Summer has been crazy busy and beautiful, hence my pause in blogging. There has been so much to do in the garden along with welcoming fantastic guests to the house. From reading the kind notes left behind and emails post departure, many of them would like to come back! Post rental period I have sat and pondered why? Is it for the lovely views, fresh air and welcome pack or watching Ana and I running around like lunatics trying to do the job of 10 people?

September has now arrived and we are taking stock of what the summer has produced. This year- not without the help and advice of the locals farmers (don’t believe it all)- we have harvested 40 to 50kg of onions, now hanging proudly in “la cantina”, 50kg+ of tomatoes which we made into 20kg+ passatta as the rest were eaten and 10kg of peppers and cauliflowers turned into agrodolce. And hurray! The firewood is finally ready! Around 8 tonnes dried, split and carried to the house ready for the winter. Just another 7 tonnes to go and we will be finished. The summer rains did not help the drying process and every time I thought it was nearly dry enough, along would come another huge rainstorm. The rains have also played havoc with the vines; what damage the deer and boar did last year the rains have been stiff competition. Despite regular spraying with a copper and sulphur solution the mildew has had the last laugh. Whilst the harvest when it arrives in the next couple of weeks will not be the best in history, I can now tour the area and see who produces natural wine and who has a little help from our friends at ICI. As you can imagine no-one ever tells you, they are just wine experts.

In view of the expected poor harvest I’m putting into play another plan I’ve had for several years but never quite got that far down the list. Cider! The first autumn apples are in the cellar and the rest will follow soon…..what could possibly go wrong?

There has been an addition to our little patch of tranquil northern Tuscany introduced by our neighbour and trusted advice-giver Bruno. He has taken a different approach to the deer, wild-boar and birds who visit his vineyard for a tasty snack of nearly ripe grapes. Instead of a fence, Bruno has seen the last of our summer guests depart and bought a gas powered cannon. Initially it went off every 3 minutes we have now negotiated it down to every 10.  The noise generated makes the bombs in the “Curva” at “La Spezia” seem quiet so I’m thinking of taking it to the home game against Livorno.  However, over a glass of last years’ production Bruno told me proudly that it was deterring everything. One man’s gain however is generally another man’s loss. Bruno and I have become great friends after his horse fell into our pool so sometimes for the sake of a friendship things are best left unsaid. My garden has turned into a wild life park!

The bee hobby has survived the first summer. The rains have meant that despite the love attention and sugar syrup on cloudy days when they don’t appear overly excited to exit the house, the net return of honey has been zero. However, I can confirm they are still there which is more than most thought would be the case by the end of the summer. Attention has turned to dealing with varroa mites and getting the bee-hives ready for winter. My friend Stefano at Pungiglione ( ) has befriended me and is making attempts to turn me into a bee-keeper. I used to think it was because he was a nice bloke but I suspect on the subject of bees if I’m left out in the wilds on my own there’s a disaster waiting to happen. His latest attempt was to invite me to a Saturday morning course on how to deal with the varroa mites. It all seemed quite easy. Open a jar, put some bees in, add a powder similar to flour, shake them around, upturn the jar with a grate over it and watch the mites drop out. From that you can see how bad the infestation is and deal accordingly. I did make an attempt at trying this but I hasten to add Stefano has promised to be here in the next few days. More on that when he comes. . .