10 February 2012

I'm having some problems with gas...

Gina in her condo on the way to spend the night in our bathroom

I was hoping to have good news today after our first day in ten of sun and blue skies, but the Italian forecast was precise...blizzard was the word they used, and they were right on. We woke up to 15 cm of new snow and it hasn't stopped (5:00 pm right now).

Here in the countryside we use gas for heat, cooking, and hot water. The tank has a gauge on it that I have watched compulsively for 10 years. Fear of running out of gas, especially when the inn is full of guests, is a real fear... and it happened one Easter. Try to get a gas truck to come out on Easter Sunday! The Italian guests were calm, "beh, succede," it happens... others weren't as transcendental...

I stopped watching that gauge about a year ago when I signed up with a different gas company. My contract is for a tank sempre pieno, always full, a monthly service to top up the tank. What a relief to have that worry lifted from my already lengthy list.

The deliveries started coming automatically; I didn't even have to be home or sign for it. So is it any surprise that I didn't notice the truck's absence? Maybe the truck and gas strikes should have alerted me. My bad weather checklist included firewood, candles, fresh veggies and milk, but it never occurred to me that I should worry about the gas.

And then I smelled it. When the tank is nearly empty, the gas gets a strong gassy smell when you turn on the stove. I called the gas company and they confirmed that the last delivery was 3 months ago.
"Let's get on it," I said. "There's going to be a blizzard tomorrow."
"Sorry, Signora, our delivery truck is at the mechanic."
Silence on my side as I do some deep breathing.

You know, everybody loves to gripe about bad business practices... and I have to admit that after the third call I did ask for their fax number 'so my lawyer could advise them of their responsibility for damages as a result of non-delivery of my gas'... but what can they do now?
One look out the window and you can see that preparations need to be made.

More firewood to the front porch. A huge pot of water on the wood stove.
Extra rooms closed off.
The one electric heater we have, now plugged in.
That truck is not going to get here before Monday.

Just as I'm ready to post this blog entry, the phone rings. "This is the driver for the gas. I just don't think I can make it." It seems the company called in a truck from Rome to make the 2-hour drive to Poggio Etrusco. This warmed my heart (if not the rest of me). "Traffic is at a complete stop on the road; the police will not let us pass. I am so sorry."

I told him I had a room for him if he could make it, and I invited him for dinner.
"Magari! Sei molto gentile, Signora. Spero di vederla domani."

04 February 2012

Be careful what you wish for!

The first days of February have come in with a blast. A blast of icy Siberian air. Balmy was the word I was using to describe this winter up until last week. I love the snow, and it was in innocence that I wrote a post on Facebook, "I wish I could get snowed in," to which another friend wrote, "no, you don't" and I blithely responded "yes.I.do."

The beauty of the snow belies the gravity of the weather report, likening this storm to the devastating freeze of 1985. That was the year that temperatures stayed below freezing for an extended period, resulting in the loss of 80% of Tuscany's olive trees. The crisis actually brought about a lot of changes in the way we now produce olive oil, especially in the identification of the origin of the olives (some large producers were trying to get away with buying foreign olives and calling the oil Tuscan; some Tuscan olive oil had a percentage of other kinds of oil it).

I am worried about my olive trees.

The weight of the first wet snow is breaking
limbs. The freeze the night after turned the weight to ice and even the wind didn't shake it down. Now, more beautiful fluffy flakes adding volume to the already 50+ centimeters.

As for the family, we are well-supplied: firewood, flour to make pici, canned tomatoes from last summer's harvest, a good-sized piece of pecorino, an egg a day from the chicken (who has been sleeping in the bathroom these subzero nights), plenty of coffee, and the internet. Oh, and wine. The animals love the snow, even the horses, and there is no denying the absolute loveliness of it.

If it weren't for the tremors of the teenquakes, it would be pretty darned peaceful here. But, I'd like for this severe weather to end soon. Before the trees are harmed

Sorry, everyone, for wishing for this. I also wished for a million euros right afte
r, but based on my snow wish, now I'm worried that will come with all kinds of taxes and other burdens...