Rent a house or a Room in Gozo, Malta
Gozo old-time trades and customs are part of our Folklore and they have been exercised on the Island since the Bronze Age.
All the photos of Gozo trades on this page are by courtesy of Daniel Cilia and Fr. Charles Cini. The photos were copied from their book of Gozo photos 'Gorgeous Gozo'.
The first two photographs show the age-old occupations of stone quarrying and bread making. The soft globigerina limestone is cut in slabs. Nowadays they use machines but formerly everything was done by hand and the slabs were carried by heavy carts drawn by strong horses or mules to the construction sites. The cream coloured stone mellows with age and blends very well with the surroundings.
The Maltese loaf is very well-known for its goodness and the baker is one of the most important and long-standing Gozo trades. Years ago in the early sixties, before the age of motor transport on the roads in Gozo, bakeries were quite numerous and could be found in every neighbourhood. People used to take their flour ration to the baker to be made into loaves of bread.
Sunday was baking day for the families and in the absence of home ovens, people used to make their way to the bakery with their dish of meat and potatoes or macaroni. They used to call back at the baker's at about noon, pay a small fee (sixpence or a shilling)and take home their dish (which they had marked with a broken egg shell or similar) all roasted and ready for eating.
The smell around the (traditional) bakery was heavenly, roast meat, potatoes and onions mingled with the smell of burning fire-wood. I remember a particular baker who returned home from Sunday work at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, all smiles, with his trouser pockets bulging and bursting with silver coins.
Like the traditional bakery, the Blacksmith is fast disappearing from the face of the Island. The old-time blacksmith's main work was connected with horses or donkeys that were taken to the smithy to be shod since there were many horses around in those days.
He used a coal forge and leather bellows which he worked by hand. The smith and his smithy were black all over with the soot and grime and his heavy hammer could be heard ringing on the anvil from all around. He also manufactured hinges, hoops for cart wheels, door-latches and large door locks and keys. Today his work is more restricted to fashioning farm and construction implements like hoes, picks and axes.
Two very important Gozo old-time trades are Boat Building and fishing. They are obviously closely linked. It is probable that fishing has been exercised in Malta and Gozo since the first dawn of man. Similarly the boat-building industry and boat repair have been with us for hundreds of years, at least since the Phoenicians who were a seafaring nation of traders.
The fish vendor buys a few crates of fish direct from the fisherman in a kind of simple auction. It is interesting to see the vendor placing his bid by whispering in the fisherman's ear. He then drives off with his purchase to sell to his clients. Usually the fish-mongers stick to their area and their customers recognize them by their car-horns and by their call. Some fishmongers in Gozo still call out their wares at the top of their voices, such as, "hajja l-Lampuk" (meaning 'The Lampuki are still alive'.
Grapes are harvested during the month of August. The cicada heralds the harvest season and its singing can be heard all over the islands during the day. The Wine companies lease the land from the farmers and plant it with wild vines which are later grafted to quality grape-vines and suspended on trellis. Part-time workers are hired to do the harvesting.
The Gozitan families have always been thrifty and careful not to waste anything of value. All sorts of trees are planted on terrain which is not fit for growing crops, such as sweet nuts, fig trees, olive trees, citrus and prickly pears.
A quick method of collecting the olives is to shake them off the branches onto a net or tarpaulin spread under the tree. The olives are then either passed through a press to extract their oil or preserved in brine for later use.
There are hundreds of sheep and goats in present-day Gozo. The majority are kept by part-time breeeders, people who own some arable land and who can help feed the animals with their own fodder.
The milk from these animals is not drunk but turned into cheeselets and rikotta. Gozo Cheeselets are delicious and strong tasting. They come in three kinds (1) milk-white, fresh and very soft, (2) cream-coloured and dry after some days in a drying box which is usually kept on the roof away from cats, and (3) peppered.
The peppered cheeselets are prepared by being immersed in a thick mixture of vinegar, pepper and salt when dry and left to 'marinate' for about a week or 10 days.
