Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flowers and champagne!

I promised this post a couple of weeks ago, and its been in the pipeline forever (hey, fermentation requires patience) but this morning I curiously popped a cork, and we have bubbles!

So it started years ago after seeing a spring episode of River cottage, a funny british show about living in the country and growing your own. They made it, so I filled this away to try myself- Elderflower champagne.

It took me a little while to work out that Elderflower is sambucca in Italy, and yes, that black alcohol that I threw up everywhere on my 20th birthday comes from this plant.

We have it in abundance down near the river, looks like this:

There's a terribly creepy wooden shed down there that I hate to walk past, it makes me remember all the slasher/supernatural/vampire movies I've ever seen. Even in a big group of people it gives me chills. I half expected the photo to turn out with some ghostly shadow across it. Didn't happen.
So I took the flowers home and followed the recipe, soaking them in a (very clean) bucket with water, sugar and lemon juice. The flowers, it seems, bring their own yeast.
After a week I strained it, a week later bottled it, and then... nothing. Alas there was no fizz, which meant no champagne and therefore no blog post.
My four bottles of fizzlessness sat around for a couple more weeks, until this morning. I got bubbles!
So heres my elderflower champagne:
Problem now is, I can't stand the taste, after smelling it ferment for weeks. Aperitivo, anyone?

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I was walking near home the other day and snapped this picture of the stream at the bottom of the hill.

Since, though, we've had only thunderstorms, hailstorms and buckets of rain. The river in Florence looks set to flood, and this little stream is probably an impassable and trecherous raging torrent.
See what I'm doing here? Baby steps.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday flowers

no use pretending, I have totally fallen off this wagon. Somewhere in February I said I would post 3 times a week (!) and that I would do what I said I would do (rubbish!)

Truth is, I've started working with the lovely Sophie at the 500 Touring Club, www.500touringclub.com, running our own wine excursions into the Chianti Classico area, and keeping on top of 3 beehives, among other things, and it seems in February i lost sight of how hectic May can be. I would probably had skipped this week altogether if not for Giulia asking where the flowers were. Thanks Giulia. It's nice to be missed.

Enough excuses, I do have flowers for you, these are a wild hyacinth growing down amoungst the olives, paired here with some wild fennel fronds.

With everything going on, I have found time to put together some elderflower champagne, so, other work permittting, and depending on how the champagne (using the term very loosely) turns out, next week I'll do flowers and recipe. (And there I go overcommitting again)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday Flowers

I confess that I have completely fallen off the wagon with the whole blogging thing.
Internet problems, stolen computers, too much real work, all very good excuses.

Today i've a couple of pictures that I snapped down the back field, where the poppies have taken over with all their glorious colour.

Aren't they pretty? There have been many exciting and blogworthy things going on lately- wine excursions! Vintage car driving! New bee queens! Hives full of honey! Elderflower champagne! There's also been some relaxing in the spring sunshine and thats not too bad either.

I'll find my blog mojo around here soon and share more of these things with you. Maybe. if you leave me a message.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Flowers- Roses for my Mum.

After last week's debacle I'm pleased to be posting Friday Flowers on a Friday and not a Tuesday. And I'll totally let myself off the hook for not posting anything except friday flowers for a while. It's a busy time here!

Sunday is Mother's day in Australia, not here in Italy though, and so today's flowers are dedicated to my Mum.

Sandra bought this rose last year and it's taken off, somewhere between a climbing rose and a carpet rose it seems. I never was much of a rose person, but that's changed. I love their colours, particularly yellow roses, and their perfume.

Did you know bees don't care less about roses, actually, when it comes to red roses like this one they can't even physically see them! There you go, you've learnt something new. And you thought you were just wasting time on the internet.

My Mum has a lovely rose garden, when they're not being eaten by the kangaroos. I have the idea that their are almost constantly in bloom there, which can't be true, but she's always had great roses.

There you are- today's flower is roses. Love you Mum.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesday Flowers (Whoops!)

I really let things get away from me this week. You know how it happens, you let one day slide, and then missing a second day doesn't change much, and who really reads it anyway....

I started blogging not just for people to read it (if you do, leave me a message!) but also to document my own passing of the time, the seasons and the changes that happen around my house.

Such a big week in the world too! Who really cares if the Acacia is in bloom? My bees do, thats for sure.
Acacia is about the biggest event on their annual calendar, and these super sweet flowers are everywhere and overpowering the air with their drowsy perfume.

