Erba Medica – a baptism by fire
The fields here at Bellaugello are sown with erba medica or lucerne and given the abundant sunshine and occasional rain shower are flourishing. The current crop was first sown here some four years ago, each year being cut twice for animal feed.
This year following the first cut it looked possible to harvest and then sell the seed, so off I went to enquire of my farming neighbours the best way to go about harvesting and selling the seed on whose advice took me this morning to a farm near to Gubbio.
I was expected at 9am but on account of works in progress here with the duplex apartment meant that I arrived at 10am, not unduly late for Italy, but a bit of an embarrassment for me. Having telephoned ahead I was given the directions favoured by Italians ‘vai diritto’ quite simply keep going straight on. Because they know where they are going to the locals it is simply keep going!! By good fortune I had arrived without mishap.
I was greeted at the door to an upper level of a small building within a large farm complex and invited in. I was shown into a room in this traditional building with a large table in the centre, around which were seated nine men all enjoying breakfast. Cured sausages and legs of prosciutto hung from beams on the ceiling, whilst all around the walls were machines for slicing meats and time worn chopping boards. Immediately a place was laid for me and the son of the farmer dispatched to the adjoining room to prepare food.
Very soon a large pan arrived with a piece of steak sizzling in its own juices. Expertly decanted onto my plate with the cooking liquor poured over it and bread passed down the table, I was in heaven and introduced to my fellow diners. Not as I first thought only the men who worked on the farm, but also friends of my host. As I tucked into the delicious meat I was introduced to the room as a neighbour of a good friend of my host, and so a conversation ensued of where I was from and how I liked living in Valdichiascio, being a friend of a good friend is really important here in Italy.
Soon my glass was filled with a crisp local white wine straight from the chill of the fridge, and conversation moved on to hunting. It seemed my new acquaintances were all keen wild boar hunters who looked down on other hunters who shoot only hares and pheasants. Having received a call on his cell phone my host soon turned the conversation to the subject of transporting livestock It seemed that there was to be a consignment from Calabria. It was fascinating to hear him talk of the importance of the truck leaving in the middle of the night to ensure the animals were not over-stressed by the heat of the day, and pleased me to learn that they must have a plentiful supply of drinking water and food for the journey. I know animals are transported long distances, but this guy really had a heart. I listened intently to the conversation, all in local Eugubine dialect. Althought I did not completely follow the conversation I understood enough to make small contributions whilst my fellow diners made every effort to make me feel welcome, after all I was ‘a good neighbour’ and ‘in gamba’ to a best friend of my host.
Home cured prosciutto and a rich mature pecorino were passed down to me, along with another glass of wine, and then coffee ‘coretto or normale’ , no more alcohol for me, I was beginning to feel light headed, and still the business to attend to.
We discussed the options for the seed harvest and I have been given time to decide on which way I want to proceed. We parted as friends, I guess I must have passed my inauguration to the local farming community way of doing business. It was somewhat scary, a baptism by fire but an utter delight to be invited to sup and break bread with such people, and to witness first hand the comradeship and real way business is conducted here.