surrounded by farmland

Pat H
08/17/2009 - 09:17

We are considering a house and cortile surrounded by farmland and I was wondering if anyone here has experience of living in a house like this. What concerns me is that the fields will be beautiful from spring to august and the will be bare ploughed fields. One solution may be to buy the fields and planting some kind of evergreen cover. Anyone with any input?



It depends on the area around your house.Can you not make it a green oasis by planting trees and shrubs that will hide the views of bare fields? If the fields are ploughed when autumn rains come they will soon be green! And I've noticed that many farmers are starting to leave their olive groves unploughed to prevent erosion.It would be worth considering if your property could be affected in very heavy storms with earth and stones gettting washed from fields onto roads and paths.Hedges and walls could help to prevent this risk.

Ploughed eath in itself is beautiful and does not deterr from a view imho, buying land is an enormous responsibility and cannot just be painted `evergreen`,it would seem a great waste of a very limited resource,sorry but i am a country boy!

I agree with Jasper. It is a huge amount of work, maintaining land here. We sold our 10 hectares in the end. You can't just leave it. It has to be kept "clean" in case of fire and if it is sloping, will have to have the drainage ditches redug every year. A lot of work! Just to be devil's advocate, why does everyone seem to want the typical "house in a field"? Is it because we are so "crammed in" in the UK? A lot of people don't realise the impracticalities of living like this all year round, especially in winter when every pint of milk, loaf of bread involves a car journey amd maybe snow chains. Over the last 5 or 6 years a lot of people have said to me that if they had their time again, they would but in a less isolated spot - particularly those with children Personally, give me town living every time!

...and we're very content. We have never considered living in a town, not even when the snow has covered our driveway half a metre deep and we’re running the fridge and the lights on a generator because the electricity went off in the middle of the blizzard and it’s been out for eight hours. Making sure that you have food and fuel to keep you going for a week or so in such circumstances is not all that difficult. Getting used to not having lots of other people around you all the time is probably much harder for some. If you're one of those, by all means get a place in an Italian town; given the noise level of such places, you'll never worry for a moment that there's not someone else nearby! I do agree that farmland can't be left to sort itself out. It's a man-made environment, and so just leaving it alone will result in lots of weeds and self-seeded trees that will be a definite fire-hazard until it reaches a sort of ecological equilibrium and becomes a proper forest in a few decades. In the meantime, the "dirty" fields will be making you very unpopular with the owners of adjacent land. If you buy a house with attached land you either have to farm it (which, as Penny rightly says) is a lot of work and involves equipment rarely seen in your average British suburban garden shed, or you need to get someone else to farm it. We've got a contract with a neighbour who pays us a nominal sum every year and, in return, farms our 7 hectares and gets whatever profit he can from his toil. For the most part, the arrangement is working out well. As far as the comments in the original post are concerned, our experience is that land does lie bare for a while after they grind over it in a caterpillar tractor hauling ploughs. After a month or two have passed and the rain has broken down the huge clay clods a bit, they clatter over it again with a harrow and then once more to plant next year's crop. The worst part of the process is the clanking, squealing, diesel-rumble noise that the tractors make. Living where we do, on the top of a hill with views about 270° all around, it seems like it's a rare day when we can't hear the noise of a farmer working a field somewhere within a five kilometre radius. But, like the sound of incessantly baying dogs, that's something you do get used to quite quickly, just so long as you don't let yourself get obsessed with the intrusion of reality into how you imagined your perfect Italian country idyll would be. It's a matter of personal taste, of course, but the bare fields never seemed to me to be intrinsically unattractive. It's not -- at least in our part of Abruzzo -- the case that what you have at certain times of the year is nothing but bare earth everywhere you look. There's always plenty of green to be seen and the bare soil is just another hue in the patchwork of the countryside. The change of brown to green and back again is just another measure of the turning of the seasons. Expecting that you could buy a farm in Italy and then turn the fields into the equivalent of a low-maintenance lawn is, I’d suggest, a little unrealistic. Al

