Friday, December 31, 2010

Castel Sant'Angelo

Yesterday was a day off for the Casa Margherita team and so we went to Rome to meet up with some friends.

We visited the Castel Sant'Angelo which was built as a mausoleum by Emporer Hadrian but was later changed to a fortified bolt hole for the Popes and is connected to the Vatican by an elevated foot bridge.

It features some lovely detailed cherubs and has a fantastic 360∘ view of Rome. Worth a look.

I would show a photo but forgot to take the camera!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Our house looks over a valley and today there was a layer of smoke hanging in the valley as we have been a couple of days without the slightest breeze and with the temperatures quite low everyone has a fire lit burning wood.

Wood is still the principle fuel here and with the cost of other fuels only likely to increase this is a situation that will not change.

Monday, December 27, 2010


A view today of a vineyard below our house. The forms remind us both of a first world war German graveyard we visited in northern France. At first glance it seemed not unusual but on closer inspection each cross represented a grave for four Germans with their names written on the front and back of the horizontal arms of the cross.

Rachel is going to base a painting on this which I will share once it is done.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Allium, my alliums

After the eating and drinking toils of Christmas day it was time to do some work in the veg garden.

Energised by a brilliant winter's morning we finally got around to digging up the last patch of tomatoes that had been an eyesore for some months. And into the ground went garlic. It's a great vegetable. Plant it on the shortest day and harvest it on the longest day and no maintenance required. Easy peasy.

Whilst I did this Rachel planted broad beans which make for a great green manure when they are dug in after. Scrooge like, I have no more to say about them as I don't like eating them!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And lo....

a strange light was cast over Trevi on Christmas day.

Buone Feste

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lessons learned

In winter we heat the house using a wood boiler which can either use wood pettets or logs. We generally use pellets.

In previous years we have ordered early as they are cheaper but this has meant moving 240 bags weighing 15 kilos each in summer when the temperature is in the mid 30's.

This year, due to a lack of organisation we left it later and so today was the day they arrived and we duly moved them in a comfortable (although slightly unseasonal) 21 degrees c.

Also had a very nice Chinese for lunch - wanton soup etc. Luverly.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Horses 2

They were back again this morning grazing and then ended up standing in the drive quite close to the company Fiat Panda. I was slightly concerned as any false move on their part would reduce said vehicle to a pile of junk.

Luckily this did not happen but one of them did look somewhat confused as though a prank had gone a bit too far and now it was time to go back to familiar territory.

We had a quick shoot around the village and found someone who knew the owners and so just after lunch they were reclaimed and walked back home.

Isn't there always a heart warming story at Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Couple of horses loose in the top paddock

As Rachel went to warm up the company Fiat Panda this morning she was slightly taken aback to see these two fine lads (?) grazing nonchalantly under the washing line. They spent several hours grazing before wandering off.

Luckily our Westie, Winnie, has yet to find the couple of deposits they left behind - but she will!

Then to cap it off we found this poor mouse trapped in our bathroom lightwell. It fairly bounded out when we opened it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Christmas tree

There have been quite a number of robins around the house which is a traditional sign of a cold/harsh winter.

We also today decorated the Casa Margherita christmas tree and as traditional for us we have a robin atop it. The robin is fairly battered thanks to a run in with our much missed cat Polly but has pride of place on our tree.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


There I was preparing some brussel sprouts for dinner thinking I was lucky to be able to find them in our local supermarket.

This got me thinking. Why is it that the banana has been so successful and crossed every (I exaggerate) cultural boundary and are very commonly available. What marketing guru/trick led to the mass adoption of the banana?

Most probably the Caribbean trade routes/slave trade routes sadly enough.

We did plant some sprout plants in the veg garden but these have not done much as the soil is really not to their liking.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The mortadella dilemma

At lunch yesterday I had some very nice slices of mortadella cut through with pistachios. On other occasions I have enjoyed small pieces fried although these should come with a warning as to longer term heart problems/cholesterol levels.

However, if you buy a piece from your local butcher or deli then I often find it fatty and unpleasant and so it lurks in the fridge for a while before exiting the house.

