Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Santo Stefano

Saint Stephen's day or more commonly known as Boxing day. Apparently, one of the possible reasons Boxing day is so called, is back when the larger estates/houses used to reward their staff with boxes of gifts on this day.

Anyway Buona Festa tutti.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The shortest day

Can you believe it we're here already. 

Obviously the trainee contadino thoughts turn to garlic on this day. Plant on the shortest and reap your harvest on the longest day. My sort of gardening.

Roll on summer...

Monday, December 19, 2011

This morning

The coldest morning of the winter so far - 2∘and this was the view over towards the hills above Coste.

The blue tinged haze at the bottom of the picture is woodsmoke. Most houses in the area have wood as their primary source of heating. In the valley below us, after several days without any breeze the air takes on a particularly horrible brown tinge as all car and industrial exhausts are trapped.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Poste Italiane

Currently spending quite a lot of my time in the post office sending out packages to people who adopted trees last year and are now receiving their two litres of olive oil as well as new adopters for Christmas this year who are getting their gift packs.

I cannot say I am enjoying it. Queuing has never been my thing and as for one fingered typing. Never a visual pleasure.

However one thing I can concur with is what one of our new adopters wrote:- "The best gift in the world - Italian olive oil".

To find out more go to http://www.casa-margherita.com/adopt-a-tree/cat_6.html

Friday, December 9, 2011

A sign of the times?

This is an abandoned olive grove below us that over the last few days has been worked on and pruned to bring it back into production.

There are many abandoned groves in the area, some as small as 10 trees others covering quite large areas. It would be great if some of these were brought back into production as it is a waste to see abandoned groves.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Recently during our walking in and around the local groves we have found a couple of fossil remains.

The one on the left is an ammonite fossil but I do not know about the other one.

An ammonite was a mollusc. Other mollusc's include smails, clams, squid, octopus and cuttlefish.nl

It is funny to wonder that without Google I firstly would not be writing this and secondly I would not have been easily able to find out about an ammonite fossil.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter colour

This is the view looking at one of the oaks on the edge of the grove with Trevi behind it.

The colours of the trees this year are delightful.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Post and pack, despatch, fulfilment

Call it what you want. After the harvest we are busy sending out 2 litres of extra virgin olive oil to all our olive tree adopters.

With Christmas fast approaching I would like to remind you what a great gift an olive tree adoption makes. There are more details at http://www.casa-margherita.com/adopt-a-tree/cat_6.html

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ancora picking

This is the olives that we are picking. They come from 3 different olive trees. From left to right leccino, moraiolo and frantoio.

The bulk of the grove (+95%) here at Casa Margherita is planted with moraiolo but they need pollinators and so historically they used leccino and frantoio. These are good pollinators but produce little fruit so newer groves tend to use pendolino which has been developed to also produce a lot of fruit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sunday night

It was about 6.00 o’clock when there was a gentle tap on the door.

It was an Italian couple searching for Casa Margherita. They had bought our oil the previous year and had just been in Trevi where they had tasted our olio nuovo. They agreed with the owner of the Enoteca that ours was the best in the area. He then mentioned there was a Festa in Manciano and that we were taking part.

They drove here to Manciano and, as it happens we attended Saturday, but had to return to picking on Sunday. Asking one of our neighbours where we lived they walked nearly a kilometre in the dark down to our house.

They wanted to buy 5 litres of our oil.

Can you imagine going to that effort to buy a food product. I am happy it is mine and that they like it so much.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Still picking?

We have now picked about a third of the grove here at Casa Margherita. We had a couple of friends over this afternoon to help for a couple of hours and it is always amazing the difference this makes to the amount of olives picked.

Myself and Rachel can normally manage about a 75 kilos a day. Today just in a couple of hours with a lot more chat than normal we got 50 kilos with the four of us.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The hills are alive...

with the sound of olives being picked. Either by hand or by machine. Lots of chat and gossip and a fire going for the sausages at lunchtime.

The traditional date for the start of picking is the day after all saints day - 2 Nov.

At the end of the day the roads are clogged with tractors, apes, cars and trailers all packed with picked olives on the way to the mill to be weighed and stored ready for milling.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Olio, olio, olio, olio. Sempre olio

Today I was down the mill to watch the first olives of the season being pressed. The render rate (oil to weight of olives being pressed) was low at 12.2% but this is normal for the first pressing. The oil was cold pressed and unfiltered and then bottled/tinned up in preparation for the Olio Nuovo market in Trevi tomorrow. Just in time delivery eh!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I think picking olives is probably one of the best all over workout's you can give your body whilst being legal possible.

