Kostas family owns several small plots of land on the island and he is turning a two hundred year old olive grove into a new vineyard. The land, location, and soil here is virginal. It is also located right next to a monastery that is known for miracles if you pray here.
The piece of land is ready to plant and we need to measure out the spacing for each vine. We are waiting for Manolis who is an expert wall builder and with this skill set he is also known for accurately measuring out a vineyard using simple string and a marked rope. As we were waiting for Manolis, I visited the church and hiked nearby to a beach that I haven’t been to. The property owner was more than happy to show me where the key was so I can access the private beach. Another cozy cove but I still like the beach next to the farm, χοχλακουρα, more.
I had a feeling that Kostas might be looking for me since I’ve been gone for awhile now. Last I left him he was taking a short nap which he needs; being a farm is hard work! Walking back I saw a group of the local farmers sitting in the shade taking a smoke break. I was able to meet each one and really hang out with the locals. I learned a few new words and drank coffee with them. Everyone here is so kind and the people govern themselves very well. I feel safe and very much at home here.
Manolis finally came and he helped set up how we are going to mark the land to plant to the vines. No machine automation here but good ole muscle and sweating blood to get the job done. Since I am the only person here at the farm to help for a few days before somebody new arrives, it’s going to be a big job.
After coming back from Patmos I think everyone was exhausted. We totally did the walk of shame after spending the night in Patmos unexpectedly so it was great that we all took the day off and rested.
For several days now we have been mostly preparing the garden and vineyard as more of the fruits will be producing. Some crops will be removed for different as the warm weather is coming in. Kostas, Manon, and I continued to till the vineyards, about two hundred and fifty more vines one day and weeding the garden the following days. On an organic farm everything is accounted for. Most of what we do is weeding for the compost and is a food source for the goats. Nothing truly goes to waste here and the trash that the farm produces weekly is equivalent to what we produce a day in the states. Recycling is a big thing in Greece and we have designated bags for paper, metal and plastics that every home and establishment hangs outside on the fence for pickup. There is no big waste bins so its not so smelly around here. In Greece, there is no paper flushing down the toilet instead it’s thrown in a trash can which is interesting. My rule of thumb is fold like it like a diaper because no one wants to see your s*** (pun totally intended).
I’ve been cooking a lot for our dinners and most lunches. It’s amazing that most of what I make comes from the garden such as lemons, beans, eggplants, peppers, lettuce, romaine, onions, and garlic. I’ve been making vegetarian soups and we have salad with every meal. I had thought that we would be able to have tzatziki all the time but we are eating according to season and what we are producing at the farm. We also get fresh spinach from Alecko’s farm and it is the best tasting spinach I’ve ever had. My challenge everyday is cooking within resource and I can get pretty creative with lemons now. When life gives you lemons you don’t always have to make lemonade.
It’s been so stormy here in Lipsi which makes the internet slow and the 2K walk, each way, not fun.
Finally my first day off and we are heading off to another island to explore. Of the Dodecanese islands, Patmos has religious significance; St. John received a vision from Jesus to write the Book of Revelations in now what is known as the Cave of the Apocalypse.
The island itself is beautiful, twice the size of Lipsi. As you arrive to the marina in Patmos, you see beautiful white homes on such a lush green mountain side overlooking the bluest of blues Aegean Sea. Our boat passed a small islet with just one home on it and a farm. What paradise is this that you can live on a small islet all for yourself and swim to main island if needed? As you enter into the marina you notice the windmills and the highest peak in Patmos is crowned with what looks like a castle and a small town surrounding it. Just absolutely breathtaking and the adventurer in me is screaming!
It was great to have Kostas show us around Patmos. We visited the cave of St. John which had a very strong and dark spiritual aura. Soon after we zipped up to the mysterious town of the highest peak, Chora. Chora is about fifteen hundred years old and has maintained it’s traditional and tranquil integrity. I enjoyed feeling the nostalgia of this old town, walking through the narrow cobbled stoned streets, admiring the thousand year old buildings still standing and still with so much life. Later in the evening we returned to Chora to have drinks in an old bar of this old town where I sipped on Greek brandy and soaked up this moment.
The castle on top of the peak is the Monastery of St. John the Theologian. Many monks live here and we were able to explore the monastery. I found my way to the rooftop and took in the beautiful view with my eyes, soul, and camera. We then visited all of the beautiful spots of Patmos, from beaches to the highest point of the island for a full spectacular view. Kostas then took us to a beach with a boulder on the shore. Legends say that this is a comet so I had to climb it.
We decided to catch the late boat which never came and ended up staying in Patmos overnight and took the next day off to rest and daydream about our adventure in Patmos.
The weather here has been angry. The winds howl at night rattling the bones of every home and living thing, especially mine.
We collectively agreed on working through the weekend and take Monday and Tuesday off instead. Greek’s Independence Day will be on Monday and everybody gets the day off. Kostas is going to take us on a field trip to Patmos on Tuesday so I am very excited to have a personal tour of another island of the Dodecanese.
Work has been simple but very physical. I am getting country strong on the farm! Since its been raining, we have a lot of weeds to clear around the crops. I spent one day weeding the flowers, lemon trees and the lettuce field. Weeding the lettuce field is like stepping on a land mine and playing twister at the same time.
