Yesterday started off a bit cloudy and was ideal for cutting the lawns.  I do not like to cut them when the sun is hot as it burns the lawns which are already struggling with the summer heat.  To be generous to them I sprinkled some fertiliser over the finished grass, and into the various pots dotted around the gardens.  The afternoon brought sun which shone brightly, there was a light breeze and I spent time in the afternoon indulgently lazing by the side of the pool here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House in Umbria.

I was relaxed, too relaxed when I set off to do my daily ritual of watering the garden.  Recently we have been experiencing warm winds which really dry out the plants, especially all my flowering annuals which give so much colour so freely and generously, so off to water and taken my ‘stolen hours’ I decided to call a friend and catch up with her news as I wandered from plant to plant, in the style of an Italian driver, phone in one hand and not really concentrating on the job in hand.

We had a brief chat, my friend too was busy watering, and then I put my trusty iPhone3 back in my pocket.  Only later did I discover that the phone had decided to call several other of my friends all by itself.  To them my apologies, the list is lengthy and very embarassing, what must they have heard as I walked phone on in my pocket pointing a garden hosepipe at the plants? I dread to think.

This morning rain, that sort of all penetrating rain that seeps into every crevice.  I heard a plaintif squeal from down t he lane and rushed off umbrella in hand to discover Edo one of my English Setters absoloutley sodden with his tail entwined with a sloe bush that overhang the path (mind you it is going to be a great year for sloes, the branch was heavy with fruit).  He was so upset and poor wee soul was also very wet.  We struggled to free him then scampered back to the house for a towel down and doggie biscuits!  Now as I type in my porch with its panoramic window there is a magical mist hanging in the valley below, light fluffy clouds bouncing off the wooded hillsides, it is quite delightful – or at least for me it is quite magical and tranquil,I love the freely moving transparent clouds and the rain is much needed both for the gardens and the water supply, however I do feel kinda sorry for the guys who have come to Italy for their sumer holidays wanting to tan themselves at the side of the pool. Clearly a day for reading and dvds or in my case jam making after the harvest yesterday of the yellow plums from the young tree on the lowest terrace.  Today no telephone!

Every morning I wake early and for the guys breakfast I bake muffins or as I prefer to have called them cup cakes – only now cup cakes are just too fashionable.  The flavours depend on my mood and follow no particular pattern.  This morning in the stoe cupboard I discovered a bag of wonderously perfumed cinnamon that I had brought back from my last trip to Morocco, so decided upon cinnamon muffins/cup cakes/wee cakes

They were good, moist, flavoursome and fragrant, but I feel that with four Americans staying I perhaps should not have chosen cinnamon as they do cinnamon so well in the USA and it brought back memories of a great holiday in the mountain resort of Breckenridge when staying there with friends from Scotland who had moved there we used to go for hot cinnamon rolls and vast buckets of steamy coffee topped with whipped cream…

None the less they were all devoured

Tomorrow chocolate I think!

This morning I accompanied some of the guests from Bellaugello Gay Guest House on a visit to the beautiful ancient Benedictine abbey of Montelabate.  We headed down into the Tiber valley not more than 30 minutes drive from Bellaugello and finally passing fields filled with sunflowers and lined with ancient cypressus the Abbey appeared and rose high on a rocky outcrop

The Abbey is built on an ancient Roman site, indeed the crypt features three roman era columns.  The cloister pictured above was built firstly in the 11th. century using columns salvaged from other buildings, the colonnade above is 12th. century with columns specifically carved for the cloister – unique in Italy

Above the crypt stands the huge 13th century church with towering vaulting and the remains of frescoes.  Some of the fresco work is unusual for a Benedictine abbey in that it depicts a Christ on the cross looking downwards bearing all the pain and suffering of the world

The tour continued onwards and downwards to the cellars where for centuries wine was made.  At the height of the abbey’s influence it controlled 20 castles and 30 towns stretching from lake Trasimeno to Gubbio, and wine must have been a plenty

What particularly interested me was the frantoio or oil press.  Last november I brought my olives from Bellaugello to be pressed in the new ultra modern frantoio at Montelabate, part of the same estate, but today we got to see the original grind stones and presses…..  Big difference!!

The visit rounded off with a simple al fresco lunch of local cheese, honey chick peas and bruschetta and wine all ingredients sourced from the estate, and of course a chance to buy biological olive oil and honey.  Guided tours in English, Italian and Dutch are most mondays and cost only €13.00 and I will gladly accompany any guests from Bellaugello!