Friday, 27 February 2009


When we were out the day before yesterday, a birds nest in the brambles next to the path caught my eye, I first thought - as you would - that it was a bird nesting, a bit close to the path and a bit low down, but when I looked again, realised that it was Ratty! Typical, I didn't have the camera with me! So, we came home, got J's camera as it's got a better lens than my digital one and went back out. I got one photo then Ratty jumped out of the nest and vanished down a well-placed branch into the undergrowth. Today I went the same way, same camera and got 5 or 6 pictures before he took off. One picture looks like there could be a small face in the nest as well, maybe it's Mrs Ratty keeping her babies safe - she is about 4 or 5 feet off the ground in a bramble patch! It's difficult to see the size from the photo, but I'd guess at about 4 inches of body and a bit more of tail, a gingery brown colour, and unless there is a giant Andalucian mouse, we reckon it's most likely a rat. Still, quite cute looking.

PS - the "we" in all this is Monty and me - he probably wondered why we went twice to the same place, stood around for a bit and then came home. Not sure he understands about taking photos!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Water storage, Spanish style!

For a few years until we had built our pool, we only had a paddling pool to keep cool in during the summer. I say paddling pools, this one is 8 foot diameter and about 3 foot high, it has an inflatable ring around the top and as the pool fills with water, so it rises up. It has been in the shed for about 18 months now so we decided to put it to a better use storing water for the vegetables on the top terrace as there was no storage there. Montenegro's main water deposit is still overflowing and the water is being sent down to the river so today seemed a good day to use some of that to fill the pool. We levelled the ground, padded it with empty manure sacks and 2 old lilos which have punctured, filled it and then fenced it off to keep animals away. I am more concerned that they might puncture it with claws trying to get a drink than anything else! Then we covered it with an old olive net to keep the frogs and leaves out. The fencing, the olive net and the sticks for support were all old things from the shed, similarly the manure sacks can't be used for anything else (too smelly!) and the lilos were just waiting to be found a use for.

The broad beans are in full flower now, this is actually the second planting, put in on Oct 20th - notice another water tank behind them - there is some sort of storage on each terrace but this is a proper tank not a kids pool! Can't remember now why we bought it, but it is being put to a good use.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Watering and cleaning.

It was our fortnightly watering day today and the onions were as dry as dry can be, so they had a good soaking. There are a few spaces where for one reason or another some haven't grown but the rest are doing well. One strawberry plant is covered in flowers, the others seem to be resting! The broad beans (1st planting) are flowering well, not sure how long before we see the first bean though, the next lot of beans planted are also looking good.

And then we decided to rinse out the pool, it has been emptied gradually over the past couple of months, but because we haven't had any rain for 16 days now, and it has been quite warm and sunny, the dirt at the bottom of the pool started to dry on and we had to rinse and brush it until it got loose enough to flush out. We have left some water in the bottom to use to clean down the walls another day. There are a couple of areas of loose paint to wire brush and re-do before filling it for the summer - not yet! Probably about May.

Saturday, 21 February 2009


Just recently I have seen the orchids starting to grow, first just the leaves and then the flower spikes. Usually the only one I have seen is the Hyancinth orchid (for obvious reasons when you see the photo) but this year there is a different one, not sure for certain what it is, our wild flower book describes one similar to it as a Woodcock Orchid but shows a much taller plant with more flowers - maybe this one is in the early stages of growth!! Anyone who knows anything about this, get in touch!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Latest news

We have finally finished the olives, just over 2000 kgs down at the mill! The price per kilo if you want cash this year is less than half last years, at 35c a kilo, if the price of oil or olives in the shops drops by half I'll be very surprised! We will take a combination of oil and money, enough oil for 2 years use is what they recommend.

Saturday - Valentines Day - we went down to Motril to have the Polo ITV'd - the Spanish equivalent of an MOT, except you drive it through the testing bay yourself and the technician asks you to e.g. turn on the lights, indicators, wipers etc, he does the emissions test, then you drive onto the rolling road for brake tests and over an inspection pit so he can test the steering from below. He only gets in the car to check seat belts. Only takes about 15 - 20 minutes, cost us E35 and that lasts for another 2 years. That evening there was a dance in the salon (village hall) in Yator, we went down about 9.30, there were probably a couple of dozen people there, which isn't many but for a village of 70 or so, I suppose it's quite a good turn-out. Had some nice local wine, same as we had at fiesta I think and then had a very lazy day yesterday sitting in the sun reading. Yes we still have sun, it's been about 16 in the shade recently.

Today we started repairing one of the landslips, digging the banking back and terracing it, making a dry-stone wall around the base and putting plants in to make it stable. We'll continue with that as we find more big stones around and about. But at least it looks more solid than it did! There have been enormous land slides between Cadiar and Torvizcon, the road has only recently been straightened/widened and it has been down to single lane after the rains as a digger was clearing all the earth and rocks that slid down from where the land was cut back. There are still 2 diversions through parking/picnic areas! And in one place the land on the outside has slid, leaving the crash barrier suspended in the air!! Our landslip is minor in comparison.

