Chickens do not make good spies ... continuing the spy theme stated last week
Following the olive picking, the next job was to prune. Now in the past we have always waited till February or March to do the pruning, but this year we have seen many people pruning as they pick, so we thought we would do the same. The other thing that has had an impact on our decision was that we have had loads of what we call “sproutings”. These are new growths on the trunk and limbs of the tress. Often a few together. They grow rapidly and get in the way of picking as well of course as taken away goodness that would otherwise go to the berries. We have had this the last two years and have been wondering whether it has anything to do with our pruning effectively in Spring when the sap is rising. Anyway, we’ll have to wait and see.
So, there we were chatting away, snipping and sawing and getting our lovely olive trees into better and better “goblet” shapes. We let the chickens out as they are all laying now and love to poddle about the middle garden where most of the olive trees are. They followed us about from tree to tree, which made me think that they would be bloody useless as spies. They are so obvious. Why did that thought come into my mind? I have no idea.
I said to La D, “Darling. Do you think that chickens would make good spies?”
I can’t really describe the look she gave me. She stopped pruning, slowly lowered her pruning arm and had this look of utter disbelief in her face.
“What are you talking about Luomochifa? Of course they wouldn’t make good spies they’re chickens. How could they possibly use all those gadgets that Q comes up with? Let alone drive those super cars and boats and go scuba diving. Can you imagine a chicken with a diving mask on and a little oxygen bottle on their back? No of course you can’t you moron. Get on with the job Luomochifa. Now.”
Her witty response really threw me. She’s playing me at my own game,…. and winning!! She shouldn’t be having these wild, surrealistic thoughts. Damn.
Just then I looked around for our potential chicken spies only to see that they had disappeared. What did it mean? Could they understand what we were saying and decided to show us that there might be a future section in MI6 just for chickens?
Where were they? Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of brown amongst the bamboo. I looked harder and sure enough there were the three of them clucking and scratching about round the bottoms of the bamboo, looking very nonchalant, I thought. Just a quick glimpse over in our direction every now and then. I think they might be leading us on a bit, making themselves out to be more stupid than they really are. But then again ……..
See what I mean? What do you think?
We have had some snow and very cold weather like a lot of Northern Europe. It was quite funny the other morning I went down to let the chickens out and there was about 10cms of snow. I opened the coop hatch and tried to put the steps up so the chicks to get down and as usual they were onto the steps before I had attached them to the coop. The first one rushed down and stopped abruptly at the end as she just noticed that there was all this white stuff where the ground should be. The second one bowled down the steps and bashed into the first one. The third one did the same and crashed into the second. The upshot was they all fell off the steps and onto the snow. They were very taken aback. It was very amusing. It looked like a chicken pile up.
The third chicken is laying. I repeat, the third chicken is laying
No it’s not some sort of code that spies might use when they meet their contact. It is a fact. Our last chicken has started to lay at long last. She is laying consistently since last Saturday. Brilliant. Of course we are now coming to the stage where we have too many eggs for ourselves and we can give some away to neighbours and friends. But that’s good.
Since they are all laying we have now let the chicks come out into the middle garden. They really love it. There is loads to explore and lots of green things, as well as insect, for them to feed on.
It has taken some while. About six months. But there we are.
We went out to do some shopping yesterday and every time we got out of the car the wind would start to gust. Funny because it wasn’t the least bit windy when we left the house. As we drove back and turned into our lane the trees were swaying and the leaves were swirling all around the place. We got back to house to find the little greenhouse had disappeared! We found it eventually. There were broken pots and plants and soil spoils all over the place. The bottom of the stairs was covered in about 4 inches of leaves – at one point Bertie thought they would make a good bed, see picture.
Bertie on a bed of leaves. Doesn’t sound too appetising thank goodness!
Large pieces of corrugated iron had been blown across the garden. There were also a couple of corrugated iron sheets that we had used in the walls of the chicken pen that had become detached and were flapping about in the wind. It was terrible. It was aright mess.
Of course there was no point in trying to tidy up in those winds as you’d just be, literally, pissing into the wind. And you know what happens then!
Fortunately the gazebo frame was standing nice and rigid and erect. Good, I thought. Because we haven’t got the top on, the frame is so thin, the wind should just blow round it.
A little while later, La D popped her head round the door and said, “Luomochifa. What was that you telling me about the gazebo frame? About how resilient it is in the wind. Well that’s a load of b******s my old mucker (she does love to put on a bit of a mockney accent now and again) because it’s now lying all twisted and torn.”
I rushed to the window and gazed down on the unedifying spectacle.
“What a mess,” I said
“Are these things really meant to last more than a season?” La D asked in a bored fashion. “We do seem to get through them Luomochifa.”
“We do, my darling. We do.” I replied. However, there is a little bit of an upside in this and that is that the cover was very thin and didn’t provide much protection from the sunlight, whereas the previous one did. So next year we will have to get one with a little more protection. Besides I was bored with this one anyway. So there.
V strange. Yesterday in the massive breeze, our little outside temperature guage registered, wait for it. Are you ready? 25.5°C. 9th December. 25° plus? Can hardly believe it. It felt so warm. Tomorrow’s forecast is about 3°.
Still nicely understated here compared to the UK. Just about to see the Christmas “thing” get really underway now. Very lovely.
We managed to get all our olives picked by Thursday lunchtime. Dodging the showers and morning dews was a bit precarious. Mustn't pick them when wet. Nipped up to the olificio and was greeted with no activity whatsoever. Oops, we thought. Are we too late for pressing?
