On holiday in Austria!!! Yippeee....
Today we left for Austria!
On Sunday afternoon we are leaving for 4days in Austria. This evening will probably be the last grill/barbeque of the season. I am exhausted. We have had a great season but are completely at the end. Already the days are shortening & dinner under the pergola means candles & lights!
Today I made tomatoe sauce from 50 kilos of tomatoes that had been drying for 5 weeks in the top of the barn (which we use for drying the grapes.
I'm affraid there are going to be a few tedious Ettore shots in the coming months! This photo is for Nicole!
I wanted the kids to pose for the "photo of today" with the baby rabbit that they had recovered plus a couple of bottles of apple juice. It was to be premature. When we went to get the rabbit we discovered that there had been another mass-breakout with three baby rabbits again outside the cage. Boy-o-boy, chasing those wretched velocapeds (fast feet) brought phrases like "run rabbit run" to mind & an overwhelming sympathy for farmer Brown in his struggle with Peter Rabbit. We finally managed to track them all down but I think that if they escape again their future will lie with Hunter Innocente & Mr. Fox instead of us!
Not a heck of a lot to write about today. Some kids here on holiday saw the 5th baby rabbit which we had given up for lost. They were promised a free bottle of apple juice for each day that they are here & they duly brought the rabbit in & collected their bounty. Rina was cooking so the afternoon was passed catching-up on various jobs & then helping out with the service in the evening.
Today's diary entry is dedicated to Louise & Ari - Louise is a lawyer & ex-colleague who came here early last year & stayed with us & give us a hand before she started a new job. Louise cooked-up a few great meals & last night I did the oven-cooked tomatoes & rucola pasta sauce & the marinaded oven-baked lamb. It was very good Louise! Here we sometimes have trouble serving lamb as people tend not to like it but this was a real hit & so will be on the menue from now on. Seconds of the pasta sauce where taken by all the Italian guests which is the best sign possible!
Ari - the cake was wonderful - I did it with apples & sultanas & baking liquor (one tablespoon - maybe I should put more?) - that went down very well too. As the season draws to a close & I'm feeling a bit jaded it is nice to cook-up something so greatly appreciated.
Normally I try not to include guests in the diary - although they are, of course, a big part of La Faula (in fact we wouldn’t be here without them!) they are, by definition, passing through & so are not part of the bricks & mortar that make up our life here. But this lady is more than that - she is a champion baby rabbit hunter! This lady, almost single-handedly, recaptured (& saved from certain death) all but one of the baby rabbit escapees!
I feel terrible for the guests - today it has rained cats & dogs .... excuse the pun but speaking of dogs .... this morning we left the Agriturismo in the hands of Luca’s nephew Maxi &, as every year, went to the animal fair in Sacile. I thought we had plans to get some bantam chickens to leave free in the yard but Luca steared his way pretty quickly to the stalls selling dogs. Now, we have vowed never to buy dogs from stalls but there, amongst the puppies, we found some border-collies. After deciding not to buy because you don’t know how they have been treated or their pedegree or have time to observe well their temperament we settled on a very pretty little male border collie pup & we bought him. His name is Hector & he is a wonderful little dog who has put Nellie’s, Barty’s, Minnie’s & (especially) Spotty’s long noses out of joint! It seems that he has just the character to be an agriturismo dog & the kids who are here now just love him.
This evening we had a feast! As we had the mushrooms - & someone to cook them - I decided to make fresh tagliatelle to go with the mushroom sauce, Luca made two zucchini pies using baby zucchini from the garden & we finished it off with big pieces of strudel. It was a wonderful night. All of us absolutely feasted, the pasta & mushroom sauce was exceptional & between us all we consumed around 3kg of fresh pasta (without the sauce)! Doriana & Giorgio came for dinner, Luca’s nephew Maxi came to help-out with the dishes, & by a stroke of good luck two young guests - Alexandra & Lorenzo - helped-out with the serving side so we found ourselves guests in our own Agriturismo - it is at moments like this that we know what makes our life worthwhile!
Two things happened today, one a bit sad & the other rather nice, & both of them connected in a tenuous way. First, this morning at 7.30 a.m. Ari, Katy & Eva returned to Austria as Katy has her driving lessons & after the girls want to Interrail in Southern Italy. We were sad to see them go as were the guests who were here who complemented the girls on their friendliness, professionalism & comportment. As before, I will use this diary entry to thank you, Ari, Katy & Eva! It was a pleasure to have you here again & you really worked well & made a terrific impression on behalf of La Faula. Since you have gone the kitchen is cetainly emptier, the fountain not as clean & the grass longer! Come back soon!!!
