Sunday, July 31, 2005

Life in Castiglion Fiorentino

Our tiny garden in Castiglion Fiorentino had a surprising number of beautiful long-stemmed roses. Dermott has taken to emptying his bladder under the bushes, so this could be the last bountiful year.

For the last couple of months the air has been full of swallows. There are fewer now and I expect they will soon take off to wherever they go for winter. I love watching them out of the kitchen window as they fly in frenzied circles - maybe they are chasing insects but to me it looks like the sheer joy of hooning around.

Of course everything isn't perfect in Paradise. Take the killer stairs for instance. Neither Snowy nor Dermott can negotiate them without falling, so each morning they have to be carried down. It's easy with Snowy but my heart is in my mouth when Graeme gathers up Dermott and steps blindly into the abyss.

And sadly, there are times when some of us have to stay home.....
While others do their laps.....

We're confident they will be back soon.....

Unless they go off wandering around town.

Or decide to have coffee at that little place on the square.

An invitation to grow tomatoes.

Amongst the essential collection of frying pans, coffee pots and kitchen knives Graeme insisted on carried with us from Australia was a precious little package of tomato seeds. On arrival a selection of these were nurtured in tiny pots. One of them is a sentimental favourite. The original seeds were taken to Australia by Graeme's Italian teacher's father when he emigrated from Southern Italy in the 1950s. They have become fondly known as Antonella's Father's Tomatoes and it is fitting that they should make this sentimental journey back to their homeland.

Since our arrival the seeds have germinated and grown strong in their little pots, moving from windowsill to doorstep, depending on the weather. Then came the time to plant them out. Trouble is we only have a pocket handkerchief size garden here. The one flower bed that gets any sun is just big enough for a tiny bay tree, a selection of herbs and a few geraniums. As the days passed, increasingly desperate, Graeme would stand out on the path exploring all the unlikely possibilities - hanging bags of earth off the wall, putting pots outside on the road, giving them away to neighbours. He finally planted out three of the seedlings and the remainder sat sadly in their little pots. And then Mariella took us to a party and he met Jean.....

Jean & Aziz are renovating a beautiful old stone house on an olive farm on the slopes of Cortona. Jean is establishing a kitchen garden. Not your average Australian kitchen garden - out the back between the shed and the barbecue - but a formal, dry-stone-walled, Belle worthy, thing of beauty that a humble tomato fancier from Sydney could only dream about. He had found a home for his tomatoes.

Jean's own tomatoes have a head start but she's watering and nurturing the little fellows and he gets to visit them regularly.
A giant cinghiale watches over the garden.

Dermott has been warned not to wander off into the woods because there are real wild boar around and they come down to drink at the stream. Dermott is neither brave nor intelligent and while he has kept away from the woods he has faced a challenge from a totally unexpected quarter.

This is Lamu, a beautiful, gentle, abandoned dog Aziz and Jean have adopted. At their first meeting Dermott decided to assert himself. Lamu flashed her teeth and quickly put him in place. It was an humiliating experience which he really would prefer not to talk about.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Here we are in Tuscany!

Starting a blog can be so intimidating. Maybe I've already said everything there is to say. I've launched an avalanche of emails since we arrived; fired off in all directions in the first flush of excitement of actually being here. But a blog was promised and here it is.

Snowy & Dermott arrived on July 17. Flying all the way from Sydney by themselves and then confronting a big holdup in Milan, finally clearing customs and then travelling for five hours in a delivery van all the way from Milan to Castiglion Fiorentino. It was traumatic. Tony, their driver, shared his cheese sandwich with Snowy along the way. Dermott was too distressed to eat. They were both starving, filthy, skinny and exhausted by the time we met them at the town gates at midnight. It didn't take them long to realise we were in buy-back mode and they have been exploiting the situation ever since.

After breakfast in our garden we were soon all out and about exploring.

Most people here haven't seen an Old English Sheepdog before so the first response is usually shock followed quickly by a smile. Dermott is so outgoing he's made more friends than any of us. Seems to have a fine grasp of Italian too!

Twice a day we take them up to the old tower Torre del Cassero at the top of the hill. We usually stop by the wall to enjoy the view out over the Val di Chio. Eventually Dermott's curiosity got the better of him and he hopped up for a look too.

Back home it's usually time for an Italian lesson and then a siesta. Sometimes simultaneously.
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