Wednesday, 28 April 2010

57 varieties

Actually we have 61, I started to make a list (sad, or what!) of everything we have planted this year and to keep a log of what yields we get. Some things are freebies like the asparagus, some self seed like the rocket and others are our neighbours excess fruit like the oranges, lemons and peaches. Some things you just take for granted, having a salad? Go and cut rocket and chives to add some oomph. But I thought it would be interesting, and having made a list of 61 different things - that includes 5 varieties of beans, for eating and drying - I'm beginning to wonder why we ever need to buy any vegetables, and to a lesser extent fruit, ever again! We know we can be self sufficient in wine, even wine from less well known sources....pea and bean pod wine anyone? Honestly, it's out there as a recipe, tastes like a light white German wine, with melon flavours apparently.

So quite soon the buckets will be bubbling, yeasty alcoholic smells in the kitchen as this years brewing season starts up.

And if you're wondering, the sun has got his hat on all day...18 at 8am this morning and lovely blue skies. The pool looked very inviting, but lots of other things on the 'to do' list today...maybe tomorrow.

Friday, 23 April 2010

The digging continues..

After the ash had cooled down, we moved it up to the compost area. We now have 3 composts, 1 full, 1 that we are filling and a spare. But as we are still digging new veg areas, and finding greenery - ie weeds - I'm not sure 3 will be enough. We are trying to layer the weeds with house compost and any spare goat manure and watering it as well. When J took the top (piece of carpet) off the full compost it was steaming as it was so hot in there. I did wonder whether weeds would rot down, but having felt the heat, I'm not worried any more!

Anyone who knows our land will remember that although the terraces link up, you have to walk from one end to the other to get down them, each is a bit like a tear drop shape, leading from one to the other. As part of the work this week, John has been digging steps in the ends that don't join up so as to save walking up and down and around all the time. It's especially annoying on watering day, when you can see something overflowing but can't get to it in time! We are only concentrating on the 1/2 acre that we use as a veg area at the moment, plenty more elsewhere....time permitting!

I've put the spare soil from the step digging on a yet-to-be-dug-over terrace, as a raised bed, with a view to using it for more Borlotto beans. We use a lot of dried beans, especially now as we are making our own version of baked beans. As baked beans are imported, they are not cheap, but are easy to make and we think taste better! Plus you know what has gone into them....

Found last years sweetcorn seeds today, so they will be planted tomorrow, then we will carry on expanding the vegetable areas. There is still a lot that we walk over without thinking that it could be a veg bed. And the more we dig, the more we plant, the more self-sufficient we become. Not as self sufficient as friends of ours though, who now have rabbits and chickens as well as goats, so have no need to buy eggs, milk, cheese or meat.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Concentrated olives

We spent yesterday pruning olives - that sounds quite genteel doesn't it?  But in reality it involves lots of chainsawing, with  large chunks of wood rolling down onto the pista or getting stuck in the plants that grow on the banking below the olives, the  branches then need to be cut off the chunks, and even the smallish ones cut and stored as starter sticks for the wood burners next winter and eventually what you are left with are huge heaps of  leafy ends.

We stopped at that point yesterday and this morning started burning the leafy bits.   Yes, we have a chipper, but it needs fuel and with the pista in such an uncertain state it seems silly to be using spare fuel for that.  We may need it for something more important so decided to have a bonfire instead.   The license to have a fire runs until the end of the month, after that if we still have trimmings we can use the chipper if we need to.

We seemed to have an enormous pile or two of trimmings but just over an hour later - well, that was it!  But 10 hours later, at 9pm we went out to rake over the ash and found it was red hot still.  Should have done some jacket potatoes in the embers this evening!

J has just read this and said if I'd written it tomorrow, I could have called it "Ash Wednesday"

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Brits stranded in Spain

Some mountain bikers we met last week as they cycled uphill past our house are now stranded here and they have started a blog from their new base in Malaga.

"This blog is going to be used as noticeboard and service to help all passengers trying to get back to the UK from Malaga in Spain.

Passengers from all airlines (BA, Easyjet etc) are welcome to submit their details as if the unfortunate event of all planes booked for the coming week are cancelled, we will need greater numbers to allow booking of transport by other means back to the UK.

Whether that be chartering a coach or similar, we don't know yet but I feel we need to think ahead as this Volcano does not look like going away anytime soo
n". see here for more info.

Protecting the vegetables

>We are making a big effort to be vegetable self-sufficient this year and have been increasing our planting areas and vegetable stock quite considerably. Unfortunately our neighbours have decided to increase their dog stock, up to 4 now. The latest addition is a puppy that they intend to breed from. Now dogs and vegetable plots don't mix, not healthy in any way, shape or form. Monty and Pip don't go up to our top terraces ever and the vegetable beds in the side garden are fenced off so they can't get in there either. And the thought of puppies finding their way into the vegetable beds..

So yesterday we took up a long roll of fencing and staked it all along the border as a deterrent - it's not possible to completely enclose the land, but we hope to cut off convenient access. It's very colourful fencing - orange - and it's light weight so shouldn't be a problem in strong winds and luckily was exactly the length of the border.

All the planting that we have done so far is looking fine - despite yesterday afternoons cloudburst, complete with rumbles of thunder, which sent Pip scurrying under the bed.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Getting emoticons into Blogger

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Thursday, 15 April 2010

Wild asparagus

I'm ashamed to admit that although we've lived here for over 6 years, and know that asparagus grows wild around here, we have never really looked for it. In fact until the plant was pointed out to me on Monday, I'm not certain I'd have even seen it for what it was.

