Thursday, 31 January 2013

Morning walks.

Our afternoon walks  to Yegen have changed this week to first thing in the morning, partly because it's been such lovely weather.   That sounds a bit contradictory I know, but dogs with black fur coats don't really appreciate a 5km return trip in the sun - for 2 days now it's been 20° in the shade and we haven't had the wood burner alight for 3 evenings.   We now set off about 7.45,  before the sun is really up although the sky towards Sierra Gador is aglow and dark orangey-red.    Up to Yegen and back,  home by about 8.30 for breakfast and by then the sun is shining onto the terrace.

The moon is still up at that time  -  we were heading home and nearly at the stream that crosses the pista before walking up past hanging rock and on to Montenegro.

A friend of ours also walks every day and does a circuit from Yátor, via Montenegro towards El Golco,  crosses the river below El Golco and follows a footpath down the side of the river back to Yátor.   It's a walk that we've known about but have never done and although I go to the river with the dogs,  I've never seen anything remotely like a path.  So today when he walked up I joined him to do the walk as well.  I left Monty and Pip at home with John, not that they were much help with his replacement tube repair but I wasn't sure what the walk would be like.  In fact it was lovely,  a gentle path down following the side of the river,  past a couple of ruined buildings, probably animal shelters or somewhere to store tools in the past maybe.  Not big enough to be cortijos I don't think.  Also quite a few collapsed bridges, whether due to rain and floods over the years or just lack of maintenance I don't know. 

Eventually we got down to the river and found a crossing.  Depending on the water levels and the time of year,  you choose different places to cross.  Although there is quite a lot of water,  the river also has lots of boulders to use so we crossed here.....

Gordon and the remains of a bridge...our river crossing point.

It is a 5 mile walk apparently,  and made a nice change.  Would I do it with the dogs?  Maybe not,   as Pip needs a lead or she chases anything that she sees and also gets startled by birds.  Some of the path is a bit narrow and with loose gravel,  ok when you've 2 spare hands but with a dog on a lead?    Maybe not.   Crossing the river by yourself is fine but with 2 dogs?  Maybe not.  But without them it made a nice change.  Now I'd like to do it the opposite direction to make sure of the route.  It is 'signposted' - sort of - yellow blobs of paint on  rocks show you that you're going the right way.  And a yellow arrow at the El Golco end  - or beginning depending on which way you've come from.

Looking back up the valley,  you can see the footpath we came down.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

What a good start to the week.

This week has started off beautifully - the temperature is rising - it was almost 20° today and reached 19 indoors,   and the sky is clear and blue.  It starts me thinking about spring cleaning,  the cotton Alpujarran rugs we have down are very good at collecting the dust so a sunny day  is ideal for shaking them outside and leaving them in the sunshine on the balcony.  Wash all the winter bedding,  sweep and mop the floors,  dust those places that very rarely get done because no-one can see them, like tops of cupboards, they get done at Christmas and days like this. 

So that was yesterday morning's work.  John made a start on the olive tree again,  we didn't finish pruning out the largest trunk last time we pruned - early December I think it was.  When I went outside to tell  him it was lunchtime, there was a huge pile of greenery waiting for cutting up.  It all gets burnt,  makes lots of smoke outside but no worse than the village houses do  when they all light their wood burners  in the late afternoon.  We can see a blue haze over Yátor as the sun sets and the fires get lit.

Today was the cutting of the last section of the big trunk.  So far so good.  Each section has fallen where he was expecting it to, none have rolled down into the brambles and they've all missed the tubo which takes water down to our bottom land.  The tubo is part buried, and we'd covered it with soft branches just in case.....but this last section hit the tubo with a thud.  There was a bit of muttering under his breath and we clambered down  from under the tree to the land where the wood had landed,  took the branches off the tubo to find a hole, cracks and well, basically the tubo was shattered.

Luckily it was only buried in soft soil so John cleared all around it,  went off to Paco's to buy a new 3 metre length  of 110 diameter tubo  then we took out the complete length including the broken section and replaced it with the new piece.  Now it needs reburying to protect it from the sun.  I suppose 9 euros - plus a tube of glue - is a small price to pay for all the firewood we've got from that one branch.

He's logged it all, split the huge bits and now it needs stacking to dry out.  But that's for tomorrow.  Another sunny day forecast,  in fact it's looking good all week.  :)

Friday, 25 January 2013

After the wind...

There are 7 streetlights through Montenegro,  most of which work most of the time,  they are usually re- bulbed in May ready for our fiesta.  But when we have strong winds like the ones that blew down recently, then I think we're lucky to have any working at all.