Work on rough sea salt is mainly carried out in the summer months when the sea is calm and the sun is at its strongest. The shallow salt pans are cleaned and filled with new sea water. The sun dries up the water and the salt is formed. It only remains for the salt-maker to sweep the salt in piles and collect it in rough hemp bags. The salt is later packed in small plastic packets and sold.
In the old days the work was much more demanding. The water had to be drawn from the sea in buckets, emptied into a narrow canal which carried the water to a sort of cistern in the middle of the salt pans. The salt pans were then filled from the cistern, thus eliminating the task of having to carry every bucket of sea water from the sea to the salt pans. Nowadays a small petrol or diesel pump is used to fill the pans directly from the sea.
Gozo trades, home industries, cottage industries, reed curtains, hasira,
Gozo trades - - Going Home ..................... Cottage Industries
Taking the land produce home with you is a very satisfying feeling indeed. You now deserve to taste the fruit of your hard labours.
In the villages of Gozo the fields are never too far distant from the houses. I was in Zebbug Gozo a few days ago and I noted that in the main village square some of the houses are still detached with fields and rubble walls lodged in-between the buildings.
A good field needs not only to be rich in fertile soil but has also to be in the vicinity of the homestead. This was more important in the old days when people had to go everywhere on foot. In Gozo, we are so accustomed to having everything within arm's length that we tend to give high value to vicinity.
Up to a few years ago, women did not go out to work but made themselves useful in the home. Apart from cooking and the other household chores, girls were taught how to make lace, spinning wool, tailoring, knitting, weaving and embroidery. Some old time trades are still exercised today. The lady in the photo is weaving 'belts' out of dried palm fronds for use in the making of sun-hats and large shopping bags (gewlaq).
Gozo old-time trades, wool spinning and weaving, weaving, working at the loom,
Potatoes (photo above) are a staple food in Malta and Gozo as it is in many E U countries. They are eaten as chips, as mashed potatoes and included in soups and in main dishes such as roast meat and potatoes and used in many other ways.
They are sown all over the islands in small pockets of land which are characteristic to Gozo and Malta. Everything is done by hand, except the ploughing prior to the sowing.
Similarly, tomatoes are widely planted all over the Islands. Farmers are encouraged to plant the crop by the fair price offered and by the demand from by the main tomato paste factory in Gozo. During the picking, part-time workers are hired.
Some people in the villages keep a few animals, rabbits and hens and even sheep and goats. Usually, these people are part-time farmers and own some land as well and can grow their own fodder, such as clover and hay. They also have some pasture where to take their animals to graze.
Sheep yield wool and wool requires washing and cleaning and spinning. After that comes the weaving. In the old days, working with wool was a daily task in almost every home. Nowadays it has become an extremely rare sight and is exercised only in Govt. Trade Schools in an effort to keep this important factor of Maltese folklore alive.
Weeding the young garlic plants
I quote from Alexander Pope's Poem - The Quiet Life,"Happy the man whose wish and care a few paternal acres bound, content to breathe his native air in his own ground."
In Gozo, one cannot have a few acres but rather one or two tumoli. However small the land, it is still a joy and a great advantage to work it. Tilling the land is tops among all the Gozo trades. People who till the land:
(1) spend more time in the open air
(2) do a lot of physical exercise
(3) eat freshly cut vegetables and fruit
(4) probably have their own rabbits and chickens as well. They are quasi self-supporting.
There are many more Gozo trades which we have inherited from our ancestors that are not mentioned here, such as the 'knife and scissors sharpener', 'the cloth seller', 'the seller of sea urchins', and the 'roasted peanuts seller'. However these last 4 are not practised any more nowadays.
I also remember many a cobbler and several tinsmith shops. In olden days people did not dispose of things such as shoes and sandals and kitchen utensils but had them patched and mended over and over again.
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An enterprising young man putting fresh sheep's milk cheeslets to dry in an insect-protected wooden cabinet placed on the roof of his house.
The unsold fresh cheeselets are dried and sold as is or peppered.
The cheeselets are made with great care and patience with fresh goat's or sheep's milk and are not cheap to buy but naturally very good to eat.
Rent a house or a Room in Gozo, Malta