Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013


At last we have finished picking. A day short of two months, over 700 trees picked and more than 5,500 kilos of olives, we have finally reached the end.

 The last few days there has been a constant mist in the valley which has made picking wet and very unpleasant but today we had some sunshine to finish with.

There are many words that I can't use to describe how we feel but as they say here we are 'cotto' - cooked. In fact we are cottisimo.

Roll on Christmas.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The day of the century

 Today is the day of the century.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Go Panda go

Still busy picking olives here in Umbria.

At the end of the picking day then the roads are filled with old Fiat Panda's packed with an assortment of tired pickers, olive nets and crates packed with olives. Some on the way to olive mills and some taking tired souls back home for the comfort of a warm fire and a relaxing bath.

This evening I left the house to take another load of olives to the mill. The track from the house is fairly steep and I had heard an unknown vehicle struggling upwards obviously laden with olives from a days picking.

Following possibly a little to close behind I came across an Ape (a example below)
obviously making its second attempt to get up the final twisty curve of our track. The high pitched note of the engine and a cloud of blue smoke serenaded a successful attempt to the summit of the track.

Following behind I noticed the said Ape was full of olives but had originally had a driver and two passengers - the passengers had been ditched for the final attempt. Talk about overloaded.

I really fancy getting one of these. They seem to be really great workhorses.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Olio nuovo arriva

Off to the Frantoio tomorrow to press another haul of olives into a lovely drop of cold pressed, unfiltered, extra virgin olive oil from Casa Margherita.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Olive handcuffs

I have found out that one of the largest olive mills or Frantoi in the area works in the following way.

It itself has no substantial olive groves so relies on many small olive grove owners to sell their olives to them so they can sell olive oil bearing their name. Nothing uncommon about this.

What they do however is not pay for the fruit for 12 months or until the next years harvest. These appalling terms means that the mill owner maximizes his cashflow as the expense of the small olive grove owners who cannot leave and take their fruit elsewhere as they would not be paid for the previous year - olive handcuffs.

Keep the serfs down.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Festivol a Trevi

This weekend is the annual 3 day festival celebrating the new season's olive oil - olio nuovo. Many of the local olive oil producers exhibit their new oils in Villa Fabri in the centre of Trevi.

Casa Margherita is one of the exhibitors and I am delighted to say that after two days we have sold the all the oil produced from our first pressing. I am well chuffed as they say.

We will celebrate tonight and then tomorrow its back to picking for the next pressing on Thursday.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Belt tightening

Today I went to my local hardware store to buy a ladder as we start olive picking. Normally for this I would get an invoice but today I was told they could not give me an invoice. This is a common situation at the moment as small businesses concentrate on cash only to stay afloat.

Indeed the olive mill that I use has not had there POS machine working for over a year now and I would bet that a lot of mills in Umbria are having the same problem!

One result of this is that even more economic activity has become 'nero' Or under the counter and so the government is able to collect less tax. This could develop into a vicious circle.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

It's getting close to picking time

The olives are starting to change colour from green to a deep purple color. We will start picking towards the end of next week to enable us to have olio nuovo for the olive oil in Trevi on the 1/2/3 November.

You can get a glimpse of what's on from the website

If you are in the area then come along and have a taste of our olio nuovo.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nocturnal feasting

Our neighbours grove this morning after a visit from a sounder of wild boar looking for their favourite roots and bulbs.

Meanwhile our two guard dogs, Ugo and Winnie, slept soundly and undisturbed....................

Friday, October 4, 2013


Sand and Sea - RKWilliams

Rachel has also updated her website and is showing the work she has produced over the last 6 months or so. Have a look at

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Olio Nuovo is coming

We are getting very close to this years harvest. Trevi our local town has an event on the 1/2/3 November to celebrate the new season olive oil. If you are in the area then Casa Margherita will be offering tastings of its olio nuovo at Festivol and would be very happy to see you.

Monday, September 30, 2013

New websites

Start of a new week and there are a couple of new websites to have a look at. The Casa Margherita website has been refreshed  and simplified. Have a look at          

The second site is completely new site for the Italian market only.  Have a gander at                   

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Today Sunday 4th August

Yep it was hot. Late thirties but felt even hotter. You can feel the heat coming off the land in this photo. In the evening the heat will drop and the building release the latent heat they have absorbed all day. High summer.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Sometimes when your head gets to be rather too deep in the bucket it is easy to lose sight of, amoungst many things, the beauty of your surroundings and their ability to refresh your senses - the old saying travel broadens the mind. At least it refreshes it.

