Olives besieged…

IMG_5642A friend gave me this little, tiny olive tree. It’s on the ledge outside the window at the sink in La Casa Grande. It gets sun for most of the day. Well, until we go on Standard Time and as the days shorten to zilch.

Washing dishes the day I got back to Codiponte from our USA TOUR 2015, I noticed there was this black thing nestled in the silvery-green leaves of the little, tiny olive tree. AN OLIVE!!! Hot-IMG_5658diggity-dog. You will beyond ecstatic!!! I’ve got to send him a photo. I was just plain dumb-founded. Dogs were super emozionated but they thought all my commotion meant there would a piece of b-r-e-a-d in their immediate futures. I went on with My Daily Tasks and gave no more thought to olives or trees, even the three at the Scenic Overlook of il Poggiolo’s Garden.

Then, this past weekend, I noticed another black orb dangling close to the one from The First Sighting. Rapt inspection produced the same effect as the other day. Dogs came almost immediately to hound me for a whole-wheat t-r-e-a-t. At this point, I marched out to the Scenic Overlook and discovered that of the three olive trees gracing said terrace, one showed fruit. How weird, but thank you. T’was the one next to the descending wall of the ramp and modestly full of these savoury fruits. You will be in olive-stratosphere!!! And, he’ll bother me too until we’ve harvested and put to salts these tasty morsels.

Italian House - Olive fruit flyEvery afternoon the Dogs & I walk to the local Codiponte olive press, a frantoio or, to many, simply called il Mulino, to kibbitz with the proprietress while the dogs are subjected to the verbal assaults of one of the nastiest Shih-tzu’s to afflict the Face of the Earth. Her phone rang. Someone asked when the Mulino would start up for the Olive Crushing Season. She said it would be later this year. Not many olives about. The other end agreed and then confessed he was besieged by olive fruit-flies. Oh, mio dio!!! said the mill’s owner. The fellow hung up. I thought what had devastated last year’s olive-crop was a fungus. Turns out that is only a general term the Italians use for anything bad to hit their agriculture, like the Scuzzy Bar Lady saying it was Germans who had walked off with my abandoned vintage scarf left in her dirty establishment yet, meaning anyone who does not speak Italian. No, the proprietress said, It’s flies and They’re wrecking havoc in the olive groves of Codiponte again this year. I feel lucky that we have the olives we’ve got. Gads.

A new theory of Global Warming…

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The surrounding mountains echoed with the sound of thunder all through last night. Just noise, little lightning, absolutely no rain. Nina slept with me in full alert. I woke, saw people were burning so, I did the same. Some rain then began to fall. I still hosed the wood shack next to Il Poggiolo’s back entrance and the nearby crepe myrtles and box-woods. Good that I did: the cut limbs, branches & leaves from my last Big Garden Clean were so tinder-dry, spiralling tendrils of flames & ash leapt up from the pyre. In a jiffy all was burnt. Then, the rain stopped. 15 minutes of fire & spray. What a combo. While standing watch and getting damp too, I thought…

why’s there so little rain with these periodic thunderstorms? What’s keeping them from making rain? H2O is such a basic chemical concoction. Where’s the problem? And the mental air-waves responded…

there’s so much electricity ricocheting in the air… from what we can’t seem to live without but, mostly cellphones & other forms of tele-communications…  all the atmosphere can do is produce a Noise & Light Show and little else. Or, in a few extraordinary instances, the electrical charges build to such a crescendo, particularly over Italy’s conurbations… Florence was the last to be devastated. Milan & Venice have had their episodes too. Malpensa Airport terminal was flooded. Water spouts galore over the Venetian lagoon… until the collected electricity can’t stand it any longer and it lets loose with a chaotic Wind, Rain, Lightning Armageddon. And this is what the civil defence authorities expect with each & every forecast for thunderstorms now. In fact, yesterday, as You & I dined with the great folk down at Codiponte’s volunteer ambulance service’s Mid-Summer Eat Fest… sea-food was the entire menu plus some terrifically delicious desserts at the end… the director at our table told us an alert had just been issued by La Protezione Civile at Noon until Monday evening for flash floods, high winds… end-of-the-world disasters. Meant he had to be at the ready for more than 24 hours. While out walking The Dogs later this morning… post-fire… I sounded out the local Codiponte Populace with My New Global Warming Theory. 80% Approval Rating. Not bad. I may be onto something. So, I am trying to use as little electricity as possible. Just my lap-top to tap this post. No sense testing the Electricity Gods. We need the water!!! Gads.