The weather is expected to get warmer in the next week. We need to till around the grapevines to get the soil ready for a good watering as the weather gets warmer. Kostas has about thirty five hundred grapevines and we spent one day just tilling away in the fields. Within five hours we did nine hundred vines with four people. I don’t think I have ever counted pass two hundred in one sitting let alone nine hundred! Each vine was at least five swings or more to just loosen the dirt. The secret for me was don’t look sideways, keep your head down and definitely loose count.
The next day was more chain gang work where we hand mixed cement on the road to start building the small studio other property. The materials we used were all from the island except for the cement mix. Kostas used the rain water he collects to mix and then we hand elevate the mixed cement in a bucket down to the site. The stone wall expert, Manoli, laid the bricks one by one. It was very interesting to watch him measure with very simple tools and methods. He used a simple yellow string to measure the height of the windows and doors. It was great to help build the traditional Greek way.
I am so sore and my bones ache but I feel stronger in so many ways.
Theresaness #2 – Deleted my effen blog of my first work day! Ugh…Redo!
My first work day I was already digging two trenches, built a flower bed, and uprooted bamboo shoots. I had never really used anything aside from a shovel and I already broke the pick ax uprooting the bamboo shoots because I am so strong.
Kostas made us a delicious lunch with ingredients from the farm. Eating food so close to the source is incredible. The flavor, the scent, and the texture is rewarding. After lunch Kostas took us to harvest sea urchin. The hike was beautiful and I was able to see more a of Lipsi. Lipsi is beautiful, gracious and pristine. There are at least four different secluded beaches on the hike with white rocks and aqua blue waters. You can islands from afar, some were habitable and others were for the bird. We saw salt crystals forming and hopefully within two weeks we will be able to harvest our own salt.
The ocean was very choppy so the urchins retreated underwater. No urchin today but we sat along the cliffs basking in the sun and soaking it all in.
The southern winds are strong again and walking 2K (3.2 miles) into town today is not going to happen so I will roll the two days together.
There is a lot of projects that require a tool around here or maybe it’s just a farm thing. My tasks today were simple; I needed to even out the ground where the addition is being built and I will be planting my first trees. Aside from a shovel I had never used any other kind of tools and I learned very quickly that form is everything with your tool. After an hour of raking rocks, the place looked liked a Japanese garden which was most appropriate.
I planted my first trees (peach) today and was very excited to know that one day it will feed someone here in Lipsi. It is romantic to think that maybe one day I can eat the fruit from this tree or maybe my nieces, nephews, and or children one day. We had a light day for work but the reward today will be going to eat at the top-rated restaurant in town, Manolis Tastes.
The town square is on a hill with homes and shops in every nook and cranny winding up the hill. I found the restaurant and met Manoli himself. Within half an hour I was in the kitchen learning to make tzatziki at his restaurant. I love how things like this really do happen when you put yourself in the right place and the right time.
Digging happens a lot on farms. I am getting so good with my tools! We had to dig dirt from one area and lay it on top of the flower bed as top soil and put manure on top. Digging is like the ultimate arm and leg exercise. Now, I also know what lower back pain feels like.
I was also introduced to organic weeding aka get on all fours and start pulling. Weeding is like the forever ab crunch and never ending! Since you are so close to the ground weeding, I also meet a lot of bugs. My fear of bugs is getting better and I picked up a few bugs; as long as I have my work gloves on it’s doable. I don’t pick up the fast moving ones because its weird. At some point I would like to pick up a worm without gloves on.
The south winds are howling tonight and I am getting cozy early.
After missing my stop I was ready to jump off the boat and swim to shore this time. I had no idea how Kostas looked and though it all seemed uncertain I always had such a positive feeling. I approached at least three Greek men calling out Kostas before a man in what looked like mechanical blue pants and jacket with a beanie approached me. He looked scruffy, about mid forties, smiling eyes and spoke perfect English. This was the most English I’ve heard since starting my travels. A quick introduction and then he grabbed my luggage and plopped it on his scooter and off I go to the farm!
Lipsi is beautiful, spiritual, and graceful. The ride to the farm was winding through the hillside and I could see Turkey on the north side of the island where the farm is. We arrived at a small home with a good amount of land where grape vines that are sixty years old are beginning to bud. There are four goats on the property, two geese, farm cats and a dog named Piggy. This is where Kostas was born and part of the home is about 260 years old.
My room is upstairs where I share with another girl from Canada. There’s no heating or cooling and the bathroom is outside next to the room. I will be hand washing my clothes for a week until the washer arrives. Complete modest living and most of the food comes from the farm and or from other farms. Convenience is not an option but I feel at home. Instead of television I have a private beach less than 100 km away to unwind too.
Kostas and I had a long conversation about sustainability for the farm and island. The island is going to be fully sustainable within 7 years and has support from the government. He wants to introduce me to the mayor for the details and plans. We were both excited about sharing the same passion. He as ideas for his farm and building plans as well. Call it fate but I think there is a very special reason for this experience.
I will be helping Kostas build a small studio in the next two weeks. The walls are made of local rocks and insulation is going to be sheep wool. Incredible, since I pay about fifty dollars for a merino sweater. I am so excited about this project and looking forward to starting the project on Tuesday. It’s Lent today so we get the day off.
Off to exploring the beaches today after my high octane Greek coffee :).