Next on the to-do list was to fill the car with fuel, so we headed out to the methane station at Chiesina. Before we could get there, however, we were being pulled over by the police (Carabinieri) for a document check. This is now the fourth time we've been stopped for a document check - which is very routine here. We had a quick chat with the friendly policeman, and once he'd satisfied himself that our documents were in order, we wished him a happy Easter and went on our way. We refuelled, made a quick stop to pick up some chicken feed from 'Mr Chicken', then hit both the supermarkets for the weekly food shopping.
We made it back home in time for a quick lunch before taking Reggie out for a walk. We headed up to the quarry track above Vellano and gave him a good run around before heading home to roll up our sleeves.
The afternoon's work started with Stuart handing me the pneumatic drill to continue taking up concrete floor while he went to Frateschi to buy some more cotto tiles and bags of concrete. I discovered that it's a lot easier to bear the noise of a pneumatic drill when you are the person using it than it is when you're in another room trying to do something else (as I had been last week)!
After an initial period of terror - convinced I was about to fall through the floor and land in a heap in the apartment - I soon got into the swing of things and it wasn't long before most of the floor between the kitchen and the office/utility room was gone. I was slightly perturbed to find that Stuart was at that point outside with his chainsaw cutting acacia stumps on the terraces - certainly a job that needed doing, but with the noise of the chainsaw (and some distance from the house at that), I wondered how long it would have taken him to find me had I slipped through the hole and been calling for help from the apartment below... Thankfully that didn't happen, of course, and after I'd finished taking up the concrete floor, Stuart came in to make a start on the next step in the process.
|State of the art air conditioning?|
Next, Stuart cut some new lengths of beam from the old, varnished beams that had run through the false ceiling, and while he worked on cutting out some of the rotten beams above, I set to work with the grinder with its wire brush attachment to remove the dark orange varnish from the lengths of wood.
With the new beams stripped, we were just about ready to start laying down tiles when David and Sarah arrived, popping in to say hello on their way back home. It was almost 6pm by this point, and we were both covered head to toe in dust and dirt, so the arrival of our friends was a welcome excuse to stop for a well earned drink and break.
In fact, the quick hello ended up turning into a really lovely impromptu evening spent chatting, drinking and relaxing with our friends. It's often the unplanned evenings that are the most enjoyable and this was certainly amongst those. By the time we bade goodnight to our friends it was 10pm and there was still a very large hole where the floor used to be, so Stuart quickly laid the cotto tiles down to create a covering that would prevent dogs/cats going flying through to the apartment below, and after much needed showers and a quick bite to eat we retired to bed.
SaturdayWe woke up on Saturday feeling the effects of both the previous day's hard work and the previous night's good time, but we had an appointment to keep at 9am, so there was no time to linger in bed or hit the snooze button.
The 'bee man', Alain, who had been planning to come and visit us last weekend but who had to cancel due to illness, had re-scheduled his visit for 9am on Saturday. To re-cap, Alain is a guy known to our friend Mara (who lives in a farmhouse on the hillside directly opposite us), who used to keep his beehives on her land before she and Franco bought the house, but since she and Franco have their own bees, this is no longer an option. Knowing that we were interested in bees/bee-keeping, and that we might have suitable land, Mara had suggested that we might be able to offer a spot for Alain's bees.
Alain duly arrived at 9am, greeted by Reggie's unstoppable barking. After a quick chat with Stuart and a look at our Flow Hive, Stuart took him along to the end of the drive to inspect the area we'd decided to offer - the clearing adjacent to our gates that was once an old quarry. He was impressed with the spot and thought it would be perfect, although said it would need a little more tidying first, and said he'd also like to put some hives on the other side of the drive (which will also need some tidying). He left, saying he'd be back in about a month with his 30 hives.
Bee meeting over, it was time to get on with the rest of our day, so with Reggie in the car we went for a coffee at Nerone's bar before heading up the valley to the track that leads from Vellano to Macchino. We had a lovely walk along this track - it's a really pretty walk, especially at this time of year - the weather was beautiful, and Reggie enjoyed himself immensely, despite trying to deafen a walker with his scary barks (the same man we met the last time we walked this track - he joked with us that one day he and Reggie will become friends) and trying to chase (and eat) three mountain bikers.
By the time we got home, there was still time to get into some work before lunch, such had been our prompt start to the day today, so while Stuart mixed concrete to pour onto the tiles he'd put down last night, I put the backpack strimmer on my back and headed down to the vegetable terraces to start strimming the long grass down there.
By the time I'd run out of fuel, Stuart had finished laying the new layer of concrete and it was time to stop for lunch in sunshine. By this time, the sun had really got quite some heat in it. Reggie took shelter in the herb garden while we soaked up the warmth of the spring sunshine on our faces.
Once lunch was finished though, it was time to get back to work, so I got the strimmer on my back again and headed down to finish strimming the lower terraces while Stuart worked on some more modifications to the gates - the latest Reggie-proofing measures combined with Stuart's latest upcyling wizardry which uses the springs from old washing machines to act as very effective gate closers:
When the strimming was finally done, it was time to swap the strimmer for the hedge cutters and we both headed for the end of the drive to do some more work on tidying the areas that are now officially earmarked for bees. We spent about an hour cutting back brambles behind the gates and at the top of the donkey track that leads downwards from the drive.
We finally called it a day after we'd cleared enough to open the area out a bit, and headed back to the house to put the tools away, close the poly tunnel, collect some firewood and finally relax on the patio with a glass of wine and the fire pit for an injection of extra spring-evening warmth.
