The continuing adventures of the Shaar Hagai gypsies…
Moving is always a difficult and exasperating procedure, but when it involves moving
dogs with all their equipment, it takes it all to another level!
Since we had no money for hiring a moving company, we were left with the option of doing it all ourselves. We hired a van, and of course the first priority was to transport the dogs. It would take two trips to move all the dogs, with each trip being about two hours of driving each way. We had to do it at night, since it was now summer and the weather was very hot during the day. So, since we could not afford to have the van for an extended period, it was a night of driving back and forth, one of us travelling with the dogs and getting them settled, and the other staying with the other dogs until they could be loaded and transported. The driver was a good friend, I don't know what we would have done without him!
Once all the dogs were moved, it was time to move all of our belongings. A lot of my things were still in their packing from their trip from Israel, there had been no place in the little gingerbread house to unpack them. Everything else we had to pack in cartons, or things like clothes in large black plastic garbage bags (these bags, in large and small size, are a major part of our life in Italy), and we had to load them all in the van. I never pictured myself as a porter, but to my surprise, I did manage to do the job!
Once we got the things to the house in Amola, we had to unpack everything and carry it to the house – the streets in this tiny village were too narrow for the van to get all the way to the house. So first dog crates, and then all the rest of our possessions, were carried to the house. Things that were not immediately needed went into the cellar, down a steep and scary flight of stairs, some things went upstairs, another flight of stairs, and some things were on the main floor.
Finally, in a state of exhaustion, we were finished. The van was returned and we were ready to collapse…
Hah! The dogs had to be taken out and walked! And my dogs were upstairs in my bedroom, so many more times up and down the stairs…
So here we were, in a different part of Italy, Tuscany, a very beautiful area, and in completely different conditions. The house here was quite old and quite small, two bedrooms, a living/dining room and a tiny kitchen. There was a cellar also, which was accessed by a quite scary looking staircase. There was a small yard. That was it. We were also inside the village, with other houses very close by. Most of them were empty, some in ruins, some for sale but not sold, and some whose tenants had died. But there were plenty of other houses a few hundred meters away, that were inhabited by families.
So the dogs all lived in the house, divided between the several rooms, and went out to run in the yard several times a day, in different groups. Most of our day was spent caring for dogs – feeding, cleaning, grooming, letting them in and out, taking them out to walk… Since I had to go up and down the stairs dozens of times a day, my legs became quite muscular. Stairs are a recommended form of exercise for losing weight and gaining condition – I didn't have to buy one of those steppers, I had the real thing!
It was very hot. The heat here was different from that at Shaar Hagai, it was much more humid and heavy, even though in degrees it was hotter in Israel. The dogs really only enjoyed running around in the early morning or late evening. But the heat was not something that we couldn't cope with.
The thing that I found extremely difficult and frustrating was – the dust!!! There had been plenty of dust at Shaar Hagai, although over the years, as I managed to get the yard in front of the house paved, and a lawn grown in the lower yard, the dust problem became much less.
But the dust here was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I don't know if it was unique to this part of Italy or common to other areas also, but it was certainly something very different. Invasive, pervasive, evasive, the dust was everywhere. Covering things did not help, it penetrated everything. It was impossible to clean effectively; this dust was very heavy and with a texture that is indescribable, but if you tried to brush it away, it just fell and scattered into clumps and piles. If you tried to wipe it away, even with a wet cloth, it stuck and left streaks. As soon as the wet place dried, you could see a persistent layer of dust still stuck there. If you managed to clean a surface, after ten minutes the dust was back as if it had never been gone. Sometimes I had the feeling that this wasn't just dust, it was a creature from outer space that was multiplying at a terrifying rate and filling the world…
Since the effective storage space here was limited, the constant fight against the dust meant that many of our clothes and belongings were kept in black plastic bags. This way, the dust collected on the outside, but at least on the inside things were relatively dust free. But it was important to be careful to keep the bags closed hermetically; otherwise the dust crept in…
Well, no choice but to cope with it…
But then the seasons changed.
Seasons change very abruptly here, it seems. One day it was summer, and it was hot and dry, with blazing sun most days. And then suddenly, as if it was controlled by the calendar, it was autumn! The sun was often covered by clouds or fog, it was no longer uncomfortably hot, and there was a prospect of rain. Rain would be welcome, I thought – then maybe there would not be dust!
That was a false hope. The rain started, and what it produced was mud. My dogs were not at all happy about the muddy ground, not something they had needed to cope with in the hills of Shaar Hagai. I kept telling the collies that their heritage was from a cold and wet country with plenty of rain and mud – but they claimed to be more civilized now and did not desire to get their pretty white feet dirty…Well, they had no choice! The Canaans and podengoes had no problems, though, they were ready to cope with everything.
One thing I found hard to understand was how there could be mud and dust at the same time! If the ground was wet, there shouldn't be dust, right? Hah!
This winter was very wet, with much more rain than usual, and it was quite cold. As the winter progressed, we discovered more things about the house. The insulation was very poor, it had obviously not been well kept up by the owner. The walls seemed to be absorbing the rain and damp, and started to turn black with the mold growing on them. The same thing happened to the ceilings which were also apparently soaking up the damp. The ceilings were very high in places, and in the highest points, cobwebs developed and hung down, covered also with dust. The house looked like something you would see in horror movies, or as a setting for Halloween.
Everything in the house was damp, clothes in the wardrobes, any bedding that was not covered, food in the kitchen cupboards…the winter was spent trying to dry things out on the few sunny days, and to find enough dry clothes and other necessities. We tried various methods of trying to get rid of the mold, but nothing was really effective. All we could do was wait for spring and the sun and warm weather to dry things out. The local dry cleaner also got a lot of business from us to clean clothes of mold – of course the mold grew on good clothes, wool, leather, and so on, not on the cheap synthetics…The mold on the walls and ceilings did dry up, and we were able to brush it off with a broom now, although traces of the black still remained.
Spring was rather late this year, but finally we were back to warm and sunny days, and were able to open all windows and air everything out, and get everything dry. Our hopes were to be able to live a fairly normal life while we looked for a more suitable house to rent.
But of course, since my life seems to be a soap opera, this was not to be. We were informed that we had to leave this house, within a month, as it was needed for a girl friend of the owner.
Finding a suitable rental property, as we had discovered, was very difficult. We needed a place that was not near other houses, so that the dogs would not disturb anyone, enough garden or land around for them to exercise properly, and at an affordable price. We had been looking but had not found anything suitable. There were plenty of houses for sale, but we did not have any resources for buying.
So in a few days, a new chapter in the adventures of Shaar Hagai will begin. We will move to a tent in the field of a friend while we continue to look for a house to rent.
It is fitting that someone who has for years been breeding Bedouin dogs learns to live like a Bedouin, no?