Well the first of the month arrived along with spring. The nightly temperatures only fell to 0 and the daily ones rose above the low 20c, bulbs erupted the camellia burst into bloom, despite frost damaged buds, and the cats demanded to go out most of the nights.

We started work to repair the damage done by the snow but in fact we’d actually been quite lucky with just the major damage being the pergolas. Having said that we managed to salvage enough material from the back one to make another 4.5 metres by 3 metres and that’s plenty to cover the outside table. The fences and picking up downed tree branches took a day as did sorting out the lower car park area after the tractor and JCB had scraped the snow off to get 4x4 access during the emergency. So all in all we were back on target to start the spring chores in the garden within a week or so.

By “donna’s day” (8th March) we had seen the return of the butterflies, lizards and the roses were budding up nicely. The nights would still drop to –5 sometimes but the days were sunny and warm so we’d allow the wood-burning boiler to die out in the small hours and would only re-light it in the late afternoons for hot water and to keep the house at a constant level. The “girls” went out to celebrate the world ladies day as a gang of 15, some I knew others were new to me. Some ladies I met had been in Umbria for over 20 years, real pioneers as back then few people in this area spoke any English at all but these Americans and Dutch had paved the way for the rest of us. The restaurant gave each of us a sprig of mimosa (traditional) and generally fussed over us like we were all long lost relatives. Mike stayed home and cemented the tiles that had blow off due to ice around the cistern and our pavement edging. I did bring him some small cakes as I knew he’d been working hard while I’d been indulging myself.

Digging out the old pots and refilling with compost, splitting bulbs (those the porcupines had left) and finding places where the animals couldn’t easily reach them, took almost 2 weeks, in-between other chores. So spraying the fruit trees with Bordeaux mixture was later than it should have been, that and the fact we were experiencing high winds and I didn’t want to end up looking like a smurf after the event. A week later and the soft fruit trees were in full bloom so the next spaying was again delayed until the petals had dropped. The weather remained mostly bright and warm so we stopped burning wood to fuel the central heating and got down to some serious cleaning, the ash and dust really travels especially with 2 cats helping to spread it about.

Amazingly on the 20th when we were in town there was still small areas of snow where it had been piled up when they’d cleared the roads Our neighbours labourers began on the interior of the renovated property and sorting out the massive piles of earth all around it. We went and asked if, when they had 5 minutes, they would drive the bulldozer across the area of ground of ours they they’d cleared off last year to get at the mains electric supply. All their landscaping after they’d laid new cable ducts had been undone by the comune JCB dumping snow and a lot of the road on to the top of it.

A quick meal: Take cooked cauliflower florets, chopped bacon, onion , rigatoni (pasta tubes) and in a bowl mix all with a carton of cream and some Parmesan. Put mix into a greased oven proof dish. In a bowl mix bread crumbs with Parmesan and chopped parsley and toss over the top of the prepared dish. Bake until golden brown and warmed right through.

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