Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hey, remember those fun San Diegans who come to visit every so ofter? The folks who, when they come, something major goes wrong? Remember them? The people who were staying with us when Italy ran out of pellets for pellet stoves in January? Yeah, those guys. They're coming today! (the husband of the duo is AKA Wayne, from the comments).

Of course the house has been prepped for major construction which means every stick of furniture and bit of crap that we own (and that I've collected) is in the one small back room. I've warned The Fun Couple about this and they've assured me that they are cool with whatever accomodations Maberga has to offer. They said, and I quote, "we'd even sleep with the dogs! Oh, wait, we did that last year."

So I arranged the former-bedroom-soon-to-be-fabulous-studio into the most comfortable guestroom I could, given it's current state of emptiness.

I think it's kind of lovely, a monastic sort of way.

My prediction for break down on their visit this year? The washing machine. Stayed tuned

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gardening Atheist

Those of you who have been reading OliveKnitting for a while will know of my annual battle with gardening.

OK, that's sounds a bit dramatic...the gardening battle is actually only a mini-drama, more of an arm wrestle than a battle. Every spring I decide that this is the year that I will learn to love gardening. In about April when beautiful plants begin to be sold on every corner and in every shop, I decide that this is the year! This will be the year when I make that perfect tomato salad with fruit from my own labors. This is the year I will find the calm meditative state that gardeners say happens when they are weeding. This time I'll take interest in what goes into the garden, I will even do research on the internet to find out how to care for my plants. This is the year when I won't mind dirt under my finger nails.

This kind of thinking lasts about a week when, after a huge rain I realize it is the optimum time to weed. I torment and lament and regret for all of five minutes and then I go paint my finger nails instead. Battle over.

This year, having what seemed like an extremely llllloooooonnnnnggggg winter, my gardening bug came a little early. Knowing that March weather was still too unreliable to put anything in the ground, I channeled my gardening energies into "preparing" the garden.

I turned the soil and leveled the land and did, um, a little pruning.

Hmmm...not really the look I was going for but, well, I'll be patient and see what happens. That's another one of those things that you learn from gardening, right? The joy of patience?

Now we are knee deep in Spring, literally and figuratively. And I've already cried uncle on gardening. I've actually gotten over the dirty nails thing, and have found a certain peace in the solitude of weeding, however, I've discovered that ... are you ready?... I don't believe in gardening.

Let's look at what nature does on her own:

Now let's look at what she does with my help:

Let's look at the two again:

Nature alone...

Nature with Lynn's help...

I don't believe in gardening.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just a few things ...

that I did while I was without connection to the outer world...

1. I tried to dye easter eggs without a Paas kit. You'd be surprized how much can go wrong whilst dying easter eggs. First of all I started with brown eggs, since that's all you can find here. You'd have thought that that right there would end the project. Naw. I thought if I just had strong enough dye it would be ok. At risk of giving away the ending of this little vignette, I'll tell you now - it does matter. You have to have white eggs to start with. I did try bleaching some eggs to get them a little whiter. Yes, I actually stuck the egg in a cup of pure bleach.

It doesn't work. Kinda makes you wonder what chemicals the egg companies use to get those clean white shells. Anyway...

Then I tried a variety of household items to obtain color - color that would be stronger than the brown that mamma chicken made.

This wasn't really giving the effect that I was after so I went back to the cuPboards, searching, searching, looking, anything that had a strong color. I found this...

Yep, it's exactly what you think it is...

"THIS WILL BE AWESOME!!!!" I thought to myself (ok, I might have even screamed it out loud). "Jello is some COLORFUL stuff, and there are SO MANY colors! If fact, I'll bet that Paas pellets are just mini, concentrated jello tabs!"

My excitement about the color possibilities must have temperarily closed down all my common sense. I overlooked one rather important technical aspect of using jello to dye eggs...

That of course being that, well, IT'S JELLO!

2. I started preparing the wood that will be beams and the ceiling in our upstairs room.

Who knew that such a small house could require so much wood? Each piece in that pile requires a light sanding and two coats of paint.

Just like when the fence was finally in and finished and waiting for paint, it started raining just after that two ton of wood was delivered. So, instead of actually painting the stuff, I've been spending a lot of time in the cold, wind and rain, trying to keep it protected. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration. Between drops I did get a little start on the job.

3. I've decided to clean the terrace walls. It's a job that is way over due. If you've ever been to Maberga then you know how we point out our land to people "see all finely manicured terraces surround those few wild, jungle-like looking ones? Yeah, the jungle ones are ours." So each day, rain or not, when I take the doggies out to run free, I bring the hand clippers and take a little more off.

I do have a ways to go, however.

4. And of course I've been knitting a little.

I finished these before David left.

And then I got busy on these two little pieces...

I made the buttons on that one, too!

Well, that's about all for now. It's pissing rain again today so I'll start a new sweater and, of course there's still the doggies and the wall.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How I spent Easter...aka: the Resurrection

This is something that I wrote on Easter but couldn't post because I was unplugged. Happy Easter...a little late.


