LESLIE MCBRIDE WILE
Around Mondovì farmers took the first hay late this year, in the last week of May. I have been wondering why, have talked it over with J., who knows a great deal about most plants but not so much about haying. If I really want a reason, instead of idly wondering I could ask G. or one of my other neighbors, country people who know how to read the clouds and the breezes that spring up in the afternoons. G. knew, for instance, why there were no cherries in our valley last year (spring was too cold for the bees, so cherry blossoms went unpollinated while the bees stayed hive-bound and warm). He knew exactly when all the trees in our frutteto (orchard) should be pruned and saw to the job himself.
After mowing, the hay lay drying in rows where it had fallen. As May became June, the tetters came along, whirling and tossing the fading strands into the warm air, leaving them to settle again, ruffled and parching under a glittery haze of pollen and dust. Fields paled from green to gold and then one day sprouted fat round bales, ripening and waiting to be hauled away to barns and hay lofts for winter.
Scorching weather arrived last week, good for curing hay and ripening fruit. I’d been busy transplanting squash and sweet potatoes to a little sweetcorn patch J. and I whacked out of last year’s orto, (vegetable garden) and trying hard to keep everything watered in the sudden wave of summer heat, so I hadn’t really looked at the frutteto for a couple of weeks. But after a particularly discouraging day—still no construction permit, stalemate at the Comune, and a sky-high estimate for the private water line that may be our only hope of resolving the stalemate—I went looking for solace and found cherries, lots of cherries. As in “Life is just a bowl of.”(1) There’s solace for you.
I picked until the sun was nearly down, then went back the next morning with one of several hand-hewn ladders we found in the house and picked again, higher this time. I took some fruit to G., to show him thanks for pruning the trees. He was so pleased he kissed me on both cheeks and offered to water my little vegetable plots once a week. The rest of the cherries I brought home, pitted them and put them under sugar and lemon juice in the freezer. When Jim gets home at the end of the month we’ll have pie.
(1) Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries is a popular song with music by Ray Henderson published in 1931.
Pictures by Leslie McBride Wile.