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Thursday, 26 February 2009

Springwatch 2009

Three degrees at 9:00am. A beautiful bright and sunny day. Looking good for Children's Day at the Cannobio Carnevale. (Why are we doing carnival when the rest of the world is already on a chocolate-free diet? Click here.)

There! I've said it. That word..."spring".

Ezio, Carmine's timekeeper and oral historian, who remembers every important date in the last 60 or so years, who comes and goes by the ringing of the church bells across the lake in Macagno, always reminds me that spring doesn't actually start until March 21st, but I can't resist a 'spring-is-coming' post.

Carmine's meadows are covered in little flowers - scilla, primula, crocus and the occasional periwinkle. The narcissi are very much in evidence, and for a while now we've been eating sprinkles of wild garlic chives in our winter soups and omelettes. The spring bulbs are starting to show their noses above the soil, and my camellias are finally beginning to unfurl. The glorious variegated camellia at the bottom of the hill near the chapel has been in full bloom for the last few days.

The sun is rising before seven now, and it's still light just after 6pm. The sun bids farewell to Carmine after 2pm. The importance of this to Carmenites (especially we sun-lovers) is clear if you remember that the village faces east, and behind it to the west is a line of hills - the feet of Monte Carza. This means that we are left in the shadows when the sun drops behind the ridge. In mid-winter, this happens at about 1pm. In mid-summer, it happens at about 5pm. Many of our winter-time excursions into the woods south of Carmine are to seek out spots where the sun shines a couple of hours longer than in Carmine. I sometimes miss the evening sun, but I think myself lucky, when I talk to people who live in Traffiume, Cannobio's extension into the Valle Cannobina, which gets not a single ray of sun all winter. When it finally rises high enough to illuminate this part of town, Cannobio is flooded with smiles.


The chickens are also now smiling. And laying. Their annual fallow period came to an end about 10 days ago and now they're laying like crazy. (Anybody want some fresh, organic eggs?) As sometimes happens in politics, there has been a U-turn in our policy towards the bully-boy cockerel. He pecked me once too often and despite having at first elevated him to supreme power, he turned out to be recalcitrant and became the first object of my newly-implemented zero-tolerance attitude towards bullying. He's now in the freezer. The old guard has been taken out of retirement and is once again happily crowing in the coop. His generally pacific view on life enables me to delegate grain-feeding to B, who is the same size.

Staying with the fauna, the last case of cat 'flu seems to have cleared itself up (although the patient seems to have come to like sleeping on the end of my bed and now follows me home in the evenings in order to sidle through the front door and on up the stairs). Last year's female kitten has been safely spayed and her stitches are gradually disappearing. She's also decided she likes being indoors (as well as the rich diet of fish offcuts and rabbit bits to be had at our hearth). The old mother cat is once again pregnant - she was too smart to walk into the trap I patiently baited every day for a fortnight recently, and so has escaped the vet's scalpel for another year. I shortly must gird my loins and take the wonderfully fluffy Trouble (last year's male kitten) to be castrated, otherwise he will be off 'in amore' as they say here. I have more trouble (excuse pun) castrating the males than I do spaying the females, but I guess 'twas ever thus with Mamas and their boys.

Wood-cutting this year has been truncated by bad weather at the waning moon in December (apparently the optimum time to cut for firewood). We're still putting 15 kilos into Mathilda every day, but only once a day. Supplemented with the warmth from Edna (brand name Etna...) the cucina economica (a woodfired oven almost totally unlike an Aga), or from the Charnwood woodburner in the sitting room, and we're cosy. The wood floors seem less than icy to the tootsies now, and the cold water that comes out of the taps direct from the lake seems less cold.

More springtime firsts : at the weekend we saw our first butterflies. Yesterday I saw the first scorpion (where's me scorpion kit?), and today I see that the bees are once again busily in and out of the stone walls of Carmine's houses looking for good places to build. A couple of weeks ago I spotted a bushy-tailed squirrel moving into a tree-hole pecked out by a woodpecker last year, and talking about holes, I see that another of my rugs has fallen victim to the nest-building mice.

Most important of all, though, it seems that as February (the Italian translates as "the fever month") wanes so does the seemingly endless stream of coughs, colds, fevers and stomach upsets that keeps all the kindergarten kids in a limbo of under-the-weather-ness at this time of year. AJ and B haven't been sick for almost a fortnight. And neither has Mama.

Now that can't be bad.

10 comments:

Chairman Bill said...

Do you ever get frosts?

Louise said...

@Chairman Bill : For sure we get frosts. We've had some in the past few days, so when I ask about starting to put in the first salad plants all the veteran gardeners shake their heads solemnly and mutter 'tut-tut-tut'! We're waiting for the first waxing moon in March...

Cairo Typ0 said...

I can feel spring in this post. :)

Braja said...

You go from Zen-like brevity to a positive tome about spring. And I like it :)

Anonymous said...

Another brilliant blog. I really enjoyed your writing. Please don't stop.

Brenda said...

This reminded me of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. From me, thats a great compliment :)

karin said...

I agree with Braja! This post just blossomed spring from every paragraph! I especially loved your decisive actions with the bully! Hubby was wondering why I laughed out loud!! Yeah, he's in the freezer.

I have primulas too - on my desktop!! Enjoy your real life ones!

Vanessa said...

Glad you're feeling well after the long hard battle against the bugs. You'll soon be digging that garden again. It gets more beautiful every year. Patience.

Louise said...

@ Braja : I'm glad you like it. Posts like these are really so that I can look back to compare year on year what's happening in the garden and with the animals, etc. Little things make me happy!

Louise said...

@ Anonymous : Not planningto quit now. Only if The Book (Carmine : The Untold Story) gets out of hand...