Easter morning. A text message from David with wishes for a Happy Easter. Doggies waiting to go outside.

On the way to the terraces for the morning run (the dogs, not me), I turn the handle on the big blue container that holds our water supply to refill it. Nothing. No beautiful tinkling of water dripping in.

Up at the terraces I check the first stop on the water's journey to our tubes, a cement "vasca". Nothing. The vasca is empty.

This is bad news. It means one of several things, none of which are particularly nice: 1. someone has diverted the water going into this vasca into their own vasca, 2. there is NO water to fill the vasca, or 3. the tube from the spring to the vasca is plugged. Whilst the 3rd situation is not a pleasant one, it's the best of the three. With a little work I can get the water running again in situation 3, with the other two I'm either 1. arguing with neighbors (again) or 2. am screwed.

I walk up to the terrace where the spring is. Although it's in the middle of a gorgeous area - green, mountainous, wildflowers, etc, - it's not an enjoyable walk. The land belongs to a neighbor, who we will call Luigi for the sake of this story since I am now going to totally slam this man.

The guy is the walking, talking figure of white trash. No, that's not quite right because HE always looks great - clean and pressed clothes, not a hair out of place, never in need of a shave. He keeps his land, however, in quite a different way.

Imagine old appliances rusting away outside the structure that could be called his house but it also serves as the chicken coop and the stalls for the goats and sheep.

Ever smelled a chicken coop?

Lying among the rusting fridges and extra bathroom sinks in the yard are piles, no, MOUNTAINS, of yesterday's spaghetti, stale and molding bread, and bones from the last animal who lost his life to feed Luigi and his family.

As I was saying, I have to pass through a bit of Luigi's land to get to the spring. First I encounter the smell. I hold my breath and go forward. In recent years Luigi has been taken ill - not so ill that he wants to give up his chickens but not well enough to tend to all the land that he could at another time in his life. So after the smell accosts me, I have to pass through a tent which housed the "greens" that Luigi once sold to the flower industry. Now it's overgrown with brambles and cane, the net ceiling is caving under the weight of the branches and leaves that are collecting in tons on its roof.

Surviving the smell and the brambles I get to the other side of the tent. Almost there now! The ground is pure mud from the water that is not going in the tube down to my house. Pure mud except for more stale, moldy bread that Luigi has left for...well, I don't know what animals he's left that for. I'm pretty sure his chickens can't make it down there through the brambles.

Good news. There is water and no one is redirecting it. We've got a plugged tube.

Armed with a shovel and pitch fork, I go at digging the tube out of the mud canal that it's embedded in. NO movement. NO water is going through this thing.

I shove a stick down in to it to see how far down the blockage is. Two foot stick isn't long enough. 4 foot stick doesn't do the trick either. Luckily I'm surrounded by 12 foot cane. Unfortunately the bramble have grown, twisted, woven their way through all the cane and is starting to wind around my legs and stick in my hair. After about 15 minutes, 20 curse words, and body full of scratches, I liberate a 10 foot cane.

Down the tube it goes. I hit the block at about 8 feet. I keep pushing. All 10 feet are in the tube now. I've managed to push the blockage further in the tube, without freeing it up. Perfect. I pull out the cane, swear some more and begin to analyze the situation.

I need something longer than the cane that are available. Do we have a snake - of course I don't mean the kind with fangs that bites you but rather the metal kind that you keep for plumbing emergencies. No. And what would that help anyway - I don't have a stopped up sink. Could I dump some Drain-o down the tube? Probably not a good idea since I'm hoping this water will arrive through my taps pretty soon. I could cut the tube where I think the blockage is. Yeah right! With what am I going to cut this 6 inching tube of hard plastic? The kitchen scissors? The chain saw?

My phone rings. "Happy Easter, Honey!" says a perky David. Standing up to my knees in mud, surrounded by moldy old bread and with brambles stuck in my hair, facing the prospect of no water, I'm not feel quite so perky myself. I explain the situation, in not the nicest tone and ask for any ideas.

"Call Augusto".

Great. As if I hadn't thought of that myself. Just what I want to do on Easter morning is pull our friend from his family gathering to stand in the mud and brambles and moldy bread so he can help me.

"I have to hang up now because I'm approaching a place with my emotions that will not be good for you if we stay on this line." Through a couple of tears I add, "I'll call you later."

Then I start digging in the mud around the tube. I have no idea why. The problem is the mud INSIDE the tube, not the stuff outside. I dig and dig and cuss some more, dig and dig, working myself up into a frenetic panic until I stop with exhaustion.

I stop, breathing heavily, leaning on my shovel, when I see it through some tears swelling in my eyes. A small tube hanging through the brambles and cane, coming quite literally to me, from above.

I undig the big tube that I had just buried in the mud, twisting it toward the little tube that came from above with the excitement of long awaited foreplay promising to lead to an orgasmic connection of the two tubes.

