Friday, 28 December 2012

Full moon rising..


John has been out with his camera this evening to get a full moon photo,   Valor is the village just to the left.

Early almond blossom.

Normally the olives are ready for harvesting early in the new year,  but this year they were about a month early.

Normally the almond trees don't come into bloom around here until late January or early February but this year....

Just this week the almond tree opposite our gate has started to burst open.  First the pink  tinged buds then today the first  flowers.

Thanks to John for the photos.

After Christmas.

Over the last 10 days our normal household of 2 has been up to 8, then to 4,  now back to 2 again.    We bought lots, cooked lots and probably drank lots.  But the freezers are still remarkably full,  I counted 18 ready meals in them this morning -  it's all too easy just to put the leftovers in the fridge and think that you'll deal with them mañana but in reality I find they get forgotten about.  So this Christmas we boxed up all the leftover meats and gravy,  chillis, curries, rice etc and froze it for another day.

After the big pig came a big turkey.  Not quite as big - it was 9 kg not 11 like the pig,  and after serving 4 of us there was still plenty for Boxing Day and the freezer.  Is it just me,  but I do like cold  turkey and stuffing sandwiches.  I made the usual sage and onion stuffing and also  a much richer one with chestnuts, sausage meat, bacon, chicken liver, orange and lemon zest, eggs and onion.   It cooks slowly with the turkey, but double wrapped in foil on a lower shelf and is perhaps more like a paté.  Or at least mine is.  Lovely also sliced on hot buttery toast.

Big turkey, still steaming from the oven and waiting for the carver.

After the wonderful pre-Christmas sunshine, the day itself was cold by comparison - from 20° to 10° - cloudy, some drizzle and sudden high winds.   Looking at the forecast afterwards we saw they'd got gusts of almost 70 kph predicted.   But it was only a blip for that one day and sunshine appeared for Boxing Day and gradually the temperature is creeping back up.   Back into a summer t-shirt today and we've all the doors and windows open to let the sun and heat into the house.

Next up is New Years Eve, or Nochevieja as it is here.   It actually means 'old night' which makes sense when you think about it as it is the last night of the old year.  We'll more than likely watch the count down on Spanish tv  - it's filmed in Madrid - although we don't have our 12 grapes ready.  You have to eat a grape with every bong of the clock as it counts out the midnight hour.  Last time I tried it,  I missed one and still had a grape left when the 12 bongs had finished.  Better luck this year maybe.

If this is the last post of 2012,  then Happy New Year to one and all and may next year be good  for us all.

And if it's not the last post - well, see you soon!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

I know it's been a week....

But we've been busy busy people with family coming,  and some have now gone to UK for the second part of their Christmas holiday,  we've had a day and night in Granada and  been for long walks, done lots of cooking and lots of eating.  We had an early present opening afternoon as well,    and Christmas hasn't even begun!  

Me and my sister at the Alhambra, snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada behind.

Christmas tree in Bib Rambla, Granada

The big pig just out of the oven and ready to eat.  Amazing crackling too.

Mat and Airi and bump coming home from a picnic yesterday.
Enjoy your Christmas celebrations,  more pictures as and when I get time.  Oh, by the way, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and it's currently 19° at 11am.  I've got out  a summer dress to wear today!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Todays cloud...

Hovering over the hills this morning at sunrise..

It had a hole in the middle which doesn't really show up,  and the little wispy clouds were coming out of that and twirling up and away.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Lunch in the sun.

For the 4th day running we've eaten our lunch outside,   the sky has been a beautiful deep blue and the temperature in the sun means we've been out in  t-shirts.  Yesterday was the cloudiest day we've had but still warm enough to eat out in the garden.

The vegetables are also appreciating this weather, the peas that went in on November  22nd are now appearing and all the habas (broad beans) are looking extremely good.  The potatoes that got frosted don't seem too bad - I think they are continuing to grow and it looks like there are new leaves coming up.

Still getting ready for Christmas - the trouble is that over the year we do things and somehow never quite finish them,  maybe a bit of paint here or there would be enough,  or a bit of finishing around the edges,  a touch of whatever to make it perfect. 

This has been that sort of a week and if you're visiting soon,  bring some dark glasses as  the paint work is gleaming!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Yet another sunrise...

We still find it amazing when we open the curtains to this......

07.49am today.  Sunrise over Sierra Gador.

and colours like this are quite a regular thing.  I suppose the day it ceases to be magical and make us say 'oh, wow, look at that'  will be a sad day.

Up a bit earlier this morning as we had shopping plans.  The list has been growing and growing  since the last stock-up 5 weeks ago,  and this list was longer because we needed Christmas goodies too.  Even though I had the list and knew what we needed, I was surprised at the checkout by some of the things that had made their way into the trolley - chocolate covered nuts,  honey roasted almonds,  more varieties of crisps than I've seen for a long time,  that's what happens when you both go shopping.  I'm a bit more of the 'don't need that'  type, while he says 'but we haven't all had Christmas together for such a long time so lets make the most of it'.   And he's  right when he says  'it won't go off and it won't get any cheaper, and we don't have to eat it all in the next few weeks'

So the shelves are once again full, so is the freezer and the wine rack.  This week I have  plans to cook mince pies and figgy puddings amongst other things.  Such an easy recipe using everything that we already have here, and so tasty.  This just about serves 8 at a pinch but it depends on how big a serving you like!!  Too much for 4 people,  but will do 8 with cream and / or custard and / or brandy butter or even vanilla icecream. 

Mmm, hungry now!

Friday, 7 December 2012

The day in between.

Yesterday was Día Constitución  with the majority of places closed and tomorrow will be Inmaculada Concepción with - again - most places closed.  So today was possibly a  bridging day but when in doubt, don't go out!

I know the builders merchants was opening today as I asked,  and apparently at least one of the shops in Cadiar was open yesterday.  But as nothing is guaranteed it's best to make sure you don't need anything until Monday when life will be back to normal.

The weather has been a bit nothingy too,  yesterday it wasn't quite sunny, nor was it really cloudy,  cool if you weren't busy but ok if you were.  Today was forecast to rain, anything from drizzle to showers but I think we've had a few spots and that was all.  Not enough for John to stop what he was doing  and he didn't look wet when he came in for lunch.

I've had a kitchen day - not cooking, just cleaning and tidying things.  We have lots of glasses hanging up and they'd lost their sparkle but look a lot better now they've been washed.  Then there was the fireplace in the dining room,  lots of grot down from the chimney which needed cleaning up and then the surrounding area.....and so it goes on.  Doesn't get done often enough,  I need something to prompt me - either a wet day or as in this case,  Christmas and family coming soon.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Sunrise cloud.

With the sunrise behind me,  looking towards Mecina Bombaron at 08.08 this morning, some weird and wonderful clouds.  Yesterday there was a cloud like this that stretched from a long way  left of us and out of sight to the right.  It seemed like most of the high Alpujarras had the curvy cloud above it and it wasn't till late afternoon that it started to drift apart.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The big pig.

