Today my car is blocked in by a tractor and there’s an olive net across the road where three people are harvesting the olives from the tree that they own. The three people are friends of mine and they live up in the main town of Casoli and have driven down in their tractor to collect the olives from this solitary tree.
I’m chatting with Maria, (the lady who used to own my house) as she rakes olives from the branches her husband has pruned out of the tree’s centre to open it up. I’m asking why they have travelled so far to come to just this one tree. “It’s been a good year for the olives so it’d be a waste not to harvest them,” she tells me. “How many trees do you have?” I ask and am then corrected; “Piante non alberi.” Italian’s don’t call olives trees, they’re plants.
They tell me they have over 300 olives to harvest before the end of the month, as you should never collect them after November 30. Maria explains that when she sold me the house they didn’t sell the tree because she didn’t think I’d want it. I agree that I wouldn’t as I’m not interested in cultivating olives as there’s just far too much work involved. She explains how the family have about 50 olives further along the lane, 20 or so behind the hill and 5 further on up the hill. The main ones are the other side of Casoli where there’s two large groves. The collection is made up of plots of land that they have inherited through Italy’s complex inheritance laws and this particular tree was part of a share of the estate split between her husband and his relatives after an uncle passed away many years ago.
Last year was a bad year and most of the crop here was infected by the olive fly. Maria explains it’s because we had a humid spring and a cooler summer in 2016, whereas this year we had a long summer with many days over 30 degrees. It’s the heat that controls the fly population apparently. I leave them to carry on with their toil and as I’m leaving Maria calls to ask me if I’d like the wood they’ve pruned out for my log burner. I say thank you and walk down towards my house to look for my hand saw.
The price of olive oil has risen again this year, so when the crop is good like this one it makes sense to collect every available olive, even if you have to drive several km in a slow moving tractor to just one tree (plant).
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s November. The clocks have gone back and the nights are darker sooner. We’ve seen pumpkin heads on gateposts with candles flickering inside to accentuate the ghoulish grimaces. All the components to make up autumn, but wait, has no one had a word with the sun?
So far summer has continued to hang around here in middle Italy. The temperatures at night have dropped, but it’s still clement enough to have a window open while you sleep; meanwhile, the daytime is another matter, temperatures are still climbing into the mid-twenties. I can’t believe it is November and I still have to open the car’s windows first thing in the morning to prevent it from becoming an oven on wheels should I need to go anywhere in it.
I have mentioned this good weather to friends back in the UK: I know, what a mean thing to do. So today I decided to show them and took a couple of pictures of the view from our garden on this lovely sunny day.
Normally by now the temperature has started to dip but according to the weather forecasts we’re in for a warm autumn, a short winter with no snow predicted until the new year. How awful is that…