Wednesday, December 7, 2016

There is a nip in the air, but not really like New England.  The harvest is in full swing in the mountains.
The apples have been picked and stored.  The vegetables likewize, except for things that hold well in the ground till wintertime. Kale, Jerusalem Artichokes(a rarity), root vegetables etc, will be harvested over the next few weeks, though they have been available for a long time.  Mushrooms and truffles are in great supply now.  The nip in the air is just that, still, but the frosts will follow I expect.  The highlands are susceptibe to cold, snow and freezing weather just as in New England though only in the highlands does it get as cold as there.  People get together for large family meals with friends and distant cousins from the cities.  The pigs will soon be butchered.and it will be time to make sausage and cured meats to hang to dry and cure in salt.  Olives will come starting now.  Some altitudes have already harvested, and they will continue for a few more weeks, though much of the pressing is already finished there.
The colors are not as they are in Maine and New Hampshire, but the leaves will eventually fall.  The oaks hang on for so long, and there is much pine. It seems more like September than November. Mountain tops are white and not with powdered sugar.  The season's activities seem to progress, not from real necessity, but more just because it is time. The ancient schedule must be maintained.
 Italy seems blessed with it's mild climate, but there is a great deal of variety.  The coast of the northeast will be very mild most of the time...Flowers will be out there all winter in many areas.  It seems odd that the north stays so warm, while parts of Sicily, facing north can get very cold and windy.  People are already graduating to puffy winter coats, while I still want to wear t shirts most of the time, especially in the sunny spots.
Gunshots can be heard in the forest.  Pigs run for cover! Venison appears at the table. I have never loved venison, and it would be a waste in heavy sauces, though if you shoot a deer, I suppose it has to be eaten in whatever you are cooking.  Sausage is done with both wild boar and with venison, and people do not have freezers or refrigeration as in the US.
I am pretty warm in my little house.  The gas heater does a pretty good job, but since it is a space heater, it requires constant attendance when it is on.  There is no problem with fresh air in this drafty building, but leaving the heat on can result in a sauna like atmosphere in the house.  It seems that the floors never warm up, but in time they will heat up and be easier to maintain a comfortable temperature.
I am spending more time clearing my plot of land than working on the house.  Projects need money, and that is hard to come by.  I have broken my camera, or lets just say that it has given up the ghost after years of service...another money issue. I can squeeze a picture out of it if I am takes a lot of tinkering to get a picture...not usually worth it.
 I want to learn all the food secrets.  This area's food is not the American idea of typical Italian.  It verges on all the Northern practices with hints of the south thrown in.  Some basics, tomato sauce etc. are always around but very different in character. and truffles are everywhere if one has the money for them.  Unfortunately I do not have oaks on my land, or I might have some truffles too.  I would probably sell them if I did, as to me, they are more like dirty old athletic socks in scent than a culinary delight.  Harry may not be ready to search for the search for them.  Also,If you are not into scrambled eggs or cream sauces, they do not have many uses. They would be a terrible waste in sauce. I have, in fact, paid for pasta with truffles before.  What a waste of money!
It is the preserving and curing I hunger to understand.  How many sausages will I make before I make a batch that is safe to keep for a while!?  The problem is that I do not have surfaces yet that can be made really sterile.  But, give me time!  Stainless steel counters with steel legs and shelves my be just the thing for the budget, though wooden cabinets would suit me more...maybe marble counters.
As far as posting is concerned, I will probably do one post a month or so.  I have to put away every penny for projects, fuel, little trips, etc. so spending money on internet is a luxury that is not justifiable.  This post is nearly a month old,(it is now December) typed up at home then added to, over time, and uploaded to the blog when I go into town, which is not often.  I am still working on posts for my old blogs, using pictures I took a year ago.  I feel I have to keep them all going as they lose readership  and there is a chance they may be deleted if I do not.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wow, I have a hard time getting a seat at the Internet cafe, and that means that only the most important things get done on the Internet.  Typing at my desperately slow hunt and peck is not always in the cards.

