puledro and the wolf

This is not a happy story. A puledro is a young horse and in this case, there were two. There was also more than one wolf. Our neighbour, a part-time journalist, told us of a wolf attack a couple of nights ago on two horses. He sent me some photographs for me to understand the devastation of a wolf attack. I didn’t think I needed photographic evidence. I thought I had an understanding of just what this might be but these were no David Attenborough-type censored shots. The pictures were horrifying and disturbing and certainly not something to post here or publish in the newspaper. I can’t imagine how the owner must have felt on finding the remains.

Despite this attack being in a village closer to the mountains than ours, our neighbour warned us that ‘the wolves are closer than you think.’ We actually already know this and have previously mentioned an attack on the outskirts of our village, not forgetting that on our builder’s goats and dog two years ago. Last year, our woodsman, who lives less than 10 minutes away by foot, had 9 sheep killed by wolves. Also, on opening the door one winter’s night to let the cat out, M and I heard them howling in the woods opposite (the woods just across the river, the river that we walked to only yesterday……)

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reaching the river

Beyond the paddock at the bottom of our land, through the woods, and in front of the wooded hill opposite, there runs a river. When the rain has been particularly heavy we can hear it lapping over stones and chunks of marble and, at this time of year, the many frogs and toads find their way up to us, croaking away in the evenings.

We have been down to the river many times but each time by way of the main road out of our village to the next one, where it is easily accessed. We have tried many paths to reach it without using the road but each time we have been thwarted: blocked by fallen logs after a bout of tree felling, stopped by a tangle of overgrown paths that become impossible to follow, or routes that start out promising but end up leading us back on to the road.

Our friends and owners of the horses in the paddock were equally frustrated that their horse rides were becoming more and more restricted, so armed with a mini chainsaw and bill hook, they set to work clearing a new path. Now all we have to do is open the front door, walk down the lane and follow the horse shoe imprints down a steep and slippery (how do the horses manage?) narrow, winding path to the water’s edge.

For our next expedition we intend to follow the river down to the neighbouring village. We may need to do some wading so some appropriate footwear needs to be obtained first!

night time chirping

I must admit, owls aside, I had always thought that all birds saved their chirping for the day but for the past week, we have gone to bed listening to the sound of a rather distinctive bird song. We’ve fallen asleep to an impressive repertoire, so varied in sounds that it is hard to believe that just one bird is responsible for them all. It is so loud and clear, I think he must be in the walnut tree opposite our open window. I am sure at some point in the night, he’s joined by other birds, but M is convinced that it is this bird that was responsible for his 4:00am alarm call. Time to find out who he is!

Thanks to a birdsong identification video courtesy of the British Trust for Ornithology, we can now name our night time songster: he’s a nightingale. I am not sure if they are rare here (or even in the UK for that matter) but it is the first time we have heard him here in 4 years so I feel as a newcomer on our patch of land and with such a beautiful song, he is worthy of mention. Now all I need to do is to catch sight of him during the day.

in the midst of 250 olive trees

In the midst of 250 olive trees, in a grove on the edge of our village and under a relentless sun, I watched, listened and learnt as an expert in pruning made light work of what to many of us, seems an impossible task: getting our olives under control.

A friend of mine (whom I already consider an expert in all things food and plant related) had arranged for someone to take a look at her olives and demonstrate just what should be pruned and, perhaps more importantly, why. She very kindly said I could tag along and having handed me some secateurs, I followed her and her husband from tree to tree, as the expert wielded long handled saws, both manual and motor, pointing out:

  • the good – the young branches that give life to the tree and are continuations of the main branch, growing straight up. Every branch must have one so you need to look for this before making any drastic cuts (and there were many this day)
  • the bad – branches that cross, branches with forks, too many principle branches (three are ideal), suckers, and of course, anything that is in competition with a nearby branch or tree, or that grows inwards
  • and the ugly – twisted branches and those with ‘elbows’ (or as I like to think, those that give the gnarled character look to a tree but sadly don’t help it in its olive production).

I tried to take it all in, tried to make sense of words that I had no English translation for and just as I thought I had understood it all, we moved to another tree and it seemed like starting all over again. Trampling over olive tree debris, I could clearly see the difference as trees were opened up (a space big enough for a beach umbrella) to let the light in. Yet, as I now stand in front of our own olives, trying to impart my newly acquired knowledge to M, I am hesitant, a little reluctant to put the theory into practice for fear of getting something terribly wrong. Shall we just begin with those trees in the bottom orto, that no-one can see, I say? Or, perhaps just start with the suckers and the inward growing branches, all the things we are comfortable with?

back on the road again

After our well earned rest and break for Easter, big sis and brother-in-law arrived, which was well timed (in one sense) as we had to dig a channel in our recently compacted hardcore for our soon-to-be replaced mains water pipe. While my brother-in-law busied himself with this, M dug a trench across the existing lane for the new pipe to enter the house and I made the requisite number of phone calls to ensure the water board turned up before our builder did.

Day One of concreting and our builder arrived with his trainees who quickly took over the mixing. M resorted to power tools to turn boulders into large stones which we positioned on the hardcore to form our first course of the wall. Together, we then laid and cut reinforcing mesh ready for our builder to lay the concrete.

Day Two and the removal of some old loose concrete revealed a broken sewage pipe and another thing to fix. Day Three saw the cement mixer almost grind to a halt but fortunately it limped on to the end.

There’s now a period of drying, and unfortunately, whilst the trainees were invaluable in the concreting, they would only be spectators in the building of the wall. Therefore, not only do we have another break, but the next phase may be done in shifts. In the meantime, we are doing all we can to stop our neighbours driving tractors and ape on newly laid concrete. Pity we can’t do the same for Tracy, our very curious cat:

According to our builder, this is the stamp of approval from ‘the boss!’

a little reminder

With our rubble pile gone, all we are left with is a pile of natural stones, some of which we have now put to a good use. A gabion cage bought from the UK and transported back here last summer has finally been put together, filled with a selection of stones and topped with a piece of marble that had been left in the cowshed when we bought the house.

It stands on the site of the old barbecue, almost like a monument to the cowshed floor from which many of these stones were excavated. Now we are just waiting for the grass to grow round it.

from my window today

Over the past 4 years, we have knocked down, hacked off and dug out parts of our house. The result? A massive pile of rubble almost covering our entire terrace:

It had been there so long, we had forgotten what it looked like underneath. Today, we finally got to see it again, as it was before we started work:

It’s a big open space and looks rather bare! Another project to get started on……