Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Birds on a wire.

There are lots of birds around here, especially at the moment as it's breeding season  and they haven't yet left for their warmer winter homes.   Some we hear rather than see, such as the Hoopoo,  some we hear and see flying about such as the Golden Oriole - such a lovely song.  And then there are the Swallows and Bee-eaters which are always flying and swooping around in the valley behind the house.  They land on the phone line which runs up from Yator to Connie and Micha's cortijo  and from the comfort of my sunbed by the pool, I took these pictures yesterday afternoon.

We were given a copy of this book about 5 years ago by some walkers who stopped for a chat and happened to have a spare book, then we were given an updated version more recently.  We refer to it quite often to identify birds that we've seen  although we usually need a good photo to check colours and markings to make sure.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Nothing to do with wine

but as I've been reminded, Spain did  win the World Cup, and yes there were fireworks everywhere, even places that we can't see but can hear when they let off fireworks.
The fireworks started when the semi-finals were won, and they started again when Spain got the goal in the final - even though it wasn't the final whistle.

We are now in  tomato season, pick it, cut in half, put in the drier for 8 hours,  whizz  in the liquidiser, boil and bottle.  By it,  I mean kilos at a time......2 kilos of fresh tomatoes after 8 hours in the drier goes down to a pulp of 1 litre.  Saves time and gas simmering out the excess liquid.  And a lot less heat in the kitchen!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

It's been a long hot week

going to bed with temperatures of about 30,  it's down to 28 first thing in the morning - by first thing I mean 6.30 to 7am, which is ideal for the dogs to get out for a run around before they retreat indoors and flop on the tiles.   Peak of the day is around 4pm when it's rising to 34 or so in the shade.

So it's up and about early, outside jobs, weeding, picking fruit and  veg,  watering  the vegetable plots first,  indoor jobs later on, usually a swim late afternoon and a cool drink in the shade of the olive tree or on the terrace in the evening.  Sounds so laid back, but in fact we are busy doing something somewhere most of the day. 

We've been out for lunch at friends houses twice in the last week and had them all here once.   We still have to get the regular jobs done before or after we go out,  I'm watering alternate days at the moment and if I miss a session, the strawberries and tomatoes look very droopy.

This morning I gave the pool a good clean - the water is sparkling but the floor was dirty.

Latest news from the vegetable garden:
The tomatoes are ripening and I've got 2 kilos  in the 'hot box' drying. We  had figs in there before that - not enough for a batch of wine so dried them instead.  We're  picking green beans and strawberries daily, the excess beans I'm freezing for the winter  and the pods that have got too  big  we are leaving on the bush to dry for seeds.   Pickled 2 jars of sliced cucumbers  yesterday as the cucumbers are growing faster than we can eat them.  We now have 9 jars of capers  and I changed the brine to 50:50 water and vinegar yesterday. The chilli plants are laden but we don't know what type of chilli we have.  Last year we grew from seed, this year they were so slow growing that we bought 10 plants from the almacen (15c each)  which he assured us were hot chillis.  And yes, they are hot!!!  Now, at last our seedlings have got going so we'll have even more.  7 buckets of wine brewing, probably will get pressed tomorrow afternoon which will give us another 35 litres or so of fig wine.  Had a little tasting session yesterday of the first fig, mulberry and pear - separate glasses!   The fig is drier than last years, the mulberry drier than I expected and the pear is very pear-y.  And wow, have they got kick!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Wine news 2

In case you thought we'd stopped wine making,  no!   15 litres of pear wine settling, 25 of the first fig brew settling and 2  more similar amounts of fig on the go.  Smells very yeasty in the kitchen!  

 Until the day before yesterday there was a huge fig tree overhanging one end of Montenegro's water deposit.  Someone has chopped it right back to the base, lost all this years fruit and it wasn't theirs to chop.  We are assuming that they thought  a) either the fruit would drop over the exit tap and block it (but it's been there for umpteen years so why now?)  or b) he  just had one of those days and decided it was in the way.   I'm sure all will become clear soon, only a few people were around watering that day - one morning when we went for a walk it was laden, the next morning it was cut off and dumped in the brambles.  What a shame.

A new addition

No, don't get worried, it's not an addition for us or to the dog kennel but a new addition to John's " webbery"  for want of a better word.

http://www.las-alpujarras.net/    gets lots of traffic and some goes from here to there and vice versa.

