Tuesday 31 October 2023

Trouble at Mill once more

Saturday morning MrFF opened the bedroom shutters and announced we would start our olive harvest.  Quick cup of Yorkshire tea with a bowl of muesli and we were picking by 8.30 am.  We stopped mid morning for cappuccini and croissant then worked on till 6.30 pm,  we had more than 80 kilos with 10 more trees still to pick so that was great.  Sunday we had the same early start with rather less enthusiasm as we were quite tired from the previous days efforts.

We finished early afternoon, tidied up, had some lunch then MrFF packed the crates of olives into the car and went off to the mill.  Unfortunately so did many others and he was queued for a good two hours before he could unload.  He phoned to let me know he was waiting then started shouting and sounding the car horn as an Italian with a trailer full of olives had jumped the queue when MrFF was slow to move.  Then I heard an Italian voice and suggested he phone me back when he’d sorted the situation.  He got his place back, it was fine. Tranquillo.

He weighed in 119 kilos of olives, not a bad result and the mill would phone us when the oil was ready.

Late Monday afternoon we got the call collect our oil at 7.30 pm.  We were there on time and waited until 8.50.  We received 15.3 litres of oil which we were told by other customers was very good quality, it was clean without the foamy scum and dark green. But last year we picked around 80 kg and received 15 litres, it doesn’t make sense to produce so much more and receive the same amount of oil. Even the taste of our delicious new oil didn’t take away our disappointment and confusion.  
Of course 15 litres of oil is more than enough for our needs, if we had more we’d give it away or use it for cooking as it got older, it doesn’t matter that we don’t have more. But we had expectations that we’d done well, we’d worked hard and spent a lot of hours waiting at mill.  Tomorrow it’s my birthday and I’ll be 75, I could say I’m getting too old for this oil business but our lovely 92 year old neighbour Giovanni is here picking so I guess I have no excuse but to keep on and since he’s working on his own and has 200 trees, we have 30, we will probably offer his some help if he doesn’t think we might jinx his harvest too.

Wednesday 18 October 2023

My kind of autumn

Until a few days ago temperatures were still in the mid 20s and skies were blue.  Then we had a much needed day of rain.  Now we are in the mid teens, it’s still lovely sunny flip flop weather but a short sleeved t shirt is required rather than a strapy vest.  I’ve worked a lot in the garden, I am happy with how it looks after being neglected all summer.

It’s almost olive time, mills in the valley have opened for business but so far we haven’t heard any pickers around us.  As the fruit turns black it becomes much more apparent what sort of crop we have, I’d say not great but not too bad this year, time will tell.

Happy days of calm, filthy feet and knitting, yes I am going to wash them now.

Sunday 8 October 2023

An orange is the only fruit

When we bought this house 20 years ago the garden wasn’t great and of course I had no idea what plants there were.  I’ve nurtured them all with compost from the heap we started, occasionally organic fertiliser and no chemicals at all.  

In particular outside the kitchen door, in an area where I now grow herbs, there was a stick about 12” high with few leaves, I initially thought it might be a bay.  Over the years as it improved I realised it was a citrus, I assumed a lemon.  It grew tall, it’s now about 8 feet high, healthy if not well shaped and I’ve never seen it flower.  I often empty the teapot onto its roots, Yorkshire tea must work wonders because when we returned this time I spotted a small fruit and it’s an orange.  Makes we so happy even though I won’t be here to see it ripen.

Amazingly two courgette plants survived our summer absence and are flowering and cropping.   We have our own (limited) fruit and veg once again.

My cat nurturing abilities however have failed, after 2 weeks there is still no sign of Enrico.  Giovanni said the day before we arrived Enrico was at his house, I wish he’d come home.   

Tuesday 3 October 2023

An uphill race that was all down hill

When I first saw this poster for a cycling time trial to the top of our mountain I was so excited thinking one of my favourite riders Vincenzo Nibali, an excellent climber,  was going to be present. Closer examination clarified that the route of the race was one of his training routes.  Since Vincenzo is Sicilian and also has a home in Lugano I imagine he hasn’t climbed Monte Scalambra that often though his wife is from a village not so far from here,  maybe he does wizz to the top when visiting the in laws, I’ll keep my eyes open.

Here is the race profile for anyone who is as enthusiastic about these things as me 

Monte Scalambra from La Forma is a climb in the region Lazio. It is 11.2km long and bridges 893 vertical meters with an average gradient of 7.9%, resulting in a difficulty score of 795. The top of the ascent is located at 1374 meters above sea level

We decided to support the event even without celebrities and Saturday afternoon wandered down to the village to be in place for the 2 pm start.  Oddly there was no one else in the street, we chose a position where the road forked between the village centre and the climb out and up.  After a while the first motorbike arrived, actually a scooter, with a red flag attached to the rear.  The driver stopped to ask us which way to go.  

The riders as in the major tours were set off at intervals, some with a scooter accompanying them some not.   Most of them asked us for directions, clearly the A4 size direction posters were not apparent or well located. We decided to take charge, MrFF who deserved a high viz jacket stood blocking the route into the village centre and pointing the right way while I provided the applause with shouts of bravo and allez allez allez.  The riders were so appreciative, I didn’t want them to waste their breath shouting grazie but they did.

The roads weren’t closed for the race, it was worrying when an elderly couple drove up and started manoeuvring their car into a parking space outside the minimarket, again MrFF took control.  It was even more worrying when the race director, he had an A4 sheet of paper stuck in the back window of his car confirming who he was and was wearing a suitably sporty t shirt.  We assumed he knew the route, it was a choice of two and he was supposedly the man in charge. First he tried to drive into the village centre then came back to ask us the way.  I felt real despair.  He decided to park outside the minimarket then to reverse out again just as a rider was passing, I think he understood our shouts of stop and I hope he realised from our scowls that we thought he was useless.

Another spectator arrived, increasing the crowd by 50% but only to tell us all the riders had passed, so that was it.  I am sure the guys got a good ride out but really it was a disgrace of the usual standard. 

There was very little reporting, just a few badly taken photographs on the village Facebook page, mostly of local dignitaries and the village beauty queen.  I have no idea who won or in what time, I expect because of the staggered start the man with the watch is having difficulty with the calculations.  It was all so very Italian.