Sunday, 24 June 2012

One for the kids...

Kokopelli for the kids?  Not a market we've expected, considered or even courted, but one that is most very welcome!  Indeed, the more we think about it, the more we realise why we are being contacted by, and enjoying the company of, more and more families.

Abruzzo is perfect.  It is a wonderful natural playground.  We have woods and wilderness, open plains and shady plunge pools.  We have mountains, and wolves and bears and chamois.  We have natural beaches, blue flag beaches, sandy beaches, rocky coves.  We even have woodland fairies!

And Abruzzo, like the rest of Italy, absolutely loves children.  You'll be welcomed wherever you go.

And as for Kokopelli itself?  My own children spent their summers in the natural playground of Scottish Grampians, free and safe to run around, explore, play make-believe, build and discover.  No TV, no internet.  In other words, just to be children as children should be.  This is what we have at Kokopelli.  Freedom and space.

If you do happen to fancy something a little more "laid on" then the following, all within the Majella National Park, should keep your children (the big and the little) more than happy, the adults too!

The Majella National Park 
(ie our home and playground)

Festa of the Gnome!  Three days of woodland fairies, picnics, storytelling, theatre and games

Treetop adventure park with walkways, bridges and tunnels in a Tyrolean scenery:

Another treetop adventure park:

Excursions into the Majella, hiking, mountain biking, summer camps, environmental education, visitor centres, nature and wildlife museums, acheological sites, botanical gardens, these guys have it all.  The emphasis, of course, on the environment and sustainable tourism:

Whitewater rafting on the Aventino river:

A little bit further afield

Kayaking, and other active adventures on the Tirino and within the Tirino valley:

Aqualand!  Needs no explanation, waterslide fun for everyone:

Falconry in L'Aquila.  Monthly walks with falcons, buzzards and a wolf!

...and then, of course, there are the beaches:

Abruzzo summer - Kokopelli Style:

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Planting by the Moon & Stars

With help from my friend and neighbour, Paola Pomilio, I've been reading and learning about planting by the phases of the moon and the stars.  With its roots in folklore and superstition, yes, you're right to be sceptical but, and it's a big but, following the rhythms of Mother Nature has got to be good, right?

So, I learn and I try.  And today is a good day to start.  A new moon.

Full moon at Kokopelli

The new & full moons:  when the sun and the moon are lined up with the earth, at the time of the new and full moon, the tides are at their highest.  Just as the moon pulls the tides, so it also pulls upon the water in the earth causing moisture to rise in the soil, and hence stimulate growth.  Makes sense?  Tests have even proven that seeds will absorb the most water at the time of the full moon.  So more than just folklore.

Mother Nature knows best.

Increasing moonlight (a waxing moon): the increasing moonlight, that follows the new moon, combines with the high moisture content of the earth to create optimum conditions for balanced root and leaf growth.  As such, this is the time to plant above ground crops that produce their seeds outside the fruit:  lettuce, spinach, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, sweetcorn, cucumber and so on.

Kokopelli tomatoes

Decreasing moonlight (a waning moon): after the full moon, although the moisture content of the soil is high, the moonlight is decreasing.  The focus of energy therefore goes from the leaves to the roots.  A good time for your root crops: beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, etc.

So far, so good.  Couple the phases of the moon with the constellations of the stars and you start to fine tune.

Working with nature.  Beautiful.

The Zodiac constellations:  the moon cycles through all the constellations that make up the zodiac during a lunar month.  Each sign of the zodiac is considered to be an earth, air, fire or water sign and, as the moon passes through each, a window of opportunity is given for various gardening tasks.

Earth signs (Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo):  The best time for below ground growth, so perfect for root crops, planting and transplanting seedlings.

Air signs (Libra, Aquarius, Gemini):  when the moon is in an air sign, this is a good time to harvest, cultivate and preserve.

Kokopelli Figs

Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius):  harvesting during a fire sign, a barren and dry period, will help to prevent spoilage, it's a good time to weed, till the soil and to prune; but it is also still a good time to plant crops grown for their seeds.

Kokopelli herb garden

Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces): the best time for the healthy growth and planting of above ground leafy annuals.

So there you have it.  Moon planting in a nutshell.  If you'd like to explore further, most of the information was pulled from the following sites, who go into fabulous but simple detail:

Happy planting!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Off-road to the Volto Santo

Distance:  17km
Elevation: Min - 241m, Max - 451m
Total ascent:  685m
Mode: Mountain Bike, but would be rather nice to walk too, particularly if going via the Abbazia di San Liberatore (see separate guide)
Grade: Moderate (steep & rocky in places)

Turn left out of Kokopelli, descend to the bottom of the lane and turn left to go the short distance into Serramonacesca.

The road from Kokopelli into Serra

Continue through the village, staying on the main road all the way down to the river and then up for 1.5 km until you reach Colle Serra on your left.  Take this turning.

There’s now a long climb up Colle Serra.  Take your time, you've got a lot of climbing to do!

Over to your right you’ll get a rather glorious view of the Volto Santo which looks tantalisingly close.  But you’re not going direct, you’re going up the mountain!
The Volto Santo - not that far is it?
Renovation projects anyone?

You’ll go past a rather lovely derelict house screaming out of a bit of TLC and renovation and the tarmac eventually becomes a dirt track.  
Not long after the road becomes a dirt track you’ll see a fork off to the left, ignore this and continue on past another very charming derelict cottage.  

The track does start to get a lot steeper and rugged enough to challenge the most hardy of bikers.  But any walking and pushing you may have to do, although harsh, will be short lived and well worth the effort, particularly when the descents begin.  

You do, eventually, get to go down hill too!

You will reach a junction with a sharp right that takes you down the hill, or left to continue up.  Despite what your legs are telling you, continue up.  Eventually, some 3km from when you first turned into Colle Serra you will reach tarmac once more.  

Down hill all the way now :-)

Turn right here and enjoy the long sweep all the way down to the Basilica di Volto Santo.

The Volto Santo

Do go in (covering bare legs & shoulders) to pay your respects to the veil of Christ (  Don’t miss out on the museum upstairs either, it’s full of fascinating artifacts of times gone by.  
If your ride has built up a hunger, don’t be put off by the basic frontage of the wooden shack outside selling arrosticini and pizza. The food is superb and supplied by local gastronomer “Lu Gattone” (
On the way back, it is possible to put in a couple of slightly different routes to ring the changes and save back tracking the same route all the way:
From the Volto Santo, start heading back up the hill the way you came but after about 200m you’ll see a small road (Contrada Baccigno) on your left sign posted “Pescara”.  Take this and continue for about 600m until you reach another small junction, turn right and stay on this road, continuing to climb, for about 1km. 

Take the left fork down

There’s a small track off to the left here that you need to take.  If you get to the stone mason’s plot, you’ve gone too far.
This track (steep in places) takes you nicely back to the rough track you came in on at the top of Colle Serra.

...and enjoy the views over to Manoppello

Enjoy the well-earned long sweep down Colle Serra (and the views across to Manoppelo) until you reach the junction at the bottom.  Instead of turning right here to head back towards Serra, turn left then immediate right and right again.  

Not a bad watering hole before the
final ascent back up to Garifoli

This road winds all the way down to the fiume Alento before climbing up to Serra coming into the village under the arch via the centro storico (the old, and very charming, historic centre).  Low & behold, right by the arch, is a bar.  Nice one.  Cold beer awaits :-)
Enjoy your beer, remembering to keep enough in the tank for the final 100m “sting in the tail” climb back up to Kokopelli!