One lost its top recently and another lost its  top yesterday.  One is still working but surely when the next rain comes the other one will stop working too.  And not only has one lost it's top,  somehow it has bent as well.

No top, not working and bent in the wind.

It's top is on the ground but it's still working.
The pista is as clean as we've seen it for ages, it looks as if a giant broom has gone down and swept it.  No grit or loose stones to be seen.   I don't know where it's ended up,  in the past we have found some of the leaves of the rose bushes  outside have been shredded by the grit as it flies past.  Almost sand blasted.  But the plants are all ok today.

We have over the years, noticed places that the wind doesn't really affect, and so it's those places and corners that we lay down the stacked garden chairs,  watering cans,  buckets, pot plants and such like.  But this morning when we went out, the stacked chairs were a long way out of their corner but still stacked,  the watering cans - which we keep full of water to weight them down - had blown over, emptied and were wedged in a banking under a hedge,  the sunbeds which  are folded up in a safe place were not there but had moved and as for the pool!   Well, firstly,  covered in almond blossom and leaves, and  secondly it had had such big waves that all the surrounding area was wet from the overflow.  And it's not even full.  We had made sure that it was well down from the top as it did overflow earlier this year but it managed to do it again.  I know the forecast said 'waves at the coast' but I didn't realise that meant our pool too!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Gales again.

What a horrible day it's turning out to be!   The noisy winds that we heard up high yesterday hit here in the night - woke both of us and the dogs up as it howled and battered around the house.  We're quite sheltered,  but our neighbours house is higher up and very exposed to the weather  and I do wonder how or if they manage to sleep through it. 

This morning first thing started off ok,  blue sky, a few clouds,  gentle breeze,  about 10°.  But by the time the washing was done and ready to peg out the wind was back and I couldn't even get anything to stay safely on the airer which I thought was in a more sheltered position than the main washing line.  In the end I bought the airer into the front garden put it under the covered terrace and shut the door which goes out to the side garden.   That kept the wind down a bit - but it's howling around the house,  down the chimney,  through the gaps in the doors - very old doors - a bit like the house - old but solid. 

Poor Pip, who can be very feisty, is very frightened when it's windy like this.  She's tried curling up down the side of our bed on a rug but that's near the window and she can hear the wind,  then she tried the bathroom and the bathmat but probably got lonely,  then she went in the lounge with Monty who is curled up on the carpet in the sunshine,  but now she's under my feet on the carpet.  Every so often she goes to the door - maybe needs to go out, but one look and she runs back inside.

The power went off for 15 minutes earlier on,  we'd just finished lunch when it went.  Tonight's dinner is organised and we cook on gas,  have 2 wood burner's and spare gas heaters so can manage for quite a while without electricity.  But it was only a brief blip  - and the first one of the winter. 

The forecast has got these 86km/h gusts slowing down during the day so hopefully not too many more  hours of it.  Just some drizzle to look forward to tomorrow....

Roll on summer!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Snowy hilltops.

Snowy tops all around this morning but not here.  Above and below Mecina and down to Golco,  to the south on the Contraviesa,  and to the east on Sierra Gador.  There was some frozen icy stuff on the grass at the side of the footpath by the big fig and around the fuente,  and our shed roofs and garden tables also had frozen icy stuff on.  Too thick for frost, and too crunchy for snow - maybe it rained here in the night and then froze.

This afternoon we've been out for a walk up to Yegen again.  We - me and the dogs - or should that be the dogs and I  -  left John doing his balancing act on the stepladders in the kitchen again.   Kitchen work is for cold, windy and/or wet weather  - although this afternoon has been sunny it's still a chill wind so he carried on with yesoing the next section of wall. (Yeso is something like plaster but not quite the same,  dictionary also says gypsum) 

Most of the snow low down has melted but it's still visible up in the pine forests and in the fire-breaks. 

Snow on Sierra Gador, with 'spaceship' clouds above.
Spaceship clouds apparently mean there is some high wind up there,  and there is a roaring way up high in the distance.  When the roaring gets too loud - and it sounds like a train is coming - then we know to batten down the hatches.  But the forecast isn't too bad at the moment as far as wind goes,  gusts of between 40 to 70 km/h which is far better than Saturday.