What is the truth about mortadella?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cold fingers

When I opened the door this morning the thermometre was reading -5 and I looked up the grove and saw a fire in the grove above mine as they are still picking and sio use the fire to warm up every so often.

I am glad that we have finished picking as it would be a pretty miserable experience.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Helpful neighbours

Like a lot of countries Italians are no longer that keen on doing some of the less paid work on offer. This drives the influx of legal and illegal workers to pick tomatoes and olives to cover but two.

There is a Romanian couple who are working for one of our neighbours. They, reputedly, earn ∊50 a day picking olives for him which contrasts well with the average salary of ∊250 a month back home in Romania. They have finished their work and so return home on the 15th to hopefully enjoy a good Christmas.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spello gold

Sunday just passed we went to Spello to check out their olive oil festival.

If you have never been to Spello then it well worth a visit. It is extremely well kept and shows absolutely no signs of any damage from the '97 earthquake in much the same way that Assisi has been completely restored. However unlike Assisi it is not overrun with tourists.

The olive oil festival was interesting in that the producers there are paying much more attention to packaging than any from the Trevi area would. A fact reflected in the prices they charge but hey I like some nice packaging.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010


There was just a small cheer from the corner today when Rachel read that the Oxford English Dictionary have confirmed what every New Zealander already knew - that the pavlova was an Kiwi creation. And a fine contribution to the culinary world it is to.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sauce for Mister Lou

When our cat, Louie, is turning his nose up at his food then I often make it a little bit more interesting by adding a few drops of olive oil to it which seems to do the trick more often than not.

I hasten to add I use last year olive oil rather than this years.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Arriva il freddo

Winter is coming as this shot today from the Casa Margherita kitchen shows. The blue sky is deceptive as it was pretty cold.
These views are always great even more so when your tucked up inside nice and warm.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It ain't over yet

Many are still picking their fruit in between the rain showers. The last week has been pretty miserable stuff for those still trying to harvest their crop.

There is a bit of a rush on as a lot of mills will close before Christmas. This is very different to years gone by.

When we bought this house it was abandoned and derelict, but on the walls of what is now our lounge were the dates of when they had finished harvesting in years previous and many of these were in March and April.

This is when they had fires lit in the grove to keep warm and keep those fingers moving.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

DOP - Denominazione di Origine Protetta

Our grove here at Casa Margherita is situated in a DOP area and we have registered it. On Saturday we will have our annual inspection.

Whilst our grove is DOP, as is all of Umbria co-incidentally, the oil that we produce is not certificated as DOP as this is a different and much more costly produce that we have yet to decide to go through.

Some might think that given the grove is DOP then the oil we produce is DOP. Alas were it to be so simple.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Post harvest

Well we have finished picking and so its now time to package up some lovely oil for all those who have adopted a tree from Casa Margherita.

Adopting a tree makes for a wonderful gift so if you are looking for something different to give this Christmas then why not aodpt an olive tree from the Casa Margherita grove. All details are at

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dodgy geezers

The life of the olive mill owner is one which is cast in shadow as they is invariably cast as an untrustful character.

They will 'cook' your olives so as to extract more oil in which case they get paid more for the milling. They have a secret pipe that siphons off your oil during the process or they are just don't pay you. These are amoung the kinder ones.

This is an oft repeated conversation between olive growers this time of year as one of the stock conversation pieces is "and what mill did you use"?

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's done

We picked the final few trees today so we have finished the 2010 harvest.

The trees are now bereft of their fruit and so the grove after having been full of trees laden with fruit only a month ago now looks bare with the trees somewhat bedraggled after having their fruit stripped from them.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What type are they?

Here we have the three different types of olive that we are picking from the Casa Margherita grove. From the top we have frantoio, moraiolo and leccino and the picture does reflect their different sizes.

These are the traditional Umbrian varietals and our grove is 95% moraiolo with the rest made up of the other two.

We are getting itchingly close to finishing picking - we only need another days picking but the weather is poor with lots of rain.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What to wear!

What to wear for the market this weekend. My lucky yellow olive oil selling trousers are finally hors de combat and so I have to find something to replace them with.

