Thursday, 30 December 2010

The beginning....

Yes, today has been the beginning  of this years olive harvest.   TV adverts may make it look very laid back and gentle....shake the tree and off they drop...... No,  in reality that just doesn't happen!

First lay out your nets.  We have 3, each one is 8 metres by 4 metres, they take some moving, and you can't drag them in case they snag on the ground and make holes which the olives will fall through.  Having laid them out, you need to peg the ones on the lower terrace up onto poles so the olives don't roll away as they land.  Then you can start harvesting.  This is usually done by whacking the branches with a long pole or by using a large plastic comb to separate the olives from the branches.  Even though they are very black and oily they don't want to come off easily.  Lots of leaves and small ends of branches all come down as well, these have to be thrown away before the olives are put into sacks.

Any  well-laden branches that we can't reach, John cuts out as part of the pruning process and  I pick it clean when it's on the ground,  when one tree is finished and the olives are bagged, then we tidy up the trimmings, firewood etc before moving on to the next tree.

As you can imagine, it's a time consuming business but usually it's worth doing for the oil and cash.  This year however the price is less than last year and that was even lower than we'd ever known....  we're down to 30 cents a kilo.   I'm sure the supermarket price will be the same though.

So 4 hours work, 3 trees harvested (1 small, 1 straggly with very little on it and 1 good one)  has given us 1 sack of olives.  About 30 kilos, which will pay about  €9.   They do say it's better than nothing and every little least the sun was shining and I had nothing else to do!

But here are some sunny photos of olives and  someone in the distance is burning their olive trimmings.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

So that was Christmas.

Another Christmas over!   Only 3 mince pies left now,  a half of a  Stollen,  about half a figgy pudding and  2  bowlfuls of sherry trifle   - I'm sure I spent longer cooking it all then we did eating it.  Although to be fair, we haven't eaten all of it, friends came up for drinks and tapas on Christmas Day and quite a lot of the mince pies and Stollen were eaten then.  But we still have lots of chocolates left  to enjoy in the New Year - no, not home made but pressies from friends.

Mat came down from Paris for his Christmas break,  despite the bad weather the flight was only 30 minutes late in to Almeria, but when we got down there this morning for his flight home, the flight up to Madrid was cancelled as the incoming plane was iced in somewhere.   Luckily there was availability on the next flight out and they changed his ticket, also the connecting Madrid to Paris flight was changed.  If only we'd known.....we had to get up at 6.30 and left home at 7.10 in the pitch black.  And we could have had a lie in!!!  Oh well.

A belated Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year to everyone who regularly reads this - hope it gives you some idea of life in the Alpujarras.

Next up - olive harvest!  The mill in Yator is up and running already so we'll be out picking quite soon.  Let's hope the sun continues to shine.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A wonderful Christmas present.

And it's open!!  They said the road would be done by the end of the year and they were right.  The last of the concrete was laid on Friday,  the road remained shut over the weekend for it to harden/set/go off  and late on Sunday evening we heard the first  car since the end of October go past here.  

Today it has  poured with rain - and still is - but we went out to the shops just because we could!   It was nice not to have to go togged up in boots and wet weather clothes with a rucksack like last year. 

There are parts of the new road which have mud and gravelly stuff on which has washed down from the land but because the surface slopes slightly into the hillside,  any mud and stones is mostly washing down the drains.  Some stones have rolled out onto the road but nothing major.

And here is the final bill.  Many thanks to whoever applied for the funding and to those who provided the money.  What a wonderful Christmas present to those of us who live and/or work their land in Montenegro.

But remember - to those of you who know this area - the road only goes from Yator to Montenegro.  From here up to Yegen remains a track so if you couldn't drive it by car before, you still can't.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Yo-yo weather

This time last week the temperature varied from 15° to 21° whereas this morning when I went out at 8.15 it was only 0.7°  and by this afternoon it had reached the dizzy heights of 8.1°  There was frost on the ground up at the fuente and where the track had been muddy it was now frozen.

Now I know that's not as cold as some people are experiencing - but for this area it's a bit chilly!!

We've just wrapped up  warmly  and taken the dogs out for a long walk and now we're back I've lit the wood-burner and I think we'll hunker down for the night.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A week gone - are you sure?

That was a quick week!  Wherever does the time go to?

 At various times this week I've made brown bread, white rolls, soups, dulce de membrillo which is quince paste and is usually eaten with cheese, frozen the wild boar casserole which we were cooking last time I wrote, planted 150 garlic cloves which have popped up within the week, bottled 23 small jars of black olives into oil, some with garlic in as well,  we've racked off all the wines so they are  bottled and ready for drinking  if needed.  Sampled some of the black fig wine when Mariano popped in yesterday and ate a jarful of the newly done olives as tapas.  The next 2  batches of olives aren't quite ready for bottling yet, probably in the next week or so.

Membrillo is really easy to make - if you can find quinces that is!  Peel, chop and cook them in water.  The longer they cook the deeper red the colour is, then strain off the juice and puree the fruit.  Weigh the puree and return to a pan with an equal amount of sugar.  Bring to the boil stirring constantly until you have a  thick gooey paste.  I poured my onto a baking parchment covered tray to set, then wrapped it up and put it in the fridge.  It will keep for quite a few weeks.

