Thursday, 31 December 2009

Last post of 2009

This really is the last post of the year....just found this clip of Cadiar's river in full flow. It comes via

this is a blog by a guy in Cadiar, if any one's interested in someone else's view of life over here.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

A bit of music.

...we were joined in Bar Tinao in Yegen by Antonio (centre) and 2 of his friends with their mandolins. Do you realise how difficult it is to dance in green wellies? - or any colour wellies I expect.

If this is the last post of the year, have a good new years celebration. We will be starting off here, joined by Mariano and Sigrun for food, up to Mariano's for drinks and midnight fireworks then to the chapel to ring in the New Year. So a multi-national evening ----1 spanish, 1 german and 2 english but all talking Spanish. It seems to me that the longer the evening, the more fluent you become. Sigrun's Spanish isn't bad, her English is not as good but we have surprisingly good conversations. Mariano has good German so between us we get on well.

So, Happy New Year, may the next one be drier than this.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The "road" to Yegen

We went out today for a walk to Yegen with Mariano and Sigrun - she's house sitting for neighbours - and then on to a few places for drinks and tapas. Luckily I went in my wellies and John and Mat had boots on, as did Sigrun. Mariano went in shoes, even though he knew it was rocky and likely to be soggy underfoot. Only 1 photo of him about to slip over, kept that for his family, it looks like he's dancing!

If anything, the road up is worse than the road down to Yator in that there are more boulders. Soil and rubble can be bull-dozed out of the way, or used to fill ruts and holes and ravines, but boulders are more difficult. There are places where the edge of the road has collapsed and it's extremely narrow and with crumbly edges, there are places where you have to clamber over soggy soil and plants, places where the rocks have collapsed underneath the outside edge and washed away the soil (didn't go too close but we could see it from higher up around the bend) waterfalls and streams we've never seen before ("we" includes Mariano too - he has been coming here all his life and this is all new to him) ruts/ravines caused by rushing water....and then there are stretches which are relatively normal!

We had an interesting walk into Yegen, and then met a man carrying a falcon - not something you'd expect on a Sunday (or any) afternoon!

PS: Yes, I know, for some reason this uploads the photos in reverse order so what I write about first, comes last as a picture. Still, what do you expect for free!

PPS: J has found another blog by a man in Cadiar...they had either brown or no water the day before yesterday, yesterday the supply was cut off by the Ayuntamiento to prevent disease so everyone's having to buy bottled water to drink or catch rain water to use for flushing the loo. The road to Torvizcon is virtually shut, down to half a lane in places as the landslides have landslides on them!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Pista or river?

No snow here this year just 5 days of torrential rain with the ground getting more and more sodden, to the point Monday when we left the 4x4 in Yator along with the Polo so we always have a car available. Yesterday John went down to Almeria airport to pick up Mat, they changed into wet weather boots and coats in Yator and walked the mile up last night with Mat's stuff packed into a rucksack and his case and shoes left in the car. This morning J and I walked down to nip into Cadiar for last minute things and found the car still can't go anywhere as there has been a land slide between the car and Yator, just by the chapel! Still, the Polo was ok but as we drove out of the village, there were loads of people standing on the bridge looking at the river. It's running extremely high, full of mud and stuff and if the bridge goes, we are really stuck so we've left the Polo the other side of the bridge - just in case!!

Berchules is cut off, so is Torviscon, the river in Cadiar has burst it's banks and flooded all the farm land either side. Saw on the news that Cadiz had a tornado as well as flooding, Malaga is flooded, so is Motril, so is Almeria......

Took some photos and video of the track this morning, the rain has washed boulders and mud down from the hills onto the track making is impassable by car, it's also cut rivers into and across the track which you can jump over but not drive over or round. In fact, in one place the track is now only just over a metre wide with more river than ground!

We are well stocked up as normal, and can always walk down, shop and walk up. Not sure about gas bottles though as they are too heavy. We only use them for the cooker and shower, changed about every 6 to 8 weeks and have 4 in reserve. Hopefully someone will have done something about repairs by then or maybe the new concrete road will be done. There are people here for Xmas who need to leave early new year, and a family who need to get back here after their holiday in Germany. And its a long walk back to Valencia for Mariano!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Frost on the car!

Oh so cold last night, we had the first cold snap of winter, woke up to only 2.5 degrees outside, and when I went into Cadiar at 10am it was still only 0! The house was still lovely and warm though from the wood burners, but outside we had ice on the windscreen and on the grass edges of the pista. Just been to check the strawberries and sweet potato cuttings and all is well. Only 1 plant looks a bit sad and that's the basil, most of which I have cut and dried, just left enough in case we needed fresh for something. Not so fresh looking now, a bit wilted round the edges!

We had a trial run of figgy pudding last night, I found a recipe in the summer when we started to dry figs and thought we'd better try it out before Christmas day in case it wasn't nice but it was scrummy. Sort of like a white Xmas pudding, but not as rich. I only made up half the recipe and that was large enough for 4 to 6 portions. So if anyone has lots of dried figs and wants a recommendation go to

Instead of cooking in the oven as it says, we did 20mins steaming and 50mins on low pressure in the pressure cooker and it was fine. We did have custard with it but I think probably brandy butter and/or cream for Christmas :)

We'll look like figs soon as we are drinking fig wine as well! Last night's bottle was labelled MWF - mostly white fig - as it had some black figs in as well and produced a very deep rose colour.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Christmas strawberries

Our strawberry plants continue to flourish, some of the runners which we potted up have now got flowers and some also have more runners which have rooted into the ground, there seems to be no stopping them at the moment! We have at least 6 ripening in time for Christmas - only 2 each for us and Mat but there may be more lurking under the leaves.

We are now road legal again, both cars ok. We got a phone call from Luis at 7.45pm last Wednesday evening to say that the tyre was in and he could fit it on Thursday morning. I dropped the car off and collected it an hour later and that evening we booked a new ITV test online. There were 2 holidays last weekend, Sunday was Dia de la Constitucion and Tuesday was Immaculada Concepcion, which meant Monday was taken as "Dia del puente" - a bridging day - so in effect everything stopped from Saturday lunch time till Wednesday. We booked in for Wednesday morning, first available time, and now have a yellow sticker on the windscreen (clashes a bit with the pink one!) which takes us up to December 2011 - it costs €35.45 every 2 years.

More news on our road, it definitely is going to happen, it's not just a rumour, as the plans/project are available to see in the Ayuntamiento (town hall) in Cadiar. Not sure of a starting date but it has to be completed within 4 months of starting.

Another 48 chillis strung up to dry today and still more on the plants! Shouldn't really call them plants as they are about 1 metre high - more like bushes than anything. They - the chillis not the plants - are hanging on the terrace and look really colourful against the white wall.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Ajo for Paco

On Thursday of last week, I was asked if I was busy Friday as Paco - who has land in Montenegro - needed a hand planting out his garlic. His wife, Amelia has a back problem, something to do with 3 discs in her lower back, and can't do any work on the land. So instead of making bread and other baking that I had planned, I met him in Yator at 8am and we went off to his land outside the village. It was already dug over and leveled, and all we had to do was plant. Most of us plant enough garlic for ourselves, he grows and sells vegetables for a living so I was facing a patch 10m by 40m and more crates of garlic cloves than I have ever seen! The land nearby had frost on it (it's right next to the river) and I was in 4 layers of clothing - fleece, shirt, t-shirt and strappy top. The soil was cold and you can't plant garlic cloves in gloves, it's a hands-on thing. (By 10am I was down to my strappy top - lovely sunny day by then)

Anyway, we soon settled into a routine, he started to mattock out a row, I started putting in the cloves and worked towards him, while he worked back towards me. There is a technique for doing this.....stand legs apart, wider apart than body width, fill your hand with cloves and bend over, stretch out to your right and start putting in the garlic working from right to left until you have gone from full stretch right to full stretch left. Keep your hands as close to the soil as possible so all movement is really economical. Then move yourself left and start again!! Each clove goes in 4 fingers apart and each row about 15 to 20 cms apart. For those mathematicians out there, we did about 10,000 cloves altogether - all of which have at some point got to be dug up, dried, plaited about 20 to a string I think and then that's when he gets his reward as each plait sells for 10 euros. (minus of course enough to repeat this next year)