We have benefited from family and friends visiting earlier in the year and so have travelled back to many places across Italy and have enjoyes travelling around anew.

Above shows the clock tower of the Comune offices that dominate Il Campo in Siena in an early morning mist.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Eat your heart out

Our orto really is a different beast this year. All the these vegetables were grown there. The main change was the addition of 3 tonnes of organic compost which seems to be working a treat. It is great being able to go and pick this variety of veg a couple of steps from the kitchen. Go on dig that lawn up.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Winter fuel

For the first time since we moved here we have needed to buy some wood for winter fuel as we have exhausted the supplies of olive wood. So yesterday 3 tonnes arrived and I made a start this morning putting the logs into a wood pile. There is something primal about stacking wood for winter and very satisfying. Only about 2.85 tonnes to go.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

In ritardo

A good crop of garlic which I dug up today which will go and dry out in the boiler room for a few days. Normally this would have been harvested a few weeks earlier, generally around the date of the summer solstice.

Lets hope we are not picking the olives in December as that could be a bit unpleasant.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Governing Italy

We are currently being governed by an coalition enforced by President Napolitano in the absence of any clear majority or any alliance following the last elections. We have lots of promises of measures to relaunch the economy but very little action.

Having attended a concert at the major arts festival in Spoleto the other night, which whilst being well attended, the restaurants were in the main deserted. This in July and in a major Umbrian town.  I have no solution to this but as someone rightly said recently attitude counts for a lot and we just need to be more positive. As for our Government we wait.

But maybe I am looking in the wrong place. As five-time prime minister Giovanni Giolitti (1842-1928) supposedly said when asked by a journalist whether governing Italy was difficult: “It is not difficult, but it is useless.” So maybe it is up to us.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lav en der

Madly trying to get all the grass cut in the grove this week as next the temperatures get into the late 30°c
which is game over time.

Now enjoying a glass of chilled white and watching the insects attack the lavender hedge. To abuse a Genesis song, summer's here dum di dum di dum dum.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Eating ahead

I was planting some leeks this morning and admiring the fine tilled earth and the lines of young leeks when I thought of how nice they will be with a bit of roast pork crackling an all. Yum can't wait. I can almost taste it. They say as you get older time passes quicker but does dreaming of food yet to be eaten make time pass quicker?

Anyway, I cannot believe that it is almost July and that there is only 4 months until we start picking the olives. That is scary.....but there will be roast pork and leeks.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Olive pollen and other notes

Olives produce a considerable amount of pollen as you can see here collecting on one of our solar panels.

When olives flower and  are pollinated the flowers drop to the ground leaving the tiny olive fruit behind. Those flowers that are not pollinated are left behind on the tree and burnt by the heat of the sun.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ci siamo

At last the rains have subsided and we have bountiful sunshine which in turn means the olives are flowering. The flower buds have turned from a mid green colour to a yellowy green and are now opening.

The trees produce a significant amount of the flower and so the pollen coats everything in a fine yellow dust.

Now we wait to see how much fruit sets and then a longer wait until the harvest which is normally in late October early November.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Business idea No 4597

Hey, how about hand made soap. Everyone needs soap and everyone loves something that is hand crafted and not mass produced.

So how about soap made from donkey's milk as I saw recently on a market stall. I think not quite frankly. Not sure why just no, no, no.

Probably will be voted product of the no.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Barmy not balmy

Ah the lovely early summer skies in Umbria. Not. It is wetter that a Scottish pop band. Basta I say. Roll on the real summer and pronto. Everything is desperate for some warmth.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Oh what lovely onions you have.

The orto is looking very good this year with a great crop of onions, garlic, radish, broad beans, rocket, strawberries currently being enjoyed and so much more yet to come. Picking your own vegetables is much more rewarding than shopping in a supermarket

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Every olive tree this year seems to absolutely laden with flower boding well for the harvest. However the weather continues to be very wet and very cool (17°c) for the time of the year. The temperature should be comfortably in the middle 20's °c and with very little rain. Hopefully the weather will turn..............

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mothers Day 12 May 2013

Looking for ideas for Mothers Day then why not adopt an olive tree from the Casa Margherita grove. Perfect for the Momma. To find out more go to

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A good day out - really!

AgriUmbria is a favourite show here at Casa Margherita. All that is new in agriculture and horticulture and much much more. Old tractors like above. Resistance is futile.

