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.
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.
When the boar hunters came round last time, I wrote in my blog post for the day that I believed the main danger during a hunt is from the guns.
Anyway here is a man carrying a rifle about 100 yards away from the house.
We were alerted about the hunt this morning when the dogs had already gone out. I told my contact that we’d get our 2 older dogs in, but please to watch out for a small brown one that looks like a fox as I might not be able to catch him.
After a lot of Peek-a-boo and Can’t-catch-me, I got hold of Kepler when the hunt was already underway in the distance. The bait that was eventually successful was a small piece of cheese.
I took the photo of the hunter from the bedroom window with all 3 dogs safely by my feet.
I neither saw nor heard anything of this boar hunt.
The only way I knew it was happening was that I had a phonecall this morning saying they were about to come on our land, and another one a bit later confirming (at my request) that they’d cleared off.
I asked the hunt organizer if they’d caught any.
“Four,” he said.
Wow, I thought. “Big ones?”
That’s still quite a lot of meat, which will be distributed among the hunters.
Although I once saw a mature boar, exhausted after being chased for miles by dogs, the ones I’ve seen round the house look like the one in the photo – young, long-legged and agile.
They give the impression of playfulness. In fact our neighbour told us that he’d seen one playing with their dog. I don’t know if I’d interpret it quite like that – I’d want our dog in the house, quick.
Having said that, I believe the main danger during a hunt is from the guns. Apparently there are a lot of accidents.
I’m calling it a monster log not so much because of its size, although it’s pretty big, but because of Kepler’s reaction to it.
This morning I heard him barking and barking at something so I went to investigate, and there was a sizeable log lying across our drive.
I guess it must have dislodged itself in the woodland above, perhaps some way up, and crashed down through the undergrowth before reaching its resting place.
No wonder Kepler was startled; he probably thought it was alive. He calmed down when I went up to it and rolled it, with some difficulty, under the strawberry tree so it wouldn’t be in the way of the car.
Just as I finished, presumably entirely by coincidence, 3 hunters came along the drive, 2 of them dressed in camouflage gear and in a car, and the third on foot. The one on foot told me they plan to hunt hares across our land tomorrow afternoon and could I therefore keep our dogs in.
I pointed Kepler out to him, asking him to please recognise him and be aware of him because it’s not always possible to get him to come in. I’m not sure he paid much attention, but he did say something interesting, which is that our neighbour (the one with the maremmano, Joules’ girlfriend) refuses to co-operate with the request to confine his dogs, saying he has nowhere to put them. Strange. Probably some form of rural politics.
Kepler is the perfect hunter.
He must have seen the mouse in the flowerbed at the top of the wall at the same time as Clive and I did.
He made his unhurried way there, and after one deft move in the dwarf rosebush, he emerged with the little creature dangling from his jaw.
I had no intention of trying to rescue it because much as my instincts are for the victim, I’d rather mice were in Kepler’s mouth than in the bonnet of our car.
On a walk with the dogs today to an area of steep hillside near the house where I rarely go, I came across a hole.
It didn’t immediately strike me as being an animal’s den because its main thrust, so to speak, was vertically down rather than horizontally into the bank.
I had a walking stick with me and I prodded into the dead leaves at the bottom: it didn’t seem to go anywhere.
The strange thing was that, just before finding the hole, I’d noticed, as if marking out its location, 4 saplings snapped off near the top with the broken part left dangling. This was no coincidence and definitely the work of a human.
So what was some surreptitious hunter signposting, either for his own purposes or those of someone else?
Did it mean that the hole itself was the work of a human and if so, what could it possibly be for? Hiding-place for contraband? Wine cooler?
Alternatively, it might have been made by an animal, and the hunter had left signs so he could find it again.
It could have been dug by a wild boar. The pits they scraped in the vegetable garden looking for truffles were deep and neat. But their visit was characterised by multiple holes: in fact they fair honeycombed the ground. This was just one hole.
Porcupines dig burrows, but they would have gone deeper. They also sleep during daylight hours in tunnels of bent grasses, but this was far too laboured to be a casual resting-place.
I’m mighty puzzled.