Saturday, September 29, 2012



Seeing these horse chestnuts on the ground yesterday reminded me of when I was a small boy and of playing conkers at school.

The chestnuts were collected and then hardened by various methods (brine, baking or vinegar) and then a string was inserted through the middle and knotted and you were ready for competition.

Conkers were played at every single opportunity at school - between lessons, during lessons and at break times. You had one strike in turn with the object being to break the opposing players conker into pieces. If you were victorious then your conker was a oner. Victory a second time a twoer and so on.

If someone had a champion conker - say twelver then you would normally only expose it to similarly successful opponents.

Them were days.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I read somewhere recently that the global weather was confused. This is an apt phrase as the autumn so far has been extremely mild. This has mean't that our pear tree is in flower and today I saw some wild asparagus in the olive grove.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lazy Sunday afternoon

This is a sketch of Winnie rolling on the grass this afternoon. Very relaxed and at ease with the world.

I, in the meantime was hard at work watching the F1 in Singapore. What a fantastic venue. Result so so with la Ferrari in third.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The shape we're in

We have had a couple days of rain recently which has helped fatten up the olives. They are on the verge of starting to change color and take on some purple hues. We are looking to start picking sometime in early November but will play it by ear nearer the time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Ugo has been with us here at Casa Margherita for about a year now. He had been abandoned and had taken shelter outside of a friends house. They we unable to take him in as the already had a menagerie of animals. He was so desperate to be adopted that I succumbed and we brought him home with us.

Quite a flight of fancy as we did not really know what sort of dog he was but he has turned out fabulously. He is still a bit of a puppy and has a penchant for shoes, socks and feet in general. Winnie our Westie has taught him all her bad habits......

Anyway auguri Ugo.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Today was the 33rd edition of the above in Montefalco. A celebration of the sagrantino wine which is unique to the area and also of the current years harvest which is currently underway. Time for a porchetta sandwich washed down with a glass of 2012 ruffino red.

Friday, September 14, 2012

La vendemmia

The wine growers in the area are busy harvesting the grapes whilst olive growers like myself are cleaning the land they didn't get to because it was too hot and starting to check nets and crates ready for picking at the end of October/early November.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

No more queues at the Post Office

Unbelievable but true. One of the measures that the technocrat government of Mario Monti has introduced is that state pensions over €1,000 a month need to be paid into a bank account and can no longer be collected in cash from the Post Office. Previously every Post Office was heaving with pensioners queuing up to collect their pension. No more.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A little something from the Casa Margherita cookbook

Zuppa di lenticchie (spicy lentil soup)

Umbrian cuisine uses the legume family a lot. Chickpeas, lentils, cannellini, borlotti, butter beans and local varieties such as roveja and cicerchia all feature widely.

Castelluccio lentils are king in Umbria. Castellucio itself is another impressive hill top town in the Monti Sibillini hills but the Piano Grande, the flat plateau below Castelluccio, is breathtaking. Completely undeveloped it is a magnificent sight which I recommend to anyone coming to Umbria.

Serves 2

2 tins 800g (28 oz) of un-drained red lentils
1 small onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder

Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the onion and garlic to a pan and soften gently over a low heat for 10 minutes without browning. Add the lentils with their juices and turn the heat up so they reach a simmer.

Separately in a small frying pan add the other tablespoon of olive oil and add a teaspoon of curry powder, Brown this lightly and add to the soup. Mix well. I like to whizz the soup in a food processor until it is smooth. However you can opt not to whizz it at all or have it half and half.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lager, lager, lager

Earlier in the year Rachel designed a set of labels for a start-up brewery based in Spoleto. The beer is now on the shelves and hopefully will sell well.

You can see the labels Rachel designed here at

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Very lucky indeed

On Sunday our Westie, Winnie, suffered a snakebite from a viper. We did not see the event itself but saw her lying down and shaking. This was familiar from when she was bitten three years previously. We tried to find the two distinctive puncture marks but couldn't and so called the vet and met her at the surgery.

The vet prepared to inject the serum into Winnie and you could tell that she worried that Winnie would not be able to withstand the anaphylactic shock should one occur. As it turned out there was no shock and so Winnie spent the rest of the day on a drip and returned home on the Monday. She is exhausted from the event and is recovering slowly. She is one very lucky dog however.