Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oaks, truffles and a scam

These are two oaks trees that mark the westerly edge of the grove. Below them there is a track that runs along the border of the grove. In terms of cutting the grass it is a good milestone to get down to here.

There are truffles growing under this tree as a couple of years ago someone pruning some of neighbours trees asked if we knew there were truffles we said no and so he took us down there poked around in the layer of dead grass and leaves and picked up a truffle the size of an egg. Very fortuitous.

We are hoping to persuade Daniella to bring here dog Stella down when it's truffle season as she has been trained to sniff out truffles. Our dog Winnie can do dog biscuits and chasing lizards and that's about it!

There are a number of (fenced) fields around and about that have been planted with oak saplings inpregnated with truffle spors. I think there must be a great scam opportunity here as you have to wait some 6 years before you are liable to get any truffles.

Picture the conversation. "So you're sure these saplings are full of truffle spor. Oh yes sir - here's my number if you have any problems"!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The wonder of lavender

We have a lot of lavender dotted around the house. It is a great plant. It is very low maintenance, produces lots of flowers, smells nice. You can cut to add to flower arrangements or just have them on their own.

They also attract a lot of fertilising insects which helps with other parts of your garden or olive grove and are resistant to disease.

When the flowers are spent in late summer we cut them and put them into bags and then into our wardrobe to ward off moths.

I have made lavender infused olive soap which is curing in our deposito. It's had about 4 months and needs another two just so the bars are nice and hard.

We also take a lot of cuttings each year so we can replace any plants that get a bit leggy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

They think it's all over.....

So with England exiting the World Cup last night all of the teams with which Casa Margherita could show any connection have been eliminated.

The curse of Casa Magherita has accounted for Italy, England, France and New Zealand. This does not account for Wales and Ireland who both failed to get there with which Rachel has connections.

So we have obviously quickly switched our allegiances to Spain and The Netherlands. That will do for them.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trevi Farmers Market

Every 4th Sunday Trevi has a farmer's market. I take a stall selling Casa Margherita olive oil. Today was a good market. For some reason none of the other oil producers were present so I was the only stall selling olive oil much to my advantage. I hope this continues.

It was sunny, there were lots of tourists and a lot of locals having a coffee and a stroll before lunch in Trevi.

Had a good chat with another stallholder who grows saffron. I am going to get some bulbs from him in July and have a go.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

From sheep to donkeys?

The hills are alive with the sound of tractors mowing and people using grass strimmers in the olive groves.

Now before WW2, and before the advent of tractors and strimmers,  most if not all olive grove owners would have kept sheep. These would have provided the family with wool, meat and milk. The other great benefit of the sheep was that they kept the pasture down in the olive grove.

Nowadays there are very few sheep kept and so there is a plethora of tractors and machines to do the job they used to.

Which brings me onto donkeys. Apparently there has been a decline in the numbers of Italian donkeys and so a number of breeds are considered at risk of extinction. The EU is offering subsidies to farmers who take on a donkey. I have heard of an agriturismo business which has given a home to two donkeys. Donkeys are like sheep and eat everything, grass weeds the lot and so are perfectly suited to keeping the grass down in an olive grove.

Rachel is very keen and wants 2 possibly more. But I have put my foot down and said no asses in the Casa Margherita grove!

It is a nice thought that the Umbrian hillsides may soon be dotted with donkeys keeping the pasture down in the olive groves.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vincanta, olive oil & work

Dropped off 6 bottles of olive oil to our friends Masi and Gabi who run an Enoteca halfway between Trevi and Spoleto in Campello - and then went on to a wood merchant where we bumped into one of our neighbours Luigi who is building a very nice swimming pool at his house in Manciano - it's from a kit but clad with wood on the outside and the inside is formed without using concrete which his dislikes intensely.

This afternoon back to strimming the grove this afternoon which is going quite well.

The photo below is a sign which we passed this morning which shows Trevi as a member of the Citta Dell Olio. A movement that promotes Italian extra virgin olive oil. I like the graphic. - graphics in Italy tend to be of a very high qualit

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Clearing the grove

Having been a month without my trusty strimmer (I'll only say don't skimp on cheap 2 stroke oil) for a month I am back in the grove clearing the grass as can be seen from the photo with Trevi in the background.

