The Three-Week Butter Window

One of the problems with living in Italy compared to the UK is that in summer and autumn you cannot leave your butter out of the fridge without it becoming a river of yellow fat or in winter when it becomes so solid you have to pop it under the grill before you can make a sandwich.

Last year we noticed that this window of opportunity for perfect butter spreading only lasted for three-weeks and at the moment we’re between the solid and slush periods. Yes, the daily temperatures are perfect for leaving the butter dish out and having a knife slide into it and depositing a portion onto soft bread where it spreads smoothly.

Now I know what you’re thinking, surely this topic can’t be that important to warrant a blog post, maybe not, but there are other things that happen during this three-week window of opportunity.

1. The white irises in lane blossom. They tend to be a couple of weeks later than the purple ones and they last for just three-weeks before they have faded away and become just a distant memory.

2. We are also in what I call the buzzing season, men are in the olive groves with their strimmers cutting the lush green grass beneath the trees down to ground level, and those who left pruning until now are thinning out the central branches to the recognised vase shape that allows air to circulate around the emerging olives.

3. Hairy caterpillars seem to be everywhere at the moment, they’re not the dreaded pine processionary moth that decimate pines and have hairs that carry nasty toxins. The ones we get here are fat, black ones that amble over the borage plants. Last year we saw plenty of them but again only for three weeks, so I’m assuming they’re filling up on greenery before turning into pupae.

Oddly enough, so far this morning three songs have shuffled on the iPod with the word, three, in the title. Three Colours Blind by the Alice Martineau, Three Little Birds by Bob Marley and the Wailers and the haunting, Three Babies by Sinead O’Connor.

I’m no off to spread some butter on my toast, have a good day everyone.

Blooming Marvellous

Everything seems early this year, especially the warm weather, it’s February and I’ve already seen a snake and lizards running up and down Dominico’s ruin. Today as Stevie Nicks sang, Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You, I took a couple of hours off from my writing and lay on a sun-lounger in the sunshine soaking up a few rays. There’s been a soft breeze and every know and again there’s a delicate perfume wafting across the patio, I guess it must be the almond trees that are all in blossom at the moment. I must admit as everyone back in the UK is having a terrible time weather-wise it feels wrong to be basking in the warmth: Anyone would think I was on holiday.


Last week Seppe called me to come look at what he’d found, as he parted some grasses there among the greenery was a massive grasshopper, not the usual alien type stubby ones we get here in abundance in the summer, but a big brown one. Today as I watered my seedlings another of the big brown hoppers flew across the patio and landed on the table where my courgettes are coming through, needless to say if I was scouting for a meal it got short shrift and I brushed it away: If my seedlings are nibbled now, I know who the culprit will be.

Next door there’s a small outbuilding and its roof tiles are covered with a pale green succulent that’s very pretty, but at this time of the year it flowers and the yellow flowers are beautiful and very welcome after the grey of winter. Today I went to take  a photo of them when out of the building a swift darted past me, I looked inside and saw the remains of a neglected nest, so I assume it’s back to make repairs in readiness for chicks.


Today I took a stroll just outside the front door and as the sun started to warm the morning air I took out my camera: the cheap pocket point and shoot kind, and took some photos of the flowers that are already blooming. I wonder whether it’s like this in other parts of Italy, or are we lucky being so sheltered, that spring comes earlier?