So if you want to get in shape then you are very welcome here at Casa Margherita to pick olives. As always conditions apply. There is no pay, no benefits, no unions, no boss - just the rake, a tree, olives and you.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Stretch, hold and relax. Feel those abb's.

Ah. The joys of picking.

Using muscle groups that have been dormant and rudely awaken. Feeling physically tired at the end of the day. Wobbling unsteadily atop a badly placed ladder. Your dog eating the olives that you are picking. Really needing to eat cause you're hungry rather than greedy.

Day 1. Picked 5 trees.  Good though as we have over 130 kilos in the bag.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An autumnal scene

An autumnal scene. There is a clump of chestnut trees at the top of the hill from Casa Margherita and is on one of our favourite morning walks.

This season's are not very good as it has been too hot late into October and we have also has very little rain. Not a good combination for chestnuts.

For vineyards owners it means a smaller harvest but better quality wine.

For olive tree owners - I will let you know as we start picking tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Modern shepherding techniques

On the way back from Borgo Trevi today whilst using the back roads I came across a modern shepherd who was driving his sheep along the road from the relative comfort of his Fiat Panda.

You can just imagine his father saying "you youngsters have it easy, in my day....."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Private label

Today I was organising a courier for our first delivery of private label olive oil which will shortly be for sale in two restaurants in London. Hopefully they will go well.

Rachel is working hard on the publicity materials for the Trevi olive festival - Frantoi Aperti http://www.frantoiaperti.net/ - and I have been making final preparations for picking.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Rachel is currently having an exhibition in Trevi during it's Ottobre Trevana festival in one of our favourite restaurants Taverna Del Sette.

This is one of the works showing called Perseid (a print) which I love and hope is not sold. It is inspired by the meteor shower we saw in the summer.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ugo - a month on

We are very lucky as he is a superb dog. Has settled in so well and gets on with our other hound, Winnie, so it's a real pleasure to have them both here at Casa Margherita.

As you can imagine he has energy so his staff at Casa Margherita are doing two long walks every day. At the start this used to be to take the edge off him but now he is much more settled but it is a habit, albeit a good one for our "bella figura".

We have started his truffle hunting training with a small truffle in a sock which we throw and get him to bring back rather than eat it. This being the most important discipline.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bending over

Here we see one of the Casa Margherite olives with it's branches bending over under the weight of the olives being carried on them. A fine sight for any grove owner.

This month there are three new olive oil (olio nuovo) markets in Trevi and many others locally so we will begin picking somewhere around the middle of the month so as to have oil for sale in these markets.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

La Quinta Luna

I was driving to the local bottle supplier the other day and was surprised to see olive picking nets laid under the trees. Very early I thought and then remembered that one of the local producers produces an oil which made from olives picked on the 5th new moon after the olives have flowered. They call it "La Quinta Luna".

This is today - 27th September.

I have tasted the oil before and because practically all the olives are still green the oil is very aggressive, green with a big acidic hit. Not to my mind very pleasant but I do like the idea.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thunderstorm and pickles

Had a good market yesterday morning and then after getting bored of the Grand Prix went outside to cut some more grass.

Shortly afterwards a thunderstorm developed and so was forced inside. Decided to pickle the onions I had purchased at the market. These will be great with some porchetta after a month in the cupboard. Can't wait.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Last market before....

Tomorrow will be the last market before olio nuovo arrives.

This is when you reflect that the year has flown by. Also, as the daytime temperatures are still in their late 20's cannot quite believe we will be picking in a couple+ weeks time.

Was speaking to another stall holder who was interested in selling my oil at other markets. Hopefully he liked my oil and we will try something.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Rain, rain, and more rain. We have moved from late summer to early autumn.

The olives are starting to swell nicely.

The grove attendants getting reminders of log cabin fever when stuck inside Casa Margherita for too long watching it rain.

Timely reminder the wood pile is not piled high enough.

Grass still being cut!!

But things are swell.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pescara - part 2

Whilst we driving to stay with our friends you could not fail to notice the charred groves. Victims of wild fires which seem to very prevalent in Abruzzo.

Our friends called only the other day to say they had been without phone/internet for a number of days the result of yet another wild fire.

It was sad to see the damage they cause and how frightening they would be as they say fire can spread faster than you can run.

Here in Umbria they seem to occur very infrequently. I don't know the reasons for this but maybe Abruzzo is just that little bit warmer, the countryside that little but drier......

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Parched and shrivelled

Until this afternoon it had not rained since early July. Not terribly unusual but the olives amoungst other things were starting to suffer a little. They had become shrivelled.

