Saturday, November 29, 2008
I made it down to our gate last night and dug out the swing diameter of both sides of the gate, disengaged the motors, and manually opened the gate. Between walking down the quarter mile in 3 feet of snow, shoveling the water laden mess out of the way and walking back up, I should have lost ten pounds. Max was a real trooper -- he walked in front of me, leaping, to make a path going down and on the way back up, he waited for me every ten paces so that I could catch my breath.
I was drenched when I got back up to the house, so I filled the bath with water, put some fresh logs in the stoves and popped a very special bottle of wine -- more on that later.
As I was soaking I heard the familiar sound of Franco's tractor -- he had seen me get the gate open and hightailed it over on the tractor to plow out our drive. What a champ. It's still not drivable and won't be for a few days because of compacted ice in the hairpin curves but I can walk down to the gate and get into a taxi if I have to. Crisis through isolation averted with the help of Italian neighbors, once again.
About the wine. Through the crisis yesterday I received so many supportive emails and Facebook messages. One was from my friend Dana in West Chester, PA. Dana and I had met through the Internet when we stumbled upon eachother's blogs -- she writes the beautiful Ritratti Italiani in both English and Italian. Dana had stopped by to visit me this fall on her way from Lago Maggiore to Barcelona - and brought me a gift of the wine Labbra di Giada. You can read the story of Labbra di Giada on Dana's blog. This particular wine is a Dolcetto Superiore -- which means a wood-aged Dolcetto. It's made specifically for the international market at Poderi la Collina in Dogliani, which is a DOCG zone for Dolcetto. This bottle had made it from Dogliani to West Chester and on a plane back to Piemonte where Dana gave it to me.
I was very touched when she gave it to me.
And while I was digging out that damn gate, I thought -- tonight I have a date with that bottle of wine.
After Franco had left and I finished my bath, I made myself a plate of ravioli which I had gotten as part of Mimi and Samuel's romantic dinner, accompanied by Dana's wine.
Max and I proceeded to fall asleep at 9.30 in front of the stufa.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Ok, I am sufficiently freaked out. It can stop any time now. We've had a partial ceiling collapse in the wine cellar now -- the part that should start getting renovated in the next few weeks. I looked in there after I heard something. I am scared to go in in case the rest of the building collapses. Good thing we're renovating! HA!
Over three feet. And it's coming down like nobody's business.
Nothing to do but wait....
And then I woke up to this.
We have at least ten trees down that I could count, and I did not count everything, because I did not make it by foot all the way down our quarter-mile driveway. The snow is to my upper knee. I don't think it will stop any time soon. I think this might be the worst storm we've had here so far.
Paolo over at Slow Travel had warned me yesterday that it might snow today, so I looked at all of the "previsioni" I could -- and the general consensus was a little bit of light snow rain. As of right now, we have about two and a half feet and it is still coming down like mad.
Micha can't come home, either. The main autostrada he has to take is requiring either snow tires or chains, and from what I can find on the Internet, these blizzard conditions are present for a 50 km. radius of Acqui Terme. No use risking life and limb. But boy do I miss him.
I won't be able to leave for at least three or four days. I have lost electricity once already, it stayed off an hour and came back on. Satellite is out, but miraculously, DSL is working.
I have enough food and firewood to last the next days, including Mimi and Samuel's romantic dinner which I will have for lunch and dinner today.
I have enough propane to last about 10 days, so I am ok there.
In order to get our gate open so Franco can plough me out, I have to get down the hill and shovel the radius of the gate swing. I will attempt that only after the blizzard has stopped. If it is too stressful, I will not do it. I am a little nervous about injuring myself and no one knowing. So I am going to play it safe.
It is amazing how, with this property, I can get thrown back into this kind of primitive living situation. I mean, I know that within a few days, everything will be fine and I will be able to get off the property again. But not having Micha here during these moments is very trying. Even his 4x4 would not help us. For this we would need a tractor or a huge pick up with monstrous tires and chains. This is the part of living at the foot of the mountains which I find the most challenging.
