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Monday, 17 January 2011

Saved from landfills

I'm out of commission for a couple of days due to sore toe.  Nothing serious, but I need to give it couple of days rest.  Shame, as the weather has been rather good recently, but hey, this gives me a chance to write a blogpost I've been meaning to do for a while.

Below find an incomplete list if things we found on rubbish tips near us or prevented from going even that far during the last year.  This list only includes the things that I remember and I know as soon as I publish this list, I'll remember half a dozen others, but it gives you a flavour anyway:

We start with our latest find, a piggy iron watering can:

..and on the piggy theme a piggy bank:
It actually had money in it, but unfortunately they were old Italian Lire, which are no longer legal tender.  The rude inscription means "What balls!".

Next, ampngst the many bits of furniture we found a new Ikea occasional table,

a sturdy bookshelf with one slightly gnawed leg,

a fold-up high chair,

a comfy arm chair (ok ugly pattern and a bit dirty, because the dog likes lying in it...but comfy!)

Numerous other more rickety chairs, some are sitting on our land others eventually fed the fire.

On top of that a number of useful kitchen implements such as this espresso maker with all bit attached and fully functioning, retail value €60:

a pasta maker, which just needed cleaning up a bit,

an almost complete matching dinner set

as well as numerous non-matching plates, bowls baking trays and saucepans and a new bucket and mop

We also found 2 bicycles, one mountain bike needing minor repairs and a sports bike, still needing an overhaul.

a large, sturdy rucksack, ideal for going skipping with to save more things from landfills

Finally not pictured a pair of new Diesel trainers in Susan's size, numerous bits of wood for either burning or repairing our terraces, glass windows for constructing cold frames (another one is planned), some functioning wrist watches (I didn't even know I needed one), some picture frames and... and... that's all I can remember just now.

Isn't it amazing what people throw away?

Friday, 7 January 2011

Repairs have begun

The first week of the year the weather was quite good giving us a chance to start on some of the repairs to our terraces.  Some are of course beyond repair and I'm going to have to get used to a new geography.  Other places are still too unstable to consider repairing them before the danger of winter rains has passed.

So starting at the top we concentrated on securing what's still standing and patching up minor damage.  On the top two or three terraces the damage isn't too bad except some bits near the messy neighbour's land.  On a few places just a bit of the front of the terrace has slumped down by a few feet.  So the strategy here is to first support the remaining bit before it also collapses and takes the rest down several terraces, then build another support wall on the sunken bid like so:

and so:

The idea is that the lower bit in front can now be filled with manure and compost giving me a really deep fertile soil.  The rear part in this case will also be held up by a pomegranate shrub, which is still young at this stage.

Now the rain has returned and we are having another enforced break.  Luckily it's just a general drizzly damp rain come windy fog and not another downpour.  So hopefully no further damage...  Meanwhile I have some kale and tatsoi ready to be planted out, But I don't know where I'm going to put it...

Oh and the Epiphany witch hasn't come to visit for the second year running.  I wish she would let me know when and how I have been naughty so I can improve my behaviour in future.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

A New Beginning

Ok I know.  Not very impressive those fireworks as taken from our 'terrace' towards La Spezia, but the zoom on my camera has packed up some time ago.  Take it from me, it looked better in real life.  So let's banish this bummer of year with a bang and usher in the new one, it coudn't get worse sure!

First of all an apology if I have caused a mass panic amongst the populace of the village of Caprigliola when I spread rumours that they have been evacuated.  I have meanwhile been reliably informed (by someone who lives there) that the place is still securely positioned on it's hill as ever and only a small scale evacuation has taken place in Albiano on the other side of the river due to a collapsing wall.

Here's a picture of one of the 'roads' off our hill as it still looked on New Year's Eve:

The main road however has been re-opened.  Not sure about the road up the valley, but things are starting to return to normal.

Secondly, from the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank all you lovely people who have been sending me messages of support through the comments, on Facebook and through personal e-mails.  The general consensus was to keep at it and stay positive.  We even have had offers of practical help, financial aid and free holidays in the South of France and Tasmania(!).  As many have said things could always be worse.  My cousin for example had been diagnosed with cancer about a year ago.  They said there wasn't much they could do for him except for very invasive treatment, which he refused.  A couple of weeks ago he went for a check up and to the bafflement of the docs, he's clear.  Now if that isn't a good news story to cheer us up!  He's promised to come down from the Netherlands in the next few days to help us with the clear up as he had sold everything he had and now just wants to get on with enjoying his life.

Today Operation Clear Up has got on the go.  The bad news is that much of the topsoil and many of the beds that have taken years of slowly building up on top of our merciless clay soil have been washed down and buried under said clay mud.  A pear tree toppled over and uprooted.  It fell onto a pear tree on the terrace below, breaking half of that off.  The broken off bit than swam further downhill where it buried a Christmas tree.  Eva the fig tree is buried in mud and Stud as well as one of his female companion kiwi vines have slid down a terrace, but might recover.  Of the few veg crops still producing, about 20% of my broad beans are gone, most the endives and Russian kale, all the cardoons and some of the parsley has been lost.

This means that we will have to rely more on our new found 'hobby', skipping.  On New Year's Eve, after the shops had shut, we went on another expedition coming home with this:

So as you can imagine, we are still eating cauliflower and artichoke soup.

On the plus side of the landslides, areas on the edge of our land that we have so far never really cultivated but generally just kept under control have now flattish open places, which could now have something planted on them.  The reason we didn't use some fringe areas of our land was that the messy neighbours invasive brambles and bamboo kept threatening our edges.  Now all this has been washed down.  And as a bonus the border between their land and ours has become very blurred.  As that land is for sale (with planning permission to build, which I reckon might well be withdrawn once planners see the state of that ravine), the new owners won't know where the original borders are.  So we can re-draw the border a bit, gaining a few square metres here or there and adding at least one plum tree and a chestnut tree to our bit, plus, depending on how creatively I re-draw the border an olive tree.  There would jave been another fig tree too to replace Eva, but that's come down in the floods too.  Seems only fair to get some compensation, after all it was there total neglect of their land that has caused some of the damage on our land.

Also on the plus side is that of our nearly 100 permanent features, most are still there.  Today we got on with the job of securing one bed, before it slides down, chopping up the pear tree for firewood, planting garlic and onion sets amongst the rows of broad beans which have been damaged less (it was the only place I can be sure is still likely to be there by the end of winter) and pruned the olive and apple trees and the hazel shrub.  The weather has improved and depression has lifted, let#s all have a good 2011!