Thursday, March 31, 2011

Back to it

Winnie loves pruning or rather she loves it when it is sunny which is has been for the last few days. The lizards have reappeared and so it's salad days for our Westie.

Getting on quite well with the pruning but a bit slow so have only done 40 trees max but it is a pleasure on days warm sunny days such as this.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Know your pulses

These are Roveia, a type of wild pea, that have recently been rediscovered and cultivated again.

I made a soup with them last night which we had today for lunch which was very nice indeed. After soaking them overnight in water and then for an hour in salted water I proceeded thus.

I put a good dose of Casa Margherita extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan and then added onions, garlic, some leek and a sausage as I was going to use a vegetable stock but wanted a meaty taste to the dish. Next I added the stock and some tomato passata and left to simmer slowly for about an hour. It was left overnight as this improves the taste further still.

I must admit I didn't do this, but to serve it on top of some bruschetta that had been rubbed with garlic and soaked in olive oil would have been great. It was however great on it's own.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Shattered and tripe

I felt a little like this today at the monthly farmer's market in Trevi. Crumpled.

Anyway the market was held as usual in Piazza Mazzini and one of the restaurants there, Taverna Delle Sette have been having their own tripe festival in conjunction with a chef from Florence which is the tripe capital.

I must admit that I didn't partake but it did look like real food. Chef took a small bread bun, divided into two and removed the bread from the top half. Then placed cut tripe onto the base and pushed down so the juices we're absorbed into the base. The on the hollowed top half of the bun he added some liquor in which the tripe had been cooked and then there was the option of salsa verde and/or chilli sauce.

L'artista piace molto.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Socket heaven

This is the other thing I bought yesterday from Agriumbria. Despite being the owner of 3 socket sets already I had been looking for ages and finally succumbed. The other all have bits sockets missing or the ratchet doesn't work etc etc.

Obviously this will the only time this will be clean and have every item put back in it's right place. Hence the photo!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Today was a day off and so we went to this agricultural show down the road in Bastia Umbra.

What was there? Well, there were more animals than on Noah's Ark, they had bits of machinery bigger than my house, cows bigger than my bathroom, a splendid array of porchetta vendors and many more things besides.

My porchetta was nice and pink and was washed down with a cup of ruffino red -  very nice lunch.

We spoke to a guy about olive oil dosers as I want to be able to bottle my own oil. Oddly given the circumstances he did not have a price list and didn't know the price of his products - top salesman.

Anyway, despite Rachel being keen to get a couple of Jerusalem donkeys we were very circumspect and got some lavender plants, a coriander plant (which is a rarity here) seeds, and........

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Black gold

We were changing around our herb border this morning as the sage had grown too large and we wanted to have herbs such as chives, basil and parsley near the path so they are easy to pick. So out came the sage and I added a barrow load of our compost. Great stuff - improves the soil and is 100% organic. This stuff here has been composting for about twelve months. We have 2 bins - one active and the other rotting/or to be used.

We compost all our kitchen vegetable matter and all soft clippings/cuttings from the garden - no olive. Also anything from the vegetable patch is composted when it's season is over.

Parsley is a staple of Italian cooking. Most usually to add visual appeal when something is dished up and so we get through large amounts of it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Today was one of those perfect early spring days where it was warmish, 12 degrees, and absolutely still so you could hear the birds calling, slightly desperately in my ears, people chatting as they foraged for asparagus/edible roots, the snip of pruning clippers, the occasional roar of a chainsaw as some serious pruning was undertaken and Winnie whining as she starts obsessing that there lizards behind every shutter of the house.

Whilst I pruned, Rachel did the garden equivalent to bring some of the borders back under control but as she says this is more hacking than pruning.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

After pruning

This is the tree in the garden I blogged about the other day but now pruned. As I mentioned there are compromises to be made and I have left some growth that is internal of the four trunks as the new external growth is still rather under developed and I need olives at harvest time. Next year I will make the cut.