This afternoon the heavens opened and we had a welcome thunderstorm and the accompanying rain which lasted for an hour or so.

This should be sufficient to swell the olives - just in time for their harvest.

Friday, September 9, 2011

As the sun disappears over the hills

A cool glass of white is had to ease the sweating brow. Or some such excuse anyway.

Although the temperature has dropped to the low 30's the earth is now very dry and so the heat is dry and sapping. These are days to be savoured as soon it will be autumn.

We are also having some cracking sunsets.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

State of Independence

One of the measures the Italian government is introducing to reduce the national debt is to reduce what most observers agree is a bloated public sector.

One of the measures is to move local administration from very small villages (less than 500 population) to larger villages nearby.

One village, Filettino, have balked at the move and have declared themselves independent. They have printed their own currency with the head of the mayor on (shy type that he must be).

Incidently, the village that will run the adminstration for Filettino is called Trevi but this is another one in Lazio.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pescara - part 1

We went down to see some friends who live near Pescara over the weekend to celebrate an 60th birthday.

Unbeknown to us a stray dog had taken up residence outside their house and was sleeping under their car. They were feeding it but we not able to look after it permanently themselves having already a fairly large menagerie of pets.

They had checked with neighbours etc and had notified the council who were going to come and take him away at some point.

He was white, young and very very cute. Trying his very hardest to get adopted. And so he has. Here is the new addition to Casa Margherita life - Ugo.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Basal growth

Some olives produce a profusion of basal growth. This needs removing so that the trees energies or directed to new growth in the canopy and the development of the fruit it is carrying.

The basal growth is removed with a small hand held axe and can then be bundled together and left to dry over the following summer and you will have a ready supply of kindling for the following winter.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sad news

Today our lovely cat Louis died.

He was 18 and had been unwell for the last month or so.

He is buried near one of our giant olive trees.

He was a very individual cat not given to playing or sitting on your lap or demanding great affection. He was self contained and a contrarian.

One of the oddest things he ever did, was one day to follow us as we walked the dog around the grove. Obviously we slowed down and he had the occasional break but he did it. Strange and amazing.

We salute you Mister Lou.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

La Vendemmia

This year's grape harvest is just about to start. The under leaves of the vines have yellowed and the fruit is plump and ripe after a long hot summer.

Rachel is going to a local vineyard to take some photographs of the harvest so I will share

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The paucity of this year's tomato crop meant we took delivery on Friday of 60 kilos of San Marzano tomatoes from our fruttavendola.

These have now been made into passata sauce. Hot work given it's 40 degrees outside but we will enjoy the benefits over winter.

Think we may need another 60 kilos.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Perseid meteor shower

Last night whilst listening to a concert at Villa Fabri in Trevi I saw a Perseid meteor shower. My first ever.

Every August the earth passes through the debris of the Swift-Tuttle meteor and these light up the sky as a meteor shower.

They are so called as the point they appear to come from is in the constellation Perseus.

My thanks to Wikepedia!

Monday, August 15, 2011


Today is a national holiday in Italy. As an aside, the Italian PM, Silvio B, is planning to move several public holidays from weekdays to weekends as part of his austerity/reform package to boost the economy. Not sure that will do the trick.

Anyway, today is the start of the traditional summer shutdown as Italians decamp from the towns and cities to il mare.

Last year we went to Rome and it was a pleasure. Streets not clogged with blue "politico's" cars but calm. The whole city was just easy to navigate. Yes some restaurants were closed but there were still enough open to get by.

This scene will be in large part repeated across Europe.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Louis update

The diet of prawns (which even he has now starting to go off) seems to have worked. He seems better but he is still an elderly gent who spends most of his time in the kitchen with very occasional forays outside.

He is an avid Stoke City football fan and so is looking forward to the re-commencement of hostilities (sorry I mean football) tomorrow.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer time is festa time

Summer is the traditional time for every village and town to hold a festival of some kind and Trevi is no exception. Despite it's small size Trevi put's on a festival that really does punch above it's weight.

Tonight we are going to see an American band called The Trio of Oz and will have a pizza and a couple of glasses of chilled white wine. A fine end to the week.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Basil is the quintessential Italian herb. The mention of basil brings a flood of Italian ingredients into your mind - fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, pasta, pesto.  More a light shower I know but hey. Today was the day to
pick the basil that had run to flower wash it and then shred it with a food processor prior to freezing in ice cube trays topped up with a little water.

Last night Rachel decided she wanted to watch the football. International friendly between the current world champions and Italy. I demurred.

