Friday, September 23, 2011

Hot, hot, hot

It has been the hottest Summer here for many, many years. It has only just started to cool down, to a comfortable 28-29 C in the shade. We have had no rain for something like eight weeks. The grass is very light brown. The veggies have survived but only because we have been watering them often.
I have probably told you what we do with the big plants like toms, but I’ll just mention it again. We bury half litre plastic bottles with their bottom cut out, head first at an angle to the plants roots. The water that we give them are pretty much guaranteed to reach just the roots of the plant they have been buried next to. It takes very little water but the water is efficiently used. It seems to work very well by the harvest we have been having I must say.


We have had the dad-in-law staying with us for a couple of weeks. He went back on Wednesday looking nicely chilled – mentally, not physically, in fact he looked very tanned!
His trips over and back again were nice and easy-peasy so we hope he’ll book up again and we will see him again soon in 2012.
Because of the heat, he took it very sensibly and managed to completely read our library, twice! No, not really, but he had an excellent reading session. Just what he needed.
We went out for a couple of great meals with him. The first was a little traumatic as every where we tried to book wasn’t open, they were on “ferie”, holiday. I don’t blame them as they were taken advantage of the continuing good weather and having some holiday themselves. However we managed to get in to Pippo e Gabriella’s, which is one of his favourites anyway. As usual we were not disappointed. Tremendous.
Then last Sunday we went to a new place we hadn’t been before, L’antico Gusto. Wow. Sunday lunch – pranzo – was a seven course, yes, seven, set menu, with wine and both fizzy and still water, as much as you wanted. €25,00 a head. The food was fabulous. Fantastic value. It lasted about four and a half hours. Brilliant. Mind you we didn’t bother eating anything substantial until Tuesday!


All present and correct.
Freya, who we thought was growing up fairly well has reverted to early puppyhood. She is nicking knickers and chewing them to bits and no, I didn’t teach her to do it, she is self-taught. Digging holes where holes shouldn’t be dug. Attacking Bertie when he leasts expects it. Chewing plants and plant pots. We found we had three Avocado plants growing in the compost bin. We rescued them and La D lovingly planted them in pots and there were doing incredibly well through her nursing skills. We gave one to a friend who is real whizz with plants – won prizes for his garden’s output back in Wandsworth. Freya got one of those. In fact she is being a general nuisance. But is hard to be cross with a pup, especially when she wanders up to you and starts to lick you all over. Oh well, she will grow up quickly enough.

A bit of better news

My son’s friend has been having his first interventions with chemo and they have gone very well. He is now able to eat more or less as usual which is great news
One day at a time.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Weather Report

Stifling. Pushed pass 40°C in the shade on many days. No rain since 1st August.

The holiday season a la Casa Grotta,aka a change is as good as a rest

Because we are as poor as church mice. La D  and myself sat down at the beginning of the month and asked ourselves how we could have a summer holiday without spending any money. We thought and we thought, and then we had one of those “Eureka” moments. La D said, “I know it’s not much, but how do you fancy,” wait for it, “and it wouldn’t cost any extra”, keep waiting, “ we move into the spare bedroom?”
Wow, I thought, this is why I married this woman. Pure genius. It would be like being a different place altogether, and we have the luxury of having an en suite.

Holiday report

The spare bedroom is slightly cooler and it is more difficult to hear some blasted dogs barking in the early hours of the morning (presumably at cinghiale). Err .. that’s it really. We tried to behave as though we were on a holiday, but who were we kidding. Ourselves. Anyway, nothing ventured, nothing gained and it didn’t cost us a centesimo. But do we feel relaxed and refreshed? Do we buggery!
If I could meet the smartarse who coined the phrase “a change is as good as rest” I’d punch him on the nose
Next year we are contemplating a fortnight in the office!!!

Beach versus Pool

Because most of the Italian population are mainly on holiday during August, we tend not to venture down to the coast as it is so crowded. Fortunately, regular readers of the blog will know that we have a public swimming pool about half a mile from us. As the month has been the hottest here for many, many years, boy did the pool come in handy, almost a necessity some days. We took to going down about 12:30 – mad dogs and Englishmen, I know – just when those who had come for the morning were packing up. Often we were the only ones there till about 3. It was fab and the pool’s temperature was about perfect. It was really holiday like. It closed today, but the people running it told us that next year they would be opening for July as well. Good stuff.


We have had two cats living around us now for about 18 months producing kittens left, right and centre. Although here in Le Marche, there is a scheme wherby the authorities will pay for sterilisation of semi-feral cats if you agree to look after them, we made an application quite a while ago and nothing has happened. We reckon we have housed 14 kittens over the last couple of years and we couldn’t house any more. So, with a firm grip on our wallets we took them to the vet and had them done. At about the same time we had Freya spayed too. Poor Bertie, and Freya too, but at least there won’t be any “accidents” such as the patter of giant paws
Freya is still into “chicken tossing” but, thankfully, it is becoming less frequent. Mind you, she is ony 7 months old, today in fact. The trouble is she is now as tall as Bertie and it so hard to see her as a pup, or cucci in Italian.
The chicks are doing brilliantly still giving us 3 eggs a day. Occasionally they have to “play” with Freya – see above – but it doesn’t put them off laying!