The meat had fallen off the ribs in the casserole and it is so tender!   Monty and Pip have had some of the bones - they only get them when we are able to keep an eye on them as it's the only thing they have a serious disagreement about.  If either of them goes anywhere near the other,  some very nasty growling starts up  and if we don't keep them apart they have to be separated with a  good squirt of cold water. 

As well as log splitting and refilling the log store, (he splits and I stack but unfortunately the handle of the splitter has itself split this week,)   I walked down to Yator yesterday morning to meet friends and then we went into Cadiar - I had Christmas parcels to collect from the post office and wanted to see how the new road was progressing.

And it's nearly finished!   It'll probably be completed this weekend so we should be able to go out and about soon.  Having concrete instead of a track should save us a lot of wear and tear on the tyres, although the economy being as it is, we've all got less money to go out and about with.  Maybe next year will be better, we can only hope.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

It's Autumn again - or early Spring.

Over the last few days, the temperature has started to climb again and the skies have cleared.  Today has been glorious, we woke up to blue skies and sunshine and a high of 15°.   Breakfast outside on the terrace followed by a bit of a spring clean for me....carpets out on the balcony, curtains washed.....  I know it's not spring but it's best to do  these things while the weather is spring-like.

We got the all-clear about the boar meat yesterday,  Antonio had been to the vet the previous day.  We de-ribbed the rack of ribs (there's probably a better butchers word for that)  and put them to marinade in red wine, a clove of  garlic for each rib, onions, rosemary, bay leaves and black pepper.  This morning I put  the slow cooker onto it's lowest setting and left them to cook.   There are wonderful smells wafting up from the kitchen this evening - but we aren't  going to  eat them yet,  just taste them, then freeze them for Xmas. 

If you should have both a slow cooker and a neighbour who gives you wild meat, then this book looks wonderful.   There are recipes for not only boar but venison, turkey, duck, goose, partridge, pheasant, rabbit  and even squirrel and bear!

If you click on the book title, you will find a link which enables you to browse the contents of the book - just in case you want to know more!

Monday, 6 December 2010

On-line shopping?

Almost every weekend of the year,  the local guys are out hunting.  Partridge when in season and wild boar at any time, but especially if the boars have been damaging the acequias and land.

This weekend is no different except that there's more shooting because it's a long holiday weekend, today is Día de la Constitución  and Wednesday is Inmaculada Concepción.

Late on Sunday afternoon, Antonio who is a neighbour of ours drove down as far as he could (new road, couldn't get far)  to help a friend of his.  They'd shot a boar earlier in the day and needed help to get it up to the road.  It must have been a long way down in the bushes  as he was gone quite a while.  We next saw him with the boar in a wheelbarrow while his 2 sons and a friend had a rope around the dead boar - with the boys pulling and Antonio pushing the barrow they managed to get the boar to where he'd left his car.  I assume they couldn't get it in, because he drove home pulling the boar behind him.

He stopped on the way past to replace the road closed sign that he'd had to by-pass and we went out to see how big the boar was.  He reckons about 70 kilos which explains why they couldn't get it in the car!   He then asked if we'd like some meat - a leg perhaps or a shoulder.  I'm not very keen on meat that looks like an animal -  skinned and jointed I can cope with, so John went up to watch and help with the jointing.

But not only did we get given a leg which weighs 4 kilos, but also a rack of ribs, some steak and trimmings.  A grand total of 8 kilos.  Antonio has to take some samples for the vet to test to make sure the animal is edible and when we get the ok, we'll get some cooked.  We've been googling for ideas - marinade it, cook low and slow seems to be recommended but we've also found some lovely sausage ideas. 

Who said there's no such thing as a free lunch?

Friday, 3 December 2010

The concrete is here!

Despite the rain that came down over the last few days, the base of the new road is in a very good condition. In fact, it's never been as good.

Last night Mariano came down for a drink and to let us know that they would be starting to lay the concrete today.  But as there were no "pista cortada" notices, could we park our car outside so nobody could get past. Well, no.  Didn't think that was a very good idea at all, so instead we made a sign which we attached to some orange fencing and strung that across the pista so no-one could get through.

First up today was the grader doing a final check, then a lorry delivering sheets of steel mesh, 8 workmen and then  the first concrete mixer.  The workmen are laying the mesh and putting in metal edges for a mold, which will be taken out later.  They have set up a 'hopper' for mixing the cement and  gravel  down in Yator - quicker and needs less mixers.

By 5.30 pm they were about 400m or so from us, obviously working from the top  downhill.   Spoke to the 'jefe' this morning, he reckons about 6 or 7 working days.  Not sure exactly when it'll be driveable - but I'm sure we'll find out when someone comes up and can't get through our road closed sign. 
Delivering the mesh and the first mix load.

We assume that when they finished work tonight, they've left a machine/roller or something across the end of the Yator end to stop traffic.