The other day a friend asked me, ‘What’s happening at Boggioli?’ ‘Everything,’ I replied. And it is.
Now that lockdown has eased up a bit we are able to get out and about more freely. We no longer need to fill out a form justifying our travel, no matter how local, and can move between comuni and even provinces provided that they are within the Region of Tuscany.
Where this will leave tourism is anyone’s guess. Italy’s frontiers will be open in early June for EU citizens to leave or enter, and let’s hope that restrictions will be eased soon after for travellers from the rest of the world. Tourism is one of the supporting columns of Tuscany’s economy, whether it is the hospitality industry or the sale of products like wine – and olive oil.
Meanwhile everything is blooming. The roses are fabulous this year; like most trees and plants, they must have benefitted from the warmth of February that for once was not followed by a cold spell in March. The grass is almost chest-high in places, and the cherries are starting to ripen (must get to them before the birds do!). Lizards and birds are active everywhere. In fact, there is a pair of redstarts that has built a nest in a wall near the house – and they are very busy.
We have just finished spraying all the olive trees with a foliar fertilizer of various ingredients including boron, an essential element that is lacking in our soil. This fertilizer is absorbed very quickly and helps to increase the numbers of flowers that eventually turn into olives. We do this just before the flowers come out and administer another dose after the fruit has formed.
The cuckoo is back from its winter sojourn in Africa. I heard the distinctive call on 30 March from lower down our valley while I was pruning an olive tree. The bird is very punctual; it always seems to arrive in Tuscany in the last days of March. Compared with 5 or 6 years ago the number of cuckoos has gone down. Sometimes we used to hear 3 or 4 calling at the same time, and occasionally we would actually see one in flight mobbed by smaller birds, making it very clear that the bird was not a welcome visitor.
Four years ago I had an unusual and direct experience of the bird. One morning a friend came to me and said, ‘There’s a dead pigeon in front of the laundry door’. I went and, to my amazement, found not a pigeon but a dead cuckoo! It had evidentally crashed into the door (or into the kitchen window above it) and broken its neck.
As if this was not enough, the next day a second cuckoo flew into another door, a glass one this time. I picked it up and was relieved to find that it was only stunned. After being placed gently on a table it flew away, so I was left thinking that I may be one of the very few people to have held both a live and a dead cuckoo in his hands in consecutive mornings!
A few days ago I heard the gentle call of a collared dove and the drilling of a woodpecker. The martins should be here soon, so these are all positive notes to counter these dark and troubling times.
We are under complete lockdown like the rest of Italy and watch with horror what is going on in other parts of the country and progressively in other parts of the world. Yes, pandemic is right.
Living on a ridge 3 km from the nearest village we are isolated by geography and feel relatively safe. We are lucky not to be confined to a small apartment in the middle of a city and to be able to take the dogs for a walk in the woods whenever we like. On the rare occasions when we have to shop for food or go to the pharmacy we find deserted streets and no traffic noise or pollution, very small comforts in distressing times.
In our part of Tuscany there have not been many cases of the virus so far, and people here seem to be taking the precautions very seriously. It is reassuring to see that most countries in Europe are now adopting similar measures: better late than never.
Meanwhile, agriculture goes ahead as usual. We are continuing to ship our oil as there are no restrictions on the movement of merchandise. Our pruners are hard at work on the olive trees, a time-consuming but vital task. The trees have all been given organic fertilizer, and next week we shall be planting a small number of young trees to replace those that are no longer healthy or productive. Each of these will have to protected by wire netting as there is nothing the deer like more than fresh olive leaves – except for rose buds!
In short, like most of us nowadays we are ‘keeping calm and carrying on’.
Now that our new web site has been tested and is now up and
running, it is time to get started on the new Boggioli blog.
The 2019 harvest is long gone and we are busy sending the
new oil to our friends and customers all over the world. On the farm we have
just finished spreading organic fertilizer (2 kg per tree) and will start
pruning in March. Exactly when this will happen is hard to say as so far we
have had a very mild winter, so it is highly probable that we will have a cold
snap at the beginning of the month. When this happened 2 years ago, a light
coating of snow froze on the branches of some of the olive trees and
essentially killed the affected limbs. There was a lot of dead wood to be cut
out, and only now are the damaged trees starting to look almost normal.
We shall use this space to keep you informed about what is
happening at Boggioli and in the world of olive oil. Every so often we hope to
have a contribution written by a guest which will provide an extra voice coming
from someone outside Boggioli. Of course, your input and comments will always
be most welcome.
That’s it for the moment. This first blog is just intended
to open the door and to invite you to sign up for future issues.