epicurious.com: wwoofing in italy, brambles

Notes from Italy: Machete Skills 101
by Alison Baenen
on 04/20/09 at 10:54 AM

I spent my first day of work clearing out a ridiculously tall bramble patch. A bramble football field is probably a more accurate description, and when first confronted with it I felt I’d been presented with a WWOOFing rite of passage: A Herculean task to test the mettle of the American urbanites wearing farm clothes from the Gap, which would serve, most likely, to embarrass them utterly.

I acutely regretted my unfamiliarity with farm tools. A machete, for instance. Why had I never spent more time with one? Why had yards at home always been tackled with a rake, as opposed to a gigantic pitchfork? To say I was out of my element would be a generous understatement

So at the end of the day I was unreasonably proud when the brambles had been destroyed and reduced to thorny piles. It wasn’t sexy wine-making work, but fewer brambles means room for more fruit trees or herbs, things that will make the property more self-sufficient, which means more time for grape harvesting. Yes, this was a justification I arrived at several hours and lost pints of blood into the de-bramblifing process, but I do have a much greater appreciation of the amount of effort it takes to live, farm, and work all on the same property. I didn’t expect what I’d be doing here to be easy or enjoyable (brambles, if I haven’t made it clear, are not the sort of things you want to lug about by the armload), but I think, now, that it has the potential to be really satisfying.