Memories of Monte Capanno 1970, Page Three: Daily Life

(Residents' comments are in RED).
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Daily life: What do we remember about providing the necessities of life?  Share your memories about shopping for, cooking for, cleaning up after a "family" of 30 plus.  If you didn't cook or clean, share you thoughts about that; or anything else about how we lived!
An Introduction to farm life: "I took the pathway down to the farmhouse where we all will be living.  It's only an empty shell now, with the stables on the ground floor and the rooms above.  By the 12th [of February] it should be ready for us to move in (so La Contesa says).  We'll have to double or triple in the rooms, but it should be fine.  They're putting heating and plumbing and a kitchen in - I don't know about the lights - hot showers and even a washing machine!  The thing that thrills me most about living in the farmhouse is the land.  It expands as far as our eyes can see.  Fields, meadows, a pond, haystacks, and CLEAN AIR!  No crowds of shoving people.  No city streets to cross or barred windows facing brick walls.  Just beautiful land and air accented with a touch of water." (from Cathee's diary, February 7, 1970, please go here to read more)
 
"The deal is we get only part of the bottom floor of the castle and a 300 year old farmhouse. The farmhouse is very run down, but they're working on it now, putting in new plumbing, painting, a new kitchen...  The good thing is we can do anything we want to the walls . The farmhouse is big.  There are 9 or 10 good sized bedrooms plus lots of small rooms upstairs and down.  The Contessa is also throwing in the equivalent of 1/2 liter of wine per day per person (we figured it out!).  Most of the work on the farmhouse will be done by February 12 and then we can move in. ...  So far it is not very cold here.  There has been no rain and it's only about 5 degrees colder than it would be in San Jose." (from Linda's letter, February 7, 1970, go here to read more)
 
 
 

"What we have here is a place called Monte Capanno,  which is the name of the Contesa's villa (or castle) completely equipped with dungeon, torture- chamber, chapel -- where a remnant of a cardinal's finger lies in a box on the altar. (He was allegedly murdered in a room upstairs), wine cellars, and it's own ghost (the cardinal), with secret passageways everywhere.  It was built in the early 1300's.  Not far down the hill is the first farmhouse, where La Contesa's house-servants live.  They've given us the use of one side of their house, which consists of 3 rooms and a fireplace.  Quite a ways further down the hill is the 2nd "big" farmhouse, which was just a shell when we first arrived (300 years old -- nobody's lived there for 200 years).  This is the place we've been fixing up to live in.  So much has been done to it so far, it's amazing!  All the nearby farmers have come up and worked on installing bathrooms, showers, a kitchen, plastering, painting, disinfecting, reinforcing walls and floors, etc. etc.  They're all WONDERFUL and so pleasant about everything.  They've even rounded up beds for us and little bits of furniture and blankets."  (from Cathee's diary, February 20, 1970, go here to read more)

"i feel sorry for kathy craig and dierdre because the rats got into dierdres room two nights ago and craig and kathy have had to listen to them crunch away at their belongings ever since..." (from Cathee's diary, March 14, 1970, go here to read more)
 


The Cold Living Conditions:

"The only really warm place during the winter in the frigid farmhouse  was inside the huge fireplace on one of the benches." (by Linda)

 
"[Gordon] had an interesting habit of tossing kerosene in the fire,  which made a great roar. It was wonderful, and the tradition was picked up by Mary Zuccaro.  Damned lucky we didn't burn the place down." (by Mark F.)