The second thing that happened was that an Austrian girl, Gisella, who did a school work-experience here last year (at the time that Katy, Ari & Eva were also for part of the time here) called to say she was coming to visit with her father & that she had a surprise for us! Well, you can see the surprise - a basket full of the most wonderful mushrooms. We were just thrilled as we love mushrooms. One of our guests was also very thrilled & he offered to cook them for us on the following day, Saturday (you will have to see tomorrow’s entry to see how it went!).
This morning started off very nice - a loverly day - as I walked up the path to the house I enjoed the view of the little baby rabbits munching on the dewey grass outside their cage. That’s right, it was a mass baby rabbit breakout & caused a whole lot of sadness on the part of Luca. That’s it, he said, I’m not going to Sacile on Sunday (where there is an animal fair) - he was just too sad that all those little rabbits would end up being prey for foxes or hunters. We tried to see if we could catch any of them but they scattered & dissappeared. Well, that’s that, it seemed.
On a more positive side, the photo is of Ari getting the eggs in the morning. In fact it is a staged photo - I get the eggs while Ari does breakfast with Eva & Katy but Ari makes a much nicer photo than me. You can see that there is a quality control chicken keeping an eye on things (heaven help you if you put cold hands under a laying chicken to pick-up the eggs!!)
Today started thinknig about the music selection for next year - so far have discovered two very good female Italian singers, Patty Pravo & Giorgia.
Patty Pravo was singing in the 1960's, 70's & 80's & has the most beautiful voice. It's nice to finally have a CD of many wonderful songs that I have heard over the years here but never knew who they belonged to. Giorgia is a current singer also with some wonderful songs.
Pretty tired - started-off the day with a morning coffee at the Forno of Nonno Eglio in Faedis - no newspaper - the giornalists (highly unionised) get Ferragosto off. It was relaxing though, sitting there taking a Latte & cake looking up at the mountains that encircle Faedis.
In the afteroon caught-up with La Faula Today which had been languishing the previous week. Did dinner with lots of help from the girls - the photo is of Ari with her cake which, as usual, was exceptionally good.
Ferragosto - gradisca, porzus, giro of the sagre
Ferragosto - the 15th August - has, ever since the Second World War, been the high point of the Italian holiday season in August. Industrialisation, economic growth, factories & the need for labour, unions all came together after 1945 to permit most Italians to holiday for the whole month of August. Traditionally factories, offices & shops closed for all or most of the month. Agriculture was largely idle - the crops were nearing maturity & could be left to grow, only the cows needed milking & cheese making. And the Country departed for the sea en-mass filling-up apartments in myriad Adriatic & Mediterranean resorts. High taxes & redistribution combined with the strength of the working class to give almost all Italians the possibility to have leasure & consumption never before seen except in the nobility, landowners & rich capitalists.
And probably never to be seen again. Competition, globalisation & a stagnant economy mean that almost no-one now can take August off - the factories close for a week for essential maintenance or keep on going. The small shops close but the large supermarkets keep on going. And the workers, & petty civil servants no longer have the spending power to live the life of Riley by the sea for 30 days.
Anyway, be that as it may, we love the 15th of August. For us, it means the beginning of the end of the season which will tail-off to the harvest. We get-up every year at 6.00 to be among the first at the Sagra of Gradisca full of animals to see & to buy & antiques. It also happens to be the place where we can get the very best croisants in all of Friuli. After the Sagra of Gradisca we go to the Sagra of Porzus in the mountains behind us. There we eat a mixed grill & drink local wine with friends before watching the various traditional events - First to create a traditional hay stack, wood cutting etc - before going home well satisfied with the day.
Today was no exception. The only thing that I wish I had done was take the camera - but after the last couple of weeks I was just too tired to be thinking of La Faula today - next year!
Taking girls to Grado - beach, reading in park, fish dinner, searching for van in the rain
Luca, who is quite taken by the hard work & professionalism of Ari, Katy & Eva, promised to take them to Grado for a fish-dinner in one of the best restaurants there. Somehow this turned into an afternoon at the beach followed by a fish-dinner. After releasing the girls at the beach, Luca & I went to a park & like two old pensioners read our books (between taking one or two ice-creams & coffees in the center of town) until it was dinner time. We met up with the girls & went to a very nice restaraunt only to find that they had mistaken the booking for the following day. We got given a table out in the small lane in front of the restaurant & had the most wonderful dinner watching life & people pass by. Eventually the long-promised thunderstorm approached & we made our way back to the van, soaked by the warm rain. We couldn't find the van in the maize of streets for quite a while & if it had been any colder that evening we would have all ended up with pneumonia (here I should mention, that at a certain point we left the girls under an awning and went to search for the van by ourselves so we did treat them with somewhat more care than ourselves).
If you are wondering about the photo this is Sandro & Donald Duck is about to take a spin on the fountain!
