Tuesday, October 2, 2018

the Greenhouse comes into its own...

...preparing for the cold...

Citrus trees start to suffer when temperatures get below 5 degrees Celsius. Recently there were a couple of nights that were pretty close to the limit, so we decided, for caution's sake, to retire our citrus into the greenhouse: one clementine, two lemons and a lemon which has reverted to its scion and become an attractive Seville orange...

...are now safely housed in our new greenhouse will be put to the test for the first time this winter...

The citrus will be in the company of a gardenia, two plumbagos, a polygala, three amaryllis, a cactus, a recovering orchid and a small mandevilla, not to mention their permanent hosts: jasmine, a large mandevilla and a stephanotis...

The greenhouse has been fitted with a special red light to promote growth and warmth. We hope our tender plants will be cosy over the winter.

And we look forward to quiet winter days when we hope to sit inside enjoying the green and the - relative - warmth.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Tomato Tribute

Solanum lycopersicum
 (fruit of the month)

Our beef tomato (cuore di bue) crop this year has offered up some impressive specimens.
One above all, weighing in at 877 grams, has inspired a tribute from afar. 

"Every August a tomato festival is held in the little village of San Giovanni Pomodorino. Contestants come from near and far for the coveted prize, pomodoro gigantico, which is to produce a cuore di bue as near as possible to 1 kilo in weight. 
This year Lulu from the nearby village of Santa Letizia Martina arrived late for the ceremony.  She rushed up to the stall where the judges were already preparing to award the prize.  Only one tomato had managed just under 850 grams.  

When they saw the size of Lulu’s entry the judges conferred and decided to accept her exhibit.  They placed the tomato on the scales.  It came in at just under 900 grams.  The chief judge who came from the rival village of San Giuseppe Solanum surreptitiously put her finger on the scales to give a reading of 1000 grams.
Lulu returned in triumph to her village where the cuore di bue now sits benignly in a niche, labelled In excelsis australis."

Thanks to H of Higher Bugford, North Devon.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Summer wildflowers

Summer fields sprinkled with flowers

Besides scabiosa, wild chicory, poppy (rare at this point of summer) wild dianthus (pink) in the river meadow below Le Ripe, many 'new' wildflowers intrigue the curious observer.

Silene vulgaris, bladder campion, maidenstears

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Elusive Golden Oriole

Heard but not seen
male Golden Oriole

The Eurasian Golden Oriole, (Oriolus oriolus) or rigogolo in Italian, winters in Africa and passes through Europe in the summer.
A few years ago a birdwatching visitor reported a fleeting sighting of a yellow and black bird he imagined to be a Golden Oriole in the fields below Le Ripe. 

dowdier female

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Markets and Festivals in Chianti

Some of the best local festivals and markets...

Greve's attractive triangular, porticoed square provides the perfect setting for a variety of markets and festivals during the year

Apart from three weekend markets selling fruit and veg, cheese, barbecued meats etc in Greve in Chianti and Castellina in Chianti on Saturday mornings and Panzano on Sunday mornings, there
are several antique/flea/craft and specialist markets as well as a selection of festivals on offer throughout the year in the Chianti area.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Night Visitor at Le Ripe

Giant Peacock Moth

Great peacock moth, giant emperor moth, Viennese emperor, the Saturnia pyri, native to Europe: this Saturniid moth is the largest European moth. Its wingspan can reach 20cm.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Walking around Villa Vignamaggio

Past, present and future revealed in a Chianti valley
- part one -

Anyone who has seen the 1993 film version of Much Ado about Nothing by Kenneth Branagh, may recall the opening scenes where the male protagonists gallop home across a verdant valley towards the villa in Messina where the play's action takes place. The villa featured splendidly in the film is not in Sicily but in the Comune of Greve in Chianti, a 15 minute drive from Le Ripe: Villa Vignamaggio.

Although the Vignamaggio website includes a cursory (and not entirely accurate) summary of the Villa's interesting history, it excludes its context: the broad, sun-filled valley it dominates. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Machiavelli's Oak

A frustrating yet fruitful exile

Florence seen from just outside the village of Sant'Andrea in Percussina where the Machiavelli family had their estate.
In 1513, when the historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, author and playwright Niccolo' Machiavelli (1469-1527) was banished from Florence to his family estate by the reinstated Medici, it must have been poignant, if not painful, to see the towers and cupolas of his native city, so near and yet so far.

The Machiavelli seat, essentially a grand farmhouse, on the road winding between Florence and San Casciano: on the opposite side of the road stands the Albergaccio inn which Machiavelli frequented. Note the height and security of the lowest windows: the road would have been a busy and at times dangerous thoroughfare.

the entrance to L'Albergaccio

Sunday, March 4, 2018

When a tree is cut down


A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.
Hermann Hesse, from Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte, collected by Volker Michels, 1984 

The two executioners stalk along over the knolls,
Bearing two axes with heavy heads shining and wide,
And a long limp two-handled saw toothed for cutting great boles,
And so they approach the proud tree that bears the death-mark on its side.

Jackets doffed they swing axes and chop away just above ground,
And the chips fly about and lie white on the moss and fallen leaves;
Till a broad deep gash in the bark is hewn all the way round,
And one of them tries to hook upward a rope, which at last he achieves.

The saw then begins, till the top of the tall giant shivers:
The shivers are seen to grow greater with each cut than before:
They edge out the saw, tug the rope; but the tree only quivers,
And kneeling and sawing again, they step back to try pulling once more.

Then, lastly, the living mast sways, further sways: with a shout
Job and Ike rush aside. Readied the end of its long staying powers
The tree crashes downward: it shakes all its neighbours throughout,
And two hundred years' steady growth has been ended in less than two hours.

Thomas Hardy, Throwing a Tree, New Forest

Monday, February 5, 2018

A New Friend at Le Ripe

Argo the Pup

Argo on arrival, looking, listening and smelling
Ten days ago Le Ripe joyfully welcomed a new resident. His name is Argo (after the dog which faithfully waited for Ulysses to return from Troy and his Odyssey). 

displaying his sniffer-hound genes

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Wood in Winter

A wood which has become the extension 
of a 
Chianti garden

Once the woods around here were cultivated for their various uses: brush for fires and ovens, wood for fuel, tools and farmwork and to make charcoal.

 Friends of ours near Panzano in Chianti have spent endless hours clearing the brush, brambles, stunted trees and bushes from the wood above their house.