I’ve already mentioned that we were lucky enough to have been left some tools by the lady who sold us the house and, although they’re all pretty old, and we’ve had to ‘retire’ a couple of pieces due to some over-zealous digging on our part, they’ve been really useful. We’ve managed to do all our work so far – re-levelling the whole of the driveway, digging out the steps to our new compost area and building our rustic fence for re-supporting the grape vines along the front of the house, and all we’ve had to buy to top up our ‘attrezzi’ is a rake and some branch ‘loppers’! But that is all about to change as Marcus has made his first trip back to the UK in a van we’ve hired, to collect some of our belongings from our storage container.

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Where liquids and test results are concerned, we’re not having much luck! Our wine has turned out to be less of a Bonarda and more of a ‘Bonar-don’t’ and we’ve finally got the results back on our water sample from our well. A two page document in Italian listing the various tests carried out, and alongside these, the result of each test and a column detailing the maximum permitted amount of each element. All was looking good until we got to the bottom of page one and we noticed that our result figure was a lot larger than the permitted figure … and the word ‘batteri’ (bacteria) in the test name … oh!

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We’ve managed to pick the hottest day of the year so far (who’d have thought that it would be t-shirt weather on 4th February?) to test our ‘stufe’ (cast iron stoves) but we hauled them both outside into the sunshine, cleaned them up of all existing debris and piled up our little selection of firewood (handily found in our newly reorganised ‘fienile’) to get a small fire lit in each one. After watching the smoke billow from the newly cleaned seams on each stove (and which probably wasn’t helped by our choice of wood which may have been a bit on the ‘green’ side – good job there were no neighbours passing to point that out …) they both settled down to a nice steady burn, giving off a good amount of heat. And when it came to coffee time, we set our kettle on the little stove top to boil, before sitting in the shade to take a break with a drink.

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We have news on the twelve bottles of unknown vintage in our ‘cantina’ … unfortunately the verdict isn’t good … they’re undrinkable! Bruno, our next door neighbour, likes a drop of the red stuff so we took a dusty bottle up to him to taste. Not a good sign when the cork breaks three times when trying to remove it but he poured himself a small glass and tried it … his face said it all. However he said not to throw it away but to pour all the other bottles into a large demi-john and leave to turn into vinegar which we can then use on our summer salads.

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Well the rigger boots are broken in, along with my back, my forearms and my thighs! I made the mistake of adding a bit of morning exercise to my daily routine last week and I felt it for about three days afterwards. It didn’t help that the day after I had this inspiration to exert myself voluntarily in our awning, we went up to the house to do some more driveway levelling … every step up the incline was painful!

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You’ll be forgiven for thinking, from the above photograph of the cleanest pair of rigger boots ever, that we’ve yet to start work on the house … but you’d be wrong. I actually ordered this fashionable footwear after getting carried away with a mattock and a shovel on our last visit when I decided to do a bit of driveway re-levelling. I was knocking soil and grass out of my boot laces for days so I’ve invested in an old favourite – when we renovated and built houses back in the UK, I lived in my steel toe-capped boots so, with a bit of breaking in they’ll soon be like slippers again.

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Well 2016 looks like it’s going to be a biggie for us. With our most expensive Christmas present to ourselves ever, sitting forlorn and empty amongst five acres of unkempt grass and woodland we’ve got our work cut out.  After two years of searching for the perfect property, we are finally the proud owners of a small farmhouse in Northern Italy with a barn, a wood oven, a well, a few grape vines, some fruit trees, a large walnut tree, at least one wasps’ nest and definite signs of an animal of some sort living rent free in the ‘legnaia’ (wood store). It’s not a large house, we don’t need a lot of space for just the two of us and our cat, but after spending those last two years living in our caravan on various campsites, it feels like a castle!

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