"A crsip breeze brought three inches of slushy snow to the hilly countryside, and a refrigerated frost permeated a continual crowd around our huge, but insufficiently supplied, fireplace.  Two benches within this only source of heat became prime spots to sit, and the more aggressive students invented ingenious methods to trick the less wiley out of those seats.  Mark Cohen, affectionately dubbed 'Gomar,' went out of the fireplace often to bring one of the girls some little oral surprise.  Of course, his generosity always was reciprocated by that female weaseling his seat from him.  And though this occurrence was not in the least uncommon, Gomar always eagerly shared the treats in his private stash of goodies. This was greatly appreciated, for tight finances prevented the students from buying many of those little extras that make life so much nicer: marmalade and jam, coffee, cookies, meat and cheese, not to mention butter were never seen on the group's shelves until late May, three months after the chilly period of deprivation." (from Gordon's diary, May 28, 1970,  go here to read more)

"I had a very different perspective of living in Perugia [at Monte Capanno] since at least 2 to 3 months was spent in the bed in that cold stone room.  I felt I missed a lot, but had some profound experiences on another level." (by Sandee)

"I remember a sack of walnuts.  We cracked them as fast as we could and threw the shells into the fire for warmth.  This was when it snowed.  I think all our firewood was wet.  Either that, or I completely romanticized the event in my mind.  One of those, 'when I was young, we were so cold we....' scenarios.  I do remember propping my feet up on one of the iron 'wood holders' and burning one of my boots.  The sole peeled neatly from the toe down.  It flopped around under my feet for weeks." (by Cathee)

"It's a lot of fun working around here, though.  I'm one of the girls in charge of going into Perugia for food shopping because I supposedly know about food (ha) and also (get this) I'm part of the "chemical fires" crew (responsible for keeping the heating system in working order.  This includes buying kerosene and butane fuel, keeping the stoves, or heaters, at the right temperature at all times, teaching people how to run the stoves and fill them, etc. -- which I've yet to learn!  And carrying big tanks of fuel from the villa to the farmhouses and back--quite a walk up and down the hill).  I think I'm a little presumptuous here.  I hope I can be a little help instead of a lot of hindrance for the others on the team." (from Cathee's diary, February 20, 1970,  go here to read more)

"...In fact, I didn't even remember being cold or hungry until reminded by other writers. Br-r. I actually remember the trip quite fondly. There by the grace of God we went... (Jan Hammond Gentes, September 2001).

"We had lots of wine but not always enough food.  We were getting cold, hungry, and sick.  The finances didn't seem right.  Did DZ's guests ever pay squat for the prime places around the fire, food, and lodging?" (Darrell Jones, April 2002)

"All I remembered about Europe was food. Pizza in Perusia.  It was the best.  Why is Italian beer better in Italy?  I really can't remember missing any meals at MC.  I don't remember any cold there either.  Of course I got there in May ... I remember gypsies rifling though the bedrooms in the farmhouse when the girls were asleep there.  They just let themselves in.  Heard about the alligatoring in the pasta.  Heard about wine/vinegar.  I remember green fields with red flowers.... Mayonnaise in toothpaste tubes.  Salami, cheese, bread (no salt), wine or beer." (Cindy Rippey, May 2002)

Dealing with the Snow: "When we got back Andrea was looking at his own Toppolino.  It's gray and shaped like a station wagon, and was stuck in about a foot of snow.  He said he never saw so much snow and the country people were of two minds.  One was it would last a month, the other it would melt and wash away in a day or so and Spring would come.  It is now three days later and Spring hasn't come, though most of the snow's washed away." (from the Diary of David Zack, Feb. 17-18, 1970... go here to read more)
 
"Flashes... Freezing in the snow while building a snowman." (from Cathee's diary, May 19, 1970, to read more please go here)
(for a larger view of pictures, click on them)

Food Preparation, and Dietary Issues:

"When did David & Maija take off with our money? I think it was fairly early on. This was one of my worst memories of the experience.  I worried about how we could keep everybody, especially the guys, fed.  And I worried about them getting drafted if anyone found out what was really up... I remember making many shopping runs to town, taking anyone who was available with me to help carry stuff back. I knew the guys needed meat, but we couldn't afford beef, so I secretly bought ground horse meat to make hamburgers. They were pretty good--nice and lean. Only one person suspected--Little Sandy (as Mark and I knew her prior to the trip). The market stand had a picture of a horse, with the name 'Equina' on the sign. Sandy said, 'Mary, doesn't that mean horse?' To which I replied, 'That's just the brand name.'  (by Mary Z.)

