Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We are eggstatic!

Yes folks, The Three Degrees, those little brown beauties (I am not being racist here) have finally delivered.
This morning La D went to open the coop and noticed one of the chickens running over to a place by the fence rather than dash to the food as normal. On closer inspection La D found not one, but four eggs.
She was so eggcited as she rushed back to the house yelling, “L’uomo chi fa, l’uomo chi fa” at the top of her voice. I thought something terrible had happened such as Signor Volpe had visited in the night. But no.
She said, “Look at these beauties” and she opened her hands and there they were. Our first eggs.
Our breakfast consisted of coffee and scrambled eggs on toast. Fantastic.
After breakfast, La D took some old greens down for the hens and just had a another look at where she found the eggs and blow me, there were three more. They must have been laid in the previous hour. You do not get any fresher than that. If they continue to lay at this rate we might be in a position to give a few away to our neighbours which would be really good.
I don’t think it matters that they don’t use the beautiful hand-crafted nesting box that I made for them, as long as we know where to look for the eggs that they do lay.
We are very proud of them.
Well done girls.

Rellies Holiday and Kitten Sexing

La D’s son and his girlfriend and their two children came over to visit for their summer holidays.
We have had a lovely time. The weather has been very kind to us with only a couple of showers and then brilliant, hot sunshine for the rest of the time. We’ve been to the beach (twice), the lake, the Abbadia di Fiastra and the swimming pool (loads of times) near us at the bottom of the hill. We also visited Tolentino for a Friday night market, which was advertised for children, but we couldn’t really see that it was particularly children focused.
It has been so good for Bertie to have some young children around. The grandchildren have a big Springer at home and are well used to being barged about and barging back again. Bertie took to them straight away as they did to him. There was only one little incident just after they first arrived and inevitably it centred around food, but that was soon sorted out.

The kittens are growing well and getting very adventurous. If we try to give them away, – La D is considering, sorry, we are considering, keeping them all, more about this later – we need to know what sex they are. La D’s son’s girlfriend is something of an expert in kitten sexing. She has had cats and kittens with her for years. After a cursory inspection and then a more detailed look at their anatomies, there are two girls and two boys, a perfect split.

A Near Death Experience

As you know, La D and myself take it in turns to take out the beast first thing in the morning.
Last Tuesday The Bert and I wended our sleepy way to the campo at the bottom of our lane. I slipped him off the leash and off he went as usual. Running down the field and into the woods and back again. I just amble down the field to a particular point and then turn round and trudge back up the incline, usually yawning.
I got to the point where I was going to turn round and Bert was sitting there looking further down the field, his ears pricked. I looked where he was looking but couldn’t see anything; the grass down there is well over a metre tall.
Suddenly Bertie set off down the slope grumbling, tail very high. I looked again and I saw something brown moving about just above the grass heads.
Bertie got closer and then the brown thing became two things, ears, and they started to move towards Bertie.
At this point Bertie did an abrupt U turn and started belting back to me and this rather large cinghiale burst out of the longer grass and was chasing him at some speed. Bertie rushed passed me and shot back to the top of the field. Meanwhile this wild pig was heading straight for me at some speed on the same track that Bertie had taken.
Pictures and words flashed through my mind. All those books I had read by authors such as Wilbur Smith and Ryder Haggard, saying to me,
“Remember, they are more afraid of you.. Animals like this will not attack unless provoked. Just stay still.” That is a big ask in a situation like this without something like an elephant gun at my disposal. Anyway I just stood completely still, listening to big, brave Bertie barking at the scene, from a pretty safe position at the top of the field. Not very protective for a so-called defender to the death of his usual charge, sheep. This pig was big, and fast and it was getting closer to me rather rapidly, making a lot of noise. I’d really no other option but to stay still. When he was about twenty feet away from he veered off the right snorting and grumbling and ran off down the hill.
“Phew,” I thought to myself. I was fortunate to be wearing brown trousers.
I retraced my steps to where Bertie was still barking in a manner which seemed a little like;
“Yeah, come on then, if you’re up to it. Come on. Come on then. You big fat pig.”
When I got up to him, he stopped barking and gave me a lick then sat down waiting for me to put him on his lead . We set off back to the house with Bertie holding his head and tail high as though he was a returning conquering hero. Bah!
I think I might look at some gun websites.

Well done number 4 son, continued!

My little boy, well he’s 6’ 1”, had just got his “A” level results. The boy done good. Fantastic EMW. We’re very proud.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I do so want to say Eggcellent!

