orWine Tastings in the Comfort of you own villa or B&B while on holiday in Tuscany or Liguria

To book an informative and fun wine tasting whilst holidaying in Italy or arrange for a wild food walk in your area contact me on tuscanytipple at libero dot it or check out my Facebook page

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Thursday, 26 November 2009

Happy Blogday!

Today I should really be amongst the olives again, especcially since we had a wasted day yesterday. I was back in hospital yesterday, waiting around for 2 hours, just to have my bandage changed. They did remove that bit of dressing from inside the hole too, just to replace it with a fresh one. The hole looks far too big for the small bit of wood they have removed. I reckon they coudn't find it imediately and rummaged around for a while first. Anyway, by the time I was out of hospital the day was half gone and not worth starting on the olives. And today the weather has turned. there is a nasty wet wind blowing from the Southwest, so no weather to be clambering up trees and light fires.

So, since I'm now uselessly sitting at home I may as well celebrate the fact that today, exactly 2 years ago, I started this blog. Happy Blogday! This gives me an excuse to do a bit of a review of the story of this blog as well as our story in Italy.

When I started this blog I did so for 3 main purposes:
  • As a personal diary and memo to self. I'm not the most disciplined person in the world. I've tried keeping hand written diaries, but I loose them or forget about them. With this on-line version, I can now easily look up again when I planted my broad beans last year and whether they were a success. I can check out what the weather was like this time last year, etc. Also, whenever I'm not writing anything for a few days, I ask myself why. If I've been too busy, that's good, but if I haven't done much to report about, shouldn't I get up and do something? There's always something to do on a smallholding. Having no boss you have to kick yourself up the backside occasionally.
  • To keep in touch with friends and family. Having moved to a foreign country we wanted to keep our friends and family updated on what we were doing and this format saved us repeating the same thing in numerous e-mails, letters and phone calls. Of course I don't write the most intimate details in here, because you never know who is reading this.
  • And last but not least this blog was set up as an information exchange with like-minded people, who can maybe share their experiences of say growing and processing persimmons, gardening in accordance with the moon phases, bee-keeping etc. I'm pleased to say that the latter has recently also started happening.

Having previously barely looked at any blogs until very recently, I am amazed at how many hits my blog gets and from how many different places! Since I installed that little world map on my side bar at the end of March 2008 this site has had 7,590 hits from 102 countries! Here is the top 10 country list:

USA 25.14%
UK 25.11%
Italy 13.72%
Germany 8.32%
Canada 2.72%
India 2.48%
France 1.98%
Australia 1.86%
Ireland 1.32%
Netherlands 1.28%

The Usa has just overtaken the UK on the number 1 spot. My home country has only made it number 10, and who are all those Indians visiting my site?

The highest risers from year one to year two were:

Slovakia 1300%
Russia 925%
Brazil 900%
Vietnam 500%
Norway 500%

I'd love to know who you people are in Slovakia, Russia and Vietnam!

Anyway, enough of statistics. Since my camera has definitely taken it's last photo, I'm going to have to use some archive photos, which is just as well as I thought on this occasion, I'll give you a brief review of how we ended up in Italy as semi-farmers without going into too much detail.

In 2004, after having lived 15 years on the outskirts of London, the time seemed right to realize a long-held dream. Rather than working anything up to a 60-hour week in the wine trade, plus some 3 hour plus daily commute to work, and still barely surviving on my wages, it was time to go. We had been paying a mortgage for our house for some 9 years, and in that time the value of the property had trippled. So we could sell up, pay off all our debts and set up somewhere else.

Why Italy and why Liguria in particular is another story for another day. Suffice to say, as soon as the sale of our house was confirmed, we bought ourselves an old camper van. We called it the truck:

We were lucky enough to be able to store most our posessions with my parents in Germany and set off with the truck to Italy in June 2004 in search for a permanent place to live. So as you can see there was a certain amount of urgency to find something, preferably before the onset of winter. We soon stumbled across a small dwelling, which wasn't quite ideal in that it didn't have any land attached to it, but it was well within our budget. So by October we signed the papers and moved into a part of this 300 year old palazzo, formerly the kitchen quarters of the residence of the Marquis of Remedi:

The first few months were miserable. For complicated bureaucratic reasons we were not allowed to start renovations for the first 3 months. We were sitting in a very draughty kitchen, without electricity, no cooking facilities except for an open fire place, running cold and colder water, and all that during the coldest winter in the region for 30 years.

