Monday 30 May 2022

A plague of porcupines

Saturday morning there had been a porcupine attack in the border. As usual the white irises were the target,  I never worry too much as they grow wild here so they are tough, two a penny and generally recover.  I thought about setting up my wildlife camera but the creatures have never attacked two nights in a row so I didn’t. Wrong again, Sunday morning they’d been back with a vengeance, just look at the destruction. 

Not only were the remaining irises dug up and chewed, they’d also uprooted a lot of bulbs but not eaten them, I’ve replanted gladioli, oxalis, spraxis, obviously none of them tasted good.

I was surprised at the number of iris tubers excavated, there must have been a herd of porcupines and I worry they since there are so few iris remaining they might  start digging up plants that I am not prepared to lose, like the amaryllis that are just about to open or the well established nerines.

I set the camera on Sunday night not that it would stop them if they returned but at least I could see the culprits,  of course they didn’t return.  I’ll just keep up the surveillance until they are back unless they realise there is little left they want to eat and have moved on, I really hope so.

Thursday 26 May 2022

Sent to try us

 The challenges of living in Italy never cease, we have just about had enough.

The worst thing is yet another water leak. MrFF has been regularly going up to the snake pit shown above that houses the 9 meters for our area.  He has to lift off the heavy lid and used to have to climb into the pit until the water board recently repositioned the meters so they are just readable from the outside, as you see here.  

Since we returned our consumption had been low.   I recycle washing up and veggie cleaning water back onto the garden and we’ve only watered the veggie plants by hand as the irrigation is quite wasteful.  MrFF came down on Saturday night to tell me we have a leak, we’d used in the short time since he last checked as much as we’d normally use in half a year.  Some time ago he installed valves so he can isolate sections of our pipe run which confirmed the leak was again in the overgrown gully between our house and the road up to Giovanni’s.

MrFF was both cross and despondent about the leak because of the difficult hard work involved to find it, the cost of the water we’d lost and the sheer frustration of this never ending problem.  In fact one of his solutions was to switch off our supply, buy a lot of bottled water and ask at the hotel in the village if we could have a shower. Not up there with his best ideas.

Sunday we decided to have a day off from the terrace and the water leak and go to the morning market up the mountain.  This trip makes me nervous with all the big motorbikes overtaking so dangerously and cyclists descending at high speed, we’d hardly got to the next village never mind the mountain road before I was a nervous wreck.  The market was pleasant, MrFF got himself a linen shirt and a pair of jeans, we then walked round the town and stopped for a drink at a little bar we’ve used before near the market, the more upmarket bar we prefer was very busy. We each had an Aperol spritz, it wasn’t brilliant and the snacks you are always served with alcohol were pretty basic, but we enjoyed sitting out watching the world go by.  MrFF went inside to pay and came back in shock, we’d been charged 15 euro for two drinks that would cost half that in the elegant bar in our village, where they also provide a good selection of home made snacks.  We think we were overcharged because we are foreigners, other people there, ordinary local folk, definitely wouldn't be paying those sort of prices. This has never happened to us before though it has to non Italians we know, once a friend was charged 17 euro for a beer.  When he questioned the price he was told it was special.  It’s a horrible thing to do, we will never go back there although if we are at the market I will go inside and check the price list.

Back to the leak, Monday morning MrFF strimmed all the gully then we started the daunting task of finding the leak, him with a large fork scratching at the surface for damp earth me with my little gardening fork.  I was almost ready to give up when I found a small damp patch of earth.  We cleared the ground, dug down a little and left it to see if it was still damp later in the day. It was. Late afternoon MrFF dug down, exposed the leaking pipe and made a temporary repair.  However when he checked the meter it was still running albeit much slower, there was another leak which we located between the bottom of the gully and our house, most probably under the road.  We couldn’t randomly start digging up the tarmac so we spent more time scratching about among the surface cracks until again I found the spot, not so far from a repair last year. MrFF had it fixed by early evening though the road still needs reinstating.
We are sick to death of this hopeless situation but complaining will get us nowhere, not even a response even if we send a message by the special secure email we pay for, we’ve already been totally ignored by two companies we’ve contacted this way, one of which is the tax office.  Permanent and summer residents all over rural Italy, the country with the third largest economy in the EU, put up with it, like the lady in our road who has received a bill for 20,000 euro for a big leak that has been running since last autumn when she went back to Rome.  So far her family have fixed two leaks, one under the top road, but she is still loosing water when the supply isn’t turned off.  

Of course troubles come in threes.  This morning when I went into the orchard half our courgettes and half the broad beans had been eaten, some of the tomatoes had been trampled on.  There were big holes in the vegetable bed.  I brought out with me this year a motion activated wildlife camera.  I’ve set it up several nights and so far captured a crow, a chaffinch, a young fox and many photos of our cats.  Enrico seems to be taking the micky as he’s started parading in front of the camera and going right up to the lense.  Of course when I don’t set it up devastation happens, these animals are smart and sneaky, just like the water leaks.

