Saturday, February 25, 2017


After a Good Rainfall

During most of the year the two streams that run through and beside Le Ripe are completely dry. Even the Pesa river in the valley below dries up in summer, although it is said to continue flowing underground.

Recently Le Ripe received a gift of 82mm or more (over 3.2 inches) of rain in 24 hours, and it shows.

 There are waterfalls everywhere.

Monday, February 20, 2017

From Farm to Forest

Back to Nature

registry map of Le Ripe

When we first arrived at Le Ripe we invited an 'arboreal archaeologist' to examine our trees. We rather fancied that some of the old apple trees might have proved interesting and we thought she could advise us on how to proceed with new plantings at Le Ripe. 

When I showed her the dense woods, full of brambly undergrowth, trees reaching for the sky through thickets of blackthorn and juniper and said something cheerful about it all having gone back to nature she stopped my ramblings with a curt: 'This is land which has degenerated'. 

Although at the time we were shamed into silence, we now have a different perspective (see the post on Monks and Forests) on the fate of forests. 

However, paying respect where respect is due: Le Ripe was once a fully working farm where the native woods provided fuel, forage, fruits and timber for tools; where grapes, cereal crops and fruit trees were cultivated; where livestock grazed; where bamboo and certain trees were planted for their agricultural usefulness. Since it was abandoned in the 1950s or even earlier, the land has been steadily reverting to its pre-agricultural state, 'degenerating' in a sense, although regenerating in another sense.

Until recently, apart from a detail in a neighbour's family shot from 1946 (see below), we had no documentary record of this process, but now, thanks to the internet we have found aerial photographs, starting in 1954, which provide a striking testimony.

2013: for the purposes of comparison with 60 and 70 years ago
The entire area captured in these aerial photographs is of great interest, but for the purposes of our exercise, the Le Ripe property comprises the central area of the photograph, bordered to north and east by the Pesa river, to the south by creeks and to the west by the crest of the forested hill (see map at top of post).

Le Ripe 1946, from the Pesa river (the houses in the foreground belong to Casanuova delle Ripe, a hamlet below Le Ripe): note the terracing, the tracks, the sparse vegetation. these were pastures, grape terraces and fields for growing cereal crops to which the large ricks of oats and wheat bear witness.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ballads, Laments and Maledictions

Tuscan Folk Songs


scenes no longer seen in Tuscany

In the 1960s and 70s a young Tuscan woman of Spanish-Swiss parentage took it upon herself to collect, record and perform the traditional songs of Tuscany.
a very young Francesco De Gregori, with Caterina Bueno and Antonio De Rose in 1971
Born in Fiesole, brought up in postwar rural, poor Tuscany with a nanny from the Mugello area, Caterina Bueno was to dedicate her life to the preservation of a precious folk tradition. In her own words, when asked whether she was more interested in ethnomusicological research or performance: "Research! Because
for me performance serves to finance research and to augment it."