Balmy evening at Bellaugello

Following a day of intense heat, last night was one of those beautiful balmy evenings, the warm light breeze wafting the heady scent of lavender across the garden,  an excuse for dinner on the terrace at Bellaugello Gay Guesthouse in the delightful Umbrian countryside.

Unusually for us the majority of the guys were from the UK and talk was very much of British things including the recent Jubilee celebrations and of course the weather.  I learnt that next week it is forecast to get even hotter here in Umbria, some are even talking of 45˚c an anti-cyclone called ‘the devil’……

But last night it was stunningly pleasant, the conversation such fun, great wines, so much so that the full moon had to peek round the house just to see what all the merriment was about before coming into full view and brightly lighting the sky

Sunday Lunch – A tasting menu

Great friends who also have an agriturismo invited me over to Sunday lunch today.  It was once again a beautiful sunny day, and the drive thorught the winding lanes over hilltops and through shady valleys was delightful.  There is a dusting of snow on the Apeninnes and the Abruzzo hilltops capped in snow were glistening in the bright sunshine. The wind is still chilly, it seems that Italy cannot decide if it is spring or still winter.

Before I left I walked the dogs down from Bellaugello Gay B&B, on their favourite short walk to the neighbours lake. The spring  bulbs and flowers are coming up, crocuses, and daffodils, little delicate violets and the first almond blossom, and trees are budding so it is spring, we just need to get away from the cold wind.

At lunch today there were other friends also with agriturismi.  There is an unwritten protocol in Gubbio that when invited over for a meal one generally brings a dish of some sort.  Today without collusion we all arrived with cakes and breads.

It seems we all have been busy baking and trying out new recipies, and experimenting. Of course after a splendid lunch laid on by our hosts we all had to tuck into each others’ cakes and pastries, exchange recipies and discuss ingredients and the vagueries of oven temperatures.

One conclusion, if today was anything to go by, breakfasts here at the Agriturismi in Gubbio, Umbria, Italy are going to be utterly delicious.

The 50 States

Some things like fine wine and good cheeses improve with age, but not everything.

Whilst in general I guess I have improved with age, I have grown out of truancy,  now wash my own clothes, am a courteous driver,  and am ecologically aware, one thing has not improved;

I was running through the webstats for my gay bed and breakfast here in Umbria at website and checking on the hits received from the Untied States.  Magical sounding states are clicking on my website.  I tried playing a game, reading the state name and trying to place it on the map, oh dear although geography is one of my strong points I did not achieve more than 70% accuracy – and that was with only 16 states that had hits on my website yesterday.  Which led me to remember a game played with my parents when I was still quite young.

We had a fine old atlas at home and such was my love of travel and thirst for knowledge that my parents used to open the atlas at a page without names and I had to guess the country or state.  I well remember getting all 50 states of the USA correctly named in the correct place, ok maybe it took a bit of practice, however today I fare less well and for some reason also thought there were 52 states,  age and memory loss, it comes to us all or is it that after so many years here on this earth I have taken in such a vast quantity of facts that I can only recall a certain percentage?  Boh..

Saturday and the sun is shining!

I awoke to the most wonderful sunrise over the Apeninnes and the sun has contiued to shine over Bellaugello Gay bed and breakfast in Umbria.

Hardly a cloud in the sky, the ground should start to dry after yesterday’s wet weather. Spring is in the air!

Yummy Soda Bread

While ranting in my last post the bread was cooking, depsite finding the road in the garden, and several broken tree limbs, this morning I made soda bread.

This is a traditional bread recipe of  Irish and Scottish origin made without yeast, and utterly delicious.  Here at Bellaugello gay bed and breakfast in my recipe I use organic wholemeal flour and specially imported Scottish oatmeal.

Smothered in butter and the home-made Bellaugello marmalade it is a delicious breakfast.

Global Warming

I am a Global Warming Sceptic.  I Believe it is happening but not necessarily for the reasons the media and politicians would have us believe.

I guess our climate is changing, and we are experiencing freak weather, but is this not quite simply a natural cyclical progression of the world.  Through time there have been ice ages and warm spells, rivers normally wet froze and rivers normally wet dried up, sea level changed, and vegetation migrated to and fro, and all this without the internal combustion engine or aerosol sprays.  Big business just wants to sell us their ‘ecological’ product – which is in no way ecological.

Tell me honestly what is ecological about ‘energy saving lightbulbs‘?  They do not last any longer than conventional incandescent lightbulbs, indeed they last a shorter time.  Here in Italy a low energy lightbulb costs anything from €5 to €12.  Now that is not cheap, so when last in the UK to see my partner I filled my 10kg luggage allowance with among other things low energy lightbulbs.  Three have already failed.  Tell me please why is it that I have a lightbulb in one of my bedside lamps that I removed from a house I bought in the 1980’s in Scotland, the bulb has travelled round that country and is now here in Italy and it works, bright as the day it was made.  Have you ever looked at an ‘environmentally friendly’ lighbulb.  Boy oh boy is it complicated, where do all those parts come from and what ever is in the base?  To the simpleton in me it looks far more scary than a convertional lightbulb.  Someone is making money putting this rubbish in the bulb, and we are paying for it.  The ploiticos claim these bulbs use less energy, but how much additional energy does it take to make?   Bring back the incandescent lighbulb, cost 80cents, manufactured locally and when it does finally give in, is less environmentally damaging to dispose of.

