Mixed up DOC…

I went over to the stone sink in the corner of the aia… or, the FARM-YARD!!!…  a couple of days ago to fill The Dog’s water bowls and noticed… Hey! Those are red grapes!!! I think?

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Since a few at the bottom of the grappoli… or, what would that be in English? Clusters?… there are a few grapes which could be construed to be white. Last year, the clusters weren’t so wishy-washy and were just white.

Color & content aside, this IS A Hallmark for us here at Il Poggiolo… our first year to have more than a few measly grapes!!! A bumper crop dangling above our heads. Sadly, oddly or whatever, the other vine to right of this one hanging above the stone sink has zilch uve… or, plural for grapes. Perhaps, they’ll come in 2014. In the meantime, I may have to re-assess the two Docs…

so, the left Doc is red, today…

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and the right one is white-less, at least, for this year.

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Back to the vine WITH grapes… it’s just a thought but, could we be talking rose? Gads.

Overworked hoses…

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I water 24/7. I have too. Plants are dying!!! Charred by the summer’s heat and lack of any quantifiable rain since late spring. How quickly doth the O2 disappear. From October 2012 until May of this year, all we had was rain, rain & more rain. Has it sunk to the center of Mother Earth and out of reach of any roots? Surely some water has remained near the surface? But then, with a median temp hovering daily around 90F, the June-July & August Heat has sucked Ms Earth dry of any residual O2. Lord, have Mercy upon us. And to think we were wondering if summer was on the books ever to arrive. It did. The summer has been near perfect for the beach. Not so wonderful for veggie gardens, vineyards and My Grass & Plants. I have hoses everywhere now at Il Poggiolo. I can now criss-cross the property with a hose from any spigot. But what a job. Timed watering. Can’t get anything else done. Mostly, I let the hose dribble water for an hour for each plant. Lots of plants, lots of climbing ramps… with My Bum Right Hip KILLING me!!!… to move the hose from an alloro-bush to a clump of hydrangeas. I cannot stay behind well enough to save them all from a fiery end, as per the specimens below. RIP. Gads.

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The correct information…

I stand corrected… twice…

one… the sagra’s official title is… Sagra dei Pomi… from September 6 through the 8th in Codiponte – Casola in Lunigiana (MS) Italia.

And, on another point, there is a facebook page with the added plus of a Calendar of Events at the top. Again, at facebook, go to Sagra dei Pomi.

My sincerest apologies. Now, on with the fun. An apple-fritter, anyone? Gads.

 

The Apple Festival…

The entire village of Codiponte is rockin’ and a rollin’ in preparation for The Big Event… La Sagra delle Pomme on the 6th – 7th – 8th of September. It is the oldest of these eating, drinking & dancing feste in Tuscany. It won’t be like last year’s, thanks ever so much to that 5.2 of last June 21st. The bohemian locality up at the Piazzetta del Borgo Castello is OFF-LIMITS. An untimely aftershock might cause a cornice or two to fall & bonk some unsuspecting revelers on their heads. Too bad too. It’s a good spot to raise a Hell of a ruckus until 3 in the morning… or later. Ditto for the traditional Saturday Night LIVE Band Dancing down at the Piazza Civico, thanks ever so much again to that -quake, which rattled un poggiolo to the classification of DANGEROUS by the Genio Civile… the Italian government’s resident earthquake experts. No, not My Poggiolo but, a real balcony dangly precariously from a house on the piazza and right where many would want to mob-dance. It’s IN to do that sort of stuff now in Italy. And finally, the once-upon-a-time Only Through Street of Codiponte is… officially!!!… OFF-LIMITS, though all in sundry still pass underneath while looking up to check the state of an enormous cleft in the vault, thanks ever so much one more time to you-know-what. I would bet you a Euro that the Vigilli will BLOCK THAT UNDERPASS OFF during the sagra. This will KILL circulation. The choices for the LOCALS are three… 1. go around by the New Bridge to get to Our Beautiful Side of Town… 2. go down to the river & cross the ford, remembering to take-off your shoes before attempting the watery & slimy crossing… or, 3. stay at home. Due to these three OFF-LIMITS, the sagra will be in a new & less charming location… i.e. where the trash dumpsters once were between the once-upon-a-time asbestos clad mini-warehouse and river below the Medieval Bridge. Those smelly & ungainly containers have been relocated, the grounds clipped by weed-whackers and the DEAD refigerators, garden chairs & tacky plywood furniture have been transported to a quite angle along the State Road 445. What a lovely impression for Our Sagra Guests to see as they drive to the sagra. However, I was certainly not consulted for a better hidden location.