Every year we go and as always Rachel wants to return with a couple of floppy eared rabbits and a Jerusalem donkey. We resist as always but this year I did finally buy a lemon tree which I had been craving after for some years. So maybe next year the donkey.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rant and roll

Online car insurance. Couple of clicks and job done. What's this? To pay with a credit card with Direct Line Italy I need to print a form off, fill it in including all my credit card details and fax it back to them. Do not compute - fax and online. I then need to wait a couple of days before cover is in place.

Unbelievable. But hardly surprising in a country that cannot form a government and is unable to elect a President.

Dreary dreary me this place is maddening sometimes.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Springtime in Umbria

This weekend the weather has turned for the better with lots of sunshine. This has in turn encouraged people to get out in to the countryside and in the olive groves and pick some wild asparagus. One of these precious spears is shown above. They grow at the base of olives trees and in embankments.

They are eaten in a wide variety of ways but in a sugo with pasta is one or in an omelette another.

Other olive grove news is that we have finished pruning here at Casa Margherita and so it is off to a new grove I have rented this week to knock that into shape.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Olive oil is healthy

Eating a Mediterranean diet rich in either extra-virgin olive oil or nuts cuts by 30% the chances of those at risk of heart attacks or strokes suffering either event or dying of a heart condition, research rpublished by the New England Journal of Medicine reveals.
What better way to start eating more olive oil than by buying some good quality Italian olive oil direct from the producer and here at Casa Margherita and you can also by our cookery book which is full of Umbrian recipes to inspire your Mediterranean cooking. Go to

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Olive grove fashion

This season we are mainly taking our stylistic cues from Ron Moody's Fagin albeit with the use of contemporary fabrics with splashes of colour on the wrist trim.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Prune and rant

As I slowly prune the trees here at Casa Margherita into shape you are afforded a lot of time to mull and muse on stuff.

Today was politics.

The USA fail to put a stop to the long signaled budget cuts despite the knowledge that failure to do so will be a brake on US and world economic growth and so exit from recession.

1 in 4 Italians vote for a the new M5S party who want to draw a line under the old moribund political system and make some radical (not really) changes. Having won this powerful position they are not now willing to engage with any of the other parties thereby wasting a vital opportunity and consigning Italy to another period of flux it can well do without. Things could change on this....

France elects a socialist government whose almost first act is to alienate the drivers of economic growth by raising the highest tax rate to 75%. How old school is that. A one term President, Mr Hollande.

More olives tomorrow. What will I muse on....

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Olive branch

This is a useful photo to explain how olives bear their fruit. This tree was not picked last November and so the branch from the last olive to the tip is all last years growth and it is on this that the tree will bear fruit this year.

On the subject of branches I saw an advert for a tree surgeon company and they were called Special Branch!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I love olive (s)

51    Summer olives, Umbria    250 x 120mm    oil on gesso'd paper

                          Summer olives, Umbria by Karyn White

I think I may have lost my senses but I have agreed to rent another two olives groves this year which total another 500 trees. Yes I think I have. Anyway, the pruning has started here at Casa Margherita and at Le Corone and with the weather seemingly set fair and the l'artista going back to New Zealand for a couple of weeks I am looking to get really stuck in.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Le Corone

Le Corone (the Crowns) is a small hamlet at the other end of the valley from our local village of Manciano and it is here that I have rented another olive grove. A lovely parcel of land containing around 200 olives big and lovely but untended for a couple of years now as the owner is too ill to maintain them.

Today was our first day starting to clean the land and prune them back into shape. It is a great feeling being able to bring a piece of land back into production.

This may lead to a new label of olive oil from Casa Margherita. Exciting.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


It is said that in the centre of the world there is a sea, in the centre of the sea lies a peninsular, in the centre of the peninsular there is a region, in the centre of the region there is a town, in the centre of the town there is a bar, in the centre of the bar there is a billiard table, in the centre of the billiard table there are four markers, and in the centre of these lies the centre of all creation.

Now, if you were to come to Foligno on this basis, as it is Foligno of which this story speaks, then I think you would probably be reasonably to very disappointed. Nice town but....

The other reason sprang into my hear today is in the the feast of San Felician(o) the patron saint of Foligno.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hunters Chicken - A Review

I have cooked the ‘Hunter’s Chicken’ twice now for my wife. She says it is in her “Top 5” meals of all time. I made it last week for our 27th Wedding Anniversary and everything worked out that night. 

Thank you for the recipes. I will be trying more in the near future.

Warren Jones
Aurora, Canada

Just one of the recipes in the Casa Margherita Cookbook. Available from