Winter is on its way out, mostly

The Church bell has just struck five. As it does I look at the sun and give it a light cursing – why did it wait till just now to finally show itself today? Instead of the 18C that was called for, I think we were lucky to have climbed to maybe 14.5C, but with the persistent, gentle wind out of the north and east, and a blanket of grey, high-level clouds, it was jacket weather all day long. Except for now…there is some sun, and the wind has mostly faded, but the last reminders of winter’s grasp are here even now just as they’ve been all day.

Having said all of that, I’m still thankful I’m not home in Colorado at the moment where they just suffered nearly 2 feet of late winter (read: heavy, thick) snow. It was so much and came so fast (and was largely unexpected to this degree) that it even closed Denver International Airport for what I understand was nearly a full day. A pretty unheard of event.

I’ve had a good many walks during my two weeks in Italia. First in Sicily, and now that I’ve returned from there, in both Barbaresco and the Asti countryside (Camerano Casasco). The winter here has been described as mostly mild, so, barring any severe weather/freezes, bud break should be just fine. Should be.

There was no sign of bud break on the higher, western parts of Etna (Randazzo, Passopisciaro, etc). But just to the east, nearer to Linguaglossa area (e.g. Gambino’s vines), bud break has begun.

Still, here in Piemonte the trees have already blossomed, the bees are hard at work, and the daffodils are even shrugging off the cold nights and cool towards warm days. In the background just now (I’m sitting outside, on a patio mostly braced from the wind) I heard the low, mechanical tick-tick-tick of the local farmer’s diesel tractor. This is consistent with what I’ve seen on all of my walks – the soil and vineyards are being prepared for life; it should only be another week or two here in Piemonte before bud break.

Though bud break is but one stop along a long, and sometimes perilous journey. Will there be hail this year? A late spring freeze? Mildew issues if a sudden humid/hot heat spell arrives (as it did when I was here in mid-May 2011)?

I don’t know that I’ve got the guts to be a farmer/winegrower, always at the will of what can sometimes be a very unforgiving mother nature. That said, I have to hand it to the people, the teams of family and field workers that toil in less than favorable conditions (wet, cold, too hot, unbearably humid, etc) on a daily basis (usually 5 1/2 – 6 days a week here in the Piemonte) to raise the grapes, vegetables and fruits to the best of their ability.

The image was taken from the vineyards of Tenuta delle Terre Nere, close to Passopisciaro and shows the conditions on the ground (at about 600m) and at the top of Etna Volcano during mid-March 2016.

I’ll close this post for now with the high hopes that everyone’s hard work this year (even the bees’!) pays off in the best ways possible. It is an ‘even-numbered year, after all đŸ˜‰

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