Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Woke up this morning to a thin overcast and about ten degrees cooler. While I was out staking up the tomatoes the clouds thickened and there was a bit of rumbling and a crack, and a good little shower. Not enough, but better than nowt, and a huge relief.

It's been a really bad heatwave, highest June temps in Italy for 150 years. And no rain at all since early May. Annamaria told me the local farmers are worried. They will either lose crops or lose the value of them paying for irrigation. But the forecast says we've had the worst of it, and it should rain some today and tomorrow.

Here's some pics of my little orto. Annamaria has the key to the irrigation well, so she comes every morning and afternoon to water it all. It's set up with the plants in a long row down a slight incline so all you have to do is turn on the hose at the top and it makes a little river. She's been coaching me in contadini methods. I was out staking up my tomatoes when it started to rain; felt great!

Behind this pepper plant you can see my row of beans. I was out there collecting them this morning, but none of them made it as far as the house. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I would sit on my grandma's veranda with my book, and eat the beans that were trained up the veranda railing. When she was making lunch one time, she said, "Hilary dear, go out and get me some beans for lunch." I had to tell her I couldn't.

These pumpkins are much larger now, and looking much more pumpkiny.



Monday, June 05, 2017

Sweet potatoes

The three sweet potatoes I stuck in jars on the kitchen windowsill are growing slips.

"Patate Americane" are not always easy to get in this country, but they're incredibly good for you, and a great substitute for regular potatoes if you want to have more nutrient (and flavour) dense foods. But I discovered that they are not botanically related to potatoes at all. Tatties are a nightshade family thing, and sweets are... get this... related to morning glory, of all things. So you have to do them completely differently.

One of the rather charmingly rustico features of the garden is an old bathtub sitting near the fence. (What self respecting aspiring hillbilly doesn't have a bathtub in the garden, I ask you!) The first thing I thought to do with it was potatoes, but then I saw the sweets in the supermarket and had a brainstorm.

Why wait for them to appear in the shops?

But where growing potatoes is easy - you just cut a chunk off and stick it in a pile of dirt - sweets is complicated. You can't just bury a sweet and have it grow more of itself. You have to do this thing of growing "slips." Which means you have to stick a sweet in a jar of water on the window sill and wait for it to start sprouting - roots in the watery end, and green baby plants at the top end. Then once the baby plants are well developed, and have a full root system, then you stick them in the dirt.

What I didn't count on was that it takes so long! Potatoes go so fast that you can have them growing roots and shoots in the fridge. (Naturally this never happens to me! Much too organized...But I've heard it happens to other people. People who are terrible housekeepers... Ahem... Please ignore the pile of seed packets and the tipped over empty water bottle in the photo above...) So of course, not knowing the difference, I stuck my sweets on the sill, thinking it would be a few weeks at most.

When nothing was happening, I looked it up. TWO MONTHS!!! just to get the slips going. Urgh! But, like starting a new TV show that starts going south, it's too late for me to turn back now. I've got to see it through to the end. I'm going to have a rustico bathtub full of sweet potatoes, maybe by the end of the winter.


Sunday, June 04, 2017

Happy Holy Ghost Day!

This is the Pentecost I'm going to learn the Veni Creator Spiritus.

I'm gonna do it!


(A friend, who is also a lousy Catholic with aspirations to being better, said, cheerfully, "Well, I know the first line!")