Saturday, 28 April 2012

Wild, wet and windy.

From summer yesterday  to something definitely not summery today!  It's been a glorious week,  we left the rugs out to air on the balcony and were thinking about getting them cleaned and put away for the summer.....

The pool was emptied out on Tuesday, then Wednesday we rinsed it and I scrubbed the floor and the tide mark off the walls,  Thursday we started to rub down patches of paint that looked a bit loose, not really loose but some areas it looks like the cracked glaze of an old plate - if that makes sense!  A first coat of paint on the patches and we planned on doing the floor today followed by a complete recoat of the whole pool early next week.   That was until we looked at the weather forecast   :( 

High wind warning for the coastal area,  gusts of 50 to 60 km up here, temperatures down from the low 20's to about 10°.   I've just covered up the tomato plants with half bottles and then laid a piece of mesh over the top  to stop them blowing away.  Not much we can do about the broad beans and peas - they got bent and snapped in the last wind and rain of two weeks ago so there's not much more damage  that can happen to them. 

Forecast for tomorrow is much of the same so  I think it's going to be an indoors weekend.  

Monday, 23 April 2012

Change-over time.

Over the last few days we've noticed that the winter birds have gone, or there are far less of them, and that the summer contingent has started to arrive.  No sign of our garden robin,  no sounds of magpies in the mulberry, but house martins swooping around - especially in the evening - and just one lonesome golden oriole has started to sing in a tree near the fuente in the mornings.

We normally have a lot of orioles in the mulberries near the house, no sight or sound of them yet,  the one up at the fuente is maybe the advance party. 

The iris's (is " iris's"  a plural or should it be something else?)  anyway they have almost finished flowering although the purple-blue ones seem to last longer,  the  geraniums and roses are in bud,  the tassel hyacinths are in bloom (photos from last year are on this link)  and most plants seem to have survived the -8 of early February.  But not the jasmine, or we don't think it's survived.  Although some of the wood seems to be green if you break it, the leaves have dropped off and there isn't yet any  sign of new growth.   We also have a small plant that was given to us, no idea what it is, a small almost tree-shaped plant with purple-blue flowers, not evergreen,  but that  is also looking very unhappy.  Again, green inside if you snap a twig so maybe there's life somewhere. 

The lettuces and coriander are still ok,  broad beans and peas a bit bent after the winds and hail of last week (at least we missed that although Pip probably didn't enjoy not being able to get indoors to hide under the bed - at least she had the kennel and Monty to keep her company)

Watering day yesterday,  spring cleaning the house today as we have glorious weather and  I put the rugs out on the balcony to shake and air off, they are still out there in the evening breeze.   Hope the wind doesn't pick up in the night or they'll drop down onto the driveway.

Pool emptying starts tomorrow,  then when it's clean we can repaint it and refill it.  Feels like we are getting ready for summer!

Friday, 20 April 2012

More wedding photos

I've made a little sideshow . . . enjoy!


I do hate it when..

things get changed for no apparent reason.  Opened this blog today to write about Sanae's garden and noodle restaurant, amongst other things, and found the blog set up has been 'improved'.  Nothing wrong with the setup that I know and love and could I get it to do what I wanted?  No.  The writing appeared in the wrong place, the cursor would only go down the middle of the page and sometimes the text appeared in blue for some unknown reason.  So I posted the photos, then edited it in case I could fool it into doing what I wanted but still no joy.

Maybe tomorrow it will be easier.  

A local noodle restaurant.

They have a beehive or two as well.

On our first day in Ashikaga we met a family friend called Sanae and on our walk the next day went to see her garden.  She and her husband have a small noodle restaurant which they open at weekends,

I think this says either 'noodle restaurant' or opening hours.

Wonderful colourful flower beds.

Near the restaurant seating area is a little shrine.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Out and about in Ashikaga.

More pictures than words today.  Last Thursday afternoon we walked around Ashikaga Gakko (the School) which is Japan's oldest university.   Lots of areas to see:  a shrine, the study, the hojo (classroom)  are just a few parts of it.

The Confucian shrine.

Cherry blossom everywhere

Seen on an old building - concrete shutters.

The vegetable gardens are protected from the wild boars with steel mesh (called malla here.)
The mesh is supported by bamboo from the forest.

And here it is - the  bamboo forest.

Hungry?  Pick your own shitake mushrooms. We saw more than one house with stacks of cut chestnut logs with mushrooms growing on them.

Looking across the fields to the mountains in the distance.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Konnichi-wa (hello!)

We've been a long way over the past week, to Japan, for the wedding ceremony of Mat and Airi.  We flew out from Almeria last Wednesday morning, up to Madrid, on to Heathrow, arriving at Tokyo Narita on Thursday morning.   Mat arrived 20 minutes after us and we were met by Airi and her father, Sumio.

It's 2 hours by car up to Ashikaga, when we arrived her mother Yumiko was picking vegetables for dinner.  We knew that Ashikaga was almost on the same latitude as we are, so assumed some plants would be familiar to us, but both of us were so surprised to see the same vegetables as we grow,  the veg patches laid out in a similar fashion complete with acequias for watering.  They are fenced in to stop the wild boars digging - just like here.

