Snakes and Saints and Ants

Got up early this morning, six thirty, and slipped out for an hour’s walk. The sun was already pretty high but still veiled in mist. I walked past vineyards and olive groves toward a farmhouse until yapping guard dogs made me turn on my heel, and then I left the road.

The area is heavily altered by agriculture, but still there is quite a lot of woodland and brush. I descended into the valley of a little stream, dodged bushes and a large spider web, and found water trickling at the bottom of a deep-cut little channel, like a ditch among the bushes. Stepping over, I entered untouched greenery. Little recent pits got me thinking of foraging boars. Some ways up the other side of the valley a long yellow-and-black viper was sunning itself. It lay still for a long moment and then made itself scarce when I started fiddling with my camera.

I couldn’t find a way over the lip of the valley that wouldn’t involve using a machete, so I returned the way I’d come, brambles clawing at the back of my hand. A brief spell of fieldwalking in the red earth of a field garnered me only some modern tile. Home for breakfast and reading. Photographs soon, including some pretty good flower close-ups in morning sunlight, on a Flickr stream near you.

Swam with the kids, daughter dog-paddling happily with her arm pontoons, then cooked tortellini for lunch. The afternoon’s outing took us to the lovely Romanesque abbey church of Saint Anthemius Antimus (never heard of him, gotta read up), whence much of the area was once controlled. Very good sculpture and bas-reliefs. Then alley-haunting in tiny nearby picturesque-overload Castelnuovo dell’ Abate, and ice cream in the village bar while the septuagenarian proprietress played cards with her regulars. Finally back to Montalcino and the diocesan museum of church art, with a remarkable collection of fine Late Medieval and Renaissance paintings and sculpture of the Sienese school. (Though I doubt that any of the sculpture retains its original paintwork — it’s largely lurid ottocento refinishings, with one particularly unfortunate John the Baptist looking as if the painter were usually employed to finish cult statues of Ronald McDonald.) One thing I’d never seen before was 14th century statuary in white-glaze terracotta, looking a lot like bathroom furnishings.

What otherwise occupies the thoughts of my family is our ant infestation. Tiny black ones beyond all tally. My wife had the idea that salt might drive them off. Didn’t work, got really messy. Then the landlady gave us perfumed talcum powder, for some placebo reason, and it didn’t work either. Quite fascinating to study the long busy ant road across the white wall from one of the rafters to the kitchenette.


8 thoughts on “Snakes and Saints and Ants

  1. So ants are universal? You need to break the trail and then the ants won’t know where to go. Vinegar sometimes works if you don’t want to use harsh chemicals. I’ve used oven cleaner one morning when that was all I had. If you’re not opposed to chemicals, spray them outside, around the foundation and underneath the room, on the beams.


  2. Boric acid powder works well, assuming the kids are old enough not to get it in their mouths. Put it across their trails and in corners.

    I got curious about Saint Antimus. I think the English name is Anthemius. I found this in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    A Byzantine official of the fourth and fifth centuries, of high rank and fine character. He was one of the most celebrated magistrates of his day, noted for his wisdom and his administrative ability. St. Chrysostom and he entertained the greatest respect for each other. Anthemius was Magister Officiorum at the time of the disturbances which followed St. Chrysostom’s deposition (Easter, 404), and the Saint’s enemies demanded troops from him with which to disperse the crowd. At first he refused, but then yielded to their importunities, declaring that they were responsible for the consequences (Pallad. 83). Anthemius was made consul in 405, and soon after Prefect of the East (Cod. Theod. Chronol., 149), a position he held until 417. St. Chrysostom wrote to him in warm terms (Ep. cxlvii). The title of Patrician is given to him in the law of 28 April, 406 (Cod. Theod; Chron. 149). He was principal adviser to Theodosius the Younger (Soc., Hist. Eccl., VII, i) and, through his daughter’s marriage to Procopius, became grandfather to the Emperor Anthemius. He took part in the reception of the relics of the Prophet Samuel at Constantinople (Chron. Alex. 714; Theod. Lect. ii, 64; Tillemont, Empereurs).


  3. “So ants are universal?”

    Yes. I found lots of ants in Boorea (next to Tahiti) in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Probably got there as freeriders on boats.

    Since they were in the kitchen, I put them to work. As an old trekker I know they can dry-clean the dishes better than soap&water. Once the job is done, the ants are gone.


  4. Syrup- on a plate close to where they enter the house. They will stick to it… And it’s not dangerous for the environment or the children!


  5. “The sun was already pretty high…”

    That sun of a gun! Gets out of bed and the first thing it does is have a toke. Gets higher and higher until about noon and then slips off to sleep. Nice gig if you can get it….


  6. Commercial Borax (Boric acid) – works wonders – if you can trace them back to their nest and put a whack of Borax near the nest openings – it will kill then all off.Diatomaceous earth works well too.


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