PasquaAfter the busy and productive two days preceding, Easter Sunday saw a change in gear. With the combined effects of the clocks having changed overnight and having felt the need for a bit of a more leisurely morning, we weren't ready to leave the house until nearly 11am - I had to keep reminding myself that it didn't matter! We stopped for a quick coffee at Nerone's before heading to Sorana to walk Reggie in the woods beyond the village.
We were having a lovely walk until Reggie pulled me over flat on my face. We had heard the sound of an engine approaching, so had put him on the lead and waited for a man on a motorbike to come very slowly up the dirt track past us. Reggie waited patiently with me until the man had just passed, at which point he lunged after him, taking me with him until the lead slipped out of my hand, leaving Reggie snapping at the wheels of the motorbike and me on my hands and knees in the mud and leaves. We decided to call time on that particular walk at that point, and headed back to the car.
After our walk, we made our regular Sunday morning stop at Amanda's shop. Today, however, rather than buying something home-made to take home and heat up, we had asked Amanda to get a raw free-range chicken in for us that we could take home and cook ourselves. We were slightly shocked when Samantha handed said chicken to us in a plastic bag and we realised it was entire (that is, complete with head, legs, feet and innards), but Stuart was up for the challenge of cleaning it, and after collecting homework from Samantha, we headed home to make a start on cooking our Easter lunch.
There then followed a couple of hours of chopping, prepping and cooking. After finding and watching a YouTube video on cleaning chickens, Stuart duly cleaned the chicken - it might have taken a little while longer than someone who is used to doing this somewhat gruesome task, but he did it expertly and cleanly, and I was impressed! Florence and Reggie were the lucky recipients of the offal, while the neck and other bits went into making a stock (although I couldn't bring myself to put the head and feet in). While the chicken, carrots and potatoes roasted, Stuart decided to attempt to make aioli (garlic mayonnaise), but despite our combined best efforts, our first attempt at a home-made mayonnaise was considerably less successful than Stuart's first attempt at the cleaning of a chicken, and it ended up being more of a sauce than a creamy mayonnaise. It tasted good nevertheless.
We finally brought everything together ready to eat at 3pm: roast chicken, roasted potatoes, roasted carrots and pan-fried Brussels sprouts, all eaten in the fresh air and sunshine on our patio.
With the food dispatched, we lit the fire pit to give us a little longer outdoors, and spent a nostalgic while looking through the printed version of our blog that my Mum sent us last year. The 'blog book' only covers the first month or so after we moved here, but it was amazing to spend a while looking back at the way things were almost two years ago and how much things have changed.
When it finally got too chilly to sit outdoors any longer (the clouds had come over during the course of the afternoon), we headed indoors to light the fire and spend a quiet evening watching Spectre, which Stuart's Mum kindly sent us on DVD this week - a fitting end to a relaxing day.
PasquettaEaster Monday is Pasquetta here in Italy. It started out wet - the rain had started before we went to bed last night and had been going on and off all night. After another slow morning without getting up to an alarm, we had a late breakfast before heading out with Reggie. It may have been wet, but the upside was that we could be almost certain that no one else would be out walking in this weather!
We headed straight to the chicken-run walk and even made poor Reggie wear his raincoat, such was the heaviness of the rain when we set out. It wasn't cold though, but pleasantly fresh and with lovely spring scents in the air.
We met a group of three joggers out in the rain, but once we'd let them pass, holding Reggie on the lead to make sure he didn't try to eat them, we didn't see anyone else and Reggie happily ran around in the long grass getting himself soaked from head to toe, the water running off his raincoat in mini rivers.
When we'd done our walk, we headed home via Amanda's once again. Amanda doesn't usually open on Mondays, but with today being a bank holiday here, she made an exception today and we called in to collect the loaf of bread that we usually pick up on a Sunday, as well as a friendly chat with Samantha and Amanda.
By the time we got home it was time for lunch - delicious roast chicken sandwiches, but eaten indoors today as even though it had dried up by that point, it was still a tad too cool to be outside - and a bone for Reggie.
After lunch we spent a couple of hours in front of the computers updating the blog and doing various other chores, and by the time we'd finished all that the sun had come out!
We therefore headed outside, but with only a gentle afternoon's activity planned: planting seeds. We spent a very chilled out hour and a half in the gentle warmth of the poly tunnel planting up more seeds and checking on what was already sprouting into life.
When we'd run out of both plant pots and labels we decided to call it a day in the poly tunnel and returned to the patio, where we made a start on weeding the herb garden. We're undecided as to what to do with the herb garden - Stuart would like to get rid of it altogether, whereas I would prefer to keep it (as would Reggie, who enjoys lying in it in the shade of the rosemary bush) - but either way, it was in desperate need of some weeding, so we made a start on the job.
Come 6pm, however, we decided we'd had enough of chores and, keen to make the most of the new longer daylight hours, we lit the fire pit and sat on the patio with a bottle of wine and our planting notes, writing up notes on what we'd planted and when, and attempting to draw up a planting plan for the coming year. This turns out to be a little more complicated than it might seem at face value, as some plants like (or don't like) to follow on from each other year on year, and certain plants like (or don't like) to be planted alongside each other at the same time. By the time we'd finished a bottle of wine and the temperature had sunk low enough for the fire pit to not quite cut it any more, we had formulated a pretty good planting plan for the year, although there's still more work to be done!
Feeling chilly, we retired indoors to light the indoor fire and reflect on a long weekend that has been the perfect combination of hard work, productive and relaxing.