Sunday, August 16, 2015

How Our Garden Grows

Well another month has passed again without a post!  We just finished re-roofing the house, that's my one excuse and my next post.  And my second excuse is that after a slow start our vegetable garden has begun producing like crazy!  We will soon need to use a wheelbarrow to transport all the blessings being bestowed from our little patch of earth!  Pictured above is my favorite vegetable, chard!  I soak the giant leaves in water to clean away the dirt, slice them into strips, steam them, squeeze out the water, form them into palm size balls and freeze them.  It's absolutely lovely to enjoy chard sauteed in olive oil and garlic long after the vegetable garden has give up the ghost!

We purchased eight pepper plants, four yellow and four red. Of course we purchased far more than chard and peppers, but these are currently our biggest producers. The first peppers to mature were these red peppers, which we thought were bell peppers but obviously they're not. The skin is thinner, but thankfully the taste is similar. Oddly, this was not the only plant we purchased this year that produced something different than what we thought we had purchased.  Hmm...

We had a very hard rain a few days ago which left quite a few vegetables a little dirty.  I suppose I could have and maybe should have cleaned them off first but this is real life, am I right?  Sometimes it's not so pretty.  We have two round eggplant plants (that sounds so redundant) and two long eggplant plants.  So far, we've been enjoying them grilled and in pasta dishes but clearly I'm going to have to step up my game.

This is a cucumber blossom.  Directly behind it to the left, you can see the little cucumber starting.  Everything here has been growing faster than we can eat it!  Many vegetables get parboiled and then frozen, but not cucumbers.  If we're not able to enjoy them fresh, they get pickled.  One can only eat so many Greek salads in a week.  Because the tomatoes are finally starting to produce, next will be cucumber, tomato and red onion over couscous!  A slight change from Greek salads, but a change nonetheless.

These are called black tomatoes.  But they're purple, right?

 I am fairly certain that we exaggerated with the cherry tomato plants.  This is a partial shot of only ONE plant.  
We planted 12 of these plants.  We will soon be swimming in cherry tomatoes.

Nice melons, wouldn't you say?  This plant went crazy with its crawlers!  I would have to say our watermelon plants became more invasive than any zucchini plant I have ever seen.  Those of you who have ever grown zucchini, you know what I mean.  This year was our first BIG success in growing watermelons.  We planted two types, these little round ones and the standard large, and they are both so delicious and sweet that we serve them as dessert!  I never thought I would see the day that I serve fruit as dessert, but it's happened.  Figs are up next so stay tuned, there might even be a recipe for a baked good!  Or I just might serve them fresh on a plate as dessert. (wink)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It's Already Mid-July???

It's already mid-July and my last post was in May!??  Where does the time go??  I'll show you where it goes!
We finally started a vegetable garden!  But this isn't it.  
This is Babbo's beautiful garden, or as I like to refer to it, the land of the giant produce.  We got a late start on our garden this year because of our higher elevation and colder temperatures, but I hope to post some lovely photos later in the summer!

The dogs and I have been taking walks around the property.  So many lovely flowers!  And some insects.

And lots and lots of wild primrose growing everywhere, even in our lawn!

Do we have this specific gorgeous wildflower in California?

And wild strawberries abound!  They taste like tiny Sweet Tarts candy.
And we had cherries!  I say "had" because they came and went very quickly. 

 And I've been planting flower seeds and bulbs.  This was a success.  Not all are.

 We have three large lavender bushes filled with bees and butterflies.  What to do with all these buds?

And we had visitors!  This is my brother Dan and his wife Kathryn.  He's mapping out their trip and she's putting together a wildflower bouquet outside on our porch.

It was a short visit, but really enjoyable!  And I'm not just saying that because we got to do a blind wine tasting.

 And my mother visited!  She has been to visit me several times here in Italy, but it was her first time seeing our lost paradise found.  A big thank you to my sister for delivering my mother safely!

And this is my dear sister.  She has already seen the house more than once.  In fact, she and her husband were with us when we first viewed the house!  They'll be returning in the fall for their yearly pilgrimage and I can't wait!  In the meantime, I hope to do some more posting.  Hope?  I promise!

