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Sunday, 8 June 2008

Amongst the Olives

Well the weather keeps on playing tricks on us making planning anything absolutely impossible. And we are supposed to be in Italy with continuous lovely weather from May to September! Every evening we look at Sky Meteo 24, the 24-hour weather channel for Italy. Usually the opposite of what they say happens, but even that you can’t rely on. Canale 5 usually comes with a different forecast to Sky Meteo, but possibly just for the sake of being different, because they are no more accurate. This weather is more like what we used to get in Ireland and England. The only method that works reasonably well is getting up in the morning, going to our viewing veranda in front of our house with views of up to a hundred miles, and see if you see any clouds approaching from any direction. But even that failed us today. We wanted to go to a festa in nearby Castelnuovo Magra, the Rassegna dell’Olio d’Oliva, an olive oil fair. There was to be various producers from the region showing off their produce, a lunch and dinner on the piazza in front of their Disney-like castle and a walk through the olive groves of the area.

Well my look out for the weather this morning showed some dark and threatening clouds over the mountains, but clear and sunny weather towards the sea and Castelnuovo. I was hoping that the clouds would stay behind the mountains and, as we have recently in the face of rising fuel costs been riding our bikes for anything where we did not need to carry bulky items with us, we set off on our bikes for the 15 odd kilometer trip. Castelnuovo Magra sits not quite as high as our village (about 150m a.s.l.) above the mouth of the river Magra where it enters the Mediterranean. It’s a beautiful village with an impressive castle once inhabited by the Malaspina clan who dominated this area in times past. As we arrived the sun even showed itself and we decided to browse around the stands of various olive producers, trying little tit-bits from the various tables, having a glass of wine or three from the excellent local wine producer Il Torchio, who makes an excellent Vementino Colli di Luni DOC white wine. Susan got quite chatty with a few French people who had set up a stand promoting the region of Auvergne in France (tasted their wine too, as well as their lovely cheeses, salami and paté). Having suitably fortified our spirits, we set off to go on this walk ‘amongst the olives’. It was to be a well sign-posted 2 ½ hour round walk. We were barely ½ hour out of the village when the heavens darkened and it started raining. We sheltered for a while under an olive tree, but we soon found ourselves in the midst of a violent storm with pouring rain and the shelter became fairly useless. So we retraced our steps back to Castelnuovo and our bikes getting absolutely soaked to the skin! And in this state we had to cycle back home again. Well we both had hot showers and hopefully we won’t have caught pneumonia or anything like that. The walk looked lovely though and we must attempt again on a nicer day. The real irony was, that Ponzano Superiore looked dry, so we seemed to have our own personal storm over our heads!

The other good thing that we found was one of the exhibitors at the fair, a mill, not only for olives but also for various flours. I have found it very difficult finding decent flour in Italy for making bread, but this place produces wholemeal flour as well as selling it directly, so I’ll be visiting them this week to stock up on big sack of flour! It’s likely that I won’t be able to resist some of the tasty antipasti they produce either. They have a web-site too on www.oliomoro.it.

Finally, what have been doing on the land I hear you ask. Well with the mixed weather we have only been out there a couple of times, we certainly haven’t had to water anything. On Wednesday we did some weeding and sowing after the new moon. I sowed out various types of beans on the kiwi terrace and some cavolo nero (Tuscan ‘black cabbage’, which is a bit like cale), leeks and Swiss chard on the terrace below, the strawberry terrace. Yesterday I dug over another half terrace with Frank Motozappa and sowed out a mixed lot of lettuces. And what are we eating? We had the last of the peas, courgettes are there, still more cherries (I’m in the middle of making a cherry cheesecake), daily strawberries, loquats, a lot of mixed salad. Plums will be ready any day. Above you’ll see the grapevines in flower. Well if you don’t hear too much from me in the next couple of weeks, Holland is probably doing particularly well during Euro 2008.

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