fine if you come from New Zealand and are used to swimming in the Pacific ocean but must have been off-putting to all those whose experience of the sea is the mediteranian. Coming from New Zealand, however, means that while everyone else is busy stripping off and trying like crazy to tan, you are covered-up worrying about the harmful effects of too much sun on the skin. On a beach where less is more, I must seem like a real party-pooper. Last night, we got our first real thunder storms of the year - Ponkey, Zuma, Dolley, Mario, Marilyn Julia, and the little donkey who remains un-named where doing the night-shift eating grass in the vineyard (as we are in conversion to become an organic farm we cannot use herbicides so we use donkeys and sheep instead). With every thunder we had visions of transparent donkeys, their skeletons highlighted like in an x-ray by the lightning so at first light we rushed out to see if they were OK. They were more than OK. The cool weather, the absence of horse flies, fresh damp grass - they refused to come down of the bank they were on so if next time they become donkey stakes so be it.
Currently, we are waiting for the butcher to arrive to take away two cows to butcher. It is a sad business because of the resigned way the cows seem to accept their fate; it would be sadder, much sadder, however if it was possible to have a relationship with the cows but the are very self-contained in their herd and their is a distance between them and us that makes it easier to keep them for food. Donkeys, on the other hand are another story. Donkey meat has become very fashionable in Friuli and almost every Friulano who comes here wants to know when Ponkey and Zuma are going to grace our dinner table. This willnever happen. As I write, Ponkey is yodeling outside trying to train us to bring her maize. So far all she has achieved is to encourage me to yodel back which is very cathartic. We are engaged in high tech warfare with Mario, Marilyn and Julia - our three liitle sheep from the valley of resia. These sheep arrived in a closed valley in the 17th century with a group of people who had travelled down from Russia. They have consequently not been intensively selected and bred and remain quite small and lean. Every night the donkeys and the sheep are put out to eat on the banks between the lines of grapes in the vineyard. Because we are currently in the three year coversion period to become an organic farm we cannot use herbicides and have opted instead for the animal option.
It would be nice to say that the loading of the two cows into the butchers truck went well. But it didn't. The downside of having these free-living, free-range cows is that entering a truck is something that they just have no intention of doing. It was a struggle. We were in 6 - me, Luca, Marc from Australia, the two butchers - father and son, and the presumed butcher to be - 10 year old Mario. Pushing and pulling, jumping left and right to avoid being kicked, it made us ponder on just how little man has in relation to other animals apart from his cunning. If it wasn't for the halter we would never have got that cow into the truck and you realise that it is the same with the horses - if it wasn't for the fact that they have a halter and can be led with a rope we would never be able to control them - as Platero showed us yesterday when he slipped out of the paddock and with little Sarah (the baby pony who is now around a month old) charged up and down our neighbours fields only letting himself be caught when he had tired of the game of going up and down with us all running behind him. At the moment, here at La Faula it is 7.30. We have been up since 5.30 with Loris who is treating the grapes. Hopefully, all going well we will manage to slip off to the beach today.