Monday, 25 March 2013

Cinghiale, walls, fences and rain

Walls before..

We have a huge problem with wild boar (cinghiale in Italian) in this area. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of the big wild pigs and they use their snouts to root for food. Problem is in doing so they wreck the dry-stone walls that retain the manmade terracing that is such a feature of this area. Also, we can't really have them rampaging through our land when we have guests. How would you feel to be confronted by a 250kg boar with tusks when you step out of your holiday cottage? I know I would be stepping back in again, sharpish.

How can we stop them? This is a good question. Obviously in season you can shoot them and they do taste rather delicious in stew or sausages but that is not really a proper answer although I am sure Paul will give it a go. I have looked online at all sorts of contraptions from lion dung (yes - some American website was selling this but, as I have no idea what it looks like nor what it smells like, how would I know if I'm being fobbed off with just big doggie doo doos?) to metal cut outs with big shiny eyes to scare them off. As boars are have fairly poor eyesight I wasn't convinced by the latter solution either. The only way to keep them out is with a fence. Either a big, rufty tufty proper fence or a less obvious electric one. 

This brings me neatly on to walls. We have many kilometres of dry-stone walls on our farm, a good proportion of which need repairs or have collapsed altogether due to the bloomin' cinghiale so when the Ligurian region offered a grant for you to repair your own walls as an encouragement to farmers to keep them maintained, to stop the kind of disastrous landslides that affected the Cinque Terra area, we snapped their hand off.

Paul is from North Yorkshire and not unaccustomed to a dry-stone wall or two having worked with his father (who was a builder) renovating stone barns etc. and was more than happy to do the work. So for the last few months this is what he has been doing. He absolutely loves doing it. I practically have to tear him away from the blessed things. He is doing a rather fine job of it though and it will look so beautiful when they are finished.
Work in progress..
What we didn't count on, however, was Ruby's first year at nursery meaning we would be struck down with every cold, virus and flu bug known to man! Friends warned us but how bad could it be? Well, it was bloody awful and Paul missed weeks and weeks of work. Then there was the rain. We seem to have had one of the wettest winters on record and the one thing you can't do in the rain is dry-stone walling. It does wash the walls of nicely and make the soil lovely and soft for digging but proper walling is a no-no. Our deadline of 31st March is looming and we have taken the decision to ask for an extension due to the weather. It is rather a blow to moral but does take the pressure off Paul and means we can prune some trees before it gets too late in the season.

In the meantime, the Province of Imperia has issued a grant where they will pay 90% of the cost of an electric fence to keep the boar out. Hoorah!! It is a mightily expensive thing to put up when you have 4 acres of hilly terrain to do, so all help is gratefully received.
Paul's finished walls

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