"You may recall some tension between veggies & carnivores over food money." (by Mark F.) (Click on photo to go to large version of picture)

"Not only was meat rarely bought and eaten, which was a new experience for 'carnivores' like me, but when we did have it, sometimes it came to us in the form of live chickens, which not only had to be slaughtered but then had to be plucked.  Chores like that one were distasteful enough that any excuse I could find, I used to avoid the job." (by Gordon)

"This morning a couple of the guys killed two chickens for lunch.  A while ago, horsemeat was served for dinner." (from Cathee's diary, March 2, 1970, to read more please go here)

"Sandee & I once plucked two chickens together. I'm not sure whether we were being martyrs (probably) or if it was part of the "vegetarian-carnivore wars."  I remember the light coming through those green shutters, casting stripes over the hens' bodies.  We each had pliers. The feathers were harder to extract than I had imagined.  One bird was brown.  Eyes sunken, neck limp.  I'll never forget.  I think I wanted to hurl everything I'd ever eaten across the room.  Of, course, I didn't.  I may not have finished the plucking job, though." (by Cathee)

"God bless Sandy White, the vegetarian, for all the times she gutted and plucked chickens for the rest of us. I remember learning how to hold the plucked chickens over the fire to burn off what was left of the quills.  And that the locals would cut off the feet and put them in the sauce to flavor it. Remember the time somebody bought a rabbit and named it "Supper"? Whatever happened to that rabbit?  Remember the time Maija made Stroganoff out of dog meat? That first bite (which I didn't know was dog) only got half way down my throat. I'll never forget the taste. Horse meat was definitely a step up." (by Mary Z.)

"Before I left, I organized the infamous horsemeat stroganoff dinner for the group going on the theory that the pale green tinge of some of the women was due to iron deficiency.  However, these were the same people who did not eat the food.  This did not raise my stock with the group.  Richard (can't remember last name) and I raised some chickens, very skinny nearsighted leghorns who had to be placed in front of their feed, which many of the women also refused to eat.  Those were some pretty inept attempts to help things, but even if I had made some positive difference it wouldn't have scratched the surface." (Darrell Jones, April 2002).

"I can add to the tale of Trix (Supper) the rabbit....As we all know by now, I have a life-long habit of renaming other people's animals.  Supper was brought 'home' by some of the Zack people.  He was to be fattened up for...........  I immediately renamed him Trix and found him a home in the stables.  I'd take him out to the fields for exercise.  One day I 'lost' him and told Strider he was lost.  He immediately went into his pointer routine and found Trix, stopped and pointed. Never again worried about losing Trix because Strider always found him for me.  (I give you this background for a reason.)

"So Jan and I come home from a (wonderful) trip to Yugoslavia and went I went
to see Trix... he was gone.  Frantically searching I was told....  'Strider ate
him.'   I thought 'not' then and I think 'not' now.  Or at least now that I'm
thinking about it.  Can someone supply the final chapter?  P.S.  Trix didn't like the wild asparagus. (by Marti)
 

"Later I returned to the Big Farmhouse to help prepare supper of bread, cheese,  wine, fruit and salad.  (We have either no breakfast, or some eggs from the nearby farms, if available -- a big lunch of stew, pasta, bread, fruit, salad, etc. -- and a smaller dinner of just bread, cheese and wine.  Nothing to complain about quantity-wise, for sure!)  I was chosen to make the mayonnaise.  A tricky task!  First of all, you have to have one female (not on her period) and one male doing it, or it won't work.  It failed 3 times.  I had to turn the failures into Thousand Island Dressing.  The 4th time, though, it thickened!  (It's made by adding about 6 small cups of oil to 2-3 egg yolks and beating as hard as you can for what feels like an hour.  The trick is in adding the oil slowly enough and beating fast enough to keep it from getting too thin and separating.)  Most of the guys don't really want to do this, so two girls usually go against superstition and get-down to the task.  I kept wishing for an electric egg-beater as I felt my arm slowly dislocate from my shoulder.  But I'm determined." (from Cathee's diary, February 21, 1970, to read more please go here)

