The winter days here always seem to be perfect.
We are having overnight temperatures below zero, early morning frosts, then days where the sky is such a clear blue that I just know the alps will be visible from the hills around us.
One day this week, I arranged to meet a couple of friends to do an 8km walk across a ridge between Rochetta Palafea and Montabone, about 10 minutes away from home.
We met at 11am, rugged up appropriately for a walk in 5 degrees and set off. There followed a glorious couple of hours in which we walked and talked and stared at the alps, which lined 180 degrees of the horizon.
Exhilarated and not wanting to hide myself indoors on such a perfect day, I decided to use the afternoon to tackle my first big pruning job: the wisteria vines.
We have 2 wisterias: a 200 year old one that covers the pergola at the front of the house and a 10 year old one that covers the front of the fienile. Neither has been pruned for a few years and I have been anxious that they've been looking ragged rather than the sculptured works of art that they could be.
I am never sure what I'm doing when I'm pruning. No matter how many books I read or websites I surf, I never feel as if I'm doing the right thing.
I start to get lost when I read words like "old wood", "new wood" and "scaffold" and have totally lost it by the time I get to "prune down to 5th bud".
So today I reverted to Living in Italy Rule Number 1: "Do as the Romans do" (otherwise known as "Copy thy neighbour")!
Luckily, our neighbour has already pruned his wisteria and a casual wander past his vine revealed that he has retained the larger branches, cut the long curly bits off, cut the seed pods off and left the flower buds.
No need for fancy pruning words.
So, enter ladder, choppers, clippers, shears...and sunhat, of course!
I tackled the younger wisteria first and finished it within an hour.
Then I turned my attention to the older vine. After an hour of effort I had barely made an impact to the vine itself but I had somehow created a thick pile of prunings beneath it!
As dry seed pods, baked by the day's warmth, crackled and popped under my feet, I was again reminded to stop and appreciate the bright winter sun shining down on me...