Sunday, 31 October 2010

Dry stone walling

Late Friday afternoon, and we went  for a walk down the pista to see what the  Cat had been up to, as we hadn't been able to see it but had heard rumbling and clanging noises.  We waited till about 6pm,  when he'd finished work as Cats and dogs don't mix well!

The clanging had obviously been a delivery of rocks - the tailgate of the large lorries bang when they shut,  and  the rumbling was the noise of the rocks hitting the ground.  This is the extra large version of dry stone wall building!   Only about a dozen rocks per delivery,  no idea what each one must weigh......

The original wall has been dug out to widen the pista and the new  stone one is to support the land behind.

Further up the road,  the side of the pista was very soft and crumbling and Saturday morning the Cat driver dug out the soft soil and replaced it with more rocks.  For such a large machine, it does an incredibly delicate job.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Call out charge: €3000......

Earlier today, 6pm, I was  just squeezing the last of the pomegranates for juice and my mobile rang.

It was Connie, our neighbour, to say there was a fire behind the cortijo of Miguel,  which is at the top of Montenegro near the fuente.  Micha, their son Ringo and the driver of the Cat were on their way up to try and beat out some of the flames while waiting for the Bomberos to arrive.

I grabbed the camera and ran, John grabbed the video and locked up, by the time I'd reached the ermita (chapel) the  helicopter was coming in,  to land next to the cortijos there  - to start with I thought I'd better wait till they'd lifted off - but then decided to try for a photo of them attaching the water bucket.   I ran again through the dust the blades were churning up and got some pictures.  Five or six of the bomberos walked up to the fire and I  carried on up to the path that leads to Miguel's and  ran across the land to see where the fires were.  There were quite a few areas, I could see Micha and Ringo and then the helicopter was coming in behind me, coming  for it's first run to dump water on the flames.  I got a bit damp from the spray!

The Medio Ambiente (environment guys) were next on the scene wanting to know where the access was - sorry, no vehicle access, only on foot!   So they parked, and walked up assessing the extent of the fire.  Then the helicopter returned again and again, dropping more and more  water on the burning bushes. 

After what seemed a long time but was less than an hour,  the fires seemed to be smoking rather than flaming and under control.  The helicopter landed to pick up  the  bomberos  and went back to it's base, leaving the Medio Ambiente guys up on the hillside.

Here is a video of the action in Montenegro, this evening . . . . .

Almost an hour later,  I came in to look at the photos I'd taken, when Monty and Pip started barking.   I  heard  a rumble outside and going past was a fire truck from Cadiar.

Now, the fire station in Cadiar is a recent addition,  the Cat has only just this afternoon finished widening and levelling the basis for our new road - what a day to need the fire truck!! 

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Diggers at dawn

The work continues, yesterday morning the Cat was perched above the pista, flattening off some rocks and picos - probably to use the material for landfill.

Most of the morning he was out of sight but we could still hear rocks falling, the clanging of the machine and a steady rumble of his engine.

Today it's been gradually clearing and widening the existing track on it's way up towards us.

If you look here  there's some footage of it - the Cat - in action early yesterday morning.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


We are in the lucky position of seeing lots of birds around here, from the usual sparrow to the more exotic looking hoopoo, but don't often see blue tits.  However, yesterday afternoon  we  had a flurry of blue tits - there may be a proper name for seeing lots all at once - a gaggle is geese I know, maybe someone out there knows the name for seeing about 12 blue tits all at once???

They were in and out of the jasmine, grape vines, pear tree and the olives so fast it was hard to focus for a photo, but John managed to get this one reasonably well.  We think they were eating the last of the dried unpicked grapes, not sure what was so tasty in the jasmine although it's in full bloom so maybe they were eating the buds or some bugs!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

After 2 days....

Saturday afternoon and the Caterpillar has finished for the weekend,  leaving  a cleaner, wider pista.  He's probably about half way up to us now.   It's driveable  in places but there are stretches that are very soft, dusty and stony where he's cleared back rocks and hillside to widen the bends. 