The garden has been cleared, and I am now sitting cross-legged most mornings on the ground, re-pointing the stone work on the old oven.  this is slow work for me as well, as I have rarely worked in masonry.
In the evenings, I am slowly scraping the whitewash off the beams and the undersides of the floor boards of the second story.  I will tackle the second floor in a couple of weeks. 
It is all slow going, but I am settled in and have a sort of routine in place.
Harry just sniffs and pees...this is his life...Italian style.
Well, they are looking for a space for an elderly man, so I will sign off and try again when I have more to report.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Beginning and the End

The trip to Italy was a real chore for Harry.  This was his first time over, his first time stuffed into a carrier since his puppy-hood, his first time tranquilized, his first time stuffed under a seat and having to hold his bladder for 8+ hours till he could find a spot in an exercise yard in Paris.
Thankfully, he will not likely have to do it again as I have good neighbors here in Italy to take care of him.  I have always given him commands in Italian and French, so he does not look at people uncomprehendingly when they give him simple commands.  He looks at them uncomprehendingly because he is offended that they want him to take a command from them.
We arrived in Rome, the first time ever that I did not plan a few days of food, walking in the ruins or watching the fountains.  Instead, I jumped right on the train from the airport to Termini Station, and immediately...with moments to spare, for the wilds of northern Lazio where my house is.
I do not think that people understand the topography of Italy.  I know that I always had this vision of a vast plain dotted with ruins.


It is, however, a very mountainous place.  The plains run along the coast, but they quickly rise to rather high hills and precipitous mountains all along the length of the peninsula.  In the north, the Po river valley makes a rather large plain, from east to west, where a lot of rice is grown.  Above the Po river valley, the mountains rise again, to dizzying heights in several small mountain ranges that are basically the southerly reaches of the Alps.
We rode for about an hour and a half to the north-north east to get to the Rieti stop(It was a local train so it was stoping at every town), and from there, had a rather long cab ride to my little hamlet.
John and I bought this house about ten years ago, and owing to its state as a near ruin, I have had people doing some of the work that I just cannot do anymore, or the work I know nothing about.  Stone construction is not something I understand along with the common tile work for the roof. 
I have never been able to afford all the heavy construction that would come along with a complete renovation.  Instead, I have had local people with time on their hands between other jobs doing things like re-cementing the tiles on the roof, putting in new window frames and new windows as I could afford them.
The two doors are chestnut and are probably two hundred years old, so I have been trying to have them repaired instead of replaced.
As a result, I do not have a tourist haven in the mountains, but I do have an enclosed space ready to occupy, even if the certificate of occupancy is not ready for it.
The house is on a hillside and attached to others on one side. This means that I may be able to cut a couple of new windows on the East side someday.
Walking up from the town, you first come to a tiny lane on the left running off the paved road. 
As you walk down the lane, you basically cross my land to access the other properties.
 Perhaps this is a fault, but since everyone actually accesses their house from above, this is a minor inconvenience.
On the left is my garden, there is an ancient stone and brick bread oven going back hundreds of years.
The rest is just grass and shrubs that will wait till warm, but not hot weather.
On the right is my house.  It is built of stone and rubble, again perhaps hundreds of years old.  There is a small window to the right and a broad chestnut door, split in the middle with a bronze knob.
Inside is a singe large room, perhaps 6 meters by 8 meters.  In the future, there will be a staircase going to the upper level, but at present, it is completely independent. 
A large stone corbelled frame surrounds a large fireplace with a raised hearth projecting into the room.
On top of the corbels is a huge chestnut beam acting as a mantle.
There are no other windows on this level, and it would be here that the occupants would have retreated in the winter, as three sides are buried or nearly buried into the hill.
There is a small cave cut into the side wall on the east for storage, like a root cellar.
You have to go to the end of the house outside at present and climb a stone staircase to access the upper story.  This level has two windows on the south side and one window and another chestnut door on the north.  These windows on the south look out at the garden to be.
At present, as the chimney still needs work, I am living on the lower level with a gas heater and a small gas bottle.  It is very comfortable, and also heats the upper level to sweater temperatures where the light is better and there are a few sticks of furniture just for sitting and reading.  Electricity is minimal, but there is enough for a single bulb and an outlet on each floor. 
There is a corner devoted to toilet and a sink on each floor, but they are not separated from the rest of the room, and every flush is an adventure.
I have to walk down to the village for food every day, but this is not uncommon in Italy.  There is no place to really have a refrigerator that does not serve double duty.

As you may know, I sold my house recently, and with two mortgages, a couple of small loans that I had to repay from when John was sick, a new roof, a new septic system for $35,000 and mold removal before selling, I had to pay out to close on the house.
That means that money is very tight, but everything except energy is very cheap here in Italy.  I plan a vegetable garden and a few chickens for eggs and meat, and perhaps a goat.  Well we will see what happens as we go along.
One problem here is that I have no way to upload photos, and except for my old real-estate photos and stuff already on the computer, it will take some time before updated photos appear, but I will do what I can as soon as I can.  I do not have the money to buy new equipment right now, and perhaps never.  Hold your breath and I will continue to post as often as possible when I walk down to the Internet cafe in the village.