When we moved into our country house in Tuscany we found the cellars full of things including some old farming equipment and some ancient tools made no doubt by an antediluvian owner.
One object we found particularly intriguing and for many months we couldn’t work out what its purpose was. Having the shape of a wood tanker but with a long long handle we even thought it had something to do with beer, despite there being a couple of good brewers in our area, this is mostly a wine culture and beer might have been an exotic drink a century ago for our villagers.
Months later we had to start making some improvements at the house so our builder was invited to give us estimate of the costs. Idamo is more than a builder, he is also a kind of philosopher and loves local history and tradition. The strange mug immediately attracted his attention. He had not seen one for ages and he was sure that we didn’t know its rightful use so he had a little suppressed smile on his face when he asked us if we knew what was it for.
One can now imagine our silence. Well, he said, in the old days nothing was thrown away, really nothing. You have you beautiful technological septic tank but it was not always like that.
We went to a small cellar where he indicated to us the remains of an old hole. In those years night pots were emptied there and the hole was covered with a wooden lid. One can imagine that over the weeks some kind of chemical transformation occurred. The result of this transformation would have been used as a fertiliser in the fields. The strange object was a kind of scoop to extract the human manure from the tank when it was ready. The patriarch of the family because of his experience, was in charge of the decision. Taken by the story I asked ‘How did he know that the right moment had arrived?’. Idamo phlegmatically replied: “Very simple, he would dunk his little finger in the barrel, taste it and say: Oh it’s now ready”.
We still don’t know the name of this useful tool so if anyone knows please let us know.