Archive for Nature

Mar
20

Springing ahead

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Although we certainly can’t complain about the winter we haven’t had — all the cold and snow were re-routed to other parts of the world — spring is still exerting the old rousing-the-bear-from-hibernation force around the neighborhood.

So I festivate the equinox with a string of springy pictures, in no particular order, because I have the sensation that everything is happening pretty much in unison, like the Rockettes.  This wonderful, too-brief phase comes down to essentially two things: Fish and flowers.

1x1.trans Springing ahead

The past few days have seen the slaughter of the seppie — anybody with a boat and some free time seems have gone out to snag as much as they can of what the tide was bringing in. Our neighbor came home one day with 25 kilos (55 pounds) of the little monsters. He gave us some, which were better than anything we could have bought.

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But you don’t have to have a boat in order to do major damage to the incoming horde of tentacled delicacies. There’s quite a detachment of fishermen strung along the fondamenta.

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In the past few days, the seppie in the fish market have rarely been anything less than top-notch. Or as this vendor’s sign expressed it: “Marvelous.” With a marvelous low price to match. If you see seppie like this, it’s a venial sin not to buy them. If they don’t look like this, you should skip them and buy something else. Note the lack of black ink smeared all over them.  The makeup is applied when the seppie aren’t as beautiful — I mean fresh — as this.

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These are go’, a type of goby that makes a fantastic risotto. Actually, we may be among the few people left who use them for that purpose; they’re never on any menu that I’m acquainted with. “Quando la rosa mete spin’, xe bon el go’ e el passarin.” When the rose begins to bloom (i.e., put out its thorns — just go with it), the go’ and the passarini are good. Lino has taken more passarini, or European flounder (Platichthys flesus), out of the lagoon than you could ever count, but they’re hardly ever in the fish market anymore. People like things like sole and salmon from exotic faraway places.

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Let’s talk clams. You can certainly go clamming in the depth of winter, but your fingers freeze so you can’t even feel the clams anymore. But on a day like this the sun, the water, the world all seem to conspire to make a few hours clamming during the falling, then rising, tide, just the perfect thing to do.

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Note Lino’s net bag — the perfect tool for rinsing the muddy little bivalves. He puts them in a bucket full of lagoon water later to make them finish expelling their internal grit.

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Lino takes them the old-fashioned way — one at a time.

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There were a few people out who had the same idea. Good thing they kept their distance. Clammers are like any other fishermen — they hate to have other fishermen climbing over them.

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The plant life was looking fine, too. These trees have leaves that are practically singing.

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The vegetable-boat people planted a tiny peach tree in a pot on their prow, and it has begun to put forth tiny peach blossoms. If they ever harvest tiny peaches, I’ll let you know — otherwise, the memory of these little blooms will be enough for me.

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Forsythia, in some hardy gardener’s hardy garden.

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A plum tree, slightly behind some of the others I’ve seen, probably because the sun doesn’t shine very much on this part of the street.

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Wisteria getting ready to burst.

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Cabbages also have to flower.

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I don’t know what they are, but that’s not stopping them.

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Leaves that are this green are no less lovely than the flowers. In fact, I’m not sure these leaves know they’re not flowers.

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Toward 5:00 PM the light begins to warm up in a particularly spring-like way. If there’s any moment lovelier than the dawn, it would be this interlude on the verge of sunset.

 

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Feb
28

Spring sneaks forward

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1x1.trans Spring sneaks forward

A small tree but flowering with all its heart. I’m sure the tree doesn’t know it’s small.

Veteran readers are all too aware of my passion for watching for the First Signs of things — mostly from the natural world. Yes, confetti counts.

Venice has had a totally boring winter.  It hasn’t even really been winter.  The temperature may have gone just barely  below zero once or twice, but it would have been at night and I didn’t notice. We could practically have turned off the heat (thereby foiling the vampires of the gas company who suck whatever financial blood we manage to build up). But that would have encouraged mold and the smell of damp.

For the record, there was acqua alta a few times, but it wasn’t dramatically high, nor dramatically frequent.

I do feel sorry for everyone who has had to endure the apocalyptic winter which has struck much of the US and Europe  But for us here, it’s been some fog, some rain, some more rain, a little more fog, and that’s about it.

Therefore it was only a small surprise to discover that the demure little plum tree (Prunus domestica) near the Giardini decided it was time to bloom.  It’s pretty unusual to see blooms in late February, but there they were. Early?  Late?  Blossoms don’t tend to pay attention to that. There have been violets on the lawn at the Morosini Naval School for a week already.

I hope that March doesn’t play one of its amusing little meteorological tricks on the flowers and leaves.  Whatever this season could be called, it’s time for it to move on and make room for another season to have a chance.  Perhaps the plum blossoms are just one of nature’s ways of hinting that it’s time for winter to go home.

 

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Jul
04

Birdsong and bluster

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1x1.trans Birdsong and bluster

This is the scene.

As you well know, if you’ve stuck with me, I am driven to gnash my teeth more often than is dentally advisable at the uncivilized, un-neighborly behavior of certain people around here.

