“Cock a doodle doo!” calls the rooster, waking up the farmyard to the new morning. The sun is rising over the tangled pine forest, lighting up the clear, blue sky. The door of the straw bale cottage creaks open and a young woman emerges, yawning as she walks to the chicken coop. “Kalimera,” she says, greeting the brown hens, proud rooster and gobbling turkeys. They flock around her feet, clucking in impatience for their grain, and then race to peck at all the seeds she throws out for them.
“Kalimera dogs. Kalimera Pumba. Kalimera Sebastian. Hello Shakira. Good morning Tiker, how’re your puppies today?” The dogs bark excitedly, straining on their leads as she skirts them and trundles up the path towards the big stone house.
Snowball the cat meows his welcome from the wide stone steps and winds himself around the young woman’s legs. “Kalimera,” she calls, leaving her shoes at the door and stepping into the cosy house. Jennifer and George are already on their mats and she joins them, breathing into the stillness of the morning as they begin their yoga session.
An hour later, all three – the farmer, his wife and the worker – feel stretched and energised for the day ahead. A healthy Mediterranean breakfast of zea flour bread, cherry tomatoes from the garden, carrots, mushrooms, local olive oil and herbal tea set them up for the morning’s work.
The day is fine and warm, with not a single cloud in the sky. The young woman picks a strong piece of cane from the barn, and, carrying gloves and a few crates, sets off down the driveway towards the walnut trees. It’s fun work, thrashing the fruit – some encased in a thick green shell, others black and drying – off the end of the branches and finding the nuts on the ground. She most enjoys climbing the trees to reach the topmost branches. It’s peaceful up there, in amongst the green leaves, and she remembers the way her little girl toes and fingers sought out the best routes up her favourite climbing trees.
By the end of the third day, the young woman has collected six crates of nuts, which she has cleaned of their shells and laid out in the sun to dry. The chickens and turkeys enjoyed scratching through the growing pile of husks, scuttling off with their finds of crushed walnuts and slugs.
In the early afternoon the girls come home from school. The dogs set up a frenzied barking as 10-year-old Elle and eight-year-old Amalia run up the long driveway. They dump their school bags and jackets in the grass and dash off to visit the puppies and say hello to their hounds. Finally they are summoned up to the house for lunch, and they call the young woman to join them.
Lunch is slow. The family gathers around the table, catching up on the day’s activities and filling up on Jennifer’s healthy and tasty creations. Conversations are enlightening; they are opportunities for everyone to share their knowledge and interests.
The afternoon is a time to rest, but George had lent his bicycle to the young woman and she is anxious to make the most of the warm days, perhaps the last as winter rolls in. She packs her bikini, laces up her sneakers and jumps on the bike, ignoring its creaking squeals. It is a 5km cycle to the small town of Amaliada and she makes it in good time despite the surprise of that first hill. Once in town she sticks to the well laid out bicycle paths that take her another 5km to Kourouta beach. It’s a long, sandy stretch looking out to the Ioannian islands. The water is chillier now, but the afternoon sun is pure bliss on her bare skin.
The sun is setting earlier these days, and sunset is feeding time back on the farm. The young woman is a little late setting off, and pedals furiously through the growing darkness. The dogs have been waiting for her and now perform the most unruly of dances as they pounce on their food. The chickens and turkeys are impatient too. They have gathered outside the cottage door and get in under the young woman’s feet as she throws out the lunch scraps for them.
And finally, as the sun glows red on the horizon, quiet descends on the farm. It has been another busy day and the young woman is looking forward to sinking into bed with her book. It won’t be long until she is fast asleep, barely stirring when the dogs bark at something only they can sense out there in the dark. Tomorrow promises a fresh start, another day filled with the small stories that make up life on the farm.