Sunday 22 May 2022

Fortuitous gardening


When I first saw this large allium appearing I got quite excited but then I’ve been full of anticipation about other plants that turned out disappointing or weeds.  I had no recollection of planting the bulbs but when two others fairly equally spaced appeared in the front border I realised I probably bought a cheap pack at a supermarket, planted them and forgot.  The first football size flower is amazing and the clever things are phasing their appearance so two more to come.

Another happenstance was a little rose I moved a couple of years ago, it wasn’t doing anything and while I wasn’t sure if it was just a sucker or something wild I  moved it and gave it some attention.  It’s beautiful this year with a lovely scent, positioned close to the front gate where it gives a lovely welcome. It’s right next to one of the yucca cuttings I found discarded two years ago.  They soon rooted and both are doing well with children of their own.  

Wednesday 18 May 2022

It’s that time again

Strimming season has begun.  Sunday morning when we sat out for breakfast listening to the buzz of machinery MrFF decided he would tackle our orchard rather than have another day working on the terrace.

The orchard is such a happy place at present, I often wander down there early morning and again early evening accompanied by Grigio who since she was a kitten has enjoyed stalking in the undergrowth and climbing the trees.  

The wild flowers are beautiful, they get better every year, probably because we allow them to seed before they get cut down.  There are plenty of insects enjoying the flowers including ladybirds that will be beneficial for our crops.

MrFF assured me that for now he is only cutting necessary paths, for example so that I will be able to pick the cherries and get to the bonfire site.

He will also cut down the wild oats that in places are taking over.  We’ve only had these for the past couple of years but they are everywhere, in the orchard, in the borders and among the olive groves right down to the village.  I don’t know where they came from but they are complete thugs that we will never be rid of.  Even if we clear our own land they will reseed from other places but at least there will be a few seeds less without the use of chemicals.

Sunday 15 May 2022


 We wait ages for the gaffer to arrive and get the work started.

Tuesday 10 May 2022

Over the rainbow

The finest rainbow ever last night, we could almost touch it.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the pot of gold was in Giovanni’s garden.

Today it’s beautiful, the air is clear and the sun is warm, that’s enough treasure for me.

Thursday 5 May 2022

Oh hail

I should know better.  Having posted on Monday my hopes for a good crop of lemons, hail storms permitting, the next day we had a terrific hailstorm.  Like most days it started nicely with warm sun and breakfast outside, by early afternoon thunder was rumbling around the mountains, finally lightning and hailstones the size of grapes arrived. 

It was worrying as the terrace is now almost stripped of tiles, it stood water in places as the surface is now quite uneven but fortunately there was only the slightest drip into the room below.  The damage to my plants however was considerable with new growth shredded, flowers destroyed and compost splashed all over the place.  I’d spent the morning potting up cuttings, they looked bedraggled and there was leaf debris everywhere.  

However while the flowers on the grapes are battered the lemon flowers seem ok and it’s too early for the olives to have suffered any damage.  The garden was white, in fact the next day there were still patches of hail in the orchard.  While I moan a lot about bureaucracy and inefficiency here there’s nothing to be done about the weather, we just take what comes and mostly it’s wonderful. I’ve already swept and cleaned ready for the sun to return. 

Monday 2 May 2022

A positive post

Let’s start the week feeling good, even the threatening thunderstorm currently on the opposite side of the valley but alarmingly loud could be useful to wash away the terrace dust and water the garden.  

MrFF continues chipping away at the terrace, literally, with a few expletives when he accidentally takes the edge off a tile.  We have about 50 spare unused tiles in the cellar and at the end of last week found a local stock that doesn’t quite match as ours have had maybe 30 years in the sun but will do to replace cracked and broken ones. That was such a stroke of luck as these tiles are no longer manufactured. 

The washing machine finally gave up last week.  At 20 years old it had become temperamental, some days it didn’t empty out the water and just kept taking more in.  If we didn’t notice we’d flood the garage, if we did we had to drag the heavy machine to the outside before we could open the door.  A new machine was long overdue, our old one only took a 5 kilo load and had a slow spin.  Damp washing isn’t a problem in the summer but in winter is horrid.  So we ordered a new machine on line, from a shop not from Amazon, this was of course a challenge.  The site needed a phone number, wouldn’t accept our UK mobile or our Italian landline, we used Mario’s.  He was OK with that though he did say we should have consulted him and he would have arranged for us to have our old machine beautifully repaired, no thanks.   There was no indication of delivery time until the order was placed when it could be up to 15 days from the machine being received by the courier.  However it took only a week, was here on Saturday, shortly after I’d done a hand wash and the old machine was taken away.  Happy days, the new model can take 2 bath towels plus a few garments, all spun quietly at high speed and pretty dry when they came out. It has plenty of wash programmes, flashing lights, satisfying beeps and plays a happy tune when it finishes.  

Lots happening in the garden.  My passionflower is covered in buds, dahlias are sprouting and best of all the lemon tree that hasn’t fruited for several years has lots of flowers about to open.  I’ve promised MrFF lemons for his G&Ts in a few months, freak hail storms permitting.  Just as well he bought 2 bottles of gin last week when they were on offer.  Preparation is everything.