But then I come across something that demonstrates that I personally am still in the safe zone, because “neighbors” to me is a vague, general term that means everybody and nobody. On the other hand, some residents define “neighbor” as the ballbuster who lives next door who (A) annoys me or (B) annoys me.  According to whichever neighbor you are.

Here is what I discovered: two signs attached to what evidently was once a shop (as is the case with many closed doors and windows) and which has become someone’s garage/basement/attic/storeroom, here generally called a magazzino.

I am now going to file this in my TAKE THAT! folder, just as soon as I make it.

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I WANTED TO THANK THE PERSON WHO WITH SO MUCH ZEAL REGISTERED AN ACCUSATION WITH THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BECAUSE OF MY CANARIES. BECAUSE DUE TO THE OFFICIAL INSPECTION IT HAS BEEN SHOWN THAT I AM AN ACCOMPLISHED AND DILIGENT BREEDER. A TRUE, AND I UNDERLINE TRUE, ANIMAL LOVER. THEREFORE, AS SUCH, THANKS FOR HAVING BEEN ABLE TO DEMONSTRATE THAT. BUT I HAVE TO REPRIMAND YOU, AS A TAXPAYING ITALIAN. BECAUSE THE COMMUNITY FUNDS WOULD BE BETTER SPENT ON THINGS THAT ARE MORE SERIOUS, AND NOT TO GO TO SEE WHAT SOMEONE HAS IN HIS MAGAZZINO. ANYWAY, I HOPE THAT YOU REAP WHAT YOU HAVE SOWN IN THIS WORLD. (signed) TO ANYONE WHO UNDERSTANDS (along the lines of “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”).

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ITALIAN FEDERATION OF BIRD BREEDERS/RAISERS: THE ITALIAN FEDERATION OF BIRD BREEDERS (F.O.I.) RECOGNIZED BY D.P.R. 15/12/1949, N. 1166 IS INSTITUTED FOR THE IMPROVEMENT, DEVELOPMENT AND CONSERVATION OF THE ORNITHOLOGICAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURALISTIC PATRIMONY. ITS PURPOSE IS TO PUBLICIZE THE LOVE AND KNOWLEDGE OF BIRDS AND THEIR HABITAT, AND BY MEANS OF ITS ENROLLED MEMBERS TO PROMULGATE THE SYSTEMS OF CORRECT NURTURE — WHETHER FOR ORNAMENTAL OR DIDACTIC PURPOSES — REPRODUCING IN CAPTIVITY EVEN BREEDS WHICH ARE IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION. IT IS CONCERNED THEREFORE ALSO WITH THEIR PROTECTION AND THE ASSOCIATED ECOLOGICAL PROBLEMS. TO RAISE IS TO PROTECT.

 

Categories : Birds
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May
02

Back to blogging

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1x1.trans Back to blogging

I must go down to the blog again, to the lonely blog and the sky…..

More time has passed than I intended between my last post and this, though as usual many of the reasons had to do with putting down slave revolts in the technological departments of my life.  (Apologies to anyone offended by the word “slave.”)  My computer seized up.  The espresso machine has had a nervous breakdown.  Transferring my cell phone number from one company to another was an adventure within an adventure. My cloud backup service has gone into a semi-permanent stall.  My photos stopped uploading to Flickr. We’re still waiting for the boiler-repair company to come repair the repair of April 16.  The kitchen clock died.

But all this is no more preposterous or tiresome than what’s been going on all around the most-beautiful-booby-hatch in the world.  The past two weeks have seen the return of many well-worn themes.  If they were music, they would be familiar tunes — perhaps transposed into another key, or performed by different instruments, or converted from pieces usually played on a lone kazoo into swelling symphonic creations. But the same tunes, nevertheless.  They practically qualify as folk songs.

The ACTV is always prime territory for the absurd.

An annoying number of the turnstiles keep breaking at the docks on the Lido, causing commuters to miss their boats to work.  Sebastiano Costalonga, a city councilor who has made squaring away the ACTV part of his mission on earth, has pointed out that there are seven turnstiles at a typical London Underground stop, through which millions of people pass each day, while on the Lido there are 48 turnstiles, through which, on a really big day, perhaps 20,000 people will pass.

The ferryboats connecting the Lido to the rest of the world continue to fall apart and be taken out of service for repairs (one boat has been in the shop for nearly a year.  Are they plating it with rhodium?).

The personnel of the ticket booths went on strike for two days, April 30 and May 1, when storm surges of tourists were naturally expected to overwhelm the city, which meant that tickets were sold only by the individual on each vaporetto who ties up the boat at each stop.  You can imagine how many he/she managed to sell.  Or even tried to sell.

The company is 17 million euros in the red, but the ACTV drivers are the highest-paid in the entire Veneto region.  The ACTV is like the Energizer Bunny — it just keeps going.

