Monday, February 5, 2018

A New Friend at Le Ripe

Argo the Pup

Argo on arrival, looking, listening and smelling
Ten days ago Le Ripe joyfully welcomed a new resident. His name is Argo (after the dog which faithfully waited for Ulysses to return from Troy and his Odyssey). 

displaying his sniffer-hound genes






He arrived from a refuge in Siena where he was born in October 2017. After living in what amounted to a cold cage with his mother and siblings he  now has a large, safe garden in which to caper, bound, pounce...

so much to do at Le Ripe

and generally scoot about.


so much to explore
Argo's mother is a segugio italiano or scenthound, a breed thought to be descended from ancient Egyptian hounds.  His father is an American Staffordshire terrier, a relatively recent breed from the New World so he is part hunter and part guard dog, half ancient and half modern.
 
those genes again

Perhaps he will also keep at bay the odd porcupine so we may one day be able to cultivate Tuscan iris here again.





Argo loves Le Ripe already.



The association of volunteers who, working in collaboration with the Siena city council, find homes for stray dogs, cats and other creatures in Siena, is called ASSTA. Before handing over any animal they visit the homes of potential owners to check on the situation and give advice.
The kindest of people.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Wood in Winter

A wood which has become the extension 
of a 
Chianti garden

Once the woods around here were cultivated for their various uses: brush for fires and ovens, wood for fuel, tools and farmwork and to make charcoal.


 Friends of ours near Panzano in Chianti have spent endless hours clearing the brush, brambles, stunted trees and bushes from the wood above their house.


Monday, January 15, 2018

A 19th century vision of 15th century Florence

George Eliot and the Passage of Time in Florence



"...a world-famous city, which has hardly changed its outline since the days of Columbus, ...seeming to stand as an almost unviolated symbol...to remind us that we still resemble the men of the past more than we differ from them..."

Florence in 1490: bird's eye view from the west
In her novel Romola (1862-63) George Eliot (or Mary Anne Evans) offers a vision of Florence which, besides displaying her deep grasp of the history, language and culture of the city during the Renaissance, regales the modern reader with a vivid portrait of the town at the height of its glory.
 
1914 edition of Romola
But it is her Proem which interests me here. Eliot begins her preamble to Romola by underlining how little many world-famous cities have changed over the centuries, at least at their historical hearts. Her assertion held truer in the 19th century than it does in the 21st, but in the case of historical Florence, it is arguably still - miraculously - the case.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Fallen Cypress

Resuscitating a Tree


The day the builders came and, manoeuvring their digger in a tight space, crashed into one of three cypresses we planted over ten years ago, setting the tree at a 45 degree angle, we were not sure whether it could be salvaged.
After we watered it thoroughly, presumably to ease its shock (it happened at the height of a very hot summer), the cypress rapidly sank to the ground, where it lay for over two months.
The experts told us it was better to wait for cooler weather but when they came to visit the patient they were concerned that many roots had been broken in the fall; perhaps the tree was compromised. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

How to Build a Farmhouse: an 18th Century Architectural Treatise

Delle Case de' Contadini
Ferdinando Morozzi
1770



...farmhouses can be improved, not for the sake of it, but in order to remove many fatal mistakes, as much for the Farmers' lives as for the damage incurred for the owner who cannot derive profit from his Possessions...therefore I will try to discuss this, setting out rules for building anew, modifying and enlarging pre-existing homes based on experience, and the Authorities of the most serious Writers...

...non poco si possono migliorare di piu' le Case de' Contadini, non per il lusso...ma affine di togliere ...tanti errori..funesti...alla vita de' medesimi Contadini, quanto ancora di pregiudizio notabile all'interesse di chi possiede, che non ricava dalle Possessioni quel frutto compensativo...percio'...io procurero' di discorrere sopra le medesime...esponendo le regole per...edificare di nuovo, e correggere, ed aumentare le gia' fatte le quali cose tutte saranno appoggiate all'esperienza e corredate colle Autorita' de' piu' gravi Scrittori... 
 