We stopped at 10am for food, chocolate for me and fruit and yoghurt for him, stopped again at 12, water for me and wine for him, then from 2 till 3 we went back to Yator for lunch, he went home and I took my sandwich and met John for a much needed beer. Amelia came back with us as we needed more garlic cloves to finish the last section. She took apart some strings of garlic and broke them down into cloves for us. We finished at just gone 5 o'clock. I must have the tightest thigh muscles in Montenegro now, but no back ache at all.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Fetching water

The water here in Montenegro comes direct from the Sierras, it's pure snow-melt, and people from Yator come up almost daily to fill bottles. They don't like the village water to drink as it's chlorinated and tastes odd. Usually a couple of women will walk up late afternoon, chattering as they come and carrying an empty 5 litre bottle or two. Occasionally they come by car and have a boot load of empties for filling but sometimes they come with a wheelbarrow. Not the most stable of things when empty, but even worse when laden with bottles of water. A few years ago, the 3 Lola's - there are many Lola's in Yator - lost control of their wheelbarrow on the bend just below our house and all we could hear was them laughing as they tried to get it upright. This morning at 8am as Monty, Pip and I were out for an early walk, we saw this gentleman coming for his weeks water. He was much more in control of his barrow than some people! He must have had about 10 five litre bottles wedged in the barrow and all tied together with string. If 1 bottle over-balanced, the whole lot would go over! And that's about 50kgs of weight, not easy to control down 2kms of track and Yator is 150m lower than us so there's not much flat along the way.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Don't know what to call this

This has no title because it's just a general update about things since the last post of 10 days ago...

..our neighbour Mariano came down from Valencia for a week and dropped in to say hello and did we know the track up from Yator to Montenegro is due to be concreted in the New Year? Depends on who you talk to as to which month it'll be started, anything from January, March or April with about 3 months work, so watch this space for photos etc.

..we pruned out lots of the new growth from the almond trees that overhang the side vegetable garden and the sheds, burnt the trimmings and other rubbish and dug the ash into the raised beds.

..took the Hyundai 4x4 to Motril for it's ITV (spanish MOT) but needed a new tyre - yes, another week, another car, another new tyre, but that's living up a track for you! Luis in Cadiar can't get another one for a couple of weeks so it really is an off road car till then!! Not all the tyres have to be the same make, but the front pair and back pair do, you can't have 3 + 1 so we had to re-order from Luis. When your car passes it's ITV you get a sticker for the windscreen, November 09 is pink, drive it past that date and it's obvious that it's illegal and the Guardia will stop and fine you.

..still picking and drying chillis, it's getting difficult to see out of the kitchen window now as they are all hanging outside, along with bunches of sage drying. It's a really good place to dry stuff as it gets the sun and breeze but is recessed so protected if it should rain. We've dried basil and mint there this year already, but the chillis are much more colourful.

..raking up about 2 large bucketfuls of leaves a day for the composts, that is if I get to them before the breeze blows them away! It's easy in the front garden as they all collect in the corner, but outside where we park the cars, the wind blows them all into the chumba (prickly pear cactus)

..and finally, the sun continues to shine. Although it is cooler first thing - 11 when we went out this morning but it was nearly 19 in the shade this afternoon. Definitely t-shirt weather and still no need for a fire at night. November 30th last year it snowed! 4 inches when we woke up that morning but unless there is a huge change in the next day or so, I don't think we'll see snow this month.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

What a sky!

The sun has just gone down and I managed to get these pictures, one looking at the sunset and the other looking up towards Mecina Bombaron, you can just see the streetlights of Mecina twinkling. Much more dramatic when there are clouds around. From the front garden, the clouds are also shining orange from the sun, but not as dramatic.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Friday 13th!

Supposed to be a date to be wary of, spoke to our neighbours today - Connie and Micha - a rat has got in through the original stone wall of their house and bitten holes in their main water pipe which runs through the wall into the house. They were having to repair it via the downstairs bathroom and as Connie said "we have a huge mess on the floor"

Since writing about the dragon hearts, we've eaten the fruit, dried some seeds and - hopefully - will be able to germinate them, dried the skins too and I've got them hung up in the kitchen for a splash of colour. About an hour later, we were outside and I said to John, just listen for a moment there's a roaring up in the Sierra - it sounds like a train in the background although our nearest train in either Almeria or Granada!! We know from experience that it is a big wind somewhere in the mountains and sometimes that wind comes here, but very suddenly. So if we hear the roar, just in case, we stack garden chairs, close shutters over the windows to keep dust out, close caravan windows (one snapped off once and although it is repaired, it's not so strong now) lay down the sun umbrellas, put away the rotary dryer.... and sure enough the wind came. It blew for about 3 hours or so - I still haven't found the towel from the outside sink which I forgot to peg down! It stripped lots of leaves from the grape vine and mulberry tree and we had lots of sweeping and raking to do the next day. The pool was covered in leaves too, some of which had sunk before we got to scoop them out. The day after I found a large triangular seat cushion belonging to Connie and Micha - our nearest neighbours - on the strawberry patch.

We've collected the car with it's nice new tyre, finished shelling all the almonds and put the shells into a bag ready for burning when winter comes, still picking and drying jalopeno chillis, a few aubergines left but that's most of the veg done with. The sprouts haven't sprouted yet, checked the seed packet and it says November through till January so there's time yet. We have taken some of the tops and eaten because... we have an infestation of caterpillars on the cabbages, so many that in 24 hours we went from a cabbage to just a stalk! But they don't swim well when they get put in water.

My idea of having a compost on each terrace is starting, I've begun 3 more this week mostly of leaves and the remains of vegetable plants from clearing patches of beans etc. They are just piles so far, two covered in black plastic and the other with old carpet, not pretty but functional. Anyway there's nobody that can see them!

If this all sounds bit disjointed, that's because I have next to me a very large glass of fig wine, vintage August '09 but wow, does it taste good! Lovely dark rose colour, beautifully clear and so much fruity flavour and kick! Hope everything else we made is as good. Nearly time to watch tv, don't watch much but HIGNFY is a favourite. Just time to top up my glass:)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Dragon's hearts.

This must be the most amazing fruit we have ever seen and so just had to buy some. They were for sale on market day in Cadiar on Tuesday, the man said they are called corazon de dragon - dragons hearts - he cut one open for us to try, so we bought a couple, partly so we could take a picture for this blog! John googled the fruit, it comes from a cactus, a big cactus, which looked a bit like a Christmas cactus to me but much larger. Similar shape of leaf. It is eaten as shown, cut in half and scooped out with a spoon, it tastes similar to melon. I'm wondering whether to save some seeds and try our luck growing them here although they are a tropical fruit.

We've been here 6 years now and it's the first time we've seen any fruit quite so unusual. Anyone else ever seen this before????

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

A nice surprise - and other things.

I think I've mentioned before about the walks people do along the GR 7 footpath....baggage taken on ahead while you walk and enjoy the scenery, followed by a day to yourselves to explore or relax. We quite often meet people who have walked down to Montenegro on their day off in Yegen, and a few weeks ago I met a couple from Rye who - on their day off - were walking down to Yator. We got chatting (over a cup of tea on their way down and a cold drink on their way back up) about life and such, the differences in things and at some point I mentioned oxos as Spanish stock cubes just don't have the same oomph.

Went to check the mailbox this afternoon to get the much delayed post and there was a small padded envelope, very unexpected as birthdays are done and dusted, return address not something I recognised, and inside was a box of oxos and a note from the couple from Rye saying thanks for the refreshments and hospitality! So thanks to Dee and Chris, if you want a mention for your shop, add a comment here!

On a different subject, we went on an errand day yesterday, the Polo had to be taken in for it's tyre to be looked at, we discovered it had a nail in it and it had damaged the inside as it went flat so we need a new one. Bit annoying as it's only just over 2 years since all 4 were replaced and with our mileage it should have done about 10 more! Still, that's life as they say. Then off to the builders merchant to pay our bill from May - and we still got a discount for cash! Then to the ayuntamiento (council) to get our permit to have bonfires - you can only have fires from November to the end of May and to have a fire without a permit is very serious and expensive in fines. Only 1 form to fill in, no cost, and the Medio Ambiente guy (environment) said do you speak English because my mother is English and I don't speak it well enough....and there we were trying to improve our Spanish! Then off to Ugijar for a bit of shopping, bocadillas and beer for lunch and home.

It's been really warm lately, warmer than we think is normal and I have been in the pool later this year than ever. I was in on the 30th and 31st October and 1st November as well. But this afternoon there was a cooler breeze, the leaves are dropping fast so maybe autumn is coming. We composted 2 barrow loads of leaves from the mulberry tree a couple of days ago and there are many many more to fall yet. Forget the mulberry bush of the nursery rhyme, this tree is about 10 or more metres high!

