Piles, the wooden variety

With daily temperatures in the thirties you’d expect the thought of cold winter nights to be furthest from anyone’s mind. But as the farmer’s around us continue to cut the grass for hay, the local population are preparing for winter by rebuilding their wood piles.

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Branches are being collected and stored beside houses, small pieces of wood are being chopped to make kindling and logs are being collected in readiness for the log store to be built.

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In town as in the countryside logs are being stored under cover in readiness for the forthcoming change in the seasons. Some of the log stores are so well constructed, they’re almost works of art.

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I’d like to say mine in previous years has been as tidy and organised as some of my neighbours, but sadly they’ve always been rather scruffy affairs. So dedicated to the art of log pile stacking are some people, that their wood stores are vast in comparison to their needs.

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Last week my friend Mario was chopping logs in the heat and told me it was time I started my wood collection. “Remember last year,” he says. “Many people ran out because the snow lasted longer than normal.”

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“I won’t be collecting wood this year.” I tell him. His brow furrows, he shakes his head and asks,  “Are you going to be away?”

“No,” I reply and tell him I’m having gas central heating fitted. Once again he shakes his head and his brow furrows before telling me that wood is free, so why would anyone want to pay for gas? I tell him it’s just easier.

“Sei pazzo straniero.” (You crazy foreigner). we laugh and I go to sit in the shade leaving him to his toil.

You Never Know with November

Yesterday the council came and trimmed, (for trimmed, read massacred) the hedges in the lane. This is a great thing for me as it exposes the dead branches and wood that’s been hidden under the greenery all year. So as I wait for some good quality Gorgonzola to melt onto my 6 inch shop bought pizza that’s also topped with some excellent prosciutto I unloaded today’s scavenged wood from the 4×4. Last year I wrote a piece about the cost of keeping warm in winter and how scavenging for wood can save you a fortune and as we have no mains gas in the lane it makes sense for me to collect as much free fuel as possible.

It’s not time consuming scavenging, I don’t make a special effort and today’s haul took just a couple of minutes to stop and collect and although it doesn’t look like much it’s enough kindling for this evening if it gets cold enough to merit lighting the wood burner and using one or two of the stored logs.

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You see November is an odd month here in Abruzzo; one day it can warm and sunny and the next as cold as a snowman’s – you get the idea. This week so far we’ve had a crisp morning with a cloudless sky and mist over the valley that heralded a bitterly cold day. The following day was so warm that the washing line was full of drying clothes. Another day we saw fog hanging over the Adriatic making the coast look a scene from John Carpenter’s film, The Fog and today is bright and sunny with enough cloud cover to mean I’m sat outside in shirtsleeves.

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However the November evenings can go cold quickly as soon as the sun has descended so I always make sure the burner is ready to be lit, however thus far it’s not been cold enough to light a fire before 6:00 pm and once lit I only need to have it burning for a couple of hours and that’s enough to heat the house for the evening.

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Autumn can be quite magical and today the air is still and the sky the colour of cornflowers and the sun is doing a good job of warming the land. The leaves around are turning from green to ochre to gold and the sound of tractors can be heard as farmer’s plough their fields. So I’ll make the most of this day and take the dogs for a long walk along the lane. Because you never know with November in Abruzzo, tomorrow could be grey and wet. But first I’ll eat my pizza.

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