Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Pair of Great Tits!

Yes it’s true. I have spent part of the morning with a pair of Great Tits. La D is looking coyishly at me and a little giggly.

Now before you reach for your paper and pen and fire off a “Yours disgustedly from Tonbridge Wells” missive admonishing me for my base language and coarseness, let me advise you that I am talking about feathered Tits – does that sound even worse?

We have some GTs that have just fledged. One of them was sitting on a stone under a hibiscus bush (see photo below) and eventually managed to fly up to the roof where it was fed by its dad (judging by the plumage). The other little fellow was hopping about the grass under one of the olive trees. Bert thought it was manna from heaven! Someone or something had sent him a live playmate. Of course there was a problem. Bertie is a giant dog and the little GT was not much bigger than a tennis ball, and of course weighed as much as a clump of Bertie’s fur. The poor little mite was frantically about trying to get away from the huge white monster towering above him.

La D to the rescue. “Viene qui!” she barked at Bertie in Italian. Nil response. Although strangely I felt my legs quiver and started to move to La D almost automatically. “Not you, you idiot. The dog. You get the bird and put it somewhere safe while I look after Bertrum (La D likes to use a posh version of Bert sometimes)”.

I shuffled back ready to pounce on the little GT and save it from being licked and prodded to death by the playfulness of the dog, once Bertie was under control..

“Come here, now!” Still no response. We have a dog that’s disobedient in two languages. Top that.

Eventually Bert came to La D and I went and rescued the bird. I put him in the hedge at the side of the road. I don’t know whether he was safer there than with Bert really. But we tried.

A while ago I reported on having a Redstart’s nest up in the eaves. But I have only just discovered that in fact the nest is in a hole where the flue from the boiler comes out of the house. So we could actually see the nest and the little fledglings.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a picture because the pipe work got in the way. But the birds are pretty big and I would expect them to be gone in a few days. Good stuff to have them here. The Redstart is a pretty bird.


The vegetable patches are going well. Everything seems to growing madly.

No more Colorado beetles, but I gave the spuds a quick blast again just for good measure. We have a few Whitefly on some of the young brassicas and again we have tried to warn them off. I did think of putting up little signs. You know Skull and Crossbones, Keep Off, Poisonous, Have You Come Here To Die? (no I came here yesterdie. Sorry, old joke. V unfunny)

However La D did point out, quite rightly too, that Whitefly, as far as she knew, couldn’t read. Bugger.

So, just nuked them.


For some reason, we have seen a lot of mole activity in the estate and I have been doing a little research on how to get rid of them. Not as easy as you might think. There are sonar gadgets that emit signals which moles are supposed to hate and move off somewhere else. I did read that in fact these are virtually useless and in one case, the mole population actually increased. Poisoning them with CO works but that involves getting an old car or motorbike, a pre-catalytic converter one, and attaching a hose from the exhaust and running the other end up the mole run. A bit of a clumsy solution I thought.

Then there are the Swedish plant bulbs. These are supposed to be anathema to moles and you sow them on a regular basis gradually filling your garden and the moles just keep moving away until they are no longer in your garden, and what is more, won’t come back because of the horrible plants. Incredibly expensive for us because of the size of area.

However, there is another weapon, that, for us, is free. Fresh dog poo or FDP (I love acronyms)

Apparently, if you break into a run and apply judiciously a little FDP from the end of a stick, and then cover up the run, the moles go away. I have read affidavits saying it works, so we may well have to try it. I’ll report back later.

It would be good to think that Bert would actually have some use in our household apart from being a drain on our measly resources.

Hot and Sunny

Yes it is. Nudging 40ºc in the middle of the afternoon under the gazebo. Man, that is warm.

We try and do any physical stuff, digging, planting, strimming, as soon as we get up, walk Bert and have a cup of tea. By about 11:00, we turn our attention to our sedentary work. Inside the house and particularly the office, is a lot cooler than outside.

We hardly see Bertie as he is lying in the coolest place he can find and most of the time, just sleeps. He seems totally attuned to the climate here. We are making progress, but we are not there yet.

Visitor Season

Next week my youngest son arrives for a couple of weeks. He finishes his A level exams this week. I expect he’ll be knackered, so a bit of peace and quiet, Italian style will do him good. Although we did check on the forecast and it appears that we are in for some rain when he arrives. Doh!! Still, can’t plan that.