However since then, I've seen plants everywhere I've been when out with the dogs. Under trees, sides of footpaths, growing out of stone walls, but usually in with clumps of brambles to make it difficult to pick the spears. Today I found more, maybe because it rained last night which encouraged the growth, or maybe I'm just getting better at seeing it.

Still not really enough for a meal but I do have a recipe for a bread which includes asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes and black olives, all of which we have of our own. A waste of fresh asparagus do you think? Should I keep it until there's enough for two?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Cycling uphill?

I suppose the upside of cycling uphill is that eventually you come down again and can free-wheel, while enjoying the views. This afternoon, 3 mountain bikers came past on their way for a quick ride up to Yegen, along to Mecina Bombaron, down through El Golco and back to Yator. They are on a cycling holiday from Edinburgh, having driven from there - in a van, not by bike.

While repairing the collapsed acequia on Monday, we met 3 couples on walking holidays, in the morning the Yegen to Berchules couples passed by, in the afternoon another couple went the opposite way. Mondays must be the start of this section of the holiday, and the start of the tourist season as well.

The acequia is now repaired....three new tubos (3m each in length and 200mm diameter for those interested!) are in a new trench which has been left open as the collapsed land is still very squidgy and if it slides again at least we can get at them. One tubo was re-usable after we got it out from under the mud. 2 tubos still haven't been found!

We spent most of this afternoon sending water round the land, weeding and clearing out the channels between the olive trees, filling water tanks and watering vegetables.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Thankyou, thankyou and thankyou!

To all the senders of the shower caps - some even delivered by hand!! many thanks indeed. I opened the mailbox this morning when I went down to Yator and the post just fell out. 2 packets of shower caps, one packet included oxos so thanks to Chris and Dee, and an assortment of puzzle books from my mother in law. Those I'll keep for the winter months. Plus the usual bank statements....

We now don't have to worry when the shower caps start to disintegrate with use. The wine season will soon be upon us, the locals only make wine from grapes and don't understand how it can be made from anything else - although they are only too happy to try it and then try again for a second opinion! So first up will be mulberries and the early figs, end of May-ish. And then anything we can't eat or freeze or dry - does that sound like we drink a lot?

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Sunny flowers.

Just in case you are in the clouds, rain or have generally gloomy weather, here are some lovely bright flowers to cheer you up.

And if the sun is shining wherever you are, enjoy the pictures.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Nearly out of the 'teens'

It was almost 20 degrees today and the sky was a gorgeous deep blue. I know that sounds daft, but sometimes it isn't a typically Mediterranean blue, but a rather wishy washy pale colour.

Went into Cadiar early this morning for market, bought some baby vegetable plants to get started with, 20 leeks for €3, 10 cauliflower for €1.50 and a big bunch of onion sets for €2 - probably about 100 in the bunch. We have leek seeds but this will give us a head start.

We then drove out to the other side of Cherin to see the new rockfall . . .

More info here.

Our brussel seeds are up, as are the coriander seeds and in the new herb area J has made we are going to put cumin, mustard, parsley and basil. The rocket has self-seeded, the sage goes on from year to year so do the rosemary, chives and marjoram. We also bought some peanut seeds, about 35 for €3 so now need to find the right space for them and this year grow them for more seeds, then next year grow for roasting and eating. Always of course keeping spare seeds for the following season. Tapas tonight was almonds 'toasted' in olive oil and cumin - ours of course. I'm sure they taste nicer when you are sitting looking at the tree they were picked from a few months previously.

We spent yesterday strimming the top terraces, raking all the trimmings into piles for compost, clearing acequias of strimmings, emptied one compost heap and bagged it to be moved to the most needed veg beds and turned over the second compost into the newly emptied one. We've moved the climbing bean/tomato frames down a bed to a newly prepared one ready for planting up. Still lots more to be dug but there is now enough space for the first vegetables/seeds to go in to. We are having to water the broad beans and peas now as they are podding - despite all the rain! The sun is drying out the ground really quickly and it's cracking in places.

Happy Easter to everyone, wherever you may be.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

So you've got snow!

Whereas at last we have lots of sunshine. It's lovely in the sun, cooler in the shade and cold when the sun sets at 8pm. The air temperature isn't sufficient yet to get the inside warm enough and it feels chilly when we go in at sunset. Having said that, I got heat rash on my back today after being out digging a vegetable plot with the sun on my back all the time and J is looking quite rosy.

This week he has been repairing a stone wall on a terrace behind the house, making a herb garden in the area behind the house where we now have lots of vegetables growing - well protected with netting so Pip can't get at the beans and peas - and at last we have some more pictures up in the dining room. One has been waiting for more years than I care to remember but we have been given a painting of the chapel painted by John's Uncle Doug, which has prompted him to hang both (with a little nagging from me!) Or maybe more than a little nagging, as in today the day we get the pictures up? Was it yesterday you said you'd do them?....but they're up at last.

We've strimmed all the 'grass' around the house and pool - not really grass, it's clover and ground cover but kept short looks good. Fished a frog out of the pool this morning and sent him on his way to a new home hopefully some distance away. Swimming with frogs doesn't appeal to me. Not quite swimming weather I know, although a friend's grandson - Dale - went in on Monday for a quick swim (click the > play button to see it).

The vegetable beds haven't been dug over since the end of last seasons veg and have had 3 months of rain. They are very weedy but still nice and moist so are easy to dig into, turn over, de-weed (if that's a word!) and rake level. They'll soon be ready for this years seeds and plants.