Max loved it this morning, but even he is a little wary. The snow is too deep, it covers him to his chest. It took all of his strength -- which is a lot -- just to run about twenty feet.
We are inside resting now. I will post again later.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
This is an extremely simple and very delicious recipe.
This is a recipe which depends on the quality of the meat. In Piemonte we enjoy extremely high quality veal and pork. Get your butcher, if you have one, to freshly prepare you an entire pork tenderloin.
I have bushes of marjoram growing outside -- you will need at least a cup of finely chopped marjoram for this recipe.
Marjoram, finely chopped
1/4 cup clarified butter
1 pork tenderloin
Cut the pork tenderloin into 5 inch chunks. Roll each piece in the chopped marjoram.
Heat the clarified butter over a medium/high flame. When the butter is good and hot, place the pork chunks in the pan. Saute, turning occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, depending on the diameter of the chunks.
Sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt and coarsely ground pepper before serving.
I served this with a crusty loaf of bread, fried apples with pancetta and Calvados, and a tossed green salad. It was a wonderful dinner. Here are the apples:
You'll find more What's Cooking Wednesday things over at both shan's place and nyc/caribbean ragazza's blog...
Monday, November 24, 2008
Fifteen years ago this coming January, I walked into the Colón Language School in Hamburg, Germany. There I was placed in a beginners' German language class. In came a group of gabby, cute people who clearly new each other. A few were American, one was Japanese, one from somewhere in Great Britain -- Wales, it turned out.
The group turned out to be performers from "Phantom of the Opera" which was the most popular musical in Germany at the time. The actors and singers came from all over the world. The musical was performed in German to the same exacting Andrew Lloyd Weber Standards as the West End and Broadway productions.
The group was fun. Did they study their German? Sometimes! But we ended up making a habit of lunch after class at one of the local restaurants on the pedestrian street where the school was located.
Ellen Bullinger, one of the Americans and I became friends and shared many funny and dear and difficult moments together over the next couple of years during her contract in Hamburg. In total, I think I saw Phantom 6 times -- so many times that I was almost able to sing along -- in German.
Ellen went back to the states after her contract was up, and I moved on to Italy. We lost touch, but destiny brought us together in a very unbelievable way. In 2002, Micha and I were in New York City for a Christmas visit and we were walking on 34th Street. The streets were black with people, wall to wall, as is always the case right before Christmas in Manhattan. Suddenly Micha says, "Hey, Ellen!" And there was Ellen, we almost walked into each other. None of us could really talk -- we were all in complete shock.
Ellen sent me her Christmas CD's and tried to keep in touch with me. I did a lousy job returning the favor-- with all of the upheaval in our lives with moving to Italy I was bad, very bad, at maintaining contacts. But destiny has intervened again, this time in the form of Facebook. So now we are back to our " hello, dahling" relationship, which makes me very happy.
Ellen is performing her Christmas Concert, O Night Divine this year in Manhattan at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle, 60th and Columbus, Manhattan on December 16th at 8 PM. For those of you who are in or near NYC that week, stop in for something very special and beautiful. Ellen has the voice of an angel and is especially fond of Christmas. And be sure to give Ellen a hug for me.
You will enjoy a very special evening if you go! Here's Ellen's MySpace where you can hear some of her music...
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Our area of Italy does not offer grandiose tourism bon bons. It is for people who are searching for something far more subtle and sublime -- and for those things, it delivers grandly.
We come home after an afternoon in San Stefano, light the wood burning stove, feed the dog, make some soup. We feel refreshed, tired, fortunate.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Not being one to turn down an opportunity to shoot down those bizarre global warming theories or to miss a chance to rise to the level of complete incompetence, Governor Palin once again proves that you don't need to be a literary genius, hell, you don't even need to be able to tell the difference between Eyerack and Eyeran become a force in the world of words.
