Last Thursday, the day of the electricity cut, we had a boar hunt on our land.
This was the best photo I managed when a hunter passed close to the house.
There were actually, I think, 6 dogs with him although only the dog in the orange jacket is distinguishable.
The rest look like ghost dogs milling around his feet.
There was a huge boar hunt on today – lots of hallooing and shouting, baying and yelping, tinkling of bells, and shots.
Our poor dogs had to cross their legs for more than 5 hours.
During that time half a dozen or so hunting dogs came right up to the house, cocking their legs and generally making themselves at home.
The photo shows a narrow path threading its way uphill.
It proceeds along the edge of a wooded precipice towards a coppice which in spring is carpeted with primroses and violets.
Every now and again I cut back the broom and brambles to clear the way through.
I’m not sure who benefits apart from me – crack-of-dawn mushroom pickers perhaps, or boar hunters if they go that way.
Once it was used by solitary, stealthy hunters who built hides and shot songbirds supposedly to impart flavour to their pigeon stew, but I hope we’ve seen the last of them near the house at least.
The path itself is a symbol for how we’re viewing this new year: a steep trudge, arduous, often devoid of waymarks or disappearing altogether, but with a clear goal at its summit. It’s a trail, also, which improves from being cleared of brambles.
Our dogs are rather different from most dogs in this rural area of Italy. To start with they understand English commands, not Italian ones. Then they sleep indoors, not in a kennel, or a huddle at the gate.
Their value is as pets, companions – not guard dogs, herding dogs, hunting dogs or truffle dogs.
The nearby shepherd guards (as opposed to herds) his sheep and goats using ‘Maremmani’ – big, attractive but potentially ferocious dogs with fluffy white fur. There’s often one chained to a trough under the persimmon tree by the road bridge at the foot of the shepherd’s field.
The two hunting dogs in the photo certainly seem well trained and in tune with their handler’s wishes as he ploughs up our field in the course of a boar hunt today.
Several hours later, when I’m guessing the hunt was long over, there was the music of a hunting dog’s bell somewhere the far side of the orchard. The chime was hesitant, as though the dog were wandering unsure what to do, lost in the falling dusk.
Taylor was going crazy at the patio window, whining and yelping. I just managed to snatch a photo of what was causing his outburst – a hunting dog which peered at us through the bushes then sloped off at great speed. It didn’t seem to have a bell.
About three-quarters of an hour later, a jeep drove up to the house and a man wanted to know if we’d seen his black-and-white hunting dog. Well yes, but it didn’t hang around.
Later on I phoned the cellphone number the man had given me but it was turned off. I hope that means he found his dog.
It’s a feast day in Italy – no compensation for it having fallen on a Sunday, though.
There was a festive boar hunt at the top of the hill this afternoon – lots of gunshots and musical hallooing between the hunters. It sounded like they’d cornered a whole sounder. That’ll mean a big medieval-style feast – I’ve heard about what they get up to from our cleaning lady who sometimes tidies up after their meal.
We’ll be stuffing ourselves tonight, too, on the ‘rocciata’ which our neighbours kindly brought round. It’s a typical dish of this exact region, often prepared for All Saints, made from pastry filled with fruit. It tastes a bit like mince pie, although not quite so spicy, and it’s gloriously filling. Here’s a link to a recipe for ‘rocciata‘ in English!
Today we passed our ‘cherry lady’ who was sitting under an umbrella by the back of her car.
She had perfectly ripe cherries for sale, probably the last of the season.
She was sympathetic about our cherry thieves and told me how she and her brother, who owns the orchard, deal with birds.
They hire in a couple of hunters to shoot at them twice a week, even though it’s not the hunting season.
That way some of them are shot and the rest are frightened away.
It works, one has to acknowledge.