Thursday, 31 March 2011


Finished another oil-painting today, this time of the Alpujarran village of El-Golco

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Calle del Pescado

Added a new painting to the catalogue today:

It is of a sidestreet of Ugijar in Las Alpujarras.  We are just waiting for the prints and frames that we have on order to arrive (hopefully this week) and then will  be making them available to buy online and via a couple of local bars/restaurants.  More info is available here.

We've also got some cards on order that we got for free at Vistaprint.  See here to find out about getting some for yourself (those of you in Spain, anyway).

Monday, 28 March 2011

Preparing for planting

Saturday morning dawned with lovely clear blue skies - not even a puff of wind around - so we thought we'd better get on with rotovating the last of the vegetable beds.  There were only 3 to be done, everything else is planted up with habas, peas, garlic, onions and strawberries, but these had been left empty since the end of last year so were a bit weedy.  3 beds doesn't sound like much work but the smallest one was 3m by 1m and the largest a sort of triangular area  6m long and between 1m and 3m at the widest point.

what will be the triangular bed

However, the rotovator makes light work of it all.  I'm sure John doesn't think that, it has 2 settings either hare or tortoise and I had a go when we first bought it - on hare setting I felt  as though it was in control rather than me and on tortoise setting it was just so heavy that I couldn't manoeuvre it.  But it's a lot quicker and less back-breaking than digging compacted soil by hand - even though he could hardly  move on Sunday morning.

After he'd turned over the soil once, I tipped on the remaining goat manure and he went back again digging that in before  I tidied up the bed ready for planting.  We were done before lunch so decided to make a start on a totally new terrace as we have so many vegetable, herb and salad crops to plant that the existing space is not going to be enough.

the new terrace half strimmed + half dug

This area though was knee-high in greenery, mostly clover which I think is good for the ground.  So first J strimmed it all down and then rotovated the chopped-up greenery into the soil.  And what wonderful soil it is!   Rich and soft and moist - it's not been planted up with anything since we've lived here, so we should get some really good vegetables growing.   It's a terrace that we look at from our lounge and although it belongs to our neighbours   a) they're not here,   b) when they do come they don't have time to grow anything and  c) it's nearer our house than theirs so feels more like it should be ours.  That's not to say that we didn't ask, of course we did and Miguel says we can use any of their land that we need.

We have  made 1m wide beds there - the width of the rotovator - and  done 2 beds totalling about 40 metres.

As things were going so well, John decided to get the next area strimmed ready for rotovating although we didn't think we'd have time to finish that afternoon.  As it happened some friends out for a walk stopped by to see what we were up to so that was a good time to down tools and have a well-earned beer.

4pm and ready for planting.

Sunday morning was another day of clear blue skies, unfortunately John was very stiff and so we thought more  rotovating much just finish him off completely so we're leaving that till next weekend. 

You can probably guess where I'm going to be spending most of this week....

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Beautiful bird song, but what is it?

All day every day this little bird sits in either the mulberry or the pine tree, singing its little heart out.  When it's in the mulberry it's backlit by the sun so I can't get a photo of it and when it's in the pine tree it's hidden by the branches so still no photo.

This afternoon, I put my camera on the fence post and left it to run on video for a minute to capture the song.  Please have a listen, there isn't much to see apart from the branches swaying in the breeze, but if you know which bird it is, then please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

Someone must know what it is!

Got some photo's now and we think it is a chaffinch ...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

What a slow week that was.

After a long, slow week I am finally back to normal.  No more waddling instead of walking,  no need to stretch out before putting on socks in the morning,  just a slight dull ache at the base of my spine in the evening.  But nothing to stop me getting on with the pea planting and having a go at the weeds........except that the weather has decided to change for the worse.  Not raining yet, although it's forecast for tomorrow, but  decidedly nippy out with a cool breeze.  Nice for walking but not for weeding.  I can't think of much worse than kneeling on damp ground in a shady place with a cool wind blowing.

Had 2 long walks today, first this morning was our normal circuit up to the fuente and back although without any orange picking today as there are still 3 litres of juice in the fridge.  Then later on we went back up there to show some visitors where the fuente was.  It's only just off the GR7 walking route but isn't signposted.  The overflow from the deposito and fuente run across the GR7 but unless you know where that water is coming from, you wouldn't think to go and look.

