What is it you do, exactly?

You’ve not heard from us in over a month.  In that time we’ve moved for a final time into the house Federica’s parents made their home for the last 10 years.  There was also Christmas and the flu, but those are best forgotten.

I’m sitting now in my new living room, a room I remember visiting almost 7 years ago to meet my future in-laws for the first time. I didn’t really speak any Italian then and they didn’t speak English.  After over 25 years in the hospitality industry, I couldn’t tell whether they liked me or if they’d just had plenty of practice smiling.  I’d planned on this though and had a charming gift up my sleeve to smooth over any awkwardness.

The plan was to use the Thurston County Farm Map to introduce Fede’s folks to some of the rural heritage of MY part of the world.  As major proponents of rural territorial networks, I thought the farm map was right up their hedgerow.  I’d visited several farms on the map, including especially the ones near where I grew in East Olympia, and proudly displayed photos from each farm coded to their respective place on the map.  I was so proud.  I’ll leave you hanging for a second on the result, to share a brief snapshot of the projects and activities that we’ve (mostly my father in law) got going on here right now, in the off season:

  1. Since arriving we have hosted (among others) a group of Pakistani rural entrepreneurs, a group of chainsmoking Italian hairdressers, and just today a sweet Japanese couple working to encourage young people to return to rural communities devastated by the earthquake in 2011. (Reaction to my complaints about the hairdressers, longtime clients, who leave their butts everywhere: “It’s not that they’re difficult, just particular.”)
  2. A rural marketing project for a village of 800 in Calabria, the toe of the boot, where one can allegedly see both the sun rise from and then set into two different seas.
  3. Wrapping up two regional consulting gigs (always related to rural regional marketing) in the southern region of Puglia, one in Brindisi and one near Foggia.
  4. Ongoing teaching gigs covering tourism, rural hospitality and “smart land” territorial marketing for at least three separate classes, vocational school through Master’s level.
  5. Several proposals drafted to initiate projects ranging from networking within the historical core of Ravenna to building a farm waste biodiesel operation with the local agricultural coop in our valley.
  6. Planning a summer camp for kids in English and planning a refugee worker trauma prevention and intervention training.
  7. Erasmus student training gig in Bulgaria.
  8. Renewing the farm’s organic certification using a new digital format for uploading our farm plan for the coming growing season.
  9. A regional network to promote production of a tree called Paulownia, whose strength, speed of growth, rot resistance and overall versatility make it basically the most awesome tree that ever happened.
  10. Raising a child.  While we checked out local preschool/childcare options mostly for his benefit, none have space for a midyear addition.

Cut back to a younger Evan, sitting in the living room, with his rather goofy cut and pasted presentation of a nascent agricultural marketing effort:

They were all smiles.

In Italy, the patron saint of animals is St. Antonio. For his saint day we feed blessed bread to the animals