Alongside all the different projects we follow, we are working on building the heartland centre as a rural solution, this is a little hard at times because work and other engagements leaves us little to focus on our own project in Abruzzo.
My day looks like I am trying to squeeze a year of work into a month, which is sometimes the truth. The project now owns another 15 hectares of land, which was the focus of the last two years. We have 4 new to us (but actually quite old) olive groves now, another house and two large stone sheds. I would wake up at 5am every morning, and whilst I usually meditate for an hour or so, this time around I would make a large cup of Israeli coffee and whilst waiting for the sun to come through, I would be greasing the bulldozer, filling the diesel tank and getting ready.
The olive groves are like little Italian jungles, besotted with broom brush and oaks, being united with my bulldozer is a blessing in disguise, because whilst it makes short work out of clearing the land, it speeds the process more than I would like. Olives are a peculiar tree, having benefited from millennia of care and isolation it now prefers to grow on its own, or so most believe. I however am becoming an abandoned olive grove expert, seeing that most would not bother with the type of olives I aim to save maybe. I have learned that in truth olives love broom, I used to cut the broom bushes down and make nests around the olives. Those acted as catchment basins for water, and protect the area around the tree, I also think that when you clear a piece of land, your are removing relationships between plants that have grown, and so using the cleared plant matter around the trees you keep I think is important, and much better in my opinion than using straw or hay, especially if that has to be brought from somewhere else.
Saying all of this, clearing with the bulldozer tends to drive over all those relationships, the stark contrast to cutting the bushes by hand and building little olive tree nests to waking up at 5 am and dancing around each tree with the bulldozer is alarming. There is a rule to nature, one that exists within us, it is not a set rule, it is rather that the more you do the more you have to hold inside yourself in order to do it. So you see dancing around olive trees with the first rays of the sun, sometimes before my coffee actually hits, in a sort of dreamy haze, in which you have to make sure that you aren’t hitting any other olive trees as you manoeuvre your 5 ton tracked machine.
Over a month of pre sunrise mornings I have almost reached mastery of this art of olive grove clearing, to a point that I can turn a tight circle around the tree. The biggest challenge was the last olive field, as it lies below a kilometre of dirt road that has gone out of use. I should not really be writing about this, because in a sense one is not allowed to by law to simply work on the communal roads, something that has already got me into trouble, but I have to say that the fact the municipality has no money or plans to better access to where some of our lands are left me with no choice. The last olive field meant two whole days of road making to arrive to it. I was laughing inside as I was building the road, remembering stories one of the ex mayors told me about my neighbour’s father, and how they used to view all the land at the edge of the commune as their territory, to a point that one day he was called to stop them from plowing the road with their tractor.
I have got fines for some of the work I did on our land, I do not advocate going against the authority but being the last houses in the commune we sometimes have no choice but to do the work ourselves. The bottom olive field was a treasure trove, it lies between two streams in the most fertile land which is almost at the bottom of the valley, so the trees are big. It was hard to clear because amongst the olives there were apples, and plum trees. at times the jungle that has grown around them was so thick, I felt like an archaeologist armed with a roaring 3 cylinder fiat engine, driving at speed towards a mass of green leaves, with only a little spark of silver to guide me in the canopy, deciding where the olive tree trunk stands was an intuitive challenge, this got worse and worse the further towards the stream I got, I kept finding new parts of the olive grove in what seemed a tangled mass of blackthorn and cane otherwise. The ground was getting too sloped for the bulldozer, I had to give thanks for the lack of rain because in any other season I would have skidded down the clay all the way down into the ravine.