Christmas is coming and our normal household of cooking for 2 will increase for a few days  to cooking for 8.  As Chief Cook and Bottle washer I obviously don't want to spend too many hours in the kitchen and there are meals that I find easy to pre-prepare and freeze and other meals that don't need too many hours of preparation before eating.   One of those is a huge roast dinner and with that thought in mind when I was in Cadiar this morning I went to the pork butcher to buy a leg of pork.

He isn't only a pork butcher, there are 2 butchers in town and they both sell pork, chicken and rabbit.  One always has beef as well but the 'pork' butcher has a picture of a pig outside and you can usually see one of the guys preparing the meat for sale.  Butchers here don't do fancy displays, the joints are usually ready for preparing so no fancy artfully arranged meat or plastic parsley, and if you don't see what you want just ask.

There weren't any legs of pork that I could see so I asked....I need a leg, with skin but without the foot...

How big do you want?

About 8 or 9 kilos?  It's for 8 people...

This paletilla  is 7 kilos or this jamón is 14.  Is it for the oven?  It'll take a long time to cook but the jamón will be better as it's fatter.

Fatter is better as there is more flavour, but 14 is a bit  too big,  and how much per kilo?

2.95 for the paletilla and 3.10 for the jamón....I've another pig out the back, let me go and get it...

So off he went and came back with a pig on a trolley which he  then de-back-legged (there is probably a more butchery term for what he did)  and that weighed in at 11 kilos.  Off came the foot, and  we settled for that.  A bit bigger than I was anticipating but there won't be any wastage.

It's in the freezer now waiting for a couple of weeks,  I know  I was early buying it but better to get it when you're near the shop than suddenly  realise time is running out and find the butcher is shut or has sold  the joints you want.  Still to sort out the Xmas day turkey but there's time yet.

Monday, 3 December 2012

And yet more planting!

Another glorious day - that is if you ignore the thermometer!   First thing in the morning it's only registering about 4° which means frost in places.  But once the sun is up then it's wonderful.  Lovely blue sky,  hardly any cloud,  and so long as you are doing something in the sun then it's t-shirt weather.   Actually by midday you didn't have to be doing anything to feel warm as we sat in the garden eating our lunch.

I've been out planting  this years garlic, only  3 bulbs but that  was 41 cloves and if all goes / grows well that must be getting on for a years worth.   More broad beans in too, this is the 5th planting so far,  I don't do huge areas at a time, about 25 to 35 at a time but each hole has  3 beans in so altogether quite a lot.  I find that planting in 3's means that  they support each other and are less likely to collapse in the wind or rain.

And we had to water some of the peas and strawberry babes.  There hasn't been any rain for a while - my gardening diary will say when but when the ground is dry and has a hard crust then it's time to give the seeds a drink. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Hot horseradish.

A few years ago we were given 3 baby horseradish plants and after reading about them and finding out that they were very invasive,  we gave them a nice big space all to themselves with lots of room to spread out.  They grew into lovely big plants but I seem to remember reading that they needed at least one winter to develop big enough roots for harvesting.

So they got their first winter and second summer,  then one night last year when it got colder than expected and they weren't protected in any way,  the leaves all died off.  I didn't want to risk digging them up for the roots in case that finally killed them off so we kept our fingers crossed till this Spring, when up came new leaves.  Only though on 2 of the plants, the other seemed to have disappeared completely.

They are now  as big as they were before the cold got to them and  today I went with the garden fork  to lift the biggest one for some fresh horseradish.  The most enormous root ball eventually came up with loads of roots, one snapped off at ground level so I cut it off from the main plant as well,  and cut off another just in case.  I expect the snapped one will now turn into another plant.

Wash, peel and grate says my book, preferably in a food processor as the juices are very pungent.  That's what I did and wow!  was that right!   I thought wasabi had a kick to it which made my eyes water but this did just the same.  I added some white wine vinegar and a little bit of sugar and put it in a jar in the fridge.  Tomorrow we'll add some single cream and have it with our roast beef and yorkshire puds.  We don't often buy a  big piece of beef as we usually have enough jabalí to roast but we cooked the last of it recently.   Hopefully Antonio will be out hunting before too long and restock us!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Jack Frost.

He came last night and left a very pretty white coating on the grass beside the road,  it wasn't until just an hour or so ago that I noticed he'd also got the tops of our potato plants.  They look very sad - hopefully not fatal though.  Also the autumn sowing of dwarf Borlotto beans  have keeled over,  they had just about stopped setting beans anyway,  it was more of an experiment this year as they did so badly in the summer heat that we thought they couldn't do any worse now.  We have had quite a few good pickings from them since the end of September till last week.

3.3° on the thermometer on the front  terrace this morning - I met someone when shopping in Ugijar this morning and his thermometer reading was 0°  - he'd gone onto the terrace for his morning coffee but I doubt he stayed out there long.

Snow showers forecast as from 5pm,   it hasn't happened yet this year but we did get this on the 30th November 2008

Now that snow wasn't forecast and was quite a shock to say the least,  there was snow on the beaches as well.  At least this year it's being predicted and we won't be so surprised if it comes down tonight.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Twinkle twinkle little star...

Clear skies, twinkling stars and a nearly full moon - tomorrow night - means a cold night. 

Today has been lovely - blue skies and sunshine - and that sounds like it would be good for doing outside stuff but there's also been a chill wind straight down from the north and we reached the dizzy heights of 10° at lunchtime.  Having said that, it was 7°  this morning at 8am, so it didn't change much from overnight.

The forecast for tonight is light snow and a temperature of minus 0°.   Honestly, that's what it said.  How can you have minus 0.  Surely it's either 0 or -1?  At the moment we still have clear skies but there are some puffy clouds around but not snow clouds.  On the plus side, a full moon and clear skies makes for a nice last dog walk as we don't need to use the torch at all.  The street lights don't start for 50 metres or so and recently 2 of them have blown a bulb and have not been repaired,  not something I'm expecting to happen any time soon given the current economic climate.

Monday, 26 November 2012

The nispero tree.

There aren't many  fruit trees in bloom at this time of the year,  this is the exception......the nispero. 

It blooms in the autumn and fruits in the spring although I think there is also another variety here that does it the opposite way round.  We only have the autumn flowering variety.  The fruits are quite apricot like,  orange and juicy but with several small brown shiny nut-like seeds inside.  It's leaves are evergreen, there is a Telegraph article here about the nispero likening the leaves to a sweet chestnut on steroids!   They are thick and long and very dark green. 

We did wonder what the English name for the fruit was,  out came the fruit and vegetable gardening book and on the same page as the Quince, which we have here, was a Medlar.  Although the fruits in the photo were browner that ours,  they do go brown if left on the tree, so for the last 9 years we've thought it was a Medlar.

Until today that is when I was looking for a photo online that I could use here of the fruits and their seeds.  The Wikipedia info about the Medlar  describes them as  'deciduous large shrubs .....with five petalled white flowers produced in late spring'    neither of which sounds like our trees.....  the leaves turn red in autumn before falling'    um, no.

Carry on reading and we come 'related plants' and mention of the loquat, sometimes known as a medlar or Japanese medlar.  New search on Wikipedia for loquat and this sounds more like it....'large evergreen shrub or small tree, leaves are 10–25 cm long, dark green, tough and leathery'     'The flowers have a sweet, heady aroma that can be smelled from a distance'.  Yes, most definitely yes.  'The flavor is a mix of peach, citrus and mild mango.'  I would have said more like an apricot but maybe that's just my taste buds.