Yes we must act responsibly, irresposibility is not good, and I include in irresponsible acts, largescale housing on floodplains, destruction of rainforest, and needless polution, often perpetrated by large multi-national corporations and senseless acts such as flying prawns fished in Scotland to be peeled in Thailand and then flown back to Scotland for consumption.  and what really annoys me is that 80% of the energy consumed by a car in its lifetime is used in its manufacture, surely an arguement for classic cars, yet no we are lured into trashing our existing cars and buying new with ‘government sponsored scrappage schemes’

As a race, we need to re-learn the skills of caring and consideration which we seem all to much have replaced with greed and gain.

To me global warming is inevitable, we as a human race may be contributing to it but not on the scale the politicos and big business would have us believe. Here at Bellaugello gay guest house in Umbria we have restored the house using products that are as bio friendly as building will permit.  Many of materials used have been manufactured locally and I recycle like mad.  Unlike a house restoration in the UK which professed 100% ecological pretentsions.  The stone for rebuild of the ruined the house had to be transported from a quarry in Wales, it wa acceptable to use concrete as long as it was not seen in the end result, and the ‘environmentally friendly eco-sustainable’ roofing material, reed thatch came all the way from Romania, yeah real ecological!  I don’t claim to be an eco-freek however I would like to think I am eco-aware.

And all this because last night there was a southerly wind that blew into a storm. One of the problems of having a house on a southerly sunny aspect, is when the wind comes from the south we get it all, and yesterday evening it was like being in the slipstream of a jet fighter, everything but everything was racing to escape.  We have electric cables below the house and every so often a blue flash would light up the sky and  the power went down in the house, the satelite dish spun round like a whorling dervish, for once Sky programming was entertaining.

As I went to bed it started to rain. This morning I awoke to torrential rain and the sight of the road sitting in the garden.  We installed a rainwater grille at the main entrance to Bellaugello gay bed and breakfast here in Umbria, – the road to the house slopes gently down toward the gate, but clearly it is not big enough, the water cascaded over the grille and decided to wash the road surface, and re-locate a large pile of sand into the garden.

Global warming, huh I don’t know all I do know is that I now have to wheelbarow loads of sand back uphill, one happy consequence, it beats going to the Gym!

I’ll leave this rant with one last observation.  When walking in Glasgow with my three dogs I assidiously picked up the dog ‘mess’ by means of plastic mini-sacks kindly given out free of charge by Glasgow City Council.  Yes I too hate stepping in dog dirt.  Picking the dirt up – Admirable, but no.  What is the sense of collecting an organic product and putting it in an non-degradable receptacle which is then either left hanging in trees – (can somebody please explain that strange phenomenon?) or whisked  off to the landfill or incinerator?  Who profits?  The bag manufacturers, landfill site and incinerator site operators, and they are not me and you, they are big business.

Erba Medica – a baptism by fire

The fields here at Bellaugello are sown with erba medica or lucerne and given the abundant sunshine and occasional rain shower are flourishing.  The current crop was first sown here some four years ago, each year being cut twice for animal feed.

This year following the first cut it looked possible to harvest and then sell the seed, so off I went to enquire of my farming neighbours the best way to go about harvesting and selling the seed on whose advice took me this morning to a farm near to Gubbio.

I was expected at 9am but on account of works in progress here with the duplex apartment meant that I arrived at 10am, not unduly late for Italy, but a bit of an embarrassment for me.  Having telephoned ahead I was given the directions favoured by Italians ‘vai diritto’ quite simply keep going straight on.  Because they know where they are going to the locals it is simply keep going!!  By good fortune I had arrived without mishap.

I was greeted at the door to an upper level of a small building within a large farm complex and invited in. I was shown into a room in this traditional building with a large table in the centre, around which were seated nine men all enjoying breakfast.  Cured sausages and legs of prosciutto hung from beams on the ceiling, whilst all around the walls were machines for slicing meats and time worn chopping boards.  Immediately a place was laid for me and the son of the farmer dispatched to the adjoining room to prepare food.

Very soon a large pan arrived with a piece of steak sizzling in its own juices.  Expertly decanted onto my plate with the cooking liquor poured over it and bread passed down the table, I was in heaven and introduced to my fellow diners.  Not as I first thought only the men who worked on the farm, but also friends of my host. As I tucked into the delicious meat I was introduced to the room as a neighbour of a good friend of my host, and so a conversation ensued of where I was from and how I liked living in Valdichiascio, being a friend of a good friend is really important here in Italy.

Soon my glass was filled with a crisp local white wine straight from the chill of the fridge, and conversation moved on to hunting.  It seemed my new acquaintances were all keen wild boar hunters who looked down on other hunters who shoot only hares and pheasants.  Having received a call on his cell phone my host soon turned the conversation to the subject of transporting livestock  It seemed that there was to be a consignment from Calabria.  It was fascinating to hear him talk of the importance of the truck leaving in the middle of the night to ensure the animals were not over-stressed by the heat of the day, and pleased me to learn that they must have a plentiful supply of drinking water and food for the journey.  I know animals are transported long distances, but this guy really had a heart.  I listened intently to the conversation, all in local Eugubine dialect.  Althought I did not completely follow the conversation I understood enough to make small contributions whilst my fellow diners made every effort to make me feel welcome, after all I was ‘a good neighbour’ and ‘in gamba’ to a best friend of my host.

Home cured prosciutto and a rich mature pecorino were passed down to me, along with another glass of wine, and then coffee ‘coretto or normale’ , no more alcohol for me, I was beginning to feel light headed, and still the business to attend to.

We discussed the options for the seed harvest and I have been given time to decide on which way I want to proceed.  We parted as friends, I guess I must have passed my inauguration  to the local farming community way of doing business.  It was somewhat scary, a baptism by fire but an utter delight to be invited to sup and break bread with such people, and to witness first hand the comradeship and real way business is conducted here.