In the meantime, attempting to figure out how the possessive article is written for Pomme… is it delle Pomme or di Pomme?… since, GOOGLE Translates is trash, I surfed the Internet this morning for Sagre, Sagra delle Pomme, Sagra a Codiponte, etc. and I discovered that NOT ONE of the Lunigiana tourist info web-sites… and there are many!!!… had any mention of this historic festival paying homage to the local variety of apple. There wasn’t even a facebook page. I WAS SHOCKED!!! I have since sent a facebook message to one of the young organizers of the sagra to protest this serious absence. All of My Esteemed Guests this summer had & used their ipads & iphones to plug-into the Lunigiana while here, from how to get to Il Vecchio Tini restaurant to What’s Happening This Week in the Cinque Terre. It’s high time to remove the blinders and open up to a Greater World, men & women of Codiponte!!! If the ASL… the Italian government’s health experts…  insists on these gargantuan & burdensome sanitation procedures… then, these young organizers need to get on the proverbial stick and make some Euros out of this affair and us foreigners are The Answer. So much for my rag but, some Italians just don’t get it at all.

So, out w-a-l-k-i-n-g The Dogs one day last week, I was congenially coralled by one of these young organizers to do a drawing of Codiponte laid low by The Earthquake for the highlight of Sagra Sunday’s… The Parade of Floats!!! No-one seemed able to do a sketch. One float will have a large painted panel showing the destruction of the village… as per my compilation-sketch, neither real or true, shown here below… and the kids of Our Little Community will happily reconstruct it from puzzle pieces… a sort of put it back together again. Cute, no? Gads.

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Groceries from 4 wheels…

More about Living in the Country…

years ago, when You & I lived in the centro storico of Genoa, I never went to a super-market. Didn’t have to. For frutta e verdure, I went to the fruttivendolo around the corner. Formaggi e salumi at a shop on an alleyway across the piazza, vino dall’enoteca next door, carte-igienica, Scottex e i prodotti per la pulizia dalla drogeria… I may have to translate this one… toilette paper, paper towels & cleaning products from the drugstore. That is the literal translation. While out in Denver, CO, and before fainting from altitude sickness on a w-a-l-k, I stopped in at a national chain drugstore to buy aspirin and a sports-drink to stem the symptoms of Il Mio Malessere. Besides the umpteen types of aspirin and other over-the-counter drugs, the store also sold frozen-food, packaged food and a vast array of cleaning products. So, drugstore might be the correct translation… carne e pollo ecc. dal macellaio… and you get the jist. My Centro Storico Grocery-Tour usually consumed a Saturday morning complete. Anyway, there are no medium size supermarkets in Italy. They are either gargantuan, like an IPERCOOP where I do not need 98% of its stock stocked or, ultra-miniscule, like Carrefour Express, where there’s never what I do need, like long-life 2% milk. I could avoid both of those places all together and support instead local businesses. In Codiponte, this is harder to do. Maybe, pre-WWII, the village could support little shops for everything. Now, with barely 300 inhabitants, we are lucky to have one fruttivendolo… grotesquely expensive too… a macellaio… but You & I have practically given up eating meat though our butcher does have a superb selection of formaggi e uove e questi biscotti buoni fatti da farro… or, these yummy cookies made from unshorn wheat… and two alimentari for Our Essential Needs & Wants, i.e. il latte parzialmente scremato for You’s caffe’ e pane nera. I keep forgetting the Other Option. I hear them. I see them. But, I don’t think to go & shop out of the back of a furgone… or, truck!!!

