The Winter of 2012/13 was exceptionally cold and very wet. It was the worst since the terribly cold winter of 1986, which devasted the Olive trees in Tuscany and changed the landscape for years ahead
Spring is always a wonderful time in Tuscany. The olive trees have all been pruned, the wood neatly stored for use in pizza ovens and the meadows full of wonderful flowers.
During April the Swallows arrive and almost immediately start building their nests. Frogs and toads collect around the streams ready to breed. Either side of the hill at A Corte the streams are still full of fresh water from the mountains and the roar can be clearly heard from the house.
The sound of the Cuckoo echoes from the woods and Hoopoes look for ants in the lawn. From April to early June the rich medley of liquid notes of the Nightingale can be heard piercing the night air.
In May the emerald green grass turns a little browner as the temperatures begin to rise. Buzzards and Eagles soar high in the sky with wonderful courtship displays during the breeding season.
The Cinghiale (wild boar) generally move higher up the mountains until their piglets have matured. Shrikes catch insects, which they attach to thorns and use as their larder, hence their nickname the ‘butcher bird’.
As the fruits ripen more birds are attracted to the garden. The Golden Orioles love the fig trees and in the evenings Bee eaters hunt insects above the fields. Nightjars sit on the track at night enjoying the heat from the stones. Their camouflage makes them blend in perfectly; sometimes we have to move them from in front of our car to avoid them being run over.
At night Porcupines are sometimes visible on the track and their quills are often found in areas where they have been frightened.
This is a very busy time for farmers. Once the olives trees have been pruned and fertilised, the weeping willows are tightly cut back to the trunk with the straight whips used for tying up the grape vines. Nothing is wasted in Italy