Today promised rain, but it never arrived. It seems very rare in the country-side that the weather is just right. It's either too wet or too dry, too hot or too cold. Of course, this is just the natural variation of the weather which we measure against our own preoccupations: is it too dry / wet for the hay, too wet for the grapes - will they develop fungal infections, too wet - will the roads get eroded & washed away, too dry - will the trees / small vines we planted wither away. It certainly adds spice to life & gives you a respect for water & the rain that provides it that one just never has in the city. As the ground dries-up & cracks, fissures opening-up in the clay, the the grass yellows & you begin to look forward to the next rain - will it come soon, will it be a forceful thunderstorm that will wash away the dusty earth causing other problems, will there be flooding or will it be a gentle rain that gives time for the earth to absorb the moisture.
Anyway, the rain didn't come & so it's hot & dry here - on the other hand we have, to some extent, diversified our risks - when its warm & sunny the guests are happy, when there are days of showers the guests are unhappy but the plants do just fine.
No dinner tonight as it is our day off.
Last night I was stumped when it came to writing La Faula Today because the server was down - this was La Faula of yesterday:
The day was extremely hot getting up to 34°C. It is extremely dry so a lot of Luca's time is taken up with watering the plants - on the other hand the grass doesn't grow so you save on lawn-mowing time.
We had a very busy weekend & the bulk of the guests went home Sunday & Monday morning. Consequently, yesterday seemed like a day-off, even if it wasn't, as we we again free to follow our own time-table.
Luca stacked up the round bails of hay using the new tractor to do this for the first time. In the past our friend Loris had done it with his enormous 110 horse-power tractor, navigating (or blundering) at speed in the small space in front of the barn. Last time he did it all the dogs bowls got squashed, the time before a pile of pallets was reduced to splinters - this time the job was a lot less stressfull.
Yetmir cut the grass under the vines with a machine attached to the caterpiller tractor. The machine has two rolls of flailing nylon cord - the fine cord cuts (or rather, shreds) the grass & the thick one rips off the putitive branches growing out from low-down on the trunk of the plant. Unfortunately, it's an iron rule that if you go out & operate an item of agritcultural machinery that is not 100% in order - for example is missing a bolt or some other piece - during the operation that deficiency will provoke some more serious damage. In this case one of the two bolts that fixes the spinning core had broken previously so, following the law of certain consequences, the second bolt came loose during operation & all 70 horsepower of the tractor was suddenly focussed on the nylon cord. The tangle took more than an hour to put right, the replacement bolt was duly got but its placement provoked perplexity as it wasn't in form (although in function, it was) identical to the original - in fact, Yetmir was of the mind to reject it. It is hard not to escape the conclusion that for Yetmir a piece of machinery is either perfect or it is rubbish to be discarded. Fair wear & tear is a difficult concept to impart as is the idea of promptly intervening when something goes wrong so as to prevent things going worse ....
Dinner was consequently late but it was rather scrummy (at least according to the guests): spaghetti with fresh vegetable sauce cooked in stock & white wine, involtini with cheese & pacetta on a bed of ruccola, a cake that Luca made (but I'm not exactly sure what type it was!).
Very nice Sunday. Breakfast over & cleared-up by mid-day. Afterwards lunch at the restaurant "Ai Pavoni" with Silvia & Andrew followed by a visit to the "Aquila del Torre" winery (today was the "Cantina Aperta"). All very impressive - on another scale to La Faula but, in the end, all the same techniques. In the afternoon a little sleep & then a haircut from our visiting barber (a friend of Yetmir). Finally, dinner at "Ai Pavoni" with Louise.
Really good day - relaxing.
Today was a really nice day. The house is full - & full of nice people. Breakfast is two hours on the run - I hoped to be finished at 11.30 to go to Bin to have my daily latte & brios but wasn't free until 12.30. The afternoon was really cooking 32° C in the shade but absolutely baking in the sun - nothing to do but take a good nap. This evening we had the barbeque. Dorian & Giorgio came around - lots of wine was drunk but Rina had everything under control. We sat under the pergola in the dark listening to the croaking frogs & singing crickets - wonderful! As I came up hered to write this it seemed that there was a distant lightening flash - my little Oregon Scientific device shows rain but none is forecast -who knows.
Day like this make it all worthwhile - Good Night!!
The problem with writing a daily web-diary is what happens when you go out for dinner & return having had a few - what do you write under the influence? Well, I want to write this: tonight we left Rina, our cook, in charge of the Agriturismo & we went out for a pizza with Sabrina - a girl who worked here on a work placement two years ago - & Louise who took a bit of time out to stay with us before she started a new job in London last year. We went to our local pizzeria & had a great meal all for a good price - but I want to write this - talking to those who work there & who come from the Amalfi Coast, we said "Why did you leave a place so beautiful, known in all the world, for this little pizzeria in Friuli & they replied: "In Amalfi, in the Costa Amalfitana, there is no work - no work for those graduated from University & for those who haven't. What can we do". & this is Italy, the Italy that exists, the real Italy of unfairness, an Italy that offers nothing to the ordinary person while those in power eat off the carrion that the system throws up. A Country without hope, a country in which a whole generation has consumed all & left nothing for their young. This is the real Italy, the Italy of today behind the Gucci handbag & charming smile!
