Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day, Bacco and me-fellow mountaineers

25 Maggio
Here are the pictures from my day of rest, Sunday, when Bacco and I climbed Mt. Bettore, the tallest mountain in the Marche. At its summit, it is only 7,800 feet or about the altitude of Estes Park, CO. The hike is about 3 miles + or - a half mile each way (hikes in Italy are listed by how much time they take and not by km or miles). Bacco had a blast in the snow, hiking onto steep mini glaciers and burrowing and then sliding down lie a dog "sled". I laughed out loud watching him. Then we encountered 4 skiers on a much bigger glacier and this was a new game for Bacco, who chased the skiers down the hill about 300 meters. One guy yelled in italian "I can't get a break, dogs chase me on my bike and now on skis"
We are now tying our 30000 vines branches to the metal tutors; t;ying being relative as we have a little machine which automatically loops the branches with a plastic band, staples and cuts it. Unfortunately, I was wrong when I thought this jub would be faster than the previous pruning.
We are in the midst of a heat wave with temps in the 90's and full sun every day. I am fine tuning my farmer's tan, but it gets pretty warm on our little slope.
Our wonderful pool continues with major glitches: the lower pool was empty yesterday morning for no reason.
Finally, the roses are from little yearling plants which produced one rose each, but they were good efforts.
I hope everyone had a wonderful long weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

18,909 days on earth, Jazz at Nascondiglio and San Benedetto (the Yellowjackets), the slow poisoning of Bacco and tearing off vine branches

21 Maggio
Ciao a Tutti! The days are flying here as I am working 8-9 hours outside everyday and then trying to keep Nascondiglio presentable as well. The outdoor work has consisted of tearing off all the branches but 2 on every plant which number somewhere in the vicinity of 30000. We have finished 110 of 160 rows with 14 to finish today and then a day or two of waiting for the montepulciano vines to grow a bit as they are the tardiest variety. Then, I am trying to keep our 2.6 acre yard pretty and just finished that job yesterday before our dutch guests arrived.
The season for tourists is starting and we will be full for the festa weekend of May 31 when we are having a jazz combo play on the front patio, hopefully for 30-40 people. I met the piano player during my saga at the license bureau. I escaped last week for a couple of music nights, one at "open museum" night at Offida, where they booked our combo and then I paid to see the fusion jazz group, the Yellowjackets from the US, who just about sold out the theater at San Benedetto. It was fun to get away from here for a change and people watch and hear some funky music.
Bacco, being his normal garrulous self, has decided to bring home new friends every day in the 2 forms of ticks they have here. They unfortunately have all mutated and become resistant to frontline, hartz, tick collars and shampoos, although with the latter 2 recently applied, the numbers are decreasing. I don't like chemicals and go out of my way to buy dog food without preservatives or OGM, but we have a crisis here! The wet winter and spring obviously have provided ideal climes for these vectors. Hopefully, the mosquitoes won't be as numerous.
I am looking forward to a great summer with lots of friends and KC folks coming to visit! It will be great to see you guys.
The weather here is absoulutely perfect for me, which means too hot for the italians, but 86 degrees, uncloudy skies and 50% humididty is hard to beat. I am wearing my Laurence of Arabia hat to fend off the carcinogenic solar rays, carry 2 liters of water with me and then venture out to our palestra (gym) and strengthening by back with this present work.
For those who haven't been able to sleep thinking about my poor roses getting eaten by the beatles, I removed the last of theirr food supply yesterday, so they will have to search elsewhere for a meal. Hopefully, when the next batch of blooms comes along, these gypsies will have moved on.
The artichokes are finishing up their flowering, thank goodness as I have run out of new ways to cook them and though I love them dearly, every year we have a bit too much of this good thing.
Check out the new "google competitor" I found out this is my 18,909th day here on planet earth. It is for those topics where google just doesn't seem to help.
The pictures show 2 of our montepulciano vines which we started plucking today with before and after photos. These are the easiest we have had so far as the branches are more sparse and not as numerous as e.g. the merlot.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jesi and its Palio, Last row to hoe is hoed

I took a little jaunt up to the town of Jesi in the more northern Marche on Sunday and watched a bit of their medieval re-enaction similar to the Quintana of Ascoli. Overall, even though this is one of the 2 capitols of verdicchio wine, I am not sure it is worth a visit as there are many towns with more interest here.
The artichokes have reached their peak and we are taking them in batches of 100 to Raffaele's mother to process "sottolio" or in olive oil and then they will last for a year or more.
I just finished the last row of hoeing today, although it would be quite possible to begin again and never stop, but now is the time to pinch away all the branches but 2 on our little grapevines and then in July settle on just 1 as the leader for the future. We will start with the most precocious vines, the petit verdot and pecorino and move on to the syrah and other bordeaux varieties, finishing up with the late bloomer-montepulciano.
The pool is uncovered, but needs topping up before use and the flowers are all putting on their best May show, even if the evil bugs are still chomping up all my rose blossoms.
We made a donation to the Abruzzo relief fund via the italian Red Cross of 10% of our April receipts and this month's special is 15% off all nights after the 1st. That will end on the 24th and for the end of May festival, we are having our 1st concert here with a jazz combo. A new experiment to become more well known.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fruits and artichokes of Nascondiglio di Bacco