For your eyes only, here are excerpts from the first chapter of the book which will set the tone for the 2012 election, the campaign for which is scheduled to start in about two weeks :
Now, I know what you're thinking. What is she doing now? She's got that job up there as the Governor of the biggest state with all that oil and the gas and she has that baby too and the wedding to plan for, where in the world is she going to find time to write a book too? Well, truth be told that if there is one thing I have learned in the past couple of months is that mavericks find the time to do the things which put themselves first. Because putting themselves first is putting America first because we mavericks are America. Besides, Bristol needs the practice babysitting, boy does she ever! Ever since Levi took that job up the pipeline - I like to think of Levi as one of those brave Alaskans which are making juice to feed the thirsty, over educated lower 48 -- Bristol has had alot of free time. Free time is not good for a teenager. Might lead her to do some things she shouldn't. Oops!! Been there, done that, huh, Bris!!
Anyhoo, back to me. I do have a couple of things to say about that campaign with John whosamacallit. Boy, I have a hard time remembering names. But one name I will never forget: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Those jerk aides threatened to water-board me if I didn't not only get it right but if I didn't say it at least ten times a day. I just wanted to call him that nasty little dude in the ugly beige baseball jacket. He should have been with my brood for that day at Niemanns. He could sure use it. No way would I have direct dialog with someone dressed that nasty. You know somebody like that has bad breath too. How can you trust someone like that to be honest about nucular energy. His whole outfit just screams axis of evil.
See, there I go again focusing on the big picture of international politics when you really want to hear about me. Well, let's just say I am a simple girl with simple goals, who cares about the common American who works on Main street and thinks that he should not have to have health care if he does not want to have to pay his taxes which, by the way, are socialism. Because you just never know. One day you are there with your little company and everything is fine, then someone tells you that you have to pay some tax and paying that tax alone can make you sick. You would not have needed that health care if you did not have the tax to pay because that tax is sickening. Taxes are sickening, my friends. They really are. They make me want to throw up, because if we didn't have them then Todd and I could have afforded that new SUV without me having to ruin my manicure by typing out this book. See, I have to pay taxes on this book money too. Unreal, right? That's what I thought. Here I am doing my fellow Americans the favor of getting to know me and I have to PAY so that the fellow Americans who drink all of our oil and suck out all of our gas ( or will whenever Levi the great Alaskan finishes that goshdarn pipe) get to know exactly where their fix is coming from. Not that I think Alaska should succeed or anything. See if Alaska succeeds from the United States that would mean it would leave the lower forty eight without any gas or oil or anyplace to dock those big cruise ships. I personally like the cruise ships because that's where my consignment shop gets all of those nifty rich people clothes. So let me go on record to say that I, Sarah Hussein Palin (Kidding! Geez!) do not want Alaska to succeed. Ever. And because I don't want Alaska to succeed, I am going to do everything in my power to stay right here, in the Governor's mansion, until God makes me President of the rest of you all. Which when that happens watch out you east coast smartie pantses because you will get a big dose of Sarahbootyliscious. The days of Chocolate Thunder in the White House will be over, you can bet your bottom very lowly taxed dollar on that, you exceptional Americans.
We will be publishing subsequent excerpts as we receive them.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
There is a little closet door in the corner of my kitchen. It has been unpainted since May when it was installed. It covers the electrical switches for the barn.
Ever since it was installed, it has been whispering to me.
"Paint me. DO something with me."
I prepared breakfasts, made polenta, cleaned the floors. And ignored the whispering little closet door. Frankly, when inanimate objects talk to me, I tend to ignore them. But it continued.
"I HATE being the ugliest thing in the kitchen. What is a little door to do?"
The season came to an end. The unpainted door started getting a little belligerent.
"Paint me, bitch."
I chose purple, titanium white and olive green. An abstract design.
When I finished, the door sighed. "Well, you painted me."
"What? You don't like it?"
" You never were very good with graphics."
I was starting to get a little fed up with the little door.
"I want to be beautiful, not a design statement".
"And I want to look old and wise beautiful. Not young and new rich beautiful."
Hmm. The door is testing me, I thought. I said, "How about I rub some oil paints into your surface?"
"How should I know? I'm just the door. You're supposed to be the artist."
"Don't roll your eyes at me."
"Hello, I'm a slab of, of, WOOD. No eyes, get it? No eyes."
So I rubbed and sponged and rubbed some more. The door started to hum.