The species is invasive, originating from America, and can be found along waterways throughout Italy. It yields a really high volume of nectar. You know why? Because it evolved without bees.

Species that evolved along with bees only had to give the bees a small amount of nectar to lure them to provide the service of pollination. Acacia, like Australian gum trees, had to provide more nectare to lure ants and other insects to visit, who were less efficient pollinators. Isn't nature grand?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring in the beehive

With all these fantastic spring flowers, things have been really active in the beehive too.
I had one family (from two) survive from last year, and that family has been going strong. A couple of weeks ago i put the melario on (aka the honey super)

Sadly though it hasn't seen any action yet, and I was concerned about a lack of bees in it. opening up the hive it looks as though the queen isn't around, I can't see any sign of her. I can't tell though if bee numbers are down, indicating a swarm, or if she's died. There was a good size queen cell, so she'll be replaced soon enough, but not great for honey production.

Then my two new families arrived, thousands of new pointy little babies!
Lulu helping with the new bees

The families arrive in these white styrafoam travelling boxes and after a couple of days settling in they get transferred to their permanent wooden homes.
A travelling box next to the other beehives
The smoker helps keep them calm
The wooden hive must be in exactly the same position as the travelling box was, or the bees get confused about which house is theirs.
settling in

see how they stick their butts in the air and beat their wings? This spreads the message to their sisters that this is their new home. 
Here they are, all home and hopefully happy.
I'm hoping for a decent honey haul this year, the new families need to fill the hive with baby bees first, then they get their melario. They should be happy. They have a lovely view of the valley and are surrounded by flowers. It's hard to hug a bee, but these are my pets!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Flowers!

Today's flowers feel like cheating.
With all the abundanca around, I'm looking down, and these are the simple little flowers of clover.
There's really nothing much to say about these, they're small, a lovely colour and fragrance free. Rather simple.
Here's a sunset:
Happy Easter! Particularly to my family in Australia. Miss you guys!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Soft drink alternative

I've been trying to find an alternative to Coca Cola or beer for summer afternoons, and I think I may have found my solution.

This is iced Rooibos tea, with ginger and lemon. It's delicious! I made it without measuring, but here's roughly what i did.

  1. Peel and dice about 10 grams of fresh ginger root. Boil in a covered pot in two litres of water for 2 mins.
  2. Turn off heat and add a tablespoon of loose leaf rooibos (red) tea, the juice of 1 lemon and raw sugar to taste.
  3. Chill in fridge.
  4. Serve with ice (if you havent lost the ice tray over the winter) and fresh mint.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Flowers!

These beautiful white, star shaped flowers are the newest cutable flowers in the fields right now. They close up at night, but have such a delicate colour. Other than these there are a lot of daisies and buttercups.

In goose news we have a killed and plucked and cleaned goose in the fridge, and two looking rather forlorn outside, missing their brother. Don't they look sad?

Its hard stuff, this eating animals.

Next week- goose recipies.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New projects!

I've been working on a new project- a visitor's guide for the city of Florence, including all my favourite shops, sights and places to eat. It's not quite ready yet, but I wanrted to share this sneak peak- a photo from one of the places on my proposed route around the city.

These tiny hands are the work of a woodworker in the Oltrarno area, who makes all types of objects and architectural elements. Aren't they so lifelike?

I'm working all this week on getting the guide finished, and will let you know as soon as it's ready!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday flowers and goose update.

I've some lovely flowers today, though I have no idea of their names. The purple one grows from a bulb and there are millions of these through the fields right now. The other is a bright green flower, which works well to complement other colours and lasts forever cut.
In goose news I have nothing to report. Nothing! There has been no trade and no execution. Just three cranky geese who attack anything in their path, including cars. I'm not going to mention them again until something happens, but its becoming a bit of a joke.
I'm putting my foot down though- no pigs until the geese are dealt with. I think they're even upsetting the chooks- none of them are broody yet, with the whole coutryside exploding with new life.

Don't be shy! Leave a comment below, say hello!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Suspense- whose goose is cooked?

Am I plucking?

No, I am not. Today was supposed to be the big day; 'how to kill a goose' videos have been watched, knives have been sharpened, cushion fabric chosen.
But as we're all going out Saturday to see flatmate Marcos new show, 'goose dinner day' has been moved from Saturday to Sunday, and 'kill day' has gone from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Which has given me time to share this video, of me being attacked for your viewing pleasure.