So we've learnt something new today,  and it's only taken 9 and a bit years!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Pea planting.

Peas and beans of all types, both bush and climbing, grow very well here but I've always had a problem keeping the peas upright.  They start off well but no matter what support method I've used, they get top heavy and collapse.  Then of course the stalk snaps and the peas stop podding.  I've seen  twigs recommended but my peas have always outgrown the twig height,  I've tried the local way of planting in between the broad beans so the peas can cling onto the strong bean plants.  But last time the beans  were so strong and bushy the peas struggled to get any light and were a bit of a failure.  

I read lots of gardening blogs and online newspaper columns and recently came across this

and on the  chat page  was some - hopefully wonderful - pea growing advice.  Basically you put stakes round the edge of your pea bed and down the sides,  put string round a few inches from the ground,   I have also put string across from stake to stake creating little boxes.  Peas go in as normal,  2 inches or so apart in staggered rows and I put 3 into each hole - my beds are each 6 inches or so wide.  As you imagine that adds up to a lot of peas - we've so far got a bed of 27 holes,  each with 3 in,  another of 29 and another of 17.  If my brain is still working ok that comes to 219 seeds.   And lots more in the box - as soon as these start to appear,  the next lot will go in,  so the picking season lasts longer.  

The theory is that the peas cling onto the strings and each other and as they grow so you add another string a few inches higher.  The chat page has some good photos of what happens at the various stages, if ours look anything like that in the spring, I'll be very pleased.


Friday, 23 November 2012

The smell of freshly cut grass.

Grass is not something we see much of here,  by grass I mean lawns not the green clumpy stuff that grows on campo in the veg patches and acequias where you don't want it.  But about 6 or 7 years ago we came across a large box of grass seed which said it was especially for a hot dry climate,  was for 'high traffic' areas,  resistant to the sun etc etc.....all of which made us think it was worth a try for our front garden.

The main instruction was 'just water well and away you go'

We dug and raked, levelled and smoothed, watered and sprinkled the seeds,  covered with netting to stop the birds having a feast when we weren't looking and sure enough,  the grass started to grow.   Then the weather warmed up,  we did as instructed and watered well and sure enough the 'away you go' part of the instructions really did do as it said.  The grass just  got up and went.  Well, not literally walked away, but it did disappear.  The hotter it got, the less grass we had.

Until the next year though,  when the autumn rains came and then back came the grass.  It's done the same thing every year since then and seems to be getting thicker and spreading further.  Obviously we don't have a lawn mower here but do have a strimmer so we keep the grass looking neat and tidy with that.  Today was the first trim of the year,  I also did the so called lawn under the olive tree out by the pool - in reality it's lots of clumps  plus clover that is nice and green but looks good when trimmed.

We only need to trim it a few times during the winter rather than the weekly lawn cut of days gone by in UK and I'd forgotten what a wonderful smell freshly cut grass has.  So good that the eagles came down really low for a look - we were enjoying the last of the sun with an early evening glass of chilled white wine when a pair of eagles swooped down low over the house.   First one came low over the roof, then they both circled around,  then a few minutes later this one came round again, just in time for me to grab a picture.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Horrendous noises on campo.

Last Friday night we heard horrible screeching noises out in the darkness followed by dogs barking.  We thought it might be foxes making the noise and the neighbours dogs out chasing them.  Then the day before yesterday about 5pm when we were enjoying the late afternoon sunshine we heard the same screeching but from the hills the other side of the house.  No dogs this time,  and although we looked, we couldn't see any birds around -  the eagles that come over here sometimes make a noise.

Tonight just as I was getting ready for the last dog walk the same screeching started - same place as  the first time on the hills to the front of the house - now I'm back home and have just googled  'what noise do foxes make'.  We've listened to a couple of u-tube clips and it's definitely been foxes,  and probably the vixens as it's a call made during mating season.

So nothing nasty,  although Pip wasn't so sure and when the call also came out of my computer, Monty started barking.  Maybe he thought the fox had got into the house! 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Late yesterday...

Yesterdays  on and off showers and  spells of sunshine all came at once just before sunset...

The rainbow seems to disappear into the top of the mulberry tree which just this week has started to change colour and drop its leaves.   Leaf rake and compost sacks at the ready because it only takes one big wind and all that potential compost will blow away.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Waiting for a rub down.

Wet dogs and muddy paws do not go well with clean rugs, especially the heavy Alpujarran ones that we have.  I  put the rugs out over the balcony every few weeks and give them as good a shake as I can  - without dropping them if possible -  to shake out the dust that they collect.

Monty and Pip are not allowed indoors after a wet walk with muddy paws and wet fur coats, they do seem to enjoy being dried off,  I suppose it's like being stroked and cuddled although by a towel.  They sit quite patiently for each to be dried off, normally Pip first as she's the skinny one and gets cold easily.  Monty has a bit more body fat than her,  although she eats as much as him.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Our newest resident.

Are you looking at my little antlers??

Meet Montenegro's newest resident,  this is Bambi who was rescued from the side of the road back in the middle of May.  To start with he was bottle fed goats milk but gradually started eating green stuff and is now totally green.  

If you're starting to think that we have a new pet,  don't worry as Bambi is not ours but belongs to Mariano.  He is dad, chief bottle feeder for all those days and nights and now he and Bambi go walking everyday for Bambi to feed. 

He doesn't have a lead on all the time,  only when there is traffic or going past where dogs bark - like our house - and Bambi is a bit timid. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Storage solutions.

It could have gone oh so wrong but didn't......

Go back about 5 years when we were thinking of buying a shed as we hadn't got enough storage in the house for all our bits and pieces.   Flat roof - no loft/attic space.  Under the stairs cupboard - no.  (We have now but not then)   So we found a suitable flat accessible corner of land bordered by two walls  and with an olive tree overhanging for summer shade.  Then we looked at shed options.  All flat packed,  different thicknesses of wood but - as sheds are - very basic.  So add to the cost and time,  extra wood for shelving or cupboards, plus electric cables and sockets for using tools and lighting and soon  the basic price has maybe doubled.

Then I saw an advert for a caravan.  Double glazed.  With electrics.  And a fridge.  Cupboards and seating and cushions and a table.......

So much better than a basic shed,  so we bought it,  hitched it up to the car and brought it home,  put it in the 'shed corner'  and for the last 5 or so years it has been so useful.   Storage for chair cushions in the winter,  for winter bed covers in the summer,  an ironing place for me,  the sewing machine and material box lives there too and the table becomes a sewing place,  all sorts of bits and pieces out there.  

The space between the caravan and the walls have become 'potting' where I store my plant pots and gardening stuff,  John has added shelves so I can work out there planting seeds, and a door to keep it all safe and warm.  But just recently the door to potting wouldn't shut.  Maybe it'd swollen in the rains,  but even with a few dry days there was a problem, maybe half an inch less space.  John looked at  the caravan legs, the tyres etc and decided that the whole thing had sunk and moved backwards a few inches.

