Saturday, 1 September 2007



I have been at the farm for most of this year and as the months passed the drought became worse.

We have suffered (!) month long temperatures of 42 degrees from May until now. We have watched in horror as the poor folk in England and Wales have been battered by rain- storms and an almost continuous blanket of cloud . How can weather patterns be so diametrically different when England and Italy are only separated by a two hour flight?

Shouts of Alps, surrounded by sea, Mediterranean, etc. echo in my ears.

The ground had become unworkable as the clay became harder than concrete as the summer progressed. All my wonderful flowers had given up the ghost long ago, the fruit trees bore the smallest harvest I have seen and the olive trees although covered in fruit desperately needed rain to swell the oil content.

The wild boar have been launching regular evening raiding sortes to eat everything that contained something juicy to eat or drink. Branches have been torn off my apple trees seven feet off the ground. The fig trees have been similarly assaulted and reduced to half their size.

We have been hearing rifle shots from all the local farmers late at night as they try to defend their precious grape harvest, even though they can be heavily fined for shooting pigs before the 1st September. Electric fences have shot up everywhere and the dogs bark all night trying to scare them off.

AC gave me a night vision binocular for my birthday and we have spent many evenings watching the pigs move down the valley on the hunt. Every morning they have done more damage to the orchard. Next year I am going to have to fence it and when necessary back it up with electricity.

Well, that was yesterday!!! Today the rains came down as if trying to make up for lost time.

We have AC’s parents and sister from Canada staying for a couple of weeks and if I hadn’t found some just-caught mussels in the Coop this morning, we were going up to Cortona for lunch. Thank God we didn’t.

Half way through lunch the sky darkened and the heavens opened for a good three hours of the worst rain we have seen in five years. It bucketed down aided and abetted by a spectacular display of thunder and lightning. At one point we thought the house had been struck as the crash above our house even frightened me, and I love a good storm.

AC went out with his umbrella in the middle of the worst of it to check on the swimming pool and returned ashen faced. He had been outside when the big bang happened with forked lightning and he said the whole world lit up and he smelled burning!! For a moment he thought he had been struck and looked about himself to see if anything was singed! Idiot for going out at all.

If we had gone to Cortona for lunch we would still be there. Mother in law is not too nifty on her pins and neither is Dad in law, so we would have still been sitting getting drunk four hours later. Cortona stands on an almost vertical hill and I couldn’t imagine them sprinting for the car in the market square in a monsoon.

Two days ago Felice our gardener was working in the stream getting me some good leaf-mould for the greenhouse and heard a scratching noise behind him. On investigation he found a large dolce-granchio (fresh water crab) emerging from under a stone. Lamu and I joined him and found a few more which we put into the lago to keep the crayfish company! In a year or so they will make a fabulous crayfish and crab pasta!!!! We just need some trout and we will be almost completely self-sufficient. He certainly would not be standing in the same place today! The water would be above his head height.

The river bed before the storm

Well, that’s when I have bought a Jersey cow over from England for milk, put a couple of pigs in Porkie’s Palace for bacon, bought a few dozen chickens for eggs, and a hutch full of rabbits.

When I say this to AC he says, “You will find me in Eaton Place when you need me!”

I digress. We were talking about working in the dry river bed. Well, look at it now.

The poor dozen goldfish I put in a deep pool, the only one left with about an inch of water in it, must be swimming in the Arno by now!

The lake has overflowed and Lamu caught this crayfish about five hundred yards away making its escape southwards in the middle of the olive grove!!! It’s now back with the granchio in the lake. You can’t let your lunch run away just like that.

Of course, the lights have gone out. As soon as we have a wind of more than thirty miles per hour or a bit of rain, Italy disappears into blackout mode. I am sitting typing this with the aid of several night lights at the kitchen table. My battery will also conk out in a minute.

It’s an ill wind, or storm for that matter, that blows nobody some good!

The parents have gone up the hill to their cottage with a plate of sandwiches and several candles for an early night and I can go to bed without having to cook another meal!!!

Tomorrow I hope the sun will be shining because Arezzo has its two day antique market that takes over the whole town, and a jousting display, and we all want to go.

Oh dear, perhaps not. We have just discovered that the kitchen is under water. Our dear plumber who is suing us for non payment of his final bill, has forgotten to block up the holes he drilled in the back wall for several pipes to exit. It is not the only idiot thing he forgot, so that makes me even more resolute in my stand against paying him.

The water has brought with it several inches of nasty yellow mud and this will take at least the weekend to clear up.

It must have been a very ill wind!!