Today, I was out w-a-l-k-i-n-g The Dogs, when I heard a whistling noise coming from a loud-speaker. Ear-splitting noise. Oh! It’s the Fish-man!!! But, it wasn’t Tuesday or Friday. More whistling between spells of several public-address messages… pesche noci buone da mangiare ora. Un cestino costa Euro blah-blah-blah… Uva, categoria 1 e appena raccolte per la vostra tavola… fiori di zucchini… tutti con prezzi speciali… then, more stretches of whistling. The fruttivendolo’s whistle sounded like the one… the only one I can make… to call The Dogs home. Their Weimaraner ears were perked to attention. The little truck followed Our Route to Codiponte’s Piazza Civico and parked. I made a couple of purchases… I now must find a way to eat ASAP nearly 3 dozen pesche noci and a mountain of uve CAT 1… and pushed-off for home with The Dogs in tow. How nice. Saved me the drive to Gragnola or Pallerone to grocery-shop, and allowing me to avoid paying the price of aggravating My Very Bum Right Hip.

Come to think about it, the summer months here in the Lunigiana are pretty well trafficked with these stores-on-4 wheels. Three fruit trucks, two fish-mongers in vans and, occasionally, a guy in a station-wagon selling mops & cleaning products pass through Codiponte from Monday to Saturday. And, each one of them has a special whistle and advertisments via a loud-speaker. Back before everyone had a car… and today, most have una macchina only to go to the nearest grocery store. You can tell ’em = marito e moglie in una FIAT Panda. Top-speed 15 mph!!!… folk survived in a little place like ours and in thousands of other localities across the Italian peninsula, from the weekly visits of these truck-sellers. Not everything comes out of an orto!!! I find them charming. I must remember about them. I am afraid they are on their way out too. Until that happens, I will try to answer the whistling. Gads.

Eating habits…

I have lived in Italy for over twenty-six years. That’s nearly half My Life!!! And yet, there are still a couple of things I still cannot adapt to in My Adopted Country. Well, actually, there is a HUGE list of things about this place which I seemingly cannot reconcile myself to but, only two, which concern My Stomach…

One… I am hungry at 7AM, Noon and at 6PM. Always. And, unchanged since 1952. The Morning & Noon Meals are workable here. Thank God, Italian bars have una colazione di un cappuccino e una brioche until the brioches spariscono. That could be 3 in the afternoon. It depends on the bar traffic. It’s not like at McDonald’s where serving a sausage & biscuit is automatically cut-off at 11:00AM!!! And… per fortuna… many Italian eateries of every type are OPEN for business usually around 12 O’clock. It’s the churning of My American Gastric Juices at 6PM which proves difficult to abide. Italians do not think of eating dinner until at least 8PM. Then… presto!!!… in 30 minutes there’s a pastasciutta on the table. I start to think of food around 4:30PM. I begin to salivate about eating by 5:30PM. And at 6PM, I must eat or, I am become a very cranky… no, HYSTERICAL!!!… campagnolo. I do not care one iota that the Italians have dinner at 8:30PM. My Governing Mechanism dictates that I must have something hearty in My Tum-tum by 6PM or else!!! In My Mind, this leaves the rest of the evening for FREE for Fun & Entertainment and on a full-stomach too. What’s on TV tonight? Instead, the Italians, original cultural multi-taskers, watch TV while they eat. A time-saving device? Chissa? What’s on at the movies? The classic go out for a movie and a pizza becomes, in Italy, go out for a pizza and a very late movie… at 10:30PM. That’s a half hour past by Beddy-bye Time!!! Or, what happens, like last night’s escapade, is You & I were invited out to dinner… ON A SCHOOL NIGHT TOO!!! We crawled home at 1:30 in the morning!!! L’antipasto, il primo, il secondo e i contorni e dolci, caffe’ e grappa/lemoncello/other required three hours. Add the saying Good-byes… minimum Time = 30 minutes. I have to threaten You with Bodily Harm after the allotted Time. He’s an Expert for extending his salutations for hours!!!… and the drive home… another 30 minutes, at least, and you are barking at the early morning Moon!!! Now, if they had said… See you at 6… we would have been home AND in bed by 10PM. Perfect!!! It’ll never happen.