This morning first he attached a rope and pulley to the front of the caravan - the tow bar bit - and pulled that round a post.   Then we dug new holes for the wheels to settle into when we moved it, gradually unwound the back legs from the ground, released the handbrake and pulled on the rope and pulley.  What happened?  Nothing.  Next step was to pump up the tyres using  the compressor and were they flat!  As each tyre was inflated the caravan went up a few inches - note to ourselves that we should check  them more frequently than every 5 years -  then back to the pulley....again nothing moved.  Last step was to loosen the front legs as well then we just pushed hard and it moved enough to settle into it's new  tyre holes. 

The legs now have new concrete bases - not hard concrete yet it needs a few days to 'go off' (I believe that's the technical  term although I usually think of it setting) 

So what could  have gone wrong?  Winding  up the legs could have made it settle too far down at one end,  maybe it would have rolled backwards,  it might have crushed my plant pots!  But nothing went wrong, nothing got squashed and the 5 or 6 inches we moved it have made more space for more pots in potting for me.

If we've done it right this time, it shouldn't need doing again for a very long time.  It needs far less maintenance than a shed  and  has proved to be a really good buy.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Not long now!

The first snows are forecast for tonight, not as low as us but down to 1100 or 1200 metres or so,   probably in the pine forests above Mecina Bombaron.  The ski slopes of the Sierra Nevada currently look like this

and the link for the webcam is here  

Last year on November 30th, the ski slopes had already been open for a week.  Based on the forecast  - 10cms due  tonight for some people so not long now till it opens for this winter season.   

This is from the weather forecast:

Fenómeno Nevadas Nevadas Acumulación de nieve : 10 cm
Hora nov 11, 20:00 → nov 12, 03:00
Ámbito Geográfico Guadix y Baza
Probabilidad 40%-70%
Comentario La cota de nieve bajará hasta los 1100m-1200m               

Friday, 9 November 2012

Heavy headed flowers.

A few years back I planted some chrysanthymums  in the garden,  each year  they seem to get  taller and taller  and  this year I've had a real problem trying to keep them upright.  They are staked,  but so top heavy especially after the rain when the flower heads are waterlogged.

Coming up next to them are clumps of narcissi which are in bud already....  normally they don't flower until January and February.

Strange day today,  looked like rain but I did the washing anyway and thought it could always finish off in the drier.  As it happened it didn't start to rain till about an hour ago and by then it was all dry and put away.  John is still working in the kitchen - tiling shelves now -  much safer on 2 feet  than 4 wobbly step ladder legs!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Honey and money.

Unfortunately not the real things though!   When I was at the cemetery last Friday lots of the graves had bunches of small white flowers by them,  I think it's called Sweet Alison, but my Spanish wild flower book also calls it Sea Alyssum or Herba Blanca.   It grows wild everywhere here, from about October - or whenever the autumn rains start - through till June.   If you get a bunch and smell it,  it really does have a honey smell. 

Now this plant we used to have indoors in England - I think it's a Swedish Ivy -

but here I have it in pots on the terraces,  in a pot under the front garden olive tree where it gets dappled sun,  I put a few bits direct into the flower bed when they got broken off a plant and nearly all of them are now flowering.  A tiny candle-like delicate lavender colour.  When Marie Carmen was here last weekend she said the Spanish call it a money plant and if you've got a big plant you should have lots of money,  small plant - no money.  So what about if like us you have lots of plants, neither big nor small?  She just laughed and said maybe that means you have just enough.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Our infinity pool.

According to Wikipedia,    An infinity edge pool is the term used to describe perimeter overflow pools (pools that may be on level parcels, wherein the water flows over one or more edges, usually flush with the decking elevation). 

 After the recent rains  - and it rained all last night  and is still raining -  we seem to have our very own infinity pool!

At least the rains have been clean,  more often than not we have a very cloudy pool after rain.

If that is an infinity pool, what do we call this......

 An infinity garden or just a blocked drain?   The sky is not white, that's cloud.  It's down and we're right in it.  No wonder that these two are tucked up indoors..

Go out? In the rain? Not us!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Stocking up

Beginning of the month, empty shelves and freezers.....  well not quite that bad!  Anyone who knows us will now be thinking   'empty shelves?'  as we always have stock.  Lots of jars of olives, tomatoes both cooked and dried,  pasta, rice,  jams, pickles.....

It's only been 2 years since the pista was replaced with a concrete road and we always had lots of stock in,  both bottled, dried and frozen in case the weather was bad and we didn't we want to go out shopping.   We still have stock but now it's mostly things we've produced and have made a years worth of, such as chutney or marmalade.

Recently I've been doing a bigger and less frequent shop down at Berja.  Mercadona is a really good  privately owned chain of supermarkets,  the quality is excellent, the prices compare with Aldi  and Dia which are also in Berja so if you can't get something in 1 shop,  there are 2 more to choose from.  There are also lots of small family shops there plus the usual numerous cafes and bars, it always seems a really bustling small town.  But we've only stopped and walked around it once,  nowadays it's just an in and out shopping  trip.

So this morning the sky was almost clear, the sun was shining - it seemed a good day for a drive.  I left John decorating in the kitchen,  balanced precariously on the wobbly stepladders which have also lost their rubber feet - not good on a tiled floor -   'don't worry about me'   he said   'I'll hang on tight to something'.

It's a half hour drive - about 30kms- down to Berja,  I had a long list  and the car well packed with coolbags and shopping baskets.  The supermarkets charge 5 cents for a carrier but it's still possible to get them free from some places so we have a bag of bags in with the shopping baskets.  The fruit and veg lorry which comes to Yátor every Wednesday doesn't charge for bags nor do some of the local shops so I keep them and use them on days like today.

Back home just before lunch - John was still balanced on the stepladders - as I unpacked around him there was the occasional mutter as he stretched and the ladders moved but so far he's quite safe!

Why is it though, that you can do a big shop, put it all away and nothing looks any different?  Apart from the wine rack that is!   Sadly no grapes this year, or not enough to do anything with as they all shrivelled up really early.  But I am having fun choosing different wines in the shops, something we haven't done for a few years now. 

Roll on 6pm....that's traditionally 'sundowners'   time  although maybe 'cloud downers' would be a better description right now.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Veranillo de Membrillo

It seems a while ago now,  but about 3 weeks ago I picked the membrillo (quince)  for this years batch of spicy quince chutney and our alternative version of apple sauce.  The weather during the first part of October was wonderful - what we used to call an Indian summer.

One of the other blogs that I read is written by Oska who is based in Pórtugos and can be found here -  he also mentioned the Indian summer and apparently here it's known as  'Veranillo de Membrillo'  or  quince summer.  

Pórtugos is only about 40 km from us but a lot higher at 1303 metres up whereas we are a comparatively lowly  890 metres up.  Reading their blog about what grows and when,  the variations in the weather and temperatures, we realise how much of a difference it makes. 

Definitely not summer today,  although it's not raining and is still just touching 17°,  it's windy and cloudy.  Yesterday there was a pair of Bonelli's eagles around and the first time we saw them,  they  flew - or blew - past the window so fast!  Later on they were just drifting by but came down really low near the lounge window.  Of course, never a camera to hand when you need one!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

After the caterpillars..