I get the little tube in the big tube. I push and push, pull more little tube from above and push it further into the big tube. It goes WAY in. I push one last energetic thrust and, with this, the big tube got what it needed. It gurgles and groans and then the running. Quickly disengaging the tubes I put the big one down in the spring's pool (puddle, actually) and watch.

Sure enough that water is going in the tube. I make my way back through the brambles, bread, cane and tent to the first stop vasca.

I hear the beautiful sound of water running and falling into the tub.

Resurrection. Happy Easter.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Following up on the last post...I might actually have lost my mind in that little hiatus in which I was unplugged. I've just returned from running around the terraces of land outside my house screaming in , "I'M AN IDIOT!!! YIPPEEEEE! I'M AN IDIOT!!!"

Yeah, that's a pretty sure sign that while not having any contact with the outside world the deck lost a few cards behind the bookshelf, or a few of the bulbs disconnected from the current, or maybe that the lights are on in the living room but no one's on the couch knitting.

Earlier today I found myself sitting in front of a brand new computer, one day new in Casa Cornwell, staring at a screen that told me my brand new wi-fi was not available. Not just not available, not even on the radar. My wi-fi said otherwise, with its row of beautifully flashing green and orange lights, "here I am! sending out wonderfully high speed vibes!" No communication between the two - none. Just like that between parents and teenagers - both entities emitting, neither receiving.


After a 10 euro phone conversation with my wi-fi provider company, in which we explored every nook and cranny of my two new best-electrical friends - Katy Computer and Rodney Router - they politely told me that A)I was on my own with this problem because it was the computer and not the router making trouble, and b. I was fucked.


So I packed up my new roommate with all her cords and warranty and backup disks and went back to the store she came from. I had no intention of returning her...she's part of the family now (another red flag that my sack of marbles might be missing its shooter). I went straight to the guy who sold her to me, taking mental note of the anticipation of displeasure that came across his face as he speculated on what was wrong with my computer.

Let me interrupt myself here...the guys that work at this shop (think Circuit City but smaller and with salesmen who speak italian and had never touched a computer prior to landing their job) are, well, not helpful. Not too many of them seem particularly happy to be there, nor at all knowledgeable of their products, and are all but too keenly aware of the lack of advancement prospects in their future. Not the best combo when you are the customer.

Having said that, (let's call the shop assistant helping me "John") Giovanni welcomed me with a big (kind of) smile and asked if there was a problem with my new Katy, um, computer.

I explained the non-communication issue between my technical appliances at which point Giovanni fessed up to knowing nothing about how any of that works.


"But let's just turn it (HER!) on and see what's going on."

Giovanni opened her up, pressed the button right next to the "on" button that says "wi-fi" and it lit up.

"Devi premere qui 'wi-fi'. Capito? PUSH wi-fi button" Yes, he actually translated the words into english for me...push wi-fi button.

"no light, no wi-fi. push button, light, wi-fi."

Apparently prior physical contact with an actual computer is not a pre-requisite for not being an idiot.


As I sheepishly packed my new pal (the computer, not Giovanni) back into the paper sack she came in from the box, Giovanni gave me a big smile and said, "and if that doesn't work, you can come back at 3.30 when Paolo the technician is here to get him to fix the computer while I sell you a proper carrying case for that computer."


Just to prove that I'm happily an idiot and that now all my technology is on speaking terms, I'll share a taste of how I've passed the time whist unplugged...there's too much for one post, so we'll start here:

Ladies knitting...

Natalie and Christine

Christine with her first FO:

Natalie's beautiful new sweater (she made the buttons too!)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hello again, still here, still without a computer. Apparently there is quite a process involved in cleaning a caffe latte out of a laptop. David is passing through town so I have approximately 5 minutes to blog...good thing we've got that high speed internet!

Don't think that I'm forgetting about you all. I'm still writing blogs (the old fashion way, ... can there be an old fashion way to write blog posts?...anyway, I mean I'm using pen and paper), documenting adventures with water and wool and life unplugged. Ever tried totally unplugging? No tv, no DVD, no ipod, no internet, no email, no phone? Um... yeah..., either it's really liberating or I might be losing my mind.

more shall be revealed....

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Hi friends, sorry for the lack of posts. We've been without internet as we were having it switched over....high speed has arrived in Maberga! I know, I know, I can hardly believe it either. Next thing you know, I'll be telling you we have running water.

Many thanks for all the concerned emails about our safety re: the earthquake. We are quite a bit north of where it happened so were unaffected...unaffected unless you count our concern for the people who are living through this difficult time.

David is off today to start his work season...that is if you call eating, drinking and cycling through Tuscany work. You can of course expect many blog posts to come, hopefully beginning in a day or two. While I do have high speed internet now, I will be a few days without a computer (sometimes the cosmic sense of humor is just too much). David is taking his work computer with him and the mac is currently in the shop getting a clean up from a most unfortunate run in with a cup of coffee.

Stay tuned....