Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's a war

No. Not a war at all. Just a battle, of sorts.

So that one day that I was chatting with pals Augusto and Lina about my orto/giardino, you know the day, when Augusto called me to task about planting a vegetable garden. Yeah, that day. Well, I happened to mention in that same conversation that I didn't know how I would water the vegetables if I did put them in the ground on our land.

Just a note case you are confused. Our land is not contiguous to the land our house is on. It's a strange reality of properties being inherited by children and children of children and children's children's children that one day an american couple comes to italy to buy a house on a mountain and gets some land with it that is several generations removed from the land the house is standing on.

So I mentioned to Augusto and Lina that other day that there is water on the land, in fact, the water that comes into the house is stored in our vasca...which sits on our land...not contiguous to our house. Stay with me here.

Augusto and Lina have a difficult time understanding what I was saying, as I'm sure you are now. "there's no water up there?" they ask.

Me: "yeah of course there's water up there. I just told you that our vasca is right there."

A and L: "e allora?????" (I love those two words. They mean, "and so...". There's a certain, "so what the f$%^ is the problem?!" in one's tone when they use those words)

Me: "Well, I don't know how to get the water out of the vasca and onto any prospective vegetables I might plant. Short of climbing up to the vasca with a bucket, that is."

A and L: "just connect a tube."

Me: "yeah...e allora?????" (it also means..."and then what?!". These are very useful words)

A: "I'll come up some day and see if I can help you."

So yesterday, always good to his word, Augusto came up to look at the potential orto land. Then he explained to me how to put a hose into the open pool of the vasca, suck on the end of the tube that is not in the water, thus, creating a siphon. That technique, of course, being the exact same one I taught my kindergartners when I showed them how to empty the water table. Same same. I sometimes seem to have a problem transferring knowledge.

Then Aususto looked at the land...

And said, very slowly and softly, "you're going to have to clean that a little".

Maybe you all are wondering, at this point, where that battle is that I mentioned in the opening sentence. Well, here it starts...

To say thanks to Augusto for taking the time to come up to the house to give me his advice about siphoning and cleaning the land, I bought him a case of beer. I dropped it off at his campagna yesterday afternoon, he told me I was crazy and that I didn't have to give him anything, and that was that.

This morning at 8am I was out walking the dogs when neighbor Giuseppe yelled down to me, "OOOOH! Lina! Augusto is here."

I don't always understand Giuseppe when he speaks, so I yelled back, "yes, Augusto came up to see me yesterday."

"NO! He's here now."

Sure enough. Augusto was standing by the house with his three wheeled truck loaded with his weed whacker and the motozappa (I'm sorry, I have no idea what a motozappa is called in the dictionary it's called a "powered cultivator" but I don't think that's right. It looks like a big push lawnmower but with a horizontal screw shaped blade. It digs and churns the earth.)

Yep. Paybacks for the case of beer.

First he weed whacked his way from the road, through other people's land,

up to ours. Then he whacked ours.

Then he got the motozappa...

And worked that bit of land until it surrendered to the big-push-mower-with-the-horizontal-screw-blade. And let me tell you, that was some HARD HARD earth to break. It took Augusto 3 hours, a little blood, a lot of sweat, and 3 beers.

Then he planted some onions for me.

I watered them myself...with two liter bottles of water I carried up to the land from the house because I was too busy this afternoon to buy a hose. Instead of buying the hose I need, which is where this whole bloody story started, I was buying Augusto a lemon tree.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Call it what it is!

In Italian there are two words for garden. There is giardino, which is (usually) a fenced in space in which one relaxes amidst flowers and fruit trees with friends and family, food and wine (usually). An orto is the place where you grow your vegetables. An orto is an orto and a giardino is a giardino - different functions, different crops, different things.

A giardino is also usually attached to your house and an orto is in campagna (in the country). Most people around here live in villages and keep a campagna. Our house was some one's campagna before it was our house (technically it was 14 people's campagna since that's how many people we had to buy it from, but that's a story for a different post...). A campagna is actually an Italian man's clubhouse. The men keep the campagna. There's usually some kind of house structure on some land that they plant, some stalls for keeping animals, and a fridge for beer. Usually there is also a couch of some sort for naps.

Here is Campagna Cornwell, before it became Giardino Cornwell

We added the table. The previous owners used this space for storing things like...

discarded appliances, empty tomato sauce jars, and brother-in-laws...oh wait, no, we brought him with us.

