Wild animals are one of the most interesting aspects of living in the Italian countryside. When we first arrived here 10 years ago, we were mostly alone up on this hill. Surrounded by nature, we saw and heard it all: cinghiali, wild boar; fagiani, pheasant; lupi, wolves; volpi, fox; caprioli, deer; cornigli, rabbits; istrici, porcupines; lucertoli, lizards and many serpenti, snakes. Of course, the ucelli, birds are everywhere—a constant chorus of canzoni del bosco, wood-songs.
We marvel at the beauty and abundance of life in the woods and meadows, and are lucky enough to enjoy a surprise sighting now and again. Many creatures are nocturnal, so the best times are at dusk, walking at night, or driving home late. Unusual events and close calls often accompany the sightings. Curious encounters abound, like the time the wild boar mamma was poised, ready to charge us to protect her 7 babies scrambling off to safety behind her; or the night a large boar suddenly bounded out of the ditch and actually ran into the side of our car—ughhh!; we entertained a porcupine at the front door at midnight; had a baby vipera, viper in the house (not for long); witnessed a party of about 6 wild boar playing in the front yard one night—crazy things that can happen at any moment when immersed in nature.
We finally put a fence around the yard to keep strays from sneaking in—or at least to slow them down. Repairing the yard, after a late night episode of boar scrounging for grubs or waking to find the beautiful roses completely destroyed after deer had an early morning bout of the munchies, got a little tiring. But in fact, a fence can actually create problems as well as solve them. For example, when a critter, like porcupines or nervous deer, accidentally find themselves on the inside of the fenced yard, they can get a bit frantic. Deer in particular can tear the fence down trying to climb their way out to freedom—true nervous-nellies when cornered. We saw a colorful male fagiano, pheasant frantically running back and forth in the garden alongside the fence line, trying desperately to join his partner on the other side. She had apparently found a spot under the fence and slipped through to safety. After several minutes of pacing and failed attempts to find the opening, he resorted to the last possible option: He flew over! It seems that fagiani could give turkeys a good run in the lack of logic, problem-solving competition.
We have discovered, however, that no matter what we do to manage our encounters, nature has its own way of finding clever workarounds. For example, one stretch of fence at the lower part of the garden has been repeatedly mangled where some sneaky furry friend has battered, poked, and forced his way either in or out. Of course, then that compromised spot becomes a super highway for others—an access port into some mighty tasty eatin’, always at our expense. It puzzles us that they make such desperate attempts to get inside when they have a veritable marketplace of free and easy grub outside the fence, theirs for the taking. It must be the challenge of getting in and then getting away with it, that lures them.
So, Gerri the vivaio, gardener is scheduled to arrive today with a helper. They will replace some old or overgrown plants and repair the damaged fence. We imagine that the deer, wild boar and porcupines are all up on the hill watching the work, plotting their next break-in. It’s a little game we all play together trying to out “fox” each other, so to speak—the simple amusements of life in the country.