Two… eating out, especially in the Lunigiana, where dining out rigorously entails consuming The Full Food-works and in Gross Quantities, I forget to reign in My Ragging Appetite at L’Antipasto, because You has forbidden me to snack at 6PM. It happens every time, darn it!!! Quite rapidly, there’s no more room in the ol’ Tum-tum for the rest of those Food-works. This poses a problem. If you are A Guest, as You & I were for last Saturday night’s invitation, it’s impolite not to load-up, much less refuse!!! a heaping shovel-full of whatever… pasta con scampi, risotti con frutti di mare e insalata di farro con pesce fesco… just three of the innumerable bill-of-faire of that night’s dinner. What ups The Pain Value… and The Embarrassment Factor too… is what is set down before you is not only stunning to gaze at, it also smells beyond words, is fantastically delicious AND something you would rarely fix at home. The Last Item is one Reason for going out to eat. Fine, I persevered to the pleasure of Our Generous Hosts. However, studying the comings & goings of the other diners and the activities of the servers… all rather charming young girls dressed in dark jeans & black T-shirts… I noticed that feasting on way too many antipasto… from salumi to the puree di pesce… was not entirely My Fault. I discovered, as folk filtered in from 8, when we arrived at our table, to 9 – 9:15PM, when the whole place was rockin’ with nearly 200 people of various extractions, the only plates to depart the kitchen and arrive at table-side were the antipasti. Once, the all the tables were bursting to the walls with ready & enthusiastic diners, did were other courses… i primi, i secondi e contorni… served. I found this efficient, but still dangerous. Especially, for someone like me, who is always ravenous at the Anointed Hour… of 8:30PM. Gads. Did happily discover a New Place to drag You to.

 

Our Coo-coo Clock…

IMG_3594Yesterday morning, while admiring the start of another sunny & hot August day in Codiponte from the vantage-point of The Loggia… My Preferred Spot in the AM to savor the Sights & Sounds of Our Little Village… I heard the campanile of Codiponte’s pre-Romanesque church ding-dong out the 10 O’clock Hour. A methodical din. A bit later, I heard the same number of Time confirming rings, though less solemn, of the bell-tower up in Luscignano, the village cradled high above Codiponte’s olive groves on the other side of the Aulella River from Il Poggiolo. Another bit of Time tick-tocked passed before Casciana’s campanile rung its rendition of 10AM from its scenic roost on a hill above & behind us. Lots of oddly Time-ed ringing. Knowing without a doubt The Hours had been rung, I went on with My Morning’s Ablutions… of washing away with the DELETE button My E-mail’s cache of junk, ads & solicitations of Our Market Oriented World… and put Time behind me. Relative Peace & Quiet until… COO-COO-COO-COO-COO-COO-COO-COO-COO-COO!!! of Our Coo-coo Clock. What a racket. Pressed for Time. Like it must have the same 3 seconds to coo-coo in 10AM or 2PM. Poor bird. I glanced at the MacBook’s Date & Time in the top right-hand corner and noticed the Coo-coo Clock was behind by a good 10 minutes. That explained the hurry. I got up and went to correct the error. The day proceeded as predicted… sunny & hot… with lounging in a deck chair in the river reading & sunbathing, a late afternoon bike ride to tighten the muscles in My Bum Right Hip for the forth-coming operation… the date still to be determined… and tours with You around The Garden of what all needs to be done to once he departs… naturalmente!!! A perfect Summer’s day at Ferragosto. Yet, with every visit to the Kitchen for a glass of this, or a taste of that or to just chuck something into the trash, I observed that Our Coo-coo Clock managed its tasks of keeping Time with relative precision from 11AM till about 2PM. After that, it slowly slid back to being late with its coo-coos with every session of coo-coo-ing. By 7 in the evening, the clock was solidly 10 minutes late. No more, no less. I’ve decided to leave it so. Lateness is kind-of comforting. The World still turns whether a clock clocks late, early or on time. Where do I need to be, what do I need to do, etc.? I feel reassured too by the Coo-coo’s consistency. Last night, what with the distress of My Bum Right Hip, I awoke with every ding of the Coo-coo, frenetically counting the number of hours within its alloted 3 seconds to do it in and saying to myself… Oh! It’s 4:10 AM... or… Gosh, 6:40AM already?… and would try to roll over to recoup My Disturbed Sleep. Or, is The Real Discussion that I have fallen irreparably into Living in the Country? Gads.