The caterpillars finally finished munching their way through the ash trees on the footpath to the fuente,  it took them a couple of months altogether and they haven't left much behind.

Lacy looking leaves and not much more.

John has been working on and off improving the steps from the side garden down to the bottom acequia and the path to our bottom terraces.  This work depends on the weather and other ongoing jobs around the house,  one day recently I followed him down with cold drinks and found caterpillars munching their way through our ash trees.  The long strings they dangle from were glinting in the sunshine so I saw them before they got into my hair but he'd not seen  them and just thought it was a spiders web or something.

Not sure  they'll be munching much today, it's wild wet and windy out there!  We have   riesgo de rachas muy fuertes hoy ........  otherwise known as a risk of very strong gusts - they are forecasting gusts of up to 80km today and tomorrow.  Despite that the sun is trying hard to shine in between the fast moving clouds and showers.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Exploding pomegranates!

One day  they are fine and the next day they've split open.  I keep an eye on them because as soon as they start to split I pick them but these burst while I wasn't looking.

These aren't as big as in previous years but I thought small would still be better than nothing, as one of our trees hasn't managed to produce any fruit at all.  Not for lack of water or sun - I don't the reason why.

Luckily last year we had a lot of fruit and I squeezed them - what a mess that makes -  simmered the juice with sugar to make a syrupy sort of juice then stored it in sterilised ex-orange juice cartons.  One is still in the fridge and ok, the other 2 are in the freezer although not frozen due to the sugar content I think.  Mixed with gaseosa  - it's a sort of lemonadey drink - only ever had it in Spain,    it's very refreshing.  

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Dia de Todos los Santos

Today is the day when people remember their loved ones  and visit the graves in  the cemetery to decorate them with fresh flowers and maybe photos or mementos.   Many people have left Yator so when they come back for this weekend they replace with artificial arrangements so they remain colourful until this day next year.

For the past week or so the bazaars and florists have been awash with flowers,  from single blooms to complete arrangements.  Apparently sales are double this week compared to any other week in the year.  Good for some people, then.

So today has been a public holiday and in keeping with Spanish  tradition, tomorrow is a 'bridge day' -  día del puente  - as what's the point in going  back to work just for a Friday?

I went to the cemetery this afternoon on the way back from Yátor,   walked up with Lola who was going to put candles at her husbands grave, his parents and her parents.   I asked if I could take photos as I didn't want to offend her but she said she knew that the cemeteries here were different to English ones -   'ours are like steps'  she said   'but yours are flat'.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

2 months early.

Normally at the end of October I am picking the large black olives that we brine and bottle in oil for the coming year.   We have some small trees with big fat olives that are always ready now - a totally different variety to the large trees with small olives that are still ripening and don't get really black till end of December for the January harvest.

Until this year that is.......the small tree big olive variety have about a dozen olives between them,  the 2 trees closest to us that is,  the rest of them have nothing on at all.  

Then the big tree small olive for harvesting variety are already ripening.  We have branches of black olives and they're starting to drop.   
Out by the pool - 2 months early.

The mill doesn't open till January 1st ever, maybe this year they'll have to open early as by January  there might not be much left!

Luckily we don't need to brine any as we still have about 15 jars from last year,  but we can't understand why there aren't any eating olives and why these are so early?  
In the front garden .

Maybe the extra long hot weather this summer has put the trees under too much stress?   Perhaps we should give them a nice long iced vodka tonic - it works for me!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


Luckily the replanted plants didn't wilt or look at all unhappy by Sunday night,  lucky because overnight the temperature dropped and there was some frost!!  It only dropped to 7° on the terrace but obviously lower in the open.  I checked them Monday morning and they were fine but I have made fleecey bags for them for when it gets colder.

I saw some frosty patches on the open grassy land the far side of Montenegro where the footpath branches off to El Golco or up to Yegen but thought maybe it was just the sun glinting on the wet dewy grass.  But then a bit later John saw some frosty patches on the damp shed roof.

The house temperature seems to have dropped as well and when we came in last night at 6pm ish after tidying up from the days work,  it seemed chilly, hence this....

There has been the smell of woodsmoke drifting up from Yator for a few days now but this was our first fire of the winter.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sunday morning.

Do you ever have one of those moments when you decide that today's the day  to dig out a flower bed and replant everything?  Today was such a day,  although the forecast had said sunshine and showers,  the sky above us was blue although cloudy to the south and north.

For some time now I've been looking despairingly at one of the beds in the side garden,  it's too close to the rotary drier,  the geraniums are enormous and usually that means they get damaged in the winter winds and rains,  and it's too close to the stuff John has accumulated outside the shed.  The gazania's are overshadowed by the geraniums and don't bloom so well without full sun.....there had to be a better place for everything.

The iris were easy to get out and find a new home for,  also the euonymus which has gone up near the pool edge where I've started a new mixed border.  A big clump of dwarf pinks - except they're red not pink - has also moved up there along with the gazanias,  a sage cutting, an offshoot from the bay tree,  something that looks like a durillo,   part of the viburnum family - viburnum tinus - and a real durillo.  The durillo looks a bit privet-ish but has very dark green small leaves.

If the bay cutting grows we'll have to keep it trimmed as it's parent is about 20 foot tall - I'm hoping for a bush not a tree! 

The biggest of the geraniums was a real awkward monster to get out.  It had rooted under the edge of supporting brickwork of the bed,  in the end I got it loose enough  to just pull  until the main taproot snapped.  It's  an old plant - it's been frozen in the past then thawed out and has regrown,  it's collapsed under the weight of snow in past years,  been cut down to a stump and regrown from that so I'm sure it'll recover from the ground wrenching removal of today.   It eventually got cut up into 3 big clumps, 2 planted out by the olive tree on the pool terrace and one has gone into a big pot.  

The ground is nice and damp from the recent rain and still quite warm from the summer sun so hopefully everything will be happy.....

The lettuce seeds certainly seem to be happy as they're all up, as are the kohlrabi which went in on the 16th,  all the peas are up and the broad beans and the potatoes.  Not many of them,  just some that had sprouted indoors.  The reseeded borlotto beans are beaning, nearly enough to start picking again and the kohlrabi from the spring sowing are still producing a couple a week.  They should have finished by now but I didn't thin them out enough and I think they've been slow to swell because of the overcrowding. 

I've started planting onion bases again -  that is when we remember to cut the bottom off  the onion before halving it!   They have started to put out shoots now,  I wrote about free onions a couple of years ago  and they started off well then and each base grew into 3 or 4 sections.   But when I divided them up they died.  So this time I'm leaving them,   better to have small onions than none at all. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Sunrise over Sierra Gador.

9 times out of 10 I take the camera out when I go dog-walking but yesterday I forgot.  As we went up through Montenegro and got to the chapel the sun was rising and it was the most spectacular sunrise I'd seen for ages.  But no camera and my phone is just a phone, it doesn't do fancy things like photos.

