Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sorry - another pista picture.

I don't like to bore you all with yet another picture of the so-called pista, but this is the latest version. Surely it can't get any worse! It has slid in slices; first a crack appears, then a slice goes and each slice then exposes more soft damp soil, with no plants to hold it together and so another crack appears, another slice slides down and so on......

Another car tried to go down today, I only heard it coming up and we did wonder if by some magic the pista was repaired (the hole was still there at 8am today - I doubted it very much) but J went out to look and nothing had changed. It must have been someone out for a scenic drive in the sunshine. Bit of a shock coming across that! At least they were in a 4x4 in the daylight, unlike last weeks BMW driver in the dark.

Over the last few days we have working outside, repairing rain damage. We have steps cut into the ground down from the side garden to the bottom acequia which are now rather curvy due to the rain, J has re-dug them, put in concrete bloques filled with soil and stones and then I have planted anything ground cover-ish to stop the soil washing away next to them. Each time it rains heavily or snows something changes, and you realise what needs doing so next time there won't be a problem.

Pruning time soon for firewood stocks....if the lovely weather holds up! Blue skies and sunshine still, cold overnight but at least it's dry.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Something to look at that has changed....

Lots of you come here via which has a link to "where I live" which is this website. But it's now been revamped and comments etc would be welcomed, especially by John, as it is his! And for those of you who come here direct, why not take a look at it.

More oranges today, 2.5 litres of juice and zest grated for the coming year. Why is it called zest, not peel? And why is it so difficult to get it all out of the grater? I've seen zesters for sale - do they work? Not sure we need all this dried zest, but if the orange crop should fail like the olives have this year, we need to have more than enough in stock. It now makes sense when we were advised to get 2 years of olive oil in from last years harvest. Unfortunately we didn't get 2 years of brined olives in stock and have run out. So any olives we want to eat this year will have to be bought - or we go without!

The vet only took a few of Pip's stitches out and he's going to do the rest next week. I don't think she's healed enough and he doesn't want her to pop open!

Blue skies and sunshine today which was lovely after the clouds and rain. Not particularly hot - 10 in the shade - but warm enough to dry the washing.

Friends who have been stuck the other side of Yators' river since Christmas week are finally out! They had to organise a digger themselves but now have access. One couple had got across the river using their tractor to dig but then had to walk to Yator, they still didn't have a car though. The other couple had to walk everywhere, including twice a week with 25 litres of goat's milk each time for the milkman to collect in Yator and taking back sacks of food for the goats. Plus of course everything they needed for themselves. People have helped as best they could, lending a car, offering lifts, taking food etc as close as possible for them but I bet they're relieved to have access.

Celebrations tonight I expect!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Since Wednesday....

We have finally ventured out via the remade track to Yegen and on down to El Ejido to stock up the freezers and shelves with meat and tinned goods. First we went down with Monty and Pip to Yator to empty both cars into one; dog biscuits, beer and coke - strange mixture of things to have! Then we dropped everything off here, plus the dogs and went back out to stock up. Yator to Montenegro via Mecina and Yegen is an extra 15kms - direct from here down is only 2kms! The track is in reasonably good condition considering how it was after the rains. There is only one wet, squidgy area that I didn't like driving over, it's much easier to go uphill than down! So now we are as normal for the winter, the Polo in Yator and the 4x4 here so we have options.

This weekend was fiesta San Sebastian in Yator. We walked down on Saturday morning for the lunchtime do - looked a bit odd really as we were both in jeans and walking boots but our top halves were super smart. J in a blazer, shirt, tie and waistcoat and me in a black and cream fine wool top and pearls! We took trousers and shoes and high heels for me and got changed at a friends house. About 4pm we changed back and came home. A bit slower on the return journey though, something to do with the wine I think!