We have been watering every other morning, very early before the sun comes up on us. The result has been well worthwhile with everything growing to abundance. Record onion crop. Tommies are prolific. Corn is beautiful, etc., etc.. The only problem this years has been with the spuds. They were very poor. I doubt we got more back in weight than when we planted. We may not do them next year.

A bit of bad news

My son Pip was going to come to Italy -  Porto Recanati on the coast, not far from us - , with a friend for a few days and they were going to stop with us a for a night and we were going up and see them. Just before they were coming my son’s friend was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and further tests now show it has spread to his stomach and liver. Devastating news. So the holiday was cancelled and Pip is using his holiday time to spend with his friend. It is too early to say how he is getting on but we think about him often here at Casa Grotta and are hoping that they will come out next year. All the very best to him.   

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Water, water everywhere….what has happened to the sun?

Gosh it’s gone cold. La D and myself were talking about a fire last night. It’s mad. Boiling temperatures one week and thinking-thermals the next. Both of us also seem to suffer a bit when we have these large temperature changes in very quick time. It seems to “knock us off” a bit. We feel very fatigued for a day or two. La D sometimes puts it down to too much Vino Rosso, but I remain to be convinced as we don’t have any changes to our imbibation (is this a word? If not, it certainly should be)

Enjoying ourselves

We are off for our annual wedding anniversary trip to the outdoor opera theatre, the Sferisterio in Macerata this Friday. We are going to see Un Ballo In Maschera (The Masked Ball) by Verdi. We have listened to the music via Spotify – oh yes, we’re well up with the technobabes. It’s fabulous.
The weather, however, might not be. It’s looking a little flaky at the mo, but here’s hoping.
However, we won’t be caught out like last year. We are going to take a tent and a gas stove. This may present Elf ‘n Safety issues as well as annoying some of the audience behind us, but we’ll cross that river, or bridge even, when we come to it.
We booked this back in January and we are so looking forward to it. It is only on for three nights. Anyway, I will report back.


A couple of years ago we approached our comune with a request to have some of the community cats here spayed. Apparently in this region, the comune will pay for this service as long as you take responsibility for feeding and looking after them. With usual Italian zeal, we have heard no more. We also think we have exhausted our supply of potential homes for kittens. so we are arranging to have Tigger and Daisy, who are our sort of cats “done” at our expense. It isn’t cheap.
On top of that, we have contacted our vet about Freya and she has said that Freya really should be done by the time she is 7 months, which is a month away. Gulp. We thought the cats cost was bad until she told us that Freya was going to cost three times the cost of one cat!
So, we are going to have a neutering party. Bring a scalpel. No only joking. Make it anaesthetic. Ha, ha.
August looks like an expensive month.
The kitties go to their new home next week.


Tremendous. Everything growing very well. The toms are abundant and sweet and juicy. Have made some great tomato ketchup a la Jamie Oliver with our cherry toms and San Marzano (long in shape) and some Beef ones that a friend gave us. It is excellent.
The freezers are getting fuller. Fortunately our nearest neighbours don’t grow anything themselves so we are able to give them extra produce. Of course we also are able to give some to the chicks who do eat anything and in return provide us with some beautiful eggs.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Yes, we still have it. Lots of it. Now it’s a bit breezy too. Had to do some emergency repairs this morning to the stakes holding up the cherry toms. We think they will be OK.


Doing well. Starting to harvest some lovely toms, cucumbers, melanzane (egg plant), French beans, onions, spring onions, etc., etc..
Of course we are having to water every two to three days but it looks like we may have some rain over the week-end.

Love amongst the animali – part 1

I had to go and shut the chickens in their coop the other night. It was dusk. We try to shut up shop for them a little earlier than this usually.
As I made my way down to the pen, I noticed Freya lying in the garden playing with what looked like an old piece of black plastic. Tossing it in the air and then catching it again. As I got nearer, I saw that the bit of plastic had wings and feet and feathers! The bloody dog was “playing” with Wilma. Aghh.
I issued a sharp command and Freya immediately went running off, tail held high, with a body language that said, “chase me, chase me.” That dog.
Anyway, I picked Wilma up quite gently. She was soaked with slobber. I placed her in the coop where I could only see one other chicken, Na. I suddenly heard a soft clucking sound coming from behind one of the olive trees just outside the pen. I went out and found Doris. She too was rather soggy. She ran into the pen and I picked her up and put her into the coop.
I know Freya’s only a pup – she’s not 6 months yet – but tossing chickens should not be part of her repertoire, particularly as her breed are protecting dogs. We know she does not mean any harm but we find it difficult to explain this to Doris, Na and Wilma. I have tried but they have lousy eye contact and just continue to cluck over me and peck the ground. There’s no reasoning with chickens,…..or dogs.