I have recently bought a red lumberjack shirt - my mother said I could carry a check - and rather thought this would replace my trousers but it did not cover itself itself in glory last weekend. Maybe I should give it second chance..

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

La resa

One of the key moments when you are having your olives pressed at the Frantoio is when they tell what your resa is. This is the yield of oil in kilos compared to the weight of olives you have had pressed. This can be a matter of pride or of quiet reflection if it is low.

I have had yields from 13 to 18% which reflects the different times of picking and pressing. The higher yields are from the most recent pressing when the fruit was all ripe.

Other regions will have very different yield levels. I was speaking to someone from Tuscany the other day and he spoke of yields around 24% being more the norm.

Cup of tea and a couple of slices please luv

 Mostra Mercato Nazionale del Tartufo e dei Prodotti tipici

Last weekend and this coming weekend is the above market in Valtopina. I was surprised nay amazed at the number of vendors of jams/fruit conserves there were and who were selling an incredible variety of fruit based products. I would not have thought of Italy as a country with such a passion for jams. How wrong I was.

Such is my surprise that I think a little research into the “current European consumption levels of jams and fruity conserves on a by country basis” would not be time unwisely spen

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Today it has been pouring with rain so no picking. This was a chance, like many others, to catch up on things that had slipped whilst picking.

For us this included picking up some jeans that Rachel had taken to be altered. Whilst she was doing this I was idling wandering around the shop when some underpants caught my eye - gents I hasten to add.
As is common with quite a few cheaper clothes brands these used an english word together with italian on them. They had "just cavalli' sown into the waistband. Who'd want to wear pants with just horses written on them I thought.

Much better with no english like mine -  with 'caos' written on them.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

La raccolta - part 2

Back in the harness today - quite literately in my case with my new Umbrian olive picking bag. Have to say it is very useful and very good for your neck muscles when you have a few kilos in it.

Rachel made a couple for us as we couldn't find where to buy them but the mice did for them over the winter and so I have the wonderful example.

Picking by hand is very peaceful and calming but very slow - can't quite imagine picking all our trees in this way.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What colour is olive oil

We make our own olive oil soap here at Casa Margherita and the admittedly bad photo shows our soap on the left and some commercial olive oil soap on the right.

I wager that people would want/expect olive oil soap to be green and so be drawn to the product on the right. Nothing wrong with that.

But what about olive oil itself. I think that the public are very used to shop bought oils which are golden yellow or very slightly tinged with green at best. The fact is newly pressed olive oil is very green and it is only its exposure to heat and light that changes it to yellow.

Our new olive oil is very green - think engine oil - but is like all other oil currently being produced here in Italy at the moment.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who needs a 4x4

I spotted this lovely old Fiat 500 in the grove below our house over the weekend. Here is someone who doesn't mind that this grove is routinely ploughed twice I year - he needs to get to where there is some picking to be done.

Lovely car and a great colour too - burnt ochre I'm told.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Feeling guilty

As we have walked amoungst the olive groves recently we have both been feeling guilty as everyone else is busy picking and here we are taking things easy walking the dog. The reason is my hand is still in a cast and so I cannot pick.

I say everyone is picking and this is true as after i Santi (1 Nov) everyone traditionally starts to pick. This is the modern tradition as the older tradition would have seen the date being St Catherine's day which is the 25th November.

As for we are planning to re-start on Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fit for gleaning only

Last Friday saw me spend the night in hospital as my hand had become infected. The cause remains unknown but boy did it hurt.

Anyway we have stopped picking for a few days to give my hand time to clear up. So until it does all I could manage would be to mop after the pickers and ensure no fruit is left behind on the ground - gleaning.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mercury dropping

Its getting colder here - only three degrees tonight so the fire is on and the heating is on for the first time this autumn/winter.

Picking again today and so tomorrow off to the Frantoio to have them pressed. Then straight into our olive oil festival Festivol Sat/Sun/Mon.

This is the sky tonight. As Rachel often points out, if you painted that then everyone would say it was not realistic. Nature is better than art?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


A survey shows today that the most popular names for babies in 2009 were Olive(r) and Olivia. What are the odds on Margherita for 2010.

