It is hard for me to imagine that five years have come and gone since we arrived here in Acqui Terme. So many things have happened since then -- small things, mostly, and those small things have propelled us forward, step by sometimes imperceptible step.
Last night, I was recounting to friends that during that first year when we arrived, how I went through a phase of wanting to grow Mexican vegetable here, and how the neighbors all chipped in to help. Tomatillo, jalapeno peppers -- the seeds sent to me by my friend Lisa Davis from Taos. Franco, our neighbor and expert farmer, consulted Aldo, his buddy and sparring partner, who is truly a gardener, and together we planted a bunch of Mexican seedlings. The only problem was that we planted them in an area which had no water and no water access, except for a well which had been untapped for years.
The story of getting water out of that well to feed the yet-to-be-doomed-project-of-raising-Mexican-vegetables-in-Italy had my friends in stitches. I remembered that I had written about it in my journal way back then, and searched this morning to find it. Here is the story, one of many that first year which, in retrospect, make me laugh wistfully because I can see how completely out of my element I was! Not that I am much better now, but I have learned my to accept my own limits in certain things.
Here is my journal entry from that momentous event.
April 13, 2004
Well, Aldo, il Professore d'agricoltura, stopped by this morning to deliver twenty very healthy looking tomatillo plants and twenty equally hardy looking anchote and jalapeno pepper plants. His seedlings are like ten times bigger than mine. He beamed with pride and reiterated that we should only listen to him in all things garden related and ignore Franco, our consigliore and general Italian country life guru. I will have to think long and hard about this. He also stated that he thinks that the tomatillo plants look like a bunch of weeds and he does not hold a high opinion of them at this point. I am convinced this will change when he tests my first batch of tomatillo salsa. He nibbled at my baby cilantro, shriveled up his nose and demanded to know what kind of parsley this was. Since cilantro does not exist in
Yesterday was sort of your average PMS day for me. At different points in the day, I bi-polared between Linda Blair and a bucket of mush. It was probably not the best day to try to solve the problem of how to get water out of one of our wells so that we could water our vegetable gardens, which are more than eight hundred feet from the house, down a steep embankment. But my husband, brave soul that he is, charged ahead with a positive attitude, which in my altered state seemed very insulting and non supportive. 600 milligrams of ibuprophen later, we were in the car headed for Viotti, the agricultural machinery shop in Acqui. Signora Viotti, who is approximately 80 years old, hoisted every forty pound water pump she had from the shelf, explaining in the very fastest Italian ever spoken, the features and benefits of each. After ten moments, our heads were spinning with facts and figures: How deep is the well (no idea), how much water do you need (no idea), how are you going to power the pump (no idea). She sent us home to figure out what is was we really wanted (to get water out of well, for God‘s sake).
Since this was our first encounter with water from a natural source, we were both scared and excited. We investigated one of our four wells which finds itself nearest to the gardens to be watered. An open pit, approximately five feet in diameter, filled with weeds and muck, and a seemingly large quantity of water. We figured that was a positive thing.
We looked up to see if we could see our house. We couldn’t. It seemed that powering the pump, if indeed we bought a pump, would be the main issue.
A gas powered electric generator? A really, really long extension cord attached to another really, really long extension cord, plugged into my living room socket?
It was time to consult Franco, our neighbor and farming guru.
Franco, who was just leaving on his tractor, understood immediately, and called his nephew, who would know the approximate cost of a generator. About a thousand euros. The extension cord option was looking more and more attractive, if not scary as hell.
He and our buddy Mauro, who had worked so hard to get our telephone working in the winter, and who hangs out at Franco’s house and works in the garden, talked briefly. Mauro went inside and reappeared with a cable bundle, approximately a thousand feet long. All we need to do, said Mauro, was get the appropriate plugs, attach them, and run the cord down the hill, over the field, through the woods and next to the well. Not a really, really long extension cord. The world’s LONGEST extension cord. Of course we could not give Mauro a penny for the cable, he just said, niente, that old cable has been sitting around here forever, good that you can use it. The kindness never ends.
So off we went, back to Signora Viotti, who was very skeptical about our electricity solution. We explained to her that Franco Parodi said it was OK. She made a motion like she was zipping her lips shut and said something to the effect of, “if Franco said it is ok, who am I to judge?” We went home with our lovely new pump and prayed for the best.
From Marketing executive to master electrician…I wired up the two ends with a plug and an outlet, and we spent the next two hours slowly unwinding the fifty pounds of cable.
Micha lowered wired pump into the open pit down below. I climbed up the hill to the house, and waited for his order.
PLUG IT IN, he shouted.
I looked down towards the road and saw water coming out of the hose which was coming out of the well where the pump was. Glorious, beautiful water. We were giddy like two kids, jumping around and being silly. See, that is the beauty of