We opened our doors for the 2019 season in late April, and started with welcoming the most exquisite of guests.  For me it is always a pleasure to greet returning guests, and this year was no exception, a truly fantastic start to the 2019 season at Bellaugello Gay Guest House.

Spring is a time of the year I love.  The new buds on the plants, flowers bursting forth and insects busy feeding on the nectar.  I find it somewhat amusing to write that I was happy to see the rain, but indeed I was.  The winter had been unusually dry and rain was much needed.  What fell was good.  That slow constant rain that infiltrates the ground which was so parched, it soaked up the water greedily.  The newly formed fruit thankfully was left intact.  It is going to be another amazing year for the Apricots.  The branches already beginning to bend low with the weight of the young fruit.

So kind was the weather that it was beautifully dry, sunny and warm over the long Easter holiday.  This for me is when the season really comes alive.  On the Friday evening before Easter we all headed into our local town of Gubbio to witness the ‘Processione di Cristo Morto’.  A ritual that has been enacted for centuries.  Getting a good position as the piazza filled, we soon hear the sound of the ‘Battistrangole’ the clackers that announce the arrival of the procession.  It is strangely haunting

Candles, uniforms, hoods, and then the choir chanting the sombre ‘Miserere’, as the dead Christ is carried high on a litter.  It is a magical moving event.

Next passes Mary…

and as the procession wends its way down medieval streets we are drawn by one of the fires that are lit in the centre of the beautiful town of Gubbio.

We head off to ‘Officina dei Sapori’ for a marvellous dinner before wending our way back home to Bellaugello.

I was lucky once again to have two beautiful artistic guests who helped me realise my concept of an Easter Breakfast table centre.  Perugina chocolate egg sitting in a nest of fragrant camomile hay brought in by Daniela, and foliage from the garden. The guys surrounded the egg with hens eggs dyed with red and white onion skins, together with mini chocolate eggs and bunnies and speckled quails eggs.  A veritable triumph!

Our local baker produced an exquisite cheese bread ‘Crecsia di Pasqua’ and a Colomba this year with peaches and champagne, all rather delicious and more-ish!

The food bonanza continued as we all headed off across the valley to join in the annual egg rolling and lunch at my good friends’ organic farm.  We feasted on goodies brought by guests from their home countries or towns, and tucked into new season lamb roasted in the wood oven.  A big hit was the pickled herring with rich eggy mayonnaise and the most delicious rye bread made by two guys from Copenhagen.  The Rye bread was a huge hit (so good I wasn’t in time to photograph it!) and the recipe is now circulating widely here amongst friends.  It could well be the next food trend in Gubbio!

After lunch we were entertained in the warm dappled sunlight in the courtyard by harmonica, flute and saxophone.  A wonderfully relaxed and happy way of spending a Sunday afternoon.

Now I’m back in the garden.  The rain and warmth brought on huge amounts of growth and I have much to do.  The Wisteria is looking its best.  Generous pendulous flowers hanging generously on the upper house.  I have nearly achieved my aim of having it circle the house 360˚.  The Owls have given birth, their owlets not yet fledged, but calling hungrily from their nest high in the wistera.  Songbirds fill the air, they flit and dart from branch to branch as they feed their young.  It is a huge joy to live in this magical place, to have such generous neighbours, and to be able to share it all with so many great guys.

Spring is truly a special time to be in Umbria.  Why not join us next year?

Guys have been enjoying the outdoor shower under the canopy of Wistera, whilst I, being a late bird snapped a photo of the blossoms at midnight, before turning in, tired but happy.

Our next big historic group event is on 15th of May when we head once again to Gubbio to watch the ‘Festa dei Ceri‘ the race of the candles about which I have blogged many times.  It is a marvellous occasion to get wrapped up in the most special Umbrian tradition.  We still have some suites available so get booking and come join the fun.