The next day the chicks seemed fine as though nothing had happened, although I did notice that whenever Freya went too close, they all moved off quite surreptiously. They are still laying well. Phew.

Love amongst the animali – part 2

The kitties are doing well and will be going to their new home in about 10 days or so. We have just started them on proper food yesterday and they seem to have got the hang of it.
They are going to be called Samson and Delilah, so we have started to call them Sammy and Del.
Sammy is a bit of a bruiser, but woossie. Del is petite but is into exploring everything she can. She has a great crush on Freya.
When the cats are out on the porch floor and Freya comes up, Del immediately makes her way over to Freya and starts to touch her paws, tail, nose, any part really. Freya just loves this. She licks Del back and because her tongue is so large compared with Del, Del does a backward summersault. But the little kitten comes straight back for more.

So this is a very delightful scene. Cats loving dogs and vice versa.

As I was getting breakfast ready yesterday, La D took some implements out to the table and announced, “Where is Del?” This was a rhetorical question as I was in the kitchen preparing the coffee and food and, as the saying goes, did not have eyes in the back of my head. None the less, La D seemed to overlook this fact as she announced again, in a louder voice, “Where is Del? WHERE IS SHE?”
We looked all round the basket they sleep in, and all over the porch. Both she and Sammy are still too small to go down the stairs unless they fall. So we went down the stairs. No sign of her.
We went round the back of the house and saw Freya lying in the garden, playing with something.
Yep. It was Del. More imperious commands were issued at the dog, who again went bounding off. You could almost sense the chuckling.
Poor little Del was pretty much unfazed by this. Apart from being covered with the, now, ubiquitous slobber she seemed fine. There was no way she could have got there under her own steam, so Freya must have carried her in her mouth all the way there.
La D picked her up and gave her a cuddle and bough her back to her brother and mum, where she settled right back in.
Yesterday evening, Del and Freya were billing and cooing over each other on the porch again. Quite lovely really as you can see.

One last thing, this morning, La D caught Freya with Del in her mouth just about to go down the stairs again, no doubt for a bit more of cat tossing. We didn’t let them proceed.

Here is a link to some kittie fun.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Serious Weather

La D, myself and the animali are sweltering at the moment. Under our gazebo at the back of the house, it was 42.7 deg C or if you like, 109 deg F, at 15:00 today. Man it's hot.

Too hot to do anything more than move your eyes and fingers over a keyboard in case you dissolve. There is a fan on most of the day in the middle room and then all night in the bedroom, when the temp dips to about 26 C inside. 26C at 03:00!!!!! One must assume that there will be a hiatus in births in about nine months time!

We can't  sleep either. The dogs stay outside and occasionally start to bark at something, we are presuming cinghiale. We are up at 05:30 which is the only time when you are able to do anything physical. like having like water the veg - which are doing well right now because of the watering - or pick some apricots.

We've stopped walking the dogs this week as they were just poddling along with us, not running about. So there seemed no point. They start to play at about 21:30 and chase each other round the garden for a bit. More exercise than they would get when we went on a walk. Most of the day they just stay in the office with La D, which is the coolest, sorry, the least warm room at the moment.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A great day out

Last week I told you we were going down to Abruzzo to see one of the writers that is involved with La D’s virtual writers’ group,

The criteria to be a member is that you have to be living in a country other than your birth country and that you write in English. It is very successful with quite a number on the waiting list.

The person we went too see, Paola,  is in fact Italian, but writes in English and lives, at the moment, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has never lived in Italy. She was born in East Africa. Quite a person.

She and a few others get together for a week near a small town called Abbateggio in the north of the Majella National Park which is in the region of Abruzzo. The group take over a whole B&B place, They teach each other things. For instance, one of them gives Yoga lessons, another does creative writing, etc.. La D’s contact teaches Italian. This is all mixed in with some personal repose, trip to the beach, maybe a visit to a vineyard, local restaurants. It sounds as though it could be a very relaxing and interesting time.

We made good time, despite driving through a torrential downpour for a few minutes and arrived in time for a coffee. Fantastic place. The views are quite spectacular. We were introduced to those that where there, and then a delicious bowl or two of soup that a couple of them had made. It also turned out that Paola’s husband came from Belfast and as I did all my schooling there, I was quizzed about which school I went to Methody (Methodist College Belfast to give it its full title). Her husband went to Methody’s traditional rival school Inst (Royal Belfast Academical Institution). Then we got onto the schools’ cup (rugby) but it turned out that he was two years younger than me so it was unlikely that we tried to knock seven bells out of each other on the pitch, sorry, played rugby against each other. Anyway, Methody leads the cup stats with 32 wins to Inst's 29. Oh yes.