Anyway, at lunch with pals Augusto and Lina the other day in a discussion about planting my veggies this year I was asked, rather directly, "do you HAVE land?"

L: "well, of course we have land. You know we have land. Why?"
A: "then why are you planting onions in your giardino where your dogs will piss on them?"
L: "ummm..."

That Augusto, he sure can make a point.

Week 3's 20/20 house project: the giardino.

(are you guys getting sick of seeing that shot yet? I gotta get better photos, or at least stand in a different spot every once and a while. Sorry about that)

Since we moved in we've called this patio space our outdoor living room since that's how we use it 3 seasons of the year. We sit out here to relax, and be with friends and family, and to share wine and food. It's a giardino for God's sake! This year I'll treat it as such and plant accordingly. The onions and zucchini, melanzane and tomatoes - they're going in the orto! Which I guess will be Project 20/20's week 4 endeavour.

This week's knitting project is: a scarf. I know, I know. You've all heard me rant about how I hate knitting scarves. But this one is fun. I was looking through my trusty and well-loved Weekend Knitting book for inspiration when I saw this...

There is no pattern for it in the book because, well, it doesn't need a freakin' pattern. It's just a random collection of yarns, colors, and stitches knit into a long, straight piece of fabric...that can be wrapped around one's neck, like a scarf. I'm hoping to make it this long...

And yes, I do plan to don it whilst riding my bike along the seaside. Fantastic. I think I'll look just smashing! 'Specially when it gets tangled in the spokes.

Friday, April 23, 2010

right on schedule...

sort of.

Painted, anti-fungied pantry -- DONE.

I really love this little room. It's had so many reincarnations in the six years that we've lived here. When we bought the place it was the kitchen.

Then when we discovered we wanted an indoor bathroom we took half the space for a toilet and a bath.

In case you were wondering, at that time we used this as a kitchen...

Yeah, that's the side of the house. Yeah, that's an old bathroom sink I found somewhere on the property, set on a wine barrel (empty) and strung the garden hose through it for running water. The fridge actually worked. And it really tied the room together.

Then, when we still had exposed stone in the now-studio area upstairs(read: major exposure to the elements and all varieties of 4, 6, and 8 legged creatures) this little room behind the new bathroom became the "winter bedroom" - it happens to be just big enough for a double bed...and nothing more. For a while it was the guest bedroom. Then, with the transformation of the window into a stairwell, it came into its present state as a pantry.

Actually, truth be told...I've really hated this room until today. It has no windows, it's always cold and wet and dark and it collects, well, everything that cold, wet, and dark spaces collect.

There's still no window and no heat source but, at least for today, it's clean, and white and organized, it's stocked and has flowers.

Right on schedule, or maybe 6 years late.

On the hat front...

4 DONE...

And one more to be completed tonight...

Thanks for the pattern, Lois. It's really great.

Tomorrow begins week 3 of the 20/20 project. I'm starting to question my scheduling of this whole thing -- why am I always begining these things on the weekend?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

20/20 Project -- week two

Given that spring seems to be coming and going here on the Riviera, I've decided to move inside for this week's project. That and the fact that the mold in our pantry is really getting to me. Maybe it's just me, but it doesn't seem like a good idea to have fungus growing on the walls in the room where we keep our food.

Thus, decision made. Week Two house project:

The pantry. Let's get a close up of that...

Gross. Ahhh...the joys of living in a 400 year old house. Today I took everything out of the room and fumigated with a potent chemical spray called Anti-Muffa (translation: anti-mold. I hope the marketing genius who came up with that brand name made a bundle). Tomorrow I'll start with another appropriately named product called pittura (translation: paint).

This week's knitting project, not accurately named by me, because it is this hat from Lois's blog - which is quite obviously crocheted. By the way, when you go to Lois's blog, check out her bread recipes. I highly recommend the Sweet and Light Whole Wheat. It's the only one I've tried so far, it's delicious.

Please excuse the complete and utter lack of pizazz in this post...I think those potent chemicals are getting to me...perhaps more than the mold was.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Week one of Project 20/20 done.

And one pergola...


In addition, I have 3 completed pair of socks and should finish this fourth pair tonight...

yeah, well, we'll see about that.

Week Two begins tomorrow when I need to (um...I mean, I GET to) decide on the next projects.

Stay tuned...

