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 www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/time/moon/#4

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.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When the cat's away.......

Whilst we have been away there has been a considerable amount of animal activity around the place. Something, probably a porcupine, has tried to dig under the fence of the veg garden. Don't think it got in as there is no real damage evident. Only a cucumber and a zucchine nibbled which was probably caused by mice.

There are signs of digging under all the fruit trees in the orchard (all 3 of them) and under all the hibicus's in the garden.

Also last night we saw a young fox cub saunter up the drive and have a good look around. This is the first time we have seen a fox at Casa Margherita and he was not at all put off by our presence. Much like the foxes in London who are very bullish shall we say.

We now have faithfull hound back so tonight will be interesting and probably a long night without sleep as she defends her territory with some high pitched barking ..... in our bedroom. Before you say... we know.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hol i days

yes even olive growers have holidays. I have been back to Guernsey, where I was born, for the wedding of my niece Charlotte to Ian. The wedding was great and then we took time to catch with friends in there and in London.

Winnie and Louie are also having a break at the pet pensione. Louie has rather luxurious accomodation featuring both inside and outdoor areas with a large cat gym. Winnie's is rather more basic but she does get to use the outdoor exercise area. They both come back home tomorrow to take revenge on their owners for subjecting them to such traumas.

Italy is gearing up for its summer holiday which is taken during the last two weeks of August thereby sparking a mad dash to the coast.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mercatino delle neve

Today is a special market day in Trevi and in the surrounding villages as it commemorates the day long ago when in snowed in August and the hills albeit briefly were rendered white in the middle of summer.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tomato sauce

Look at that colour. The first tomato sauce of the season or passata as it's called here.

This is made from San Marzano tomatoes cooked with a healthy splash of olive oil, salt and garlic and then reduced slowly by about a third and then sieved. We make enough passata to last us through to next summer as the taste is fantastic - better than any tomato sauce you can buy.

Good tip if you get tired of watching tomatoes simmer on the cooker in the summer. Freeze the tomatoes whole, skin included, and then you can make a sauce whenever you like.