Fresh Challenges, and Pastures New

Back in February, I wrote about how overwhelmed we were feeling with all that we had to achieve at Olive Hill, in this blog post. Having just reread it myself, I thought that now might be a good time to revisit some of the issues that we were facing back then.

I started my moany post by complaining about the weather, as it had been raining for days and days and days, inside and outside the house. We mended our leaking roof one day while the sun was shining, but we don’t know if the leak is fixed, as we’ve had no rain in the weeks since the repair. We’ll find out later today I suspect, as thunderstorms are forecast. Obviously, I’ve bravely run away to work, leaving Scott at home, armed with a mop and bucket. I’m feeling pretty confident that I, at least will stay dry for the afternoon!

As to the renovations, we’ve been far too busy outside to even think about making progress inside. The days are warm and sunny, so we don’t need central heating (although we have ordered a shiny new boiler, and a solar system for the hot water), and the tractor is working a dream, which means that Scott is now able to concentrate breaking other vital equipment instead. This week’s list of broken kit includes the flail mower (a wonderful grass cutter/ mulcher combo that sits behind the tractor), the chain saw, the pole chain saw, the smart car, and my favourite wheel barrow (which has had a flat tyre for the last six months or so).

And yes. That is hundreds of bottles of unopened wine behind the “in need of repair” pile.

With longer days and better weather, we have really started to get our trees in order. When we bought our olive hill, we were faced with 200 sick and abandoned trees, and another 200 overgrown and abandoned trees. With the help of our Proper Agricultural Workers, we cut the sick trees right back last year, and have already repruned them all this year, so most of them are starting to look pretty healthy. This spring’s task is the overgrown trees. Unfortunately, we haven’t had as much help from our PAWs as we had hoped for: spring is a busy time for everyone, and obviously, we are at the end of the queue when loyalties are tested. But we’ve got a good idea of how and what to prune now, so we are getting through them, albeit rather slowly, thanks to the list of broken equipment. In amongst the most abandoned section we found this tiny little tree, buried in undergrowth and debris left behind by a former “custodian” of the land. The pictures show the before and after shots of “Patrick” as the littlest tree is now named:

Late March is “bud burst” time in the vineyard. I now understand this term properly, as every day another apparently dead vine springs miraculously back to life. It’s truly exciting to walk the dogs at this time of year. Our Farmer Neighbour has sown pasture in the “fallow” (read abandoned) arable fields either side of the vineyard too, so it’s is all really quite neat and tidy down in that part of our hill.

Unfortunately, I think that this year we may also be looking after our own vegetable plot. Lovely Indispensable Neighbour has tended it for many, many years, including the year since we bought the place. She has always paid “rent” for the plot in the form of produce, an excellent arrangement that has suited all parties very well indeed. LIN is getting on in years though, and has had a couple of really nasty bouts of bronchitis this winter. She’s not at all sure if she’ll be fit to tend the plot this summer. This leaves us in a bit of a pickle, as although the plot belongs to us, we feel incredibly guilty at the idea of taking it back from her. But we also can’t judge if the plot is actually a burden to her and she’d genuinely rather be shot of it. So for now, we’ve offered to clear the ground and prepare the soil ourselves, and then have another chat in a week or two about the year ahead. I can’t help but feel that “guilt over using your own veg plot” is a uniquely British problem to have …

Talking of uniquely British problems, we are now as Brexit Proof as we can be, with residency obtained, and Italian driving licences applied for. We have been watching the daily soap opera known as The News with the same trepidation of many other Brits in Europe, I suspect.

And finally, (never start a sentence with a conjunction) I’ve got a new job! We had always been clear that I should continue to teach English midweek, in order to help with cashflow during the renovations, and also to prevent us from driving each other mad as Scott adjusts to life as a civilian. Commuting to and from Rome has been making for very long days away from the hill, however, so you can only imagine how delighted I am to have found a part time job in a nearby language school! The school is expanding, and finds itself in need of a teacher who can help it to develop and deliver new programs to an expanded client base. So (NEVER start a sentence with a conjunction!) I have swapped the train for the smart car, and now wind my way to work on the most beautiful commute imaginable.

La vita è bella.

Life is wonderful.

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