This morning I made sure I had the camera although it didn't look like it was going to be a good sunrise, not as many streaky clouds today.  But I took a couple of pics just in case, the first at 8am, the second at 8.03 a little further up the hill and wow!    

Saturday, 20 October 2012


From 25°  to 15°  in two days ....

From skirts and bare legs to warm fleecy jogging pants with thick sox ....

From cool tiled floors to cosy  Alpujarran rugs ....

From iced drinks in the sunshine to mugs of tea and afternoon snacks .....

What a quick change it seems to have been this last few days.  I've just made a batch of scotch pancakes or drop scones, not sure of the difference really but they are very quick and easy to make.  Done almost as quickly as making the tea!

Whisk 1 egg with 1/4 pint of milk till really fluffy.  Add it to 120g self raising flour,  30g sugar and a pinch of salt.   Beat together  then  put tablespoonfuls onto a hot griddle or use a heavy based frying pan.  After about 30 seconds the surface of the pancake bubbles, turn it over for a similar time and then put on a wire rack to cool.  This made 19 pancakes this afternoon,  we ate some - not all - of them with butter and home-made fig jam.

Monty and Pip got to share the one that didn't turn out right, it sort of got stuck to itself as I turned it over.  They looked quite hopeful that they'd get more but the rest are for breakfast or elevenses tomorrow.

Friday, 19 October 2012

October showers

The first year  we arrived in Spain, we went to Salobreña  for my birthday and stayed for an overnighter - few drinks, nice meal and a shopping stock-up on the way home.  Sunshine all day but that night while we were on the way from a bar to the restaurant, the heavens opened and it poured down.  By the time we got to the restaurant, my  trousers were soaked up to my knees.

The next few years we did a similar thing,  sometimes to Granada sometimes to Salobreña,  and it's always rained a bit.  It's become a bit of a joke, that the rain always arrives on my birthday.

But not yesterday!  It held off all day, even though the forecast said possible showers as from 6pm, nothing happened until 3am this morning.  More was forecast for today but we've only had  1 shower, nothing like it said.  But it's coming down from the north so probably most of it is dropping on the Sierras which is good for our water supply.

The rain that did come was quite gentle,  the coriander seedlings don't seem too damaged, the broad beans and peas which are just appearing are ok although they are good sturdy plants and it takes a lot to damage them.  The kohlrabi and lettuce seeds have only just gone in - I wouldn't be surprised if they don't come up in the rows that they were planted in but all higgledy piggledy.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Fiestas again.

October is fiesta time around these villages, first up was Cadiar from the 5th to the 9th, then from the 10th to the 14th - today - has been the fiesta in Ugijar.   I think the fairground has gone from Cadiar to Ugijar,  we can hear the pounding of the music at night although - as the crow flies - Ugijar is about 8 kilometres away.  At lunch time today when the fireworks started,  it sounded like they'd set off the total town budget for the year!  Seems a waste really, as the day time fireworks are just loud, much better when they do them at night.  So much more colourful. 

In between those we have had a national holiday - Dia Hispanidad on the 12th which commemorates the day that Christopher Columbus first  set foot in the Americas in 1492. 

So not a lot of work going on at the moment in the local villages,  John went into Cadiar last Tuesday late afternoon,  normally the shops are reopening after lunch at about 4.30  to  5pm ish, but the petrol station was shut, so was the builders yard....

I know the unemployment rate is very high and people have less to spend, but if places don't open how can you fill your car with  petrol or buy bags of cement etc when you need them?   I read somewhere that fiestas were a way of keeping peoples spirits up in times of hardship,  give them a day off, some free wine and everyone would be happy. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Summer again?

After the rain and the "very pleasant 20 degrees" that I mentioned,  it seems that summer has returned as it has been between 25 - 28 degrees this week and this morning it was 20 when we went dog walking at 8am.

When I watered the garden this evening I noticed that the narcissus - narcissi ? - are up, they bloom in December or January but aren't normally up yet, nor are the dwarf hyacinths but they are all up too.  No buds yet, but still early.

This week we've made a start on the spring vegetables.  I found some forgotten sprouting potatoes which I've now planted,  I've dug over some vegetable beds that have been empty for a while and which are nice and soft from the rain and planted the first broad beans, peas and then edged the beds with strawberry runners.

The squash are still flowering but no more 'fruits' have appeared, the first  one has ripened and been  cut and is stored in the kitchen,  the second is ripening.....and that was it  from 2 plants.  My neighbour who gave me the 2 plants,  only had 1 squash from 3 plants so I suppose 2 from 2 isn't so bad.

The first planting of the coriander is up, it was just appearing when it rained and got a bit bashed about but has recovered  and now  I've put some more seeds in the gaps  where nothing grew.

We're picking chillis as needed and hanging the red ones up to dry in strings in the window where they catch the sun. 

Yesterday I picked a bucket full of quince,  not sure of the total weight but each batch of spicy quince chutney uses 2.5 kilos of prepared fruit and this afternoon I made 2 batches - 24 jars altogether.  They are all sealed and labelled but I've not put them onto the shelves yet, I like to keep an eye on them for a day or so just in case.  The lids have 'popped' in so I know they're ok but .....better to be sure.  I don't want one of them  to leak or something even worse.

John  meanwhile has been waterproofing the log store - when it rains the last place you need drips is on your nice dry firewood or on your head while you're fetching some indoors.  He looks a bit rosy tonight, I think he was so busy he didn't notice quite how hot it was.  Certainly won't need a hot water bottle tonight - he glows all by himself!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Pruning and logging.

What a difference over the last 4 days:  the clouds have gone, the sky is blue, the sun is shining again and it was a very pleasant 20 ish in the shade today.

Although some parts of Andalucia - especially around Almeria - are reporting structural problems with roads and bridges,  it's mostly coastal areas that seem to have suffered the most.  Maybe too much building on what used to be  land for the rain to soak into/run off ??  Who knows,  but lots of devastation and mud and clearing up and rebuilding to be done.

Here however we have spent the morning cutting down a very unproductive olive tree having decided it would be better used as firewood and maybe in years to come it might start to give us some olives again.  It had got very leggy and  twiggy and although we have a large pile of greenery,  not many olives to be seen. 

Since we've been here  the price of olives at the mill has gone from 89 cents a kilo down to 26 cents a kilo whereas the price of a gas bottle has gone up from 8 euros to 18 euros.  So it makes far more sense to cut  the wood for heating rather than pick for money /oil.  Last time we did an olive harvest, discounting the time taken driving to the mill and waiting etc, we earned 2 euros an hour !!!!!   Even if you take your olives as oil not cash, you have to pay for the processing .....  that works out at 2.50 a litre ...... the oil is from the cooperative not your own (unless you can guarantee 500 kilos at a time which we can't)  it's only about 11 or 12 euros  to buy 5 litres from the supermarket ....and without the work.  Olive harvest is very labour intensive for a few months,  whereas cutting for firewood can be done over a longer period of time.

We still have some logs to be split  ready for drying,  there's a good feeling when you hit the log just right and it splits, but I haven't got the knack and John has, so that's his job.  I stack them when he's finished.  I did try again today and managed to split a few but most just fall over as I don't seem to get the log splitter lined up right more than once on the same place.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Rain in Spain

Yes, it's here as well.  Flash floods, houses under water, cars washed away.....

