A Spring in our Step …

These last couple of weeks have been a bit strange. With the ‘fossa’ and drainage in place and a flushing toilet sitting proudly in the house, and the ‘stufa’ puffing merrily away out of its new chimney on the colder days, we’ve found ourselves tackling some of the smaller jobs around the place and it feels most relaxing not having intense, full days of work ahead of us … we can stop every once in a while and enjoy the first signs of Spring that seem to be slowly creeping up on us.

There is birdsong on a morning and a couple of very vocal blue tits that seem very agitated when I’ve not put them anything out to eat at one minute past sunrise – I’m sure one morning they’re going to get brave enough to actually knock on the door to get me up!

The morning sky is blue and the sunshine appears early … one morning we deliberately left the roof window blind open to help us wake up and enjoy more of the day, but the sunshine was so bright that I got up, closed the blind and went back to bed!

The vast mud pit that used to be a lovely wildflower meadow, until we dug the trench for the ‘fossa’, is now slowly drying out in the sun – helped by a light ‘vento di mare’ or sea wind, and the warm sunshine, to the point where we can run a rake over it and throw some seed down ready for an explosion of green in the Summer.

There are signs of buds on the fruit trees, lizards are starting to dart in and around the stones in our stone walls, and we are occasionally found in short sleeves – in full sunshine – with a mug of coffee nearby to ward off any cold spells when the clouds dare to cover the sun.

For me, Spring is a sign of new beginnings (what that basically means is that I’ve not yet got around to starting my New Year’s Resolutions!) and is a chance to try new things and learn new skills. It’s not even the end of February yet and we can already pat ourselves on the back with a couple of new accomplishments …

Marcus, who already has a great knowledge of our Land Rover Defender after changing the clutch on it last year, can now add fixing lawnmower engines, generators and ‘scavatore’ engines to his curriculum vitae. The ‘scavatore’ was the biggest achievement, and the most important, as we had four tonnes of large gravel arriving the following day and wanted to use the machine to shift and level out the deposited stone.

For those of you who’ve never tried it – large, washed gravel is an absolute pig to move manually as the shovel doesn’t slide in between the stones and you can wrestle for a few seconds before being rewarded with one stone balancing precariously on your shovel. We were near divorce the last time we worked together on a job like this in England so were glad of the ‘scavatore’ – that is until Marcus tried to start it the night before the delivery and it would not fire. A quick phone call to the builders’ merchants to cancel everything and Marcus set to work, methodically tracing where the problem could be … that night it refused to be coaxed into life, whatever he tried.

The next morning he awoke with an idea, and an hour, and not that much swearing later, the machine roared back into action, Marcus driving it around to ensure everything worked as it should, with a huge smile of success on his face which only grew bigger after I called the merchants who agreed to reinstate all three of our deliveries that same day.

Whilst not being any good with engines or anything more mechanical than a coffee machine (which is only through necessity rather than interest) I have also had a few achievements of my own this year …

I‘ve taken over Marcus’s reign as dry stone wall king and have become rather adept at building stone walls with a bad elbow in the dark (I did start when it was daylight and was determined to finish despite the sunset coming and going) and, despite my light-lacking finish, it was dead straight and level when we checked it the following morning.

On rainy days I can batch cook 8 portions of ragu, 4 portions of spicy hot chilli con carne and have them portioned into Tupperware boxes for the freezer, and have a rather yummy looking lasagne (made with some of the aforementioned ragu) ready for that night’s dinner in just under two hours, including the washing up.

And, despite all the cries of ‘È difficile!’ from every Italian we’ve asked about the bees in our house wall, I have single-handedly managed to get them out. The trick is to buy a book on beekeeping, Google everything the book doesn’t tell you, let yourself get stung to make sure you’re not allergic, price up the full beekeepers suit with all necessary equipment on Amazon, write in your Blog that it’s one of your New Year’s resolutions to rehouse them, decide where you’ll put the bees once you’ve got them out of the wall, pick out a hive design that your husband is happy to build and finally choose a paint colour for the hive (even if your husband isn’t happy with your choice). Then you look up on a sunny Spring day to the hole in the wall that the bees are usually buzzing in an out of to see … nothing. Not one bee, not even a zzzz.

But with all engines now running smoothly, all walls straight (and without a honey centre) and a freezer full of beef in various forms, we move onto March and April and a chance to add further talents to our growing list – although I’m sure most of you would be happy if I just managed to Blog weekly again … sorry about the delay on this one!

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