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help exchange   Host 4112
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Help Exchange

Northern Tuscany
All Year: April to November
Area (ha): 0.2
Persons: up to 4
Category: Homestay
Host ID: 4112
Country: Italy

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Last Updated: August 18, 2018

We are sending out an early request for house-sitters in February or March. We will need you to come and stay for at least a week before we leave to settle you in. Must be animal lovers and be prepared for some snow and living in a tranquil mountain retreat. We have a car you can use and plenty of wood to keep you warm. Please read the whole profile to get an idea of what this involves and our location.
Next spring we will be hoping to replace our roof, and renovate our wooden windows and shutters. Also we will start again to grow our own veg etc now that Elena is able to maintain it after here hip operation, so the big veg plots will need preparing. Tree felling will also be a priority for the next winters fire wood.

We have been limited in the occasons we could take helpers this year due to health issues but one group of 5 Australians have been 3 times and are due back in the winter.

Work this autumn will involve tree felling, transporting to the house, chopping, splitting and stacking as well as odd jobs. We cannot take helpers in August because of the heat and we now have no spaces for September.
Ukulele players and those wanting to learn are particularly welcome!

We want to thank all those returning helpers who are no longer with helpx and therefore couldn`t give or receive up to date reviews.

We ask for up to 5 hours a day five days a week, unless you are house-sitting. If you want to stay local and eat with us on your days off that is not a problem and we also supply packed lunches if you want them. You can also rearrange your hours so you can take three days off at a time to go sightseeing and you can work Friday am, leave and return Monday afternoon for work for example to give you longer.

Can we please ask that if we reply to your request you do us the curtesy of replying to say whether you actually intend to come. We waste lot of time and turn down good helpers while waiting for some people to eventually get back to us (or not) to say they are not coming after all and that`s a shame.

We are quite happy to transport helpers to and from Pontremoli 20 minutes away, where they can get the train to the beach or go sightseeing on days off. We have invested in a satellite system for broad band and we have WIFI. All meals are taken downstairs with us (where we teach you to play cards). Helpers sleep in our 3 bedroom apartment upstairs and have use of TV, DVD player and the loan of lots of books, DVds, Cds, and sightseeing maps and literature, binoculors and a two man basic tent etc.

There are also laundry facilities available for use. We do ask that people respect our biological toilet cess pit and flush the minimum of paper down it. Also don`t waste the gas or electricity by keeping computers etc switched on all day - little things maybe but we have a very limited budget.

Set in the mountainside above the medieval town of Pontremoli, in the ancient region of Lunigiana, northern Tuscany, we live in a small hamlet of 5 houses. We are fully integrated into the rural Italian culture of sharing meals with our neighbours a few times a week but sadly the old folks are no longer around. We also used to spend time playing cards with them,a skill all helpers can learn easily - a good social skill that has no language barrier! We eat as the locals, cook traditional dishes and are constantly learning from them even after over 10 years here.

In the surrounding countryside there are a host of wild animals such as wild boar, 2 types of deer, badgers, foxes,weasels,porcupines, pole cats, lynx,and wolves have been often been seen on the mountain just above us. There are such wonderful insect and butterfly species, as with the abundance of wild flowers and herbs.
Its a bird watchers paradise too, with hoopoes, buzzards, eagles ( which we are having a problem with as they are stealing neighbours chickens!)falcons,3 types of woodpeckers, 4 types of owls, not to mention an ever increasing variety of smaller birds including a pair of nightingales!!

We aim to be as self sufficient as possible by sourcing wild food, scavenging for firewood for the wood burning stoves which keep us warm in winter and cooks our food, and we have a sizable organic vegetable allotment. Our physical conditions has meant that this year we have had to abandon the allotment. We have free range hens and 5 ducks and also what turned out to be a pair of geese who now have three adult children. 3 previously feral but now semi-domesticated cats,took in abandoned hunters dog and ended up with her now grown up 3 pups.

All year round we need to collect and cut dead trees down, to clear and terrace land that has been taken over by the sweet chestnut forest so we can plant fruit and harvestable nut trees and also start a bee colony.

Most of all,we need help,support and inspiration, in exchange for good food and clean, comfortable accommodation, and a chance to live in a little hamlet alongside real Italian country people in rural Tuscany. We were vegetarian for many years but are now pescetarian (eat fish) but cater happily for all tastes and restricted diets .

We are the only ones living in the hamlet(borgho) from November to mid May so you will either love it (Elena does) or be inclined to get `cabin fever` (like Davide). There is little chance of chatting with the neighbours etc in the winter, although we live traditionally as the locals do, and if the weather is bad there isn`t the opportunity to explore the local towns and villages as much as in the summer months. We do have a Ski resort 40-50 mins away at Zum Zeri, depending on the snow and our ability to get down the mountain -road conditions permitting. We don`t as yet have central heating but there is a woodburner in the hallway upstairs and a heater for the bathroom in autumn and spring and the beds have electric blankets.

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