It's nice to come in & have a second to myself to sit & make these jottings of what happened today. We finished yesterday camping in our own house because it had in some significant part been commandered by our graphic design agency & their clients to do a photo shoot. This morning didn't start out in a very promising way: I sought - but didn't receive - assurances that the whole thing would be over - & out - by 4.00 p.m. as we had guests arriving & had to cook dinner etc. These tricky moments can - if one lets them - take a bit of a "bloody italians" versus "rigid anglo-saxons flavour". As one squares up to negotiate the situation (as often one has too even if it seemed that everything had been agreed previously) it pays to remind oneself that you are in another country, a country, moreover, where the locals are absolutely sure (& the evidence backs them up in this) that every anglo-saxon wants to come to live. The retort (before the recent economic crisis rendered such retorts indefensible) to criticism of things Italian was "If it's so bad here why does everyone want to come here?" It was hard - until now - to answer that one. Now however a series of television programs have explained why the English & Swiss, at least, are buying up, wholesale (it seems incredible that there was still something left to buy given the Chianti-shire flavour of much of Tuscany) all of Tuscany & Liguria - because the Italians are getting poorer & the English (& I guess Swiss) have seen steadily rising national incomes.
But anyway, to return to the story, the day teetered on hysteria but never quite went over the edge (although I was a bit bitter about our computer guy being roped in as a last minute model in the dining photos when he should have been putting "La Faula Today" on-line). A number of our guests found themselves pretending to eat lunch or drink wine in various immaginary locations conjured-up out of our house to show-off the furniture that was subject of the photo shoot. At the end, some-how, everything returned back to normal, money was offered & refused, big kisses & hugs all around & everyone went home with their boxes of re-flat-packed restaurant tables, wine-racks, sofas etc.
Dinner tonight: spaghetti with curried vegetable sauce, lamb-chops in red wine & tomatoe sauce, cherry strudel
A day when everything coincides, when everyone who arrives seems to arrive at the same time. First came the plumbers to fit the air-conditioning in the canteen. I've always remembered that Peter Mayle in his book "A Year in Provence" recounted the impossibility of getting the local plumber to come around - we persevered with a plumber like that for a while (& almost went mad) but now we have one who is as reliable as they come - pricy but not overly so when you consider the quality of the work & the timeliness - today the summer heat really started & there he was, first thing, with his little crew to see that the canteen would not exceed C20° this year (unlike previous years but it's better that I don't mention what temperature the canteen reached in the hot summer of 2003). He is also a good customer for our wine so maybe this had something to do with it.
Next came one of the partners in the agency that does our graphic design. Rather under sense of obligation I agreed to let them use the house for a photo shoot for some furniture advertising they are doing for another client. It was rather an ominous start when the big removals van rolled into the car-park full of furniture. Things went down-hill from then on in. The three workers were very polite & careful but at the time of writing ourselves & our guests are forced to eat & relax outside as the house resembles the inside of a furniture wharehouse. Everyone promises that by 4.00 p.m. tomorrow everything will be back to order but I have my doubts. I've told them that I want the photographer to do a shoot for us for free in payment.
The only person who was content was Yetmir who, coming inside & seeing our beautiful old tables & bar piled up in a corner, & the new flat-pack fake rustic furniture set out for the photographer tomorrow, complimented us on the improvement & said how much nicer it looked! (where does he thing we would get the money from to randomly replace perfectly good furniture?)
Dinner tonight: vegetable lasagna, schnitzel on ruccola, chocolate mousse.
Luca: Luca cut the grass under the small vineplants in the new vineyard with the strimmer. After getting sunstroke the other day wearing a base-ball cap he has adopted the Friulano style straw hat so seems rather quaint & rustic up there on the hill in the struggle against the weeds.
Yetmir: Yetmir sprayed the grape vines today. This is a job that needs doing roughly 14 times from the beginning of May until the beginning of August. Spraying is done to protect the vines principally from fungus attacks. We only spray with insecticides (pyrethrum) twice a year as we are required to do by law to protect the plants from a virus carried by an insect recently arrived from America. Yetmir is a good boy but he forgot the check if all the doors to the house were shut when he sprayed under the pergola - the dining room won't need to worry about fungal attacks either for a while!
Loris came to cut the hay - immediately after as the grass was drying ominously black clouds appeared & threatened a thunderstorm which thankfully didn't arrive.
Me: Went to the local bike shop in Faedis to pick up both our bikes - Luca's having been repaired after his accident & mine to have an inner tube changed. Took the opportuntiy (as one does) to slip into the Vecchio Forno of Nonno Eglio (the bakery of grandfather Eglio) for a rather good latte macchiato & two rather nice creamy cakes (didn't do much for my waist but good all the same). News in the papers all rather bad & dreary - the economy is on a tumble, Italy can't repay its public debts but the politicians tell us it's not that bad & mostly the fault of those statistics-wallahs at the European commission.
More electric fencing in the afternoon - it seems that I'm the only person at La Faula who can do electric fencing (I'm rather doubtful about this) & nobody likes helping me do it because they say I'm bossy, even tyranical. I don't beleive it myself but they are rather surly when they have to work with me. Afterwards prepared dinner for some guests & us - finished it all off with a (tepid) beer & apart from this that's it for the day.
Dinner tonight: Sausage orzotto, Involtini containing pancetta & cheese cooked in white wine with potatoes, Hazelnut cake