Saturday, April 28, 2018

Travel, gardens, and nature

Traveling brings experiences that expand your world view, whether it makes familiar a previously unknown place, provides a glimpse into other cultures and other lives, or contributes to a pilgrim’s journey towards discovering touchstone places in the world.

Always, my traveling, with my gardening companion and on my own, has involved nature, gardens, foodways, and cultural experiences. I’m always interested in how people relate to their garden spaces, how they grow, obtain, and prepare food, and how they interact with the surrounding landscapes, urban or rural.

There’s always a road ahead, and a garden to return home to..

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

A last Umbria sunset

We’re leaving Umbria tomorrow for a couple of days in Tuscany, outside the hilltop town of Montepulciano, then a day in Lido de Ostia (a seaside town near the Rome airport) before leaving for home.

A lovely last sunset over the Valle Umbra. It’s been a wonderful place to be.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A beautiful climbing rose in Italy

Below our deck, our HomeExchange partners planted a lovely climbing rose, which is almost in full flower. It’s a local favorite, and apparently quite robust.

It’s not fragrant, but lovely.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Mache (Corn salad)

I’ve grown Mache in the winter at home. It’s an amazingly cold tolerant salad green. So it’s been interesting to see it here in Umbria in late April, both in chef-centered restaurants (eg. today in Spoleto), but also as a specialty green at the local grocery down the hill.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Poppies are brightening the landscape

Along the path returning from our hike today, near the location of spotting my first wild asparagus plants, the poppies have continued to illuminate the hillsides. I’m assuming they’re poppies that have naturalized for centuries, now here permanently in a climate that suits them, and in the open fields and edges of the unmowed olive orchards. 

But, they’re lovely, nonetheless, and iconic in landscape images, both painted and photographic, in Umbria and Tuscany.

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Wild asparagus

It’s wild asparagus time in Umbria, and we’ve been seeing locals foraging along roads adjacent to olive groves, in thickets, and in shallow ditches. They often wear rubber boots, and carry cloth collecting bags — some even have special tools to clip and catch the spears, after they’ve been spotted in the deep grassy mix.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for shoots (thinking, hey I have a good eye for plants), to no avail, until this morning’s hike, when I finally spotted 2 asparagus shoots in a thicket, after we hiked by an older fellow collecting in the woody thicket above the trail.

I wish I could say that I collected this bunch, but I bought it at our small local market down the hill, undoubtedly collected by a local (there was only one bunch). I paid a very rarified price, but remember the high prices that cultivated asparagus commands at our spring tailgate markets.

Our first tasting, on breakfast omelets, yum!

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Valle Umbra

The view of the Umbra valley from the downstairs den of our HomeExchange house.  We’ve really had a lovely time exploring this valley and surrounding ones.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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