Splashes of bright yellow broom intrude now on the deep greens of the woods, the silver greens of the olive trees of our Umbria, “Italy’s green heart.”
The fragrant broom flowers highlight the floral festivals of our region, their petals adding to the chromatic majesty of Spello’s infiorate and Assisi’s floral tapestries, too.
I remember the more pragmatic rural use of the spindly broom plant: around winter hearth fires, the nonno in the family made brooms of the broom bushes for the cleaning of the stalls. The yellow blossoms drop off as the summer heat moves in and later in the fall – when farm tasks wind down – the men head to the hills with small hand axes to cut broom bunches. They’d store them in a corner of the wine cellar or olive oil cellar for broom-making around winter fires.In the years we farmed, Pino made the brooms I’d use for cleaning under the rabbit hutches, in the chicken coop and the pigsty. My first – and favorite – pig, Zsa-zsa, tried to take a bite of the broom one day but found it too tough to enjoy.
Our closest farm friends – and neighbors – were Peppe and Mandina. Peppe made the brooms his mamma Emilia – “Nonna” to us all – used to sweep out the stalls. She was tiny and hobbled with an arthritic limp as she cleaned the stalls, armed with a broom that was taller than her.
The other night, Pino and I – and visitor, Kevin – shared a farm feast with other treasured farm friends, Marino and Chiarina. Kevin had met Chiarina and Marino when staying with us in winter, 1976 – and he remembers the days of no indoor bathroom, a bed-warmer for cold nights (no heat in our house except from the kitchen fireplace). Kevin brought photos he had taken of Marino, his uncle, his now-deceased father – and Chiarina and Marino wished to thank him with a “merendina” (“small snack” – ha!). As we feasted on their wild boar salami, capocollo, Chiarina’s zucchini-prosciutto bread, savory garden vegetables – and Marino’s tasty vino rosso – we talked about times past.
And Chiarina still has una scopa di ginestra (“a broom of broom”) for cleaning around her wood stove (where she still bakes bread, roasts geese and other fowl). It may seem odd but knowing this brings a certain comfort: ties to our treasured rural past remain.
Meet our farm friends, givers of the greatest gifts
Read about – and see – our first years on the land in Umbria
Read more about treasured rural friends
Read more about indefatigable Peppe
Click here to read more on Peppe’s wondrous olive oil
You really can’t miss a rural banquet cooked by Chiarina
Read about the “regal welcome” Chiarina and Marino give to their guests
Read about our rural friends – and their “green gold,” olive oil
Read about why a visit with our rural friends makes any Umbrian stay unforgettable
Click here to see how a visit to rural friends can make your stay “the experience of a lifetime”
Click here to read about a treasured Umbrian rural winter tradition
Click here for many more insights on our rural friends
Read about making wine with Peppa
Click here to read about – and see – why rural visits offer “unforgettable moments”
Click here to read about “memorable rural moments”
Live Umbria, live the “rural life revisited”