But, I can’t. Not yet anyway. My pep talk was obviously like sowing seeds on stony ground. Not productive.
I have worked it out that if an egg were to be laid today it would have cost us €211,87.
That’s some eggspensive egg. But, if two were laid that the cost would be €105.93 each. Getting better. Although at the rate they are going the chickens will have died before they start to lay virtually “cost-free” eggs.

One of them has been making dashes for freedom over the wire. A bit like the film Chicken Run. La D came up with a great idea of erecting a bit of fencing that would be higher than the original and would utilise some of the damaged gazebo.
After a couple of hours, a bit of blood, some blue air, some chicken cursing, we had it put and secured. It works a treat. OK one of them did fly to the top but only to roost, not to go over the wire, and that was only once. So hopefully they are now well and truly settled in their abode. Just start laying some f£$%ing eggs, will you!

One of our friends, I think she was being helpful or kind or something, actually told us that they had over 20 chickens and none of them were laying. My immediate thought was what the hell is going on? Why keep all these chickens if none of them are producing eggs? I mean think about it. They cluck around all day and eat up all the food you provide having a life of Riley and then give nothing back. Taking the Michael a bit I think. Shoot the buggers. A few Sunday dinners there.
NB La D says that she doesn’t agree with this bit M. M will know who she is!


Did you know the only time La D and I have been out on our own since going to the Opera last year, was for lunch on our wedding anniversary.
For the second year running we have decided to celebrate our anniversary by going to the Stragione Lirica (Opera Season) at the Sferisterio in Macerata, which is on at the end of July and early August.
This year we went to see Madame Butterfly by Puccini.
The whole experience was easily as good as last year. Had a good wander round, bought a CD of Madame Butterfly and one by Diane Reeves – note DIL if you read this - and a couple of books for our Italian language learning and had a great pizza in the piazza next to the Sferisterio.
The orchestra was fabulous, the set was brilliant and the singing was top notch, but there weren’t as many people there as last year.
The night was cool, La D should have brought something to put around her shoulders. My arm didn’t really do the trick. But we will try and remember next year.
Last year there was a full moon right above us but this year it was just the stars. Quite magical.

Gattini update.

The little blighters are growing up fast - we still don’t know if we have got rid of any yet. They are now much more active and clamber all over the adult cats play-fighting with each other. La D has fixed an old cotton reel suspended just above where they are. At first they ignored it but now they seem to really enjoy knocking seven bells out of it. As usual, huge amusement for human onlookers.
They still continue to ignore Bert, although it defies belief. He gets into their space and leans right down and gives them a sniff or a bit of a lick and they just completely ignore him. To them he must seem a hundred feet tall and all white. You would think they would scatter to all corners and hide. Not a bit of it. They come over and muck around as though he’s invisible. It is going to be quite fun when they are a couple of weeks older to see how\if they will really start to play with Bert. He may have his nose put out of joint.

Bertie and the Holiday neighbours

Our little road is now full due to it being national summer holiday time and those houses that have remained closed for most of the year now have their doors and windows opened and Italian conversations can be heard all day long drifting across the warm, balmy air. Lovely.
Well it would be idyllic apart from one thing. Bertrum.
We love him to pieces but sometimes we think he takes his protection of us, as his flock, a bit far.
Any person or thing that comes past our house gets a good barking at. Even those he knows who live by us all year. Admittedly he does stop barking when they come over and give him a cuddle through the bars – of the gate, not prison.
The family who own the house right next to us, gets abused whenever they are in their garden trying to enjoy a nice relaxing two week holiday. It’s very embarrassing.
“He’s only a pup” I hear you cry. This statement is becoming very care worn and hackneyed and will not stand up to scrutiny for much longer. It is almost as bad as someone saying,
“I’ve been that busy …..” when you have been expecting to hear from them or for them to have done something but haven’t actually got round to it because either they are unable to prioritise properly or they just can’t be arsed.

Congratulations to number 4 son!

Well done EMW for passing your driving test and first time round, unlike your father who had to have two goes. However in my defence, I was asked by the driving instructor/tester to pull out of a side street near a bend and found myself stuck in a funeral cortege moving at about 10 miles an hour which resulted in a lot of stop start stuff using that bloody handbrake thing.
Anyway, well done you.
Just got to look forward to next week when the A level results are out. Gulp!

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Team Talk Time

Unfortunately I have to report that as I write, there have been no eggs laid by the Three Degrees. La D, and myself, are not amused.
They have all the creature comforts they need. They are being fed with top quality – at least that’s what the chap said who sold it to us – feed designed for egg laying. Yet, no result to date.
I thought it was time to give them a bit of a pep talk. Well, to be truthful, La D said to me “L’uomo chi fa, if the Three Degrees don’t start showing a return a ROI very soon, I am going to hold you personally responsible and will exact punitive measures on you for their egg laying failure.” Gulp. I preferred not to seek clarification on the punitive measures. I had just finished my breakfast at the time.