Actually I quite enjoy doing it and it's cheaper than going to the gym and your outside enjoying the sights and smells of the countryside.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Winnie Relaxing

After a hard morning's work in the grove chasing lizards and barking it's time for our over-worked dog to relax and what better way than to haul yourself up into a chair arrange the cushions just so and ......

Monday, June 21, 2010

Festa Time!

Here in Italy many small villages and towns are either having their annual festa or preparing for it as June and July are very popular times to hold them.

A lot of them are themed around a food item as you can see from two of the posters below. No food item is above a festa. Polenta, celery, potatoes you name it, it will probably have a festa in it's honour.

Our local village, Trevi, has its festa in October when the famous black celery of Trevi is celebrated. More of that come October.

Otherwise as the "Piccione' poster shows, they are just an excuse for a good time.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why they are going to this

This is a common sight in may olives groves here in central Umbria. The owner has taken the decision to reduce the tree to one single trunk.

The main driver of this decision is the shortage of labour come harvest time. In years gone by come harvest time a grove owner was able to call upon the extended family to help with the harvest. Nowadays lots of Italian children have left the family home and the family is more dispersed and so not available to call upon at harvest time.

So if you are like our neighbour, Mario, and have 5,000 trees and there are only two of you available to pick then the decision to go to one trunk is easy. Then you are able to use a machine to pick. This puts a net around the tree and then grabs the trunk and shakes it vigorously to shake the olives off.

The downside of this is that you have to wait until the fruit is less attached to the tree. This meant for some of our neighbours not picking until December whereas we at Casa Margherita started in late October. I think this is a great downside to this process and that our oil tastes better as it is in optimum condition when we pick as we continue to pick by hand.

Try our oil and see at

Saturday, June 19, 2010

God Save Capello

That was the headline in today's La Gazetta Dello Sport but I am not sure that even God can save England after was what a truly shocking performance last night.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why it's like this

This is one of our trees which is made up of four trunks from one root.

It is like this because in 1985 and again in 1995, Umbria suffered from a severe frost which killed off many thousands of olive trees from the ground upwards.

Olives are resistant to cold to a point but the weather was severe and many degrees below zero for days on end. Even olives cannot survive this.

The re-growth was allowed to grow to become anything from 2 to 3 to 4 trunks as we have here in our grove today.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A new olive

Here you can see the old olive flowers dying and turning brown and being replaced with the tiny green pods which will develop into big fat olives by the end of October/early November - or that's what I hope.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Poor old Gigi

With over 20 million Italians watching their teams opening match against Paraguay it is clear that they are pretty keen on their footy. The 20m represents about 30% of the population. Given this the news that their goalie Gigi Buffon has a back problem and may not take any further part is not good news. Gigi is a class keeper and Italy don't have any sort of back up as the general standard of Italian goalkeeping is poor so it will interesting to see how they perform against the mighty All Whites of New Zealand on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Sucata Run

The Sucata run is a 2,000 km rally starting from Rouen in Northern France and ending in the most westerly point in  Portugal. It is made more challenging as the rally must be completed in a car not costing more than £250.

Casa Margherita is sponsoring a team calling themselves the Blues Cruise, who are travelling in an old Alfa Romeo, who are raising money for a charity called Gemin-i which provides high-tech educational tools to schools in developing countries.

If you want to find more about the race, the team or the charity then please go
and if you have a few euros, pounds, dollars etc to spare then please consider making a donation.

Monday, June 14, 2010

L'artista - Rachel

Rachel has been pretty busy lately up at the hay barn (see earlier post).

Having for many years not had the time or the facilities to practice her art she now has some of both. As any artist knows not everyday goes well and it is not easy to put what is in your head down onto paper with brush and paint. As Rachel tells me it is often better in her mind than is possible to achieve on canvas.

However, she loves the opportunity to paint and the above is just one of her works. There are more available at

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I do I do I do

This shows the Casa Margherita company Fiat Panda covered with a layer of pollen from our olive trees. This year the trees, thanks to a very warm and wet spring, are full to bursting with flower.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Olive tree flower

The image above shows a detail of an olive branch in full flower and the image on the right shows one of the Casa Margherita olive trees in full bloom. The flowers in full bloom totally change the appearance of the tree. Normally they are a silvery green colour and now they are the yellowy white of the olive flower.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Monster Park

Met up with some friends today at the monster park in Bomarzo which is around 50kms north of Rome. It is a great park with lots of great stone monsters which were built by the Duke of Orsini - the literal english translation of his title would be Duke of little bears.

