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.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Sorry to be boring but...

it's still hot!   Waking up to 25° going up to about 35° in the afternoon and down to 30° at about 11pm.   John has dug around in his old work shirt box and found a long sleeved cotton shirt which he saturates and then puts on in the evening -  it keeps him very cool as it dries.  Not pretty but functional.  I either go in the pool or in the shower for quick cool downs, then sit in front of the fan in the lounge.

It has been a very long hot spring and summer  and the house is a bit like a storage heater.  Most of the walls are half a metre or so thick and they slowly absorb heat.  It'll be nice in the autumn when they start giving the heat back into the house when it's needed but right now we are just overheating.  The lounge thermometer hasn't dropped below 29 for a few weeks now,  and we are doing as much cooking as is possible outside - we have barbeques, a gas grill, a small electric oven and a full sized gas cooker that we were given last summer - it  all helps keep the temperature down in the kitchen. 

Late last week we had a shopping day which was lovely.  Half an hour to Berja with the aircon on low and full blast, into Mercadona for a couple of hours shopping in the cool,  back in the car for 10 minutes up to Aldi, half and hour in their air conditioned shop and then half an hour home in the nice aircon cool car. 

We have been seriously thinking about buying a free standing air con unit for the house this summer but it's a bit late now......normally August is cooler than July and it should be getting better soon.  But maybe for next year.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Scorching heat.

After a blisteringly hot weekend which saw temperatures reach 44 - 45 degrees, we are now back to a somewhat more comfortable 35 -36 degree high.  In fact this morning when we went out it was to a relatively cool 24.

As well as the hot sun we have had strong hot winds  and there have been lots of wildfires around Spain.  The worst ones are on the islands of La Gomera and Tenerife,  with some on the mainland up around Alicante.   We've only seen 2 fires from here this year, one just outside Mecina Bombaron and the other over towards Válor.   The yellow fireplane that sprays foam on the flames and a helicopter with water bucket have been flying by quite regularly so there's probably more fires round here than we know about.  The government says up till the end of July nearly 131,000 hectares of vegetation were destroyed by fires and on Sunday there were 10 wildfires raging in Spain.

I suppose after the driest winter recorded in either 60 or 70 years, depending which report you read,  followed by this scorching heat,  then fires are not surprising.  But when regional officials  say that there is evidence that it   "was started deliberately as it had two focal points two miles apart that began burning within a short time of each other"   you do wonder what makes people tick.

Pictures and more words   here    and    here.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Cleaning up.

First thing this morning after dogwalk (7.30 - 30°)   then coffee, a quick bed make or rather sheet straighten as there isn't much bedding on the bed in the summer, then out to clean the pool.

We have a pump with a brush fitted to a handle on the sucking-up pipe - as you sweep so the dirty water goes up and out the other pipe and we send it to the vegetables, or the olives, or the flower beds, whichever is in most need of the drink.  It takes about an hour and a half depending on the dirt.  Just dust is quick, lots of olive leaves block the filter and you have to stop, clean the filter out and start again.  I do it early as most of the pool is shaded by an olive tree until 11 o'clock or thereabouts.  This morning was just a dusty session and I was finished by about 10.30.  Sat down with a cold bottle of water and then some friends came up for a walk (he of the 'mad dogs and Englishmen walking in the afternoon'  post).  This time though he was with his wife and they'd come at a more sensible hour.  Even then it had reached 34° but they'd taken it slowly. 

And so it continued to rise, by early afternoon both thermometers on both terraces were up to 38  but then large clouds started looming over the Sierras.  Thunder started to rumble around, time to pack everything away.  But before we could finish tidying up,  huge winds full of dust and grit and dry leaves was blowing everywhere.  The tomato frame started to sag sideways, Miguel next door was perched on a step ladder trying to take down the caña that provides shade outside their door,   worse still our  nice clean pool was disappearing under a coating of leaves and dried grass :(

By the time we got indoors we were covered in a fine gritty dust all over, in my hair, stuck to my skin - yuk.  Straight in the shower, hairwash, clean clothes. 

2 hours or so later, most of the wind has gone and I've just skimmed a leaf-net full of debris from the surface.  The dust is settling on the pool floor, it settles in ripples like the tide has gone out at the beach.  The tomato frame is still standing although at a very strange angle.

But as I write this I can hear the wind has picked up again so more cleaning tomorrow.   The forecast for Spain has 110  advise notices for high temperatures  today and has recorded a high of 45° in Cordoba.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Summer's not over yet...

Another roasting day and this evening when I was talking to  Mariano he said it's going to be hotter tomorrow and again on Saturday.........

 So this is what they are predicting for Friday at 5pm with the same for Saturday.   Luckily we've stocked up on ice-creams, and always have lots of water in bottles in the fridge plus ice.  It's surprising how quickly a bottle of cold water warms up outside.   We also have a few iced mugs - they are basically double skinned tumblers with some sort of gel in the layer and you keep them in the freezer then you can always have a very cold drink without the need for extra ice.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Still here!

Another Wednesday, another hot week, and more to come.  I'm sure August used to be cooler than July but every year is different and the locals always say 'this isn't normal' so we don't know really what is normal weather.   Today has been 30 again but overcast and that brings up the humidity levels which makes it sticky.  Same for tomorrow then clear but hotter over the weekend.  Oh well, by January or February we'll be longing for the summer to come around.

Apart from the local shopping and market day for vegetables and fruit, we haven't been out much.  Our neighbours are here for the summer so we have children and noise and dogs barking next door.  Saturday night they invited us to join them and their friends from Yator for a barbeque / tapas / drinks.  No specific time, just come around when you hear the noise.  About 9pm cars came up and people were chatting, that's when we went round.  15 adults, 5 children and a couple of dogs.  Not Monty and Pip, we left them at home in the garden.  Good practice for our Spanish that night, and it's surprising how much more fluent - or confident - you become after a glass or two of wine.  We left them to it at 2am,  Antonio was just turning up then having been out hunting jabali.   No idea what time it all ended, didn't hear cars or anything once my head hit the pillow.

Unfortunately,  dogs don't understand late nights or maybe it's because they sleep all day in the shade, whatever, they were up and about, bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7 the next morning.  Strangely, John never hears these early morning  'I need a walk" woofs.  But it is a nice time of day, cool and quiet.  The only person out at that time of the morning was Antonio and he'd had an even later night than us, but it was his watering day and at this time of year you make the most of the water that is yours.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Mad dogs and Englishmen.

Five o'clock this afternoon,  hiding from the sun under the parasol by the pool,  footsteps outside and heavy breathing.  Surely not someone walking?   Even though it's late afternoon,  it's still 37 in the shade on our terrace.  That's why I was hiding from the sun having just got out of the pool  - again - in an effort to try and cool down. 

Mad dogs and Englishman they say,  go out in the sun.  And this was an Englishman, friend of ours from Yator.  On his way back home we opened the gate, put him in the shade, gave him a long cool drink of water before letting him go on his way.

Even Monty and Pip stay indoors in this heat.

There are 39 high temperature warnings for the hotspots today.

Last night we were both in the pool at 10.30 to cool down before bedtime.  Didn't work, fan on all night again.  It'll be a very late night watering session tonight, the cucumbers and squash are trying to swell and need so much water at the moment.  Most of it evaporates in the heat so late night is best - at least they get 10 hours or so of relative coolness.