Just as we were on the last uphill stretch to Yegen I noticed this..

at first I thought it was a sheep but looking again it's got a beard and little horns  so probably a goat.  But  why is it on it's own, not bleating, not obviously distressed, I can't imagine.  Maybe it's a lady goat and she's gone somewhere comfy-ish to  have her kids?   It does look a bit plump....but do lady goats have beards?  and horns?  It was by itself, no other goats around and no sound of them. When the pastor is out with his flock you can hear the jingling of the bells from quite a distance.

Just as you leave Yegen there is a signpost for Montenegro so although people sometimes ask where they are as they walk past us,  they should have had a clue from this.  Assuming that is, that they've come from Yegen not Mecina and El Golco.  Although I think there's sign like this in El  Golco too....

Maybe they expect to find something more here,  not just the ermita and half a dozen cortijos.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

No snow today :(

No snow down here but a bit above Mecina Bombaron this morning.   However that horrible wind and rain has gone and although it's been cold today at least it's been clear and mostly sunny.  Some people have had lots of damage to plants and property during that wind,  the worst one was described on an Andalucia forum that we read where the roof has blown off their house, taking part of a wall and windows too plus belongings. 

The rain has left lots of puddles on the pista which I can now paddle in.  My wellies are  - or were - very old.  I have photos from 1988 of me in a nice shiny pair of green Hunter wellingtons and last year they started to split.  Actually I think the rubber is perishing,  mostly across the instep, but they aren't waterproof and it's a bit daft having  boots that you can't use in the wet weather!   Friday we were out shopping and I saw these....

Walking up stream in the fuente overflow.

not so countryfied  as green wellies, more of a fashion thing, but  definitely different.

Despite the sunshine, we didn't go to today's fiesta celebration.  10° was the high, and in the sun warmer still, but the salon is huge and always cold and somehow  neither of us felt really like going anywhere.   It would have been our 10th fiesta and this is the first cold, wet and windy fiesta that we've had. 

Hopefully next year will be back to normal,  warm and sunny during the day.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

San Sebastián weekend

Tomorrow is San Sebastián and the village of Yátor celebrates all weekend.  Normally the sun shines,  everyone comes out and we meet up with friends for a drink or coffee at the bar before the band leads the way from the church into the salon for lunch.   On Sunday, the procession goes from the church up to the Ermita before heading back to the salon for lunch.

In the evenings there is music and dancing from late till even later.

But this weekend  I'm not sure how many people will venture out.  Not us for certain......

We are hibernating today,  the winds are howling, the rain is pouring down, the front garden is under water,  virtually no view  due to low cloud .....  we're not  going anywhere at all.

Maybe tomorrow,  as the rain is supposed to stop at 07.00 but even then the highest temperature is only going to be 6°   - at least it's a bit warmer than that today. 
10° apparently, not that I've been out to check. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The GR7

A little bit of it anyway.  The GR7 footpath runs from Portugal to Greece - but a small part of it runs close to us.  At the junction we call the big fig are the GR7 signs to Yegen, Golco and the Ermita at Montenegro.

That last sign does confuse some people as it doesn't mention Montenegro or that if you keep going for 2 kms more, then you'll get to Yator.  Can't think of how many times people have walked past here then come back and asked where they were.  And yes, they do have maps, most of them anyway.

Back to today.  After a cold afternoon yesterday and strong winds again last night, this afternoon has been nice again so I took M and P along the footpath to the river that runs below Golco.

The footpath is narrow in places, quite shaley (yes, that is a word, just checked)  and loose  underfoot.  But on the last section heading down to the river someone has cut foot holes into the side of the path to make it easier and safer.  Thank you whoever you are!  There are a couple of people who live in Golco and come to Montenegro to work on their land so I guess it was one of them, either Paco or Rafael.

Heading to Golco,  just visible in the distance.

During the winter of 2009 -10  when we had all that rain, the river burst it's banks and bypassed the concrete bridge.  A  temporary one was made from wooden planks and beams - and it's still standing.  When the water levels went back to normal the river followed it's usual way under the bridge as it is doing  today.

The temporary bridge, a bit rickety but still there.



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Sleepy dogs.

This is what happens in the evening after a long walk in the afternoon sunshine - 

After a bit of jostling for position as Pip does like to be close to the fire,  sometimes we think she'll singe her whiskers she gets so near,  they settled down for the night.   And they snore,  well Monty does. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Another walk.

At last we've managed time for another afternoon walk!   A couple of afternoons have been given over to vegetable plot digging,  Sunday was cold and windy so we stayed inside and read, lit the fire,   while listening to the wind swirling around the house and watching birds flying past very quickly - they looked slightly out of control.  