 

Our summer’s weather…

Not that I am a farmer, far from it, but I do watch & worry about the weather. My favourite grandmother, who WAS one and responsible for acres and acres and acres of agricultural land in the fine State of South Carolina, began each letter to me with a description of the most recent weather. Then, she’d change subjects by encouraging me to get better grades in school. She was an elementary school teacher back in nought-seven. Her messages always concluded with… C-‘s are not acceptable. You CAN do better. Your father was a good student and never got a C- in his life. Oh, well… Can we please go back to talking about the weather?

IMG_4447This past weekend’s weather forecast was not a good one for the arrival of You, a favoured niece and her new boy-friend. These last two were instantly indentured to working in the kitchen to prepare meals. They seemed happy to do so. You proceeded with a new Garden Inspection. Those spiffily dressed Capitani del Meteo at RAI-TV had predicted a 70% chance of rain showers for Friday night and all day Saturday. OK, we’ll move furniture around. What we got instead was last summer’s cap of heavy, sodden clouds, muggy temps and NO RAIN!!! Yet, had we hopped over the hill to Monzone and Gragnola, we would’ve discovered that they and their sister villages all got a soaking. Those same meteorological geniuses had also predicted a splendidly sunny Sunday. At least that. But no. The sun did not splendere until we had exited the autostrada back in Genoa on our return to urban civilisation. It was cold too.

I’m a pessimist and I fear the worst for Our Summer 2015. I think the weather wants to tug back to last year’s boring bouts of short-spells of s-u-n and HOT, HOT, HOT weather and LONG, LONG, LONG stretches of cloudy, muggy days with NO RAIN!!! The wonderful lady in Codiponte, who helps me in il Poggiolo’s garden… she specialises in roses while her husband prunes the fruit & olive trees… complained to me of fungus, as we tied new bamboo to the rose pergola on the ramp beside the Esseccatoio. Her complaining included comments on last year’s grape & olive vendemmie. They were non-existent, thanks to the fungus invasion brought on by pollution mixed with humidity and not enough s-u-n. Her summation was to point to a nearby hedge of pitosfero… a waxy leaf plant with a small creamy white flower packing a power-scent of honeysuckle… to demonstrate the fresh tell-tale signs of fungus. Yep. Yellowed leaves with tiny brown spots. Fungus. I HATE it. Means I’ll have to spray and soon. Gads.

Storming weather…

…or, that’s what You calls rainy weather. The Italians, as a race and You is at the forefront, HATE rain. Even a drop of 02 from the Heavens Above threatens their benessere to a degree not seen in other peoples. Perhaps its their biblical fear of another 40 days/40 nights of flooding. Chissa? You is ALWAYS in a foul humour when any kind of precipitation is predicted or manifested. He demonstrated this just this morning, when I called to wish him a Buon Giorno. It was raining outside his hospital as we spoke. Frankly, I was surprised that he was even near a window. Eye doctors work in the dark. Well anyway, I talked, the other groaned. No storming here in Codiponte. Little sun, lots of water filled clouds racing by a 20 mph and that amazing blue sky of late, clouds etched with white, the black of the chestnut hills…

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Your just does not know what he is missing with his little fear of getting wet. Gads.

Walnuts…

If you live on a farm or in an agricultural region, such as I do living in Codiponte, you know there is always something to do… around the farm. No sooner have the Codipontesi harvested the last of their beans, tomatoes & zucchini than the season says… It’s time to go pick-up walnuts! IMG_4864What? they say. No way. Let the birds eat them. We’ve got the vendemia to do. Yes, there are grappoli e grappoli of grapes… You jabbed me in the stomach the other day as he studied those hanging over the entrance steps to Our English Friends house. See, we could have those too, implying a lack of initiative on My Part. Va’ be’. Il Poggiolo has two vines sprouting out of the tall retaining wall of the aia… or, courtyard. One is red and the other is white and the grapes are pathetic. Not worth the trouble. This year though, I suspect, and this is confirmed by the Codipontesi themselves, the grapes this year might already be sour, or worse. The weather here this summer has been too wet, or when not wet, too muggy, predicting a lousy vendemia. Might be best to grab those walnuts!

