One of the main rationales I had for buying my property is that it came with almost a hundred living oil wells. Few plants give so much and demand so little. Each tree is like a person with it's own shape and demeanor. With their drab green leaves and silvered undersides on twisted trunks and gnarly branches, nothing is prettier in the light and wind. Few things possess more individual character, yet each is a clone-of-a-clone-of-a-clone from a single ancient ancestor.
In 1985, just as the world was discovering the high quality of Tuscan olive oil, a killing frost wiped out most of the olive trees in Tuscany. But a small area around Montalcino and Montisi was spared. My 90-year-old trees, with their perfect southwestern exposure, are survivors of that frost. Old villagers like to remind me of this when they stop by.
A few days ago, just as the olive season was getting underway, Talini, the beloved village miller, had a stroke. He is not expected to regain consciousness. Now, at the time of year his frantoio (oil mill) usually ran until midnight, it is quiet. In a place where fewer young people care to carry on the traditions, another artisan, another living library of knowhow, tales and wisdom is being razed by time and age.