Sundays forecast wasn't good and we didn't fancy walking home after the wine in the rain, so stayed here yesterday. But by 2pm the promised rain hadn't come so I took Pip and Monty out orange picking, not that they're much help! Got 31 off the tree, loads more to come but they don't all ripen at the same time. First I grated the peel and have it drying on a baking tray to store later for cakes, biscuits and figgy pudding, then squeezed them - 2 litres of juice in the fridge.

There were lots of lemons down on the ground, about a dozen windfalls, so I have started to grate the peel from them before using them. That's drying as well. We have a vase of narcissi on the dining table, they have been blooming for about 3 weeks and we have enough to cut for the house as well as plenty in flower outside. So when you open the kitchen door, there is a gorgeous fruity, flowery smell.

The 3rd lot of broad beans and peas went in this morning, the first beans are flowering already. I also picked 5 strawberries! And there are more flowers and some ripening too. Even some of this years runners/small plants have flowers.

But right now it's raining again- a steady drizzle coming down, so not sure if there will be much of the collapsing track left tomorrow. It hasn't got much worse, just sinking slowly down, down, down. Still no sign of the digger to repair it and it won't come while the ground is wet. (Just looked out of the window - it's rain not drizzle!)

Tomorrow off to the vet with Pip to have her stitches out, should have gone today but she did something while out this morning, I didn't see what, she and Monty were running ahead of me and there was a yelping and she was hobbling on 3 legs. Probably pulled something running or stopped too quickly and twisted something. Who knows, but she's ok now. I didn't want to set off with a hobbling pup who might not be able to walk down to the car and it didn't seem worth going the long way round in the other car. He's a very laid back vet so going tomorrow won't be a problem.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Traffic report

On Monday we heard a rumbling coming down from Yegen, so after lunch went for a walk to see what was happening. It sounded like a digger, was in fact a bulldozer that just pushed every rock aside, remade the collapsed track - see photos from our walk with Mat to Yegen on the 27th December - and arrived here late afternoon. When it got to the border with Yator it had to stop, and we were told that the digger from Yator would be up the following day to do its bit.

Tuesday morning when I went out with Monty and Pip for a walk, no digger in sight but we came across a BMW parked - if that's the right word! - just before the land slide. Drivers window open, no-one around, just stopped. It had obviously been closer to the hole and had managed to reverse back a bit but was on a rutted slope and couldn't get any further. Later that day, a guy walked past on his way up from Yator and shortly after that, he came back down with Micha carrying 2 spades. It was the BMW driver, he'd tried to get down the night before - in the dark - luckily had seen the collapse, but then got stuck. Micha helped him out of the ruts, and he went back up to Yegen.

Today another vehicle also tried to get down, John heard a car go down and a while later a 4x4 came back up. As you may have guessed, there are no road closed signs anywhere and we assume that people in Yegen have heard that the bulldozer came down and are expecting it to be open all the way to Yator.

We are expecting to find someone parked in the landslide one of these days! Maybe if there is more traffic, then the digger will be back. But we can now get home via Mecina and Yegen - a bit of a detour but when we need heavy shopping or gas bottles, it's now an option.

A bit more about the road from Cadiar to Torviscon - there is a report in the Ideal newspaper saying that there are now 71 landslides in the 12 km stretch, 66 of them due to this years rain. But the surface of the road is very bad, the edges are washing away and there are cracks in the middle. If anyone wants the link and can read/translate the report it's here

And now for something different, we think Spring is springing as the almond blossom is coming out! The tree opposite the front gate has started to bloom in the last few days.

Talking of springing, Pip has discovered that she can jump up onto the kennel roof from a standing start, not a problem you'd think except the first time she did it was 2 days after her operation, then she slipped off and got wedged down the back of the kennel between it, the fence and the (very spiky) bouganvillea. When I managed to get her out there seemed to be a lot of blood so I thought she'd burst her stitches but luckily she'd only cut a paw on the spikes. We have now moved the kennel to a safer place for her.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Sorry to mention it again!

