Monday, 29 June 2009

Esplorazione For Beginners Pt2

Finally, the kind of finally you only feel after thirty four hours in the car, we make it to the farm.
I want to tell you how steep the hillsides are, but steep just aint gonna do it, the hillside is at 45 degrees!
That's right, for every meter you go forward, you go up a meter. Brutal.

As the glassiers crawled eastwards their surfaces were split again and again as water rose by capillary action, then due to a changeable climate, chilled and expanded, just by 4%, but it was enough to chip off more of the main mass. These huge piles of rock slowly got covered in soil, trees grew, died and rotted. Trees grew, died and rotted. After a while the soil became super fertile. It was watered by the springs that forced water up through the bed rock before it diffused though the loose rocks. Sweet Chestnut trees that root deep and need a lot of water found a home and proliferated.

A couple of hundred years ago the demand for Chestnut flour was great enough to make it worth living up there. By Pollarding and coppicing the crop could be dramatically increased, by terracing the ground became a little more accessible and was protected form the worst of the storm erosion. The crop was harvested from the ground by hand. 'backbreaking' doesn't do it justice. It was a very hard life. No one wants to do it now.
The nuts were then stacked in special barns where fires burned for forty days and forty nights. Once the nuts were dehydrated they were taken first on foot and then by donkey, to a nearby mill to be ground into flour. All on ground that crumbles under your feet and is as steep as your roof.It was a very hard life. No one wants to do it now.

On one of the neighboring farms CHJ met a woman who could remember playing with the grandchildren of the last inhabitant of the farm some forty years ago. The winter snows, tumbling rocks, and ancient trees uprooted and cast aside by landslides have taken their toll on the hillside and the farm house.

More soon