We also got some seeds in today, a few rows of carrots, spring onions, radishes and leeks and trays of aubergines, peppers, chillis and coriander for planting out later.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Shooting stars

I took Monty out for a last walk about half an hour ago, totally clear skies again - they've been clear day and night all week now - and caught sight of a shooting star. It helps not having street lights down by the house, there are some up by the chapel which doesn't help your night vision.

We had an olive-free day today and instead went down to our bottom terraces below the house and spent 3 hours acequia clearing - mud and stones had slipped in during the rains and blocked it - then this afternoon cut down 2 almond trees that were dead and took the wood up to the house. J cuts it into fire-sized logs, we put that into black buckets and pull it from terrace to terrace and then through the gate to the wheelbarrow. Sounds worse than it is, it's a lot harder/more distance to walk along each terrace and up the path numerous times. It's 200 metres from the house down to the first of the terraces....don't want to walk that carrying logs uphill too often!!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Back to normal / version 2

The day has been lovely and the forecast is good so hopefully that was winter...! We heard on Saturday that the road from Cadiar up to Berchules has collapsed just before the junction where there is a look-out point. Apparently the culvert has washed away under the road and the road is hanging in mid-air, the children can't get to school from Mecina Bombaron down to Cadiar and it's a long way round via Valor/Ugijar so we are the short cut for many people. (but not the children, they have a holiday till it's sorted) Not sure how the bread and fish delivery vans are getting to the villages from Cadiar, we don't see them when we are out harvesting but maybe they come past us too.

We tried to have a count up of trees done so far, somewhere in the region of between 80 to 90 and more to come, and so much firewood! Tomorrow we start on a different section of trees, much flatter land, less height between terraces so that makes it easier and quicker (we hope!)

Friday, 6 February 2009

More land slides

we noticed 2 more trees today that have land slips underneath them, one of them has - or had - a dry-stone wall which has slid down about a metre! The whole thing has slid apart from a few stones still in place, quite amazing. It seems that the wall has slid onto a ledge, so if it is solid and we find more stones, we can maybe build it up from its current resting place. Should be interesting! The other tree has just had the soil washed out from underneath, both trees will have to be cut right back so there is no weight on the outer side as they hang out over the track down to Yator and we don't want them falling and blocking that. We have plenty to keep us busy now for a long time, we still have the olives to finish picking, then pruning, the grape vines need pruning this weekend (it's a moon thing according to the locals) the fruit trees also should be pruned about now, walls to finish round our pool, soon it will be time to start planting seeds and weeding, fortnightly watering, picking veg and so the year progresses......Not to mention general house maintenance, I saw today some walls outside where the paint needs redoing, also usually by now I have cut back the roses and geraniums and taken cuttings but not had time yet, hopefully it'll get done over this weekend.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

forgot to mention...

while we were out this morning I went to check the veg were ok which they are - not floated away just yet! The first broad beans are starting to flower and everything else is fine, then I saw we had a big juicy red strawberry! Just one and it was delicious :) Surely that's not right, producing fruit in February?

Montenegro's water.

As some of you know, our water supply is snow-melt and rain from the Sierras, which slowly filters down through the rocks and pops out at the fuente here. Normally there is no sign of water until you go to the fuente, and once there you can here the water gurgling inside the rocks. But today there is a waterfall up in the hills above, you can see it in 2 places - if you click to enlarge the photo, it is top/centre and shows more obviously left of Pepe and Miguel's house. I went nearer to the fuente as well this afternoon on a walk with Monty, and could hear the water cascading. I didn't go too close as I'm not sure where it's going! We think it goes straight down to the river in the valley behind us, we can hear that too from up here today.

Another consequence of this rain is that the land is sodden, most of our olives are supported by dry-stone walls as they are planted on edges of terraces, but one is not and this morning John noticed that the soil supporting the tree had started collapsing and undermined the roots! We had already cut a lot of the outer branches off as most of the weight was outside, we spent a wet few hours cutting the tree down to a stump so if it does collapse it won't so bad. When we have a dry day, we plan to build a more sloping bank, and put lots of plants in to hold it firm. A by-product of this is of course more firewood - for next year though.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Raining olives

A bit of a play on words intended really because it rained last night so when we started on the first tree today, we got showered with rain drops and also olives because it was a very heavily laden tree :)

It started off cool but sunny this morning and as the day went on we were in t-shirts again - much like last week - but as we were finishing the last of todays trees, rolling the nets and bagging up the olives, we noticed the Contraviesa was disappearing into the the time we had tidied up and were on our way back to the house, it was spitting with rain and 2 hours later it was pouring again. It has now cleared up again so hopefully tomorrow will be ok. One of the many Fernando's from Yator came up this lunchtime to get some drinking water from the tap at the chapel (the locals don't like their processed water and prefer our spring water) and he said we shouldn't be harvesting olives after rain....when they get to the mill they are washed, so why not? Maybe it's an old wives (or should that be mens?) tale made up by the men, to get a day off work after it's rained by telling their wives the same story ???? He came up on his tractor with two 25 litre containers on the back, said his father is ill and wants Montenegro water to help him get better!