Then the next week, my third son arrives for a week’s break, and then they travel back together.

We’re really looking forward to seeing them, getting out and about a bit and also introducing the Bert to them.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Monday, June 1, 2009


The poor old DIL has been into hospital for a “man’s” problem to be fixed. The operation went well, if you don’t count the loss of one of the scalpels and a bag of cotton wool after he’d been stitched up. He’s absolutely fine now and well on the mend. He’s had the Marchesa and the Contessa up to help him rehabilitate himself back into the groove, so to speak. So that will either cure him or knock him out completely. Only time will tell.

La speranza è ben presto

Self Immolation

The other morning, at some God forsaken hour, I was up making La D and myself an early, very early, morning cup of Red Bush tea, and I put the kettle on the gas to heat the water. I should say here that the cooker is half under the kitchen window.
I had just put on an old polo shirt as I usually feed the Berts and the community cats at the same time and have to nip outside with food.
I let Bertie out for a whiz and put his food down. He normally rushes back and gulps his breakfast as though it was his first meal for a month. This morning he didn’t.
I just stuck my head out of the kitchen window to have a look, but couldn’t see him. As I was doing this I caught a small whiff of burning and thought a loose thread had fallen onto the burner.
Then I looked down and saw a patch at the bottom of my polo shirt the size of my hand all yellow with flames.
“Oh dear” I thought “my shirt has caught fire. What a very silly boy I am” – actually it was a bit stronger than that but I am aware this is a family friendly blog.
I grabbed the hem of the shirt and rolled it quickly upwards and smothered the flames. Fortunately I didn’t burn myself , but I am now one shirt less than I was before the incident, which is not a good thing.
When I spoke to my brother about a year ago, he recounted the tale of him having set his jumper on fire when he was having a bonfire over in his house in Washington State, USA. I did think then, “What a tit” What is he going to think of his little brother when he reads/hears this?
Perhaps it’s in the genes. In fact I’m pretty convinced it is.


Definitely yes and no.
A week ago we were basking in sub tropical heat. Today is quite cool and rain, lots of it. Just like yesterday and just like tomorrow too if you believe the forecasters. Very odd. Still great for the garden and our water bill.

The Beetles from Colorado

Our potatoes have been invaded by the bloody Colorado Beetle. They are a real pest. Although we try to be as biological, eco and ever –so friendly in our veggie growing, but there comes a time when the only option is the nuclear one. Blast the bast**ds.
So I gave them a good dose of a permethrin based insecticide and they have gone down like ninepins. I stood over them in my shorts with my legs apart, large green plastic backpack sprayer on and spray lance in one hand and raised the other hand, clenched it tightly above my head and roared “Oh yes. Death to the invaders” to no one in particular, but I found it quite intimidating.
We are hoping that there will not be a recurrence but if they do I’ll have to do an Arnie “I’ll be back!”

Dogs – yes, that’s right, plural

Bert’s previous owners contacted us at the end of last week and asked if we could look after Jess (Bertie’s sister) and Rusty (a very small, three legged mongrel) as they were nipping down to Roma to see an old friend.
We met half way between our homes and brought the two dogs back here.
Although Jess is his sister, she doesn’t look anything like Bertie. She is about two thirds his size and black and has a very short coat. Extraordinary really. Bertie and Jess didn’t stop chasing each other all the rest of the day whilst Rusty just took things nice and easy, he’s an old fellah.
The trouble with Maremmas is that it is quite normal for them to be out with the sheep all day and night for however long the shepherd wants them.
So yesterday it was tipping down when we woke up. Let the dogs out and immediately Bertie and Jess were at each other. Roaring round the estate, biting, nipping growling at each other and generally having a great old time.
We have never seen Bertie as dirty as he got, and stayed, yesterday. He was absolutely filthy. Jess was too, but being black coated it didn’t show as much.
Of course the house became wet and dirty too. At least it is all tiled floors so it is easy to clean.
We are just hoping the weather will change to a bit of the dry stuff, which it is due to in the next couple of days.

Update on passed away neighbour

I know it’s an odd title about a person who has died.
Her eldest son came to see us a couple of days ago with an envelope. In it was a small card, with a picture of his mother and a few words attributed to Saint Catherine of Siena. It is a very simple but extremely moving memento to have been given. It takes pride of place on one the new shelves we have put up in our dining/sitting/reading/TV/everything room.

Ciao, mantenere la fede