It's not a great park but full of shade from great pines and oaks and so a nice place to explore. Check out their website at

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Went to our local post office today to collect a sample wooden box as we want to change how our adopt a olive tree scheme looks. It was closed as someone had tried to detonate some sort of explosive device in the cash machine to access the cash. This was foiled as the cash machine caught fire!

Quite some event in sleepy Borgo Trevi.

One of the Italian TV channels showed a reply of the 2006 World Cup final which Italy won. This is the last time it will shown for a while and I don't think they will be collecting this years trophy. Having seen Spain crush Poland the other night 6-0 then I think they will be in with a great change alongside England and the All Whites - New Zealand. Did you know the NZ basketball team is called the Tall Blacks!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Love it tough

This was taken locally from an area that has been cleared in preparation for the building of a community centre. As this photo shows, the olives are tough old trees and they only have about 30cm's of earth and then its rock. Yet they flourish in these conditions. This was a valuable trait as this meant the better lowlands could be used for more valuable crops but the lower hills slopes could still be put to olives.

Nowadays olives are grown in fertile soil and are irrigated etc etc. I don't believe this increases the quality of the oil that the trees produce but solely the yield of the trees.

Casa Margherita does not irrigate it's trees and they grow on the same hillside as the trees in the photo.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Olive flowers

As you can hopefully see here the flowers have just started to open. They are tiny - only about 5mm across but this year our trees are laden and so when they open en masse then the grove will change colour from its normal grey/green, or olive drab as I refer to it, to a white/yellowy hew.

The mercury is set to climb to 32 degrees by the weekend so I don't think they will be long opening.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Supermarket and shoes

I know it isn't very interesting but it was a bit different. We went up to near Perugia to the IperCoop to collect our swimming pool which we had been on order. Isn't it great that you can go to the supermarket and buy a swimming pool. It is no paddling pool either - 4.60 metres wide and over a metre deep.

Also, it is a fraction of the cost of building one in the ground which is apparently around 25.000 euros.

While I was there I had a quick look around the shops and looked at some shoes. Saw a nice pair but..... they were a pair of Michael Schumacher shoes. Now I can't stand the guy and so cannot buy a pair of his shoes which is a real shame as this is the second time I have seen a nice pair bearing his name.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Yep its Sunday so it's another big day. Its 60 days and one week after Corpus Domini so it's obviously the day of the Infiorata.

This is where small villlages like ours, Manciano, and town and cities throughout Italy will decorate their street with the petals of flowers - as shown here. This one is in Manciano but locally probably the best display is in Spello where they close off the main street through the lovely hilltop town and there is a serious Infiorata competition along it. I recommend it if you are ever in Umbria this time of year.

We went last year but like most trips we do we forgot to take the camera!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our house guest Jerry.

This is Jerry who is spending a few days with us as his owners A&S are having to go down to Puglia. He spent a few days with us last week so is familiar with us and Winnie and our cat Louie - he is rather fond of cat food and likes our brand of dog biscuits as well so its not too bad a change for him.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Detail of an olive branch

This is a detail from one of our trees where you can see the flower buds waiting to open. These are produced on last season's growth and so beyond the point where there are no flower buds at the end of the branch you have this season's growth which is a lighter green.

Between the leaf and the branch on this year's growth you already have the tiny bud which next year will turn into flowers and hopefully olives.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New range of infused oils - lemon, chilli and thyme

Today we have launched our new range of infused olive oils. There are chilli, lemon and thyme infused oils to choose from and they have all been repackaged in great little 250ml tins. These are great to have in the kitchen so that you can spice up and dish you are creating.

Maybe some chilli oil fried prawns to start and then some grilled chicken breasts with a dash of thyme infuse oil and then some lemon cake made with lemon infused olive oil rather than butter.

Check them out at the website -

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Correction to vole post

I have been reliably informed that the said voles were actually shrews. Thanks to Sue.

Festa Della Republica and Chickens

Public holiday in Italy today celebrating 64 years of the Republic which followed the ruinous entry under Mussolini of Italy into the Second World War in alliance with Germany.

Guiseppe our neighbour will have the Italian flag flying outside his house as he does on all such national holidays - a good patriot.

He has also just "bought" some baby chickens - 24 of them in fact. They came free with some chicken food. Can you believe it. What value a ch1cken eh!