Saturday 25 July 2020

Overdue catch-up part 4: some of the things we've done

And so in this final part of the catch-up series, a look at some of the jobs we've done the last month or so in between the day job (sitting at the computer all day) and chasing rats around.

We've almost finished cutting, splitting and stacking wood for the winter wood pile - the main pile is completed, but the pile of smaller sticks is still only about half done.

We had a lovely day out for our anniversary - a trip to the very quiet Certaldo (a beautiful town about 65km south of us) and a picnic in a quiet square there. We loved it like that, but I'm not sure the restaurant owners would agree. Tourism does seem to be slowly trickling back into our area, so hopefully the local businesses are doing slightly better now and will have enough trade to keep their heads above water.

We dismantled what had become known (between the two of us) as the "orangery" a rather grand name for the structure Stuart had originally put up to protect the citrus plants and other pot plants over winter and which had morphed into a green house for our seedlings and become rather more permanent than was originally intended. However, the citruses were starting to outgrow the structure so we decided it was time to re-locate it. The orange and the lime have been moved to the lawn, against the garden wall, and the orangery (which now no longer has any oranges in it) has been re-constructed at the back of the house.

Where once there was an "orangery", now there is space and a view!
And a new fence to stop people going headfirst onto the guest lawn!

The lime and the orange have been relocated.

The orangery has been relocated.

The summer has been hot, but so far (mercifully) not AS hot as it has been in previous years (we have yet to exceed 34C). Nevertheless, the heat is a struggle at times, and in a bid to keep as much heat out of the house as possible Stuart has constructed an outdoor kitchen.

We also invested in some umbrellas - they make the world of difference and actually allow us to use our garden furniture. Without the umbrellas it's too uncomfortably hot to sit outside until about 8pm and prior to buying them we had been resorting to hiding from the sun in the car park!

This sort of umbrella is all well and good..

But these are SO much better!!!

Following the rat saga, we are slowly making progress with the long-awaited tidying up of the end of the house. This area has been an eyesore since we first moved in, and is the last remaining job that dates back from when we moved here. We have managed (I say "we" but my part in the process has been the unskilled part of filling in, while Stuart has done the skilled part of the rendering process) to get the first third of the wall rendered and a small section of the ground levelled off and gravelled. There's still a long way to go, but it has already made a huge difference and we can see what difference it will make when it's all finally done.

We have experimented with spraying our olive trees with kaolin - a basic clay mixed with water (which then dries on the tree) - to protect them from the olive fly. Apparently the coating of clay is enough to deter the fly... but whether or not it will make a difference is yet to be seen.

You can see the colour of the tree has changed where it has been sprayed.
We have now reached almost peak heat of the year - the coming week has temperatures of 34C forecast, which almost certainly means we will reach 37C here. And that sort of temperature makes it almost impossible to do anything other than hide inside the house. Which is not such a bad thing when you have a day job that needs your attention for 8 hours a day, but can be somewhat frustrating as well! So a slow down in activity is expected. Although of course the daily harvests of vegetables (and the watering) will continue. And a second batch of spicy plum chutney is currently in the making!

Overdue catch-up part 3: wildlife

Living in harmony with nature can be a challenge at times. I'm sorry to say that gone are the days when we were enthralled and excited beyond belief to hear the sound of an owl, a deer or a buzzard. These things are now so common to us that the thrill has subsided. That's not to say that we don't still appreciate the wildlife that surrounds us, but we do sometimes feel somewhat under siege.

This year we seem to be overrun with rats (see previous post), with snakes, with tawny owls (what a noise they make!), and have had a lot more damaging porcupine and wild boar activity (not to mention the squealing of the wild boar as they run across the bottom terraces in the middle of the night which wakes us up and then also wakes Reggie up and precipitates a half-hour barking session).

That all sounds a bit cynical, but we really are still enthralled by nature and every day find something new, something so beautiful it takes our breath away and makes us wonder at, well, the wonder of nature.

Wild growing Madonna lily. Lilium candidum.

An inhabitant of our wood pile.

(It's pretty tiny and doesn't do any more damage than an ant bite)

The stunning seedpod of love-in-a-mist - Nigella damascena. (Something about its striking colouring reminds me of rhubarb and custard sweets.)


Pond life.

A wnd & rain casualty

Cob nuts.

Natrix helvetica after a heavy meal! (Likely a toad).
Red Lily Beetle (Lilioceris Lilii)

Moss Carder Bee (bombus pascuorum)

'Spotted Darner' Dragonfly (Boyeria Irene)

A giant puffball!

Pontedera cordata (pickerel weed) 

The nine spotted moth (Amata phegea) hitching a ride.

Fennel flowers.

The delicate and beautiful seed pattern of Lactuca muralis - easy to miss! 

The stunning flower of the (cultivated) snake bean, aka asparagus bean, aka yardlong bean, aka long-podded cowpea, aka Chinese long bean, aka bodi/bora. So many names!

Here come the elderberries.

Starting to ripen.

The strikingly coloured Melanocoryphus albomaculatus doing its thing in a dandelion seed head 

The first of the sunflowers (cultivated).

A tiny visitor to a geranium.

(Cultivated) lupin.

(Cultivated) sunflower.

A reminder that cooler seasons will come!

Cheery composite flower on the terraces.

Setaria pumila, yellow foxtail. 

A delicate beauty

Reggie investigates an attempt at penetrating the fencing!

Something - Badger? Pig? Porcupine? Fox? - has been digging here too,

Dog vomit slime mould!

Plumbago (cultivated).

Centaurium erythraea (common centaury)

As yet not identified beetle.