Discarica, got trunk, barbeque with risk of rain
Another Saturday during the tourist season. First the trip to the municipal dump to get rid of the accumulated bottles & cartons of a week. Having an all-inclusive wine policy means lots of trips to the bottle bank in July & August! Plus, there is always the packaging of some new acquisition that we (generally I) have decided is a must-buy. I love going to the dump because there is always something interesting to bring home & today was no exception - I managed to heave a very nice old trunk out of the skip so if you see it at La Faula you'll know where it came from!
Saturday night barbeque. Since last week, Katy & Eva are the barbequ-ers & a very good job they did too. It constantly threatened to rain but, luckily didn't (because grilling all that meat in the kitchen - which is the fall-back option - is not the best.) Ari helped out on the food preparation side & it was, I think it's fair to say, a great success. Ari said she had the very best tomato sauce of her whole life that night.
Visintini for lunch, dinner inside, Ari's apricot cake
It was a pretty grotty morning weather-wise so Luca & I decamped to Tricesimo for a good coffee & pastry at Boschetti before picking-up some prints that Luca had had framed & doing a bit of shopping at Reana. Went ot Pittarello - probably the biggest shoes store in the world - conveniently noting that it was sale time & my trainers were opening-up like Minnie’s mouth. Plenty of choice if I had shoe size 24-26!
Rina prepared lunch for Visintini, the small firm that provides us with our tractors & agricultural machinery. On Friday they close for a week so the owner came to lunch with the mechanics & (only) office Signorina.
We had lunch at Agriturismo La Faula as well but if I keep this up I’m going to have to seriously return to cycling!
Ari offered to bake a cake for dinner & did her famous apricot cake. It was a real hit - a pregnant guest found that it created a craving for apricots so at 11.00 p.m. so another piece was duly provided!
Rina cooks, normal day
Lots of people for dinner. Rina cooked & I did waiting service. The modifications that we have made to the fogolar room mean that we have a nice cosy dining-room nearby - but separate from - the guests, so we ate there with Ari, Katy & Eva.
normal day, dinner
The day just flew by. On Monday I had picked-up our new €2,000+ ice-cream maker (we’ll never get a return on that investment!!!) & decided to give it a try. Boy-oh-boy - even an ice-cream maker has electronic controls & programs 1 .... - all I wanted to do was mix up & freeze, cream, milk, sugar & crushed American chocolate chip cookies - it took a while before I could amidst much turning on & off of the machine, & screaming of its shrill alarm. Luckily the ice-cream was pretty tasty so maybe it was worth getting after all.
Mounting hydraulic piston on trincia, Slovenia
Today I really wanted a day off. Luca didn’t feel able - too much to do, someone’s got to keep La Faula Going - but I was knackered & wanted to go. Unfortunately, there was the issue of the mashed-up drive train plus the fact that a hydraulic piston that we had ordered for the grass cutter had arrived which would make Luca’s life much easier by enabling him to adjust the degree by which the cutting head would jut-out from the side of the tractor (necessary to cut cloes under the vine plants). I just couldn’t leave Luca to work under those circumstances so got the new piston which we successfully mounted along with the new drive train which we shortened. Managed to leave at 4.30 pm. & visited a friend in slovenia. It’s a great thing to be so close to Austria & Slovenia - even a small break seems like a foreign holiday!
Rina cooks, Giorgio & Doriana with son, Broken cardano, search for double-noded replacement
Last Saturday, I was so tired of cooking I asked Rina if she could do Monday, Tuesday & Thursday nights of this week. I used the time to get out & do some fencing on the farm. Fencing is real farm work - basically, because when the fences aren't up/working the cows are on the road. When the cows are on the road in rural New Zealand that's not a particularly big problem. When the cows are on the road in an over-populated part of Europe where the populace drive like lunatics you are looking at a fatal accident, years tied up in the Italian justice (sic) system charged with culpable homicide not to mention the civil case bought by the relatives which will eat the farm. Needless to say we take our fencing rather seriously & I was well pleased to have given it some time.
Luca mashed a drive-train powering a heavy duty grass cutter that he was using to cut grass in the vineyard. Drive trains, for those who don't know, connect the agricultural machinery to the tractor. All the force of the tractor is focused into the deceptively tranquil steel tube spinning inside its protective plastic sleeve. Drive trains have been responsible for more deaths & injuries than anything else in Agriculture. Because they seem so inocuous people pass over them to get from one side of the tractor to the other, lean over them to see why some piece of machinery is making a strange noise etc. It takes just a snippet of material to enter the train, maybe only a few hairs & suddenly 90 screaming horsepower of tractor is pouring all its energy on one small human being. Enough said.