Book your holiday at Bellaugello Gay Guest House  click this link: Book Bellaugello

Yesterday was a good spring day and I enjoyed it by spending many hours farming.  I passed the morning on my knees weeding in the orto.  The vegetables are growing.  The first potatoes are showing tips of green, and finally the parsley has germinated.  After a quick lunch, oh no, as so often happens, I forgot to eat lunch… I fired up the Ape and bumbled off along the track to spend the afternoon climbing in the olive trees, giving them a prune.   On hearing the burbling of the Ape engine as it reluctantly fires up ‘Hear’ jumps into the cab.  She sits on the small seat like a queen on a throne.  Where she expects the driver to sit is irrelevant.

Spring is here, and plants are stretching, yawning, and rubbing sleep out of their eyes as they wake after their winter slumber.  Every day a new plant puts on a growth spurt, and like a new born, in one way or another they all need attention.  My days are busy both in the house and in the garden.

Days are long and pleasurable.  Since the hour change days seem to be so much longer, more daylight time to get the huge number of tasks ticked off the list of ‘jobs to be done pre-season opening’.  Pruning olives is not a job on the list but perhaps wanting to break the routine, and with a dog wanting to explore, olive pruning seemed an obvious afternoon activity.

A very patient friend has, in past years given me countless pruning lessons.  I watch amazed as he dances around, and in, an olive tree, instinctively knowing which branch to leave, which to remove.  As he cuts he explains.  His actions are decisive and balletic.  The local advice on olive pruning is “little leaves lots of manure”.  Well the actual phrase is much cruder than that 😉  The air and light has to get through the tree.  I choose for my first, a tree that was only lightly pruned last year.  Ok start boy.  Remove the shoots growing round the trunk, remove all those luxuriant new growths in the centre of the tree canopy.  The ideal shape is wine goblet Ha!  Snip away dead wood, cut off the top growth that was unreachable at harvest time.  Walk back, look at the tree, so far simple enough, but now for the difficult bit.  I have to start pruning properly to remove unwanted growth and encourage new fruiting growth.  Olives form on last year’s wood and I am always confused as to which bit to remove.  I hate cutting trees, and with every branch I remove I wonder if I am mistakenly cutting the fruit bearing branch.  Last year was a bumper harvest, and as olives like most fruit have one abundant year followed by one less productive year, I was feeling confident.

Like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn, in this case followed not by rats but by a multitude of busy small dogs a neighbour walked across the long sun kissed field.  It was warm and I had been up high in the branches and was happy for a break.  I jumped down and felt a twinge in my left foot.  We chatted and gossiped for ages.  Although we are immediate neighbours our houses are distant and we see each other only passing in the car or a wave down the driveway.  It was good to catch up.  We are a close community here in the valley, and although we may not all see each other on a daily basis the bush telegraph is reassuringly strong and supportive.

Followed by his dogs Giancarlo headed off and I went back to pruning.  I’m also clearing abandoned trees and decided that cutting treelets that shade or cover the abandoned trees was uncontentious and so a good late afternoon job.

No matter how long the day, like the plants, my ‘to do’ list grows and grows.  As Cyril the pool robot lazily meandered around the pool, dusk last night found me finishing pressure washing sunloungers that are now sitting poolside.  As I came to the end of the task I felt a more painful twinge in my big toe.  Thinks ‘ I must have stubbed it on something’.  Whilst tidying away the pressure washer, hose and cable, I spot another job that is not on the list.  No, by the increasing pain level it just has to be a dose of the gout.  How bloody irritating.  That it is, I confirmed last night back home whilst trying to cook and eat supper.  I so don’t need this right now.  This morning blogging with a throbbing pain running up my left leg I laugh as I write as the image comes into my brain of my having been painfully hobbling round the kitchen grabbing on to the worktop hoping not to drop the teapot.  How sad is that image!

Which, by some non-link brings me to my sign off image for this post.  Can someone please explain to me the reason behind the correlation between size and ostentatiousness of the car, and the incompetence level and selfishness of parking?