"We're very happy and though we're bloated by our  proteinless diet, we still are both healthy and studying hard.  Life here is really an encounter with the adversary called "GROUPS," and his evasive enemy: "PRIVACY."  We keep a heater in our room now (very selfish) and don't (quite consequently) have much furniture and no reading, or in my case writing, lamps.  A little 40 watt bulb now casts its dim din on this page, white walls give the illusion of a brighter setting.  BEANS, BEANS, BEANS, BEANS!  PASTA, PASTA, PASTA, PASTA!  Never, please, allow me to in your presence consume either! (from Gordon's letters, April 3, 1970, to read more please go here)

"Gee, I thought my pasta was very tasty! Still do :)..." (Mary Z., July 2001)

"I keep thinking of hamburgers and prime ribs and steaks.  Even a piece of fish would be good.  We do have chicken three days a week, and eggs (1 or 2) five or six days a week." (from Gordon's letters, April 10, 1970, to read more please go here)

"It's way too hectic for me at the Big Farmhouse.  Last week I spent 3 days there cooking and cleaning and eating and talking, but, for the life of me, I couldn't sleep at all!  I'd end up sitting by the fire reading or writing all night - or stealing outside for a midnight walk by the pond.  I saw some magnificent sunrises.  Better than 1000 paintings!  Especially when there was still snow on the ground.  Imagine a red, red sun spurting distinct orange rays through cottony-white clouds onto a carpet of snow. Even a poet couldn't do it justice!  In spite of all this beauty, lack of sleep made it a bummer.  I was so speedy one day that I grated an entire pound of hard parmesano and half my thumb without realizing it, made about 3 dozen wine cookies, slice 5 huge loaves of saltless bread, made 3 huge salads, and washed, dried, and put away a kitchen-full of dishes within 4 hours.  I'd have done more if Gordon Bowen hadn't given me a glass of wine and a pipeful (which a fellow from England provided) to calm me down! But after going back to the villa [i.e., Castle], where there are fewer people, fewer parties, and more peaceful surroundings, I'm perfectly content.  I can sleep for hours!" (from Cathee's letters, March 10, 1970, to read more please go here)


 
 

Gender, gender relations and getting the work done: "We also got a woman to come in 3 hours a day to cook our big afternoon meal and wash dishes.... it will really take a big load off the girls!" (from Linda's letters, February 21, 1970, to read more please go here)
 
"You asked about life here...it is very interesting.  We spend about $100 a week on food and fuel.  We have $400  left in our checking account.  ...  We shop partly at the open market, for vegetables and fruit.  We all bargain with the vendors and they recognize us and seem to be happy to see us.  Then we shop at the supermarket for other stuff.  We have a chicken and egg man who comes about every other day and brings 2 chickens which we get to clean and pluck... a treat in itself!  Basically, for meat we eat chicken because it's the cheapest meat.   Sometimes we get sausage, salami, or ground beef (or so they say).  Once, only once, we got horse meat.  Nobody could really handle it so we haven't done that again.  We have also had squid, octopus, and clams.  We have LOTS of spaghetti, for a while, we had it everyday, now not as much.  The girls plan the meals and cook.  We've gotten it pretty together and we all just do it.  I've learned how to cook a lot of different things without a whole lot to start with... like boiling chicken bones to make a broth and making home made mayonnaise which is great.  Since we don't need as much wood chopped as before, the guys have begun to help more with the kitchen stuff." (from Linda's letters, May 2, 1970, to read more please go here)