And in a very poor - brain dead from picking link - our new season's olive oil is now available online at

Monday, October 25, 2010

Busy busy

Had a good weekend but busy. Our first consignment of olives were pressed on Saturday afternoon and then bottled or tinned. I then took these back home and labelled them up.

The market itself for an all day affair and went really well.  There was a lot of interest in the new oil and Trevi was full of Italians having a weekend break and a fair smattering of other nationalities.

Rachel also had a drinks reception in the gallery which was well attended.

Today was an enforced rest day as it has been raining on and off for most of the day but the forecast is good for the rest of the week so it's back to picking and a return to the mill on Friday so I am ready for the olio nuovo festival this coming weekend!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Olive firestarter.

Last year we used this press for part of our harvest.  This 'cake' is built up with hessian mats spread with olive paste and the pressed down and the oil extracted. The by product of this is a hard circular mat of olive waste.

When dried it is a very useful fire lighter and I have been using my leftovers from last year to light our fire here at Casa Margherita.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I am the reaper

When you are picking you are quickly reminded of how you pruned your trees earlier in the year. If you cut corners and didn't remove all the dead/old growth then now you pay the price as the picking is harder work that in should be as the tree are a mass of tangled growth.

If your pruning cuts were not flush to the branch then it is now that you reap your rewards as you scrape your hand over the protruding remnant.

Also, if you went to the other extreme and over pruned then again your reap your rewards as you have little fruit.

2 3 4 you are the reaper.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The end of the day

We have begun the harvest here at Casa Margherita and this is a typical view in most groves at the end of the day. We are doing well so far with over 300 kilos of fruit gathered.

Monday, October 18, 2010


These are the tree areas of Trevi that take part in various contests during Ottobre Trevana with the most important being the Palio.

In addition to this they each open a Taverna for the month of the Trevana. The format is rustic but the food is great (with lots of Trevi celery dishes available) and the atmosphere ebullient. The food is also very reasonably priced which means they are also packed.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A rakes progress

Harvest time beckons here at Casa Magherita and so we have been checking our nets, buying some more plastic crates for handling olives and of course finding our rakes. In older times we would have used a rake like this to strip the olives from the branches of the tree but we have made progress and so will be using a vividly coloured plastic one. Much less romantic I agree but it does do the job and doesn't rust.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Il frantoio di Casa Margherita

This is the mill that we use for producing our olive oil. I have tentatively booked time next Friday for pressing but as I sit here it is raining and has been for most of the day so we will need the weather gods to be on our side.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

La raccolta - it's started.

You can see the nets lined out in the groves, ladders rested up against trees, Fiat Panda's rushing here there and tither and the roads slightly busier with tractor movements. This and the shopkeeper question of "have you started"?

Yes, this years olive harvest has started in earnest. We here at Casa Margherita are playing it cool and not starting till next Monday as we think the olives could do with ripening just a little more. That and the fact we are not quite ready!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sunday at Ottobre Trevana

Yesterday we were busy manning Rachel's temporary gallery at 8 Via Roma. It was a perfect sunny autumn day and Trevi was thronging with people. It is not often like that but when it is it is a joy.

Quite a few people came and browsed in the gallery and Rachel had a number of interesting chats. There were also a couple of TV camera crews present so she may well be on TV. I think the guy from RAI does all the festas in Umbria and so was very worn down.

I had an extremely good couple of hotdogs with both red and yellow sauce - a throwback to old eating habits I afraid but very nice. The Italian touch was that I washed them down with a glass of red. What style eh.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sedano nero

This is the famous sedano nero of Trevi.

It is currently on sale in every shop in Trevi, every restaurant in Trevi has numerous dishes with a base of this celery - it is omnipresent.

It is a celery unique to Trevi and has been awarded Denomazione d'Origine status. It differs to other celeries as the stem is longer, it is a darker green than others and has a intense smell and a particular taste. Its stem is much more curved than other which lends itself well to being filled with various ragus and with cheese. Alternatively, it can be enjoyed raw with some extra virgin olive oil and salt.