Ditto Alan.  We too live in a house in a field, but again it is not flat and thus the views of mountains and coast are amazing.  Either side of our house the farmers alternate crop and sun flowers, over the calanchi there are vines and olive trees along with crop and sun flowers.  Thus the bare earth as Alan stated is interspersed with other colours.  Add to this the hedging and random olive trees, even that very short period when the earth is bare it is stunningly beautiful.  Although within fields and 650m down a windy, steep, white road that requires constant maintenance we are 5 minutes from the town above us and in our opinion have the best of both worlds.  Our "garden" is about 3/4 acre, thus enough to give us choice of our immediate surroundings but without the need to become contadini.  We would not change it for the world.  We lived "in town" for the first 18 months of our life in Italy and although it was nice to walk to the shop for the daily loaf etc, I was very pleased to finally get away from the incessant noise.  Give me tractors over human voices any day.  It is very much a personal thing - I like my own space and do not need people around me constantly.  On the other hand I have friends who could not bare to spend just one day alone. 

Having "bare" fields is what living in the countryside is about and has already been said part of the country cycle. Personally, being surrounded by farmland, as we are, is a joy. The way the light changes on the soil at diferent times of the day, seeing snow covered fields, broken only by a lone olive tree and in the spring, a hew of light green as the crops start to grow and never knowing what is going to come up -sunflowers, coriander, wheat, barley... we never know.Unless the land around your house is very flat, I don't believe that you'll regard the fields as boring at all and you'll see their beauty just as much. 

 It also depends where you buy.  Here (Sicily) the fields are brown in July and August, as soon as the rain starts they are green again - here they grow between 2 and 4 crops a year.   Snow covered fields?? no thanks! 

Thanks for all the info everyone myabruzzohome yes we can plant the cortile to make a lovely garden and erosion did worry me especially if the farmer ploughs straight up and down the hill. Penny I guess the question would be why did you want a typical house in a field ;-) we have researched it thoroughly and at this moment in time and for the foreseable future (perhaps not always) this is what we want. Allan Mason do you mind me asking what issues you are having with the farmer ( if that is not too personal) ? Have you found the dust or insecticides a problem? karenr thanks for that. You live in a beautiful area.  Come on Ram , Surely you must get bored with all that lovely sunshine???

Have you checked whether you being able to buy the fields is even an option due to the reverse right where the neighbouring farmer has first dibs on it? We too live in the middle of nowhere with a field that is now cultivated by a local farmer and at this point couldn't contemplate living in a town where everyone knows everyone else's business, the politics are incredible (in our town there is apparently a bit of a feud going on between the new & old town) and so is the noise- but then I'm antisocial anyway!!!

Maybe we're just lucky but we honestly have absolutely no noise whatsoever. We're only 100 from the main piazza and even when there is a band on we still can't hear it. Our street is a dead end so we don't have any cars passing us either, our house is detached with a walled garden and we aren't adjacent to any other properties - they are all in a row opposite, so no-one is watching us come and go. So I can't really relate to people's experience of living in town at all. Maybe we really are lucky and have all the positives and none of the negatives! I am sure feuds aren't exclusive to towns either. There are plenty of them in the countryside