But today the Alcalde (Mayor) from Yator came up to see the land slip and to decide what to do. The JCB won't go any further because the balsa (water deposit) is full - well, half full now due to its leaks, and he doesn't know quite what he's going to find when he starts digging. Obviously he doesn't want to sink down into a bog! So John and Mariano went down to talk to Antonio and they tried to open the balsa to send the water onto the nearest land, but not downhill as that would wash away the land that is still here. Unfortunately the exit pipe was blocked and the only person who knows how to sort it out was working today (he's a paramedic in Ugijar) so he's coming tomorrow to empty the balsa and when it's drier and safer, the digger will come back and dig/divert the road by removing the bend and the acequia that runs above. At a later date, when we have a proper new road, the acequia will probably be piped from the balsa down towards Yator.

I took the dogs down at 8.30am and J and Mariano were there at about midday, I took photos and so did they, there is a difference in the collapse even over that 3 hour period. It's now possible to see water down in the cracks, probably due to the leaky balsa, and I suppose the heavy rains have been the final straw.

Mariano came for Sunday breakfast, yes we had it at about 1.30pm but we usually have eggs, bacon and the like on Sunday for brunch, it gives us a reference point for the week otherwise we aren't sure what day it is! He has heard about a full English breakfast because 2 of his sons have worked in England, a brother was married to an English girl and he has a nephew in Bradford. But this was his first proper breakfast and he ate the lot (and had seconds!)

Took the dogs out for a walk in the sun this afternoon and then met some friends who'd walked up to see us. It's been a lovely sunny day, 18 this afternoon, long may it last. Yator's fiesta this coming weekend - this will be our 7th and never had anything but sun so far.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Something different (but not for long)

I'm sure you'd like something different from news and photos of our collapsing pista so this is what I've just found out ....18 months after starting this blog.

If you look at the bottom left hand corner of the blog, there is a feedjit box, gives an indication of where readers are. We always come up as Motril or Castril, never Yator our nearest village. But if you click on "options" you can change the place the blog thinks you are, to where you really are. Just a thought! I have friends who read this, but never know when, as it comes up with their nearest(?) town not actually where they live.

Talked today to someone who lives near Berchules, there is an old jamon factory (now a nightclub) near there, with a large house nearby. Unfortunately the barranca (steep slope) below has washed away leaving one side of the building exposed and the Ayuntamiento and Guardia have been up to see if it's safe or not. Obviously this has implications for the house as well.

Other news, friends who have a well that pumps up to a tank that holds 3.000 litres of water for the house...the land above the tank slid, knocked out the pipes, the tank emptied.

There is an English language/Spanish news online paper that reports that 6,560 hectares of agricultural land is affected, especially affecting the olive oil industry, a village in Granada that has seen 600 out of its 800 houses flooded, 60 million euros have been allocated for repairs, and so it goes on! But at least the reservoirs are reported to be 70% full.

The paper I mentioned can be found at

But if you'd like today's photo of the sliding pista, here it is!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Roads and rain.

We haven't seen the digger since last Saturday and are not holding out much hope of its return because the road from Cadiar to Torviscon has major problems, both with rocks and mud and also it would appear to have structural problems. 3 diggers plus lorries are working on different stretches of road in an effort to keep it open, some places are down to less than a lanes width - the white lines are under the mud - and there is a stretch where the outside edge has washed away into the valley and the outside of the road is suspended in the air and now there is a crack in the tarmac about 15 metres long. Surely it won't be long before the road has to be closed.

The soil has also washed away under some concrete tracks leading up to cortijos and J said there is a concrete water deposit in a similar situation - its foundations are exposed and its wall is in the air!! So by comparison, our pista is relatively unimportant, I suppose we will have to wait for the main work due in March. At least we can walk to cars and then get to shops, people who live along the Torviscon road could soon be far worse off.