But in the new year things started picking up. We had the place renovated, electricity installed and furnished. Our search for a suitable plot of land finally bore fruit by May 2005. Our budget didn't stretch for a well tended piece of land near our village anymore, instead we bought a badly overgrown plot on the other side of the valley. It was covered in bamboo and brambles.

It took us the best part of 2 years to finally beat back the bush and cultivate all 18 terraces. Under all the shrubbery we found close to 100 useful trees, most of them we managed to nurse back to health and productivity. Amongst the trees we dug over the land, enriched it a bit and planted beds for our veg. Things can still improve, but we are getting there. I still have many plans, but now money is lacking and we have to be content to make small steps at a time. But content we are (the song on the note sheet is called felicitá - happyness):

After an initial business attempt, which failed, partially due to the financial crisis, we are now finding various means to earn some money, without which the world does unfortunately not turn, but in the words of Edith Piaff:"Je ne regrette rien".

Talking about money and financial crisis, I just saw British commedian Al Murray comment on that one. The Financial Crisis began by the banks loosing our money. Then the government gave them back some money from our tax money. In order to be able to do so they had to borrow money from us. Now in turn they are raising the taxes, so they can replace this money from our money. In other words, we are paying with our money to replace our money to replace our money to replace our money! That's what I call higher economics!


Mr. H. said...

Congratulations on a blog well done. I am glad that you wrote this post as I was interested in hearing about how you came to be in Italy. Although, I am still most curious about your time near the arctic circle...sounds cold.

I love the van, how great is that! We have always considered getting camper van ourselves but elected to go with a much cheaper camper for our truck instead...it has served us well.

Your plot appears to have been a regular jungle. Like I have said before, your accomplishments on turning it into an agricultural plot are most impressive. I thought our weeds were tall yours are downright frightening.

Happy blogday!

chaiselongue said...

Happy 2nd blogday! And thanks for this resumé of your time in Italy. I'm a newcomer to your blog (since you visited mine) and I'm glad to have found it. Your growing is on a much larger scale than ours (which is just a small garden) but we can all learn from each other. I hope you get a new camera soon as it's good to see what you're doing as well as read about it!

Ayak said...

Happy Blogday Heiko and a great post which describes your journey so well. You have achieved an enormous amount in a relatively short time. Hard work but you seem to thrive on it.

Hope the arm heals up very soon.

Heiko said...

Thank you for the compliments.

Mr. H, alas we have sold "The Truck" again. It was that or a car and shifting around a 6 1/2 ton truck around our small, bendy and at times steep roads, not to mention parking it, proved to much of a problem for daily use. It would have reached it's 30th birthday this year, top speed was about 50 mph (uphill 10!), but we have fond memories of it. It was home for 4 months.

Yes and the Arctic Circle, that was a long time ago during my travelling days when I visited the very North of Norway in what the locals called "spring". It was up to -20 C! Once we stood on top of a mountain with a view for a hundred miles without seeing anything except white snow!

And for the weeds! You haven't yet seen our man eating ivy engulfing what still goes as our shed!

Martijn said...

Hey Hey Heiko,

I'm not sure, but I think I am that 1.28% Dutch visitors of your blog (or one of them... ). I am Martijn, a rare commentor on Angela's "Letters from Usedom". I try to read your blog as often as I can, for it is ALL so much to my liking! Subjects as leaving Holland (for some country where people live with nature and seasons); mushrooms and wild food, self-sufficiency... you name it... I like the lot. A lot! I haven't commented before because I feel I can never be a generous enough reader and commentor because I don't have a computer at my home and can only read and write at the office of which I am an inmate, three days a week.

Bla bla bla... I'm always in such a hurry... it's not fair, but I try to read as close as I can and appreciate your blog to no end. Good luck with the olives! You're making at least one Dutchman very jealous (not really, only longing). Greetings, hallo, enzovoort.


Heiko said...

Hoi Matijn,

Thanks for the visit. I've been away from Holland sooooo long that my written Dutch is almost non-existent. I can read it, speak it, understand it, but don't ask me to write in Dutch! I think the low percentage of Dutch visitors is due to the fact that most of my relations don't have computers either or don't use them much.

So you are an inmate of your office. How long did you get and what was your crime? If they ever release you, come and visit!

Martijn said...

They gave me life! So far I've done 9 years... I'm planning a breakout. Hè hè. Oh, and you don't have to write Dutch with me; this feels like I'm halfway the Mediterranean already. Again hello!