Moonrise and sunset

Just as the full moon was rising we also got a spectacular sunset.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

7.15 this morning

Opened the curtains this morning and saw this! Left on the photo is Sierra Gador, 2000 metres high, and coming through the gap in the hills from the coast is very low lying cloud. I think it looks like the tide is coming in! It gradually crept along the valley towards Yator, but disappeared as the sun came up.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

It's Wednesday again...

Looking back over the blogs I have written, a lot seem to be on Wednesday, and usually about 9-9.30 in the evening. Why, I don't know but anyway......

After last week's weather blip, it has got warm again, back in the low 20's although now the clocks have changed the sun is going down behind the hill at about 6pm and then it's as if someone has turned off the central heating....the temperature doesn't drop there and then, but it feels so much cooler so quickly. We only had the wood burner on that one evening last week, and haven't needed it again. Normally by the end of October, it is much chillier. There are signs of Autumn, the leaves on the grapevines are changing colour and starting to drop as are the fig leaves and the poplars down by the river below El Golco are a lovely colour.

More pickles today, there are quite a lot of small aubergines which I'm not sure will get big before they get seeds, so I've made some spicy pickle to have with curry......
aubergines, garlic, ginger, chillis, turmeric, garam masala cooked in olive oil and then bottled. It keeps for a couple of months in the fridge. Also made bread and rolls today, and then de-seeding all the plants I'd put aside earlier this year. When the rocket and chives went to seed I made bags from newspaper and put the heads/plants in to dry and today I sat out by the pool in the sun and de-seeded all the dead heads, put all the stalks and such like into the compost and the seeds have gone into labelled bags. A couple of weeks back I collected seed heads from the wild fennel and left them to dry so I have de-seeded them as well and bagged them up. We use a lot of fennel seeds in spicy food but don't have enough yet. Seemed to take ages, most of the afternoon actually but in the process my tan got topped up!

6 weeks or so ago we went to a friend's house for a (non)curry evening, he's back again for half term holidays, and invited the same people down again for another curry, yes, a slightly spicier curry! But just in case, we all took extra curry sauce, jalopenos and onion bhajis , and a variety of different chillis to spice it up from the other friends.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

So what's new this week?

The pool is full and looks wonderful again, the frog/s haven't reappeared, next door's pool also had frogs - 2 of them - and they have gone as well. Maybe something ate them, who knows. There are owls around at night - sound like screech owls, so maybe the frogs have been a meal for them.

42 quince from 1 tree, (4 quince to a kilo) so far made into 7 pudding sized portions for winter pies and crumbles, 12 jars of chutney with jalopenos, ginger and figs added, and still 14 quince to go. Friends of ours have 5 trees, I can't imagine how many fruits they produce! We have jalopenos sliced and pickled, red ones hanging up to dry and countless more on the bushes and some have also been given to friends. The tomatoes are coming to an end, although they are still on the bush, are slow to ripen. Maybe a kilo a week at the moment. Also coming to an end are the aubergines and dwarf beans, they are still producing but not much.

The weather is iffy, up till the weekend it was in the low 20's, then Monday got cloudier as the day went on, Tuesday started off well but followed Mondays pattern and last night/early hours of today the wind got up and it poured down - the wheel barrow was full - and today it hasn't gone above 14! There was snow up on the Sierras above Valor and Berchules this morning.... Quite chilly feeling, the lady in the tabac says we are going from summer to winter without autumn although the forecast is ok for next week, back to low 20's again, so we shall see. There was a lovely smell of wood smoke as I came through Yator this morning, from all the wood burners/log fires and we lit ours this evening as there seemed a nip in the air indoors. First fire of ours alight since end of March though.

I emptied one of the compost heaps yesterday, I needed it - unfortunately for me - up 2 terraces which meant going up a slope, along past the aubergines/dwarf beans, round under an olive tree, over 2 water channels and then onto one of last years onion beds. 6 trips to cover the bed and then to dig it in. One of my new years resolutions is to make a compost heap on each terrace, preferably near the water supply which each terrace has anyway, as it's easier to barrow it all downhill, not up!! Then 2 barrow loads went up - but only 1 terrace- to be dug in the old strawberry patch. The strawberry runners are all doing well, but they also have self seeded broad beans in with them, some of the beans have popped up in the strawberry pots and some in between the plants.

And what else...trying now to cook double batches of meals, one for the freezer, as come November we will be busy preparing the land ready for olive harvest i.e. strimming under the trees,raking, clearing and levelling land as it's easier to lay the nets, and need "ready meals" at night, plus soups and bread for quick, tasty lunches. The olives are starting to ripen, seems earlier than usual so maybe an early harvest this year. Some varieties are always ready from December onwards, and we also need to pick, brine and bottle for next years tapas.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Dogs, frogs and dirty pools

Since the rain in the middle of September, our pool has got quite yucky looking, it overflowed and since then it's got a lot of algae on the floor and for some reason also floating on the surface. So today I opened the tap and started to send the water down to our bottom acre of land around to the olive trees. As it went and the steps appeared from out of the murk, Pip started to investigate....and we saw a frog who has made it his home, unbeknown to us. In her excitement she turned round too quickly on the step, her back legs slipped and in she went! I had to pull her out as she was scrabbling at the step above, not swimming to one she could have got onto. Then this evening she did it again, about 5 steps down, trying to get past Monty who also was investigating the water/frog and then just before we came into eat, Monty fell in but he had the sense to swim around - a compete circuit - until he found a step to get out from. We have had the pool for 2 years now and only once has Pip fallen in, and that was when she was tiny and running too fast and too close to the edge. Monty has never fallen in.....I suppose the moral is not to have a frog!!!! So we have 2 very clean dogs now and 2 very wet towels for the wash tomorrow. By the morning it should be empty so it'll be welly boot time to sweep up the sludge - not a dog friendly activity - I think I'd be better doing it on my own if that's possible, and then we can start to refill it. It's probably not going to get warm enough now to swim in, although the air temperature is warm, the water won't warm up enough but you never know! People do swim at this time of the year.

As well as our pool, I also emptied out next doors today and cleaned it and that is refilling as I write this. I thought all their water channels were in place so opened the tap to let the water go off to the olives, but found a lot of dug up ground, probably done by a jabali (wild boar) as they love wet, boggy ground. And they had 2 frogs in their pool which are now someway downhill having gone out with the water. I've no doubt they'll find their way back up but won't like the nice clean water - nothing to eat - so hopefully they won't stay. I don't dislike frogs - they're just so noisy! And when it's breeding season it's even noisier!! Better off without any.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Fruit time again

Most of the soft fruit has finished although there are still some apples hanging on but now is the time for pomegranates and quinces. I picked 30 pomegranates a few days ago and squeezed out 3 litres of juice - very messy business as all the little juice/seed pods burst all over the place - but very tasty so well worth the mess. Also we have picked 46 quinces which we will turn into puree as an alternative to apple sauce, sliced for crumble, again as an alternative or to add to apples, and also to make chutney. We have a lot of jalopenos growing and I think they will go nicely together to make a spicy, fruity chutney. I made quince chutney last year and added some Indian spices - coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, not sure what else but it was excellent and a change from mango chutney. Somewhere I have the recipe but we have some jars left over, so this year I want to make something different.

Now here's a question for you...why haven't the sprout plants got any sprouts? Is it too early - surely not - they are lovely tall healthy plants but sproutless!!! The cabbages are looking good, it may be that we will have to eat sprout leaves as extra cabbage if they don't do something soon! Haven't grown sprouts for a year of so but I'm sure they have usually appeared by now....any ideas, anyone?

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

And so it rained.....

Candido and the forecast were right about the weather..... some friends dropped by on the way home from a walk on Saturday, stayed for lunch (just a bowl of home-made soup and bread - yes, home-made as well) and left in between the showers about 4 o'clock. Then it rained Sunday, Monday and today. Not all day, every day, I got 2 wash loads through and dried on Monday morning, but short sharp showers which make you grab the washing and get under cover. This afternoon there was thunder rumbling around and a bit of drizzle, then suddenly about 5 o'clock the heavens opened and we had half an hour of torrential downpour followed by lovely clear blue skies and sunshine. We have just come in from an evening drink - but not sitting down as all the chairs are wet!!

