October 2011 Birds, Beast and Bulbs
October continued with the record breaking weather, cloudless blue skies and temperatures soaring into the mid 30’s, not that we were complaining, far from it with family and friends still visiting in the off peak season.
The local fauna and flora were having a rough time of it so we placed buckets of water in the olive grove for the deer who would come up to drink out of the swimming pool only to discover it had been covered over for the winter months. The porcupines had dug a massive hole into a bank thinking they were uncovering a honey comb and discovered an enormous wasps nest instead. That we tackled with a flame thrower as it was within 20 metres of the house and they were very cross at having been disturbed. We suspect there is another located behind the house and hope the cooler weather later on will deal with it naturally.
The hunters, who’d not been around in the previous month very much, decided the woodland surrounding our house and below must have hidden prey and descended on mass with dogs, yelling, barking and blowing whistles when not firing rifles and 12 bore shot guns. Pook our neighbours dog, a huge St. Barnard cross (with a werewolf) with little brain, decided to join in the fun and leapt over the electric fence to play with the hunters dogs. Chaos ensued. He eventually arrived at our place in a terrible state, coat full of burrs and brambles, panting with exhaustion. Legs torn and bleeding and thirsty beyond satisfying. We phoned the owners and they arrived, with second dog in tow and then had to return to get their car as the poor brute refused to stand up and walk. They apologised and drove him home, only to repeat the exercise the following weekend. There was a lot of hammering and banging in the following days so we assume they have raised the barrier around the garden to keep Pook from his forays as he could easily get shot by accident.
The plants are not sure if they are getting ready to bloom or hibernate. We planted some saffron bulbs for next spring and an autumn harvest but they are well advanced and we worry the frost will kill them off in January. The roses bloomed right through the month. The Olive harvest, early like everything else was a disaster but no one was that surprised as the late wet spring rotted the blooms, no blossom = no fruit but as we have lots of oil from last year left we were not too concerned. The annual chestnut festival at Piagaro was great fun with the glass museum opening in the evenings with a special display of glass through the ages, not all produced locally although there’s been a glass centre there since roman times.
When opening the fly screen on one of the bedrooms to water the window boxes, a bat fell from the mechanism and landed in the bedroom. Our friend who was staying arrived in the kitchen to ask if we’d see if it was dead but when we went up there was no bat to be seen. Thinking it had flow out of the still open window we thought no more about it until shrieks the following morning told us that it was still in the house. Armed with a fishing net we rushed up the stairs and managed to herd it outside with out any damage to it or us.
There are days when we’d like a bit of boredom thrown in.
The weather turned suddenly from days of 33 degrees dropping to just 18 and nights of just 4 degrees. A shock to the system for us but for family, who’d arrived in the cooler part of the week, it seemed like summer still. A tornado, or something very like one, pounced on the house knocking pots and the rose arch flying. It was over in a flash but the clearing up took several afternoons.
Our car was due its annual service so rather than sit around in a local cafe the boys dropped us off at the train station and we took the train to Siena. The return tickets for 89km each way journey cost the pair of us less than 24 euros, a bargain we thought, and off we went. We didn’t do the usual tourist things, having done them before, but discovered the new escalator system whisked us to the top of the hill in minuets. We ambled around the back streets and alleyways exploring the older parts and being amazed by the wooden doors and their massive furniture.
Altrocioccolato is a new event set up at Castglione del Lago as an alternate to the huge Perugian chocolate festival organised by Nestle who have a factory there. We went to see what was occurring as its local and sounded less of a crush than the other event and discovered a truly different experience. Amnesty international were very prominent, Fair trade and other similar institutions as well as private stall-holders and local businesses. There was a great blues band playing live, the lead singer was amazing, jugglers, face painters and other street artists. A “Punk” band (we think) was playing but the “music” was dreadful and very loud. There were many varied stalls offering everything from jewellery to honey, chocolate to batik, artworks to crepes and everything in between. It was a good afternoon but the chilly north wind had us all wrapped up and despite the blue skies it felt more like winter than an autumnal day.
On a trip past lake Trasimeno on the southern side we saw people harvesting the olives. Thinking our trees might be ready to pick we contacted an Italian friend who said the pickers were contractors and were starting early to ensure they managed to get around all the groves they’d signed up for and said we shouldn’t start until the first week in November. This was good news to us as we’d more friends arriving and they’d just be leaving as the harvesting was due to start. Its not a good year for olives for most growers locally as the spring winds and rain ruined the blossom but the percentage of oil to fruit would be about the same as last year is being predicted. We intend starting the harvest in the first week of November, weather permitting and hope to finish with the cleaning of the trees by the third week with help from the work-away’s and friends.
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Michael & Peggy Hunt moved from Pembrokeshire to Italy two years ago. They now live on the Tuscan / Umbrian border in Locanda Delle Rose among 300 olive trees, enquiring neighbours and over-familiar wildlife. "Oddly, it is not so different from Pembrokeshire at all, " they say. "We have felt at home from the very beginning. "