PS. If you are wondering, like Wayne from the comments, what's on the list of house projects, you'll just have to stay tuned weekly 'cause I aint going to tell you beforehand. As I've mentioned before, telling you all here on the blog that I'm going to do something makes me feel committed to actually doing it. NOT telling you what I'm going to do allows me to, say, change "clean the 4 kilometers of stone walls of the 3 foot thick weeds threatening to tumble the walls" to "vacuum the living room".

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Movin' right along...

Seems that the Weather God doesn't read my blog or else she'd be cooperating a little more with me on this whole remake-the-house-summer plan that I've hatched. Sunday saw frigid gales that told me to say off the ladder. And yesterday gave me just a couple hours of outside time before cold heavy clouds rolled in. Even still, I am moving forward. To be totally honest about things, if I hadn't blabbed my big mouth off to you guys about this brilliant scheme of getting stuff done, my butt would have stayed inside for the past several days happily knitting and making jewelry by the fire. I guess I should say thanks. Thanks.

I've got most of the easy parts done already which, of course, leaves the difficult parts. Despite gray skies this morning I was out bright and early climbing, hanging, dangling, and shimmying myself all over this part...

At one point, whilst striking and holding a rather strenuous pose, I got to thinking about a couple of things:

1. who was the idiot who designed this pergola? What was the thinking behind adding all this zig zag crap? Durability and strength of the structure? The thing is welded steel cemented into three feet of concrete - it ain't goin' anywhere. Aesthetic?

I don't thinks so.

2. why am I doing this?! In three weeks (or so) this thing will be completely covered (I'm predicting 100% coverage this year) in beautiful crawling grape vines sprouting leaves the size of my head. No one will even SEE the pergola and its detailed paint job.

Well, I've started now, best to finish the f&^%er. 3 days and this much to go...

Doesn't that photo make the house look really ominous? I wasn't lying on the front lawn making that photo. Oh no. The house sits, as I've mentioned before, on a slight incline, making tomorrow's painting seem a bit ominous.

As for this week's knitting - I'm cruising...

Two pair of matching (well, they don't match but they do go together), rather colorful socks to add to the knitted gifts stash!

And look! One of the pair fits me perfectly. Imagine that.

PS. For those of you who are concerned about my safety on a ladder, be assured that I'm being very careful and have vowed to myself not to do anything stupid -- except for, of course, undertaking this job in the first place.

PSS. Do any of you have any idea how heavy this ladder is?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010 Summer Challenge

So I've got this list of, like, 1000 things I want to do to the house. Yeah, I know, I said 48 a couple posts back. I exaggerate a lot. Anyway, the point is it's a long list. And, feeling energized by my recent success in finishing the fence painting, I've decided to capitalize on this energy and get some shit done!

And, knowing myself as I do, I'm going to need a little motivation to keep the momentum going. So here's what I'm going to do:

20 projects in 20 weeks. Let's call it the 20/20 project. Each week I'll pick a new TO DO off the list and make it a DONE.

I must admit that, as I just typed that, I felt a little knot growing in my stomach. It's one thing to set a personal goal like this and another all together to send it out on a blog to be read by a million people (there's that exaggeration again). But, well, you guys are all nice people and I'm sure you'll supply all the support and encouragement I'll need.

In addition, knowing that all work and no knitting makes Lynn a grouchy, unpleasant girl, I'm also going to choose a knitting project for each week. Given the short timeline I'm setting and the that my knitted gifts stash is completely depleted, these will be small projects - hats, socks, mittens, and of course, more granny smack.

So, here we go...

Week 1 house project:

Painting the pergola

This job needs to be done quickly because the grape vines growing on it are about to make the task infinitely more difficult...

And, Week 1 Knitting project:

These really colorful socks came from an idea sent to me from Wayne of TFC in the comments. He met MARIANNE WILLKERLIN of "SOLMATES" who makes lovely socks that I will be copying all week. Thanks for the tip, Wayne.

Now, we're off! Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

just get it done

This summer is about getting stuff done. For example, this...

That would be the (very ugly, I know) spot light on the side of the house. It was installed last summer during all the other work that was done on the house. We used it for the first and last time at David's birthday party. It burned for about 5 minutes before blowing, at which time we lit about 100 candles since we had no replacement bulb. Well, we never replaced the bulb. David's birthday is in AUGUST. It would have been handy having that bulb functioning Sunday night. Among the other thoughts running through my mind that late night was a severe self scolding for my laziness and inattention to this little task of changing a light bulb.

So, making good on a promise from that night, I changed the bulb today. It took 5 minutes of my day. Having NOT done it before Sunday took 5 years off my life.