The work the digger did do here has largely been undone by rain on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. The soil didn't have time to dry out, be driven on and compact and now most of it is either boggy or has washed away. The track higher up (picture on blog of 9th January) is getting steadily narrower, this is what it's down to today! (It was a bit overcast this morning, hence the gloomy photo) If you compare the 2 pictures, you can see the grass growing up the middle of the track has gone, it's sunk down (again not very clear on the picture,) and it's narrowed from over 2 metres wide to about half a metre. Next to it is the concrete acequia that sends water down to Yator, so we can always detour along that and join the pista again further down.

To put it in some sort of perspective, a house built on the slopes above Berchules, which took the owners about 5 years to do, was completely washed away in the rains. They have lost everything, furniture, animals, the lot and have gone back to Germany.

Another property below Valor has suffered a similar fate, not sure who owned it.

There are houses built below Orgiva and Trevelez in the pretty river bed areas which were abandoned as the waters rose around them.....100's of main roads have suffered structural damage and an unknown number of pistas like ours.

So we're not badly off here - think of the lack of wear and tear on the tyres, the petrol we're saving, and how much fitter we're all getting!

Monday, 11 January 2010

We've got a groggy doggy.

This started last Monday when Pip's hormones decided to kick in and change her into a fully adult dog. I rang the vet, who said he was closed for the week (12th night etc) so we made an appointment to take her this morning and have all the relevant parts removed. Monty has spent the week following her around but she's not that mature yet to be ready for puppies - luckily!

Yesterday morning J and I sorted out firewood, he logged and cut the big chunks and I restacked the log stores nearest the house, then as promised, it snowed from 4pm until at least midnight and this morning I set off to Cadiar, leaving J here with Monty. Mariano came too, he needed some shopping and was quite happy to wait the 2 hours I needed while Pip was with the vet. The road from the cemetery to Yator has been cleared by the digger and although it was very snowy, muddy underneath and slippery, I managed to get down onto the road with Mariano saying "tranquillo, tranquillo" every time I felt the car lose traction - yes, even the 4x4 loses traction on mud/slush.

We dropped Pip off, got the shopping we needed and then went to the Cadi Bar for a coffee or 2 and lots of Spanish chat for me. By the time these roads are clear, we'll be a lot more fluent! So 1pm, went for Pip, she was still asleep/comatose and the pista is still impassable!! (Where the digger has repaired it, it has absorbed the snow and is very soggy, ankle deep squidge!) When we got back to Yator, I rang J and he walked down with Monty to meet us, Pip was wrapped in 2 blankets to keep her warm and between us we carried her home. 10kgs, 2 kms and boy, did my arms ache when we got here! Plus a rucksack of essential shopping! We both took off coats and jumpers half way so while one carried Pip, the other had the coats etc then we swopped. She has spent the afternoon in her bed, in front of the woodburner, asleep. She woke once to go outside but could barely stand unaided. Just like a new born lamb, all wobbly on her legs. She looks very sad. She has stitches down her tummy, sprayed with turquoise antiseptic. We have to go back on the 25th to have the stitches out. Monty knows something isn't right and keeps going to her, rubbing noses, then sitting by J looking sad too.

The weather forecast we look at now was recommended by Mariano and so far it's been accurate to within an hour! Which I find quite amazing, so if anyone's interested go to

and then search for either Mecina Bombaron or Yator because we are in the middle so whatever they get, so do we.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

End of the week round- up

The much talked about digger is apparently on its way up the pista, although when Mariano came round this afternoon on his way to Manolo's ruin (that's a good viewing point to look down towards Yator) to see where it was, it wasn't in view. However, tomorrow is another day and maybe - as time is money - it will appear. If not, maybe it will get here by Monday. None of us need anything desperately, and we are all fit enough to walk to the car in Yator.

Another land slide has slid on the way down the road, the cortijo about half way between us and Yator - Cortijo la Loma - has a water deposit and just down from that cracks appeared on the outside edge of the track. Yesterday morning about a foot or so of land had slid and this morning a bit more, probably because there is still water running out of the land, down the road and into the cracks. Last night was very cold for here and the trickles of water were frozen this morning, as was the surface of all the water deposits. We have a new word for this type of land slide, they tend to be wet, red mud so we now call them "slurps".