"Well, maybe the Monte Capanno experiment was indeed the late '60s writ small. A few unselfish and enterprising people stepped forward for the common good.... Many of the women, without complaint or resentment, exercised what were regarded in those days as "female skills" by creating a kitchen where there was none, and actually supplying these 30 refugees with hot meals. Unbelievable." (by Mark F., November 2000)

"Less sexual role conflict occurred at Monte Capanno than in any other group living arrangement I have experienced.  Men had hard, sometimes impossible jobs that burned lots of ... fuel up fast.... Every single day the girls produced a filling, sometimes nourishing, always hot meal which wound us together into the big family that Monte Capanno was." (from Gordon's diary, May 28, 1970, to read more please go here)

"I will certainly never forget Linda quelling a domestic dispute with Gordon by saying with twinkle in eye ¨You didn't talk like that when we
were picking daisies¨. Nor will I forget the psychedelic profundity of Gordon´s ¨words are herds of bird turds¨ mantra." (John Dean, April 2002).

"We both enjoyed calling you the other day from here.  The lines were supposedly clogged up for 3 hours from the time we tried, but Linda just got on the phone and charmed some man and the next thing we knew, we were connected with you in Altadena!  It's hard to deny that sometimes a woman truly has greater power than even the most persuasive man!!" (from Gordon's letters, June 27, 1970, to read more please go here)

Boys and girls, men and women: romance at Monte Capanno: Several couples came to Monte Capanno together, and some relationships blossomed there;  others cracked under the strain of communal living.  But the community members also found romance outside of the community of Americans: "[regarding] worries about the Italian men.  It's not so hard.  They usually give up as soon as you make your stand clear.  You have to be blunt, but that's cool. Better than being sorry.  I've a feeling, too, that my "image" around the guys in the group is a little sister one, which is fine by me.  It's no fun being foxy when you'd rather slosh around in the mud (up to your waist sometimes) and play with the coals in the fire (smearing them over your face -- I don't know why, but it always seems to happen to me) and run through the snow and have snowball fights and build snowmen, and even help haul wood by pushing this huge wooden cart through the clay mud to the Little Farmhouse (while two guys play oxen in front with yokes and all).  No, I feel sorry for the girls the guys are scheming on.  All they can do to keep their image is keep things going in the kitchen and be more or less tidy in their appearance (a little difficult for me -- haven't had a bath in 1-1/2 weeks -- no wonder people smile only from a distance!)" (from Cathee's diary, February 20, 1970, to read more please go here)

"You know Zack talked about his wife throwing things at him but did you know that John actually beat me?  Later through Europe he almost killed me.  I figured it was him or me. We stayed in Europe for a year.  I left in Spain the night he almost killed me.  Almost getting killed and birth are really eye openers.  I suppose dieing is too.  Not there yet." (Cindy Rippey, May 2002)

Our Garden:  A large segment of the Monte Capanno 1970 Video depicts the social process of making the garden on our farm.  Many residents are featured as Rich Gouley tills soil, including Cathee, Linda, Marti, Wes, Mike, Tall Terry, Mary Miller, Sandee, Mary Zuccaro, and Mark F.
"Things here continue as usual.  Getting the work done still hangs the lazy folks up. I keep splitting wood and Linda has a nice garden of carrots and lettuce coming up.  Warmer weather makes it easier to enjoy our Italian landscape." (from Gordon's letters, April 18, 1970)
"I remember the first gardening days: digging, digging, digging (we, the Diggers!)  We dug hard and fast on the few days the sun decided to shine.  Coming down here from the villa with Sandee's hat on & joining Linda & Barb while Gordon hauled in wood." (from Cathee's diary, May 19, 1970, to read more please go here)

(to see more, larger gardening pictures, click on the picture) "... While I was away in Yugoslavia, all the fields have turned red, yellow and purple with flowers." (from Linda's letters, May 25, 1970)
 

Daily schedules, Hygiene: "I... have been doing good healthy work since.  I've been painting, cooking, washing, etc... It's kind of a group effort, so nobody seems to mind all of the work." (from Linda's letters, February 15, 1970, to read more please go here)
 
