Gardening 101 – new student

Twelve months in my Abruzzese palace and we are ringing up the changes, both to the house and to life. The local comune has granted me residency, and I just had a visit confirming I live here permanently by the sweetest policeman. I feel more relaxed than I’ve done in years, and am now enjoying myself, now Italy feels more like home.

I’ve also passed my probation period with the female neighbours, who have realised that I’m not a fly by night tourist, and are starting to come up to the house and introduce themselves. Once She Who Must Be Obeyed gives me the OK, it’s deemed safe for the hubby to drop in with gifts of crisp fava beans and other freshly picked goodies. I’m still a straniere (foreigner) but I’m now their straniere, to be looked after and protected.

I’m still struggling with the language, but what I do understand is (and it’s the first question I’m always asked): “Do I have a husband?”, followed by slight looks of concern when I say no, it’s just me and the two cats.  Oh Mio Dio, am I one of those dangerous cougars they have seen on TV, here solely to steal their husbands away? Well, relax ladies, have no fear on that score. Firstly, because that’s not my style; secondly, I’m not so much a sleek cougar, more a very overfed, lazy tabby cat of dubious heritage; and thirdly, because I really don’t fancy spending my twilight years being tied to the kitchen sink, making meals and cleaning up after your pasta baby tummy menfolk all day long! I don’t even clean up after myself most of the time.

However, the palazzo is currently looking very spic and span, thanks to a recent guest who took it upon herself to scrub floors and ovens. I love guests like that! The endless dust from the rewiring a few months ago has finally gone, and the kitchen is finished, just a few last little bits to sort out.

Outside is still a tip work in progress, but this morning I planted my first Italian orto (garden) in pots. Describe me to friends as having a green thumb and they will snort their tea down the wrong way, because it’s well documented that I usually manage to kill plants off with just a glance. Over watering, under watering, simple neglect leading to homicide – guilty as charged. But it’s impossible to ignore the potential of the gorgeous May sunshine here, so Mr B and I went shopping for plants and compost, and he also bravely gave me loads of seedlings – all now safely planted in pots provided by another lovely friend.  Watermelon, butternut, tomatoes, parsley, basil, mint, peppers, chillis and raspberries are all soaking up the rays – and all hoping that a miracle happens and I remember to water them.

Add to that the recent gifts of huge, juicy strawberries, asparagus, peonies and roses from the always munificent Lia and Desiree, and the palazzo looks like a beautiful organic market stall. Now if I can just avoid pizza for a while I might be able to lose some weight – but Mr B came up trumps again with watermelon and mint raita left over from a delicious north-south polenta and spicy sausage fusion lunch yesterday. I just had the raita blended with strawberries and it was LUSH. How wonderful to have something yummy and know it’s about 10 calories – so the same is planned for the rest of the week!

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