 Afterwards we went into Abbateggio itself. We parked up and then went walking into the centro storico (the historical centre). Paola’s parents moved there from Rome in 1947. Her dad was the appointed GP for the town. The commune helped with his transportation issues by lending him a mule!! If he were late at a baby delivery, he often kipped down in the same bed as the mum and new babe to get some essential ZZZs. We went past the house where they had lived and where Paola’s brother and sister were born. The house looked as though it was once quite grand, but now would require a total restoration. The population has reduced from 2500 pop to 450 pop over the last few decades. Desperate.

As were were walking down a street, Paola suddenly opened a door to a building and called out to someone. A few minutes later we were sitting in a tiny front room/kitchen listening to a lady talking about her family. When we asked her age, she replied that she was 98 and 5 months!

After we said our goodbyes and went for a bit more a walkabout, Paola did the same thing to another house and again we were ushered in and offered refreshments. This lady was one of the children that Paola’s father had brought into the world. It was really most interesting. We were treated to the tae of how she and her husband met and all sorts of family history.

We asked Paola how she had come to know people and things about Abbateggio when she only visited the place once a year, and then not until recently. She wasn’t even born there.

The town has very interesting mayor (sindaco). He wanted to try and make contact with all living diaspora of the town, and their offspring, because he was trying to reach out to people who knew the town and wanted more interest to be shown in what it, and he, were doing to promote it. He made the effort to trace as many people as he could and wrote to them asking them to make contact. He also gave them a vote they could use the for the town elections.  He even found out that were 200 ex-Abbateggions in Belgium. He also wrote to them and invited them to a re-union with some current townsfolk in Brussels. He then flew up to Belgium with some of the towns people to meet up with the ex-pats. Just over 100 came to the meeting. I personally think that is a huge success.

Anyway, this was all a few years ago and Paola was so amazed at the effort being made that she came to Abbateggio and started making contacts with people who had known her parents and her siblings. She then started her annual bash. Her parents come often now and stay at the same B&B.
And yes, she did vote at the town elections.

Great day. Thank you Paola.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy 1st July to everyone.

How eggasperating is this?

The girls appear to have been having a bit of a break (ha, ha) in their egg laying. We have recently only been getting one or two eggs a day, which is not the norm. The weather has been v hot. A couple of days ago a local thermometer was nudging 45°C. So we have been putting down the lack of eggs due to overheated hens.

However, the hens have pretty much a free run of the middle and upper gardens and love wandering about. What they don’t like is Freya stalking them and suddenly leaping on them and grabbing their tail feathers. But that’s another tale.

This morning I had to go and do a few chores at one of the local villages and when I got back this is what La D had found in a nesting place in the garden. The little buggers. Why have they stopped laying in their perfectly good nesting box? Doh!

Matters of the teeth

Both La D and I have had reason to go to the dentista recently. Both of us hate it and it is expensive, or at least we think it’s expensive. But what can you do? We don’t to be called the “gummies” before our time do we? Having seen some pictures of Russian country people who use stainless steel for replacement teeth, maybe I’ll just go and have a “Jaws” job, a la James Bond character. On second thoughts, maybe not

I have to go back for a further consultation at the end of the month. Oh joy.

Social scene

Went for a great BBQ the other night. Some people we know have a great place with a pool that they rent out but this week there were no guests so they decided to have a do. Absolutely brill. We met up with the people who rescued Bertie and his siblings. Poor bloke, he recently fell off a ladder doing some arboreal work. Broke his back. Fortunately he fell very levelly(?) and the break is quite healable. Apparently if you break a vertebra from the side, that is a completely different matter.

The library is going well but quite slowly. I am on duty this afternoon. Hopefully there will be a few people through the doors.

Travelling down to Pescara next week for lunch with one of the people who belongs to La D’s Writers Abroad web group. She actually lives in Bangladesh – her husband is in the UK FO – having just moved there from Belgium. She runs a writing course in North Abruzzo once a year.
Bertie and Freya are going to spend the day with their friend Lola. I do hope Lola’s people know what they are taking on! I’m sure they do.

Talking if dogs, here is a picture taking today during our early morning constitution. The sun is just rising at this time and it creates beautiful dappled light in some areas where we go.

Had a lovely long ‘phone call with my number three son this week. He and one of his friends are thinking of coming to Italy for a week in August and was sounding me out about some places. Have given him lots of info on places in Le Marche but also in the South (Sorrento peninsula) and North West (Italian Riviera, Liguria). So we’ll wait and see.

No more news on baby Annalise. Some photos have appeared on Facebook, but that is all. It’s rather sad really as Facebook as most of you know is a massive personal networking website, with people able to acknowledge others as friends. My son only has two friends on it. Rather defeats the object.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Granddaughter

It’s been confirmed that her name is Annalise. They are not sure if she will have middle names at the moment.

There is a new book that has just been published about very small children. It is a book for parents and is called “Go the f&*k to sleep”.
It is a bedtime book for parents who live in the real world, where a few snoozing kitties and cutesy rhymes don't always send a toddler sailing off to dreamland. Profane, affectionate and refreshingly honest, it captures the familiar and unspoken tribulations of putting your child to bed for the night.
It has got some brilliant reviews. Perhaps my son and his wife should hold off on the official naming thing until they have all got used to living together. You never know, the experience might throw up some fairly apt names.

