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!