Friday, 25 September 2009


3 years ago we bought 6 plants from a friend and although the plants were small, had a few strawberries that year. The next year 5 of them died off, no apparent reason as they were all in the same bed, but the remaining one has gone from strength to strength. We had a strawberry on New Years Day - yes, just one - and it has flowered and fruited all summer. Sometimes only a couple of fruits a week but always something. Then suddenly it has put out loads of runners and today I potted up 17 plants with a further 12 runners that are still a bit too small for pots but are in the ground for rooting. If nothing else, we can have jam and maybe strawberry wine if that's possible?!!!

After last weeks torrential rain - worst day was Monday but it also rained on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - this week has been back to normal with blue skies, t-shirts and shorts. Hovering around 22-23 in the day. But Candido (cooked for us a while back) dropped in this evening on the way home from a walk and said the rain was coming back and after checking the forecast for the next week, it seems he could be right. Depending on which forecast we look at we are either in for 8-9 days of bad weather - storms, thunder and lightning or just Sunday and the end of next week.

The freezers are full, the firewood is dry and we have moved some more onto the terrace so we have a lot close to the house - just in case!

Monday, 14 September 2009


This afternoon in Montenegro. . . .

Sorry that there is no sound - but it's an old little camera.
. . . . more >>

Friday, 11 September 2009

11 SEP 09

Last time I wrote anything we'd been out to dinner, well yesterday we were out for lunch. These are quite rare occasions but enjoyable. Candido cooked yesterday, he's just retired from the Guardia Civil after 38 years and he also invited his neighbour Paco who also has land up near us, so we see quite a bit of him during the week. We started with boquerones - fillets of sardine marinated in olive oil, vinegar, garlic and parsley - jamon, capers, pate and bread then he made a paella with prawns, calamari and clams followed by a melon from Paco's land here washed down with lots of Pacos wine. Candido looked very fetching in his wife's flowery apron - I wanted a photo of him serving lunch but he wouldn't let me, even though I promised to take it from the shoulders down so he would be anonymous!

We also had a drink or two with friends in the evening sun at Anna's bar in the village. I'm going to try and upload footage of Antonio going home on his new's 1 year old, cost him 400 euros and seems to have a mind of it's own!

Our wine making continues with white and black grapes this week - we're up to about 120 litres so far. There are still grapes out there to be had but the white figs are nearly over and there's not many black ones left. Lots of prickly pears which we could use! Their biggest drawback is the prickles - they have to be picked using tongs and then washed to de-prickle. One way is to make a bundle of twigs and stir them up in a bucket of water. Next Sunday - watering day - would be a good day as we could put the buckets in the running acequia water and send the prickles onto the land.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

01 SEP 09

Just a quick update while I'm passing on the way for a swim.....still hovering around 30 - 31 degrees at the moment... Pip is on version 2 of the bandage which lets the air to the wound but she can't scratch it and it is looking slightly hairy so that's good as the crepe bandage is looking rather scruffy now, last night a bottle of ginger beer went all over the kitchen floor when I opened it as it had rather too much fizz and despite the fizz didn't have much flavour. At least it didn't explode like our friend's did..and hers was bottled in beer bottles...just what you need to come home to after a day out! 3 litres of ginger beer and glass shards all over the place. Need to start from scratch again instead of re-filling I think. More wine of the go, smells very yeasty downstairs! I think we have 80 litres on the go now but could be wrong.

Went out for dinner to a friends house on Friday night, Mike said he'd make a curry which every one likes except his girlfriend but she bought some yoghurt to cool hers down with....don't think he tasted it before serving as there was only a passing resemblance to a curry flavour! I don't think he's heard the last of that, he had the mickey taken out of him all evening. But the pud was good, fresh figs cut in four, honey drizzled over and then finely grated goats cheese on top.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Southern Colchicum

And then this popped up in the garden a couple of days ago, we've identified it as a Southern Colchicum, otherwise known as an autumn crocus or naked lady, presumably because the leaves appear in the spring and when they die down they feed the corm to produce the flower but no leaves come in the autumn, it's just the flower alone.

Poor Pip

Took Monty and Pip out on Sunday morning and noticed that Pip had a red mark on her head about the size of a small coin then it seemed to increase in size and be more of a wound than a scratch. Since then it's got bigger but we don't know why - has she banged herself on something? got scratched on the aloe vera plants? no idea, but today a friend saw her scratching her head and making it worse, maybe as it heals it itches so needs scratching? Monty has been licking it every possible moment - apparently there is some antiseptic in dog saliva and it does look much better but this evening she's bashed/scratched it again and so we have raided the first aid box and bandaged her up to protect it overnight. She can just about see out from under the bandage!!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Ginger beer

Forgot to mention that I have also made a quick, 24 hour, made in the bottle ginger beer. We were going to try it at lunchtime - it's not alcoholic - but have only just opened it. For such a quick brew, and so simple, it's surprisingly good and we will be making more. Much better than shop bought fizz with all it's e-numbers

What to do.....

you need a plastic pop bottle,  either 1.5 or 2 litres.  Fill 3/4 full with water and add 1 cup of sugar (I use a dry funnel to get it in without a mess) 1/2 teaspoon of dried yeast,  the juice of 1 lemon and between 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger (no need to peel it). 

Shake the bottle well, until the sugar has dissolved, top up to within 1" of the top and leave in a warm place for 24 - 48 hours or until the bottle feels hard.  Then put it in the fridge - this stops the yeast working and chills it.  Strain and serve.  If you don't drink it all, leave out in a warm place and the yeast will start again, the bottle will harden and then you re-fridge it to cool it again.

I did try re-using the ginger to make a second batch but it had lost it's 'kick'.

If you want to see how our brewing is doing go to

Wine & water

We have started making wine recently, we picked 4.8 kgs of blackberries a week last Wednesday and added 1.2 kgs of grapes - that is now 10 litres of wine bubbling merrily away. Then on Friday morning when we took Monty and Pip out for their walk we picked 12 kgs of figs, mostly white ones, in half an hour before coming home for breakfast. They turned into 20 litres of wine, also bubbling away and a lovely deep rose colour. Today we got more blackberries and black figs which this afternoon we have chopped and squashed and put into a bucket to start the next batch. Figs are the easiest to get and the quickest too although for some reason we both itch after picking, we think it's something on the leaves as they are a bit rough. Today I made a liner for the fruit press, it's a lot less messy pressing with the liner in and easier to get the almost- dry remains out afterwards and into the compost bucket. We've put an enormous plastic washing-up bowl of Carmens outside the back door and take everything out there for washing down when we're done - I must remember to ask her what she bought it for as it'd never fit into a sink! It's nearly 1 meter across!

Apart from that, the sun continues to shine, we've been to fiesta in Yator where -after we've all had lunch and drunk quite a bit - they fill the square with foam and it turns into a huge water fight. And there's no escape, can't hide in the bar because someone will throw water inside or chase you till your wet. Apparently it's only the villages that have always had a surplus of water that have this fiesta - their way of showing off!!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Why do things always happen when you've other plans and it's the middle of summer? Last summer on the first day of Miguel's 2 weeks here (Miguel being son-in-law of Carmen next door) we had to replace the water pipe that goes under the track to get our acequia water here to water the land as it had got squashed - roasting hot day out in the full sun but had to do it in one go as there is no way round it for the little traffic that we do get. (long story why it got squashed, the short version is the digger damaged it when the electrics were laid and it was not replaced with the correct type of pipe)

This year we had pipe problems of a far nastier sort. Marie - Carmen and Miguel came with their 2 children last Tuesday for the start of their hols, to find their loo not working properly - enough said I think!! At the same time, our shower started gurgling so as all the pipework is shared, John got out the pressure washer with drain clearing attachment and put it down the pipes. It's got a 7.5m reach and that was clear, so they drilled a small hole in the pipe further down and discovered it was backed up - a huge fountain of dirty water shot up into the air, no more details needed! So they started at the bottom of the pipe which was clear, made another hole further up and found a huge amount of root and fibres, looked like coconut matting, completely blocking the pipe. It was near a joint and we think a gap must have been there for a root to get in and grow and grow and grow! The area they had to work in is in the middle of a bramble patch and that took most of a morning to clear away so they could get in easily. They cut out the section and replaced it with new pipe so all is now well.

Just re-read that and it doesn't sound too bad but they were working in temperatures of mid 30's, on a steep slope with what can only be described as foot holes, not really steps, cut into the slope, cutting out the brambles has left them looking like a cat has scratched them really badly on the arms and it was rather a smelly job to do - clothes straight in a bucket to soak and them into the shower (not together!) Also all the electric cables, and hose pipes to work the pressure washer, shears, pruning saw, mattocks etc had to be taken down the slope and then brought back up, John said the next day every bit of him ached. I don't know how many times we went up and down that slope, but it must be good for the thighs!

