However, having an orto is a commitment and a responsibility, and there is always a nagging feeling of guilt when things aren’t being harvested or weeded or tended to as you know they really should. I was therefore delighted when Stuart headed down there this week to single-handedly manage, operate and carry out “project tidy-up”.
Harvests are definitely way down on where we expected them to be this year (we are now down to just 2 parsnip plants, for example, thanks to the vole population), but there was still a pleasing volume of fresh vegetable goodness that came up from the garden this week!
|We should be OK for marigold seeds next year!
|Squashes, potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines.
We even managed to make use of a home-grown cabbage for a dinner we cooked (a Jamaican curry) for our Italian teacher, Johnny, and his girlfriend Giulia, along with our friends and fellow Italian students David & Sarah.
Despite the still intensely hot temperatures at the weekend, we forced ourselves to embrace some physical outdoor work – the temptation to avoid all forms of exertion and avoid the outdoors when the temperatures are this high is enormous, but with jobs on the to-do list stacking up thanks to the longevity of this summer’s heatwave, we felt we needed to start, well, making a start.
We therefore spent a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon and pretty much the whole day on Sunday cutting, splitting, chipping, moving and stacking wood for the winter as it’s now time to get all the wood under shelter so it can start drying out (as opposed to seasoning, which it has been doing while exposed to the elements) in time to be used in the winter.
|Wood chipping for compost.
|Splitting logs for the fire.
|An empty section of woodpile.
|A few logs added...
|... a few more added.
|More logs being moved down the drive.
...Not that we can quite imagine it ever being winter!
I know we’ve banged on about it quite a lot on the blog over recent weeks, but the intense heat and vanishingly low rainfall over both spring and summer this year really have taken their toll on the local landscape, both in terms of damage by drought and damage by forest fire.
While out and about on Saturday we spotted huge plumes of smoke billowing up from the hillside the far side of Montecatini. Later in the day we spotted a Canadair fire-fighting plane flying over our house, seemingly going from the site of the fire to the coast to scoop up a refill of water before returning to fight the flames.
We’ve since read that the fire – which was in the Montalbano hills – had burned over 100 hectares of woodland (mainly chestnut and robinia(false acacia), as well as some olive groves). An astonishing area of devastation.
The same article mentioned that, thanks to the drought situation, the basins of water built and dotted around the hillsides for the purpose of filling up the buckets of fire-fighting helicopters are pretty much all dry – and at the weekend firefighters were having to resort to scooping water from privately owned swimming pools (presumably after having asked the owners, or at least informed them!).
We’d only read the previous day that the province of Florence has suffered with 35 separate forest fire incidents this summer, the province of Lucca province with 24, the province of Grosetto with 29, but the province with the largest area of burned ground was that of Pisa, with 134 hectares. We assume that, following the fire in the Montalbano hills, our province, Pistoia, may well have overtaken that lead.
In terms of the drought, we amazingly do still have a trickle of water in the stream that borders our land – meanwhile, the situation in the centre of Pescia is quite astonishing. The wide bed of the river Pescia is completely dry – something we have never seen before.
|Dry as a bone.
There is rain forecast for the coming weekend (and cooler temperatures next week – at last), but it will take a long and sustained period of rainfall to start to replenish the waterways and soak the ground sufficiently to lower the risk of fire. In recognition of the extreme situation, the annual ban on burning (prunings, garden waste etc.), which is usually in force between June and 31 August, has been extended, now not being due to be lifted until 15 September - a two week extension. Two weeks hardly seems as if it will be enough to make the situation any better, but we shall see what the next fortnight brings!
We rounded off the weekend with a visit to the annual Sorana bean festival with our friends Paul & Kathy. The Sorana bean has IGP status, meaning that it can only be produced in the small area immediately surrounding the village of Sorana. It is famed for its delicate flavour and its easily digestible skins, making it both allegedly flatulence-proof and suitable for those with gastro-intestinal problems. Each year, there is a festival to celebrate the harvest of the beans.
The village of Sorana was buzzing, and we enjoyed a couple of drinks with our friends, a tasting of the beans with grilled salt cod, and a leisurely wander around the tiny streets of the pretty village before leaving the residents to party on into the night.
|The village of Sorana parties in celebration of the new season beans.
|La bella luna - and the lights of Pietrabuona.