With Spring well under way, and Summer just around the corner there’s signs everywhere of nature taking over. We’ve got tiny green peaches on our peach trees – plums, cherries and walnuts are all making an appearance, and the figs already look good enough to eat – but they’re not, they’re still hard, I tried one!
The grassy parts of our land are nearly two feet tall and they are filled with all manner of beautiful flowers – masses of yellow buttercups, two types of clover, three types of orchid, and many other colourful plants that I’ve yet to name. I remember Chelsea Flower Show one year had an abundance of ‘wild flower’ planting schemes, all painstakingly put together over a number of days to look just perfect. How lucky are we then that we woke up one morning and Mother Nature had decided to prepare one just for us!
My seeds are finally growing in their various pots and toilet rolls (I ran out of pots!) and we’re now in a routine of lifting them out of my ‘potting shed’ and onto the terrace every morning to get as much sunshine as possible. I’ve also received some more seeds recently from various friends (hence the reason for the toilet roll inners) so my collection is growing. So far we have two types of ‘zucchini’ (courgette), ‘pomodori’ (tomatoes), two types of ‘cipolle’ (onion), ‘zucche’ (pumpkin), ‘melanzane’ (aubergine), ‘carote’ (… take a wild guess), ‘peperoni’ (peppers), ‘peperoncini’ (chilli peppers), ‘patate’ (… you’re surely not expecting a translation are you?), ‘lattughe’ (lettuce), ‘ravanelli’ (radishes), ‘fagioli’ (beans), ‘lampone’ (raspberries) and ‘nocciole’ (hazelnuts).
The herb garden is going to be full this year as well with ‘rosmarino’, ‘oregano’, ‘timo’, ‘salvia’ (sage), ‘mente’, ‘prezzemolo’ (parsley), ‘coriandolo’, ‘basilico’, and ‘erba cipolline’ (chives – literally translated as onion grass). I even found a clump of lemon balm as we were cutting the grass one day so that got dug up and put into a pot as well!
Even though everything I’ve mentioned above is not even in the ground yet, we’ve already started our list of things we want to grow next year so can start buying seeds (or hinting to friends with ‘pollice verde’ (here they say green thumbs rather than green fingers) who have plants we could take cuttings from!) I thought we’d got plenty with everything above but our new list adds another fifteen different species to our ‘orto’. We’ve plans for sweetcorn, kiwi fruits, melons, kumquats, ‘cuor di bue’ (a really nice chunky tomato), fennel and cucumber – the list really is endless.
And that brings us around nicely to the thing that has had the biggest growth spurt so far – our ‘orto’. Our little patch of ground that we roughly marked out on our adjoining field is now 300m2! It’s probably the same size as the entire plot of our first house, and could double as a tennis court whilst there are no plants in it. Somebody (I’m not naming names, but it wasn’t me) got carried away with his ‘falce’ as he found it really easy to use and, before we knew it, a third of the field was cut and flattened. So now we not only have a nicely full ‘fienile’ (hay barn) with the long cut grass we’d left to dry, we also have plenty of space to fill with plants. But everything that we plant needs protection from the wildlife (‘cinghiale’ dig under fences and ‘capriole’ jump over) so we needed to construct a sturdy 2 metre, mesh fence all the way around it. The mesh was easy – a trip to Brico at Savona, three heavy rolls carried back to the car and then unloaded back at home. The posts were much more fun!
We worked out that we needed around thirty posts to hold the fence in place and, with our wood full of … well, wood … we headed up to the top of the hill and down the track to our little glade and started trimming and chopping anything that looked ‘fence-post-like’. We were fully armed for our trip – machete, hand saw, gloves, water bottle and tape measure (size really did matter in this case – we were looking for 8 foot lengths) – and it didn’t take us long to get a good pile put to one side. But it was a very hot day – sticky in the wood – and we had a half a kilometre walk back to the house. A half kilometre walk where only around ten metres of it is flat so the rest of it is either uphill out of the wood and onto the old mule track, or a steep descent down our top field – add to this all our tools and the wooden posts, it was going to be a fair few trips between us. But after a very long day with lots of breaks and the water bottle drained and refilled a few times, we had a pile of posts sitting amongst the cut grass and we patted ourselves, very gently, on our sore backs.
Over the next couple of days, Marcus got all the posts into the ground and yesterday we got most of the mesh in place, with an additional top wire to give us some extra height, and to hopefully give the ‘capriole’ some extra deterrent! There are just a couple of gates to make to allow us easier access than our four-legged ‘friends’ and we need to block up any visible holes in the undergrowth with our last roll of mesh. I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence but we’ve heard more ‘capriole’ than usual in the surrounding woods and seen a lot of ‘cinghiale’ tracks in the mud on the mule track above our house recently. I think they’ve all seen the work we’ve been doing in preparing the ‘orto’ and are now all circling, waiting for the dinner gong to be sounded as we put the first plant into the ground – we’ve been told that as soon as the root vegetables are planted, the ‘cinghiale’ always seem to know. I suppose the worst case scenario is we lose our first years’ vegetables and have to stick with the markets for another year, but we might at least get to see a ‘cinghiale’ up close!