 

New acquisitions…


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Ahhh, August… 3/4’s of the Italians are populating the beaches for bouts of sun-poisoning, polluting the sea waters with their synthetic sun-protection #50… poor fish and if the I-folk could ONLY cover-up & stay in the shade, there would be no need for that skin-care crap… over-doing the rancid snacks at wood stands/bars/other and bargaining with the vu compra selling thinly floral parei that look ripped from the bolt of fabric, junk jewelry imported from guess where? and mock-Prada bags with the look & feel of waste products. Speaking of bargaining, You & I hit the annual street antiques market… ha-ha-ha… in Sarzana. We love it!!! And, I am happy to report we had a relatively productive evening of negotiations. Our favourite venditore, a gentleman sporting a Panama hat, black braces holding up taupe short-pants demonstrating ultra-white shins and who was quite receptive to taking less for… a sculptor’s bench belonging to one hailing from Milan and two folding deck chairs to co-ordinate with the French garden chairs out on Our Loggia, painted in what appears to be an European Outdoor Chair Color = a Bisk-brown. Il signore dropped from Euro 160 to Euro 120 for the lot. Excellent!!! Then, I dragged You to a store filled with ceramics. The space was once a pastel-only home furnishings store. What caught my attention last Sunday on a private & personal foray at the market… I had dumped the Dott. You at Aulla to return to Genoa by train… were two green ceramic sculpture of ducks. But, with You, we discovered tons of other fun stuff to b-u-y!!! Mostly of animals. Ceramic hooks of animals poking out of their ceramic backgrounds, outrageously sexy open-collared T-shirts printed with minimalist scenes of pre-historic animals… appropriate, if one has not even a milligram of fat and/or has not reached the US Drinking Age of 21… platters embossed with floral motifs and often dripped with a single phosphorescent color, wall sconces with deer running across the glass, more animals, this time in a series with each successive one gently submerged further in an imaginary pool of water alla National Geographic, and much much more. We came home with the green ducks after You got the artist present to discount us down to Euro 100 from Euro 130. Then, as is Our Tradition while too & fro-ing the car-less alleyways of Sarzana filled with junk-stands, we stopped by a home furnishing store to purchase another Boris. Now, every house of Il Poggiolo has one of these card-board patch-work printed deers. We are complete… for now. Gads.

 

Water conservation…

IMG_3578Years ago, visiting an English Friend in Florence… might be a title for an eventual book, but I’ll wait on that… I thought it sooooo quaint to find a plastic tub in the marble sink filled with dishes in for a soak. I asked why and of the many reasons to the reply, the one which rang the hardiest was… to conserve water. Gosh. I then went on with My Life, bought a farm-house in the Lunigiana and quickly became subject to the privatized Local Water Company. Five years of paying paltry bills for Our Water Use… drinking, showering, hosing off the aia!!! watering the garden… Euro 26, Euro 31, Euro 19 and the weightiest until this past spring was one for Euro 93, August of 2010. One becomes conditioned after a long spell. During last summer’s drought, I thought… OK, I’ll water the garden all night. What do the Italians say? Quella gioccia che ha fatto traboccare il bicchiere… or, the drop that tipped the glass over, is what they say. And, in March, the Water Company gave a very late look-see at Our Water Consumption at Il Poggiolo and felt compelled post-haste to sock us with a Euro 1,162 bill. That’s $1,545 SMACKEROOS!!! I contemplated a suit… for abuse of a monopoly = the water I am charged for comes from a natural spring in the woods behind Il Poggiolo which 99% ends up in the Aulella River anyway… for bad management = why did they wait five years to check Il Poggiolo’s water meter? The meter-man, who lives in the village, knows, like everyone else in Codiponte, the location of the key to the back gate where the meter was installed by the same… and for fraud = for saying the water is treated when it isn’t. The meter-man shoves a new hardware store filter up the spout every now & then and that’s supposed to mean Water Treatment? If I dare to drink the water out of the faucet… and I don’t ever do that now!!!… I get stomach cramps. I should start going to the local doctor gripping my stomach, moaning in abject pain and come home with a documento della visita to forward to the Water Company’s Management TeamI often felt that way too. And there are other items of My List of Discontent but, you get the idea.