How about Enyo, goddess of war or perhaps Anushka, goddess of temper. You just never know.

Haven’t had any photos through yet but it’s early days.


Larger than life. She weighed in at 22 kilos last week. Up from 15 four weeks previously. Gulp. I’m going to weigh her next Friday when she will be 5 months old and see what the brute weighs then. Still gorgeous. Doesn’t appreciate her biting strength. Adores Bert and follows him around a lot of the time. Shedding her coat like billy-o.  Still very timid of people, sometimes even us which is a bit odd. But what is really strange is that if we meet up with fiends to go for a walk with the dogs, Freya will not come near them whilst we are getting ready. As soon as we set off, she’s like their new best friend. Running up to them, wagging her tail, trying to lick and jump up at them. It’s like a switch has been thrown, the effect is immediate. Odd.


Yes. Lots of it and all roasting. Saw a temperature sign above a pharmacy yesterday reading 45° at about midday. Glad Wimbledon is on. Shut the shutters, sit slightly apart from La D – nothing to do with personal hygiene, just tooooo hot – and watch some excellent sports men and women. We saw the matches between Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krum and the one between Li Na and Sabine Lisicki. What absolutely riveting tennis.

The forecast looks like more of the same. Oh dear. More out with the pooches just after 6 am.

The only problem with these early morning starts is that we are not alone! We were joined this morning by this lot.

This the third time we have seen them in the past couple of weeks

 What else?

One of the little kittens passed away yesterday. It wasn’t growing or suckling mum so we are not surprised really. Still the remaining two are doing well. Their new owners are hopefully coming over today or tomorrow to have a look at them They’ll probably go from us about 5 weeks, once they have weaned.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Special 14th June

Fourth granddaughter born this afternoon. Called Annalise or Annalisa. Still to be confirmed. Mum had to be induced yesterday and forceps were required at the end. Both babe and ma doing well by all accounts. Weight unknown, to me, at present. Will revert.
Over and out.

Ciao, Mantenere la fede

Friday, June 10, 2011

Freshwater Fun and Frolics

Bertie and Freya get down and clean in the Fiume Tenna. Great fun.

We take the dogs out very early these days because of the heat. We have been going down paths mainly because we want to get Freya used to regular exercise and paths are not too onerous for her. We will gradually build her up to some decent lengths of walks. The other day we took her into a field of uncut grass. This is a picture of her after we got back. She seems to shrink by a third when her coat gets wet. It’s more obvious when she is in the river but it is still quite clear even with early morning dew on her coat. 

Pussy(ies) Galore

We have more kittens as of yesterday morning. Got up to let the dogs out at 05:30 – yes, that’s right, half five in the morning – and instead of two cats on the mat there were five. Tigger had three kittens.

Lovely colouring especially a little tortoiseshell one. Haven’t sexed them yet as they are very small. Just hoping that the male cats don’t come and take them away when they are a couple of weeks old as they did to Daisy’s a few weeks ago.

We hope we have homes for them all. Will keep you posted.


The veggie patches are doing great guns, just like all the other vegetation. We have had lots more rain and with good temperatures the rate of growth is phenomenal. Last pea picking tomorrow then we will take them out and plant some brassicas. I think. La D is the Director of Operations (why am I so surprised?).
Had first of our new potatoes yesterday. Absolutely gorgeous they were too. Having some more tomorrow a la Patate Dauphinoise as it’s our wedding anniversary. I wonder what would happen if I ever forgot our wedding anniversary? I tend not to think about those sort of things, it makes me go all queasy, weak at the knees and funny up the bum!.


The chickens are fine. Still getting three eggs a day. Friends and neighbours have been benefitting from our girls’ largesse. Freya seems to have gone off the idea of chicken biting. Not completely, but almost. So hopefully she has grown out of that particular phase.


I have been attacked by the vegetation. Very itchy and pretty disgusting to touch. I have these sores over my left arm, hand and knee. A litle bit on my right arm and knee. It should go soon, hopefully. At least ti keeps the women at bay. Ha, ha says La D!!


Mantenere la fede

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It's Freya again!

Here's a video we made last week down at the river. Freya adores the water as you can see. It won't be long before she is chasing after the sticks with Bertie!

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Friday, May 27, 2011

Freya Update.

Freya continues to delight and annoy us in equal measure. No, not really. She is a lovely big pup.
The D-i-L came over a couple of weeks ago and little Freya took a few days before she was  comfortable around him as she is terribly shy of new people she meets. But she was soon won round with D-i-L’s general pleasing demeanour and, it has to be said, his terrible jokes.

She has already been swimming, although not intentionally. She was trying to follow Bertie whilst he was chasing sticks and got quickly out of her depth and had to doggy paddle to get back to the shallows. She absolutely loves the river. We have been three times now and every time she is a little more adventurous.

