With nearly five full years under my belt of tending to everything that’s not under the roof, Villa Allegra’s two-acre plot of land, inside the picturesque Valle d’Itria of Puglia in southeastern Italy, has been a real challenge for this city slicker-turned-reluctant olive farmer.
Needing constant care and attention — the land, that is, and to a lesser degree me — my feet now feel right at home inside my second, well-worn pair of Hunter wellies, especially when early spring breaks through the winter slumber and I answer the first call of battle as weeds of all stripes begin to invade the terracotta-colored earth.
It’s a constant tug-of-war that I never really win, but I just try to keep my head above water from late March to the end of July. Armed with my battery-powered decespugliatore (weed whacker), face mask, hat and gloves, it takes, on average, the best part of a week at the start of the season to wade in and bushwhack my way from the front end to the back end of our olive farm. As the season progresses and the weeds don’t grow quite as tall, the tedious task takes less and less time. But, time it does take.
Finally, last year I waved the white flag and enlisted the help and expertise of Vito, my local agro guru, to handle the lion’s share of the work. And, this year he came up with a cunning plan to attack the weed invasion: Giuseppe and his tractor, nicknamed The Terminator, outfitted with a two-meter wide, heavy-duty rolling cutter. In just 2.5 hrs., man and machine drove through meter-high weeds, cutting, mulching and pulverizing anything that got in their way.
It was quite the haircut when it was all over. The two olive groves surrounding Villa Allegra now look like the front and back nine of a golf course. FORE!