And from a hum came a melody and from the melody a song.
My door had become the reincarnation of Ertha Kitt .
" The guests would probably think I had lost my mind if they could hear us talking to eachother."
"I have a little secret for you. Some of them already think you're a sandwich short of a picnic. When you are an unfinished little door, people say things in front of you."
I thought about the two cans of black spray paint I had in the my studio. It was getting very tempting.
And of course, the IKEA catalog. I don't buy furniture at IKEA, but it is my official supplier of candles, napkins, zinc containers and odd shelving. And maybe a picture frame or two.
One of my favorite design industry trade shows in Europe is HEIMTEXTIL in Frankfurt, which takes place every January. It is really the trend setting show in terms of the next season's colors for Europe and eventually North America, which is usually one season behind in home textile implementation. Everyone in the textile business is there, from fabric and wall paper producers, to carpet manufacturers, to specialty fabric designers. The last time I went was in 20o3 when I was putting together ideas for the house had just bought.
I adore textiles. I could spend days and days looking at them and fantasizing.
One of my favorite fabric designers is JAB Anstoetz. They always have a huge booth at the Frankfurt Show. One of the design firms I worked with in LA specified a lot of JAB fabrics and it was a favorite temple of mine to visit at the Pacific Design Center.
A bedroom design from JAB:
JAB's fabrics appeal to my sense of design and comfort. Often, a JAB fabric will be a starting point for me to put together other ideas.
I peruse last year's post-show articles to let them sink in. There has to be some kind of unity between what is hot and what I like. I hate over-designed spaces, they make me cranky. Which means the colors have to be inviting, the textures durable but soft, and there has to be an element of my hand in the general feel of the place.
All of this makes me want to go back and re-do the other rooms as well, and improve them with all I have learned. I will do a little work in the existing rooms, changing out some of the furniture and the artwork.
I am leaning toward lavender-tinted grey as the back drop with green and deep purple as accents. Some mosaic work on the walls, depending on what kind of tiles I can either fire myself or find around. General indirect glow lighting, with direct spots where needed. The room will of course have heating but I am toying with the idea of adding a wood burning stove in this room as well for guests that really want to come in the winter.
This is always the fun part. Going over the border to France or into Torino or Milano, looking in lamp shops, finding the right coffee table or chair.
I do love the design process!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
We've been planning the next phase of our perpetual renovation project since March of last year. The picture above shows the area we want to renovate. The staircase will lead to a guest room upstairs. The downstairs will be restored into its original function as a wine cellar.
Yadda yadda yadda. Shower here, toilet there, sink over yonder, wine shelves out of iron, or wood, walls out of old brick, endless little decisions finally made, changed, made again.
Tutto va bene.
Until Tuesday. My architect and friend, Mara, took the plans into the Commune di Acqui Terme for the final time, where they looked and said, looks great. Just one problem. The room is not connected to one of the two other structures which has a kitchen.
To which Mara, panicking inside, said the equivalent of what does that have to do with the price of tea in China.
To which they said, you can't have a bedroom floating out there in the middle of a barn without some internal way to get to a kitchen. And no, you can't build a third kitchen in that room. You already have two kitchens on this property! Enough is enough.
Thank you, Acqui Terme. Oh, and thank you for letting us know now, at the end of the approval process, instead of at the beginning!
So, now, plans are being drawn up to connect said part of barn with a glass corridor to the old farmhouse. A totally useless contraption which will cost a lot of money and will be locked most of the time, since I really don't want guests walking into my living room through the new door I have to blast through the 30 inch wall to create. I love my guests but enough is enough.
Which leads me to believe that now I know why so many old houses in Italy seem like nonsensical labarynths. In every crazy hallway I now see another set of plans trying to get through the commune to fulfill some ridiculous requirement. I know of one case where a Piemontese commune refused to let a friend build private quarters into her old barn, which she had completely renovated into a beautiful agriturismo. Plenty of room for the guests, but the commune was not willing to allow her to use 80 square meters of leftover space for an apartment for herself. So her architect applied to see if they would allow the construction of a fitness club in the space. Approved!! So now, the most well furnished fitness club you can imagine is being built. Complete with a living room, bedroom, kitchen and bath. And maybe a treadmill, too.