We went to Lago san Ruffino early this week with our friends who have Lola. Freya absolutely loved the walk and the water. We let her off the lead and she was very good. A lot of chasing after the other dogs, then back to the humans to check we were all there. Looking for a quick pat. The off again. An immensely happy dog.

Bertie, we think, is loving having a pal. La D was right, of course. (“Of course I was right!” La D speaking, sorry, writing.) A friend for Bertie would be a good thing, and so it is proving. They play a lot together. Tumbling all over the place. Bertie is often on his back with Freya trying to bit his neck and other bits, the unmentionables. It says a lot for his confidence with her that he lies like that. Of course there is still the occasional snap and corresponding whimper when Bertie has had enough. But these are few and far between and Freya seems to bring him round to more play or else goes and has a kip in the shade of the hazelnut tree.

She also loves the chickens. So much so that one of her favourite games is to sneak up behind and grab them by the tail feathers. It’s an odd sight to see a chicken with a large white dog attached to its rear end. We tend to discourage this sort of behaviour as it may affect egg laying, but so far it hasn’t as we still getting out tre uova per day.

As I have already mentioned, it really is a good time of year to have a pup as they are outside all the time and of course there is plenty of space for them. The weather also helps. It’s has been pretty lovely the last few weeks. The odd shower but then back to mid 30s and glorious sunshine.

Garden Update

Those of you with a keen eye will have seen that La D now does a gardening blog associated with this one.
We were out at 6 this morning planting some more tomatoes (pomodori), cucumbers (citrioli), beans (fagioli) and courgettes (zucchini). La D has also planted quite a few flowers around the place so we should have wonderful colours over the Summer. Somebody we knew who lived briefly over here left us a Bottle Brush plant rather than take it back to the UK. Lovely isn’t it?

English Library

Together with a few other “Inglesi” we have opened a library in a town near us, Servigliano.
There must be well over a 1000 books now with more coming in. There is a tremendous breadth to the books as well.
We are open twice a week at the moment and take it in turns to play Librarian – not the way of Peter Sellers in ”Only Two Can Play” mind you!. We have been given a room by a charity in a fabulous old “palazzo” in the middle of the town. The architecture is quite stunning.
Activity is slow but we are hoping that will slowly increase as the library becomes more known.
It will definitely save on Amazon orders!

Spring has Sprung

As usual at this time of year the local felines have had kittens or are pregnant. One of the ones that hang around our place, Daisy, had three a little while ago, but they mysteriously disappeared when they were about 16/17 days old. We understand that the male cats come along and take the kittens off somewhere, so that the queens will again come into season then the toms can get their end away again. All seems rather brutal to me, but there you go. C’รจ la vita

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Once again I apologise

For the tardiness I have shown recently on blog updating. I’ve been that busy. Heard that one before have you? I expect so.

Anyway a quick fill in before the big, and I mean BIG news.

La D had a good time with her siblings and pa but it was rather lovely to pick her up from the airport.

With the lumberjacking done, I had been in charge of the slash and burn of the ground to liberate it from the weeds and general overgrowth. It was great. When La D got back it was time to move the timber up to the house. It was hard going but we managed it over several days and now have a good wood stack which I am hoping will last perhaps two years.

With the advent of some warmer and dryer weather we have also done a bit of decorating in the kitchen and sitting/dining room. We had the doors and windows open all the time so the smell of the paint didn’t get to us too much. Looks very good.

The lovely Spring weather has also meant we have been eating breakfast and lunch  outdoors for about three weeks now. Lovely.

Veggie gardening is about to go ballistic as we head into the major sowing season although our fava (broadbeans) are ready now. Lovely with sheep’s’ cheese. So there will be lots of weeding and putting up of support canes. Good fun. In fact one of things that La D have been thinking about is perhaps going into a sort of partnership with some friends and working out what we all grow best and set up a small cooperative venture. If we grow toms best then we grow all the toms, if somebody else grows onions best then they grow all the onions, etc.. Or something like that. We’ll see. We haven’t talked to anybody about it yet.


La D has been banging on about something for quite a while now and I have been resisting – not that hard mind you, just a bit to give her something to push against!!
When we heard that what we have just got was likely to be “at risk” quite soon, we took the plunge.

We now have a friend for Bertie!!  She (another dog might prove problematical in the future, temperament-wise) is just about 12 weeks old and scrummy.
Her name is Freya and she is one of six pups from a farm not too far from here. The shepherd’s dogs had 5 bitches and 1 dog. Whilst the shepherd has no problem with a dog, they don’t need bitches as they tend to breed. Surprising that. So he wants rid of them. Mind you she was expensive compared to Bertie. We had to give the shepherd a packet of cigarettes, when Bertie cost us nothing! The shepherd was more than pleased someone took on one of the pups and he was thrilled by the ciggies.
Some friends have seen the pups since they were born. They do in fact have a sister of Freya’s from the previous litter.