And this, my friends, is the biggest reason why time got away from me.  Her name is Sweetie and she's a cinghiale or wild boar.  She was about a month old when she joined our brood and requires a lot of care and attention -- which we give her freely because she has the absolute longest eyelashes.  Recall, I'm a sucker for a pretty-eyed pig

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The New Pigs in Town

This is a mamma pig.  Behind her are lots of adorable, little piglets, but she didn't want you to see them and I wasn't going to insist.  Sorry.  She may not look it in this photo, but Amore estimated her weight at 500 pounds. 

We went to pick out pigs from our regular pig connection, a Sardo who lives in Umbria.  He has very pretty pigs with long eyelashes.  Reportedly, he has done prison time.  But I'm not sure I believe the story because no one has any real details.  Gossip is Italy's national pastime.  Whoops, did I just say that out loud?

Here are the two lucky winners this year who will be well fed and well looked after for many, many months before becoming assorted and very much appreciated cured pork fare.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Tiny Daisies

Adorable with their pink new undersides I'm sure these are probably not called 'tiny daisies', but that's what they remind me of.  Amore leaves patches of them everywhere when he cuts the grasses -- without my having to ask.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Animal Crossing

It's not uncommon here to come upon unsupervised livestock alongside of the road, outside of their fenced area.

Or crossing the road, perhaps headed towards a more verdant pasture when no one is watching.  

Or visiting us from down the hill.  Because as we all know, "The grass is always greener on the other side."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fruit Fortunate

We are blessed with a variety of fruit trees here on the hill.  Greatest in quantity are the cherry trees.  Most are wild cherry trees, but there are also a few cherry trees intentionally planted.  And as if we didn't already have enough cherry trees, we just bought another one!  The cherry tree above is one of my favorites.  It's a survivor.  The old trunk, which has new growth on it as you can see, is completely hollow almost all the way down to the base.  It sort of looks like a bonsai, don't you think?

We also have lots of apple trees, both wild trees and again intentionally planted.  They have the prettiest red buds.

This pear tree was the first fruit tree to bloom at our house this year.  All the trees and the property surrounding the house had been sorely neglected for many years -- which translates into many, many months of clearing and cleaning and pruning so that going forward it will be easier to manage.  Correction, this could take years!  Amore's father is thankfully one of those people who has retired but isn't content to be idle so he loves to come over and help.  Which I am immensely grateful for since he is an expert on all things farm related.

These are pear blossoms.  I can't wait until they turn into fruit!

And oh my, FIGS!  We have several mature figs trees and Amore's father has also given us lots of new cuttings that we've already planted.  I am frantically searching for ways to make good use of all this fruit before we are inundated -- and jars, I am frantically searching for jars! 

While I am always thrilled by the sight of the first fig, what I find really interesting is the grape vine.  The first buds to arrive are the leaves, which actually look like a little, pink flower bud.

As the bud opens it exposes tiny, green, pink-trimmed, furry leaves.

And those tiny, green, pink-trimmed, furry leaves turn into large, strong, vibrant green leaves for making Greek Dolmas -- just kidding, but seriously dolmas are delicious.  This particular plant will produce table grapes.  As for the other fruit we are expecting, I think I'm going to stick with making jams and the occasional crostata.  As they say, go with what you know!

Thursday, April 02, 2015


We've had a quite a bit of rain for the past couple of years.  Sorry California, but it's been too much rain.  The ground is saturated and when it rains, the water just runs off.  And downhill. This is not a waterfall, this is the ditch that runs along the road to our house.

Thanks to a two hour, very intense downpour, much of the gravel from our road was swept into the side ditch which blocked the concrete pipe beaneath the road that carries the water away.

So we ended up with a small river running down the middle of the road causing some serious erosion.

Meanwhile back at the homestead there was more run-off.

Which resulted in a small landslide!

And a very unhappy dog.
Please excuse the photo shot of dear Pici's backside, but it was quite amusing to watch her wade through this mess, ears pinned back in displeasure.

It's no rainbow, but it's always nice to be able to find a little beauty in the middle of a small disaster.  Keep smiling!