The wind picked up last evening, to the point where I was struggling to stay upright when we went out for a last walk and Pip sat down and wouldn't go any further. The wooden gates onto the first terrace (we call it the sunset terrace) held up this time but the steel and cane ones by the pool came open again. Still don't know how it happens, but one blows out and off its hinges as well. Blowing out is due to the force of the wind, but it takes both of us to lift it off its hinges which can only be done when it's open inwards...not outwards!!! So today John has fixed them, everything is wired up, screwed together, the top frame work roped onto the nearest olive tree, and concrete blocks stacked each side to stop the wind from causing the fierce vibrations that eventually make the gates "pop".

Today has been clear and sunny, outside in a sweatshirt but we are forecast snow tomorrow - but nothing like my loyal readers in UK! Hope you are all OK, don't know who most of you are as this blog registers people from places that I didn't know I knew anyone! Please feel free to write as well - at least then I'd know who was reading this. I assume you all enjoy my ramblings about life here!

PS Great excitement - or breaking news as the TV would call it.... John has just heard the beep beep that a JCB makes when reversing, and Antonio has just struggled up with a sack of food for his 5 dogs (+ 2 pups) and said that the digger is just below la Loma and he has parked there and walked up, so it's about halfway here. And still an hour of daylight left.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

January 6th

Nothing new on the pista repair - Micha and Connie came back from Germany yesterday and carried up some stuff....the rest of their baggage is in the car and trailer in Yator, their son went to see friends in El Golco later only to discover that the concrete footbridge crossing the river between Montenegro and El Golco is somewhere downstream! We knew about that from local info, someone came over the hilltops by horse to get here on New Years Day!

Went down to Yator this morning when we heard the horn of the veg lorry, other friends were on their way to get veg too, they had to walk as well but they are far more cut off than we are as the river has completely changed course and a) they can't get very far from their house by car and b) they then have to find another way across the river. It used to be a ford, now it's about 3 metres deeper and has found a new path. It has its advantages living up a hill! They are trying to get out using the tractor but that has now died so until they can walk out to get a spare part, they can't drive out with anything, they have a quad bike, two 4x4's and a tractor but are still stuck. Their neighbours aren't in a better position, they are having to walk up the rambla (a large flat area for flood water runoff) to get onto the road. Vehicle access non existent.

As we were leaving the car, our mobile - or not very mobile - storage place, some other friends said they would come up too and help carry any veg. We'd got a sack of potatoes, another of onions and some broccoli and together with their daughter and boyfriend we carried it all home. A couple of bags or so each, with Monty and Pip rushing to and fro.

This afternoon a visit from more friends with some goodies among which a chocolate selection box for a late Xmas and a bottle of cava as today is Spanish Xmas - they celebrated 12th night last night so we were surprised the veg lorry came today as it's a holiday.

The forecast was snow, now drizzle, but no sign of a JCB today, but as it was a holiday here that shouldn't have been surprising. We'll see what the rest of the week brings!

Monday, 4 January 2010

The Olive Fly

I thought I'd better write a bit about the olive harvest this year, or rather lack of olives to harvest!

There is a fly, funnily enough called the olive fly, which is always present but normally dormant in the ground. However, given the right conditions in September i.e. unusually hot beginning to the month followed by rain causing humidity, the fly becomes active and lays eggs in the olives. That was what happened September just gone and so when I went to look for olives to pick and brine for eating, couldn't see any without the telltale scarring which is the sign of a diseased olive.