One good thing has come out of it, we can now reach a peach tree that has grown in the brambles - or the brambles have grown round it more likely - and it is laden with almost ripe fruit.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Seems to be a lack of photos recently and as the capers have nearly finished flowering and the seed pods are opening I picked some this morning to take pics of. The seed pod starts off in the middle of the flower on a stalk, grows and grows to the size of a plum and then starts to split open. It's full of seeds and is surprisingly bright red. The capers that you buy to eat - either in brine or vinegar - are 2 different kinds, you can either pick the unopened flower bud or wait and pick the seed pod at whatever size you prefer. We've only ever brined the bud, not sure of the difference in flavour.

On a different subject, we woke the day before yesterday to the sound of an aeroplane and helicopter and the sight of a large column of smoke from the hill behind us, towards Berchules we think. The plane is like a crop sprayer but contains fire retardant foam and the helicopter had it's water bucket down ready for dumping water on the fire. They were circling round, collecting water and then another plane came, a spotter plane we think as it went round much higher up. They moved further away after a few hours, to where we could just see grey haze on the horizon, perhaps nearer Cadiar although it's difficult to tell with so many rolling hills around just which valley they had gone into. We heard aircraft until about 8 in the evening, but only saw the 2 lots of smoke. Yesterday, again very early, the fire plane flew overhead and as I write this a helicopter has just gone over. We get very little aircraft noise and in the summer it usually means a fire - just looked out and the fire plane's gone over again too. Luckily, gone straight and high so where ever it is, isn't that close. (fingers crossed!)

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Friday last week was the 13th birthday of Dale, eldest grandson of friends of ours who have a house in Yator, come over for all their holidays and bought Dale with them this time. We had his birthday party here, spicy food that he loves and lots of people that he has met....he was head chef in charge of rolling out and cooking the wraps for the fajitas, we also made chilli and spicy albondigas plus lots of salsas and dips. 8 children came who spent most of the day in the pool followed by the 11 adults who had their swim later on at 5.30. Although I think the children were in as well plus every float/ball/lilo we had!!

So for Dale, this is you as chef; for Simon, Andrea, Poppy and Charlie, fame at last!!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Last post was apparently on June 30th so to update things use the following words and phrases in any order to fill in the missing 18 days!

watering, weeding, picking, freezing, drying fruit, sweeping and mopping floors, washing, (minimal) ironing, dog walking, sewing (mostly altering clothes due to a 6kg weight loss:) ) pool cleaning, entertaining and/or visiting neighbours and friends from Yator over here for their holidays, shopping, relaxing - yes, I try and get a 2hour rest in the shade of the olive tree every afternoon and have a swim as well, cooking - although that is minimal due to the heat, mostly a quick salad and something on the barbeque, and if I'm lucky about 7 hours sleep a night.

J has been making extra shelving, that has used up bits of wood that have been waiting around for yonks, he is now making extra space by one of the sheds to give his work-benches a new home. They have lived on the terrace for too long and it's nice and spacious now it's not so cluttered with stuff.

Pip is growing, at least her legs are and we are beginning to wonder if she is related to either a greyhound or even a kangaroo as she is so bouncy! Eats anything given to her, even fruit and vegetables, the downside being that she likes cucumbers and we found her this morning lying by the pool munching her way through a freshly bitten off cucumber! She'd taken it off very neatly at the stalk and was half way through eating it. Monty is very tolerant of her, as she wants to play when he wants to lie down, but he can still out run her and they quite often run round and round the pool in the evening with her desperately trying to catch up. Last night she got too close to the edge, either trying to get a drink or fish out a cicada, and in she fell with a big splash. She probably can swim but instinct was to pull her out and dry her off a bit. It made her a bit excited and off she went, running and bouncing round and round again.

The temperatures of 35/36 degrees seemed to have cooled a bit, it only reached 33 yesterday! The pool water is registering 29 so it does seem refreshing when you get in. It's very strange, and I don't know why it happens, but there are always hot-spots in the water, and as you swim round or across some bits are much warmer than others! I'm sure there's a very good reason for it, maybe I'll have to swim round and round to stir it up and even it out. Talking of which, I'm going for a pre-lunch dip right now...

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

What with watering, picking, freezing, drying, sewing, walking early and late with Monty and Pip, keeping (or trying to) on top of housework, washing and ironing and pool cleaning, the days are just flying by. The first figs are ripe and John has made a hot box for drying them in - converted an old window and frame we were given, made a mesh base to keep them off the ground, and put black plastic underneath and round the edges. The temperature is rising to about 55 inside and figs are drying in about 24 sunshine hours. We are going to use them instead of sultanas and raisins for cakes, biscuits, curries etc. I pick more each day when out walking to replace the dried ones. The first peaches all got eaten, but there are more on the way. I froze 1 kg of green beans this morning, we have been eating them every day but needed a break today!!

Our shady seating area over the tables and chairs by the pool is gradually filling in, we are using palm branches and cutting fresh bamboo as and when we can - it looks very tropical and beach bar-ish. It's much needed at the moment, it's not dropped below 30/32 for days now - it's still 30 now at almost 8pm. We are eating late, after the sun has gone when it feels cooler although it isn't really.

So what else is new....J has stripped now an old table and varnished it for using by the bbq's, I've made curtains for our bedroom (lovely fabric bought locally - 2.8m wide and only 4 euros a metre) and finished the last of 6 new wrap skirts - almost one for each day but unfortunately they wrinkle in the wash and need ironing and I really am not one of life's ironers.

Our neighbours came again this weekend, invited us round for Saturday evening but we were already prepared for dinner, just as well as there were 20 next door and it would have been hard work. They left between 1.30 and 3am, the last ones going via the spring to turn off the water that was going to their olives. How do we know the time? Both Monty and Pip heard the cars leaving and assumed it was time to get up!!
We were up at the normal time on Sunday morning for our watering day but they didn't appear till 1pm and then started digging water channels in the heat of the day. By which time we were finished, in the pool and thinking about making brunch - our Sunday breakfast/lunch.

Time to stop, Pip has just come rushing in, all wet from playing in the running water in the acequias and is leaving wet paw prints on the tiles. At least she's cool but I'd rather she was cool outside than in here!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

I've just looked back at June's blogs and there is only 1! So here goes...the most likely reason for not writing is the weather because I am outside all day and only come indoors to shower and sleep. I very rarely turn the computer on and am only inside now because I need to cool down a bit. It's been unseasonably warm of late, up to 35 this Sunday and totally airless as well. It's not too bad if there is a breeze and you can find somewhere to sit and catch the air but failing that I get in the pool for a swim.

Sunday afternoon we went up to a neighbours house for lunch with him, his brother in law and 2 of his sons and another neighbour. There were 2 Mariano's, 2 Juan's, 2 Antonio's and me. The evening before we were at our neighbours for the evening. Carmen and her 2 daughters, 2 sons in law and 3 grandchildren plus another couple from Yator and their daughter all talking at once with us trying to keep up with everything. It's almost 4 years since Manolo died and Carmen went back to Granada and it's 2 years since she has been back to the house but she seems now to want to come and spend some time here. They are talking about coming everyday of the school holidays, spending the day here and going to the house in Yator to sleep. There is a pool in Yator but it's 2 euros per person and only open to the public from 4 - 8 pm (it's free if you live in the apartments, and available all morning as well) so over 8 weeks that they will be down from Granada, that amounts to a lot of money! Last week they came and cleaned their water deposit and filled it up so the children can swim for free.

We've been having some creative days recently, I have made 3 wrap skirts from material which has been waiting for me to do something with for ages. Another is ready for the finishing touches and 3 more are cut ready for pinning and sewing. Its a slow process because my sewing machine is in the caravan and it's just too hot in there in the afternoons really so I nip in, sew a bit and when I boil over, go for a swim. John has also been using up things we have left from other projects and has made a frame which we are going to cover with bamboo for a permanent shady seating area. There is lots of bamboo growing up at the fuente which we've asked if we can cut down so we won't have to buy any.

We had a bit of a delay last week doing the shady roof because our water tank sprang a leak and had to be replaced. Not something that could wait, unlike the shady area. We have a sun umbrella there at the moment but the tank was priority! Luckily we had already bought a replacement tank but - obviously - not done anything about fitting it. The tank lives on the roof of the house and when the temperature is 30+ in the shade, it's not a very comfortable place to be working.