While I was at it, I finished this...

Yep. That's the new fence that was put in last spring. David and I were so excited about it we got right to painting it. For some inexplicable reason we left a 5 foot area unpainted. Maybe we ran out of paint, you guess, as did all the shops in a 100 mile radius. Nope. We had a whole can of it in the shed. It seems we just decided to stop. I'm not anticipating any kind of future emergency in which I will be cursing myself for not having finished painting the fence, but still it's a good thing to finish.

And, last but not least, granny smack number 5...


Monday, April 05, 2010

I'm no Sherlock Holmes

It's 11.30 Easter night. I'm watching a film and busily working away on another granny smack blanket. The dogs want to go outside for some fresh air.

The outside-at-night-time routine for the dogs is always the same. Q barks incessantly at, well, I don't know what, the world perhaps. Ruff, finds an old bone and chews. Last night, when I heard Q starting to lose her voice, I opened the door to bring them in. Ruff wasn't around.

I called. Nothing. I asked Q where he was. Nothing. So I grabbed the flashlight, scanning the enclosed garden thinking I'd catch Ruff digging up some newly planted flowers or something. Nothing. I went, torch in hand, to the side of the house where, sure enough I found Ruff, greedily devouring some unknown substance from a white plastic sack. There was a stench coming from this bag that I can't really put into words.

Having presence of mind enough not to try to grab something from my 37 kilo dog's mouth, I began shouting and stomping and making a great fuss. Ruff ate faster. After the last swallow, I grabbed him by the collar and dragged him inside.

Light in hand, I went back out in the dark to the side of the house to see if I could tell what my lovely dog had just ingested. Again the smell. I couldn't get myself to touch the bag.

The bag? Where the hell did that come from? The smell, coupled with Ruff's enthusiasm to consume made me guess that it was rotting animal parts. Ok, fine. We live in the country. Loads of neighbors have animals that they sacrifice for their own eating pleasure, and who happily discard the bits they don't want to eat where ever they see fit. Fine.

But here's the these neighbors deliver like the Chinese take out on the corner? Did Ruff call up and request a Number 82 combo plate, wrapped and delivered to 29 Via Maberga? I think not.

Ok, maybe someone was just carrying out their trash when the stench of said trash was too much to bear in the car so they conveniently tossed it out the window? Possible. Italians have never seen that commercial with the crying Native American. Hell of a toss though for this sack-o-treats to fly OVER the 2-story house and land perfectly on the FAR patio inside our fence.

My detective mind was racing now, or maybe it was adrenaline:
fact - I did not place this bag on my patio so someone or something else did.
fact - the dogs hadn't been outside the fence so couldn't have brought it in.
fact - it wasn't on the patio when the dogs were out last, so it had to have been placed there in the couple hours prior.
fact - the neighbors hate my dogs...ok, that's not a fact, per se. I mean, no neighbor has ever TOLD me that they hate my dogs. I'm just surmising that by the way they scream "get the f#^& away from me!!!!" everything one of my dogs gets near them or their land.

So here I stand, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere on the top of a mountain coming to the only conclusion possible: a neighbor snuck around the back of my house and tossed this bag of rotting body parts into the dogs, possibly to poison them or, at the very least to make them sick and ultimately to send a warning to me to get my dogs under control. AND...this has happened in the past couple of hours.

Yes, also running through my mind was the fact that I had just a few hours earlier written an blog post proclaiming my love for my neighbors. I love 'em, but obviously I don't trust them all that much.

I push aside, for the moment, the fact that, in my scenario someone has been (is?) creeping around my house at midnight while I am alone and I try to figure out what to do about Ruffino. Ok, actually, first I went inside, got my phone and locked every door in the house...then I thought about what to do about Ruffino.

I called the 24 hour vet clinic and explained in whatever Italian would come out of my mouth what had happened. The vet told me to make Ruff vomit.

L: "how do I do that?"
V: "give him some wnieofin dvfasoidf afniao;eoif. That will make him vomit."
L: "I'm sorry, my italian isn't so great. What should I give him?"
V: "some oivnof ndovn oidfnv."
L: "hmmm. Yeah, I don't know what that is so chances are pretty good I don't have any oxicvn oef viodaof in the house."
V: "can you bring him in?"
L: "yeah. I'll be right there."

So I put Ruff on a leash, grab the flashlight and my purse, relock every door and gate and head up to the car. You'd be amazed how long a 50 foot walk is by torch light in the middle of the night when you think someone's been sneaking around outside your house.

