Happily, the very definite switch to the warmer weather coincided with a visit from our good friends The Richardsons (Virginia and Ben and their three delightful girls Isabel, Erin and Megan) for a long weekend. We were pleased both that the good weather afforded us the flexibility to pick and choose activities, whether indoor or outdoor, and that our friends got to enjoy some good weather and plenty of fresh air and sunshine on their mini-holiday.
We packed a lot into their short stay including a visit to Naturalitas, the fete at the local agricultural college; a walk around Vellano; chestnut pancakes at the necci festival in San Quirico; a walk by the river; ice creams; a barbecue; and we even had a short evening pilates class on the apartment lawn courtesy of Virginia!
|Pony rides for the very happy Richardson girls.|
In the week following the Richardsons' visit, the weather seemed to turn from spring to summer, the mercury hit 30C and we found ourselves scorching in the sunshine while trying to get work done.
Stuart's birthday came just before the better weather (and The Richardsons) turned up - while some might be disappointed by having a rainy day birthday, for us it was the perfect excuse to chill out and not feel guilty about not working. We went out for a delicious fish lunch at a fish restaurant in Pescia, had a couple of post-lunch spritzes, and were taken for a lovely evening at the local wine bar with friends.
|Birthday seafood ravioli.|
|Birthday fritti misti.|
We managed to find time in amongst everything else to plant the 21 new olive trees that we had bought from our friend Luca at the agricultural college. These trees have been used to teach the students the process of grafting, and now that the grafting process has been done, they have no use for them, which is why we ended up with bargain trees - which we know have even already fruited.
21 small trees doesn't look like a huge amount - but let me tell you that traipsing back and forth between the terraces to plant them really is quite a lot of work, especially in the warm sunshine! Thankfully we managed to get all 21 trees into the back of the tractor so that we could at least let the tractor take the strain and get them to a point on the upper donkey track from which we only had to carry them through the trees and down onto the top terraces. That in itself was quite the workout!
Having learned our lesson the hard way and lost our almond tree to deer damage, we made sure to protect all the new arrivals with cylinders of fencing, which hopefully should do the trick.
|21 olive trees on the move.|
|The tractor took the strain to take the new trees up to the top of the terraces via the donkey track through the woods.|
|Planted.. and protected against deer damage with a tube of fencing around each tree.|
|Hot work in the sunshine.|
Our English evenings at the local club seem to have had a sudden surge of interest, with record numbers a fortnight ago and last night (which was the next scheduled English evening) almost as many, and including a couple more new faces. The evenings always feel slightly chaotic, and we never know how many people to expect (so 7 turning up was a bit of a shock, albeit a pleasant one), or what levels of English to expect, so it's hard to plan anything in advance, but we muddle through pretty well, I think (especially with the help of our friends Paul & Kathy and David & Sarah, who often come along for moral support as well as extra English speakers to spread around!) and I like to think that everyone has a good time - it's always nice to see people coming back for more!
|We had a record turnout for our English evening at the circolo.|
|It was a relief that our friends Paul & Kathy and David & Sarah had also come along!|
|It was great to see several new faces.|
The rest of the last fortnight has been a hive of activity for us as, alongside our usual work hours, we put time in trying to get the terraces all strimmed for the first time this year - finally completing the lot this weekend after a total of around 15-16 (wo)/man hours - getting all the olive trees pruned and the prunings all tidied up, and we had a fantastic community day at David & Sarah's house where Stuart and I worked on clearing their lowermost terraces of bramble, while Sarah & Kathy worked on burning through their pile of olive prunings and bamboo, and Paul & David worked on putting some tyre steps into their terraces - hours of hard graft in the hot sunshine all rewarded with a huge feed up in the form of a barbecue with plentiful beer and wine and good humour. Such a great way to spend the day.
|...and that's what you're left with after pruning 80+ olive trees. Now we have to turn our attention to getting rid of it all, either by chipping it or burning it - or a bit of both.|
The warm weather and sunshine has given us an appetite for fresh food and big salads. With wild sorrel literally littering the terraces (there are some advantages to not having got around to strimming as early as we'd have liked!), as well as wild fennel, and herbs springing back to life in the herb garden, it's a joy to put big bowls of tasty freshness together and eat them in the sunshine.
|Warm weather calls for giant tasty salads - using wild sorrel, wild fennel and home produced olive oil.|
|...and another one. They're so pretty I can't resist taking photographs!|
|Reggie finally gets to use "his" flower bed.|
|Annual iris photo.|
|And a new iris - this was given to us by our friend Luca when he delivered the olive trees we'd bought. A beautiful dark purple one - my favourite.|
|After a long morning's strimming, we treated ourselves to a trip out to the other side of the valley to look back at our handiwork.|
|Beautiful apple(?) blossom.|
|And there it is.|
|Quite an expanse of cleared terraces really!|
|Pietrabuona from a different angle. We almost felt as if we were on holiday and seeing it for the first time!|