So, armed with a piece of bamboo, a smallish blackboard and easel, some chalk and a serious demeanour I entered the chicken run.

“Right, girls. Gather round. I have something eggciting to talk to you about” I said, in a commanding tone. I set the blackboard up and wrote on the top, “Daily Egg Production” and drew x and y axis lines.
“Pay attention” The chickens didn’t really seem to have got the hang of this sort of thing, but I thought I would persist. I said to myself, “Speak more slowly and louder to be understood.” You know the sort of thing you do on holiday in a foreign land.
“I want to talk to you about your egg production, or rather lack of it.” I said. The clucking and scratching suddenly stopped when I mentioned lack of egg laying. I thought, “Aye, aye. That’s got your attention.” But no, I think they must have just yawned in unison because they soon started up again and continued to ignore me continuing to scratch about and cluck quietly to themselves. Mind you, they could have been saying “What‘s he on about?”
“Now, I am going to try and be eggsplicit as I can. Let me eggsplain.” I said. I went over to the blackboard and put a cross where the x and y axes met. “In terms of egg production we” – notice the inclusivity – “ are here. The same place we were when we started.” I pointed my bamboo at the cross to help them understand. I then put a mark between 2 and 3 above and to the right.
“Where we need to be is here. Everybody with me so far?” More clucking, foot scratching and neck twitching. “I do hope they are paying attention” I said to myself..
“Good, good. You see we, that is La D and myself, bought you for the eggspress purpose of having fresh eggs whenever we wanted them. We are not trying to eggsploit you. This is what you, as chickens, do. To date, this has not happened. Do you have any eggsplanation for this? I know it’s only been two weeks, but we were told you would laying within two weeks. So what are we going to do? We are not eggsperts in keeping chickens. We need your help. Do you need more eggsercise perhaps? Do you eggspect something more from us? Do you need to eggcert yourselves more? I mean you really don’t seem to have totally eggsplored your surroundings at all. Apart from you, 2nd Degree, because you keep eggscaping over the fences. You probably know more about outside your run than in it!” I said eggsasperatedly.
“Let me be very clear. Unless you girls start eggspediting eggs, and PDQ, we may have to take eggstreme measures.. You might even become eggstinct” I said.
Just then there was a lot of eggscitement and clucking and scratching. I thought eggscitedly that may be an egg was about to be laid, the first egg of the Three Degrees. Then they started to flap about and I looked behind to see Bert lying down, tail wagging and his head cocked just looking at the girls. He does spook them sometimes.
So, I packed up my blackboard and easel, put the chalk in my pocket and my bamboo cane under my arm and left the pen to sounds of more clucking and scratching. I am very unsure whether my little pep talk will have the desired effect. I do hope so. Kitting this lot out and buying feed for no return is not a good deal in terms of financial investment in these straitened times.
I took a look back at them and said, “Remember girls, Casa Grotta eggspects!” and trudged wearily up the hill to debrief La D, in the military sense of course, on the mission.

Kitten Update

The worst thing about having young animals, like cats and dogs, is that they are so damned lovely and entertaining, that you find your decisions made about their future becoming wobbly.
They are four weeks old now and clambering over Starlight and Mum. Bertie often lies with them and they are taking quite an interest in him I don’t know whether they see him as a big brother or uncle or some kind of relative. I am sure when they are a bit older they will soon realise that actually, Bertie is not one of them!
We hope we have found a home for one of them and we are going to try and find a home for the other three. However, I have been given a stern ultimatum (I don’t know whether you can have a stern ultimatum, but it sounds better than just ultimatum) by La D that we shall be keeping one of them.
“It’ll keep Bert company” she said. I didn’t bother to point out that he has enough cat-friends around him already. It wouldn’t have made any difference.
Anyway, we need to sex them first so we can decide whether to keep a female or male.

Vegetable Glut

We have zucchini, pomodori (toms) and citrioli (cucumbers) coming out of our ears, and probably other orifices soon. Fortunately the holiday house next door has someone in it now and we have been able to give them some and also the neighbour opposite who doesn’t have an orto. We have tried to give our other neighbours but they have orti too and of course they are in the same boat as us. They have too much. It doesn’t really matter because what we don’t eat goes into the compost or given to the Three Degrees and will be used as fertiliser for next year. So nothing is wasted. It just seems a shame when these beautiful fresh vegetables are not eaten.

Ciao, mantenere la fede