It is only grown in a small area in Trevi and a huge effort has been made since 1965 to protect, sustain and develop this particular celery. The growers are now producing sedano nero pasta as well as various bottled celery sauces.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Coming along

I think were looking good to start "la raccolta" on the 18th October. If anyone is passing then all hands welcome.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Elegance in a tin

This is our 250ml tin of oil as featured in the online edition of National Geographic Traveller magazine. I think it looks good compared to the bottles. Maybe there will be a conversion with producers using more tins. They are better than bottles as they are more robust and absolutely no light reaches the oil which helps it retain its quality for longer.

Yup, they are available at

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Do you think its going to rain?

Yes, and it tipped it down. It has been raining now for pretty much 24 hours which is quite enough. The sun is back tomorrow so it will be back in the grove cutting grass and cutting down unwanted basal growth on the olives in advance of starting to pick later this month.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Forza Matiggia!

Saturday night saw the running of the Trevi palio with teams from the three different areas of Trevi competing, namely:-

Terziere Castello
Terziere Matiggia
Terziere Piano

The event entails a team pushing and pulling an old horse cart over a course ending in the central Piazza Mazzini. Then one member of the team runs and grabs a key and ascend the clock tower and touches the clock tower bell with the key.

This year, for only the fourth time in the history of the event, Matiggia won and I am proud to say Casa Margherita is located in Matigge.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


One of the pleasures of having a vegetable garden is that on nights such as this I was able to go there dig up some potatoes, cut a head of fennel and then grab a couple of leeks. Easy peesy and they will taste wonderful obviously as they are home grown!

Especially with the nice bit of pork we have.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Moustache of gold

Doesn't this make you thirsty? It does me. Or maybe it's just an excuse but I am having a beer that goes by the name of  Baffo D'Oro - moustache of gold. Now that's a proper name for a beer.... and very nice it is too.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Today was the last Friday market in Trevi for a month as the Ottobre Trevana festivities take over. So we will miss out on our lovely Luciana on the veg stall but as she said, we will be glad when she returns in November.

Working on the Italian version of the website which I hope to be up and running in time for our olio nuovo
festival at the end of the month.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I had always thought that snails were a French delicacy but here in Umbria they are very popular. Actually this is just part of the cucina povera on which nearly all Italian food is built. What you have you eat is basically the gist of it.

We have entered winter snail season which means you can just cook them and eat them rather than in summer when you need to purge them by keeping them without food for a number of days. There is no need to do this now as they are not eating.

Our friends at Vincanta are doing yummy things with snails for all of October so there we will go.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dropping off.

This is Louie, our cat. In fact he is much more than a cat but that is another story.

He is an old boy having reached eighteen and is pretty deaf and a bit blind but boy can he sleep and eat. At times sleep becomes a matter of urgency and you just have to let go........

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Olive oil source

Every olive oil producer naturally thinks their oil is the best and the way they prune, harvest the olives, bottle etc etc is the best way. I am naturally no different.

So it is sometime difficult to find a source of unbiased information. This website, whilst it does have a slight American bias, is very informative as well as being a very well put together.

Monday, September 27, 2010


The olives are now starting to ripen. The green olives lose their glossy green colour and turn matt and then take on this plummy colour which will deepen until it is very nearly black. So we may well be on course to start picking in the middle of October which for us here at is perfect as we have our local olio nuovo festival over the all saints weekend of 30/31/1 November.

Friday, September 24, 2010

La Vendemmia

The grape harvest has just started which is another indication that we are passing into autumn. The clocks will shortly go back and then by middle December all the harvesting will be completed and we will be able to put our feet up and mull over the year. How good the crop was and the quality of it and what we would like to do next year to improve it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sid 2

I was fumbling around in the shed today (is that a euphemism? no) for a paint brush and there behind the basket I was searching in was a snake - it looked very like a viper to me and was sticking its tongue in and out.  I beat a retreat.

Apparently, according to our vet, the only way to definitively tell whether a snake is a viper or not is that vipers have vertical pupils whereas other snakes have horizontal. Not a test I fancy carrying out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Passed passata

Today was yet more passata making. I think I have done around 50/60 jars so far so the end will be a welcome sight. To be fair the plants are almost done with only a few more tomatoes left to ripen.