Watering the vegetables has got into a routine, some first thing, others in the evening, some daily, some alternate days. We are picking dwarf and climbing beans now and courgettes. Not loads each day but enough at the moment for when we need them. There are flowers on the cucumbers and aubergines too so they should be growing soon. The olives have flowered (seemed like all of Montenegro's blossom landed on the surface of the pool - took ages to clean it off with the net!) and now you can see baby olives forming. Hopefully a good harvest this year and maybe a better price per kilo too.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

And so another week has gone -

all the tomatoes are planted, most of the chillies - last ones go in tomorrow - the dwarf borlotto beans are now ready to be picked as needed and the first climbing beans - American Wonder Wax - are off the top of their frames and flowering. The first courgettes in are in flower and there are 3 baby courgettes which should be ready this weekend. We have a small but steady supply of strawberries to add to the peaches and mulberries, of which there are many! This morning when I was dead-heading in the front garden, I could hear a noise, it was the mulberries dropping on to the ground.

The golden orioles which started nesting in the mulberry trees by us a few years ago are back again and we think we have a nest in each tree again. The house martins come swooping low over the pool in the evening, probably for insects but also to drink as they swoop. Quite amazing, especially if you are in the pool for a swim!

The temperature is hovering around 30 each day, 19 overnight, while the water in the pool is 26. So early starts to the day, too hot to do much between 2 and 5, (that's when I read and swim but not at the same time and John plans the next things we need to do) and then we work/plant/water in the evening.

Pip has grown - about 2" on her legs and gone up 2 notches on her collar. She and Monty spend most of the day indoors on the cool tiles with moments of madness when they wake up and play then flake out again. Mornings and evenings are definitely their best times when it's cooler and we can get out for a walk. But even then they need to get into the aquecias (water channels) to cool down - it's not easy being a dog in a black fur coat in this climate! Much easier to cope in shorts and t-shirt.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

A couple of weeks ago some friends asked if we wanted to share half a lamb with them to which we said yes. Lamb is not that easy to come by here, in the supermarkets down the coast but at a price. A lot of people here have there own mixed flocks of goats and sheep, hence the offer. It arrived, as offered, half a lamb, which we looked at and figured out how to joint it. I used to say I liked my meat shrink wrapped and bar-coded and wasn't too sure how I'd like the meat if it looked like the real thing but this tastes wonderful. Tonight we lit the barbeque, used our own olive wood and rosemary to cook racks of ribs, basted with our own garlic oil. And to follow we had the first peaches of the year, from our adopted trees.

One of our next projects is to make our own wine to drink with all this home produced food. The vines have flowered and are setting fruit, turning into little bunches of grapes. Come September time we should be picking and pressing!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

I am waiting for the sun to go round behind the olive tree in the vegetable garden so I can check the new tomato beds. They were pea beds but we have cut down the first 3 plantings as they have finished, dug in the roots and today I made some sunshade canopies as it is too open to this hot sun for plants to start off with. As they get bigger and need sun to ripen the tomatoes, I can take the shading down. But first I want to check it's ok. We are eating peas from plantings 4 and 5 now, with the 6th in flower and the 7th coming up. Only half the tomatoes are going in these beds, the rest are going up on the top terrace but that's a morning job as it's shadier there then. In fact that terrace gets quite a lot of dappled sun rather than full sun as there are olive trees along both edges.

The material for the shading was bought last summer to screen the unfinished pool walls for privacy, but now that they're done - think I hear a cheer from John! - I'm putting the screening to another good use.

We've had lots of visitors recently, friends who own houses in Yator and have been over for a holiday and who drop in when out walking. Some planned visits, to join us for lunch followed by a swim - even nicer was the chicken salad that came too - and some just passing by in need of a cold glass of something. Last week we had family members of a local Spanish man who has land in Montenegro visit us and asked if they could please have a cutting from a geranium as a memento of their visit! As we have geraniums everywhere, that was an easy request. They live in Granada but were visiting Paco in El Golco, about an hours walk along the footpath (GR7 goes from Portugal to Greece)

Our adoption of abandoned fruit trees continues. This week we have given a little tlc and lots of water to a lemon tree, 4 grape vines and 3 olive trees. They are a different variety to anything we have, much smaller but with very large olives. The water deposit at the spring is still overflowing so there is no problem getting water to anything and we can keep all our storage tanks permanently topped up. The mulberries are in full fruit now so we have been picking every morning for breakfast plus the cherries that we've managed to get to before the birds. There are 2 mulberries next to the house, a white and pink, and a white, pink and red by the chapel. Our favourite is the red, so we pick on the way home from the morning walk. Monty and Pip eat the fallen fruit while they wait for us.

It's now 4 hours later....John came home with a friend (Meg) and her son, they'd left a camera here and cadged a lift from him to collect it (in return for a Magnum which was a bit melted - he had to eat it with a spoon!) and then walk back down. But we talked, looked at maps, he (the son, Blake) had a swim and then after they left we ate and then went for a walk with Monty and Pip.

So another day further on in life, tomorrow I'm hoping to plant out the largest tomatoes and leave the others to grow on a bit more, maybe a week or so longer.

The weather hotspot of last week has settled down to the normal temperature we would expect of the end of May, mid to high 20's in the shade.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

It's 8.50pm here and still the temperature is 27.....John is in the pool and I have just come in to do a quick update. It almost reached 31 this afternoon, don't think it has been this hot in May before.

We are working from early till late, Spanish style, with a break in the afternoon - siesta. We are up and about from 7am, one of us goes out with the dogs while the other makes breakfast, then we get on with our daily jobs. I tend to look after the fruit and vegetables, following the shade as the sun moves around. Watering, weeding, planting out, picking peas and broad beans, mostly for eating and some for drying for next years seeds, strawberries are producing enough for a dessert a week. I am collecting seeds from other plants too, mostly rocket and sage at the moment, while I am keeping a very close eye on the spinach as it's flowering and will set seed soon which we want to collect. The runner beans are running, the dwarf beans are in flower, and the potatoes are doing well too. There are cucumber plants up - never tried them before.We are mostly eating what we grow, have only bought carrots and lettuce recently. Just transplanted 25 brussels and 20 cabbages this week too.

John is finishing the outside walls around the pool and as each section is done, it forms a bay between the supporting pillars where we are stacking firewood to finish drying. The wood was on shed roofs, moving it has meant the roofs are now free for other things...not as daft as it sounds as the sheds are in the side garden which is lower, so the roofs are level with the side terrace. One has plants on that are growing on ready for planting out, 109 chilli and jalopenos, 25 peppers and 72 tomato plants plus about 50 marigolds. They have shade from an almond tree and an old parasol plus today I added some sun shade fabric (pegged onto the tree - not pretty but functional and very necessary) The other shed roof is waiting to be cleaned up and then I can bring out the drying racks as that is where we dry figs (figgy pudding for the winter?) later on tomatoes and this year we are going to try drying apples, peaches and pears. I want to freeze some too, but as we have adopted some more trees recently we are hoping to be able to eat fresh fruit as well as freeze and dry the rest. We have adopted 1 apple, 1 pear, 1 pomegranate and 7 peach trees which have been neglected in recent years but are continuing to fruit so with lots of water and a bit of tlc should see us self-sufficient this summer. I think there are 2 plums as well but no fruit this year, maybe in the future.

We have friends in Yator who don't have a compost (not enough outside space) but don't like to throw away useful stuff, so both families collect all their compostables (is that a word?) and bring it up each week. We now have 4 heaps, still not making enough for the land we are now growing on but as each crop finishes and gets cut down we are hoping the soil will get better. We have some areas which dry out much too quickly, some crops cope ok, but not others.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Fiesta at Montenegro

Yesterday was fiesta here, it started with the chapel bell ringing and rockets firing off from the era (threshing circle) behind the chapel. Then at 12.15 the priest said mass outside the chapel followed by a procession carrying our saint, Santa Fatima, around the houses. She and the chapel were beautifully decorated as usual by some of the women from Yator and Yegen using roses and ivy from our garden as well as bought carnations. When the procession reached the chapel again, there was an enormous volley of rockets sent up from stands built on the era. Unfortunately Pip didn't enjoy that and John found here hiding in the corner of our bedroom trying to get under the bed, while 2 of Connie and Michas dogs ran away - although they did come home later on. After that, we had friends here for lunch, everyone brings something to eat and drink as well so there was plenty of choice. The locals do the same at their houses. Then we went up to Mariano's house, he lives next to the chapel, to enjoy some wine, music and paso doble -ing. My first dance partner was smaller than me, with a bad leg and also he'd been sampling the local wine, so we were not a good example of how to paso doble! He'd plays guitar better than he dances! About 4.30 we came back here as our friends children wanted to go for a swim - we filled the pool the day before fiesta. The water temperature was 22 although they said it felt cooler. We were just about to make some hot tapas when about 15 people from Mariano's came down the road, the 3 guitarists still playing, and set up in our front garden for our music and dancing session. Then we all decamped to Connie and Michas for the same again, which they weren't expecting so had no food or drink prepared. That session was obviously much shorter and someone decided to come back here as we still had food and drink left. John somehow managed to make enough tapas sized portions of curry, rice and onion bahjis stretch to feed everyone - you don't get much spicy food in this area but neither he or I got to eat any of it as it went so fast! Everyone finally left about 11pm, how on earth they drove home I don't know as the local wine is pretty potent. It tastes really fruity but has lots of kick.