Now there is another site, eventually much bigger and covering all of  Andalucia's towns and villages.  It can be found at PueblosAndalucia.com

As you browse, you will see links to airlines and hotels  - so far -   and if you book via this site, we shall earn a little  bit.  It doesn't have to be a booking within Spain, anywhere will do!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Defining Las Alpujarras

When I set up the Alpujarras page some years ago, I tried to define what was (or were) La(s) Alpujarra(s). Since then, it has sat at the bottom of the homepage - as a footnote. I recently joined the Costa Living Forum and it made made me go back and look at it again. The "Consejería de Turismo y Deporte de la Junta de Andalucía" (roughly the Sport & Tourism Office) considers there to be two Alpujarras: La Alpujarra Almeriense and La Alpujarra Granadina. So there are two of them - one now in Granada province and one in Almeria Province (at least by this interpretation). It is probably close to being the Alpujarras that was given to the last Moorish Kings after they were expelled from Granada city (see history page). Though in those days it also extended down to the coast.
And this is the way they appear on the current map of "comarcas" (roughly: shires or counties):
Comarcas have no formal/administrative recognition - they are areas with geographic, cultural, or historical connections. Though there is the possibility that they may one day have some legal standing (ie: one up from a municipio and one down from a provincia). According to the Ministry of Agriculture, on the other hand, the Granadan Alpujarra is defined as "Las Alpujarras" and the Almerian Alpujarra as "Alto Andarax". Some people also consider the Alpujarras to extend, even to this day, across the Contraviesa mountain range and down to the coast. The recently published guide book entitled "The Alpujarra of Granada", for example, includes the municipalities of Albondon, Albunol, Gulachos, Lujar, Polopo, Rubite and Sorvilan. Produced by the "Mancomunidad de Municipios de la Alpujarra Granadina", this book is well worth the 15€ the Ayuntamiento make it available for. From Wikipedia:
The current statutory entity that most closely resembles a comarca is the mancomunidad, a freely chosen, bottom-up association of municipalities intended as an instrument of socioeconomic development and coordination between municipal governments.
and . . . .
Almost every Andalusian municipality outside of the capitals and major cities is a member of some such group. These groups consist of municipalities freely united by their economic interests and are often endowed with funds used for external dissemination of their identity.
Perhaps the guide-book mentioned above may have got some funding from this source. Interestingly, looking at Almeria Province, I see that there is a " Mancomunidad del Medio-Alto Andarax y Bajo Nacimiento" so that would seem to make some of the east-enders no longer Alpujareños. They may have been taken over by the Andraxians! Just to further confuse the issue, there is also a Mancomunidad de Municipios de la Costa Tropica! They even have their own website at http://www.ctropical.org/ and have staked a claim on our very-own Murtas and Turon! So, in our southern regions we are in danger of being grabbed by the tropics. Here is a quote from the Alpujarra/Vallee de Lecrin leaflet published by the GRANADA tourist office:
The heart of the district is the Sierra de la Contraviesa, situated between Sierra Nevada and the Mediterranean coast. Vineyards abound on its hillsides, producing the excellent“Costa” wine, the ideal drink to accompany the area’s meat and cured ham products.
It doesn't include anywhere in Almeria (of course!) but does include Albondón, Albuñol/la Rábita,Lujar, Polopos, Rubite and Sorvilán. Even the name Alpujarra doesn't really help much as its original meaning has been lost in history. There are some links at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpujarras if you really want to follow it up but, in summary:
The name Alpujarras may derive from Arabic al Busherat meaning "the grass-land". Pedro Antonio de Alarcón travelled through the Alpujarras in the second half of the nineteenth century publishing in 1874 a book about the experience titled La Alpujarra. In this book he gives four possible origins for the name, based on the classical writer Luis del Mármol:
  • From Arabic "abuxarra" ('turbulent') referring to the tendency of its inhabitants to rebel against authority.
  • From Arabic "abuxarra" ('the unvanquished') based on the work of the Arabist Miguel Lafuente Alcántara.
  • From Arabic "albordjela
" ('fortified'), following opinion of the Arabists Romey and Silvestre de Sacy. They based their conclusions on the work of the Arab historian Suar el-Kaicí.

  • From Arabic "albuxarrat" ('white mountains' or 'snowy mountains'), following the view of Spanish historian Simonet.
  • So, in the spirit of inclusiveness, I will amend the site to include all the pueblos that have a claim to be Alpujarran. But it might not all get done this week!

    Thursday, 1 July 2010

    Wine news

    It's time for more wine news.....

    last mulberries pressed today, giving another 40 litres

    we used olive nets to catch the mulberries and yesterday, when the nets were washed and dried, I took  them back up to the corral  (old stables) where they are stored - along with a lot of other occasionally used things of ours - and saw the first black figs were ripe and dropping.  So a change of plan for the afternoon,  I picked 16 lbs  (7 figs to a pound) and they are on their  way to being wined (?)

    It may seem that we are trying to make a lot, last year we made 100 litres or so, but over a year when there is also Christmas, New Year, fiestas, friends visiting, us going to friends with a bottle or two,  you can see that you need far more than that.   It's reckoned locally that you need 1.5 times the number of days ie 500 litres which sounds in the alcoholic range, but remember, it's not all drunk by  us!  And also when you visit someone, the choice of drink is wine, wine or wine, which means you aren't expected to have beer or G&T when they come here.   We have Spanish friends who brew in 100 litre vats, in their bodegas, so what we produce in buckets in the kitchen is tiny by comparison.   And the mulberry  wine works out at 15c per litre.  You can't do better than that.