Freya’s great. Very pretty, clumsy, fluffy, bitey but licky too, and almost house-trained already. When you think she spent the first nine weeks of her life living in a field, she has taken to domestic living very quickly.
Bertie has come round rapidly. He was a little distant at first but I expect couldn’t resist the way Freya just threw herself at him, literally, to get him to play. Bertie is just coming to the end of his moulting and we often see Freya with a mouthful of white fur from where she has charged into him, mouth agape, nipping him. He tells her off sometimes. Not often.
The time of year is of course brilliant. The dogs are outside all the time. Of course a lot of puppy-watching is essential to her correct upbringing.

Here are some photographs.

So you share in our delight you can have a look at a couple of short videos we have put on Youtube. Here are the links:

Happy viewing!

I will keep you informed of progress and probably put some more videos up on Youtube too.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Monday, March 21, 2011

I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK

Last week we had to take the Golf for its first Revisione (MOT). As usual I had been fretting about whether she would pass and how much it was going to cost to put things right. I don’t know why she wouldn’t pass as she is well looked after, but then, that’s me. Anyway it was fine and she is now OK until March 2013. Great.

So, with no expense associated with the Revision and after much cogitation and deliberation I finally went and got a chainsaw (petrol) to start on next Winter’s firewood. It was a difficult decision. I find – much to La D’s annoyance – that I have to cover all aspects of a major purchase from north to south, east to west, back to front, etc., and then spend a bit (OK, a lot) of time on the web researching the myriad options. My view is that we buy very little these days and so when we do, I need to feel comfortable with the decision, in other words, fluffy. Now La D is much more practical.
She’ll ask, “Do we need it/one?” If the answer is yes, then it’s JFBI.
Actually this is pretty good, because we complement each other

So in the end I plumped for a Jonsered. For those not in the know they are one of the top brands, made by Husqvarna in Sweden. Consequently they are not cheap but it should be a reliable investment and give us a few good years of service. I would much prefer to spend €150 on a pair of shoes that will last for 15 years r more rather than pay €60 for some that might last three. But there you go.
The reason I went for them rather than another brand was because the other good ones are all about the same price but the Jonsered dealer is the nearest. I felt it better to buy from a dealer because of spares (these machines do need a few consumables) and also if anything should go wrong they will be able to deal with it. So there we are.

First thing did when I got it home was to get out the manual. It was printed only in Italiano. Oops. Onto the net. Downloaded the manula in English, printed it out a d set to work understanding how it works and what to do. This “homework” continued on Sunday. La D kept throwing glances in my direction as I was obviously not giving her 100% of my attention as I should have done.
“Isn’t it just a question of click and go?” she said, rather abruptly. Oh dear.
“No darling, not quite as simple as that I’m afraid.” I’m not sure she believed me.

We went down to the bottom of the estate this morning and got stuck in. La D had a go but decided to let me “lumberjack” whilst she cleared up and piled the logs into graded piles. Oh yes, very organised.
We nearly had the tree sawn up by lunchtime! The only thing we haven’t been able to finish is the last bit of the trunk as it is lying awkwardly, so I need to give this some thought as to how we can finish the job. The trunk will provide us with some great logs.
We also felled the tree next door to it as it was leaning pretty precariously. We hope to make inroads on that tomorrow.

Of course there is just one problemette. We have to move the timber from the bottom to the top where the house is. It’s a stiff old climb just getting yourself up, never mind pushing a barrow of logs in front of you .I did one trip this afternoon. That’s why I decided to come in and write this blog entry!
Well you know the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I hope that’s right.

I’m expecting I’ll look like a body builder by the time La D returns from her trip to England for her dad’s birthday and to see her mum and family. Well, even more body builder-like than I do now. Ahem.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Well, where do I begin.
The weather has been atrocious all week. First we had torrential rain – 12 inches in 12 hours at one point! – then we had loads of snow, then more rain and then even more rain. This has been accompanied with 48 hours without electricity due to the very heavy snowfall. 5 towns near us were all blacked out. The regional government has called for a regional state of emergency to be declared. It’s been raining since and still raining now.
3 people killed. Rivers bursting banks. Road sides collapsed. Earth and trees pushed onto the roads. It’s really terrible.

Just down from us a huge amount of earth and trees had slid into the road, turning it into a one lane road. This morning as I went past it, more slippage had a occurred because of the continuous rain. Fortunately there were a load of workman there with several great lorries waiting to take away all the debris and a big digger that was pulling down more earth down - to make it stable I guess.

We hear that the coast has had it the worst, but goodness knows what it’s like over there, Must be desperate.
On Thursday we braved the weather and took Bertie out down to the river just to have a look. We’ve never seen it in full spate. My goodness what a sight. The walk down to little “Torrente Saline” – this is effectively a stream just dribbles along usually but comes into its own when the snow starts to melt on the mountains – was littered with earth and rock falls that we had to climb over. At the end of the path there is a water testing plant, pretty small. From there, there are some steps down to the stream. These steps had completely disappeared!!!.

