26 April 2016

The wonders of May

I have noticed of late a distinct disturbance in my garden. Every morning I go outside to assess the damage. My carefully placed leaf mulch is scattered over the footpaths. Some of my garden beds are completely devoid of the cane mulch that I had placed there only a few days earlier. Particularly rich compost mulch that I had piled at the base of newly planted trees has been pushed aside. I have worried for the last week that this destruction was due to the great unknown thumping thing that lives in the library ceiling. But today everything was revealed...and in a beautiful way... It was early morning and I was sitting in a cold kitchen looking out of the window in a dreamy unfocused way. Suddenly a movement caught my eye. When I focused I discovered many birds flitting across the garden. Tiny birds moved so fast that my ealy morning eye reflexes struggled to keep up with them. Eventually I "caught" them. I saw the food in their beaks and I watched them wait on a fence to assess danger before they plunged into a gap between the unpointed stone walls of our neighbours house. But it was the larger birds that were wreaking the havoc on my garden! They were clearly on a mission. They landed suddenly and heavily and flicked their beaks violently into my mulch, throwing it around like chooks in a pile of kitchen scraps. Having seen nature at its best, I am no longer worried about my garden. Every afternoon I will go out and replace the mulch so that every morning the birds have a new thick moist layer that they can toss off to reveal rich juicy worms and other delicious bugs. I wonder if there is anything more humbling and hopeful than being treated to a private showing of nature in Spring...  

19 April 2016

The dangers of learning Italian...

Forgive my lack of presence lately. My blog posting app died (sadly, Bloggsy collapsed under the weight of Apple's latest IOS update...). So I've had to find another app that will enable me to upload blog posts easily via my ipad. Well, I found an app (BlogPro) but it has a bug which removes all paragraphing and lumps everything into one huge ugly monstrosity of a blurb. Not happy. However, BlogPro has promised that the next update will fix this bug so while I wait, I will post a simple little post that warns against the dangers of knowing a little Italian... Stu has recently become serious about learning Italian. He is dedicated to practicing on an app called Duolingo which has pushed him ahead in leaps and bounds. Yesterday, I was out when the phone rang. Stu answered and a woman told him (in Italian) that he was Stuart Whyte and that his wife was Caterina Doyle. Hugely relieved that he'd understood what she'd said, he answered with a confident "Si" and she promptly gabbled at high speed something about "Postale Canelli" and hung up! Disturbed that we might be required to do something urgent, Stu paced the house for the next 3 hours until I returned home then demanded that we go to the post office urgently. At the post office, we took a number and waited anxiously. When our number came up, I tried to explain to the nice lady behind the counter that someone from the post office had phoned us and we wanted to know what they wanted. She looked confused, she asked her colleague who also looked confused, then she asked her boss who also looked confused. Finally she went out the back but returned a few minutes later still looking confused. Meanwhile, we were becoming increasingly embarrassed. Imagine walking up to someone and telling them that they wanted you for something but you dont know what (!?) Stu has now figured that he's much better off without a phone...

04 April 2016

Stu attacks the shed

I think Stu misses his jackhammer as he was out and about with it again this week.

This time he attacked the shed.

The shed is part of the fienile. It is under our new entertainment area and next to the garage. Because the shed is in need of a fairly large renovation, Stu has been using this space as a garden shed only. He has been using the cantina in the house as a work shed for activities such as carpentry and painting.

Previous owners used to keep pigs in the shed. There is a stone floor and an old wooden feeding trough. There is a hole in the ceiling voltini where hay used to be thrown down from fienile above to keep the animals alive during winter. The voltini and walls are cemented, plastered and whitewashed. There are several alcoves around the walls as well as old doorways and windows that have been filled in with unfired bricks as some stage. The bricks are now crumbling with damp so these spaces will have to be re-built in stone. Stu rebuilt one of the windows last year but still has another window as well as two doors to do.

Earlier this week, Stu started removing the cement and plaster from the walls. It is now half finished so we will start to point the walls in the next few weeks.

Today he worked on strengthening the arch over the doorway. This arch supports the weight of a steel i-beam which in turn supports the voltini ceiling. It has a scary looking crack through it which doesn't bode well for the ceiling so this job has recently become a priority. First, he cut bricks and stones from under the arch to make a space. Then he slotted 5 strong hardwood beams into this space. Tomorrow he will push stones into the gap between the beams and the arch, then throw cement amongst them which will ensure that the ceiling stays where it is.

While he was doing this, I lifted and replaced a stone wall around the garden bed at the side of the house. We put a load of gravel on our driveway a couple of years ago and the stone wall around this garden bed ended up below the level of the gravel. Insistent runner grasses and insidious creeping weeds have been infiltrating my beautiful garden far too easily. The newly lifted stone wall will now mean that it is now safely protected from such evils so that it can look beautiful once again!

03 April 2016

I get a little bit more Italian every day!

I'd spent 3 hours on a computer at the driving school and was a little brain dead... So, before getting into the car to drive the half hour home, I dropped into a bar for a quick "pick me up". I wanted to be home before lunch so I decided to stand at the bar to slug my little short coffee. Like a real Italian. Strangely, I felt rather comfortable at the bar. I had a little talk to the bar staff and ordered my coffee (which arrived with a small crunchy and very sweet amaretti biscotto on the side). Then I allowed myself a smug little grin as I mixed the cacao into my short marrochino and drank it quickly before chasing it with the biscotto. After I paid, I walked out of the cafe feeling like I'd achieved something major in my desire to live and feel like an Italian...