They become wrinkled, over-ripe, split and drop off at the slightest touch/drop of rain/breath of wind. As you know we have had torrential rain and howling gales and all the trees around here are totally bald. The ground however, is black and slippery with fallen olives! The fly infected all the trees in the coastal region, however further north places such as Cordoba are fine as it wasn't quite as hot/damp in September. There are treatments for the fly, both natural and man-made, but to be effective every tree has to be treated - not really practical when a lot of land is not farmed by anyone nowadays.

It was a lovely month weather-wise but it's a big chunk of most peoples income and oil for the year gone... :(

Still, you have to look on the bright side and we have more time to prune for fire wood and more time to prepare vegetable plots and plant even more than we did last year. We still plan on growing the vegetables that are guaranteed to work, like beans, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, chillis, garlic, peas, broad beans and courgettes but to try extras as well. We don't have much success with things like swede or parsnips but this year have sweet potato plants ready to go in for a change. If we have the seeds already or collected seed from last year, we will plant everything, even the things we haven't succeeded with previously. A few plants in completely different areas may do well one year!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy 2010.

So, the first one of El Ano Nuevo!

New Year's eve started off well, Mariano and Sigrun arrived laden with wine and grapes (more about those later) but it was very windy too. As we ate dinner, we could hear the wind howling around the house, which is difficult to hear downstairs as we are very protected there by Carmen's house on one side (the side the wind was coming from that night) and our garden. The electricity dipped once or twice, out came the candles, then it went totally, but not for long. Still, we left the candles alight and had dinner by candlelight. Because of the wind, we didn't go and set off fireworks - too dangerous!

Just before midnight we turned on the TV and watched the New Year in from Madrid - it looked very cold and windy there too - the female presenter was in a strapless evening dress and struggling to smile - why film outside, surely they have studios!!! Anyway, the grapes. As the clock chimes midnight, you have to eat a grape for each chime - I managed somehow to only get through 8 instead of 12, my excuse was that they were very big and pippy. You can buy small tins of 12, skinned and de-pipped especially for New Year, but these were fresh from Mariano's land.

Then we had a bottle of cava or two, and about 2am they left. That's when we discovered that the 2 pairs of gates we have, 1 wooden pair, bolted top and bottom and with a log store inside and the other pair made of sheets of steel mesh covered with rolls of bamboo, were not shut as we thought! One of the wooden gates was ripped off its hinges and blown flat onto the pista, but strangely the logs hadn't moved, one of the cane/steel gates was inside but off it's hinges (needs 2 people normally to lift it off!) and the other cane/steel gate was outside (didn't know it could go that way - it's somehow bent and got under the frame) So in the howling gales, we tried as best as possible to stop things getting more damaged, putting bloques (concrete building blocks) each side so they didn't blow about....and then Pip managed to get out so we were trying to call her in before she panicked in the wind and vanished!!

The next day Mariano discovered that something - a branch? - had hit his car and broken a window, it's full of shattered glass and he can't get it repaired as we have no vehicle access.

The 1st, 2nd and 3rd of January are fiesta days in Yegen - yes, following straight on from Xmas, New Year and then it's 3 Kings celebration on the night of the 5th! We went up to Yegen yesterday lunchtime for a drink or two and met some of Mariano's relations of which there seem to be a lot! One young couple are getting married soon and we were told they are planning it at the chapel here in Montenegro on May 13th (our fiesta) A few years back a couple had their baby christened here at fiesta.

The rivers and fuentes continue to flow very fast, our fuente normally flows at a rate of 4 to 6 litres per second but it's running at about 20 litres per second at the moment and flowing out of holes in the rock we didn't know about!

We are told that there are 2 JCB's around clearing up after the rain/mud slides and when they have done Yator one will be heading this way. And that's the good news. The bad news is that rain and snow are forecast this coming week and they won't be able to come till they've finished what they're doing! So maybe we will be walking to the cars for a little bit longer. Today was market day in Cadiar, we walked down, took the car shopping and walked home. The sun was shining, it was warm and very pleasant. (Not sure what to do about the 10kgs of dog food though!) As they say here "poco a poco"