We went down a different way to the river. Devastation. There was a path by the side of the river that we usually walked down once we had joined the proper river from the stream. A good 50 metre length of it was gone. This path was about 2 metres high and at least 2 metres wide. Just nothing there at all. The whole vista had changed. Bertie took it into his head to swim across, or rather down, but we had trouble getting him back as the poor lad was just treading water trying to reach  us. Eventually we were able to get hold of him and were together again. Phew.
From the right hand side of the log in the river to the side, there was a path 3 days ago. It ran from where the stream enters the river on the right, down as far as you can see. The river has almost doubled in width at this juncture.

The bottom of our garden is criss- crossed with little streams. The path that La D and I have carved out during our daily walks with Bertie is now a stream. Never seen anything like it.

Apparently the worst weather to hit this region for 40 years. Let’s hope there is nothing like this for another 40 years. We have heard lots of stories about how people have fared. We get this info through Facebook and the Italian Community website.

We have a big tree down at the end of garden, which in some way may be propitious as it could provide next Winter’s (or the one after definitely) fire wood supply. I just need to get a petrol-driven chainsaw – we have an electric one but it is far to far away. Such a shame. Ha, ha, ha. More gadgets. Can we afford it? Probably not. But, I should be able to get a saw for about €150.00 and the value of the wood I would think is at least that. So, cost neutral. It also means that I can venture into our woods and cut up quite a bit of old timber that is there that I haven’t been able to do before.

The poor chickens don’t seem to know what to do. They have been constantly wet. Don’t think Doris and Wilma – the new ones – have been dry since they have been here. But we are getting one to two eggs a day so that is good.

A sort of spin off from all this meteorological rubbish is that La D and I have cancelled our birthday break to Venice. We were going to go next Thursday for three nights, but we are looking after Bertie’s sister – and Rustic – again as their owners have gone to Venice this week-end. Whilst it is looking dry (but very cold) for the next few days, the time we were going is looking decidedly wet.  There was going to be hardly anytime for the change over of dog-looking after roles and the forecasr is for more crap weather coming our way. La D decided we really didn’t fancy leaving rain here just to holiday in more rain. So we bit the bullet and cancelled the little pensione that we had booked. We have lost the train fare, but it was a good deal so it’s not too bad. We are going to re-group and have a break maybe in the fairer weather.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dog for sale. One owner. Free to good home. Reason for sale? He’s absolutely useless.

Well, it’s happened again. Mr Bloody fox visited us last week and took two of our girls, Tir and Nog. We couldn’t believe it. The weather was as it had been before when the fox came, very grey and p***ing with rain. However, big difference this time, Bertie was outside and we were in the house.
It happened in the afternoon. The girls had been out all morning and lunchtime. The heavens opened about midday. It had finally stopped raining. I went out about 3 to check if there were any eggs. I saw Na in the pen, scratching around, but couldn’t see the others. Then I came across what was left of Nog, our beautiful French Black  Copper Marans, and quite a few brown feathers from Tir, but nothing else.
La D and myself cursed ourselves for not remembering the conditions that Foxy likes to come hunting. Oh, dear, dear, dear.
Again we had become very attached to them all and they would usually come running if they heard us. They would never be any bother picking them up. Our lovely garden friends when we were out there in the garden.

The next day I was despatched down to the chicken farm and picked up a couple of replacements, Doris (another Marans) and Wilma (a red one). They have settled in pretty well. We have even had a couple of eggs from one. We think it is the red as the black last time took months before she was laying. Na is a bit fed up because we haven’t let her out of the pen yet because we need to get the others acclimatised to their immediate surroundings first. We also don’t want them laying eggs anywhere apart from the nesting box.

So what happened with Bertie? We don’t know. His breed’s whole raison d’etre is to guard anything that “belongs” in a recognised boundary, in this case, our house and garden-at least that bit that is fenced in. Well that’s proved to be a load of bunkum. Perhaps Bertie is the exception that proves the rule as far as a Maremma’s qualities are concerned.

If you want him, we’ll also throw in some dog food and possibly a couple of cats, free, gratis and for nothing. Now that’s a good deal. He’s also fully vaccinated for another year against rabies and the usual dog diseases.

La D has just informed me that Bertie is not for sale at any price. I did say I know that and that is why I am offering him for free. I am unable to print her response as most likely the paper will combust!

Looks like this is what we need, a bit of self defence:


Turned cold and wintry again over the last couple of days. Had quite a bit of snow yesterday morning but it didn’t hang around. More snow and cold winds forecast for the next few days. Brrrrr. Have to make sure we’ve got some firewood ready.

Other things

Shame about the Bahrain GP, but totally understandable.
Shame about the IrelandFrance result. It just makes me think that 3 points for a penalty for minor infringements is too much. For a vicious foul/dirty play, fair enough. I think they should reduce the points to 2 or even 1 so that tries really do count for much more of a side’s points. I will be sending my three centissimi’s worth to the RFU and IRB. Come on England and Italy this Saturday and Ireland on Sunday.

Ciao, mantenere la fede