Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nocino, wheat, blessings

27 Giugno
As I was weedeating this morning, finishing up the lawn work I initiated yesterday, I thought about the blessings we must celebrate here at Nascondiglio di Bacco. We have had 14 months, which with few exceptions, have been wonderful for growing our vines which now are over 2 meters tall. The same for our grass which I planted by throwing out seed by hand this spring and which is starting to look like a real yard. Despite neighbors getting some devastating hail recently, we have been unscathed. We live in a beautiful area and all our guests are wonderful people, many of whom, like Kim and Melanie are repeat customers. We seem to be bucking the bad economy with more reservations this year compared to 2008 (maybe because the Marche is cheaper than the more famous neighbors like Umbria and Tuscany). Now, if we can just get George Clooney to buy a villa at Porto Recanati, we will be set.
I took a combination of recipes for Nocino and started my new infusion. You pick walnuts on the festival of St. John the Baptist or the 24th of June, cut them in quarters and marinade them in pure alcohol, sugar, cinnamon sticks and cloves with lemon zest. You leave this mixture outside in the sun for 40 days, shaking it every day and adding sugar water as needed to keep the walnuts covered. You say a few incantations now and then to keep the magic going and bottle it on the autumn solstice. Then you drink it a year later, although I can't imagine it improves with aging. I should have about a liter when it is all finished.
I was trying to get our vineyard treated again before the latest rain, but fell about an hour short when the lightning, thunder and rain arrived. I now have a sprayer half full of my mixture and won't be able to re-enter the vineyard for a week at least and that is if it doesn't rain again. Luckily, we don't have any fungal diseases yet despite all this moisture.
Raffaele has returned to his home province after being underwhelmed by Ibiza and Barcelona. He did like Fontanera island, however. He got some good beach time in and appears tanned and rested.
I had a nice visit from my old partner's son, Joe Roh and found out why I don't stay out all night at discos anymore. We explored the surrounding little towns, ate great food and then attended the grand opening of a beach disco,, where I swear, all the girls looked to be for hire. They were very beautiful, but between them and the bouncers who looked like they belonged to one of the southern organizations here in Italy (if you know what I mean) I think I can say: been there, done that. We headed back to Nascondiglio di Bacco, arriving when the sun started to peak above the horizon. I made the coffee and hot water for the guest's breakfast, made up their tables and caught 2 hours of sleep. Non basta!
Joe then caught an overnight train for Paris, after having previously visited Prague and Venice. He will then start a month of university study at King's College in London. That is the life!

I took some pictures of a wheat field up the road from us and some pix back at our vineyard and B&B, then the Nocino.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rainy season again, visitors from the low countries, apricot jam, Emma Peel

22 June
I don't know what's up with this weather. We are on our 3rd straight day of rain with a week of the same ahead. This is my third summer in the Marche and in 2 summers it has rained once from May to Sept. I missed the summer solstice again at Stonehenge, I hope you guys celebrated for me.
Our apricot crop continues apace and to avoid wastage, I have now made 2 batches of sorbet, the 2nd with white tea as well, and apricot jam, which isn't too bad albeit a bit dense. I learned to turn off the stove while the mixture is still a bit more liquid as it sets up after the heat is turned off.
Our guests are from Belgium and Holland right now with 2 americans coming today, so nothing but English is spoken here right now. Now I see why Raffaele escaped to Spain!
We are filling up for the summer and the latter part of July are completely booked with August beginning to fill up as well. I "allowed" a bachelor party to take over the place Sat. night when we were empty and suffice it to say, it was the last such festa here at Nascondiglio di Bacco. For those of a curious bent, we can discuss the movie rights when I get back to the states. Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay would have been impressed.
I haven't been saying much about the pool this year as one should avoid depressing topics, but it has a slow leak again this year and despite 25 valves, 4 pumps, a brand new small pool liner and innumerable visits by the "pool guy", it is still not fixed. Tomorrow, the engineer comes with measuring devices to see if any pipes are leaking.
I got in my sulfur and copper spraying to protect our vines from various maladies, including fungi, on Friday before the rain. Who knows when I will be able to repeat the treatment as the vineyard takes a long time to dry out. Besides that, the vines are looking great and some are trying to produce grapes this year. Those will all go to making a passito, I imagine, as I doubt the grapes will be complex enough to make a normal wine. Time will tell, and this year has been very kind to the vines with all the moisture.
Bacco is doing well and has been tick free for a couple of weeks with my multi-layered strategy of control.
Finally, I just finished the entire series of "The Avenger" "The Emma Peel Years". 16 dvd's with 50 hour long shows. I will miss her. I had a crush on her when i was 11 and 12.
The pictures are from a snail race I had after one of the rains. You see this guy? gal? both? crossing the finish line a mile ahead of his closest competition, then Bacco, a concert at Colli del Tronto with Edy's trio who played here at N. di Bacco and my recent harvest of zuccini and flowers, apricots and strawberries.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hats are coming back! 1st Communion for Valeria, catering by La Mattra, festa at Nascondiglio di Bacco