In the evening we had a very nice meal with Giorgio & Doriana, Giorgio's son, who is off to London for work, & his girlfriend. It was nice to be a guest in Agriturismo La Faula!
Oh, what a wonderful thing to wake up to the sound of rain on the roof. It was doubly relaxing because normally the rain preceeds a thunderstorm so one's ears prick-up immediately to see if it will be necessary to dive out of bed & run around discontecting anything that can be damaged by the current induced by a lightening strike. Computers & the fax are obviously at risk but also the elctric fence needs to be isolated from the house electricity supply & in a very fierce thunderstorm it is better to turn-off for, while the storm is immediately overhead, the industrial freezers as they have sensitive electronic controls. Anyway, there was no thunderstorm, Katie, Ari & Eva were looking after breakfast so it was possible to sleep-in, a luxury not available for months. After such a leasurely start we took a very nice coffee & pastries in Tricesimo. It was even possible to start feeling human again!
Well, today Anna actually left. She was with us for a bit over 4 weeks & was a pleasure to be with & a great help. So this is to thank you Anna!
Paul & the kids left later in the afternoon to catch the, by now, famous (at least at La Faula) car-train from Villach. I think that we had all enjoyed this extra day together & the place seemed empty without the tribe all around. Paul got a bit tired playing warships with the kids & you can see below how he made himself useful!
This was the day that Anna left - & came back again. In the morning Anna’s family packed-up & Anna duly departed with Paul (see tomorrow’s photo) & the kids to catch the car-train to Villach that would transport them back to Bonn. Anna’s Mum & Godmum remained as they were driving back on Saturday morning. With Anna gone, I was helped in the kitchen by Katy, Ari & Eva - daughters of Austrian guests who come down for a couple of weeks to stay at La Faula, have a holiday (give their parents some free time) & help us out exactly as Anna & Ky did. Katy, Ari & Eva were here last year & can be considered Faula professionals so everything went very quickly & smoothly. The dinner came off just right & I was outside under the pergola talking to Anna’s mum as dusk fell. Suddenly the dogs became extremely agitated & ran up the hill barking furiously. We all looked up & there, seated on the ground, on the road going up to the vineyard, seemed to be Paul, Anna & the kids. In the dusk they weren’t fully visible & it almost seemed to be a supernatural visitation (in Italy everything is possible!). Having seen them off earlier, & having in mind that they were on their way to Germany, it took some while for us all to comprehend that they were actually back - & back they were - the train was actually for the following day!
Went with Anna food shopping in the morning. Was feeling tired so suggested only two courses for dinner tonight (Osso buco with Risotta alla Milanese) but Anna felt that we shouldn't let standards slip so insisted on doing the starter (a big-salad) & desert (trays of fresh fruit). What a relief to have such an able asistant! Took Anna for a coffee in my favorite bar where I take a coffee & croisant before going beginning shopping (she thinks that Luca might just be correul in saying that I don't do much at La Faula!). Two big trolleys later we were set for dinner. The Osso buco was very tasty but could have done with a bit more time cooking so the meat wasn't as tender as it could have been - at least with cooking there is always a next time!
The photo is of Eva (left), Anna (midle) & Ari (right). This is the hand-over lunch from Anna to Eva & Ari. Katy arrives tomorrow.
Another day like yesterday. Plans to write the diary & do various things - but the morning passes quickly & then dinner preparation time. One good thing this year is that as Luca is not involved in the cooking or preparation he comes in to take over from me once dinner is cooked & works with Anne to do the dishes & clean up. Tonight was a really nice night - it was warm under the pergola, one of our young guests was celebrating his birthday so there was a nice cake & his mum had bought us a very nice Dorigo wine which I gratefully enjoyed outside with the guests while Luca & Anna saw to the kitchen.
Preparing the dinner was fun. Anna, Vincent & I made fresh tagliatelle for the first time - 2 kilos of it. It was really scrummy. The trouble with starting to make your own pasta is that afterwards ordinarly bought pasta seems so uninteresting.
This week is the peak of the season for us. From next week on the Agriturismo gently slows down until we begin the grape harvest on 15 September. But for now it’s an inferno. The days are blastingly hot & dinner has to be cooked every night. Rina is away on holiday in Val d’Aosta for a week so it falls to me & Anna. Luca & pretty fully occupied around the house. Anna, though, is up to it & by now is pretty good on the salads & sauces. Those stressful two hours prior to serving are inescapable, however, & they are only off-set by the relief one feels once desert is served (& if the guests are content!)
Today we took the afternoon off & went to Austria- How nice to have a moment away. Returned to find poor Rina in the kitchen having prepared & served dinner for 18. Something that would reduce a normal person to a psychological wreck doesn’t turn a single hair of hers!