Back in time for lunch and then Monty and Pip curled up on the lounge rug in the sun.  Well, it was almost sunshine, more of a weak hazy bit of warmth coming through the window.  Enough to keep them happy and warm though!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Back to normal...

....or not really.  For many years I had back problems, finally found a consultant who realised what the problem was, not a pulled muscle but a torn ligament.  The answer to my problem was  to  strengthen the muscles around the ligament to support it better.  We bought an excellent book which I recommend to everyone and it's available on Amazon

No problems for about 6 years until Tuesday when it started to drizzle so I moved the airer of wet washing under cover.  If you - or I  - lift something heavy at arms length, then the weight pulls on your lower back and ping!  It's not really a ping but there's definitely a pain and I know to be extra careful for a few days.  Unfortunately later that night Pip decided to go  to sleep on our bed and I - very carefully - moved her off.  But not carefully enough and that extra strain has completely done for me.

First thing in the morning I have to stretch my back before I can even think about getting out of bed,  no way can I put on socks until I've loosened up and our morning walk, which actually does me good, is more of a waddle  than a walk.  The further I go, the looser I get and by the time we've done our usual circuit I'm striding out with no sign of tension.

But then I sit down for breakfast and tighten up again.  Bed-making is quite difficult, more of it done on my knees than standing and so the day progresses.  There are lots of weeds to be dug out and peas to be planted and although I can do that kneeling, it also involves stretching forwards so not this week!

I have picked oranges though and so we have more juice, but instead of sorbet I have made an orange jelly.

Yes,  another recipe!

1 pint of fresh orange juice,
1 sachet (10g) gelatine
4 tablespoons hot water

Put the gelatine onto the hot water, leave for a minute or so to melt then stir till dissolved and clear.  Warm through if necessary but don't boil.  Add to the juice, mix and pour into dishes/wine glasses. Put in the fridge for a couple of hours and an almost instant dessert.    My recipe says 6 wine glasses - mine must be huge because it's only filled 2 of them - they are 300ml glasses though!

Haven't tried it but you can add Cointreau....

Just top it with cream and enjoy.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Another nice surprise.

Way back in November 2009 I wrote a post called 'a nice surprise and other things' and mentioned a couple from Rye that we'd met who were in this area on a walking holiday.  They subsequently sent us some much appreciated oxo cubes and since then have sent shower caps which we use to cover the wine during fermentation and the bread dough while it's rising.

Over the past 18 months they have kept in touch with us via the blog and e-mail and are back again on another walking holiday.  Yesterday they walked down from Berchules to join us for lunch and brought with them some more oxos, 2 shower caps and - even nicer - a box of M & S chocolates!

We wined and tapas'd them during the afternoon - garlic and cumin  toasted almonds, salsa verde,  (green tomatoes, green chillis, coriander leaf, garlic and onions put through the liquidiser and dolloped onto slices of bread,)    fabada (a rich pork casserole with lots of onions and garlic,)  curried jabalí,  cheese and membrillo  (quince paste)  then finally orange sorbet to finish.  Plus of course, bread.  No meal is complete without a basket of bread.  Six tapas should have been six glasses of wine but I think we drank a few more than that.....The sun shone for us and although it clouded over later, it didn't rain.  They were collected by the hotel transport at the end of a very enjoyable afternoon and we went indoors to catch up with the the rugby.

Of course, we had to try the chocolates, after all they'd come a long way and they were delicious.  I say were delicious, we haven't eaten them all, only had a sample.  Still plenty left for tonight.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Yorkshire puddings and pancakes.

We had an extended Shrove Tuesday - it  started on Sunday  and finished this morning.

I know that Yorkshire puddings and pancakes are different but they both use flour,  eggs and milk so......

We don't often eat pancakes, I don't know why as they are so economical and  so tasty and quick to make.  Usually we have Yorkshire puddings with our Sunday roast dinner - although it's a tradition to eat them with roast beef, we rarely buy that and eat them instead  with pork, chicken or jabalí  (yes, there's still some in the freezer)

Last Sunday was a roast pork day plus Yorkshire puddings.  We only ate half of them, the other half did another meal with some of the left-over pork which I minced up and made into albondigas and served with a really thick onion gravy.  More caramelised onions than gravy  but gorgeous.  There was also some batter left so I put it in the fridge and on Tuesday I added some more milk to thin it slightly and we had traditional pancakes.  They were so delicious that on Wednesday I made scotch pancakes for a mid-afternoon snack (totally unnecessary but lovely) and the remaining scotch pancakes we had for breakfast today. 