14 Giugno
Happy Flag Day to all you patriotic americans. Today at Nascondiglio di Bacco, we hosted the 1st communion festa for Valeria, Raffaele's niece. La Mattra, our little restaurant at Borgo Miriam did an excellent catering for the event and after lunch, we had a mythbuster session wherein I said the kids could go swimming before 2 hours had passed after eating.
The side lawn was covered in gazebos and the new shade umbrellas on the patio provided for a protected setting on a day of 92 degree heat.
I think this 1st communion party stuff is a great idea for kids. It is a chance to get loaded with presents on a day other than christmas or your birthday and without the pain of getting your tonsils out!
I think everyone had a nice time and Raffaele got thrown into the pool fully clothed to top off the day, courtesy of his brothers. Another miracle or milestone occurred when Raffale's sister's daughters finally lost their fear of Bacco.
After sticking the tractor in the mud, I have been going into the vineyard on foot and putting all the branches inside the wire couples, so they aren't falling to the ground from their own weight. They seem to grow a foot a week, at least. I finished about 28 rows in the last 3 days and will keep plugging away as our neighbor takes a fancy, swirling plow to our rows to clear out the weeds. This is a very slow and costly job, but as we are biological and can't use any herbicide, manual removal is our only recourse.
I will try to take some assuredly beautiful pictures of our vineyard with the rows plowed and the branches centered when all is finished.
The pictures are of our patio with our new umbrellas and tables set for 10. (The buffet tables are to the left and behind.) Next are: the side yard set up for about 40, the beautiful 1st communion cake, the celebrant with friends and then all the cousins. Finally, a wonderful picture of 3 bei uomini in summer hats striking a pose. Will that fashion ever come back outside those eclectics such as myself?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Censored photo! Civita Bagnioreggio

10 Giugno
After working 10-12 hour days tying up our vines (we finished the last row yesterday morning), I needed a break, so I took my leaky vase back to Orvieto for an exchange and then went a bit furthur south to the little town of Civita Bagnoreggio. It is a town on an isolated prominence, separated from the new town by a chasm and connected by a foot bridge. It is in danger of dying out although while we were there, we did hear the americans above the little bar singing happy birthday after grabbing a liter of sfuso. It is now an effective and cute tourist destination with people calling you over to see their "panorama" and then asking for a euro a head for the privilege.
Back to the grind Monday and then after the legatura was finished, we continued hoeing the new vineyard with just 1 row remaining to finish as of now.
Yesterday, my long awaited dread was realized and I got the tractor stuck in our empty but still wet drainage area. This is now 8 days after the last rain and the earth is still holding on to the water under the crust which appears perfectly dry and passable. I was spraying our vines with sulfur and copper and while making a turn found one of those things which is stronger than tractors-- mud.
Our neighbors brought their tractor down with the tank tracks and pulled me right out. Luckily the local reporters weren't around to memorialize the american who drove the tractor into the creek.
We are now preparing for a party for the niece of Raffaele who will have her 1st communion this Sunday. That means 6 hours of lawn work, but as the vineyard is temporarily under control, it is coming at a good time.
Raffaele is off to Spain for 10 days next week, so all who are in the neighborhood, come on by and keep Bacco and me company.
The photos are of the little touris town, Sabrina with Bacco, and the censored photo which I can't allow anyone to see is the tractor and sprayer axle deep in the mud.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Inaugural concert at Nascondiglio di Bacco or Jazz in the middle of nowhere

2 giugno
This is a weekend of festa in Italy celebrating the beginning of the republic, so many are on vacation. We were full for the weekend and decided to have a little jazz concert with the fellow I met while trying to get my italian license on drums, an electric piano, bass and singer. It was an afternoon of jazzy love songs, really with about 20 people in attendance. I really miss live music here in Ascoli Piceno, so it was a great treat for me, even if we lost money. Hopefully, in the future, we can hit better weather and have a concert at poolside with more people. All of May was dry after Kevin and Erika took the rain back with them to KC, but now with more Kansas Citians coming to visit, the rain returned. We are looking forward to hosting the Miller family who are arriving today.
As the weather didn't permit my tying up the last 17000 grapevines, my mind turned to cooking something, so I found a recipe for whole wheat muffins with bananas and strawberries. I figured it must be simple, but we don't have apple sauce in Italy and we had only one apple. I made a concoction with the consistence of apple sauce with our one apple, a pear and a nectarine, then went on to search for brown sugar=nada! Google helped me with substitutions, but since there is no molasses here in Italy either, I used maple syrup. The end result is not too bad, considering it is made with olive oil instead of butter and whole wheat flour.
Bacco is bored with this brutal weather and I owe him a trip to the sea whenever the sky clears. The rain came at a good time and bad time as we moved the concert indoors which wasn't ideal, but at the same time our 2000 new vine plants needed a drink.
Now our agronomo can have his stroke later on instead of insisting we needed to water the new plants.