Delle case dei contadini, link to book


On Peasants' Houses is the title of this slim volume published in late 18th century Florence by one Ferdinando Morozzi (mentioned in the post on Le Ripe History). The Tuscan case coloniche or farmhouses inhabited by  sharecroppers, but not owned by them, (see the post on Sharecropping in Tuscany) are the typical clusters of rural buildings for which this part of the world is famous. They are often misnamed villas, but villas were the homes of the gentry and nobility, are grander and often surrounded by formal gardens. 
 
restored casa colonica not dissimilar to the one in Morozzi's drawing below: some might erroneously call it a villa but it is really just a wonderful old farmhouse beautified

Case coloniche are the solid, square stone structures where the farmers, the 'peasants' of the past, lived and worked. Arches, dovecotes, external staircases, towers, terracotta grills on the barns for aeration, are regular features; locations vary but tend to be central to the farmland and on an elevation, if available.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Hilltop View from Le Ripe

We lost some forest but we gained a view
looking almost due east
When we first walked proudly over our property - the sensation of owning land, as opposed to a house, is strangely exciting - we convinced ourselves that our scanty maps showed it extending to the top of the hill. Our imaginations expanded it a little further.
looking north towards Panzano in Chianti


We would climb the hill and confidently point out the (imagined) boundaries to visitors. It was nice owning a hilltop, even if there was no view up there from spring to autumn, because of the forest of leafy oak and ash. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Long Dry Summer of 2017.2

...and the rains came


 ...finally, almost 60 millimetres

I only wish I could have captured the sound and fury of it all, the thunderbolts and lightning flashes. 
Thor and Zeus really let us have it, at last.

looking south towards Radda (invisible)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Day the Drone flew over Le Ripe

The upside of new technology: aerial photographs


  
A friendly, invited drone buzzed over Le Ripe this morning like an outsize mosquito and obligingly took some photographs.


Maybe next time it will deliver pizza.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Long Dry Summer of 2017.1


Waiting for the rain

these are early morning shots, before the heat sets in

As we walk crunching on the lawns - what say I? - former lawns and meadows, at Le Ripe, I reflect that the place is looking more and more like Australia. The hills have turned prematurely brown, the earth is parched, some bushes and trees, or at least their foliage, have died.
most hills are browner than this, it is quite marked

The drought has been with us since spring. There have been two mediocre rainfalls in the past 4 months or so, totalling about 30ml. It was almost the same last year but at least then we had enjoyed spring rains.
some plants have fallen by the wayside



Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cabbages and Flax

 Surprising Sprouts

At Le Ripe early this spring we had a man with a tractor work over our orchard to tumble out the biggest stones and level the ground for easier mowing.

 The resulting freshly-turned and raked earth cried out for seeds. Grass would have been the obvious choice but inspired by friends, we opted for something prettier.
Our local supplier sells sacks of flax seed. Since the flax flower (linum usitatissimum) is a pretty blue, we thought this would make an attractive first planting before grass seeds were sown in autumn.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cleaning out the Fish Pond


Fishissitudes

  Each year it is a rather sorry and tiring task of mine to clean out our fish pond which we created in a section of the adapted remains of the former laundry trough at Le Ripe.



Tiring for fairly obvious reasons: the trough measures about 2.5 metres by 1.5 and is about 50 centimetres deep and after one year its base is rich with sludge. It has to be completely drained, emptied of its stones and pots and the sludge and rubble swept out through a narrow plughole.


 A sorry task, because each time the fish seem to be the victims of fate and clumsy handling, one way or another. 
It is remarkable to think that our goldfish, left to their own devices in the pond, have survived extreme heat, extreme cold (including 10cm of ice on the surface of the pond), dirty water (this year for various reasons it was 2 years since a clean-out) and amuchina which is a sodium hypochlorite compound used for disinfecting water to deter mosquitoes. This was added when I thought the fish had perished; I was not trying to murder them.