Thursday, April 19, 2018

Poppies along the road

We walk down the road from our HomeExchange house to where our car is parked (across from the church). The poppies are starting to flower everywhere here in Umbria along roadsides and in fields.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Trevi, Umbria

Our HomeExchange house is near Trevi, a wonderfully situated Umbrian hilltown. This was the view coming back from the supermarket late this afternoon.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Spring green in Umbria

The fields are beautiful now, with green fields promising grains and hay to come. Other fields have just been tilled, ready for a variety of beans, I think, based on what’s on display in the “producto tipico” shops in the local hill towns. A remarkable variety of dried beans and lentils are on display.

Fava beans are just starting to flower, and I bought a few early pods in the grocery yesterday. There are lots of fields of fava in the Valle Umbra, where we are.

What I think are grapevines on the terrace, in the garden of our HomeExchange house, are leafing out, and a lovely climbing rose (it looks like a minuature Lady Banks double, but is undoubtedly a European selection) is starting to flower, as are local wildflowers.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Flowers in Spello, Umbria

A wonderful hill town near Assisi, Spello has adopted the theme of flowers and art as a marketing tag — a successful endeavor, as it’s by far the “greenest” of any of the hill towns we’re visited so far!  Delightful.  Annual contests encourage participation - note the beautiful ceramic awards for this lane.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Local grains and bread

Umbrian bread is similar to Tuscan bread, traditionally made without salt, and with white flour. But there’s definitely a reviving local interest in whole-grains, grown locally, and milled in Umbria.

We made a detour to visit an exceptional bakery that pops up in Google searches, the Granarium ( — they grind their various flours from grains sourced locally.

A delicious loaf of whole-grain bread came back with us, as did a rapidly-consumed piece of pizza.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Back online and the oddities of the digital age

Hardly a tagline for gardening, observing nature, or experiencing and commenting on the natural world, but it’s definitely a necessary component of sharing photos in various formats.

When I’m connected to the internet, I don’t think much about the data usage of images, but the last week without connection reminded me of how data-demanding posting and emailing with images can be.
Tonight’s view from our cottage in Umbria
A quick FB image doesn’t use too much data (as I think they’re automatically resized?), but linking to a larger photo via a blog post does, as does uploading/downloading photos, etc. Hmm, and updating apps, etc. — forget that if you just have cellular data to rely on.

We both had generous 4 GB data allotments on our Italian SIM cards, but with the internet down, I’d blown through about 2 GB, largely through blog posts and an accidental app updating.

So happily, after my various troubleshooting adventures with the modem, determining that it wasn’t our iPhones/iPads, testing the password (capital O is different than zero; lowercase letter “l” looks like numeral one), and with the help of two nice TIM (the Italian internet/phone/TV company) fellows that we interacted with, one in the TIM store and the other a TIM techician who visited the house, we have working internet in our lovely HomeExchange house. Woo-hoo!

This gives me pause, as we’re both veteran travelers, and have experienced the last decades of transition from film and expensive phone calls home to dropping by the “internet cafe” to check home email, to being happy to have occasional wireless access, to think, don’t they have wireless? Etc.

Not to mention that this post requires Blogo to post, then Blogger for a quick photo downsizing, as Blogo has issues with that, and tricking Blogger into a longer post (via vertical orientation and removing the keyboard attachment).  Not to mention quickly adding some labels! Blogo doesn’t do that well!

And, all of this requires lots of transmitted data. Thanks, TIM folks.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Valle Umbra

This valley is extraordinary, apparently preserved by olive trees and vineyards, and a concerted effort to preserve the sense of place outside of the hilltowns. Most new construction is plaster with tile roofs, carefully placed to coordinate in the landscape.

This is the view from our HomeExchange house.

It’s a great place.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Puttering in the garden

I love the sense of adventure and delight that’s part of being in the garden each day. What’s new, what’s flowering, what shall I add or tend?
Away from my own garden, I had a lovely time tidying up here in our HomeExchange garden yesterday- simple weeding of bedstraw and foxtails and discovering what’s been planted.
I’m going to plant the window boxes and containers, too, as thanks for our extra time here. They’ll be here around mid-May for the summer. Perhaps some succulents and drought tolerant perennials!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A first tulip

This tulip isn’t quite in flower, but close, so nice to see it before we leave. It was one of the Colorblend bulbs, all of which are growing well. A container full of tulips near the raised beds is also about to flower, perfect for the folks here in our absence!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Heading off for more traveling

This has been an exceptional traveling year, with more traveling to come.

As a gardener, I need to think about gardening opportunities to come, but also have just cleaned up my raised beds here in the mountains of North Carolina, planted a few more herbs and veggies, and we're watering, and hoping for rain.

Our Home Exchange partners will enjoy the beds, I hope, as will we, when we return.  The harvested collards yesterday were delicious.

This summer, we think we'll be shaping a lovely ornamental and fruit garden up in Quebec towards a more wildlife-friendly one, as we enjoy a wonderful historic house near Parc National de Bic and incredible natural landscapes on the Gaspe Peninsula.  We'll see.

Life has a way of providing serendipitous turns that weren't expected.

An old renovated schoolhouse turned into a wonderful place

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