28 gennaio 2010

Down on the ranch

Down on the ranch things have been quiet recently. Wet and mild, until a couple of days ago, when we had about a foot of snow dumped on us. It's thawing now but our steep lane is still icy enough to mean that the school bus won't come down to fetch Alessio in the mornings so we have to ferry him up to the main road. The first day of snow, he had to walk up — at 7.00am when the sun wasn't even over the hill yet — he was NOT pleased, and I think would prefer the UK approach to snow — shut down and wait for spring. 

Maxim has been in trouble for running off round the countryside in the company of Mario's two little terrier-type dogs, so we've been keeping him on the chain. Which means we have to walk him regularly, something we're not used to doing but I quite like it (as it seems to be me that's principally walking him, so far). I take him for half an hour in the morning after feeding the animals and before my own breakfast. This morning I went round the huge field below the veg patch, still deep in snow, and watched the sun come over the hill and light up the icy trees and fields from the top down. Very pretty. There's a lot of evidence of wild boar activity — the photo shows where they've been digging under an oak tree to get at the acorns. They've been up very near the house, too: under the enormous oak they've snaffled most of the acorns (poor Cass! she likes acorns) and have cleared part of the bank of brambles — I was going to take a picture but it's covered in snow now. Alessio wants to install a webcam to try to catch the wild boar on film!

7 gennaio 2010

We've been enjoying the spectacle

We've been enjoying the spectacle of the UK grinding to a halt in the big freeze — a fate that befalls us more usually than them, although things don't grind to a halt here, it's just that life becomes more difficult, and unpleasantly cold. Here by contrast it's been bizarrely warm (relatively speaking), though very wet. Lots of flooding and the ground is saturated and swampy. Today it seems almost springlike, with a soft sun and long shadows, but the forecast is for snow at the weekend and then pretty much the foreseeable future. 

We realized our sansa (the residue of crushed olive stones that we use for fuel) wasn't going to last out much longer, and if the road freezes up next week the lorry won't be able to make a delivery, so I called the driver early this morning and he heroically rushed off to fetch a few tonnes for us and arrived after lunch. It's a big job getting it loaded into the storage container — the lorry dumps the sansa on on to a huge archimedes screw, which takes it up and in and then drops it in the storage room — like a grain elevator. It's such a slow process that John and Luigi help it along manually, using buckets; the original idea was to let the machinery do the work, but Luigi is impatient. We get about 60 quintali, a quintale being 100 kg, so that's, er, 6 tonnes. A couple of years ago the archimedes screw was broken and John and I loaded it all in manually. Now that was hard work.