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 SalobreƱa  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 SalobreƱa,  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.