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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Sunday, 11 December 2011

December update and an award

I've won an award once again.  A while ago they seem to come along all the time, but then seemed to go a bit out of fashion.  I'm particularly pleased as this one was given to me by a relatively new bloger friend, Tanya from Lovely Greens.  Tanya is an American who somehow got stranded on the Isle of Man, that big blob between Britain and Ireland that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhail threw after his Scottish foe.  There she gardens, forages and makes things such as soap.  I don't know how much German she knows, but 'Liebster' in german means darling!  My wife is getting a little worried about these advances by strange women! ;)

Part of the award is that I am to pass it on to 5 other bloggers... I have recently not got around to following as many blogs as regularly as I'd like (partially due to my wife nagging me about spending so much time on the internet chatting to strange ladies...) well let's see, here we go:

  1. Top of the list has to be the blog by my adopted virtual sister at Ohiofarmgirl' Aventures in the good land.  Her stories about he she manages her menagery of farm animals make me laugh out loud without fail and never fail to cheer me up
  2. Jason at Zuchini Island in Australia has et himself a target of 80% food self sufficiency from a standing start.  I think he is finding it harder than he initially thought, but seems to have a lot of fun trying
  3. Next fellow Italian farmer and revolutionary blogging from Puglia in the south of Italy on olive farming, dry stone walling, many recipes etc: La Contadina's blog 
  4. Next a blog from the opposite end of Italy the far north at the foot of the Alps: L'Orto Orgoglioso, the proud garden, by Rowenna, a Hawaiian in Italy, I believe.  Her motto is: "You may not be reciting Dante in your dreams, but in the end, anyone can be the owner of a proud garden."  I like it!
  5. Finaly I would like to pass the award to Little Paradiso.  Not a gardening blog, but it describes the life of a Texan in Monterosso in the Cinque Terre.  She recently wrote a lot about the destruction caused by the recent rains and the efforts of the villagers to rebuild their homes.  Do visit her site and find out how to help these people in desperate need..
Right, awards out of way here's what's happening in our garden;  There's been a wee bit of rain in the last few days, but temperatures are still more like spring fooling many plants into sprouting lush greens in what should be winter.  On the land I planted out seedlings of pak choi, tak soi and kale:

This the seed packet described as 'Japanese spinach, but are clearly of the brassica family:

Swiss chard sowed itself out all over the place and is looking lush:

Even the litchi tomatoes is still producing:

The broad beans for next year have started off well:

Conspiracy Cousin is back helping out.  Here is in action picking wild autumn olive berries for making our Christmas jam.

Other than that we are slowly getting ready for Christmas, which we will be spending up in the mountains again.  We've baked mountains of biscuits / cookies, including kaki cookies.  The little rain in the last few days has brought up some interesting fungi again, so hopefully we'll find some edible varieties in the mountains:

Have a great pre-Christmas time everybody and don't yourselves too stressed, it's not worth it! :)

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Break in the mountains

As announced we have been spending a couple of weeks house- and dog-sitting for some friends in a small village 700m above sea level in the foothills of the Appenines above the pretty town of Pontremoli:

The village is only 6 km away from town as the fly crows... the cry flows...  the flow cries... but as the main road is closed due to a landslide it's a 20km drive.  The village itself is deserted during the winter, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves, us, Eddie, his 3 lovely girlfriends, a handful of cats, a chicken and a duck, plus plentiful wildlife such as badgers, foxes, deer, wild boar and a multitude of wildfowl, birds of prey and singing birds.

We didn't have much to do so we went on long walks around the woods with the dogs:

The weather was cold, but dry, which was good for going on walks, but unfortunately we didn't find any more fungi.

However near the house there was a beautiful field, where we took the dogs to frolick around every day, full of wild herbs...

... apple trees and lined with wild roses heavy with rosehips at their prime:

We made some rosehip jam and what was to be rosehip jelly and turned out rosehip syrup.  As for the jam, it was really more of a marmelade as we used whole oranges and lemons as well as a grated apple for pectin.  The taste and texture turned out be delicious, but what a lot of fiddly work to remove the seeds!

And the jelly... I don't like adding commercial pectin to my preserves, so I cooked up a similar mixture, saving myself having to remove the seeds, strained it through a muslin cloth and... it didn't set.  Might just dilute the result with spring water as a drink.  Also produced a batch of my infamous 'I can't believe it's not mango chutney' chutney made from some kaki / persimmon out of their garden.  It was nice having a bit of a break from everything and ponder on a few things.

Conspiracy Cousin Barti is returning to us this week and we'll slowly settle into winter.  The rain has finally arrived yesterday along with some cooler temperatures. 

...and finally... Eddie, the Beagle had a particularly good time in the mountains... :)