Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Week in Calabria

Could we have predicted that one day in our lives we would receive firewood via Vincenzo and Pepino the mule?
It's not that this week was that much different than other weeks, it's that every week is different--an adventure--as we had hoped. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we asked for that.  

This fall is marking the end of restoration efforts here.  We are at the point where we are trying to add the finishing touches.  The trouble with guest rooms is that you only have decorative stuff that is left over from the main my one and only watercolor and the painting of bighorn sheep.  Sounds nice but they really don't fit in...(my painting was of an abandoned house in Oregon and it always had a creepy Halloween feel to it).... so we decided to go to the Sagra Della Castagna (Chestnut Festival) in Trecchina just 45 minutes to the north and look for some new art.  We didn't find the perfect painting but it was a perfect day and the roasted chestnuts were very good.
This isn't Trecchina, but you can see we are going up where the Chestnuts live
Here is Trecchina, perched in the mountains.  

Doug loved the town--he says it's because it looks like everyone cares about it--we bought our bag of chestnuts and sat in the square and watched an artist working on displaying his work.  It was very funny. He kept fiddling with the display with all the paintings facing in so we couldn't see them until the final unveiling.  As it turned out, they were very good but nearly all still life.  We were hoping for landscapes or town scenes.

While in the square we noticed this lady who loved music and life in general.  She kept time to the music while chewing her chestnuts.  The picture doesn't do her vitality justice.

It was also an important week for our new friends from the States who moved here officially on the 18th.  We "helped" them with their kitchen design.  It was fun to share their joy at finally being here. 
Our restoration is slowing down--we are still waiting for shower doors, sink drains, etc. etc.  Before and after pictures are still planned for this fall, though.  Ciao, a presto.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Indian Summer Calabria

So many Indian Summer memories--Riding horseback into the Colorado backcountry during hunting season, driving hundreds of miles through forests in Eastern Oregon checking camps and people during hunting season, planting garlic, canning tomatoes, and harvesting pumpkins at Rainshadow Farm.  Now we are making new memories but many of the fall tasks remain the same.

Pumpkin Harvest--Rainshadow 2002
No one is sure what Indian Summer exactly is or where the term originated--but it's an evocative enough couple of words that it drove out St. Martin's summer in the UK as the phrase to use to describe those last perfect days.  Some say a frost must precede it--but here we had lots of rain followed by the sunny clear days we are now enjoying.  It feels like Indian Summer. Indian Summer is bittersweet because we know winter is licking our heels.  We're not harvesting or riding horses this year, but we still need to gather firewood and get flu shots--a form of gathering before winter overtakes us.

Wood is abundant in the American west in the National Forests where we both worked.  Gathering firewood was a necessary, but fun thing to do. Here in Calabria we heat with gas in the main house and have a brand new airtight fireplace in the guesthouse. I have a little legna (firewood) left in the basement, but after watching my neighbor bring home wood last weekend, I caught the firewood bug again and had to get more--I just don’t own a chainsaw anymore.

The Neighbor's wood before they hauled it inside their storage room
I ordered €50 worth of oak wood from the same fellow and he brought it Monday. He hauls it from the family woodlot in the back of a Fiat sedan! We dropped it over the edge of the piazza and reduced the distance to our house by 12 steps. Hence, I only had to haul the wood down 50 steps instead of 65. I estimate the wood we bought amounts to about 1/5 of an American cord (4x4x8ft), so this little pile comes to about $300 per cord. Spendy compared to Oregon, but remember Italy doesn’t have the expansive forests. Another difference is that the Calabrians cut live, green trees for firewood usually. There is not an abundance of dead and dying timber here. This of course means that the wood I bought is too wet and green to burn this year by my standards. The Italians put it into open fireplaces where most of the heat goes up the chimney and not into the kitchen. Even if my Italian were better, I don’t think some of the old timers would want to hear about change.

Vince likes to help--Di not so much
I’m buying 3 loads of non-oak wood from another local man who delivers €15 worth of wood right to your doorstep with his mule. We’ll be sure to get a picture of this for the blog!

Although not a nice outdoorsy thing to talk about, something you hear on the media in the fall in the US is news about the latest flu vaccines. We started getting flu shots about 5 years ago after we both had a bad flu encounter. So, I went to our local farmacia and asked where I could get a shot. The dotoressa said I could get two shots right there in the evening when she opened after siesta. Yep, I returned at 6:00, paid €18 for two flu shots, and she handed them to me. That’s right, it seems most people are expected to give themselves shots.

Well, we “discussed this” at home, and it was decided that we didn’t want to teach ourselves to give injections at home. I went back to the pharmacy and the young chemist offered to do it for us at no charge. BTW, this woman is one of three people in town who speak a little English, so it’s always fun to try Italian with her and she gets to practice English. All of our American prescription drugs so far are just given to us here with no further need to visit a physician.