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There are walnut trees scattered about. A big one is along My AM W-a-l-k With The Dogs. The walnuts have a soft gift-wrapping-gone-bad casing. Take that off and you have a classic walnut nut. Inside that is the meat. You swears by them. He eats them at night after dinner while watching some over-charged show on Italian TV. You says… 6 walnuts a day keeps the Alzheimer’s away. Hmmmm. Gads.

A reminder, go to Your Italian Concierge for travel & events in Italia!

http://www.youritalianconcierge.com

Boy, what beans…

Sorry. I’ve missed a few episodes. Whilst others complain about the deplorable state of their fruit and vegetable gardens, Tonino can have no ready complaints. Looks to me like it will be a bumper crop this year. Rising, rising and rising upwards, the beans continue to do their growing-bean-thing…

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Climate change…

Every morning, I take The Dogs out for their Morning Constitutional. 50 minutes of watching those spoiled Weimaraners sniff disgusting things with occasional donations of their inimitable bio-waste, both liquid and hard. Mostly liquid. Yes, what fun. Our normal percorso is to cross the Medieval bridge, make a left and descend the asphalted ramp to the narrow lane which connects the Medieval bridge to the one built in the late 70s.

Just getting to the other side of the bridge saps My Patience. Moses likes to hang back, meticulously sniffing every single blade of grass, weed, moss sprouting from the cracks in between the Medieval stones of the gently arched old bridge. Nearly a quarter of an hour is dedicated to this phase of our journey. Meanwhile, Nina has already canvassed the entire community of Codiponte, bolting from one corner to another, probably done, in the hope of catching a cat… a gecko… a butterfly. Any moving creature will do. Her forte in these pell mell peregrinations is to return and present me with some found and quite dead animal, thankfully deceased with no help from her. When she is not looking, I gingerly toss the dead thing to a watery end in the river below. We re-group at the ramp to continue on towards the core of our morning’s viaggio.

Mr Amble-along drifts towards the large fig bush which divides the lane after the ramp levels off to leave some donation there. Then, he goes back to sniffing. At this fork, the low road leads to a sandbar and this year’s Codiponte Beach. A local builder brought his ruspa and made an impromptu dam for the kids to have a swimming pool of sorts on our hot afternoons. The high one aims for the new bridge and bisects the fluvial plain, so to speak, which is divied-up into a series of fruit and vegetable gardens. All these agricultural implants belong to the residents of the Commie House above the SR 445 and the S****Y Bar. Sorry for the ***s. Neighborhood UFOs read this blog!!! The Commie House, as many of you might recall, appears unwanted… totally unwanted… in countless photographs taken for this blog. Yes, it is more than just an ugly eye-soar. It’s a cultural-political crime. The denizens of this grotesque edifice are also owners of stunningly old and lovely stone houses in the main village grouped around the confines of the piazzetta of the village. If they only knew what they have abandoned. But then, on a larger scale, that’s Italy for ya’.

Slowly yet surely, we three trudge our way down the little lane meeting most everybody tending to their gardens in the relatively cool though often muggy AM hours. While the canine cavort over the fauna, I stop to converse with the locals. The all have one message… their fruit and vegetable gardens are a disaster!!! The previous message, say around the middle of May, was how late they were in planting them for the summer growing season. Nearly a month late. Too much rain, hale and cold. The next complaint was… what happened to summer? And with this, lies the true disaster.

For instance, tomatoes are a delicate yet vital fruit. The plants need water but not as rain. You water the canals dug between the rows of plants and let the summer heat force them to erupt with bountiful clusters of red ripe tomatoes. This year’s climate has not been particularly co-operative. Nope, none at all. We’ve had bouts of rain, hard downpours followed by cloudy days of heavy humidity. Nothing can dry out. Then, these are spliced with short shots of intense, searing heat. The only thing a tomato can figure out to do with such a climatic rhythm is to either explode into a yellowy mess or, implode into a cruel fungal death. The Codipontesi are desperate. The same scenario would apply to the other garden edibles though the tomato crop or, the lack of one, has created much local unhappiness.