Went to collect some product photography of our bottle, a tin and the introduction pack for our adopt a olive tree scheme so as to do some publicity for olio nuovo and Christmas. Check out the adopt a tree scheme at

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ottobre Trevana

This festival in Trevi runs from the 25th September to the 24 October and one of the many events but obviously one of the highlights will be the first ever exhibition by Rachel Williams. This is already very exciting and nerve-wracking for said RW but I am sure it will be a great success.

For a full list of events try this link:-

My other must go is the metre and a half of Nutella!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Red or white.

Popped over to Montefalco today for their wine festival. Montefalco is renown for red wines based on the sagrantino grape. These are big wines with an abv varying from 13 to 15%.

Luckily the Italians never ever drink without having a little something to eat so we had a nice Sunday afternoon tasting wines and nibbling on various snacks.

Rachel picked up a nice white called "Pecorino" and even that is 14%. Otherwise the local whites based on the grechetto or the trebbiano grape are generally to our minds poor.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Cycling is hugely popular here in Italy and most weekends you can see the groups of cyclists, or peloton, cruising along the main roads of Italy.

Among them there are a disconcertingly large number of middle aged and overweight riders risking a heart attack. This has given rise to the acronym Mamil - middle aged men in lycra!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


This tree is laden with fruit and the branches are bending over with the weight. A good sight for an olive grower. When the fruit is picked then the branches will snap back up into the vertical.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The barber

Yes it was time this agricoltore had his locks chopped and so it was to Trevi I went. As with all barbers there was some good gossip to be had.

When I dropped the lead-in of "I hear the newly crowned Miss Italia is local girl" little did I expect what was to follow.

The new Miss Italy is not only Umbrian but from San' Eraclio, a place that makes Trevi (pop 6,000) seem big.  And not only this but that San' Eraclio can boast of not one Miss Italia but 3.

What are the chances of that.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Optimo lavoro

Great race with Alonso fully deserving to win. What a great pit stop.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


As well as making yet more passata I bought some of these gems from the market on Friday. I have pickled them with vinegar and after a few weeks they will be just great with a bit of porchetta or any other pork product in fact.

Rachel also stuffs them with potato, anchovies and sage and then bakes them in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Yum.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rough as an old boar

Rachel was  approached back in July by a New Jersey amateur wine maker who wanted to use her print on a Chingiale on the label of the wine he was making this year. Rachel agreed that he could the only payment being a bottle of said wine.

This duly arrived yesterday and looked great with said label. The wine is Chianti in style so we will leave it recover and settle and then find the appropriate occasion to try it.

Started me thinking about some Casa Margherita wine.......

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back home

This chap spent the night with us again and come with us for a walk this morning much to the annoyance of Winnie our Westie. She was most put out that we were sharing our affections with another dog.

Then is was down to Paola the vet to see if the dog was chipped. Amazingly he was. It is not very common here in Umbria so we were a little surprised. And the owner was Luca who runs the horticultural supplies shop that we use. So we drove round and returned him back to Luca. Quite a lucky dog methinks.

And all back to normal now for Winnie.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Abandoned until now.......?

This young dog has been around and about for a couple of weeks with one of our neighbours feeding him but yesterday evening he came down to our house and wasn't put off by our Westie Winnie. So we naturally fed him and gave him water and he stayed around and about last night and has been an ever present today with Rachel.

We are going to take him to the vet's tomorrow to see if he is chipped and then............................

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hissing Sid and Mrs Jerry

Our boiler in winter runs of wood pellets and it is time for us to get our winter's supply in. This means sorting out the shed which for us has become the domain of mice and snakes.

Mrs Jerry is certainly in residence as she happily skipped past me into the shed the other day. Haven't seen Sid lately but he is a bit of a loner.