Today is a tidying up day, not much washing up as we only used plastic plates, cups and cutlery. We seem to have more drink now than we started with so thanks to everyone for that! We also have a hat, pair of sunglasses, pair of childs socks and a t-shirt, and binoculars that don't belong to us. I'm sure someone will be in touch asking if they've left anything behind. And John has found a bag with a loaf of bread, 2 tins of sardines and a bag of crisps in as well! Lunch!!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Diary update

This seems to be turning into an online diary - Tuesday we strimmed the top land, raked all the trimmings into a compost pile and cleaned out all the water channels then set the water running to flush any leaves and stuff out. Friends came for drinks and tapas later on that day. On Wednesday and Thursday John was finishing more sections of the perimeter wall round the pool while I sanded loose paint, cleaned and repainted the iffy bits of the pool walls and base. The only part of the pool we didn't do ourselves is the only bit that needs any maintenance, I'm sure there's a moral there! If you want it done properly, do it all yourself. Friday, John went down to the olive mill to collect our oil and money from this years harvest. We have 60 litres down in the bodega and some food money too. We had friends up for dinner so spent time preparing food - onion bahjis, yoghurt and mint, poppadoms are my contribution, while he does the meat, curry sauce and rice. (nice rice too, with toasted almonds,sultanas and spices in) And then I clear up! Not saying he makes a mess but he does seem to use every pan and spoon that we have. Bit of a late night for us - 2am before we got to bed - so a lazy day today which makes a change. Nipped in to Cadiar, bought a paper, bit of shopping and relaxed this afternoon reading.

It's also been a birthday week - mother in law yesterday, my mother today, and my friend Carolyn has her 50th later this week. So happy birthday to all of you!!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Recent stuff...

Last week seems to have flown by, we have been busy with lots of things around and about. Yesterday we had a day off, we walked down to Yator after lunch to meet some friends who are over for a holiday and came back up in time for sunset. Pip managed to walk all the way back up as well even though she'd been taken out for a few walks during the day as well. She and Monty slept very well last night and they still seem tired today. I expected her to be exhausted, at 11 weeks old it was a long day out, but he shouldn't be. He's probably still recovering from having his peace and quiet disturbed...whenever he lies down in the shade, she wants to play.

Today we have been watering everything we can, filling storage tanks, really soaking all the vegetable plots and plants, olives and fruit trees and picking peas and broad beans. We have picked almost 11 kilos (unpodded weight) of beans and a bucket full of peas. Some we ate tonight, tomorrow we are going to start drying the largest beans for toasting and salting as a snack. More peas planted today, also more french beans in. We were given rhubarb and broccoli seeds recently so are going to get them started tomorrow. The terraces are becoming rather overgrown with grasses, wild garlic, wild thyme and other things so we are also going to start strimming it all down, hopefully tomorrow. Whether it all gets done in one day or not, I'm not sure, but then it can all get raked into piles to rot down for compost. John usually does the strimming and then I follow along a while later tidying up.

As for the rest of the week, we are hoping to catch up with other jobs that need doing..the tyre on the wheelbarrow needs its puncture repairing, we have friends for dinner on Friday so that needs some planning, we have walls to finish round the pool, we need to give the pool another coat of paint before filling it and before we know it, that'll be another week over. On the 13th it's Montenegro's fiesta and after the service at the chapel everyone gathers at each others cortijos for food and drink. It seems to be expected that everyone goes to each house, so it's quite a long day!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Veg update

So apart from being adopted by a dog, we have been busy planting out the first lot of runner beans, (started off in the caravan-greenhouse), we have 5 cucumber plants just germinating outside under cut-off plastic bottles and another 6 seeds in, the first sowing of dwarf beans are doing well (11 up out of 12 seeds) and a second planting is in, we are picking peas and broad beans as and when we need them, although there are more beans ready than we can eat! They are lovely when dried and then lightly done in olive oil and salted instead of peanuts or cashews for a snack. Also stir fried with panceta, garlic and onions for tapas :) Cabbage and brussels are due soon for replanting, the rocket is going to seed although I have cut a lot of seeds for drying, we have more spinach than we can eat.....the only disappointments are the beetroot, leeks and spring onions which we have always grown but this year...nothing as yet! The tomatoes, chillis and peppers are all going well, hopefully ready for transplanting soon but again, aubergines....always done well, this year nothing as yet. Put out the 2 biggest courgette plants this afternoon.

Sun is shining, (well, not now obviously as it's almost 10pm) it's reached 25 this week - summer is coming!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Introducing Pip

Pip's mother arrived in Montenegro about 10 or 11 weeks ago, found a safe place in the empty nesting boxes of Micha and Connies chicken shed, and gave birth to 5 puppies. 2 brown, 2 blond and the smallest of the litter, black. They've found homes for 4 of them and this one seems to have found her own home. She made her way down here alone on Easter Sunday, so I took her back up to Connie, she came down 3 times on Monday, with her mother following and obviously wanting her to come back but each time we put her outside, she came back in through a lookout hole we left in the wall for Monty, and started to play with him. Then in through the fence....didn't seem to want to go. Connie and Micha don't want to keep her, they already have 2 dogs and 3 cats so here she is. She follows Monty around like a little shadow, tries to keep up with him when we go out for a walk, stops and sniffs whenever he does and eats and sleeps a lot.

Her name came because of the little pip and squeak noises she makes, not really big enough for a proper woof yet. Her mother is a Spanish hunting dog, they are quite small but have big pointy ears, mum is black, tan and cream which probably explains the colour of the pups. She has small feet and so we expect her to be about mums size when grown. As for dad, well we think a small black and white terrier of which there are a lot - Monty's dad was one too. No-one knows where mum came from, she was extremely thin and limping badly when Connie found her in the chicken shed as if she'd been travelling a long while. She's still around up at Connie's, not sure if she will go now there are no pups left there.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

The insect

hopefully including a photo!

At last!

Finally, we have finished the rebuilding of the walls - 4 in all, ranging from 2 metres in length to about 5 metres, all of them about 2 metres high. Still have wood to cut and move, but that's for another day.

I went to water the vegetables in the side garden a couple of days ago and saw this thing eating - luckily for us - a weed. Ran for the camera and got a few photos.....there's an oleander leaf nearby, about 3" in length.....any ideas what it is?? It moved very fast, definitely has 6 legs but seemed to drag its body on the ground as it went!

Strange weather at the moment, sunny and warm in the morning, getting breezier during the afternoon and sometimes that goes away and we have a glorious evening but other evenings it's been really chilly and we have had the fire alight. This evening we had a visit (for a beer or two!) from the son and his friend of one of our Spanish neighbours. Miguel was born in Hannover where his father worked, has been to university in Dublin and also lived in Bradford so speaks good English. His uncle married an English girl, one of his cousins - Jose - is English and plays football for Leeds United. Then Antonio - another uncle from Yegen - came down as well, not sure if he came to see where Miguel was or whether he came for a glass of wine!! But an interesting few hours of conversation.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Happy Easter

We have been given a box of creme eggs for Easter and are about to start on them... thanks to Terry for those! We have also had another unexpected load of firewood, 24 barrow loads today moved to the car and then down to the house. (not all at once, it took 3 car trips) Some logs were so big it was only 2 to a barrow! The people whose walls we are repairing have had a JCB in on the next terrace down to clear out about 30 years of brambles, reeds, overgrown fig trees and other assorted plants. Amongst it all were quite a few fallen trees, and being on-site at the time, we were offered the wood. So, no walling yesterday, just logging as the digger dragged stuff away, then we stacked it to one side and today got it back here.

