The routine is simple. Wake at seven, wash my face, scratch here and there, pat my hair down so it will fit under a cap, eat something, prepare espresso, regret the darkness, wash dishes from the night before’s midnight snacks, then layer up against the winter wind and go out to feed the furnace. This involves about a half hour of scraping and cleaning ash, loading logs, lighting, sweeping, waiting, checking, adjusting air flow, and while I wait for the temperature to rise I put on my coveralls and steel-toed boots and gloves.
Next are the chickens, who need to be fed and let out, and the coop which must be cleaned, with Lappo the sheep dog looking on earnestly, salivating grotesquely at the clucking hens. Afterwards, the animal rounds begin at various stations around the property. Many frothing packs of pigs must be fed, the cows and bulls must be given hay and straw, the sheep must be fed and taken out to pasture, the donkeys need looking-after, and in the cold months the horses get hay as well. This, along with a number of odd jobs and cleaning duties, are the morning chores and usually get done by eleven or so, after which the day’s special projects commence. These projects, which include anything from building electrified enclosures to milling feed to butchering and salami grinding, fill up the extra mid-day time until three, when the animal rounds begin again. The hour between one and two are for lunch.
This time of year, the end of evening animal duties coincides perfectly with the sunset, and afterwards only the furnace is left and then the cooking for dinner. Yesterday, we worked till well after dark by torch light, in the manger, even after the stars had all ignited. We needed to help a lamb that was born deformed that morning. One leg was useless and twisted, and the lamb could not stand on its own to nurse. WhileRiccio , the farm manager, held the struggling mother with her head between his legs, I lifted the lamb and helped it find the udder. Its tail wagged as it sucked greedily at the teat. Maybe this one will stay alive if we help to nurse it twice a day. Maybe, but probably not.