I won't go into the full 2 hour ordeal of what transpired at the vet. Bottom line is that Ruff puked (again the SMELL!!!) and wouldn't sit still for the Vet to take blood to check for poison. It was her opinion that, due to his fully "active behavior", he hadn't been poisoned so I should take him home, keep an eye on him and deal with the diarrhea that will soon follow. Ruff's, not mine.

By 2.30 we are making the 50 foot run from the car back into the house which was, I am pleased to report, empty except for Q.

Finding myself surprisingly awake, I wrote David an email, explaining the situation. SUBJECT: freaked out, please call. Then took a book to the couch with every light in the house burning.

At 7.30 David's call woke me.

D: "What's wrong? I saw the message that you're freaked out."
L: "Did you read the email?"
D: "No. I just called right away when I saw the SUBJECT"
L: "Last night I found Ruff on the side of the house eating something that smelled awful, I didn't know what it was, it was in a white plastic bag,...."
D: "Oh man. I'm so sorry. I forgot about that sack of 'treats' that I brought for the dogs from butcher. I left it hanging on the side of the house to give to them later. I just forgot about it. It must have fallen to the ground."

A perfectly simple and innocent explanation. Why hadn't I thought of that? I guess it just never occurred to me that there's been animal parts in a plastic sack hanging on the side of my house for...well, long enough for them to start to reek, and I hadn't noticed them. It also never occurred to me that someone might hang animal parts on the side of the house. But, all the same, there it is. Sherlock Holmes would have thought of it.

I'd like to publicly apologize here to my neighbors to whom my paranoid mind's finger immediately pointed and for the terrible thoughts I had about them and their character. And in this vein, I'd like to publicly promise to stop watching movies that contribute to my prejudiced, paranoid, conclusion jumping...movies like the Godfather.

If you'll excuse me now, I need a nap.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


On this Easter Sunday I am pleased as all get out to report a few resurrections:

Resurrection 1. Remember this year's olive picking story? Remember how David and I were feeling all pleased with ourselves for having finally figured out the trick to having olive oil in our house, from our own olives without having to do any of that pesky picking? Remember how we discovered that we could get the neighbors to do it and then just receive a portion of the crop? Remember that? If not go here. Anyway, Friends, I'd been a little more than reluctant to report that we never received any oil. In fact we had kind of given up. We'd consoled ourselves with the idea that, at least, we'd been responsible olive tree owners by giving the olives away instead of having them rot on the branches. We were a little bummed, a little embarrassed and a little humbled by our incomprehension of the Italian ways of being.

Obviously we were also a little impatient 'cause check out what arrived today...

That's 5 liters of our very own crude. Actually, "crude" is probably an incorrect term since it was the refining of our product that kept it from us for so long. Our neighbor, the olive picker, said, "sorry it took so long. It had to get clean." I have no clue how he cleaned the oil, I'm just grateful to have it.

Resurrection 2. Technically, this is more of a rebirth than a resurrection. A couple weeks ago I casually mentioned to David whilst frothing some milk for a cappuccino that our 6 year old frother my be on its last foam. A little tip to any readers currently in a living together, sharing space and equipment kind of life very clear in the words you choose when casually chatting. It's easy for misinterpretations to happen (Yes, I am talking about couple who share the same mother tongue). David thought I meant that the frother, that I use approximately 4 times a day should be thrown out. I did, if I'm honest, mean exactly that but the addendum was "not until a new one is purchased" because I USE THIS TOOL 4 TIMES A DAY. Fair enough, I didn't say that last part. I thought it was obvious since I USE THE FROTHER 4 TIMES A DAY, but well, the dude has had a lot on his mind and he probably thought he was being helpful. So anyway, I was chatting with my friend Lina about my lack of a frother and my inability to find a replacement. She told me to check a ferramenta (that's the hardware store...? Of course, it is a tool after all). So the very next day I ran right, I didn't. I did nothing, except begin drinking lattes. Skip ahead to Easter Sunday lunch with pals Augusto and Lina in which my Italian Easter bunny, in addition to serving me several courses of goat, gave me ...

A frother in a very festive shade of powder blue. And some coffee.

Resurrection 3. Neighbor Giuseppe gave me the customary Easter Anise bread...perhaps resurrected from last Easter. I love my neighbors...and you can remind me of that next time somebody cuts my water tubes.

That there is approximately one meter of anicy, bready goodness.

Happy Easter.