We are particularly wary of a pile of car types which we have previously piled high at the back of the shed. Ideal for nesting wildlife. This year they are being turned into a potato tower when we/I summon up enough courage to move them.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hanging Around

The sky was filled with these para-gliders this afternoon. We normally get quite a few gliders but not these. Oh look, I thought,  its the man from Del Monte come to make me a ridiculous offer for my olive crop.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sta sera

We are going to Gustavo's for a plate of something nice and probably a cheeky red to wash it down with. Gustavo's has started hosting Acid Jazz nights every Friday night so we will probably be taping our feet as well.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

La Porchetta

Working in the grove it is easy for the mind to drift off onto other things. A frequent port of call for mine, is food, and with tomorrow being market day in Trevi it was the thought of a porchetta roll that put a smile on my face. A couple of slices of this in a roll with some salt and you have Umbrian fast food. Simple but wow fantastic!

Porchetta is a whole pig stuffed with rosemary and roasted over wood. These are sold from vans parked on the side of the road in Piazzas of towns and villages all over the region.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In a flat field

I wish. Back in the grove today strimming the grass and removing any basal growth from the trees which will make picking a whole lot easier. I have to say I do enjoy cleaning up a tree so that it looks well tended. There is a great sense of satisfaction.

The start of the hunting season was actually fairly low key around us. But not when they start hunting these....

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"The hills are alive with the sound of....."

....gunfire and barking.

Tomorrow is the start of the hunting season here in Umbria so the hills will be very much alive with hunters and their dogs. We are therefore expecting a short nights sleep as Winnie tries to deter such antics from the safety of our bedroom.

In the way of such things here, you can only hunt for some specific types of animals tomorrow with the start date for the rest being in a couple of weeks time!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to work

Today marked the traditional return to work here in Italy after the summer holidays. As if this wasn't bad enough then it has been raining on and off for most of the day and we had another small earthquake this  morning.

I have been busy getting together a load of olive oil for the butcher in Trevi but also found time to finish off a batch of pickled onions.

The sudden drop in temperature also meant our Westie, Winnie, was full of beans and so needed a walk in between showers just to take the edge off her feistiness.

Hopefully we will have a few more sunsets like this one before the season changes.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

You'd be happy with a couple like this!

Bottlin' and a picklin'

Have been busy today making passata as the tomatoes are cropping heavily and have done about 10 of these jars of tomatoes today.

Have also peeled a load of onions for pickling.

If, at the moment, you go into any DIY shop, nursery, supermarket then there will be a large selection of jars and bottles for conserving and so many kitchens in Umbria are busy at the moment.

Rachel is pondering what to do with all the figs we have bearing in mind I don't like them and so she alone will be eating the preserved version.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Did you feel that?

We had a earthquake here this morning which registered 4 on the Richter scale with the epi-centre being quite close to us. We did not feel a thing and were outdoors which is the best place to be.

We then went to Cortona in Tuscany to meet some friends for lunch and prior to meeting up with them did a little shopping. We stopped at a cake shop and just had to buy the cakes that were called "Ossi di morto" - bones of the dead. Isn't that just a great name. They are flavoured with almonds and are as hard as rock so think they will need dipping in some Vin Santo a bit later.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cappuccino as art.

This a cappuccino bought from Bar Roma in Trevi finished off with a very elaborate design in chocolate. This was done by hand without a template. Not bad eh. I wonder what she could do with a Guinness.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Olive tree stumps

As I have blogged about before lots of our neighbours are reducing their olive trees to one trunk only. Above we see the root of one trunk that has been excavated from the grove. These will be left to dry in the summer sun and then chain sawed into pieces for firewood. If you have a big grove then this will be quite a saving as firewood costs around 8/9/10 euro for 100kg - and nearly everyone burns wood for fuel here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Feeling crumpled

Feeling a bit like this today as we have had friends here for a few days and have probably had a wee bit much of the fermented grape juice which combined with late night discussions of 21st century art and Homer (Simpson that is) have left us feeling rather fuzzy. Our friends left today so it's an early night and up with the larks tomorrow.

Monday, August 23, 2010


It was the monthly farmers market in Trevi yesterday and we found out that this years Trevi olio nuovo festival is on the 30th October to the 1 November. This is a week earlier than last year so everyone will be picking that little bit early to have some oil for the festival.