We went down this afternoon for a walk, and I was amazed at the size of the Caterpillar having only seen them way above us moving hillsides when they redid the road from Yator to Cadiar a couple of years back.   They looked big then but  standing next to it today it's a very impressive machine. It's arm must have a reach of over 8 metres and the bucket on the end is enormous.

the view from the corral this morning
a larger, dustier pista
the Cat!

Friday, 22 October 2010

On the road again.....

Many months, back in January or February,  there was talk of a new road being built between Yator and Montenegro, replacing the pista that was there.  Basically,  the pista is a mostly single width dirt track which is usually ok by car, but needs a 4x4 after rain.

But then it rained and rained and gradually the pista collapsed in a couple of places,  an agave and 2 olive trees slid down onto it as well and so the re-surfacing cost became a re-build and the price went up.  (see blogs earlier this year for pictures!)

Each time we were given an indication of starting date, we made sure we were stocked up with heavy shopping - dog food, tinned stuff, anything that would last, as the contract was supposed to take 3 to 4 months and having been cut off last winter for 5 months, we know how much time and energy it takes to carry things home.

So the months passed and September came and went  (although we were told on the 4th of that month  "15 days to starting date")  and now it's October. 

So imagine our scepticism when Mariano stopped yesterday morning to say that the finances had been sorted our regarding replacing a wall and work was starting.  I don't know how to say anything very sarcastic in Spanish - something along the lines of "yeah, right" would have summed it up nicely.  But out we went to look and lo and behold, at the bottom of the pista was a very large machine, busily widening the track and cutting the banking back at an angle.

This morning he was about 200 metres up the road and at times today we've heard the machine working. Off out early tomorrow with the dogs to see how far it got by the end of today.

widening the start of the pista
moving earth from above
Nice to be able to write and post photos of the road improving rather than collapsing!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The eagles have landed.

Although this isn't the best of photos, it's not for lack of trying or time waiting.  Two Bonelli's eagles came over again today and after a while drifting on the breeze, they landed in  a tree about 300 metres away.  I got the binoculars to watch them while John got a camera and suitable lens....and we waited for them to do something.

Hopefully they would fly away, not that we wanted them too really,  only so we could get pictures of the amazing wingspan and colours but I  think they were on a long,  lazy  lunch  break or something as we waited.....   and waited......   and waited. 

Eventually John went in to finish some previously started work while I man-ed (or womaned) the camera.  The sun went in, the clouds gathered, I got rather chilly in my strappy t-shirt and then with no warning, no flapping on the wings or anything, they went.   They just dropped off the tree, down into the shade of the hillside before I could get a photo.

So after all that time, this is the best we took.

Friday, 15 October 2010

A grand day out.

We've had a day out in the big city with friends!   We only normally go out when we need shopping or some other basic stuff, but as my birthday is nearly here we thought a day out would be nice.

We spent Wednesday in Granada walking and talking, sightseeing and window shopping,  stopping for coffee or wine and tapas,  as and when we liked the look of a bar and then enjoyed the sunshine and 'people watched' as well.

Had some lovely wines and tapas to match, ranging from queso y jamon  to  tortilla,  blue cheese drizzled with honey  then  paella, marinated pork with spicy vegetables and what always seems a very strange combination - a dish of salted nuts with the addition of jelly tots!

just finished a glass of wine and paella,  looking up at  the cathedral
Anyway the sun shone all day despite the forecast of possible showers during the afternoon and we had a nice relaxing time - totally different from our normal day when we seem to be always on the go.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Harvesting herbs and seeds

This time of year is harvest time of a different sort,  almonds  to be husked and dried, grapes to be picked and made into wine, herbs to be picked and dried, seeds to be collected and stored.

We are picking and drying sage for making stuffing this winter.  The basil continues to have haircuts and be dried or pestoed (??)  if there's such a word!  The fennel which grows wild everywhere is setting seed and I collect seeds nearly every day - they grow in flat clusters of tiny groups and need separating for drying and then we use them in curries, Mexican food, in stir fries, added to rice dishes......The last of the dwarf bean seeds are being collected for next years planting and we have managed to grow a kidney bean plant.