I know that Yorkshire pudding batter and traditional pancakes have a slightly different balance of eggs, milk and flour  but the batter worked surprisingly well as a pancake.  Maybe the addition of a big dollop of red grape jelly helped - although by the time I'd rolled the pancakes up it had melted and run out onto  the plate.

And the traditional lemon and sugar pancake?  Well it was raining and the lemons were still on the tree.   It's drizzling again and the lemons are still waiting - we'll just have to have pancakes again another day!

To make scotch pancakes you need:
120 g self raising flour               1 egg and 1/4 pint milk whisked together
30 g sugar
pinch of salt

Add egg and milk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk well.  Drop 1 tablespoon onto  a hot greased pan / griddle.  When the surface bubbles, turn over and cook the other side.  Makes 14. 

Just add butter and quick and easy!   

Monday, 7 March 2011

Cats and dogs.

I'm sure every village has them and probably more than they need.  They don't seem to belong to anyone and eat whatever food people put out for them.   Not quite strays, but not pets either.  But sometimes they have an owner and a house to live in and for some reason decide to take on a second home - maybe it's because that way they get double portions at meal times!

Copi  the cat is just like that.  He has an  owner in Yátor,  but has decided to take up residence on the windowsill of friends of ours.  He can normally be seen asleep in the sunshine tucked in behind the window bars.  Sometimes he comes over the flat roof from their neighbours, onto their roof terrace and if their door is open into the house - well, it's another meal time as he goes downstairs and eats their cat's food.   Then the front door is opened, he's pushed out and round he goes again.

Today they came up here for a walk and had some bones for Monty and Pip.  Copi  must have smelt the bones because he followed them up here and then sat outside the gate mewing.  Monty took his bone out by the pool and found a nice shady spot under an olive tree to enjoy it, while Pip stayed on the terrace with us.  Suddenly there was Copi,  up on the pillar of the garden wall, looking down at Pip.  She is very protective of her food and  there was such a noise as she barked and barked at him.  He did jump down and went back to the gate,  soon came back up onto the pillar but by then the bones has been eaten.

So,  where's my food then?

Friday, 4 March 2011

After 2 hours...

9.15pm: a snowy olive tree

It's stopped snowing for now, but it's cold and the sky is clear enough to see the stars.  Not expecting any more snow but wouldn't be surprised if it froze over tonight.

and a snow covered pampas grass

Snow time like the present

Only a bit laying so far . . .
it started about an hour ago, big fluffy  snowflakes, just starting to lay and turn the trees white.
I took this one through the lounge window - didn't fancy going outside.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Yet more jars of food.

Yet more jars of home grown produce on the kitchen shelves.  I've just added three very large jars of red cabbage in a sweet vinegar.  I'm not really keen on vinegary things but the addition of a tablespoon of sugar to each pint of vinegar just takes the edge off that strong taste that makes me shudder!   I used white wine vinegar although  if I'd had enough I think red wine vinegar would have been a better colour with red cabbage.

The shelves are beginning to groan under the weight of the jars of olives, tomatoes, almonds, dried fruits, chutneys, jalapeños, jams and marmalade, onions, capers, walnuts and now cabbage that we have preserved so far.  Not mention the produce that is in the freezers - yes freezers,  as in more than one.  At the moment the orange trees are laden and  most days I  pick a couple of dozen while out on the morning dog walk and either squeeze for juice, or if we have enough then it gets frozen into cartons which we have kept from bought juice and as an alternative, today I am experimenting making sorbet.

None of the recipe suggestions that I have give any indication of how many scoops  they make, I've used 250ml juice plus 50g sugar today  to see how many servings we get.

Unfortunately the gorgeous sunshine has gone and it's not really sorbet weather but  it  just needs one more whizz before we sample it tonight.  And then I may tinker with the ingredients - the addition of vodka sounds rather nice to me.  Another suggestion was  to add grated zest or finely shredded peel for extra taste and for a 70's retro touch to serve it in a scraped clean orange half.