Small stumbling blocks. Our construction project will commence in thirty days as planned, and life will go on. The process in Italy is not so much just learning what you can and cannot do, but rather about finding out how you can get what you want despite knowing what you cannot do.
A great lesson in improvisational living, that.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Beyond the beauty of the terrain, beyond the exquisite cuisine, and beyond the privacy of our B&B, my guests often mention something to me about this place which has always pleased me yet never surprised me.
They say that this area has really good Energy.
What does that mean exactly?
Well, let's just say I am not a religious person. I have very sharp and developed ideas about the spiritual nature of Life which have come to me over time. I am not only comfortable with my ideas but I sit firmly and happily in the middle of them. One of my credos has always been that the Supreme Power lies in the Science. Meaning that science, extrapolated well beyond the point of our present empirical knowledge, will lead to the Source. I was discussing with a Harvard -- sorry, Yale -- PhD student here at the B&B about this a bit and he reiterated to me that what we actually know as empirical science is nano percent of what there is to know. We are at the beginning of the long path of knowledge.
And it is my contention that at the other end is the Source.
So when people have a sense that this area has a good Energy, they are reaching, as I reach, beyond the limits of our empirical selves into what is beyond -- namely, that there are places to which people are drawn which feel right, although that feeling is not logically explainable. That feeling is the Energy. And that Energy propels us forward.
There are many who believe that Italy is comprised of more old souls than most other countries. That souls come back here, life after life after life, to work in the vineyards and olive groves, because it brings so much soul-satisfaction to do so.
Could this be the Energy which keeps bringing people back to Italy? The Energy of old souls, living happy lives? How many people have been here, and have gone home to tell their friends and neighbors, "Italy is so beautiful -- but it's the people that make me keep going back..."?
Could this be the Energy that keeps Italians from stressing out about not having the newest car, the latest Wii or a media room in the basement? The Energy that makes Italians shake their heads with a smile if you offer them double to work on Ferragosto when they had already planned to be with their friends on a picnic?
Is this the Energy which makes Italians seem happier with so much simpler lives?
Is this the Energy which keeps things here so much as they have always been?
One of my goals for the next weeks and months is to allow myself to be filled up with the Energy which so many sense here.
I should be glowing by Spring!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Our skill sets? Well, they were different from eachother. My husband's involved racking up huge amounts of frequent flyer miles -- the amount which leads the airline to hold the plane if you are stuck in a traffic jam.
That may be impressive, but it does not help when a snow storm has just knocked down over two dozen trees and you don't know how to use a chain saw.
My skill set did luckily include knowing how to wire a ceiling light but stopped short when, after regrouting 200 year old tiles, I woke up to find the new grout (representing a week of 13 hour days on my knees) cracked in a million places because the floor had shifted. That's what happens when tiles are laid in dirt instead of on a level cement floor. Little did I know.
It became way too easy to forget what kind of beauty we were surrounded by, since our focus became myopic -- to the point where looking up and around became an emotional impossibility at times.
One day in particular comes to mind. We were on our very steep hill, hacking away at 25 years of hibiscus overgrowth -- some of those thorn trees had stems four and five inches thick -- and they were wrapped into old out-of-control grape vines. We had to get these cut down before we could get rid of hundred of small trees which had grown in inconvenient places over the years and needed to be cleared.
On this particular day, I had gone through maybe four or five pairs of gloves. My hands were chopped up, my knees were sore because we were doing this on a hill with a 20 percent grade. At one point, in the late afternoon, I put down my clippers (by the way, Stihl titanium blade, gas powered turbo weed whackers are made for this kind of work -- NOT clippers from Walmart -- but we wouldn't find that out until much later) , put my head on my knees and proceeded to start weeping. The tears would not stop. We had worked for days and it did not even look any different than before we had started.
Micha came over to me, put his arm around me and said, honey take a look.
Look at why we are here.
