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'.