Well the first official day of Autumn has passed (Google kindly reminded me on 22nd September with one of their little animations on their search page) but it is actually starting to feel like Autumn here now. We’re still hitting temperatures of around 26degrees when there’s sunshine but it is definitely dropping cooler on a night, and of course those nights are starting earlier – no more sitting outside in shorts and t-shirts until 10 o’clock as even we are reaching for jumpers and going inside as it drops dark at 8pm. The valley in front of us is going all New England in the fall, as the leaves on the various trees start turning to rusts, reds and yellows and our walnut tree has decided to drop its leaves along with the walnuts that unfortunately our resident ‘ghiro’ has got to first (we’ve heard him munching in the tree above the caravan around 4 o’clock some mornings … I don’t think he’s left us a full nut yet). But with the occasional rainstorm, we’re also seeing a difference on the ground as grass seed that we put down at the beginning of Summer has now decided to pop up in luminous green blades – a welcome surprise as we spent a lot of those first few days after we’d put the seed down watching long lines of ants happily organising themselves to collect every bit we’d sprinkled and carry it all back to their nests – we didn’t think there was anything left to grow! All of the ‘fasce’, the ‘orto’ and our recently cut field which have all looked very dry and dead for the last month or so, now have a green sheen adding a new life to them. And dotted amongst the grass the Autumn crocuses are making an appearance – a sight we remember from when we first saw the house last year.
One flora not making an appearance yet are the mushrooms. The start date for the ‘funghi’ growing season is usually 20th August (very precise I know!) but, after such a hot and dry Summer, there are none to be found. The vans parked at the side of the road selling huge crates of ‘porcini’ are all rumoured to be from Romania and, on closer inspection, even these seem poor versions of their usual plump selves. However over the past few days we’ve had a couple of rain storms and we’re now due a week of sunshine with high humidity – optimum weather conditions for ‘funghi’. Within the next 7-10 days we should be able to go out and collect ‘trulle’ at least, remembering where we saw then growing last year. These mushrooms have large flat caps about the size of your hand when open and are either cooked whole, like steaks, or chopped and fried – either way they must always be prepared with the holy trinity of ‘funghi’ accompaniments – ‘aglio’ (garlic), ‘olio’ (oil), ‘prezzemolo’ (parsley). But first we need to go to the village ‘Societa’ to buy our ‘tessere’ or permission cards. At only 10 euros each for four years they are not expensive but are essential if we get approached by the ‘Corpo Forestale’ whilst wandering with our basket … even on our own land!
Moving onto the fauna, we have finally seen ‘cinghiale’ from our garden. The other evening, accompanied by much squealing and grunting, we saw a group of them running into the valley below us. I use the word group as I don’t know the technical term but I was tempted to use the term coach-party … there were eight of them! As they ran around in the bottom of the valley … two adults and six youngsters, all quite big … we truly got to see how fast they were. They seemed to be playing together, just racing up and down and chasing each other before disappearing into the woods beyond. We’ve not seen them since but we’ve seen signs of them. One of the dry stone walls we’ve built (forever a Yorkshire lass) had been disturbed a couple of nights ago with two of the very large top stones easily shifted to one side amongst a flurry of hoof prints and snout digging. We can now understand the damage they could do to an ‘orto’ if they decided they wanted to eat vegetables for supper one night … thank goodness we spent time getting our fence right.
However, the ‘cinghiale’ hunting season has started, duly noted by the frequency of unknown 4x4s driving past our house containing a camouflage clad driver (if indeed there was a driver!) and a fluorescent orange vest on the passenger seat – I never understand the point of camouflaging yourself if you’re then going to top it off with the brightest clothing you can buy but the law is the law. We also hear the bells of the hunting dogs a couple of mornings a week, and occasionally see them roaming around our field looking for scent, the bars are full of hunters on a morning and the stalls selling hunters clothing and gun bags in the market are doing a great trade. It’s sad to think that there probably won’t be a family of eight ‘cinghiale’ by the time Winter arrives but the ‘festas’ boasting ‘polenta’ with ‘cinghiale ragu’ let you know that they are a celebrated animal right to the end.