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Giving Up and Ghost Towns

By Rick Gush, Urban Farm contributor

August, 13, 2010

Italian creek

Photo by Rick Gush

The creek below our home hosts an abundance of wildlife.

Well, it’s August and that means that almost everybody in Italy is on vacation. I spent last week stocking up on all the hardware and building supplies I think I’ll need for the month because most of those kinds of stores won’t open again until September.

I’m sort of taking a vacation myself, because I’ve officially given up on trying to control anything in the garden. Trellises are collapsing, the weeds are rampant, and what’s growing well is doing so and what’s not doing so well is hopeless at this point. 

It’s been a fairly abundant year overall, and I’m looking forward to next month or so when I get to rip everything up and get ready for the winter season. Around here, most of the gardeners start planting all their cabbage and cole crops in August. This has always discombobulated me, as I’m conditioned to think of planting cool season crops in October, but when I see particularly lush winter gardens around here, the owners usually tell me they planted a lot in August. So, I’ll try to follow their lead this year, but I don’t really have much extra space, so I’ll need to be brutal in ripping out some of the spring crops to make space for cabbages. 

The photo above is of the creek below our home. I really like living on the creek. The constant gurgling of the water and the wonderful mass of birds, plants ands wild animals makes for a very attractive little park. My wife’s mother tells us how all the neighborhood women used to do their laundry in the creek. I’m always surprised how many fish there are in the creek (hundreds) seeing as there are a lot of fish eating birds, like herons, kingfishers, seagulls and ducks, that hang out in the creek. There are a lot of other animals in the creek as well, like feral cats, wild boar, rats, and the occasional chicken or pheasant. A year or so ago, I found a huge black-and-green-striped snake in the creek. I measured it at well over 6 feet long with a head the size of my fist.

Photo by Rick Gush

Ghost towns dot the interior valleys of this area.

The photo to the right today is of one of the many “ghost” towns in the interior valleys around here. This one was uninhabited until a few years ago, and even today, only about a quarter of the homes are occupied. Charming homes can be had in these towns for ridiculously low prices. A friend of mine bought two adjoining homes in a similar town for about 10,000 euros and fixed them up for an additional 20,000. The problem is that there’s no work in these areas, and retired age people aren’t always anxious to live so far away from civilization. My friend now lives in St. Tropez, where he works as the captain of a luxury yacht, and his romantic home in the hills sits empty. 

We recently had dinner at the local annual festival near the town in the photo. Just driving there, I saw a hundred completely charming, old ruined stone houses, and they beg to be adopted and fixed up again. But every time I start waxing romantically on these old wrecks, my wife brings me back to earth by reminding me that there’s plenty of work to be done on our own home and asks me if I would mind painting our shutters.

Read more of Digging Italy »

Give us your opinion on Giving Up and Ghost Towns.
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a', Houston, TX
Posted: 10/26/2013 6:51:49 AM
There are times of the year that ones' mind travels the world without the body, okay most of the time for some of us, yet without that day dreaming we would all go mad. Hope that the early plants worked for you.
Carl, Livermore, CA
Posted: 2/13/2012 10:47:27 AM
Anywhere there is water, there is life. Anywhere there is a ghost town, there are reasons why it's a ghost town.
Bruce, Las Vegas, NV
Posted: 6/29/2011 9:29:47 AM
interesting article
Kristin, upper sandusky, OH
Posted: 11/19/2010 9:31:22 PM

About the Blogger

Rick Gush

Rick Gush
Rick Gush has long been a staunch organic gardener. While a student at the University of California at Davis he worked at local tomato and sugar beet farms and continued in the agricultural and horticultural industries for many years. A career move in the 1990s led him to design computer games, but no matter how much of a techie he’s become, gardening and farming remain his principal passions.

In 2000, Rick moved to Italy, where he writes to you about his cliff garden and other experiences in Italian urban agriculture.

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