Surely not! That would be contrary to all the stereotypes of easy-going Italians! But of course there are feuds. The nastiness of politics at Westminster, Rome or Washington DC is nothing compared to the viciousness of politics in a village, whatever country it happens to be in. In such places, it's all very personal and no slight is ever forgotten, basically because there's not much else going on! The problems we've had with "our" farmer have been minimal niggles, really: The combine harvester contractor he brought in last year chopped off the top of an olive sapling and he ran over our artichokes earlier in the summer when he was mowing the field for hay. I'm sure that, from his perspective, we were to blame for both those things since the olive tree was largely obscured by tall grass growing around it, as were the artichokes. If we were proper Italian farmers, he would have been able to see the tree and artichokes because we would have been out there sweating away making sure that the grass around the sapling was kept short and the soil around the artichokes kept cultivated. Unfortunately, our priorities lie elsewhere (although I'll allow that it might be that we're just lazy -- we certainly are when compared to your average Italian farmer, one of whom was clanking away somewhere near here on his tractor last night until after 2 am). This year, prior to harvest we made sure that all the olive and cypress saplings planted along the boundary of the field with wheat were conspicuous by tying a couple meters of that red and white stripped plastic tape around each one. It looked a bit funny, actually. While we haven't spoken to him about it, hopefully he realised that we did it to be amusing as well as for practical reasons. The other, more serious, issue is that he allows flocks of sheep to come on the land after harvest. The sheep themselves are not a problem, but the dogs that accompany them are. Both last year and this, the dogs suddenly appeared wandering around outside the house, even though the shepherds are supposed to not allow that. Given that this particular lot has a bad reputation due to having killed a dog which belonged to a farm adjacent to an area they were grazing last year and given that we have a dog of our own, several cats and a young child who we want to be able to play outside unsupervised in a few years, we're not happy about this arrangement. The contract I inherited from the previous owner is due to expire next year. Whether he continues or another farmer takes on the land, we're going to specifically prohibit any sheep other than his small flock on the land in future. While there have been little annoyances, our relationship with the farmer and his family is generally extremely good. He always uses his tractor to clear our driveway of snow as soon as that's possible and he responds very quickly to our requests, some of which I'm sure he finds very odd. For example, we mentioned in passing to another friend in the village the day before yesterday that we'd like to get one of those rolls of straw to use as a mulch over potatoes next year. This morning, our farmer appeared with a roll of straw on his tractor. You also asked about dust and pesticides. Dust is always a problem in Italy at this time of year, no matter where you are. We haven't found that it's a huge problem specifically due to the farmer working the land, but then it has to be said that we're not the type to get worked up over a car that looks less than pristine, windows that aren't perfectly clean or furniture with a bit of dust on it. Obviously, ploughing dry earth, harvesting grain and baling straw all create some dust. Whether it's a big problem depends on which way the wind happens to be blowing and your attitude, I guess. Pesticides are definitely not a problem, since our farmer just doesn't use them. In fact, his sort of farming is very low input and he doesn't even use much in the way of fertiliser. I'm not sure if that's a common approach for small farmers in Abruzzo, if that's just because our farmer does it only part time (he considers himself mainly a builder) or if it's because he doesn't have to worry about getting a big return from the crop because he's paying us so little for use of the land (the huge sum of €300 a year for about 6 hectares of arable land). I suspect that in places like Emilia-Romagna where agriculture is as much big business as it is in the south of England, there's probably very good reason to be concerned about pesticide and fungicide drift. Al

I always enjoy reading Als posts, so a little story of my own. We are on good terms with our neighbouring farmers apart from one, whom whilst we said hello we had him down as a wily old devil. whom we thought had a prominent position in the village and was not to be crossed. Earlier this year we were awakened by his bird scarer blasting off just behind our house at 5.30am and continuing at 30sec intervals until it had a brief pause for lunch and then continued until dusk. (he is the only person in this area who used one). We were driven demented by the noise and very worried as we had guests arriving the next week. We spoke to him, our italian friends spoke to him but to no avail.Now we had been lead to believe that we must not upset the balance, we live in the country, we are newcomers and foriegners to boot. But in despair we went to the commune to seek advice. were met by the mayor who took it all very seriously said it was totally unacceptable and he would make it stop. to cut a long story much shorter after a few phone calls it did, the relief!. Evidently the old devil is much disliked in the village , has upset eveyone and they were glad that his antics had been stopped. Also we were shown the plans for the prevention of noise nuisance the village had and he was breaking all the rules. So another lesson for us and our assumptions on how we "ought" to behave and what is not accepted by reasonable people.PS he doesnt speak to us now, but his wife always does as do his sons, perhaps he has upset them all as well.!A