It's been a good week for extras, on Wednesday I went to pay the car tax for the Polo (34 euros!) and took the recycling as well. Behind the bottle bank were hundreds of plant pots a hands width at the base and over a hand high, and also hundreds of various sizes of trays for seedlings. I put as much as I could in the car - also had cement and was in the Polo not the 4x4 unfortunately! I bought home 40 pots, 12 trays with 54 holes, 8 with 45 holes and 5 with 45 much deeper holes. I left behind hundreds more but there is a limit to how much you can or need to grow and a limit to the compost we have available too. However I did ring a friend who also grows all her own and like me, keeps absolutely everything it's possible to grow something in......yoghurt pots, meat trays, loo roll middles, plastic bottles cut in half etc.

The weather continues to be nice and sunny, now the clocks have changed we don't come indoors until about 7.45 when the sun goes behind the hill so we are eating later and later at night. Must get more organised with meals then we can eat outside, we have enough wood for a proper barbeque and won't use the gas one so much, although it is handy as it's so quick.

That's it, creme egg time now - and a glass of red too!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

So, another week passes

It doesn't seem a week since I last wrote anything but time flies when you're having fun!!! Saturday last week we did some tidying up of the path we'd been working on - more people around at the weekend needing access to the water deposit - and did some planting later on for ourselves. Sunday we had a day to ourselves, but there is always something to do here especially since we are out so much. Monday we were back on the walls, Tuesday and Wednesday J had a bug (headache, sore throat, ear ache, blocked sinuses etc) and spent most of the day asleep so I got on with re-digging and weeding the areas we want for beans and tomatoes. Thursday, back on the walls, talked to one of our neighbours who also has the same bug, as does his brother in law. Friday - yes, more walling and today for a change we took down an olive tree that is rotten and in the way of completing another section of wall. 12 or 13 barrow loads to the car to bring back here - 3 car loads of fire wood :)

In the greenhouse (aka the caravan) we have tomatoes, courgettes, runner beans and chillis up and there are dwarf beans growing outside covered with halves of plastic bottles as protection from the birds until they are bigger. Different beans this year, dwarf borlotto beans and climbing kentucky wonder wax! The first broad beans are ready for picking now, and the peas are almost there, a bit fatter and we'll have the first lot this coming week. Tomorrow is our watering day so everything can have a good soaking. In the next week or so, we'll put courgettes direct into the ground to come on as a second crop, the same with runner beans and probably get some more tomatoes too. Usually we buy small plants from the market, the ones we have in the greenhouse/caravan are only cherry and beef tomatoes. The brussels are up, as are cabbages, radish, coriander and basil. The sage plants - we have a lot - are all about to burst into bloom which means even more seeds for next year. I keep planting as you never know if they will get caught by a frost and die off and if there's too many, there's always someone wanting a plant and we dry the leaves for the winter to make sage and onion stuffing.

So life continues to be busy; in between all this we somehow fit in washing and cleaning and stuff like that.... big shopping day due soon to fill the shelves and freezers as we are nearly out of vodka and tonic -amongst other more mundane things!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Yellow Bee Orchids.

We were out again today repairing stone walls on the path to the main water deposit, when I saw some more orchids, this time Yellow Bee Orchids. We have seen them on our land too, but never by the side of the footpath. Must be about 5 or 6 growing, hope no-one walks on them.

Sun continues to shine, 21 at 4pm today (that's the thermometer on the terrace in the shade) much warmer when you are working in the sun!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Shopping locally.

I went into town today to buy some cement, replace empty gas bottles and buy a few other things. The cement was 16.80.......I had 16.70 in change or else a 50 euro doesn't matter said Paquita, give me the 10 cents next time you're in. Went to the tabac, same thing, nearly the correct change or else a the rest next time. And then to the gas shop. I took in 2 empty bottles of butano (used for the cooker and the shower) swopped for 2 full bottles and went in to pay. The lady there said that on the 1st of April the price was dropping from 13 to 10 euros so did I want to wait till then before changing! Well of course I did, as we don't need the bottles today as we always have more spares than we need. I left the empties with her and will collect the full ones sometime after the price drop. And 6 euros is better in my pocket than the gas companies :)

Paying the extra 10 cents or so whenever you are in town next has happened quite often here, I still find it very trusting/amazing. Having said that, when we order stuff from Elena at the local builders merchant, her husband Juan delivers the same day and they are really surprised if you want to pay there and then. Their attitude is pay when the job is done, even if it's a long term project!

Do local businesses have this same outlook elsewhere? Not many of these places take credit or debit cards, most of them only do cash and are only accountable to themselves - this must make a difference I think. No head- office watching over every thing!!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Dutchman's pipe.

Monday we went to finish cutting down the alder, we only had the main trunk to go but it still took till late lunchtime to log, barrow, load the car and get it here. Then we cleared up the debris - twigs and leaves on the ground, in the acequia etc. While we were doing this I saw a flower that I thought I'd seen a picture of but wasn't sure of it's name, took pictures anyway and then looked in the wildflowers of Spain book when we got home. It turns out to be a Dutchman's pipe, don't know where else it grows in the world, maybe it's really common!!!! Anyway we collected some seed pods too - they are really big and fat, far bigger than the flower and open up like a cup shape - we're hoping to grow some up fences around the olive tree in the front garden.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Mothers Day update

As yet another busy week draws to a close, I looked in the diary to see where we'd been and what we'd done each day. I keep 2 diaries, 1 as a day to day record of life here - just brief notes on what, where and when and the other is a record of what we plant and where. I was given a very nice leather bound journal when I left work to come here (thanks Denise!) and am about three-quarters of the way through it with little diagrams of terraces, fruit trees and such like. The other day to day diary is - luckily for me - always sent for a Christmas pressie. As it's an English diary it has dates in such as Mothering Sunday! Dia del Madre in Spain is a set date and is on our Spanish calendar downstairs. That one comes from the bank and has every fiesta date on it, and there's a lot! Every day has it's own saint, every village has it's own saint/fiesta day and then there's the Andalucia holidays, the Spanish holidays.............!

So, this week. Monday was the final olive mill trip. A grand total of 2094 kgs for our neighbour whose harvest we've done for a 2/3 share and 495 kgs of our own. Ours we are having as oil - about 60 litres - and our share of his as cash. Later that day I went and emptied the mature compost heap and bagged it up ready to use as and when needed. It had made 3 x 40 litre sacks and 3 x 20 litre sacks over the year. I'm sure that won't be enough though!

Tuesday J woke up with a stiff neck, unable to look up or down, left or right. I reckon it was due to the snoring, he says he snored because he was sleeping awkwardly hence the bad neck. Whichever, he was chief cook for the day while I went to dig over previously dug veg beds which had got weedy, (although very colourful with lots of poppies) and sowed rows of brussels, radishes, carrots, beetroot, swedes, parsnips, leeks, more peas and a tub of coriander.

Wednesday we were back on the path that goes to our main water deposit, this we have been asked to tidy up, repair the dry-stone walls and remove any dead or over-hanging olive trees and take away - yes, more fire wood! We moved stones from walls that had collapsed and stacked on the edge of the path, dug out the soil from behind and generally got the path accessible.

Thursday the first section of wall had more layers of stones built back up and on Friday we made a bridge over a water channel so we have better access with the wheelbarrow to the rest of the path.

Saturday morning we started to cut and log an alder that had collapsed, split at the base and come to rest in an olive tree! We took 8 very full barrow loads to the car - each way 200 metres - the seats of the car are permanently flat nowadays and that lot just about filled it. Monday we will do the main trunk and I think we'll need to take the trailer to get it all back here. Either that or do more than 1 trip.

And today was our watering day again, filled storage tanks, watered everything, cleaned out next doors water deposit - gone very green with frogs in and rotting leaves, not pleasant especially as the weather is warm and it'll start to smell soon :( Not sure why they keep any water in it as they have never use it for watering. The whole point of having a deposit is to use it in-between your watering days and then refill it. When I say "they" haven't been here, it's only Miguel the son-in-law that comes anyway and although he watered some of the olives last year from June till August, never came to pick them.

More signs, or rather sounds, of Spring today. The Hoopoos are back and calling to each other during the day and the Scops owls are doing the same thing at night. I saw a hoopoo this morning but we've never seen the Scops owls. For some reason they seem to drive Monty mad and he goes out barking whenever they are hooting.