Wednesday, September 06, 2017


I've learned that we are living and gardening in Zone 9. This has helped a great deal in working out what sort of things to plant, when to harvest etc.

But some things are pretty obvious. The big fig tree on my patch - at least 50 years old - is fruiting quite abundantly.

You can tell easily when it's time to pick them because they turn quite dramatically from green to dark purple, and are ready when they've started to soften and droop downwards.

I asked Annamaria for advice on picking, and instead of lending me a ladder she showed me her trick for making a fig-picker.

You cut the bulbous top part off a water bottle and stick it on the end of a broom pole.

It can be a bit tricky to get the knack of it, but you sort of use the sharp edge of the plastic cup part to cut through the stem, and the little blob of goodness plops down into the bowl.

The first big fig harvest a couple of weeks ago.

Found the wasp nests in the rosemary bushes under the fig tree. They must only use them for rasing their young because just a couple of weeks before this I'd seen them full of wasps, all snoozing in the mid-day heat. Just a short time later the nests are empty and abandoned.

I'm extra proud of this zucca. It's starting to turn orange now and has quite a hard shell. Must weigh at least 15 lbs. I go out and give it a friendly pat every day to encourage it.

I transplanted the seedlings after they just sprouted up spontaneously from one of the pots we rescued from the garden in Norcia. I started them from seeds I saved from a bit of zucca I bought in the produce shop there. So this is the second generation. Now the plants are enormous, covering ten meters of ground. It produced a few fruits, but this one is the best.

The weather finally broke last week and the temps are down to a more seasonally normal 80 F. or so. We haven't had the promised rain though. The forecast is for more tomorrow. Keeping up the prayers for an end to the drought, and still saving dish water for the terrace pots.

Some of the pumpkins and a young version of the big zucca. Very sweet and dense flesh, and of course very good for you. The pumpkins turned out well but all quite small because of the heat.

In the background you can see the two pots of sweet potatoes - that likes it as hot and sunny as possible, and the basil that also likes a sunny spot.

The flowers and herbs on the terrace are doing OK, but the heat has been very hard on the flowering plants. The rose - the last survivor of the six I had in  Norcia - produced three flowers that immediately dried up.

I found an acanthus spinosus, a beautiful flowering plant that I've always wanted in the garden, but they like cooler temps and shade, so it produced a beautiful flower spike which was lovely, but after the heat got started in earnest it more or less gave up. I've cut off the dead stuff now and am happy that it seems to be bouncing back. But it's getting moved into a shady spot in the garden proper when we've turned it over and finished preparing the beds.

The morning glories are doing much better now that the heat is going down a bit,

and the passion flowers - another survivor of the quakes that I started from seed - have begun to produce more buds that I hope will flower soon.

Lots of vines and quite a few buds, but a lot of them just dried up in the terrible heat and never opened, no matter how much I watered the pot.

In other news, I was very happy to be able to join the Italian SSPX's annual pilgrimage for the feast of St. Pius X. They walk every year from Bevagna to Assisi, with an overnight stop in Foligno and a Mass in beautiful Spello on the way. It was the first time I got to meet the nice sisters from Narni face to face, and we got on famously. They reiterated their invitation to come down to stay over on Saturday evenings to attend the Mass on Sundays. This will be much more doable now that the bus and train service out of San Martino has started again.

This is the Mass on Sunday morning in the church of San Andrea in Spello. I took the train down to Foligno and stayed over in a B&B and joined the pilgrimage to walk between Foligno and Spello, but that was as far as I was going to make it. The group all carried on to Assisi, but I had to go home and rest.

This church has a Pinturicchio altarpiece in the right hand transept. I tried to get a few photos, but the picture is so huge and the space so small you can't get it all in, and the light reflects onto the surface no matter where you stand. It's a pity because this photo from Wiki does absolutely no justice to it whatever.

Having discovered Pinturicchio recently on a trip to Spello with a friend in June, I think I've found my new favourite Italian painter. Even greater than Filippino Lippi, in my opinion. And it's just sitting there, above a neglected transept altar, usually in the dark, in an all but abandoned church in one of those hill towns that has been turned almost entirely into a theme park. As soon as the Mass was over and everyone gone off to the next leg of the pilgrimage, it lapsed instantly back into being a rather shabby and neglected little museum where a few tired tourists wandered now and then. But I think maybe this winter I'll go do a little art-pilgrimage of my own and just go and look at it for a while.


The figs reminded a friend of mine about this little meditation from the late great Cardinal Bacci, one of the few at V-2 who tried to stop the train going over the cliff.

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
1. Today’s subject for meditation is the parable of the barren fig tree in the Gospel of St. Luke. “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit thereon and found none. And he said to the vine-dresser, ‘Behold, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down, therefore; why does it still encumber the ground?’ But he answered him and said, ‘Sir, let it alone this year too, till I dig around it and manure it. Perhaps it may bear fruit, but if not, then afterwards thou shalt cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9)

Perhaps Jesus has come many times to us also looking for the fruit of our good works, and has found none. Perhaps He has continued to bestow favours and blessings upon us, and perhaps He has waited many years for us to correspond with His grace by performing acts of penance and of expiation.

We may have made good resolutions many times; but what became of them? Temptations of various kinds may have caused us to neglect these resolutions, which remained like branches without any fruit. We must remember that although God is infinitely good and merciful, He is also infinitely just. The day could come when He might say: “Cut it down. Why does it still encumber the ground?” In that case what would become of us?

An episode described in the Gospel of St. Mark should induce serious reflection. Jesus was walking from Bethany to Jerusalem and grew hungry on the way. He saw a fig tree beside the road but on inspection found that it was barren. “And He said to it ‘May no fruit ever come from thee henceforth forever!’ “And immediately the fig tree withered up.” His disciples, we are told, were amazed when they saw this happening. (Cf. Mt. 21:18-20)
How terrible if God should ever pronounce this severe condemnation upon us.

2. One morning after they had fished in vain throughout the night, the Apostles saw Jesus appear on the shore of the lake. “He said to them, ‘Cast your nets to the right of the boat.’” (Cf. John 21:6-11) They obeyed and caught so many fish that the net was in danger of breaking.

While the Apostles were working without the help of Jesus, they caught nothing. When they worked under the direction of Our Lord they caught a miraculous draught of fishes. In the Garden of Gethsemane, however, the Apostles could not summon the strength to watch and pray with Jesus for even an hour. As a result, they abandoned and denied Him.

For love of gain the Apostles worked throughout the entire night; for love of Jesus, however, they were not able to watch and pray for even an hour, and so they fell miserably.

3. We should learn two lessons from this meditation. We should work always for Jesus and with Jesus. If we stray away from Him Who is the way, the truth and the life, we shall get lost, and our efforts will have no value for eternity. Without Jesus, our spiritual life will grow dry. As long as we are with Jesus, everything will be good and holy, even humiliation and sorrow, and all our actions will gain merit for us in Heaven. Furthermore, we must take care not to make the same mistake as the Apostles, who spent the whole night working for material gain but could not watch and pray for even one hour with Jesus. We should consider it our most important obligation in life to work always with Jesus and for Jesus. Only in this way shall we find contentment in this life and happiness in the next.



thetimman said...

You have fought the good fight; this period of waiting, of seeing that our actions were good but wholly inadequate, is a grace from a God. As we await His definitive response.

Oremus pro invicem.

jeanannemarie said...

Very beautiful post about the fig tree, and I am enjoying all your lovely domestic posts and the pretty photos.