In retaliation, I call the Local Water Company’s 800- number every month with the latest numbers off the meter. Thanks to this available tactic, My Water Bill from last month was Euro -97. EXCELLENT!!! I hope to increase the Company’s debt to Me. And, I try to use as little water as possible. ECCO!!! And, a plastic tub in every sink. Not so great for pots ‘n pans but, plates & cups work just fine. I throw the contents on all the plants-in-pots we have around Il Poggiolo. I figure the dirt will filter the little soap, toothpaste or bits of pasta & chicken and let the water nourish the roots. So far, I have lately noticed a marked improvement with several suffering gardenias. Could it be the pasta? Gads.

Enough of aliens & stars…

What… A… Bust!!! No UFOs. No Falling Stars. Or, at least, none seen by Mine Eyes. No one else spied an either/or/both. On Sunday, the local giornale said the Lunigiana skies would not be trafficked with so many shooting orbs as in years past. What? Global Warming has killed the space debris too? Gads-zooks!!! Good that the Sky-watching Parties were so pleasant. Entertaining company… the mainstay of any Italian gathering of more than four. Ate well, too well…

Friday night was Carb Night… fried pizzas. Can you not imagine that? Seems rather redundant doesn’t it? Not at all. The little concoctions were beyond delicious, with much thanks to Our La Spezian Friend’s bravura with pizza dough and whipping-up a superb home-made tomato sauce topping. Love heavy basillico e oregano con pomodori.  Why re-invent a culinary wheel? A part from the mixing, punching down to let rise again and forming what looks like a pancake on steriods, the fried pizzas are quick & easy to make… dump a few in a deep iron skillet filled with hot yet fresh olive oil and once cooked, take them out, give them a two second drip-dry and smear them all with the T-sauce capped with a dollop of mozzarella cheese. The remaining heat melts the last two items. Yep, yum-yum!!! You & I each ate five & shared a sixth. Before we could get to the pizzas, however, we were served bruschette, home-made focaccia with rosmarino e salvia and a near endless array of torte… patate, cipolle e misto. A carbohydrate Gasp & Swoon. I won’t go into the list of desserts but, their number superseded the antipasto e cena by two.

Saturday’s Dinner & Sky-scanning Party was at Il Poggiolo. I cooked and You did the table arrangements… Our Standard Procedure. He forgot the napkins, il sale e pepe and l’acqua. Par for the course. I opted for protein. Cannot tell you why. Oh! Well, I think I can. I wanted chicken and You wanted carpaccio di manzo. Our guests got both plus a stunning frittata made with speck e carrote. I am very proud of the Oooos & Ahhhs on that last item. Another request of You’s was un’insalata di farro. Farro? How about hulled wheat? Sounds rustic and it is, especially as a natural intestinal cleaner. You loves it!!! And, farro is the cous-cous of the Italian peninsula. Everything goes with it… fish, meat, pig!!!… veggies, cheese or just good ol’ plain. Dessert was ice-cream, blueberry syrup & chocolate-chip cookies made with farro… tanto per cambiare!!!

Each dietary debauched ended in our pushing back from the buffet table go out onto the aia & gaze up at The Heavens. They were beautiful… indigo, stellar e quiet, darn it. Gads.