We had a sight seeing afternoon - went to the old part of town to the temple and saw some amazing avenues of cherry blossom.  Apparently it's late blooming this year - but is in full bloom now.  Friday we went out to Coco Farm winery - yes, there's a vineyard not far from town.  Wonderful  wine.

Orihime shrine

And so to the big day. Mat and Airi went off earlier than us to have their kimonos fitted, we went with Sumio and Yumiko to the New Miyako hotel where we met other guests and then took the hotel bus up to the Orihime shrine.

Yumiko in the middle, and family.

First we were shown into a mini shrine, where everyone was gathering.  Airi was with her kimono dresser  behind a screen,  Mat - still in jeans and a t-shirt and feeling rather obviously under-dressed - was waiting for his turn to be dressed in his wedding kimono. At 2pm we followed them up the steps into the shrine for the ceremony.  It was a very traditional solemn affair, none of which we understood although we heard our names mentioned a few times by the 'priests'.  We kept a close eye on them to see when to bow, sit, stand, pick up our dish of saki and drink - don't think we did anything wrong.

This is just a taster of the 100's of photos that we have.  Reception pictures, food pictures - a 10 course meal alternating courses of Japanese and French cuisine, speeches in Japanese although ours was very brief and to the point  and pictures of it all.

Thanks especially to Sumio and Yumiko for looking after us so well.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter weekend.

And that was Easter weekend, seemed to go by just like any other weekend except for the hot cross buns and mini creme eggs that we ate today.  Last year I made hot cross buns - nice buns, shame about the cross as it was chewy and I can't remember which recipe I used so don't know what was wrong.  But this year some friends were coming over to their Yator house and asked if we wanted anything.......back in January I said if they saw Xmas cards in the January sales I'd have some, then a couple of weeks back they asked again so  then we said if you have room in a bag,  some hot cross buns would be much appreciated......when they came up yesterday they not only bought the cards and the buns but also some mini creme eggs, a bar of fruit and nut chocolate, fluffy pink and white socks for me for cold winter evenings and a packet of kohlrabi seeds - an extra gift from his parents.  Plus the largest, fattest loaf of bread I've seen in a long time.  We used that as part of the afternoon tapas, added blue cheese, membrillo (quince jelly), olives in garlic oil,  surprisingly enough the lemon, orange and chilli marmalade which had come out to be tasted also got eaten with the blue cheese. In a small bar in Granada we have had blue cheese with honey as a tapas so we tried that yesterday as well, messy and gooey but tasty. 

Saturday night is now our curry night and I'd made lots on bahjis for the freezer a few weeks ago.  So later on we cooked some of the onion bahjis I'd made and had them with spicy quince chutney and lime pickle, and more of the marmalade.  It all went together surprisingly well.  And we still have some bread left even though there were five of us eating.

After they'd left for the second time - difficult to get in your house when you leave your bag and keys in someones house! - we went out to talk to our neighbour Miguel who'd come up in the afternoon.  We'd heard him strimming - yes, again.   There doesn't seem much to strim, everything is down  to ground level but a few plants have dared to pop up some green shoots so off came their heads.  When we went out he was attempting  to cut down a peach tree that has finally given up on life.   Since Manolo died 6 years ago, the fruit trees have been neglected and each year there are less surviving.  Someone had lent Miguel a chainsaw, I don't think it was much of a friend because he'd have been better off using a bread knife.  Blunt doesn't describe it.  It wouldn't cut through a rotten dead branch, he was trying to saw with it which didn't help, it was big and heavy and just not working.  John  took pity on him and got our chainsaw out - 10 minutes all the tree was down and logged.  My role in this was to ask Miguel if he wanted the wood and if not could we take it for firewood?  No he didn't and yes we could.  So that was a welcome addition to next years log pile.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

April showers?

Actually no.  Although the forecast for  today was showers from lunchtime onwards, and the sky was black all around us, nothing happened.  I went shopping early - by early I mean 10 o'clock as nothing much happens around here before then - and  it was cloudy and sunny but cool.  The clouds got darker and darker, later on some friends dropped in on their way home from the shops and stayed for lunch, when next we looked out of the window  the clouds had joined up from the south and the north  but still it didn't rain. 

This is  typical of the time of year, as in it's very unpredictable.  One day hot, one day breezy, one day cloudy and sunny......but we do need some rain.  The locals will tell you that this isn't normal, but after 8 years plus here, we know there is no such thing as normal weather.  Every year has had it's hot dry Springs, cold wet Springs, dry winters, very very wet road-collapsing winters.....some may say it's global warming, some call it climate change.  Whatever the reason, no year has been the same.

But the fuente continues to run, the deposito here in Montenegro is always full of water for those who need to water their vegetables and land,  we have full tanks to water our broad beans, peas, lettuces and herbs.  The strawberries don't need water as yet, some are flowering but it's not really fruiting time yet.  The one raspberry cane that we were given last year (? or the year summer before?....   doesn't time fly!)   has now produced 12 shoots so we should get a good crop of fruit this autumn.  Our pear tree has bloomed and now the petals are dropping off, hopefully we'll get a good crop of fruit again.  I don't think the almond in the side garden has made any almonds - it was in full bloom during the -8's of February and I can't see any nuts on it at all.  Some of the trees have got nuts, it must be a particular type that happened  to flower during the ultra-cold week that has been affected.