You can always be sure that spring is on its way out when the eating chestnuts (marroni) are in flower. They are the last of the fruit and nut trees to blossom and they give the woods a golden sheen.
When in flower these trees are much sought after by apiculturists because the honey that bees produce from their flowers is highly prized: very dark and delicious. In fact, there were two lots of hives at the top of our hill where the bees had easy access to the trees. But in the old days was not just the honey. Chestnuts are very nutritious and can be used to make a kind of flour. There is still a rural tradition for making castagnaccio, a kind of sweet cake,from this flour.
Most of our chestnut trees were planted and cultivated by previous inhabitants of Boggioli on the north-facing slopes of our ridge. They are now deep in the woods and are almost impossible to reach, but every autumn there are always a few older members of the community who come to harvest what they can – and to have a pleasant walk in the woods.
If they do so they had better keep their eyes open. The wild animals don’t seem to have heard about lockdown and have continued with their busy routines. There is a lot of boar activity; we often see a group (‘sounder’ is the strange collective noun) of 2 or 3 adults and 10 or more piglets scuttling across the olive grove. Deer are also there. As I had feared, a roe deer (capriolo) came one night and ate all the flowers on the roses below the house, three metres from my office window!
We also have daylight photos of of a lone wolf and of a group of red deer (cervi). There is an increasing number of these impressive animals, of which the prime males seem to enjoy the company of a ‘harem’ of females.
And to cap it all, there is an inquisitive porcupine (istrice) that comes to the house at night to look for scraps (especially dog biscuits).