27 February 2016

Better late than never!

While we were in Australia, we checked the weather forecast for Canelli almost daily.

We did this mainly so that we would be aware of any danger of our pipes freezing and bursting...but also so that we could guess at the likely productivity of our fruit trees and our region's grape vines during spring and summer.

We noted that our area had received no snow at all, only a tiny drop of rain and temperatures well above zero.

This didn't bode well for the fruit or the grapes.

So, I was very happy to see the weather report yesterday forecasting snow last night.

I was even happier when the television suddenly lost signal at 8pm last night (this usually happens when we have some sort of meterological disruption!).

When I peered out the window, I saw thick snow falling.

Sadly, our ground temperatures are too warm so it's not going to last long...but hopefully it will encourage a slightly more productive season...


25 February 2016

A new food for dinner!

This week our local fruit and vegetable market stall was displaying a strange red and white vegetable that we'd never seen before.

We were told it was a traditional vegetable of the Treviso area and "molto buono".

So we bought two of the colourful things, promising our stall lady that we would do as she recommended and cut it in half lengthways, fry it in butter, then serve it drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The next evening, I placed the halves in a frypan and watched as the pretty colours turned brown and the leaves softened.

It was bitter to taste even though I had drizzled it with sweet balsamic vinegar...but the bitterness was rigorous and delicious!

A subsequent internet search revealed that the strange vegetable was a "Rossa di Treviso", a type of radicchio that originated in northern Italy and dates back to the 16th century.





24 February 2016

A tree or two...

For those of my readers who think that I have completely forgotten how to write, finally here's a post...

I hope you will forgive my silence when I tell you that I've been exhausted settling back into Italy, re-acquainting myself with friends and contacts, ensuring that our car is legal in terms of car tax and roadworthy obligations and trying to remember how to speak Italian!

Late winter also happens to be the time to be working in the paddocks, cutting blackberry, pulling weeds, pruning, shaping, preparing, fertilizing and planting.

So...we've also been doing all of the above and today capped our efforts off with the planting of 35 new trees!

We planted 26 hazelnut trees in the hazelnut grove, 5 new fruit trees in the orchard (3 cherries and 2 persimmons) and 4 new gooseberries in the gooseberry patch.

The sun has now gone down on our "crops" and we are sitting in our lounge chairs in front of a blazing fire, wondering how we're going to get upstairs to bed in a couple of hours...

Above: The hazelnut grove

Above: The orchard

Above: The gooseberry patch


14 February 2016

Winter days that aren't so perfect

After enjoying lots of perfect winter days, we are now experiencing some not-so-perfect ones!

It is cloudy, misty, dreary, damp...need I say more...

On the "bright side" (no pun intended), these sorts of days are almost-perfect because they give us guilt-free time to sit inside with the kitchen fire warming our backs and good books in front of us.

Unfortunately, necessity dictates that my "good book" for today is the Italian road code, which (of course) makes this almost-perfect day once again a not-so-perfect day...



13 February 2016

Winter days

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...



11 February 2016

Old nails and ash

Our fireplaces are happily chugging away burning all the old rotten wood from our fienile renovation last year.

On one hand it's great to see the old wooden rafters go up in smoke in such a useful manner...but on the other hand I feel sad for the old nails that we find in the ashes afterwards.

While I feel a slight guilt to be the one who is discarding these relics, I feel no such guilt over the ash that we regularly clean out of the fireplaces.

In fact, Stu and I compete for the ash.

He wants it for the vegetable garden. I want it for the roses.

To avoid a major domestic situation, we've had to negotiate...so we've now agreed to take it in turns.

As I sit and watch this evening's kitchen fireplace glowing, I am reminded yet again to be thankful for our simple life.



06 February 2016

Home again!

After a wonderful 3.5 months in Australia, we arrived back in Italy a few days ago.

Our re-introduction has been surprisingly smooth.

All of my concerns that I'd somehow lost every single Italian word I ever knew evaporated when Stu forced me into town on our first day back.

In no time at all, we were talking to our fresh pasta maker, then to the ladies on the fruit and vegetable stall at the market, then to our bakers and butchers.

The next day we focused on heating and car maintenance which again had us out there talking, first to arrange a pallet of pellets, then to check a strange clunk in the back of the car.

We are now cosied up in our loungeroom, happy in the knowledge that our pellet fire will continue to burn for another few weeks and that our car needs a little attention but isn't dangerous to drive!