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caterpillars + home sweet home

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School has finished and we are finally home in Tuscany. I say home because the farm really is home, especially for the kids. Old friends, olive trees, fresh raspberries, veggies from the garden patch, evening swims in the pool, hay bales in the fields.... and no more long-distance phone calls from Gardeners or Housekeepers heralding an impending, Apocalyptic disaster.
A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling very Roman, very 'dolce vita' as I sat with some rather chic friends in a gorgeous trattoria in Trastevere. I was just about to tuck into a deliciously, inviting plate of Bucatini all'Amatriciana when my cell phone rang. It was Andrea, our Gardener.
“Bad news, really bad news, we have an insect infestation on the farm.”
“What?” I could see the clientele became restless as I loudly repeated 'insect infestation', so I moved onto the street corner. Bad idea in Rome as you risk being knocked over by 'motorini' and spend most of the conversation screaming;
“Speak up, I can't hear you”!
“The caterpillars are back but this year, they're ferocious. They are eating everything in their path. They've devoured the cherry tree and they're moving onto the raspberries.”
My heart began to thump as I pulled my Farmer's hat firmly over my City Girl's perfect Blowout.
I had to marshal a plan of attack so I phoned Claudio, our Farming Advisor. He confirmed there was a Processionary Caterpillar infestation. Crops were being sprayed by helicopter but to no avail. Local farmers were beside themselves with worry.
The caterpillars come every 25 years for three consecutive years and this year, they were back with a vengeance.
I hurtled up to the farm the next day. I bought the organic pesticide and met Andrea. He strapped the Knapsack Sprayer to his back and started to spray the raspberries. Each bush was black with caterpillars. They were feasting, nay gorging themselves on my fruit. I waited anxiously to see what would happen. Slowly, they dropped off the leaves, their corpulent legs waving in the air. Sorry, I have no sympathy. It' s eat or be eaten in the country.
That night I decided to stay at the farm. After a couple of Proseccos, I retired to bed. I was sound asleep, guilt-free and unrepentant of the extermination. Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain. I switched the light on and saw a locust chewing and tearing at the quicks of my left thumb. Talk about Karma, it was a message from the caterpillars reminding me that I shouldn't rest on my laurels (or raspberries!) as they would be be back to bite me again next year!
The above aside, I'm as happy as the proverbial pig in muck to be back on the farm. It's glorious to be able to respond immediately to the series of natural and un-natural catastrophes that happen on a daily basis. Although, I am occasionally left dumb founded:
“Signora, there's an owl sitting on the wood burning stove. I've said three Hail Marys. Any other suggestions?”.
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Aimee 05/09/2012
Great stories! I can relate... I'm an American who's been living in Arezzo for the past six years... Thanks for giving me a laugh!
Ian Wylie 02/09/2012
Excellent blog - a fascinating window onto the very demanding and unpredictable world of farming. Loved it. Many thanks. We want a full movie please....
Joan 31/08/2012
Enjoyed your blog.
Camilla 29/08/2012
What a great blog. You guys are amazing- think we would need a few more than a couple of proseccos to deal with what you have had to!!
vanessa 28/08/2012
When can we expect the movie! Loving your blog x
Arlene 21/08/2012
Good luck with battle 1 of a 3 year war? Sounds like you are doing everything possible, so again...good luck. I hope you're are successful with your crop.

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