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Springwatch 2009

Three degrees at 9:00am. A beautiful bright and sunny day. Looking good for Children's Day at the Cannobio Carnevale. (Why are we doing carnival when the rest of the world is already on a chocolate-free diet? Click here.)

There! I've said it. That word..."spring".

Ezio, Carmine's timekeeper and oral historian, who remembers every important date in the last 60 or so years, who comes and goes by the ringing of the church bells across the lake in Macagno, always reminds me that spring doesn't actually start until March 21st, but I can't resist a 'spring-is-coming' post.

Carmine's meadows are covered in little flowers - scilla, primula, crocus and the occasional periwinkle. The narcissi are very much in evidence, and for a while now we've been eating sprinkles of wild garlic chives in our winter soups and omelettes. The spring bulbs are starting to show their noses above the soil, and my camellias are finally beginning to unfurl. The glorious variegated camellia at the bottom of the hill near the chapel has been in full bloom for the last few days.

The sun is rising before seven now, and it's still light just after 6pm. The sun bids farewell to Carmine after 2pm. The importance of this to Carmenites (especially we sun-lovers) is clear if you remember that the village faces east, and behind it to the west is a line of hills - the feet of Monte Carza. This means that we are left in the shadows when the sun drops behind the ridge. In mid-winter, this happens at about 1pm. In mid-summer, it happens at about 5pm. Many of our winter-time excursions into the woods south of Carmine are to seek out spots where the sun shines a couple of hours longer than in Carmine. I sometimes miss the evening sun, but I think myself lucky, when I talk to people who live in Traffiume, Cannobio's extension into the Valle Cannobina, which gets not a single ray of sun all winter. When it finally rises high enough to illuminate this part of town, Cannobio is flooded with smiles.


The chickens are also now smiling. And laying. Their annual fallow period came to an end about 10 days ago and now they're laying like crazy. (Anybody want some fresh, organic eggs?) As sometimes happens in politics, there has been a U-turn in our policy towards the bully-boy cockerel. He pecked me once too often and despite having at first elevated him to supreme power, he turned out to be recalcitrant and became the first object of my newly-implemented zero-tolerance attitude towards bullying. He's now in the freezer. The old guard has been taken out of retirement and is once again happily crowing in the coop. His generally pacific view on life enables me to delegate grain-feeding to B, who is the same size.

Staying with the fauna, the last case of cat 'flu seems to have cleared itself up (although the patient seems to have come to like sleeping on the end of my bed and now follows me home in the evenings in order to sidle through the front door and on up the stairs). Last year's female kitten has been safely spayed and her stitches are gradually disappearing. She's also decided she likes being indoors (as well as the rich diet of fish offcuts and rabbit bits to be had at our hearth). The old mother cat is once again pregnant - she was too smart to walk into the trap I patiently baited every day for a fortnight recently, and so has escaped the vet's scalpel for another year. I shortly must gird my loins and take the wonderfully fluffy Trouble (last year's male kitten) to be castrated, otherwise he will be off 'in amore' as they say here. I have more trouble (excuse pun) castrating the males than I do spaying the females, but I guess 'twas ever thus with Mamas and their boys.

Wood-cutting this year has been truncated by bad weather at the waning moon in December (apparently the optimum time to cut for firewood). We're still putting 15 kilos into Mathilda every day, but only once a day. Supplemented with the warmth from Edna (brand name Etna...) the cucina economica (a woodfired oven almost totally unlike an Aga), or from the Charnwood woodburner in the sitting room, and we're cosy. The wood floors seem less than icy to the tootsies now, and the cold water that comes out of the taps direct from the lake seems less cold.

More springtime firsts : at the weekend we saw our first butterflies. Yesterday I saw the first scorpion (where's me scorpion kit?), and today I see that the bees are once again busily in and out of the stone walls of Carmine's houses looking for good places to build. A couple of weeks ago I spotted a bushy-tailed squirrel moving into a tree-hole pecked out by a woodpecker last year, and talking about holes, I see that another of my rugs has fallen victim to the nest-building mice.

Most important of all, though, it seems that as February (the Italian translates as "the fever month") wanes so does the seemingly endless stream of coughs, colds, fevers and stomach upsets that keeps all the kindergarten kids in a limbo of under-the-weather-ness at this time of year. AJ and B haven't been sick for almost a fortnight. And neither has Mama.

Now that can't be bad.

10 comments:

Chairman Bill said...

Do you ever get frosts?

Louise said...

@Chairman Bill : For sure we get frosts. We've had some in the past few days, so when I ask about starting to put in the first salad plants all the veteran gardeners shake their heads solemnly and mutter 'tut-tut-tut'! We're waiting for the first waxing moon in March...

Cairo Typ0 said...

I can feel spring in this post. :)

Braja said...

You go from Zen-like brevity to a positive tome about spring. And I like it :)

Anonymous said...

Another brilliant blog. I really enjoyed your writing. Please don't stop.

Brenda said...

This reminded me of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. From me, thats a great compliment :)

karin said...

I agree with Braja! This post just blossomed spring from every paragraph! I especially loved your decisive actions with the bully! Hubby was wondering why I laughed out loud!! Yeah, he's in the freezer.

I have primulas too - on my desktop!! Enjoy your real life ones!

Vanessa said...

Glad you're feeling well after the long hard battle against the bugs. You'll soon be digging that garden again. It gets more beautiful every year. Patience.

Louise said...

@ Braja : I'm glad you like it. Posts like these are really so that I can look back to compare year on year what's happening in the garden and with the animals, etc. Little things make me happy!

Louise said...

@ Anonymous : Not planningto quit now. Only if The Book (Carmine : The Untold Story) gets out of hand...