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On April 25, National Liberation Day, the city places laurel wreaths at important civic monuments. Here the wreath got as far as the plaque recalling the “Seven Martyrs,” but whoever was wrangling the wreath didn’t realize it was supposed to be right-side up.

Then there are the Illegal Vendors:  Whatever they’re selling, they’re everywhere, and there are more of them every day.

First (and still) were the West Africans, who sell counterfeit designer handbags from bedsheets spread on the pavement.  While this squad continues to proliferate, it has been joined by Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan vendors of gimcracks such as fluorescent darts which gleam when flung skyward and balls of gelatinous rubber which flatten when hurled to the ground, then re-form themselves before your eyes.

A sub-division of these ethnic entities has taken over the wandering sale of long-stemmed red roses, which used to be offered mainly from table to table in restaurants, but which are now available all day long in the Piazza San Marco, and environs. Illegal corn for the pigeons: After years of struggle, the city finally convinced the vendors with their little trolleys in the Piazza to switch from grain to gewgaws — this being the only effective way to limit, or even reduce, the plague of feathered rats which had passed the 100,000 mark and was still growing.  So now corn is being sold surreptitiously by the handful from the pockets of the red-rose vendors. Still, on April 25, a blitz by the police in the Piazza San Marco netted plenty of swag abandoned by the fleeing vendors, leading off with 1,408 roses. The day before that, the police got hold of 22 kilos (48 pounds) of illegal corn.

But these are temporary events. Stashes of illegal pigeon-corn have been found hidden in the garbage around San Marco.  Intermittent reports of these discoveries and confiscations, whether of goods or of people, imply progress, but they would be the intermittent reports of emptying the ocean with a teaspoon. Uncollected fines have reached some three million euros; one illegal rose seller was reported to have laughed and shown some employees of a shop near Rialto his collection of tickets — five so far, one of them for 5,000 euros.  ”Stupid police,” he said, “I don’t have anything and I’m not paying anything.”

The complaints of exasperated merchants and citizens have finally caused the city to increase surveillance by putting officers on patrol, from police in plainclothes to carabinieri in full battle gear.  But only on the weekend!  Still, there was plenty to do: Twenty-eight illegal vendors spread across the Bridge of the Scalzi were nabbed with their bags and sunglasses and camera mini-tripods! (I know from personal examination that the bridge is 40 steps on each side, so that comes to one vendor every 3 steps. But somehow it must be hard to see, because citizen outcry was needed in order to focus the city fathers’ eyes on it.)

Sometimes there are violent altercations between vendors, based on subtleties of territory and rights thereto — though the concept of someone claiming the right to something illegal is kind of special. Many are often without papers, so they’re already in tricky territory where the concept of rights is concerned.  One recent nabbee, from Senegal, was discovered to already have been sentenced to five months in prison, by the court of Florence.

The city council dusted off a year-old  proposal to issue residence permits (permesso di soggiorno) with points, like a driver’s license. It didn’t pass, for various reasons, some of which verged on silly: “What are supposed to do,” asked one councilor — “expel the women caretakers because they get a fine for illegal parking?”  But another summed up what everybody has long since recognized: “Even the police can’t manage to do much if there isn’t collaboration from the local politicians. The message which has been sent out is that here there isn’t the kind of determination there might be in other cities because of a misunderstood sense of solidarity.”  (Translation: We feel sorry for the poor foreigners.)

Speaking of illegal vendors, the mendicants from Rome who dress up as Roman centurions and pose for pictures near the Colosseum attempted to set themselves up here. Some of you might wonder at the congruence of fake Roman soldiers with fake swords and breastplates in Venice, but the tourist-guide association didn’t need to wonder.  It managed to drive them decisively out of the city in a matter of a few days.  Instead of police and carabinieri, why don’t we just pay the tourist-guide association something extra to clear out the illegal vendors of everything?  Or better yet, send them roses?

As Roberto Gervaso noted in his satirical column in the Gazzettino not long ago, “Our generals manage to lose even the wars they’re not fighting.”

The only antidote I know to all this is to go places and do things which only give pleasure.  And there are plenty of them, in spite of all the weirdity. All you have to do is pull the plug on that part of your brain that concerns other human beings. Here are some views of what we’ve done or seen that have made the past few days more than usually pleasant.

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Lino isn’t looking for clams, he’s looking for scallops (canestrelli, or Chlamys opercularis), and it was a great morning to do it.

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And he did surprisingly well. These little critters reached their apotheosis that evening, fried.

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My activity of choice is often to sit in the boat and look over the side. It’s pretty busy down there, what with crabs and snails and so on. These two were moving right along.

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This is the first time I’ve ever seen this creature in the fish market. The label here calls it “pesce sciabola,” or saberfish, but I see that it is known in English as scabbardfish (Lepidopus caudatus). It was brilliantly silver and shiny, just the kind of saber I’d rather not confront.
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And despite all the rain in March, the wisteria has come out right on time. Along with the laundry, and the trash.

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Lilac is here so briefly that I took a mass of pictures. Bonus: Lilac-shadow.

 

 

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Categories : Fish, Uncategorized
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