8 Maggio
After 5.5 hours of hoeing in my weakened state, it was time for a rest. I did a bit of artichoke picking and this it today's harvest. We may get fat or gassy eating artichokes, but not our measly cherries. The almond trees are doing fine and one of the apricots is full as well. For artichoke lovers, May is the time to visit us. I can't eat all these! Also, the weather is perfect.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The strongest things on earth? tractors

7 Maggio
I am here in bed trying to recover from a little bout of food poisoning which Raffa and I contracted from marinated pork (it was wonderful). We eat a lot of things here which are not allowed in the states, but this was more along the lines of pig carpaccio, so it didin't seem too risky, but...
I finished the "mowing" of the vineyard this morning, cramping the whole time and with a headache and dehydration sx, and am just not up to hoeing today.
We have had an exciting tractor week here. Earlier in the week a man arrived and said he was from D'Amico who sold us our interplant hoe which goes behind the tractor and cleans out the weeds right up to the grapevine where a sensor hits the metal guide pole adjacent to each vine and the blade retracts. He said ours was set up all wrong and adjusted it according to his great wisdom, breaking one of my wrenches in the process. Did I mention he reaked of alcohol? I took off with the interfilare and at day's end, I think I wiped out close to 60 if not more vines. We haven't discovered all the broken ones yet. It turns out the guy was not a representative of D'Amico, but a friend of our tractor salesman who just decided to show up. It was an expensive lesson.
On to tractors and their power. I, being the principiante or beginner that I am, have thus far broken about 8 cable holding our poles in place, climbed a pole with my left front wheel, and generally left disaster in my wake in the last 2 months. The neighbors hide when they hear the Claas fired up. The tractor, it turns out, is stronger than anything we have here, be it metal, wood, grapevines, etc. I hope to pass out of this beginner phase shortly and am proud to say, I didn't break anything today.
We continue to hoe, but not fast enough and are afraid to use the interfilare now, so we have hired 3 workers for a few days to help us catch up. A sign of the difficult economic times, this, as last year you couldn't find anyone willing to hoe for any money.
We are expecting our fancy sprayer soon which we will use to spread sulfur and copper onto the growing vines to counter various maladies. Speaking of maladies, like clockwork, the mean bugs which eat my rose blooms returned just in time to eat the 1st ones opeining up. I am in need of an organic fix! Please send suggestions.
Other than that news, we are offering a discount of 15% off all nights at Nascondiglio di Bacco after the 1st, so come on over. This lasts until May 24. We will be busy again the last weekend of May, but now is a slow time for guests and is beautiful in terms of weather.
Bacco is doing fine and gets his exercise walking up and down the rows following my tractor and chasing lizards which are flushed out. He is sensitive to the heat, so he finds a shady spot during the hotter hours and chills.
Like me today.
Ciao for now. d

Friday, May 01, 2009

Visitation choir at Rome

1 Maggio
May Day is a big holiday here, so we are just about full for the weekend. Finally, a bit of sun has agreed to shine on Ascoli Piceno province. Unfortunately, my big excursion with the z4 to Rome was ruined by cold weather and rain the whole trip, so no convertible action.
The visitation choir from Kansas City performed 2 wonderful concerts in Rome at Santa Maria Degli Angeli, which has an organ the size of most italian houses, and the next day the mass of St. Catherine of Siena at Santa Maria del Popolo where you can find Bernini and Caravaggio works. It was really fun to see them and I smiled the whole time, including when their organist got to play with his new toy in Santa Maria degli Angeli with an impovisational piece which "rocked" the house.
I led some of the choir off into the winding streets of Rome and we visited the Ponte St. Angelo, St. Peter's, where we saw the pope, and then on to La Carbonara, purportedly the birthplace of that dish and in business almost 100 years in the Campo dei Fiori.
I felt bad the group met so much rain while they were here which is a risk in April here, but they were all thrilled to have sung in some of the most beautiful and famous churches in the world.
Back to Nascondiglio di Bacco, I headed straight for the mower and weedeater to make the place presentable for our guests.
I am happy to report our reservations are up this year compared to last and even better, we are seeing more americans! I hope you can visit sometime as well!
The pictures are of Kevin and Erika at La Carbonara, Keith and Jane in front of St. Peter's, Pope Benedict, the undercover FBI agent near St. Peter's (thanks for the t shirt John and Dolores-I had no problem in the security lines) and the visitation choir in Santa Maria degli Angeli. Don't forget to check out their blog and watch their concerts at