It's this view that sustained me through the jungle of a learning curve which threatened to defeat me. It's the view we have from every front window of our house. It's this simple view -- of homes, of hills, of grapes, of mountains -- which feeds my soul and which I have now come to define as home.
Our acute challenges are few now, our limits more obvious to us, our abilities broader than in those first months and years. Which means that I can trade feeling exhausted for feeling calm, I can trade feeling scared for feeling safe, and I can trade feeling weak for feeling strong.
And I can enjoy our view, so much more.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Obama is young, handsome and tanned, says Silvio Berlusconi
The Italian prime minister raises eyebrows with more of his off-key remarks, this time about Barack Obama
Belusconi, who is known for his regular off-key remarks, subsequently claimed to be joking after he spoke of Obama at a news conference, following talks with the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev.
When asked by a reporter about the future prospect of US-Russian relations, Berlusconi referred to the youth of both leaders - Medvedev, 43, and Obama, 47 - which he said should make it easier for Moscow and Washington to work together.
He then continued: "I told the president that [Obama] has everything needed in order to reach a deal with him: he's young, handsome and tanned."
Later, when he returned to his hotel, Berlusconi said his comment that Obama was "giovane, bello e abbronzato", "was a big compliment," which only "imbeciles" would misinterpret, Italy's state news wire Ansa reported. "If some people don't have a sense of humour, then it's their problem,'' he said.
It is not the first time Berlusconi's descriptions have jarred with the public. When he took over the rotating presidency of the EU in 2003, he likened Martin Schulz, a German member of the European Parliament, to a concentration camp guard.
In the same year, at an event sponsored by the New York Stock Exchange in America, he said people should invest in Italy because the women there are pretty. "We have beautiful ladies and beautiful women, so my suggestion from the bottom of my heart is to try to make investments in Italy,'' he said. "The secretaries are beautiful.''See why it can be so amusing to live in Italy?
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is "convinced that Europe and the United States will work closely and in a spirit of mutual trust together to confront new dangers and risks and will seize the opportunities presented by our global world".
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki called Obama's election "a momentous day not only in the history of the United States of America, but also for us in Kenya. The victory of Senator Obama is our own victory because of his roots here in Kenya. As a country, we are full of pride for his success."
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond sent a message to Mr Obama, which read: "On behalf of the people of Scotland, I send you my heartfelt congratulations on a wonderful and historic election victory - it ushers in a new era of hope for the United States and its role in the world. This was a victory for optimism over pessimism, for hope over fear."
South African president Kgalema Motlanthe said: "Africa ... today stands proud of your achievements."
Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd said: "Senator Obama's message of hope is not just for America's future, it is also a message of hope for the world as well. A world which is now in many respects fearful for its future."
The United States of America has rejected the folly of the last 8 years.
We have chosen a man, clearly outside the mainstream, yet somehow so utterly prepared, as if he were born to accept this as his destiny, to be our next commander-in-chief.
President-Elect Obama, may you and your family stay safe.
Please take our trust and do your best with it. We are looking to you for leadership.
I am proud of my country. We have spoken, in a unified voice to the world.
Yes, world, we are with you, we saw the need for change.
It embarrassed, angered, and frustrated us to see our country, our honor, and our reputation become so decimated and tarnished.
So we did something about it.
We have spoken. Clearly. Let there be no question.
We, the United States of America, are back, world.
We did it, and we are back.
Godspeed, Mr. Obama.
Monday, November 3, 2008
It is hard for me to imagine that five years have come and gone since we arrived here in Acqui Terme. So many things have happened since then -- small things, mostly, and those small things have propelled us forward, step by sometimes imperceptible step.
Last night, I was recounting to friends that during that first year when we arrived, how I went through a phase of wanting to grow Mexican vegetable here, and how the neighbors all chipped in to help. Tomatillo, jalapeno peppers -- the seeds sent to me by my friend Lisa Davis from Taos. Franco, our neighbor and expert farmer, consulted Aldo, his buddy and sparring partner, who is truly a gardener, and together we planted a bunch of Mexican seedlings. The only problem was that we planted them in an area which had no water and no water access, except for a well which had been untapped for years.