Was a good game with Italy coming out on top 2-1 with the game been played at high tempo with fast attacking moves. The result of the new coach Prandelli and a move away from the slightly ponderous build up seen under previous national coaches. Bodes well for the future.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

May I introduce Anita

Anita is one of two work horses that a local vineyard has brought over from Romania to replace tractors in the vineyard. Lovely isn't she.

Italian's have a tendency to use english names for their animals so we have locally Ivan, Kevin, Brenda, Jerry and Robin to name just a few.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Il mercatino delle neve

Yesterday saw the annual Snow market in Trevi which celebrates the day many many years ago when it snowed in August.

Pretty busy in Trevi with the onion man making his first appearance of the season selling strings of onions tied with their own stems - all the sizes. Much better than buying them in the supermarket.

Onions are one of the few things that have done well in the Casa Margherita veg patch. Most things have been a bit of a disaster. Have recently planted leeks, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli and so hoping for better with these.

Have just been reminded that we were lucky enough to see a CY Twombly exhibition while on our hols and his series Il Quattro Stagioni is wonderful.

Strange how your mind works sometime.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


This summer has been unusually wet and so the countryside in looking lush whereas all grass has normally been scorched in the sun and so the earth looks the colour of straw.

The dampness has also hindered growth in the vegetable garden with the tomatoes having a very poor crop compared to previous years meaning we will need to buy tomatoes to make our passata supplies.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's raining men

That great disco classic from the Weather Girls came true today here at Casa Margherita.

I popped my head outside after lunch and lo the sky was full of paragliders.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


When we came back from our summer break we picked the animals up from the kennels. Louis, our cat, was not in good shape. He is 18 years old but had started to not eat and the kennel owner had been giving him vitamin syrup to help him. Also his eyes and skin had taken on a yellowish tinge which is a sign of liver problems.

We brought him back home and offered him some prawns. These he seemed to like and so for the last week or so he has been on a diet of prawns. He now seems to be a little better.

Should this be just one of his nine lives I don't know, but if we continue his prawn diet indefinitely this could well lead to ruin of the house of Margherita.

However, he is a good old puss and deserves them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Early bird flies too close to the sun

We've just got back from a short break. Our flight leaving at 07:30 and having drunk champagne (and some) the night before was not a good combination. Very nice in the evening before but..

Back here at Casa Margherita we appeared to have had a thunderstorm so everything was damp. These dampish/coolish conditions appear set to continue this week so I will be back out clearing the grove.

This morning it was time to clean up the garlic which I had pulled before we went away and stored in our boiler room to dry out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Long hot days of summer

Today was the hottest day of the year - 40∘and the inside of the car was a barmy 45∘- nice.

Ran some more oil to the butcher in Trevi which was good. Besides that we are getting ready for our holiday so a complete garden and veg patch watering system has been laid so hopefully we will not lose anything when we are away.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Casa Margherita QR code is here

This codes can be read by mobile phones (with the correct gadget) and this will take them directly to the Casa Margherita website without the need to the URL. You can also link them to text. This makes it easier for people to take note of your business and remember the details as they are all stored on your mobile

I will be adding this to my business card all my other publicity materials over time.

Not bad for a partial luddite.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The salad days of summer are here

We have now seemingly settled down into summer with daytime temperatures in the early/mid thirties. You can only do any real work outside either early or late in the day. I still have some grass to cut so it will be done at this time.

As ever there are other things to do and I spent an hour this evening lifting the garlic and removing the forest of weeds they had been growing amoungst. I have stored the garlic in the deposito where we have our boiler/washing machine etc. The smell now when you go in is very perfumed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monday, July 4, 2011

Oce e cavalli da lavoro

One of the local wine producers in the area is taking his organic credentials even further and is using work horses to plough between the vines and geese to keep the ground under the vines free of weeds. Great stuff methinks.

However, using traditional old fashioned farming methods means using traditional old fashioned skills. These he is having to acquire the hard way. The geese are not eating anything in the grove as they are being fed to much grain. He is having to reduce the amount he feeds them.

He has ruined two line of vines trying to train both himself and the horses how to work. He is now having to bring over some Romanians - they are very much still using these techniques there - to help teach him and to train the horses.

I admire his approach. For more information go to http://www.vinidifilippo.com

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A lilo and other things

I splashed out  on a new lilo today (geddit). On getting it home and unpacking it I discovered it came with a owners manual. Now, you do not need a owners manual for a lilo!

This afternoon was fairly cloudy with a touch of breeze and cooler than it has been so it was back in the grove cutting the grass. I need a couple more days like this and it will be job done.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strange but true

I often drive the local quarry and at this time of the year the guy who runs the weighbridge can often be seen strutting around his portacabin in no more than his vividly white underpants getting his tan up. It really is a very strange sight.

