Looking outside our windows these days of solstice, you would see the first hard frost of the season covering the hills, freezing the last fall leaves still hanging in the forest around us. Another bright autumn of reds and oranges is giving way to the greys and whites of winter. The snowline is clear just a little above our property on the surrounding peaks, where the rolling foothills of the Apennines dotted with small farms and pastures move slowly upward into a pastel blend of deciduous wilderness.
It has now been 6 years since we’ve held this evolving dream to create a community, multifunctional farm and educational space here in these hills. Over these years, our group of collaborators has grown and shrunk, our ideas and fantasies have grown out and died back, and our network, experiences and family have sprouted and reach up further now than we could have imagined. Perhaps all of the richness of these natural rhythms has added to the fertility of our future potential. Time will tell.
In any case, this year has seen our growing family of four returning again to Italy to give our dream one more go. This time last year we were in the US, preparing for the birth of our second son. He was born happy and healthy on January 5th, at home after just an hour’s labor, surrounded by love and support, on the homestead which means so much to Evan’s family.
After nesting back in our new and old community in the Pacific Northwest, we still held onto the dream to return to Italy. And so without entirely knowing what would happen, in May we all came back to spend about 5 months in “The House of Peace,” a cooperative home where we lived together with Italians and asylum seekers from Pakistan, Senegal, and Guinea.
This move was both challenging and informative for us, especially as we have aspired to live more in cross-cultural community. As with all community living experiments, it seems we learned a great deal about our own dynamics as a family, our own boundaries and flexibilities, and ultimately also a lot about the real life situation of immigration in Italy today. O went for a brief spell to a preschool in the area where he spent a lot of time playing outside, returning to the house to somewhat mercurial relations with our housemates and neighbor children from the Roma family that lived below us. Gl has proven to be a very cheerful child, observing his surroundings and just beginning to become mobile as we left the House of Peace at the end of August.
Throughout this time, we renewed discussions with Federica’s family about expectations for what transition would look like at the farm, and how to improve on our past experience. It is an evolving process, but our conversations seem more concrete now, with clearly stated deadlines, financial figures and divisions of labor. Federica has completed one of two professional certifications she will need for us to continue educational and tourism activities here once the current business closes, and Evan will take another starting in January which will give us access to agricultural incentives and financing. Evan celebrated receiving Italian citizenship in November, which especially in the current climate of neofascism and anti-immigrant sentiment in both our home countries helps all of us feel more comfortable with the legal aspects of straddling various nationalities.
Federica has continued to volunteer with her progressive Catholic community, supporting projects and planning for peace and mission work primarily in the local community with civil service volunteers, immigrants, and other marginalized people. She has a full time role juggling this work, classes, parenting, and serving as chief negotiator between our nuclear family and her family of origin. Evan works part time divided between an online role for the Global Ecovillage Network and in-person work for the Bologna campus of Alabama-based Spring Hill College, a small Jesuit schooling hoping to expose study abroad students to Europe through a social-justice lens with this Italy campus. Since returning to the farm, O returned to his old preschool and will likely be joined by his little brother in the infant section next year. All the transition has left a mark emotionally and physically on us, but waking up each day surrounded by beauty, healthy kids and everything we need is an amazing blessing.
And for the first time, we are ready to really present a framework for what we hope to do in a comprehensive way. As part of Federica’s class, she had to condense and present a brief presentation of our project which we have now posted here. It is very satisfying to put down and present some of what we do plan to focus on and carry forward into 2019 and beyond. This blog, begun in 2013, now serves as a good record of our highs and lows and is now the historical background for our business plan.
The business plan describes the three main pillars of our future project: the Farm School, where we offer training and grassroots organizing on a folk school model; the Farm Table, where we focus on the fruits of the farm in cooking classes, value-added projects and potentially a small eatery; and the Farm Village, where the 9 apartments and gathering spaces of our farm become an ecovillage of permanent residents, short term guests and sojourners in between. We invite you to please visit and take a look around, give us any feedback you might have, and perhaps even consider a visit or make a donation to support us concretely in the coming year. Keep checking back in as we continue to update and get clearer every day on what the future holds. We invite you to join us in supporting this crystalizing vision in 2019!