Thursday, September 25, 2008

Walnut Hunting

We have quite a few walnut trees at the bottom of the estate (!) and at the week-end we went to see whether they any were available to harvest.
I do not know whether you know but walnuts have an outer skin of green stuff under which is the shell that covers the actual kernel or nut.
The green skin opens when ready and the walnut falls out. I think that is the idea. Sometimes, they ripen without spitting out the walnut itself and the green stuff rots and becomes very black and sticky. The whole thing then falls from the tree, but the walnut inside is fine.
So we went strolling down the hill in our his and hers 4x4s (green wellies) to the trees. I had been strimming underneath them for some time to ensure there was minimal ground cover so we could try and pick out the walnuts when they did fall. Even so the ground appeared to be very bare of any vegetation, and we soon saw why. Evidence of the cinghiale was everywhere – pig poo. We hadn’t been down to the tress for sometime and of course we now wished we had.
Indication of major walnut munching was lying everywhere; crushed walnut shells. The boar obviously adore them, unfortunately.
Not to be outdone by them porkers I got the longest bamboo pole I had and under la Duchessa’s careful direction, I started knocking down what walnuts we could see. This was on the basis that if they fell, they would be ripe and if not, they would cling tenaciously to the tree. It was sort of a cheat’s conker gathering operation. Remember when you were children and you threw sticks up at the chestnuts to knock them down. Bit hit and miss with a stick, but my length of bamboo was pretty accurate.
I was happily knocking seven bells out of the trees and they came raining down. Unfortunately La Duchessa then pointed to one directly above her, a big black and sticky one. I don’t know how, but it fell like a stone, straight down on her eyebrow, and then tracked down over her cheek. The vision wasn’t pretty. She looked as though some mascara had been applied by her worst enemy who also happened to be blind and had no control over the movements of their hand. Fortunately, I am a little quicker at running than La Duchessa is.
We decided at that time that It would be a good point to stop our activity and anyway, we had managed to collect a great big bag full of the little tree nuggets. We are going to go down every couple of days to see if we can pick up any more but that of course is only the boar haven’t got there first.
La Duchessa has this fabulous recipe for walnuts and cream with tagliatelle. Very simple but absolutely scrumptious ….. a bit like me.


It is very autumnal now. The days recently have been just great to get out into the garden and do quite a bit of work without melting. I really have missed it. So, had a few bonfires yesterday (without fear of being arrested for arson, see earlier blog entry) – excellent.
I half expected La Duchessa to come out and look disapprovingly at me, as if to say “Are you sure you know what you are doing?”, looking at me over her glasses (new) in that imperious way she has – ooohh I love it, makes me go all goose-pimply. Anyway, enough of that at this time of day.

I gave the strimmer a good work out as well. As I was strimming away, my mind just wandered all over the place, imagining all sorts of surreal things. I find it a great job for allowing this sort of thinking. Yesterday I was being interviewed by Parkinson (remember the film The Commitments when the leading character is sitting in his bath talking to a hairbrush as though it was a microphone? He was imagining that his soul band had become incredibly successful and he was being interviewed by Terry Wogan). Well, first, I was an astronaut that had been to the moon and back and then I was an airline pilot who had managed to land a ‘plane that was in trouble and saved all the passengers and crew. Extraordinary.

There were all sorts of ground creatures mainly hopping and leaping ones that were jumping all over the place in order to avoid this metal cutter that was approaching them spinning at 5000 revs per minute. They didn’t half shift. But then if I was in their position I’d probably be leaping like mad to avoid complete obliteration by a spinning death machine.
The other things I saw were these enormous spiders. Honestly, they had bodies the size of a 50p/2 Euro coin and they could really move, probably for the same reason as the leapers and jumpers.
The garden is just full of all sorts of insects. I saw a mantis and he (she?, I’m not very good at recognising the gender of insects … yet) must have been a good 12 centimetres (5 inches) from top to bottom. There was also a tiny little iridescent green beetle. The ground is positively alive with living insects, it is quite wonderful to see.

We also know it is autumn because the local town has just put the signs out for the Castagnato at the end of October. This is a great event and is an annual celebration of the chestnut. People set up things like huge baking trays on legs. Underneath these, log fires are lit and the chestnuts are roasted on the big trays. The sights, the smell of the cooking chestnuts and heat from the fires is just great. Makes a good autumnal evening out.
Looking forward to it.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I’m back! Sounds a bit like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, but I’m not, I’m much, much worse. You should see my chopper. Just ask La Duchessa.