Hey, enjoy your fall wherever you are. Guido.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Beam Me Up, Capitano Kirk

The old Star Trek is hilarious enough on its own, but watch it in Italian and it could make you dizzy.
I may have mentioned before that I am not used to being one of the dumb kids in class.  Well, this is what happens when you go to Italian language school (free at the Scalea Scuola Media) where there are many levels of people there including those that speak Italian just fine already and make you wonder if perhaps they need a life or they just like hearing the teacher tell them how wonderful their Italian is.

What does this have to do with Star Trek, you may ask.  I shall explain:

I have a friend--she is one of those Trekkies who goes to the reunions and only likes the original series.  I'm not one of those...nevertheless, I watched the original series as a college student (for the second time) in the late seventies.  It had just gone camp and culty.  My roomate used to watch it.  I was not particularly loyal--a good enough reason to eat some popcorn once in a while.  I forgot all about it until the early 90's when I began watching TNG (Star Trek, the Next Generation to the uninitiated--you know, Captain John Luke Piccard) and then Voyager after work.  I loved Captain Janeway--you go girl and all that.  Actually, I think Doug likes her too.

Trying to make a long story short, Star Trek began to represent three things to me.  First, a connection to what we call the "Sixties" when people thought they could actually go ahead and change the world for the better.  Even the universe! Star Trek has a wonderful optimistic view of the future underneath it all.

Second, it represented comfort and I suppose the third is a fantasy world for escape.  I found out that buying DVD's from the States was a gamble due to customs--so I started ordering them from  When you order them from Europe, you get a choice of languages.  At first I thought it was just for the warning about copying the DVD, then I found out you could actually pick all those languages for the dubbing, not just sub-titles, mind you.  By now I have all the Star Trek DVDs (I have snubbed Deep Space 9 and the one that is supposed to take place before Kirk)

My neighbor tells me she learned English by watching soap operas.  Well, I'm not going to do that even for such a worthy cause, but I shall try to learn Italian by going to school, going out in the world here, and while watching good old Star Trek.  Would you like me to beam you up now?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Real Hair Madonna

Last weekend was Festa di Piano which refers to Via Piano, the lower road through the village.  It began Friday night with a concert and food sales,  then picked up again Sunday morning with a market. The concert in front of the little chapel is just 300 meters downhill from us, so we could easily listen from home.  I guess I’d describe the group as a B- garage band. Not bad to fall asleep to!
The market cleared out at one o'clock to make room for a procession. I don’t know enough about the church to explain these processions. Some are about a specific saint.  This one has a Madonna and no saint. I see the priest with the sun glasses regularly having a smoke and caffe’ at a piazza bar, but never realized he was the village priest – guess they don’t wear round collars anymore. The Sunday activities were some of the first daytime things this year.

Sunday morning before sunrise, we heard the vendors arriving below.  Most of them appear to be the same as you’ll see in the markets around the towns on any particular day of the week.  So, much like in the US, this festa is another opportunity for vendors to make some euros! Notice the little chapel from above.

All processions have a marching band of course. The clarinet guy to the left helped us carry 7,000 lbs of floor tile down the steps to our apartment in July. 

Much of the town comes out to participate including carrying the flowers and Madonna. We’ve heard that there is real human hair on this Madonna.

The procession snaked around the lower village below our place with a destination of the main church. We have never found a list of village activities, but assume this may be one of the last for the season as we move into fall. The weather is still fantastic with clear air and days around 27(80). October is a choice month almost everywhere, eh?
Auguri, Guido

Friday, October 1, 2010

Restoration Fun Update 5

Vince thought he'd help make the photo more interesting...he's good that way
We are getting around to an interesting time in the restoration when everything is almost finished but nothing is getting done.  We are waiting to get the kitchen counter, the shutters, to finish the electrical, door knobs, shower head, and shower doors.  You can see Guido painting above.  Angelo found out that he's a good painter so he has become their touch-up and iron painter.  He took some pictures of the iron work installation as that is the one of the few happenings in the past few weeks.  We have been very busy with one thing and another, so this is frustrating because we think something will arrive as soon as we leave the house. (We won't be doing another update until everything is will be a before-after final-type update) but unfortunately, don't know when it might be...  

Here is the railing just before it was installed on the basement steps
This was interesting in that they asked me what design I'd like so I said
just like the public parking lot.  Of course this is nothing like it...

There are still many, many iron works companies in Calabria.
They design, make, install...all custom

You can see that all the plants are moved.
There was a moment of tension when I said they couldn't cut down my flowering vine.
They thought I was crazy.  Doug saved me by remaining on my side during the altercation.
We hung it up out of their way on the electrical box and Doug painted the iron around it.  


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