The story of getting water out of that well to feed the yet-to-be-doomed-project-of-raising-Mexican-vegetables-in-Italy had my friends in stitches. I remembered that I had written about it in my journal way back then, and searched this morning to find it. Here is the story, one of many that first year which, in retrospect, make me laugh wistfully because I can see how completely out of my element I was! Not that I am much better now, but I have learned my to accept my own limits in certain things.
Here is my journal entry from that momentous event.
April 13, 2004
Well, Aldo, il Professore d'agricoltura, stopped by this morning to deliver twenty very healthy looking tomatillo plants and twenty equally hardy looking anchote and jalapeno pepper plants. His seedlings are like ten times bigger than mine. He beamed with pride and reiterated that we should only listen to him in all things garden related and ignore Franco, our consigliore and general Italian country life guru. I will have to think long and hard about this. He also stated that he thinks that the tomatillo plants look like a bunch of weeds and he does not hold a high opinion of them at this point. I am convinced this will change when he tests my first batch of tomatillo salsa. He nibbled at my baby cilantro, shriveled up his nose and demanded to know what kind of parsley this was. Since cilantro does not exist in
Yesterday was sort of your average PMS day for me. At different points in the day, I bi-polared between Linda Blair and a bucket of mush. It was probably not the best day to try to solve the problem of how to get water out of one of our wells so that we could water our vegetable gardens, which are more than eight hundred feet from the house, down a steep embankment. But my husband, brave soul that he is, charged ahead with a positive attitude, which in my altered state seemed very insulting and non supportive. 600 milligrams of ibuprophen later, we were in the car headed for Viotti, the agricultural machinery shop in Acqui. Signora Viotti, who is approximately 80 years old, hoisted every forty pound water pump she had from the shelf, explaining in the very fastest Italian ever spoken, the features and benefits of each. After ten moments, our heads were spinning with facts and figures: How deep is the well (no idea), how much water do you need (no idea), how are you going to power the pump (no idea). She sent us home to figure out what is was we really wanted (to get water out of well, for God‘s sake).
Since this was our first encounter with water from a natural source, we were both scared and excited. We investigated one of our four wells which finds itself nearest to the gardens to be watered. An open pit, approximately five feet in diameter, filled with weeds and muck, and a seemingly large quantity of water. We figured that was a positive thing.
We looked up to see if we could see our house. We couldn’t. It seemed that powering the pump, if indeed we bought a pump, would be the main issue.
A gas powered electric generator? A really, really long extension cord attached to another really, really long extension cord, plugged into my living room socket?
It was time to consult Franco, our neighbor and farming guru.
Franco, who was just leaving on his tractor, understood immediately, and called his nephew, who would know the approximate cost of a generator. About a thousand euros. The extension cord option was looking more and more attractive, if not scary as hell.
He and our buddy Mauro, who had worked so hard to get our telephone working in the winter, and who hangs out at Franco’s house and works in the garden, talked briefly. Mauro went inside and reappeared with a cable bundle, approximately a thousand feet long. All we need to do, said Mauro, was get the appropriate plugs, attach them, and run the cord down the hill, over the field, through the woods and next to the well. Not a really, really long extension cord. The world’s LONGEST extension cord. Of course we could not give Mauro a penny for the cable, he just said, niente, that old cable has been sitting around here forever, good that you can use it. The kindness never ends.
So off we went, back to Signora Viotti, who was very skeptical about our electricity solution. We explained to her that Franco Parodi said it was OK. She made a motion like she was zipping her lips shut and said something to the effect of, “if Franco said it is ok, who am I to judge?” We went home with our lovely new pump and prayed for the best.
From Marketing executive to master electrician…I wired up the two ends with a plug and an outlet, and we spent the next two hours slowly unwinding the fifty pounds of cable.
Micha lowered wired pump into the open pit down below. I climbed up the hill to the house, and waited for his order.
PLUG IT IN, he shouted.
I looked down towards the road and saw water coming out of the hose which was coming out of the well where the pump was. Glorious, beautiful water. We were giddy like two kids, jumping around and being silly. See, that is the beauty of