I collected some stems from the 'cane' that grows all around Abruzzo.It was grown to provide support sticks for vegetables like Peppers and Tomatoes but now it's rarely used and I found it easy to cut through thick stems with a pruning saw,I have the idea of making a screen fence from the bamboo tying it together using galvanised wire.I hate the types of fence people use in Abruzzo; ugly wire with concrete posts.Or just concrete walls.It is though incredibly hard to find the choice of fencing that we get in the UK.

We discovered a lovely Sunday Market in Lettomanoppello.There are plenty of fruit and veg stalls as well as cheese and meat ones. Our favourite of all is a foodstall with a real wood oven inside the van! He sells pork sandwiches etc as well as doughnuts and other forms of highly fattening food!

The whole town comes alive for the Sunday market and I love to get a coffee and cornetto in one the the little cafes,one change that I've noticed is the increasing number of women who are meeting up in bars and cafes for a chat and a coffee.This is winding up some of the older men patrons who seem to think they have a god-given right to a particular table for the whole day! Viva la donna!

Lizards are around on most sunny days. We even saw some out in January once! They fascinate me.I think they are much more intelligent than anyone realises and I'm guilty of wasting hours just watching them.

We have seen a larger bright green lizard as well as the common brown/green one.They are much more secretive which is no surprise considering they are not so well camoflaged as their duller cousins.Snakes love a tasty lizard for their mid-morning snack.

My friend came with me to the office of ENEL in Pescara to help me to sort out a connection to the electricity supply.Once we got there it didn't take long to discover that we needed to go the another office! There is a small office in Alanno in the Municipio which I would recommend as the guy is very helpful and another worker can speak English if you really get into difficulties. After 4 days we switched on at the box and we had power. A single line gave us a socket for light and radio as well as our tools.ENEL will charge non-residents a higher rate than residents for the electricity that they use and you get a bill every 2 months even if you are not in Italy.

French Drain

Over the years soil and vegetation can build up around the walls of a house causing problems with damp.Where it's possible to do so soil needs to be cleared away exposing the wall and letting it dry out.

We had to dig down several feet to reach the level of the floor inside the kitchen.We then laid a drainage pipe 12.5 cms wide and drilled with holes into our trench which was filled with gravel. The plan is that moisture coming downhill will be taken away from the kitchen walls. It's possible to see how damp the clay soil was by comparing the colour of the soil in the bottom of the trench with that on the top.

We hoped to discover some Roman finds as our house is in an area where an important battle took place between the local Italic tribes and the Romans.The name today is Valle Romana and many artifacts have been recovered from the area.

We did find a small fragment of roman pottery but no gold coins!
Another Roman site locally is at Santa Maria Arabona, a beautiful church built on the site of a Roman altar dedicated to the Goddess Bona.In 2005/6 a Roman villa was discovered close to the church and I believe that a tomb of an earlier human was also found in this area.We live in hope of making an important breakthrough

Kitchen Floor

We don't really know what's going on here but having removed the old cement plaster up to aboout 3ft we found a very wet wall with areas of dark brown soil that were saturated with water and appeared to be acting as a mortar between the rubble stones.
The problem is that the wet is coming through onto our floor bricks and although it could actually stop in a year or so we have to also look at the stabilty of the wall that instead of stone has a large area of earth!


We are looking into using a base of limecrete on the floor to raise it up by about 10cms and to allow us to put some gravel filled french drains inside and under the floor.

The big difficulty for us has been to buy NHL 3.5 lime in Abruzzo.We have been buying baged hydrated lime and making lime putty which we age in tubs for about 6 months or longer and we have also bought hydraulic lime sold as 'plascem' which we use in areas that may get damp.

Keracoll sell various lime based mixes some a bit pricey but all very easy to use and you only need to mix them with water either by hand or in a cement mixer.The problem with limecrete is that you need to add more that sand; usually either little clay balls or gravel or aggregate so you will need to do a bit of mearuring and mixing to acheive the right material.

It's also possible to make a floor without limecrete in an area that's dry.We have added a layer of stones over compacted soil then at least 10 cms of gravel that will be compacted and have a poured clay mix on top.The clay is from the garden you simply dig out the clay soak it and sieve out the stones.Its then added to sand and chopped straw. There are several tests you can to to determine the amounts of sand/straw to add so I suggest you buy a book or even go on one of the natural cob building courses that we have in the South West so you are clear on what to do.

The clay must be allowed to dry off fully then a screed of sand and dry lime is spread on top and finally the old reclaimed hand-made pavers go on top of this.
Traditionally the pavers were layed very tight without a wide joint and were not pointed.You may save some cash by laying them further apart and having a wide mortar joint.This looks wrong to me but that's only my view!

September 2010

This is a bit of a cheat as I took the picture in May and what I loved about it was the wonderful old plaster that's behind the roses.This was underneath a layer of emulsion paint in our kitchen and looks like a mixture of lime,gesso and clay possibly with some aggregate.

I recently watched an episode of Grand Designs where Kevin Mc Cloud criticised the couple who were 'restoring' a barn that turned out to be an early medieval guildhall.Over the centuries the building had been added to with layers of (mainly) clay plaster over lathes which the present owners removed and replaced.I could see both sides as they were going to live in the building.

Limestone Houses

Anyone with an old property in Abruzzo will be familiar with the limestone that these houses are constructed from.Limestone is a sedimentary stone and mostly the limestone used in Abruzzo is known as Miocene Limestone (from the miocene period of pre-history).It consists mainly of calcite but can also contain quartz,felspar and fossils that are large enough to be recognised is normally a buff yellow colour but may vary and in some areas (Lettomanoppello) its almost white in colour.
As general builders and Geometre have little training in geology many common mistakes are made in restoration of old stone buildings leading to long term problems that are costly to remedy.Harsh sand-blasting and the use of cement mortars are the main offenders here.

A humble rural house in Italy would normally be made using 'rubble stone' some from around the site ,with cut dressed stone used just for corners etc.Sometimes the rubble stones were laid in neat 'courses' or rows but other times they were place in a more random way with bricks used for tricky shapes when needed.

This is what is usually found when render/plaster is removed.For a rubble stone house a render is the natural way to prevent decay and damage as well as stopping animals and insects getting in.Providing that the render is soft and not cement it will do a wonderful job in preserving the walls.

Limestone is very vulnerable to damage from acid rain -that's why some many of the world's monuments are under threat particularly in cities.

We did not manage to make any progress with the floor in this room which remains gravel for now. We did manage to find out that our sand yard sold a 'roadbase' mix they call stabilimento so we can order a truck full next time which we are laying on the compacted gravel in 3 layers each one being wetted and compacted. I actually got this idea from an American architect who has been using 'roadbase' as a subfloor material under an earth floor with huge success.

We'll make sure that we have enough road base to cover our terrace which I'd also like to get done next year.