Perhaps I should make a series of videos of me being attacke by different animals. Next up- bees. What do you think?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Three little geese went off one day...

Hi! I introduced you to the three terrors back here in February, with the surety that they were all headed to the pot. But it seemed no-one could stand the idea of doing the deed. The argument went like this; we'd wait until they laid eggs and then start regularly eating goose, keeping the initial three around as guard-geese.

All well and good, but we were wavering on what was the gender devision in the pack. One was surely a female as she was so petite- her name is Signorina. Then the largest one, Papone, was the obvious male. Papi Bitonale (named for its two toned voice) was considered a female, but then was seen to be getting up to some shenanigans with Signorina and was undecided.

The only way to know for sure is to do a close up examination. Which had been put off for general dislike for the job and danger of getting bitten. All this time the geese have been increasingly aggressive with no eggs in sight. So, Beppe and Dome bit the bullet and got up close with the geese.

Now, I'm not going to show you what a geese's man bits look like. You could probably google it. But its not a pretty sight. And the boys where more than slightly shocked when they found them on Papone, Bitonale, and then Signorina. So the girls are all boys and a new plan has been hatched.
The pig farmer down the road will swap us a female for a male, and tomorrow morning Bitonale will see his last sunrise. Signorina is going to be swapped; the boys have always preferred him (her), and can't stand to kill him.

This time tomorrow I'll be plucking. Have we done the right thing? What would you do? Leave me a message below.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Flowers

Ah! Its a lovely warm day, the swallows have returned, and everything looks alright.

I must apologise for a week with no posts, but my computer was stolen last week, and I've just now got a replacement. So what did I do with all the extra time not spent writing blog posts, editing photos or surfing (ahem, researching) the internets?

I baked bread,

banana bread,

I started an exciting new project (more on that when it's ready),

sewed a spring shirt, which you can see more of on my other blog,Confessions of a Lazy Bee
and collected flowers.

I know I've already posted the anemonies, and there are all those other flowers around to document, but they were just so abundant and pretty this week, and they'll be gone soon. The satin texture of the petals is so beautiful, and the colour!

Hope you're all enjoying the first blush of spring, or the last warmth of autumn if you're south. Get outside and breathe deeply! But if you must stay on the computer, have a look at the Caper & Co. website at www.caperandco.com


Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Flowers!

There's so many flowers around at the moment, I'm considering doing Friday Flowers twice a week. Is there anyone who objects to two Fridays a week? We could have Monday, Friday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Everyone loves Friday.

I'm also missing out on so many magnificent flowers that bloom around this time. The magnolias! The mimosa!
Today I've picked a mixed bunch of wild grass flowers. I particularly like the yellow star crocuses (my name for them, invented) though they don't last long cut.
Today's flowers are dedicated to everyone who has suffered through a long winter and needs a little sunshine.

We even have a theme song for the week.  Glam rock version.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A perfect tree

We've got lovely blue skies, flowers everywhere and the swallows have returned!

There's nothing better to be doing in weather like this than to be out pruning olives.
It's wonderful getting to know each tree individually, finding the secret bird's nests and the deep crevices in the old wood. Some of these olives are over a hundred years old, but most date from the freeze of '86 when almost all the olives in the area were lost.

I found this one tree that was just perfect. It's an old tree, with wide, moss covered limbs, a good cover of leaves and a perfect seat, way up in the canopy where no-one can see you.

Its a perfect place to read a book, and a place I would have loved as a child. I'm not too old to be reading books up trees am I?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Officially spring and olive pruning!

I know I've been going on about it for weeks,but the rest of Italy has finally caught up and it's officially spring! There's flowers all over the place and the sun is shining and we've started the annual olive pruning.
Olive pruning consists mostly of removing all growth from the inside of the tree and anything thats growing straight up; thereby keeping the tree low and letting the light in.
Here are some of my compatriots, Giglio, on lunchbreak,

and Dome, up a tree.

Up an olive tree is seriously one of my favourite places to be. Other places  are behind the breakers at a Sydney beach, and in front of a sewing machine. Coasting downhill on a bicycle. Riding around in my old car with the top down. It's a rather fun list to make. Where are your favourite places?

A quote from a favourite book/movie by EM Forster, A Room with a View (This film is actually a principal reason why I first came to Florence)
'There's no perfect view, except the sky over our heads'