Last year’s fungal attack… which many believe emanates from the preponderant use of plastics insidiously polluting the air we live & breath… killed the vendemia. Most just dumped the wine from their grapes into the river. This year, it will be the grapes and tomatoes. The river won’t be the same. Gads.
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One year ago today…

Earthquake in Lunigianaon the 21st of June of last year at 12:33PM the Earth shook. And it steadily shook for the next three months. Over 2,000 after-shocks above 2.0 on the Richter scale, the real & true terrorism of any & all earthquakes.

To belabor a point… you never want to be within even hearing distance of an earthquake, much less own a home a mile away. Trust me.

So, an anniversary. I grabbed a bottle of pro-secco and a bag of potato-chips… and if you are not aware of this: potato-chips are a miracle drug, bar none; the greatest invention of mankind… and I high-tailed it to Our English Friend’s a fare un brindisi alle crepe… or, to make a toast to the cracks! Gads, I felt better.

 

Black & rainy Monday…

Last Monday… and may the 10th of February 2014 be forever chiseled in History… incessant & heavy rains struck Genoa. Alerts were also sounded throughout Northern Italy, the Lunigiana included. OK. The Dogs & I could stay in. I must paint, write blogs, nap. Well, I could until those 2 Weimar-dogs refused to tolerate being cooped-up inside any longer and started to hound me. Their dual enthusiasm for going outside died as soon as they Sniffed & Saw what was truly waiting for them beyond the big doors to the apartment building. They bolted for the elevator and home, somewhere above. And, may I say to defend myself? Lined nylon rain-jackets are of little consequence to a Weimaraner, when it rains. What runs through their brains is… Rain is rain and is to be avoided. And, so be it.
While munching on a quickly made tuna-fish salad sandwich, I called several of Our Codiponte Friends to have first-hand accounts of The Big Rain Day 2014…
I punched… remember the days when you dialed a telephone number?… Our Dutch Friend’s cellphone… remember when the only phones were plugged to a wall socket?… and she answered while standing in an absolute deluge on a precipice overlooking rushing rain-water where once was the short-cut trail to her house from the state road below. I told her in a rather urgent, even dictatorial, tone of voice to head for drier territory, i.e. the safety of her home and rang off.
I next called Our English Friends. I had not yet caught them at home to confirm Our Attendance at a Sunday Luncheon with them on the 23rd of February. Calling at lunch-time and during a rain alert heightened the probability of finding them at home. They were.
The Friend who answered gave a very worrisome report. The rain was so intense, there was a background roar on the line, making it hard for either of us to understand the other. The Friend persisted, excusing for the noise from the rain pounding the roof & stone pavements outside the room’s only window, adding that she could not see a thing beyond the sill. She continued… earlier in the morning, she had gone out in her FIAT to buy some missing provisions, but turned around out of fear from the ruckus of the rain hammering the roof of her car… I couldn’t even think to drive!… and much less to see the road, with so much water pouring off the escarpments onto the state road. Just before I had called, a neighbor had braved the foul weather to come to tell Our English Friends of landslides blocking the state road in both directions thus, nearly completely isolating Codiponte. I said I had gotten the watery picture and rang off with hopeful words for better weather on the 23rd.
I then made the tactical error of calling a relative of one of You’s hospital colleagues, who also happens to live in Our Village of Codiponte at the foot… or would it be feet?… of the grotesque Commie House. Dire, dire, dire! Torrential & unceasing rains since the day before, the Aullela River cresting its banks, mud-slides everywhere isolating the village, rivers of water pouring down streets… all the way to describing how her garbage dumpsters were now nearly completely submerged with rain-water. Pretty agitated after the 10 minute spiel of Woe Is Me & The Sky is Falling… in buckets… I rang off whispering Thanks Be To God I was not down at Il Poggiolo.
The rains eventually ceased in Genoa towards what would have been the 10 o’clock News Hour, if I lived in the Midwest of the US. I don’t. And, I am very glad I don’t. Way too much COLD & SNOW for me. In the quiet and what was to us the dead of night, my cellphone rang. Who’s calling so late? It was the Colleague’s Relative calling to inform me there was also an earthquake tremor at what was the Italian News Hour of 8 o’clock PM. 2.9 on the Richter Scale. And with that, I said My Prayers and bid the world A Good Night. Gads.