Saturday, August 19, 2017


So, Annamaria has very kindly offered to help me rototill the entire Big Dry Patch. I'm going to do it in beds around the trees so they're like pools of green. In between the plan is to lay down some wood chip mulch or maybe use some of the broken bits of tile around to make paths between the big round beds. In the beds the plan is for mostly aromatics and flowers but for some part of it to be a dedicated orto. (She said she's going to be renting the bit I used this year to her daughter for some for-profit project, so we're making my patch into a proper orto.)

A funny thing today when I found an old rental ad on the internet for my apartment, and got the actual dimensions. It said that the garden is 200 sq/m! Which is certainly the biggest bit of land I've ever had to play with. I can hardly wait to get going. Nothing can really be done until the weather eases off and the rain starts softening things up. Anna said that rototilling the ground as it is would be like trying to break through concrete. But it should be fine in the autumn, which is when you plant things anyway.

I just had a late dinner. Chopped up a bunch of stuff that needed finishing in the fridge and threw in some strips of turkey breast I had thawed for dinner on Thursday but turned out to be too big a package for one meal. All the veg was from the orto, either mine or stuff that Anna has given me: pumpkin, zucchini, tomatoes, a yellow peach, an onion, sweet red and green bell pepper and a little bit of minced hot peppers (which I didn't know until I started picking them were actually Scotch Bonnets!!!... the kind you have to be very careful with when you're cutting them not to get any juice under your fingernails or absent-mindedly brush your face with your fingers). I just sort of stewed everything together cooked in some butter and a bit of sesame oil, with a handful of basil (from the pot on the terrace) garlic, sesame, coriander and cumin seeds ground up, and all cooked together for about 20 minutes and then the sauce thickened with a handful of almond flour.

It occurred to me that very nearly everything in it except the meat and the mushrooms came from 20 yards away. Some of it came from plants I started from seeds I saved. I bought the pumpkin's parent in the produce shop in Norcia.

I've got a routine now. I get up just after dawn and feed the kitties, put on a pot of coffee and sit on the terrace under the sunshade umbrellas while I do a bit of reading ("Lectio," I'm working on a book about Benedictine liturgical spirituality by Cecile Bruyere) and drink my coffee and iced tea chaser. Then when it's too hot to stay on the east-facing terrace, I usually go inside to sing the Office along with the Le Barroux chant mp3 (which makes me homesick). (I'm thinking of maybe splashing out on an Antiphonale from Solesmes. Our friend Peter K said that it's the only way to go after you've got the general gist of the Monastic Office from the Diurnal. I figure listening to the chants, getting used to the Latin phrasing and pronunciation, the next logical step would be to have the book to follow along with the Little Squares so that starts sinking into the brain too.)

After that's done, it's work of various kinds; housework, writing, digging... Today I needed to do some internet things and didn't really want to stay in the house and felt the need for a bit of exercise, so I rode the bike to the village and just sat in the Why Not Cafe, the nice little bar in the centre of town that has air conditioning and wifi, and a barman/owner who speaks pretty good English and is very friendly. On the way home about 90 minutes later, I stopped to pick some blackberries that are really coming just perfect now (the survivors that is; there are a lot that were just fried by the heat). It's the second half of August and there just aren't many people around; those who are around aren't doing anything but snoozing and barbequing. The kids in the house next door spend a lot of time in their raised pool.

Obligatory photo of Pippy and Bertie curled up snoozing together. At precisely 8pm every day, they all wake up and start demanding their dinner. After that it's outside all night to chase small creatures. 
In the late afternoon the sun comes blasting around the other side of the house so I go around closing all the windows and shutters. Lately I've been hanging opaque cloth covers on the metal shutters that the afternoon sun turns into barbeque grills. The walls are 20 inch thick stone, so no heat gets through at all, but the windows, even with the shutters closed, can actually get hot to the touch. So the second half of the days in late summer are spent in a cool dark room, which is good for writing, with the kitties draped all over, sound asleep stretched out their full length. The humming fan and the dead quiet, the heat and the cave-like gloom can make it hard to stay awake. I'm still in the Mad Dogs and Englishmen school and don't usually take an afternoon riposo, but I might be cracking soon.

Once the sun has definitively gone behind the mountain and the evening breeze picks up, you have to open all the windows and shutters again to get the air flowing. It actually gets cool enough to need a little cover for sleeping, and the sound of owls can be heard in the woodsy bits behind the house. When you go out on the terrace in the evenings, before it gets full dark, you can see dozens of bats flittering silently around. Catching mosquitoes and moths.

The other day I got a nice note by email from some SSPX nuns who have a monastery near here, down in Narni, about an hour's drive at the other end of the Tiber Valley. There's a little train that goes straight there several times a day. They said that of course they don't cancel the Mass in the summer and I was welcome to come down to stay over night on Saturday to attend the Sunday Mass there. (Of course, they have Mass there every day but it's at seven am.) She said there are some Americans in the community so there would be someone there to chat with. I've got aaaaalmost enough money socked away to buy the Ah-pay, so transport will be less of a problem. I'll see if I can do that next week and give a report.

On the whole, I think things are working out, settling down. Or at least, so I fervently hope. I do hope my brain calms down. I know I'm not the only terremotata who has experienced some long-term effects. We had 50+ earthquakes a day, 24/7 for three months. I guess that's going to have an effect, though at the time I didn't really think much about it. I find I am still having strange, unexpected bursts of anxiety. But things are settling down now externally, and that can't help but help. We'll see what comes next. Maybe it'll be peace. Wouldn't it be funny if I found peace just as the world was losing its collective mind.



jd said...

Thanks for the update, Hilary. Love the picture of your
kitty sleeping with its head on the pillow, "the woodsy bits" and the fact
that you heard from the nuns. I watched a lovely video two days ago
about the growing SSPX - such a hopeful bit of news. Would like to provide
a link but I'm not savy on such. It's on the Aug. 18th entry of "Eponymous Flower" -
"SSPX: The Numbers". If you happen to look for it, 10,000 pilgrims going to Fatima
isn't bad either.😊

Anonymous said...

I can't comment on your Facebook page so I'm here off topic. When I was sick some years ago I found that Hawthorne jelly was wonderful for helping me get my strength back. Hawthorne has fantastic properties (and it tastes gorgeous ). You probably already know this, but I thought I'd mention it in case.


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...


I've wondered about hawthorne. Every time I've tried it the berries have been completely tasteless, and I couldn't imagine bothering to make them into anything. Maybe I should revisit it.

Anonymous said...

Hawthorne jelly is lovely. Even the colour is glorious. Everything on it is edible. One of it's common names is bread and butter plant. . It's good for regulating blood pressure too. The most powerful part is the flowers. You can make a tincture with them (or the berries, but the flowers are more potent).