Wasn't really a problem. At the end of the picking and pressing season, it is normal for them to group customers pickings as it costs quite a bit of money to run the presses, so they don't want to have to gear things up just for one customer a few hundred kilos of olives. So we arranged to go back yesterday afternoon about 3:30 to tie in with some other customers he had already arranged.
When we arrived there again yesterday, we met one of our neighbours along with one of his grandsons who has some learning difficulties. He had been picking since the beginning of November and he told us that this last lot brought his total up to 3500 kilos!!! That's about 650-700 litres. That's a lot of oil. We expect they must either give some away or sell it.
He was the customer ahead of us. When it was his turn, they poured all his olives into the hopper and the process was started. After a while the miller asked us to bring ours in and put in onto the scales. 212 kilos, minus the weight of the boxes, 14 kilos, gave us a grand total of 198 kilos, about 30 kilos more than the last time. Excellent.
I was busy looking at all the fantastic machinery at the mill when La D tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Should he be doing that?" and pointed at our neighbour's grandson who had just tipped one of our boxes of olives - about 20 kilos worth - into the hopper on top of his grandfather's berries.
Fortunately one of the mill workers also saw this and stopped the lad from putting any more of our berries into the hopper. The man looked at us and shrugged his shoulders. He then spoke with the capo and together they took our empty box and disappeared outside for a few minutes and returned with a full box! No idea where he kept his secret stash of olives but thank goodness he had one. So we were back to full weight.
The grandfather apologised for the boy who looked very embarrassed. We said not to worry. What else could we have said? The poor lad didn't know he wasn't helping.
Soon it was our turn to empty all our olives into the beast. They get taken up a conveyor from the hopper. They are then vibrated as they pass through a blower which gets rid of any stray leaves. From there they go into a great macerator and get mulched up. The mill has two of these so each customer gets only the oil from their own berries. Whilst this is going on the previous customer is getting his oil at the end of the production.
The colour of freshly pressed olives is a fantastic sight. It's almost fluorescent green. It's is quite beautiful, at least to our eyes.
We brought our containers over. We had brought a 20 litre jerry can and two 5 litre glass wine flagons. I had bought the second flagon just in case, as I did not expect to get any more than 23-25 litres. The jerry can got filled way past the 20 litre mark, then we went onto the fist glass flagon. That got brimmed. Then onto the second flagon. It was filling up quickly. La D and I couldn't believe it. The capo asked us for another flagon, but we hadn't got one. He rushed off and brought another glass flagon from somewhere in the mill.
"You'll have to replace this, OK?" he said to me. "Si, si. Grazie mille." I replied. The oil just finished pouring when this third flagon was pretty much up to the brim. We had 37 litres of beautiful greeny-yellow freshly milled olive oil from our own berries.Fan-bloody-tastic! It cost us €40.00. that's €1.10 per litre of "real" Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Wow, were we chuffed to bits.
Now I've just got to get on with the pruning.
Last month has pretty much been all about La D’s mum. La D had to go over again and sort out her mum’s situation. We bought her a one way ticket as she wasn’t going to leave until she had sorted it out.
The long and short of it is that her mum is unable to live at home any more. La D, together with her dad and, with the support of her siblings, have managed to get her out of hospital and into a very lovely nursing home close by.
The processes and protocols that La D had to go through have, to be honest, quite daunting, especially as for more than half the time, all the parties involved seemed to be working on the same objective but with different scripts! Not helpful when you are trying to deal with something like this.
The hospital’s nursing care was not good. La D’s mum was passed around from pillar to post, with no-one really knowing what to do with her. Of course all this time her physical and mental health was deteriorating as there was little interaction by the various staff. It was a very poor nine weeks for her and for the family.
The nursing home staff are a very different bunch. OK you may say, they only have to deal with people like La D’s mother, but there was nothing stopping the hospital staff to give a little more thought and time to her when she was in their care.
Anyway there is no more to be done.
I flew out a few days ago and we did a bit of family visiting, which was fun. We got back on Sunday leaving a very chilly UK (no snow encountered thank goodness) to return to a cold and very rainy Le Marche. Brrrrrrrrr.
We collected the chickens on the way home from some good friends who looked after them and who gave us a welcoming bowl of soup bread and cheese. Wonderful.
We got unpacked, put the heating on, put the chicks in their pen and then went to collect the Bert.
He was ecstatic to see us, especially La D as he hadn’t seen her for three weeks.
More refreshments were offered to us and gratefully accepted.
Got back home, had a lovely hot meal and glass of wine and then collapsed into bed, pretty pooped. It was going to be a busy day tomorrow too.
Because of all the goings on in the UK we still have to pick our olives. November is the picking season around here so we are at the end of the picking time.
Well we were out at first light and apart from a quick coffee and some soup and bread for lunch we worked until we couldn’t see the olives dropping onto the net. We had bagged about 140 kilos and reckon there is probably about another 50-60 kilos on the remaining trees. The weather was great. Windy and sunny.
Since Monday evening it has been p***ing down and no more have been picked.
We are hoping that by this afternoon the rain will have cleared off and we can pick the remainder. We really want to get the olives pressed by the end of the week. Here’s hoping…….
We have started our 4th year here, living in beautiful rural, central Italy. Where has the time gone? It's still a little bit scary but exciting too. This blog will continue to provide a record of a good life in the slow lane. My sister painted our house and as it was so good we thought we would use it here. Thanks Liz.