It is also a day longer as in is on All Saints Day weekend which is when lots of city folk head for the country. Seem a long way away as I sit here in with the mercury high in the 30's but planning needs to be done......

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Porkin heaven

There is really only one way to cook meat and fish and that is over charcoal or wood. They impart a flavour that cannot be equaled. Pork is very popular in Umbria and so we celebrated having a few friends to stay by going to the best pork butcher locally in Bovara and buying up these beauties.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dolce in Piazza

Last night was the final event of the summer music festival in Trevi - dolce in piazza. This is in the central piazza cakes are served for free and there is music and a tombola. Historically the cakes were brought by every tomasso, dick and harry but the EU has put a stop to this. This year all the local restaurants donated a cake.

It was a good fun night preceded by a lovely pizza at La Casareccia and finished off with cake and wine.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Coming on nicely

Looking lovely. Just over two months now before we start picking in which time they will probably double in size and turn start turning a very deep deep plumy blue/black.

Can't wait.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Odd jobs

The two shots above show the sort of growth that olive trees will put on during a year. The left shows a profusion of basal growth the other other shot show growth lower down on the trunk. Both these sorts of growth need to be removed so as to concentrate the trees energies on growth where you want it and more importantly on the fruit.

This growth is best removed with a hand held axe as shown. I tend to pick off 10 or so trees one day and then do the same the next as the weather is still quite hot. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


It's blackberry time here - Rachel picked these today. There are quite a lot this year and so you see people picking there way along hedges, bits of abandoned land and not abandoned land.

There is a right to roam in Italy and so if your land is not fenced then it is open to everyone. So the Casa Margherita grove had asparagus pickers in spring time as well as others who pick various types of weeds proclaiming them to be great as a salad. With the hunting season starting in September will have hunters and their dogs wandering through the grove as well as truffle hunters later still in the year.

One of our neighbours was not so relaxed about people picking his chestnut trees last year and so ringed them with the tape they use at crime scenes. Not sure it was terrible effective.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Drummers drumming

There I was happily bottling up passata sauce when the faint sound of drumming started up. These are the drummers practising for the Palio which is one of the highlights of the October Trevana in Trevi.

The Palio pits three teams from the three Terzieri of Trevi (Castello, Matigge and Piano) who have to haul a large wooden wheeled cart up the main road into Trevi and into the central Piazza. They are timed and the fastest team wins.

The squads for the cart pulling are already in training - two hours nightly I understand -  and now the drummers who provide a driving beat to encourage their runners have started practising.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Perfect Storm

Valentino Rossi and Ducati - can't wait.

"By the light of the magical moon"

A lot of Italian's garden according to the cycle of the moon. This means they will plant seeds/bulbs/plants dependent on where the moon is in it's cycle - whether it is waxing (growing) as the case currently in the northern hemisphere or if it is waning (shrinking) as it will be from the 25th August onwards. So with the moon waxing at the moment they should be planting lettuce, leeks, chicory and cabbage.

A local olive oil producer has a fifth moon oil which is picked on the 5th moon after the olives have flowered.

The moon does hold a strong influence over such things as the tides and I was speaking to a head nurse of a old people's care home recently and she said the behaviour of the residents was markedly different when there was a full moon. She said why shouldn't it given that we are mostly water.

Here at Casa Margherita we do not follow the lunar cycle for our planting regime preferring the haphazard approach that guides the rest of our lives. Or is it?

This site is very good for finding out what phase the moon is in

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Olive tree topiary

This is an olive tree that is in the front garden of a house on the way to Trevi. The owner has pruned carefully over a number of years to achieve this shape.

Olives are ideal for topiary but I rather think this is an exception in Italy where most are pruned for fruit and not form.

However the idea of a hillside covered with topiaried (?) olives is quite appealing. Maybe next year....

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bridget and family

This is Bridget and her litter of 4 wonderful kittens. They live next door to Rachel's studio at the top of the hill. The photo of the kittens looks a bit odd as they currently live in a plastic bucket.

We are hoping to be able to have a couple of the kittens when they are ready to leave Bridget but will need to check with Guiseppe who looks after them.