Clearing of Land and
the Hard work begins with our Tuscan Farmhouse
The clearing of land can
be a painful experience especially when you
are trying to clear 5 years of brambles, acacia and a myriad of other
plants that all seemed to come armed with thorns of all descriptions.
After signing the contract in February
2008 we took our 3 teenage children to Italy in the summer and rented
a villa called Villa
la Contea for a month that was 10 minutes down the
road from our new Tuscan farmhouse.
It was there that we met our new
Italian friends, Alessandro and Franca who took us under their wing and
made us feel so welcome in our soon to be adopted new country.
guided us with regards to choosing the stonemason for the three new
fireplaces that needed to be commissioned, and leaned gently on the
blacksmith to give us a good price for our new internal staircase in
One fine summer's night they not only
invited us into their
lovely home to have a meal with them, but they also invited us as their
guests to an annual street party held in the old part of Rassina, in
the Casentino valley. And what a wonderful experience that turned out
lined the old street bedecked with white table cloths, and inhabitants
of all ages brought their dishes and came to share the meal.
Everyone had been instructed to bring
something to share, including myself. Not having my recipe books with
me I flew into a bit of a tiz racking my brains as to what a South
African with an Australian passport who had lived in Papua New Guinea
for 5 years and the United Arab Emirates for 10 years could possibly
make for an Italian appetite.
In the end I winged it, whipping up a
fruits of the forest/apple crumble and a chocolate pear upside-down
cake that was, in the end, very well received. With probably 100 people
at that street party I knew I hadn't made nearly enough, but with all
the dishes that had gone before, only small spoonfuls were required.
The tradition of the party was that whatever you had made you had to go
down the line of tables and serve it to those who wanted it.
We ate the most amazing rustic Tuscan
dishes that night and although we begged several times for a reprieve,
the dishes just kept on coming. I just wished that my Italian had been
better than it was in order to fully participate in the lively
conversation that surrounded us on all sides, and sat late into the
evening listening to the strains of a pure, young voice singing to a
strumming guitar at a table further down.
However, I digress; the clearing of
land. The children had only seen the house via photographs and I have
to say that comments when we arrived at the house were less than
My children didn't hold back and it was
obvious that they were wondering if their parents were finally having
that mid-life crisis that they had been suspicious of for some time. In
all fairness, however, I didn't blame them. In February when we had
last visited it was still winter. There was ice in the stream, bare
trees and grass that was only ankle deep. By the time the summer came
the grass had grown to gargantuan proportions ideal for Indian tigers
and the trees had sprung up around the house like something out of the
Day of the Triffids. So, it wasn't surprising that they weren't overly
impressed. However, it didn't stop them from getting stuck in with the
clearing of land and attacking the invasive brambles and acacias with
over the next 4 weeks, and whose help proved invaluable as we realized
how much clearing of land we needed to do.
Everyone pitched in except for
father-in-law who made a brief appearance from England. On arrival he
beat a hasty retreat to the loggia and for the rest of his sojourn
either had his head safely stuck in his sudoku book or slept away the
torpid afternoons on the seller's old, metal garden swing that was
kindly left in the lounge!
Slowly, but surely, armed with axes,
saws and a petrol-driven slasher we cleared mountains of growth and
were finally able to see the house, which the children grudgingly
admitted that "from far away it doesn't look too bad", and "perhaps it
has some potential after all".
But it was amazing what we did uncover
and discover in our clearing of land. We found several snake skins,
including a snake itself curled up on the boiler in the service room,
thankfully having departed its mortal coil some time back, probably in
the winter. We also found ladybirds hastily moving house after being
rudely disturbed, forgotten grape vines choking the ancient well, an
apple tree that was laden with apples that weren't ripe but we had to
eat them anyway, because they were now our apples
and wild plums and damsons that helped quench the thirst while working
in the scorching sun.
More disturbingly, during the clearing
of land, we found about 8 - 10 empty shotgun casings littering the
garden. We hoped that they had been aimed at boar in our forest,
opposite the house, rather than at intruders. Already since purchasing
the property the house had been broken into. The kitchen door had been
smashed and broken and the door to the tower, which was thankfully very
sturdy, had resisted several break-in attempts - even while we were
visiting the property on a daily basis during the summer.
Several of our Italian neighbors
passed the house on the way to their farms and looked on curiously as
we continued the land clearing. Friendly greetings were exchanged from
afar, but no doubt they had been drawn by the continuous drone of the
slasher and to see for themselves what we were doing after hearing that
the house, that had once been of some significance in the past and held
some historical value, had been bought by stranieri,
From the photos below you can see some
progress of the clearing of land and just how much word had been done
during the summer. The first picture
was taken during the winter, so you have to imagine just how much
growth had occurred between February and late July.
Here is what the Tuscan farmhouse looked like after the
land during 3 weeks of hard work. Tamed for one summer, but for how
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