Thursday, September 25, 2008

Walnut Hunting

We have quite a few walnut trees at the bottom of the estate (!) and at the week-end we went to see whether they any were available to harvest.
I do not know whether you know but walnuts have an outer skin of green stuff under which is the shell that covers the actual kernel or nut.
The green skin opens when ready and the walnut falls out. I think that is the idea. Sometimes, they ripen without spitting out the walnut itself and the green stuff rots and becomes very black and sticky. The whole thing then falls from the tree, but the walnut inside is fine.
So we went strolling down the hill in our his and hers 4x4s (green wellies) to the trees. I had been strimming underneath them for some time to ensure there was minimal ground cover so we could try and pick out the walnuts when they did fall. Even so the ground appeared to be very bare of any vegetation, and we soon saw why. Evidence of the cinghiale was everywhere – pig poo. We hadn’t been down to the tress for sometime and of course we now wished we had.
Indication of major walnut munching was lying everywhere; crushed walnut shells. The boar obviously adore them, unfortunately.
Not to be outdone by them porkers I got the longest bamboo pole I had and under la Duchessa’s careful direction, I started knocking down what walnuts we could see. This was on the basis that if they fell, they would be ripe and if not, they would cling tenaciously to the tree. It was sort of a cheat’s conker gathering operation. Remember when you were children and you threw sticks up at the chestnuts to knock them down. Bit hit and miss with a stick, but my length of bamboo was pretty accurate.
I was happily knocking seven bells out of the trees and they came raining down. Unfortunately La Duchessa then pointed to one directly above her, a big black and sticky one. I don’t know how, but it fell like a stone, straight down on her eyebrow, and then tracked down over her cheek. The vision wasn’t pretty. She looked as though some mascara had been applied by her worst enemy who also happened to be blind and had no control over the movements of their hand. Fortunately, I am a little quicker at running than La Duchessa is.
We decided at that time that It would be a good point to stop our activity and anyway, we had managed to collect a great big bag full of the little tree nuggets. We are going to go down every couple of days to see if we can pick up any more but that of course is only the boar haven’t got there first.
La Duchessa has this fabulous recipe for walnuts and cream with tagliatelle. Very simple but absolutely scrumptious ….. a bit like me.


It is very autumnal now. The days recently have been just great to get out into the garden and do quite a bit of work without melting. I really have missed it. So, had a few bonfires yesterday (without fear of being arrested for arson, see earlier blog entry) – excellent.
I half expected La Duchessa to come out and look disapprovingly at me, as if to say “Are you sure you know what you are doing?”, looking at me over her glasses (new) in that imperious way she has – ooohh I love it, makes me go all goose-pimply. Anyway, enough of that at this time of day.

I gave the strimmer a good work out as well. As I was strimming away, my mind just wandered all over the place, imagining all sorts of surreal things. I find it a great job for allowing this sort of thinking. Yesterday I was being interviewed by Parkinson (remember the film The Commitments when the leading character is sitting in his bath talking to a hairbrush as though it was a microphone? He was imagining that his soul band had become incredibly successful and he was being interviewed by Terry Wogan). Well, first, I was an astronaut that had been to the moon and back and then I was an airline pilot who had managed to land a ‘plane that was in trouble and saved all the passengers and crew. Extraordinary.

There were all sorts of ground creatures mainly hopping and leaping ones that were jumping all over the place in order to avoid this metal cutter that was approaching them spinning at 5000 revs per minute. They didn’t half shift. But then if I was in their position I’d probably be leaping like mad to avoid complete obliteration by a spinning death machine.
The other things I saw were these enormous spiders. Honestly, they had bodies the size of a 50p/2 Euro coin and they could really move, probably for the same reason as the leapers and jumpers.
The garden is just full of all sorts of insects. I saw a mantis and he (she?, I’m not very good at recognising the gender of insects … yet) must have been a good 12 centimetres (5 inches) from top to bottom. There was also a tiny little iridescent green beetle. The ground is positively alive with living insects, it is quite wonderful to see.

We also know it is autumn because the local town has just put the signs out for the Castagnato at the end of October. This is a great event and is an annual celebration of the chestnut. People set up things like huge baking trays on legs. Underneath these, log fires are lit and the chestnuts are roasted on the big trays. The sights, the smell of the cooking chestnuts and heat from the fires is just great. Makes a good autumnal evening out.
Looking forward to it.

Ciao, mantenere la fede


Alden Olmsted said...

Great job! I always have thought how strange it would be to just go (and stay!) somewhere completely foreign. Being from the wine country in Northern California, I always thought Italy would be somewhere that I could probably make it, feel enough at home to not flip out, but on the other hand feel very adventurous as well. Where did you move from, and what prompted the move, what do you do for work, and what has been the biggest challenge, if I may ask?


Le Marche Winkers aka La Duchessa e L'uomo chi fa said...

Hello Alden.
Thanks for the interest, I am really pleased. Sorry it has taken a bit of time to get back to you, but we have had some relatives staying.
We came from England at about this time last year. We had bought this place a couple of years ago with the idea of doing it up gradually over a few years. Circumstances changed rather rapidly and we sold up and moved out here.
We do writing to try and earn some money but it is a very slow process at the moment. We are putting together a website to assist in some income generation.
Biggest issue fior us is learning the language. We use course work (BBC do some good stuff) and we have a great neighbour who helps us out.
But life here is pretty good. People, climate, panorama, food. Can't think it could get much better. There are a few stranieri (non-Italians) around here, but not too many. One is a photographer and film maker, called Helen Miller (
Can I ask how you came across our blog?
Best wishes, Simon