Saturday, July 6, 2013


The locals tell us that having one of the only springs in our area makes us water independent.  They say it isn't water, but gold. After refurbishing the catchment last year with Giovanni and his son Arnaldo, our farmer neighbors, the cool clear water flows at a refreshing 56 degrees Fahrenheit all year long. 

Nor do I have to drive hours to the beach and rent a chaise and umbrella with the other basking sardines.  Instead, I spent part of my Fourth at my private Tuscan beach, feet in the water, reading and sipping between the spearmint (left) and the watercress (right) in that shade of a lovely willow tree.

Technically, it's a spring catchment, but I call it, The Nymphaeum (after the grottos or shrines the ancient Romans dedicated to water nymphs inhabiting springs).  It's a rare place in this desert part of Tuscany that has cool fresh water springing from the ground.  Who am I to say it isn't enchanted?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ditch Maintenance: Protecting my investment … one blister at a time.

This is a reminder that a drainage ditch is something that stops being what it is when it fills up with earth and vegetation.  And that ditches are really about roads.

Here's the ugly truth.  Note the two spontaneous ditches down driveway.  The lush, undisturbed growth on the right was once the ditch.

The secrets of a Tuscan driveway revealed – demolition rubble trucked in from another construction site.  Though my photo doesn’t reveal it, it’s half a foot deep in places. Cars don't like roads like this.

With the local excavators unavailable because of the unusually wet winter and spring, I am on my own with a maintenance issue everyone else here in the Tuscan hills seems to understand intimately – runoff.  And that means erosion.  

I had to do it myself, a mano.  From lunch until cocktail hour on a Saturday, four solid hours with pick, shovel and rake.  Woke up awful sore at four o’clock am.

Here are things looking a bit more driveable.  Note the new small ditch on the upper left.  More work needed on the right, including to the ditch.

Not a very sexy post, I know.  Just wanted to show one of the less obvious things about farm life.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Meating of Minds

Sally and I could have gone to Eataly for our prosciutto. But sometimes the best way to get a good artisanal ham is to make it yourself. With Italian friends.  In New Jersey, USA.  Here are six of them.

While overwintering in New York, Sally and I were invited by her master printer Gerard Franciosa and his father Antonio to join their family in the annual sausage and ham preparation.  It has to be done when the temperature is cold.  In deep winter.  In a cellar.  In suburban New Jersey.

The ham has to be butchered into a classic "chicken leg" shape.  All the scraps are turned into sausage using Antonio's proprietary mix of 11 (more or less) herbs and spices.  These are hung to cure and the hams are salted and left in his special basement cantina. In underground New Jersey.

The wine in those glasses is Antonio's own.  Made of Thompson seedless grapes.  In his cellar. In New Jersey. It was, as they say in the home country, squisito!