This week was a busy week in Umbria. It’s not only fire wood collection time but olive harvest season also and this year’s crop is much better than the previous two years by all accounts. I have driven passed Constable styled scenes of families sitting on the green nets under one of their trees eating their packed lunch having started at sunrise and still hours of work to go before they finish at sunset. I’ve seen a Nonna standing half way into the middle of a road holding up the side of a net as the matching Nonno precariously dangled off a wooden ladder reaching the sacred branches of their ancient grove’s boardering trees which were planted before the intrusive road existed.
The olives are picked and brought to one of the many olive pressing mills in the area on the day the crop is booked in, there is no time to waste and not an olive to be missed.
Giovanni (our landlord) had the 20 trees in the front garden stripped in one day. The next day he arrived in a new white shiny Lamborghini. I didn’t realise olive oil was so profitable. I should point out it was a small Lamborghini tractor he was driving. Ronan asked how many miles on it. “Three!” he responded very happy with himself. It must have just arrived and he had hitched up his rusty trailer to it and driven directly to our house to take us up ‘his mountain’ on a fire wood hunt as promised. I didn’t know he owned ‘a mountain’. Olive oil must be very profitable indeed.
We follow his rattly trailer up the mountain to a section of fenced and gated woodland. We walk after him as he points out neatly stacked piles of wood. We’re not quite sure why we are being taken on a tour of the different deposits of felled wood, but the walk is enjoyable. Watching Giovanni getting very excited about a bunch of mushrooms which he promptly fills his cap with is even more enjoyable. He gives us an explanation of why he is so excited about these particular mushrooms and tells us not to tell anyone, no fear in that as none of us understood what he said. He points to the smaller ones beside which he’ll come back for tomorrow when they will be much bigger. Maybe it’s not just the olive oil that allows him to afford a new Lamborghini and a mountain, maybe it’s all the money he also saves by foraging for food?
We follow him back up to where the tractor is and load the large pile of seasoned logs already piled near the gate into the trailer. Giovanni definitely has OCD and I know he will have a particular way to stack them and sure enough he does. Long pieces are propped up around the edges to form a fence as the fatter logs are loaded. We are quite happy with our stacking effort until we are headed back down Giovanni’s mountain and get stuck behind two tractors at different points with skyscraper loads of perfectly stacked wood.
We stop off at the house on the way back. One of the advantages of buying The Sighing House was that the plaster was pretty sound in most of the rooms so they would just need a lick of paint and no need for re-plastering. Not anymore unfortunately, the open topped roof during the three wettest weeks of the year took care of getting rid of that plan. Large slabs of ceiling plaster now lie shattered on the floor. We also have a new variety of mould growing on some of the ceilings, this one is a nice orange tone to go with the autumn theme. Perhaps a rare edible fungi will now grow from the damp blackened walls which we can sell to Giovanni to fund all the re-plastering that will need to be done. One can only hope.