For reasons that are hopefully obvious there is no picture to go with this blog.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dead chuffed

Today Casa Margherita made it's first ever online sale in Italy. This is great as we have not publicised the Italian site at all, it's just up there.

Later this year we will start publicising it in advance of the new season's oil.

Market in Trevi tomorrow morning and then the Grand Prix. Forsa Alonso!

Friday, June 24, 2011


For lunch today we had some bruschetta. Our's was made with salt, olive ol, tomatoes and basil.

Bruschetta is a standard antipasta here in Umbria.

For best results you should cook the bread over wood but...

The versions available are endless and are down to you really but you have the classic bruschetta which is rubbed with raw garlic and then drowned in a good olive oil (maybe from Casa Margherita). Alternatively you can have them with thinly sliced aubergine or chicken liver pate which here has a slight vinegar taste to it which I love on bruschetta.

The limitation is solely your imagination and what's in your larder.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Changing Trevi

We went as usual to the market in Trevi on Friday and ended talking to someone who lives in the central storico. He was saying that whereas now Trevi has one alimentari (general provisions stores) and one butcher and 2 bars, there were previously three of each.

This decline is caused by two factors. One is the rise of the supermarkets which is a common factor in other locales as well. The other is the fact that populations in the old town centres are diminishing. They are no longer where people want to live. This is a situation that is common across Italy.

I think this is a shame but I must declare my hand here. It is the local family owned stores that sell my olive oil so I am biased in that regard.

Hopefully the new Trevi council can somehow incentivise people to live in the centre again. Either that or we just have to wait until it is fashionable gain as surely it will be.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Look at all this vibrant fresh new growth on this olive. They are desperate to grow.

You do tend to get this sort of growth reaction when you have pruned quite hard. They say that you should remove this sort of growth now to concentrate the trees energies where you want them.

I do tend to rip this sort of growth off as I am passing but it is not sistematic as life is too short.

Monday, June 13, 2011


This is the stem of one of our olives. This shows the dying olive flowers and the tiny green pin pricks of olive fruit which all being well will grow and be harvested in autumn.

 Further along the stem you have this years growth with the flower bud set between the leaf and the stem which will flower next year.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Winnie's weather

With the weather having been distinctly cool and wet recently - positively Scottish in fact - our Westie, Winnie, has decided that she needs her twice daily walk again. Normally by this time of year she does not get a walk as it's too hot and she is content to chase lizards and sunbath.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New works from the fienile

Rachel has been busy working in her studio (ex hay barn) at the top of the hill. She has found a new way or working that is more spontaneous and is enjoying the process and the results.

Below is one of the new works called "Life" although others can be seen on her website at www.rkwilliams.com

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Apropos nothing really

A night time shot of a prunus against the late evening sky. I think it looks a bit Japanese but I'm told by someone more arty than me I'm wrong. In fact she didn't say anything there was just silence which is even more indicative I'm wrong.

Anyway today we had to visit the accountant to further understand the Italian tax system. This is a journey of a lifetime so we go often.

Our accountant has a very happy persona, not put upon by the job she does. The exact opposite of most accountants. I speak here as an former accountant myself.

Monday, June 6, 2011


On Saturday afternoon we had an intense hailstorm with hailstones about a 1cm across. It was part of a thunderstorm that lasted a couple of hours but very localised in terms of the hailstorm.

It was very destructive, particularly in the vegetable garden, with the tomatoes pretty
much totally destroyed and everything else with shredded leaves.

Fortunately the olives are very hardy and so don't appear to be affected.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Anniversario della Repubblica

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the creation of the Italian republic.

It's a public holiday and will be most welcomed by many as already this year two festa days have fallen on a weekend and so no day off was forthcoming.

Also many Italians will "fanno un ponte" with this holiday and take friday off to make a long weekend of it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In transition

The olive trees here are full of flower bud which are now budding giving the trees a strange yellowy hew.

Hopefully with some benine weather these will convert into fruit.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


As the grass at Wimbledon is prepared ahead of the tournament so too is the grass here at Casa Margherita getting it's annual trim.

The grove always looks well kept immediately after with the trees themselves freshly pruned and full flower bud and new growth.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

28 June 2011

Bit overcast today so spent a couple of hours cutting the grass in the grove and as I write this we having a downpour which is welcome as the ground is quite dry as we have not had much rain this year.

Buona fortuna for Alonso tomorrow in Monte Carlo. Think he has a good chance.