El País newspaper has more on the story....

We haven't been out today so don't know what the river is like down in Yátor.

The only flooding we've seen has been our pool which has overflowed but is designed to overflow into the acequia.

Last winter was the driest for 60 or so years,  this summer has been extremely long and hot, the ground is very hard and dry and I don't think much of this rain will have soaked in.  Hence the flooding.  I suppose the next lot of rain will have a better chance as the ground should be more absorbent.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

At last!

At last we've got some rain,  it's been forecast - along with high winds which we did get -  for the past few days but nothing came.  John said I missed yesterday's rain drops - think I blinked or something there were so few of them!  But today was another overcast start to the day and so when I went out this morning I made sure I had an umbrella with me.  Sure enough the minute I got out of the car the rain started, only drizzle but enough to need the umbrella.    It did get heavier but not for long.

However there  is more rain due this afternoon  - the clouds are way down low over the Contraviesa and above Mecina Bombaron and the forecast for tomorrow is wet too.  September is normally the start of the winter rains, although other years we haven't had any until October. 

And the latest rash news - it's gone!   3 days of twice daily Betnovate cream, 1 antihistamine and no dairy products,  no fish, no chocolate and no tomatoes has done the trick although I'm not sure which bit of that list has had the most impact.  I guess it's the Betnovate as I was taking the antihistamines anyway.  But it might have been kick-started by the injection as I felt a lot more myself by Monday evening.  Up till then I'd felt uncomfortable, like my skin was too small for me.  I don't know what was in the injection as I couldn't read the Doctors handwriting.  Nothing new there, then.  Probably the same where ever you live.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The land of no milk or honey :(

A quick and useful trip to the doctors this morning because the rash was no better,  in fact probably blotchier than ever around my neck and very tender feeling.  9.30 I arrived at the reception and asked to see a doctor.   The man - possibly a nurse or doctor from the urgencias - gave me an appointment for 1.15 this afternoon.   "Oh,  4 hours time"   thinking that's not too bad at least it's today and I've time to go home and do some stuff  before coming back.   "No,"   he said   "just go down to room 15 and he'll see you now."

Someone was in with the doctor,  another couple then went in,  and then another lady.  Thought to myself, this isn't quite 'he'll see you now' so when that lady came out up I jumped,  went into his office and said  "the man at reception said you'd see me straight away because of this......lifted my hair up away from my neck so he could see the full extent of the redness.

Out he went, sorry Paco, wait a few minutes more, I need to see to this lady.

So I got checked from head to toe,  he listened to my chest and back,  asked general health questions, including do I dye my hair :0  -  what?  no, never, it's naturally blonde -  he looked at the rash with a magnifying glass!  and said it's not a heat rash it's an allergy.

First - an injection to alleviate the discomfort,  more anti-histamines and  cortisone cream twice daily.

Second - diet.  For five days no milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt or cream.  No chocolate.  No fish or shellfish.  No tomatoes.  No honey.

Then I went back to reception for an appointment for the injection from the nurse.  Same as before, but a time of 12.15 but don't worry about that, just go down and she'll see you now.
Actually he came down with me and spoke to the nurse but even so 2 or 3 people went in before me.  And so like the first time, I jumped up a bit quicker that the next lady, said to the nurse that I needed an injection.....ah yes, come in.  Won't be a minute - to everyone still outside.

I was a bit longer than a minute, but that was because she looked at what I'd been prescribed and at my rash and chatted.  I didn't realise how much medical Spanish I knew!

Then down to the farmacia to collect the tablets and cream.  Back home at 11am.

So the next 5 days or so will be interesting.  If it is an allergy, why now after 55 years?  If everything clears up I'll have to start introducing things back into my diet slowly,  1 thing for a couple of days, then something else. Milk will be first, I do enjoy my large milky breakfast coffee.  Or maybe buy some soya milk, as that isn't dairy.  Chocolate I can live without, but the amount of tomatoes we get through in a week!  Pizza sauce, spaghetti bolognaise, chillis,  in sandwiches, on salads......Planning meals will be a bit more of a challenge.

 I've got my fingers crossed that this week will see some improvement.  Actually I'm hoping it will all clear up and leave me as I was.  And at least I can go back out in the sun as I've been avoiding it now for a couple of weeks. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Hungry caterpillars.

On the footpath that goes to the fuente and deposito, there are two ash trees that the path goes in between.   This week the trees have been buzzing with bees or wasps,  not too certain which and I try not to get that close to them as I react very badly to wasp stings.

Yesterday morning I noticed that there were also lots - and I mean lots - of caterpillars munching their way through the leaves.  Some were dangling down on threads and I had to look really carefully where I was going to avoid getting them  in my hair.

This morning I took the camera to get some photos of them - of course today there was no sun, it was very cloudy  (and still is actually,  although it's almost  30°)  so the flash came on automatically.   Not the best photos but they do show the dangling threads and the remains of the leaves.

Bear in mind that these trees are about 4 metres high - that's an awful lot of caterpillars!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Sun tan part 2

I went back to the farmacia and bought the sun lotion - it's still  hot and sunny and even though autumn should be coming soon,  we will still have sunny days and it's always t-shirt weather even in November and December for at least a few hours a day.  I really don't want another rash, that means 2 to 3 weeks avoiding the sun, whereas if I use sunoil I can just get on as usual.

It's not something I have regularly used, at least not this brand, the one I had this summer felt really light and not sticky and I wasn't really aware of it on my skin.  (Only factor 12 - maybe that's why I got the heat rash!?)    But this one, (factor 50 for children and problem skin)   although I'm sure it's doing what it says on the label,  is 'thick' feeling and after a few hours I just feel really sticky and gloopy and go indoors to wash it off.  I think I'd rather be in the shade more often and feel comfortable than sticky and safe.

So I've been  hanging out the washing before the sun gets onto the washing line, doing any housework and indoor stuff later on when the sun is fully in the garden,  watering the vegetables after the sun has gone and generally avoiding going out in it.  Not quite what I want to do as I do enjoy a little bit of sun now and then.  Maybe when it's less hot and intense I'll try again.  And look for a different factor 50 that's not so sticky.  Unless of course they are supposed to be like that, a coating on your skin so the sun can't get through?  Surely not everyone is happy with sticky skin?

Any thoughts or recommendations from anyone?

Friday, 14 September 2012

El crisis.

This is the time of the year that we receive our annual 'rates' bill from the council.  Here it is called   'el Impuesto de Bienes Inmuebles'  - a big title but a much smaller price than we ever paid back in England.

We usually joke when the bill comes that we'll have to watch what we spend this month - a bit tongue in cheek when the amount has been around 16 euros - yes, for the year.  OK, no streetlights as far as our house yet,  we have to take the rubbish to the bins when we go out but so does everyone, although we have slightly further to go.  But at  least the bins are emptied alternate days unlike some places!

But this year,  due to el crisis,  everyone is suffering and the  ayuntamientos  are having to find extra cash  from people and places so the IBI has gone up.  According to their website the increase would be up to 26%,  the first  revisión  for 10 years,  but when the bill came it was 100%  increase.  Yup, 32.84 this year.  Definitely a belt tightening month.

