30 luglio 2009

The new car has finally arrived

The new car has finally arrived! It's a Fiat Panda, all shiny and new and beautiful. (That'll last about a week.) The big deal is it runs on methane, though with an extra tank for petrol in case you run out of methane miles away from a filling station. As well as being relatively eco-friendly, it's very, very economical to run — I filled it up for €7.50 and it's supposed to do 200–250km on that. We're keeping the old 4x4 Panda to get us up the hill in winter!

21 luglio 2009

The figs

The figs are finally ripening and they're gorgeous this year — huge, golden, sweet and juicy. I picked one and ate it off the tree and it tasted exactly of summer.

The veg patch is rampant now and we're back on the courgettes-with-everything regime. Lots of cucumbers too and we're learning how to pickle them (have I already mentioned that in a previous post? Oh well. It's very exciting). Our wild sour-cherry tree yielded up a puny 400 grams of cherries, which made one tiny jar of intensely flavoured, sublime jam.

Cass stomped on my foot last week whilst I was taking her an apple one evening and
rather stupidly wearing only flip-flops. Owwwww.

So life goes on, only with a bit more hopping in it.

12 luglio 2009

Just back

Just back from a trip to England, where it was hotter than it was here, apparently. But we seem to have had enough heat combined with rain to allow the veg patch to flourish and the land to be more jungly — and greener — than usual at this time of year. Herbie the new kitten is gradually but systematically wrecking the house, with a brief calm, and in retrospect blissful, interlude while he recovered from being bitten by one of Mario's small dogs.

The baby ducks are about a month old now — not so baby any more — and are being severely harassed by the big male duck. He’s violently aggressive towards them, though it’s clearly a hormonal aggressivity and what he's after is sex, not murder — but the poor things dash about going “peep peep” at the top of their little voices, flapping about and desperately trying to get away from him while he pursues them with single-minded determination. The grown-up female, showing no sisterly solidarity, ignores the whole performance — actually, she’s probably relieved.

We were afraid he was going to harm them if they were shut in together so we’ve been keeping them separate at night, while letting them loose together during the day so they can get used to each other; but the other day Alessio and I were at the market where I bought the ducklings originally, and he persuaded me to stop and ask the guy “what to do about the boy duck”. So I did. And that provided another of those
female-English-city-slicker humiliations which are a fundamental part of life here.

“The male,” I explained carefully (bearing in mind there was a child present), “is very aggressive towards the female ducklings.”

Pitying looks and smirks exchanged between duck man and gap-toothed old farmer client hanging round for a chat. Patronizing comments such as “It’s just nature, love” and so on helpfully furnished.

“Yes, I know, but he’s so aggressive, I wasn’t sure if it was, er, normal.”

Overt grins and more patronizing comments along the lines of “Oh, it’s normal all right darlin’.”

“Yes, I know, but I’m afraid he’s going to hurt them.”

Outright laughter and more patronizing comments of the “well, they’ll get used to it, fnaar fnaar” variety, followed, at last, by some advice — to just put them all together and let them get on with it. And by the information that breeders usually keep one male to every eight females, so if we only have four females . . .

I scuttled off, feeling like a willing party to duck rape. Still, it’s a relief to know it’s all only natural.