The Old Stable during the coronavirus crisis – March 2020

It hasn’t been long since I wrote but yet things seems to have changed so dramatically since then. The coronavirus crisis was just beginning to unfold in our territory a few weeks ago and it was difficult to imagine or accept that things are going to change drastically in such a short time.
As I’m writing these lines, we are in the midst of a nearly total lock down of our region.

Hey, don’t blame me! Covid-19 is not the bird flu!

At first, we all rose eyebrows when half baked measures were put in place by the national and regional governments (only schools to close but not big ones, then theatres and cinemas to close but bars and pubs were OK to be kept open).. slowly the half baked measures turned a little absurd: yes, we can hold classes but the distance between people should be around 1 m… I was invited to an interview in a company for a short consultancy contract and was asked to keep a mask on, while everyone else in the room could walk freely).

Probably when the real emergency and it’s impact on the national health system started being perceived by the government and then somehow explained to the people, it was clear that only a harsh isolation and social distancing strategy can help curb the peak of cases and ease the pressure on the hospitals. I guess that many around us (to the anger of those who abide to the guidelines) still don’t understand the importance of keeping the social distancing rules for the benefit of us all and many have hopes that it will be a short period (the more I read, I understand that this might well become a new norm with only partial relief and then closure again). It has become nearly a national unification slogan: IO RESTO A CASA (I stay at home). If you are not in Italy now and think that this is all alien, just wait a bit. My bets are it’s going to hit us all.

Having our own chickens that provide us with fresh eggs is a great satisfaction, especially during the coronavirus crisis. They are also great intelligent pets

As for dealing with the social distancing and isolation, we are fortunate to: have already adopted an un-schooling approach to education, live in the countryside, have a big garden, own chickens and make our own bread.

Our vegetable plot, preparing for planting

We still have to go out to buy food but we really minimize this by sending only one of us adults and going only once a week for our vegetable shopping, preferably avoid supermarkets and buy from what remains of the veg market on Wednesday. We also do the shopping for my mother-in-law and leave the bags at the gate – exchanging just a short conversation outside and with a big distance between us.

The new compost system

So what do we do in The Old Stable? well as far as teaching goes, although we had to shut down completely all activities, we try our best to get the most out of online teaching. I don’t think it works well with our children classes who really need the contact and physical movement (I found that I can do a few songs with movement but tough to keep it going for an hour). I also feel bad to keep children even more time in front of the screen when they are, most probably, already overwhelmed by online teaching imposed by the state school. With the adults it seems to work and it’s important to keep that constant exposure to English. I use the zoom platform and share my screen with the students while I open a word document. It’s an interesting experiment as there are actually advantages to online language teaching: by typing as they speak (and they can see what I write), I can actually maximize the amount of student speaking time. The flip side is that I decrease student speaking opportunities as it’s impossible to make them work in pairs and over hear their dialogues to collect comments for a feedback stage. It’s the third week we’ve being doing this… so let’s see how the students feel.

Using a combination of a super efficient manual lawn mower and a scythe prevents us from being reliant on electricity or fuel for working in the garden

Apart from the fear of getting someone vulnerable that we know sick, the worry about the post -crisis economical situation and work opportunities or getting the virus ourselves, I think that we really do see a lot of positive sides to this crisis.

  • We have much more time in the garden. With the extra motivation to become even more self reliant, we have started to prepare extra plots for planting and growing our own. The hops are starting to sprout from the dormant rhizomes beneath and the bees are starting to go out to collect pollen from the early blossom.
    I’ve upgraded our compost system to include two extra mulching basins all from old vine poles that were given to us last year to burn in the stove (The wood is treated, so we couldn’t do that!)
  • Things that people used to laugh about (we even laugh about ourselves) started proving useful, like using the scythe and a manual lawn mower! No electricity and no fuel. I am actually amazed by the capabilities of the lawn mower: it can really cut easily and evenly. The scythe is good for the really tall grass we left to grow too long or for the difficult corners that the lawn mower can’t reach.
More time for music!
  • We have much more time to play music! We even started a challenge where we record daily a tune and post it on Youtube… here’s the one of Day 1:
  • We have more time to reflect in general, think about how to evolve for the new life that is bound to start after this international crisis
  • On the philosophical level: there is much less consumerism, less air pollution, less non essential waste in this period. Will it be an opportunity for everyone to reflect on this and maybe change their habits?
Our middle child, reflecting on the world from the best place possible

We hope we all come stronger from this crisis. Keep you posted soon!


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