"One strange thing about Italy - and all of Europe it seems - is the fact that everything dies between 1:30 and 3:30 (often 12:30 to 4:30)!  No stores are open, post offices, banks, many eating places, markets - everything (even drug stores) goes on strike in the afternoon.  During that time, people either swarm all over the place or they disappear.  The other odd thing is the toilet paper.  Like pastel crepe paper.  And some places don't even have toilets.  Holes in the ground instead!  One place had magazine pages available to use for TP.  I could fill an entire scrapbook with toilet paper samples..."  (from Cathee's diary, February 7, 1970, to read more please go here).

Especially in the first weeks at Monte Capanno when the large farmhouse was not yet ready for habitation, crowding was acute.  One student commented on that period:  "In the meantime, 25 people are strewn out on the floors of the villa (one wing of it) and the Little Farmhouse (with no heating as yet).  Quite exciting, but no privacy at all.  25 people are also sharing one bathroom with a tub that provides enough tepid water for either 2 baths a day or 2 loads of hand-washing.  (For the past 2 days people have been doing laundry, so there are many filthy people lurking about, myself included).  It gets kind of hard to take when you have to live in the same dirty underwear for 1-1/2 weeks because of laundry problems vs. bathing conditions!  Last Sunday was the day Wes and Rich and I came up here to move in.  It rained all day, and snowed later in the evening.  OH FAR OUT!!!  WATER'S READY FOR A BATH!!!  I CAN FINALLY GET CLEAN!!!  (I'll be back in a jiff, okay?)  Welp.  Water wasn't ready after all.  Someone was just doing laundry.  Guess tomorrow will be the day.  Oh well, it's fun having hair 10 times thicker with mud!" (from Cathee's diary, February 20, 1970, to read more please go here).

After the large farmhouse was opened up as a student residence, it became the main kitchen for all, and a social gathering area.  But resentment grew among the residents, as some --including the Zacks and their friends-- remained in the more poshly appointed Castle.  "Things here have their ups and downs.  It's still really cold and that tends to make people bitch a lot... other than that there are a lot of good things happening.   For the first time, after a month of eating pasta, I saw myself in a full length mirror...I've been exercising ever since and trying to stop eating so much pasta." (from Linda's letters, March 19, 1970, to read more please go here)

"A long trip to the W.C. and an eventful cup of tea.  It all led to plucking, cleaning and chopping up two chickens, grating a huge chunk of parmesano, and organizing dinner.  Tonight is goulash night.  We're attempting to [make] changes [in] this afternoon's macaroni soup into another tasty dish.  I hope Maija will like it.  If it comes off, tonight will also be "encounter group night" for Mike, Mary, Wes, Rick and me.  But why speculate on that now?  I feel so dirty and greasy.  Got up this morning to wash, but Jan asked me to help her and poor Mafalda in the kitchen.  Didn't comb my hair, wash my face, or brush my teeth.  Yuck. (from Cathee's diary, March 14, 1970, to read more please go here).
 

Daily Life overall: "There's work -- lots of it.  And tensions among the group, which is to be expected when any group of people gets together.  But also a love of simple living that has yet to be compared to anything.  (Am I the only one who feels this way?  I don't think so.)  There still seems to be only a few of us really ready or willing to accept a life full of discomfort for a reward of meadows, trees, birds, and peaceful freedom.  The time couldn't have come sooner for me.  Even in the middle of doing something absurd like cleaning eels and squid, I find myself smiling right out loud.  This is so different from the chaos of San Jose.  I'm a student of life.  Always have been.  Always will be.  I'm learning what it means to be myself among 25 other people in a farmhouse and a castle in the country in Italy in Europe.  This is really the basis for my 'study' here.  To learn to get along with people.  To learn to accept other people for who they are." (from Cathee diary, February 20, 1970, to read more please go here).


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