End of the Summer? Brrrrrrrr.

Sounds just like a British tabloid headline. We have gone from a clear blue sky and 30+°C to lashings of rain and less than 20°C in 24 hours. Extraordinary.
As usual, I put on my shorts that morning and I had to nip to the post office to send some mail. Everyone else was dressed like it was Winter. Local people looked at me as though I had just stepped out of a spaceship.
It is less warm, no doubt, but not cold and anyway Autunno is only a week away.
Of course you could almost hear the vegetables singing in the rain out of sheer enjoyment. They have perked up no end. Within two days they were looking much stronger, healthier and greener. It also means we do not have to muddle about with hoses for our unique water distribution system that we have been having to do for quite a while now.

Summer relly season climaxes

The last of the summer visitors left at the end of last week. Lots of sadness ensued for a couple of days as we got used to no noise, shouting, crying, more shouting, ants carrying bits of food dropped by the grandchildren, more noise, screams, card playing insistence, more ants, poster paint pots being tipped over, fewer bottles (ahem, plastic pop bottle of course), well, you get the picture. We had an excellent time and we hope they all did too. The trips to the beaches were great fun The sea was so warm and the beaches were not packed as went just when the main Italian holiday season ended. So all the facilities were open but you could see a bit of beach to unload your towels, arm-bands (not mine, I have now progressed to a rubber ring, lurid orange actually, since you ask), toys, books, bats and balls, picnic, and other beach paraphernalia. Although the weather was extremely hot, enough precautions were taken so that no-one got sun-burn. Then we had some fantastic gelati (ice cream) to finish off before setting off for home.
The Italians really know how to make fantastic ice cream.

In a couple of weeks, the Autunno invasion begins with another grandchild. This one is a real baby being only 6 months old. In fact, what is quite extraordinary is that she was born on the same day as another of the grandchildren, only three years later. Amazing coincidence.

Gatti update

Sisi has gone seriously missing. We have not seen hide nor hair(fur?) of her for weeks now. We miss her quite a bit actually.
Tiggy and Winkle are around but we do not see much of them at the moment as we have been adopted again, but this time by Clarence, Mum and Starlight.
We have called the male Clarence after Clarence, the cross-eyed Lion in Daktari (come on, you remember Daktari) because he’s got, yes you guessed it, cross-eyes. Mum, because we think they are a family and she just looks like, well, a mum somehow. Starlight is so called, because she has a little burst of white on her chest. Clarence has quite a bit of Siamese in him and the others are black apart from Starlight’s bit of white. They are great to have around and La Duchessa has put an old cloth in a basket we used to harvest the potatoes in and they sleep in it outside the door.
They are cheeky though. If the door is left open they like to come in and explore.
In fact one of Clarence’s internal excursions brings me on to the next topic quite nicely.


Clarence came into the kitchen the other day looking for food. He was sniffing round the cooker where the electric wire that fires up the gas lighters on the cooker is. I have had taped the wire to the wall to stop it getting in the way of people’s feet. After sniffing for a bit, he started to claw at the tape covering the wire. I shooed him off and thought nothing more of it.
My attention was drawn to this area again this morning. I had dropped some paper as I was going to put it in the bin, and it fell near the wire. As I bent down to pick it up, I noticed a bit of a niff. I also noticed that the tape had come away at one end. I thought again about Clarence and that he must have had another clawing session. But, what was that smell?
I decided I had better take up the tape and have a look. I didn’t fancy La Duchessa getting a whiff before I knew what was what. Heaven knows what she would want me to do and when and what with. Gulp.
I ripped up the tape and found a very dead snake stuck to it. There were also a few small grubs crawling around on the floor under the wire. The smell was a bit stronger now. Yuck.
I cleared away the remains and the grub things and disinfected the whole area, three times.

More animals

There has been a lot of wild pig activity around us in the last few days. We had to get up very early to see some visitors off, about 04:30 and I opened the door and there were a lot of grunting noises not too far away. I shone a torch down the garden and caught a couple of eyes in the beam. The pig could not have been more than 10 or 15 metres away. I think they had been in the neighbour’s garden. Fine by me. If they find her garden more to their liking that’s great. I threw a couple of stones where I thought they were and they grunted a bit and seemed to move off. I am sure they are just as wary of humans as we humans are of them, but as I have never actually bothered to ask them, I do not really know. I think I will keep a reasonable distance from them.

Caio, mantenere la fede