The other thing is it very difficult to photograph trees to illustrate your point which is why most books on pruning tend to use diagrams. Also in this regard I tend to have patience in seconds rather than the patience of a saint.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wild asparagus

As we are now officially in spring then the groves will soon be busy with people picking this:-

wild asparagus. We still need a bit of sun and warmth but you can find a few stems if you look hard. The local dishes are with eggs as an omelette or with tomatoes and pasta.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Habitually, I start pruning with those olives that are included within the garden here at Casa Margherita. These trees are grandees, elder statesmen and so require a fair amount of time to prune.

The object generally of pruning of olives is to keep the centre of the tree clear so that all the growth is on the outside of the tree. This makes it easier to pick.

If you pick by hand, as we do, then you will want to keep the height down to something that suits and is safe with a ladder. I am over six foot whilst l'artista is shorter so I decide!

This year's crop of olives will be borne on last year's growth so any older growth can be removed. You will also want to remove any branches that cross each other or any that rub against each other. In addition you need to remove any vertical suckering growth.

You want to try and create an open tree with lots of space so the light can ripen the fruit and the wind can keep fresh the air around the tree.

How long does this take? How much patience have you got? Like most gardening or growing there is a balance you need to strike.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Olive tagging 2

As I suggested in a blog some days ago one of our neighbours had tagged his trees indicating which trunk was to be kept. This is what the grove now looks like.

In common with many owners the number of trunks has been cut down to one. This results in a good source of wood for next winter as well as much more growing space for the remaining trunk. If you imagine the picture with three trunks for each tree then there would have not been much sky showing in the shot before.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The time has come...

Yep it's pruning time and these are the tools you need for the job. You have a small pair of hand clippers, a small hand saw, a pair of Fiskars and a chainsaw. Also from time to time a ladder.

The Fiskars are interesting. Four or five years ago you wouldn't have seen them but now they are universal - 100% adoption. They are great for pruning as they largely reduce the need to use a ladder. A great advantage and one that saves a lot of time.

One of the keys to the pruning exercise is to organised and always know where your tools are otherwise there can be a lot of time spent searching the grove for you saw etc...............

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Silver sided

It has been very windy here lately and so on days like that the olive groves change colour as the silver underside of the olive leaf is exposed completely changing the colour way of the grove.

Also the movement of the branches brings to mind the series of olive grove paintings that Vincent Van Gogh produced.

Monday, March 7, 2011


How can a terrier cause this much damage?

She can't. This is a favourite walk of ours and this tilling of the earth is by wild boar. They are very sistematic in this grove so there must be a bulb of something that they very much like.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Olive tagging

This olive has been tagged with some plastic. Often you see painted trunks. These painted trunks indicate the edge of a grove and so it is clear for the neighbours where another grove starts.

Here, the plastic, I believe indicates that the owner has decided to only have one trunk per tree. So the owner has chosen the trunk to be retained and marked with the plastic ribbon. At a point someone will come round and chainsaw the other trunk down.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


It's been a misty wet day here today with lots of extra mist and rain. It's the sort of day that reminds on Sunday's when I was growing up stuck inside watching the rain thinking "God it's back to school tomorrow".

Today I can relax in the thought that all the fertiliser I have laid around the olives is now breaking down with the rain and the nutrients are being washed down to the roots of the trees. No school on Monday either.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Working from home

This is the Casa Margherita plonked amoungst the olives. So when I step out of the door I am immediately in the olive grove. This is very convenient as you can easily pop back for a cup or tea etc.

We have met quite a few people who said it is very isolated. In some ways yes and in others no. It's only 10 minutes to Trevi and only 2 hours to Rome.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The olive ring

This was taken from an adjacent grove where the owner has spread a chemical fertiliser around the tree and the strength of it has bleached the grass.

There must be a art happening to be had here. Mysterious designs appear and then disappear on the hillsides in Umbria. Must mention it to the artist on her return.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Olive consultant - moi?

I had a call today from a woman in the UK who was buying a house in Abruzzo and had been offered a olive grove with it of 150 trees. She had found Casa Margherita on the net and wanted to pick my brains about olives.

I gave her as much information as I could and she said she would let me know what she decides.

Who would have thought.......