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.

Lucky

Lucky One

This morning as the sun streamed through the windows I was checking my emails when Alf barked, I looked up and at the top of the lane I saw Michele, (pronounced Mick-ay-lee) I waved and went outside to say hello. He told me had walked up from Merosci to wish me a happy New Year before he heads off to visit his family in Rome. I feel blessed to have such a friend who takes the time whenever he’s passing to drop in and chat. Acceptance by the local community is important to me, and I’m grateful that so many of the Italians have taken the time to say hello and ask how we’re getting on with the house and garden.

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View from Bomba

Lucky Two

It’s January and a sound floated across the valley that I’ve been hearing everyday for the past nine months, but today it stopped me in my tracks and made me smile. The sound came from the farm where my friend Nicola works in the afternoons with his brother who lives there. The farm has chickens, rabbits, pigs and for the past nine months three big fat turkeys. Today the sun is high and the morning warm; unlike in the UK where there are several serious flood warnings, and as I pootled about on my orto the gobble of a turkey reached my ears. I looked up and there among the chickens was one solitary turkey. I wonder if its thinking, where have the other two gone?

I know they’ve gone to the dinner table, Nicola told me a few weeks ago that the turkeys were for Christmas, so this is one lucky fella to have made it through to the New Year.

Lucky Three

I have to go to the shop, and as I drive there I notice I’m smiling, something I used to do when I first arrived here in Italy, today the weather is nice and the snow on the mountains is as white as a freshly laundered napkin. With only one solitary cloud in sight, the sky is an ocean blue colour that compliments the silver underside of the olive leaves that move in the gentle breeze. The grass is a deep and lush  and the fallen leaves of brown and gold look like gems amid the green. Surrounded by such beauty, who wouldn’t smile. I’m lucky to live in a place that makes me feel so good as I go about a mundane job like shopping,

Do Believe What You Read

I’m working an a feature about olive oil, a light-hearted piece that lists eight things people may or may not know. Obviously I have to mention some of the health benefits of having the oil in your diet, but finding things that aren’t as obvious is a task. After an hour of web surfing and double checking I have all the information I need. I look up at the clock and see that it’s lunch time; Lily Allen starts to sing her new single, the brilliantly satirical, Hard Out Here as I look inside the fridge. As I’m looking at writing a ‘healthy’ article this afternoon I decide on a plate of antipasto, so it’s smoked tuna, white anchovies, olives, prosciutto crudo and some salad served up with a slice of my home made bread.

In the afternoon, I settle down to structure my 500 word feature, I mention that olive oil helps to preserve the omega 3 oil in fish and ponder whether or not to tell my readers that olive oil is good for removing stubborn mascara, when I read something that catches my attention. One beauty therapist claims that you can use the oil instead of expensive shaving creams. I rub my three day beard growth and grab the olive oil from the kitchen and head off towards the bathroom. OH gives me an odd look and I express my intention to shave with the kitchen condiment and this elicits a roll of the eyes.

I wet my stubble with warm water and rub in some of the olive oil and lo and behold it works, there’s no razor burn and no drag just a smooth, close shave and boy did my skin feel good afterwards. So will I be using olive oil from now on… I don’t think so…  it took twice as long to clean the sink.

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Olives

David Sylvian’s distinctive voice fills the kitchen as, Japan play Deviation, and I wait for the kettle to boil. Suddenly the morning is punctuated with the sounds of people calling to each other over the rattle of ancient tractors and the hiss of pneumatic tools. Our neighbours have come to harvest their olives. Two days ago with strimmers buzzing they trimmed the land beneath the Olive trees. (The Italians call olives, plants not trees). Now the trimmed land is covered with nets and people start to collect the precious bounty.

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Three years ago I helped a friend harvest her olives, it was a cool November day and with olive combs we stripped the fruit from the trees. It was back-breaking work making sure every little green, purple or black olive made it into the sacks. My neighbour’s harvest is on a much bigger scale and is so far removed from the Bertolli TV advert where the people are picking olives by hand, one by one and smiling as the summer sun beats down. They have a noisy machine powered by an equally noisy petrol generator that they clamp to the tree and it literally shakes the olives from the branches. After the tree has been vigorously shaken, a human combs off any remaining olives and stamps around the base to tread-in any soil that’s been disturbed by the shaking machine.

In a week or two we’ll be helping with the harvest up at The Olive House so we’re hoping we’ll get a donation of the oil once it’s been pressed. The Olive House has many more trees than my neighbour so I envisage we’ll collect more sacks than we did back in 2010.

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