That is a major success as  dried kidney beans are  not as common as  haricot or other white varieties.   When we had some last year,   I soaked a dozen or so  in cold water then planted them out in pots.  4 germinated but only 1 eventually survived and it now has lots of pods drying which we are keeping for seeds.  The theory is that they will be good, strong seeds having survived the initial drying process and now they've had a second chance of life.

I did google kidney beans as we had no idea of the size of the plant or what exactly what defines a  kidney bean.  It all seems to depend on your point of view - could be the shape, the colour, take your pick.  As far as I'm concerned, a kidney bean is dark red and kidney shaped and that's what we've grown.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Noises in the wood pile.

Monty and Pip have  blanket outside on the  terrace for daytime sleeping - which they do a lot of when it's hot - near that is a smallish wood pile and along the edge of the woodpile are some houseplants,  2 of which are spider plants.   

I heard a clicking noise from the woodpile a few days ago,  noticed also  that some of the baby spider plants were no longer hanging down and seem to have got inside  the logs!   All very strange.  And then there was the noise.  Something flexing it's muscles?   Cracking it's knuckles?  Chomping it's way through the woodpile?   But something that didn't bother either of the dogs, and believe me, they can chase a gecko or mouse when they see one!!

So we decided the next morning we would empty the pile and find out what had taken up residence.  Armed with sturdy gloves, a can of insect repellant (just in case!) and a mattock (just in case it was bigger than an insect)  we started to move  the plants.

That was when I noticed that the spider plants were now much smaller than the day before and down to a stump in places!  But we set to work moving logs and - I didn't see it  - but John said "there it goes!"  apparently a rat had shot out of the log pile and dashed straight into a larger pile.  Even Pip, fast as she is, didn't get hold of it but we put her to work trying to get it out or at least frighten it off.

That seems to have worked, as it's not been seen or heard since then.  And what was the noise?  It had taken the spider plant leaves to start a nest and there were also almonds in there with holes in and that was the noise we'd heard - the rat chewing / gnawing holes in the shell to get at the nut.

Monday, 4 October 2010

A minty morning.

When we went out for our usual morning walk up to the fuente and back,  I noticed that  the land to the side of the path which is always covered with mint  is now  all in flower.   That bancal is about 1 metre lower than the footpath but the mint is so tall it's now level!   There are at least 3 types of mint,  1 with quite bushy lavender coloured flowers, 1 with slim blooms and much paler in colour but both with green leaves and the third type  grows in the running water and has very dark green almost purple leaves.  The green leaf mints have a slightly hairy feel while the purpley leaf one is very smooth and has a different flavour.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Our first boniatos

And in case you're thinking,  boniatos, what are they?  They are  sweet potatoes.  This is the first year we've grown any  and they seem to be doing well.   I've found lots of information out there in the big wide world that is the internet  and all the info says that sweet potatoes need between 120 and 150 days of warm, sunny weather.  These were planted at the start of May so have had 5 months of Spanish sunshine and it seems to have suited them extremely well.

and there are lots more under the ground ........
We don't do very well with a lot of root crops apart from potatoes which we can guarantee will grow well,  so can add these to our 'definitely need to plant'  list.  Their biggest problem is a real dislike to cold weather,  even  a cool wind will affect them.  This time last year some friends gave us some rooted cuttings   and we potted them up to overwinter.  Even double wrapped in fleece, protected within walls from the wind, the leaves went black overnight when the  temperature dropped and a cold north wind got amongst them.  These plants were bought from the almacen in Cadiar, 10 slips (unrooted plant tips)  cost €1.50 so a few more boniatos like today's will see us in profit.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

A forgotten photo

A few weeks ago when I was out picking figs,  I saw a bird's nest in the tree.   Not any old nest but - we think - it's a nest made by the Golden Orioles.  They make nests that hang down from the branch, sort of suspended in the air.  It's  quite an intricate construction involving lots of shredded paper and other unidentifiable things, but all locally sourced!!

The Orioles have all headed off south now for the winter sun, and have been replaced by the magpies.  They seem to roost - and possibly nest -  in the same  trees.  Having said that, we've never seen a baby magpie so maybe that happens elsewhere.  Need to look in my bird book for that information.