30 ottobre 2010

Someone introduced me

Someone introduced me the other day as his English friend who writes a "blog bellissimo" (thanks, Sandro!) which was very nice but also made me realize how I haven't been keeping up with writing it recently. No excuse other than being busy, but I must try harder.

So a brief catch-up. After my last post about the horse fair we had a couple of weeks of truly miserable weather: cold and foggy, with constant rain alternating between downpour and drizzle. We had our final lot of guests in the apartment, a German family, who were here for ten days and really got the worst of the weather. Of course the day they left the sun came out and the fog lifted. Now we need to be getting on with the veg patch — this weekend is Ognissanti (all saints day) which is traditionally the date for sowing broad beans. We have to weed and rotavate or hoe before we start the planting so that's a lot of work and I don't know that we'll manage it. Last year we planted garlic and onions in the autumn as well, which I want to do again. The garlic was a spectacular success and we're still eating our own; the onions less so but we still have a few left.

The sheep that come on to the opposite field every autumn were here last week and the shepherd not only failed to fence them off but failed to stay and watch them, with the result that the sheep marauded all over the veg patch and ate all the cicoria, swiss chard, broccoli and sorrel. They left the turnip tops, cabbage and fennel, but what they didn't eat they trampled. I was incredibly angry and upset and phoned the shepherd, who came hurtling down and stood looking at the damage almost as sorrowful as I was. He offered me some money (which I accepted, though just a token) but I said what I'd really like as compensation, rather than money, was some of the pecorino cheese that he makes. He promised he'd bring me some, though so far there's no sign of it turning up. We'll see. I think the trampled stuff will grow up again and maybe some of the nibbled plants too, so maybe the damage won't be as bad as I at first thought. I haven't felt like going back to look as it was too distressing, but I'll grit my teeth and go down there today.

We had a good crop of grapes this year — uva fragola, the amazing strawberry-flavoured grape. I made five jars of intense grape jelly and we're eating the rest as dessert grapes. I helped Mario with the vendemmia as usual, though this year in between showers of rain rather than the normal soft autumn sunshine. The harvest was poor, with a lot of spoilt grapes because of the poor summer and cold autumn; I'm not sure how that'll affect the commercial wineries. Managed to get out of the workers' lunch by saying I had to work for a deadline (which was true). 

The farmers have been busy ploughing and this year they've ploughed up a whole load of fields that have previously been fallow. It's amazing how that changes the look of the landscape. It has also substantially affected where we can walk, as we used to walk on paths through various pretty fields that are now ploughed over. Things change.

11 ottobre 2010

It turned out to be the last fine day

It turned out to be the last fine day of autumn yesterday, so I'm glad we spent it among horses (although other members of the family might disagree). We went up to Monte Catria, to the Cavallo del Catria horse fair, which we went to last year for the first time. The Cavallo del Catria is Cassie's breed and once again it was funny and delightful to see lots of Cassies all together. We watched a sort of obstacle-course competition, which was encouraging to me in the sense that although it was supposedly high level, many of the riders were having real problems in getting their horses to do things that I'm pretty sure I could get Cass to do fairly easily (walking over platforms etc). The immobility test would be a challenge for her though. The quality was notably lower than it would have been in the UK at a similar event, with very small jumps which despite their smallness a lot of the horses simply refused. I also watched a demonstration of people working with Parelli-trained horses and was hugely impressed and inspired by what these horses do and the relationship between them and their handlers. Cass only responds to me like that if she can actually smell the polo mints.

The country band with inscrutable line-dancing couple was an added bonus.