Monday, 10 September 2012

The price of a suntan

One of the side effects of  living in the sun is heat rash.   I've never had heat rash ever,  and even when we used to go for the 2 weeks in the sun and get as brown as we can type of holiday,  I've never suffered.  I do have sun lotion, not a factor 40 or anything like that but also I tan really easily and always use lots of moisturiser.

However this summer has been different.  It's been extremely hot for many many weeks - even months.   In the middle of July I broke out in a rash on the tops of my feet, no problem, different sandals that didn't rub, but then it appeared on the tops of my legs, then my wrists and backs of hands, then my arms, neck and chest.  Only bumps under the skin that I could feel but weren't really visible.  I kept out of the sun, while we wondered if I'd pruned a plant that I was allergic to, or eaten or drunk something different.  The rash that came slowly finally went and after 3 weeks I was back to normal, although with some dry patches that I only rubbed olive oil into.  Most moisturisers have lots of strange ingredients in them, who needs perfume?  or alcohol?  Surely they dry the skin, not moisturise it?

The weather has got cooler,  I've been back out in the sun, not sunbathing - who needs to when there is so much sun?  but doing things without thinking about the need for sun lotion protection.  And yes, the rash has come back.  Started last Saturday on my wrists and backs of hands,  crept up my arms, round my neck but more visible this time.  Red and blotchy would be a good description! 

So off this morning to talk to Sylvia at the Farmacia.  She took one look and said 'have you been to the beach?'  No, only normal outside life, working and walking.  And yes, it's a heat rash - she says that as you get older, your skin loses elasticity and gets thinner and is more
likely to react to the heat.  Factor 50 is a must apparently    and I came away with a bag of goodies and a very empty purse.  Special shower gel that cleans but without additives, body lotion without additives and lots of anti-histamines.  The first thing I did when I got home was shower and moisturise with the new products and - it maybe my imagination - but I feel less red and lumpy than this morning.

The worst thing about the rash has been the healing as my skin has felt 2 sizes too small for me,  really tight and tender.  But this new magic moisturiser seems to be working wonders.  Now  I will have to look at different factor 50 sun creams.  She sells one in the farmacia that is fragrance etc free and probably will suit a price!  

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Autumn is coming

The scorching summer has finally begun to calm down - over the weekend we had cloudy days and although it's now blue again the mid 30's are  down to mid 20's.  It makes it pleasant enough to think about the autumn seed planting.  Not cool enough to make me want to go off digging veg plots, but seeds in pots ready for planting out in a month or so.  So a large pot of parsley seeds,  25 coriander seeds in yoghurt pots, a row directly into the raised bed along side the tomato plants which - if it gets windy - should protect the coriander plants from breaking,  dwarf beans are in too, the summer crop was disappointing to say the least but we usually get a second chance in the warmth of October, 16 chilli plants finally planted out in the raised bed too.  They were too small to go out in May, then although they were big and strong by July,  I thought they'd struggle with the heat so left them in the potting shed where it's shady.

We are picking chillis as needed, and leaving others to go red and will eventually dry some.  Just recently the drier has been full of figs, both black and white, ready for winter puddings.  Today I've had branches of sage in there drying - just over 2 hours and they were done.  More to do tomorrow, so long as it doesn't rain overnight that is.  The leaves have to be dry before drying - if that makes sense!

There are clouds looming up from the south and the forecast shows storms out to sea, not sure if any of it will get this far inland though.

Some of the leaves on the fig tree are beginning to turn yellow, so much so that I thought I saw a golden oriole in the tree this morning but it turned out to be a figleaf. 

It is an anniversary week for us - the 3rd was the day 9 years ago that we left England for a different life,  we arrived here on  the 7th having had a few days break en route.   And the 3rd was also our own anniversary -  all 35 years of them!  Well done us.

Thursday, 30 August 2012


 This was taken at 8.45  this evening.  What a dramatic sunset we had tonight.....

We haven't had any clouds for ages, even though the forecast sometimes says partly cloudy it just means a couple of puffy white things float by during the day.  But there are storms around the coast of Spain on the way up towards Murcia and Barcelona and there have been some clouds this evening - resulting in a colourful sunset for us.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Runner beans.

On the way up to Yegen  about half way there on the right hand side,  is a very large flat area that in September is planted with runner beans.  This year 2 crops have been planted, the first in May and now the second lot are in.  This year for the first time we have heard an automatic bird scarer firing, when we first heard it we thought  'hunters'  but it was way out of season for them.  Mariano put us right about that when I asked what it was!  

Also for the first time we have seen lots of workers there.  In past years the beans and bamboo stakes have just appeared with no obvious signs of people - yes, I know someone's done the work but not when we've been out and about.  But this year there have been groups of people - about 8 or 9 - staking, picking, whatever.  We think it must be irrigated from the deposito that is on the hill above it and that is fed by a large tube from the stream that runs across the track between Montenegro and the entrance to the bean patch.

7.45 am - the start  of the days work and bundles of canes ready for staking the beans.

It's difficult to judge the size of the patch, but we reckon about 100 metres  each way which is going to produce one hell of a lot of crates of beans!  They must be for selling direct to the wholesalers,  one of our Paco neighbours sells his broad beans like that, half the market price but a guaranteed price.  Similarly 2 guys from Yator who grow cherry tomatoes get a set price from the wholesaler - 60 cents a kilo I'm told - maybe not much but a definite sale.

Talking of cherry tomatoes, ours haven't blown up or popped the lid or anything nasty so will do more soon.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Cherry tomatoes.

Over the last couple of days the cherry tomato plants have produced more tomatoes than we've had for about 2 weeks.  And as much as I like them, I can't keep up with that amount and unfortunately John doesn't really like them at all.  He'll eat sliced tomatoes in salads and once they are made into sauces and used in meals that's fine too.  Luckily we only planted 2 cherry tomato plants, we have more of the big tomatoes - a variety called Simone - and those we sundry and store.

A friend told me her sister in Malta bottles tomatoes in brine so I had a google today to see what strength brine, how long they keep etc.  Lots of info out there as you'd expect and as normal lots of the same info on different sites and forums.  So with my bit of paper full of notes about salt to water ratios I headed to the kitchen.

Low salt pickles are a 3.5% brine,    the old 'float an egg and that's strong enough'  idea is about 10% brine but then the vegetables need 24 hours of soaking in clean water before eating,  most of the sites I read today had  1/4 cup salt to 1 quart water but those are American measures and they have a different pint to us (and anyway how big is a cup??)  so I have used this amount......
3 tablespoons sea salt to 2 pints water  which is about the low salt ratio.  

First make the brine, boil the water, add the salt and leave to cool.
Then rinse and dry the tomatoes,  put into a nice wide neck ex-pickle jar, cover to about 3 cms below the top of the jar with brine and top up with olive oil to keep a seal.  Screw on the lid - they apparently keep for 9 to 10 months. 

If the jar doesn't explode or do anything silly like that in the next few days then I'll do some more.  I thought about drying them but they'd shrink down to something very tiny - although very intense in flavour I'm sure.