18 January 2011

This blog first appeared on my website.

Being away for a while focusses my mind wonderfully on the things I love about this place. Like the owls that hoot down in the woods. I’m even prepared to brave the nighttime cold just to stand outside for a few moments to listen to their magic.

And my washing line. Silly to say, but pegging out the washing then hoisting it up out of the way with the forked branch which L cut for me down in the woods gives me a wonderful feeling of contact with something about here which is out of time. Every now and then I remember dear cousin ML who was here last spring, all excited to be rushing out to help me snatch the almost-dry washing from the line when it started to rain. She hadn’t done that since she was a child, she said. I imagined her reliving her Kansas farm childhood, long ago. How much driers have to answer for! What on earth use are they? All right: they might get your washing dry when the conditions outside are unfavourable. But they not only waste the world’s resources, absorbing all that energy necessary for heating and tumbling and what have you to do a job that sun and wind will do just as well, they also disassociate you from so much which is natural and essential. My feeling is that if it’s raining… don’t wash. Either that or accept the fact that you’re going to have damp washing draped around in front of the fire inside. We had a drier when we were growing up in Sussex, but I can’t remember it ever going. There must have been times when three children meant my mother was forced to resort to tumbling, but my clearest washing-memory is of struggling back into the house, giggling wildly, with an armful of sheets frozen solid as boards. You can take electrical measure against inconveniences like that. Or you can let the elements dictate to you. I’ll always opt for the latter.

I may be feeling rather better inclined towards elements at the moment because they are doing us proud. We arrived back from GB almost a week ago, since when we’ve hardly seen a cloud.

On Sunday we got stuck into the job of rationalising the terraces down below the house. Such a mess of straggly dogwood and bramble and elm tree bits and elder and what have you, growing every which way and creeping out on to the levels and generally looking messy. So with chainsaw and clippers and secateurs and aching wrists and a tapestry of bramble-scratches on arms and faces and general exhaustion from trying to process branches big and small, we began the overdue hacking. One half-terrace now looks wonderful. We still have a way to go.

All this to say, we were out there in t-shirts. It was 15 degrees, and positively spring-like in the sun. What a wonderful change from last winter, and the one before, when there weren’t two sunny days together.

Oh, another thing I’m loving right now: the fact that in these sunny evenings there’s a perceptible lengthening of days. Beneath the fleece up there in the vegetable garden, tiny little broad bean leaves are just beginning to poke through the earth. My peas are in (though I need to plant more). My tomato seeds are in the root trainers up on the balcony. It’s all far from spring, but it’s a reminder that spring will happen. In the not too distant future. Before Christmas, I was gathering my things together and heading into the house in penumbra by quarter to five. Now I’m doing that at half past five. I’m dreaming of those days when I’m out there until eight. It makes my heart sing.

They say all this will come to an end on Thursday, when the cold returns and it start raining. Fine. I can take it now. For a bit anyway. But I do need to get the fruit trees sprayed again. I wonder if I’ll get that done tomorrow afternoon.

Tomorrow morning, Tree Man gets to work at San Giuseppe, and I’m going to be there to watch him in action. I’ll be checking up on the men laying the paths in the rose garden too, but mostly I’ll be examining Signor Bonomi’s exquisite relationship with his trees.

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About Gardens, Food & Umbria

I am a garden designer, working throughout central Italy. I have lived in Italy for over 30 years – for many years in Rome but now in the wilds of Umbria where I have fixed up one wreck of a house, am working on another, and tinker endlessly with two and a half hectares of land, some of which is my garden.
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