Today has been lovely and blue and quite sunny but appearances can be very deceptive!   There was a chill wind coming down from the north and when I put the sheets on the line they blew straight out at right angles.  Needed 5 pegs on each sheet to hold them in place.  The weather forecast has a warning for high winds - 70 km/h at Guadix and Baza which are quite a way from here and high up,  also an accumulation of snow up there  but also for big waves down at the coast and seeing as we are in the middle of both those areas, we are quite prepared for winds here too. 

So I put gloves in my pocket, took the camera and the dogs and went for a walk up the pista  towards Yegen.  We go just past Yegen cemetery as there is an acequia there, normally with water running,  so Monty and Pip can get a drink if need be.  Of course, they never bother but both drink from the stream that crosses the track about half way home.  In fact today Monty laid down in the running water to cool down.  The cold wind disappeared as we walked and it was quite warm going uphill in the sun.

Looking towards Valor,  with a dusting of snow way up high....and the summer's runner bean framework in the foreground....

An almond tree in full bloom in the sunshine...

And last but not least - today's sunrise..... If you're thinking we get up early, no we don't.  This was taken at  7.57am. 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Little things in life.

It's sometimes the little  things in life that make a difference  and I still get great pleasure when small things come right.  This is where is gets a bit sad, not tearful sad,  but the fact that I got so pleased over such  trivial things  this week.

To go back a few days:    the letters I posted on Wednesday morning both arrived in UK on Friday morning,  one at 9.30 -  I didn't know the post was delivered so early anymore!  I didn't expect to hear that they'd arrived till next week so was really surprised when I rang my MIL on Saturday and she said what wonderful photos and video she'd seen the previous afternoon. 

Then the next day while doing our after Christmas / January stock-up I bought a pack of 3 icecube trays.  Not on the list but hey, only 1.75 and a lovely purple colour too.  Actually we have loads of ice cube trays,  none of which are reliable and most have split or broken.   They've come with the fridge or freezer, or been bought especially because they look and feel 'rubbery' and you think the ice cube will pop out easily.  But normally not so.   The trays get too hard and brittle,  sometimes the ice cube shatters - if we wanted crushed ice we'd use the ice crusher   (an Xmas pressie years ago for making fancy cocktails) 

In a bag tucked away on a shelf we have the remains of  probably 6 or 7 icecube trays,  some of them are only in 2's,  some have cracks and none do the job properly but  I keep them as they are good for freezing chopped basil in, or chopped chillis,  add a bit of water or oil and then the cube can go straight into whatever you're cooking.

So the purple ones came home, got filled with water and they do just what they should.  They are rubbery, very pliable, the cubes are large and best of all they don't stick to the tray and shatter into bits in your drink.   We get through a lot of ice, especially in the hot weather, so next time we do the monthly stock up,  I'll make sure that purple trays are on the shopping list.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Gas bottles and boiled sweets.

It's not often that you go out to restock the gas bottles and come home with a kilo and a half of caramelos - boiled sweets to you and me - but that's what happened today.

I needed to go to the Post Office  so while I was in Cadiar thought I'd change the empty gas bottles  for full ones.  We don't usually leave it so long,  try always to keep at least one full bottle in stock but somehow over Christmas and New Year we used all the spares.

The 'gas lady' - don't know her name yet, even after 9 years of talking to her - is very friendly and always gets me to sit down and then starts asking how we are, how is Montenegro 'still beautiful?' despite the fact that she's never been here, did we have a good Christmas,  isn't our nuera - daughter in law - muy guapa - very beautiful and so small and her husband - our son - so tall.  Then out comes the photos of their 6 month old granddaughter, Sofia,  and so it goes on.  Good language practice for me though.

But today a little extra surprise.  She went off to the back room leaving her husband to work out how much I needed to pay and  then came back with a carrier bag.  These are for you she said,  there were so many at  los Reyes,  and they are so small this year that they didn't all get picked up.  I took the bag, looked inside,

wow!  Turned out to be a kilo and a half of caramelos,  enough she said to last till next Three Kings. 

Monday, 7 January 2013

Over the weekend..

Although last weeks afternoon walk was lovely,  we haven't been again yet.   On Friday we started to  prune - and I use the word loosely - the olive tree in the corner of the side garden.  I used to  think of pruning as cutting out dead wood, tidying up a bush, cutting off dead heads,  whereas pruning an olive tree is a far bigger job.  The tree in question is far too big,  the trunks hang out over a banking which is covered in brambles and so is impossible to harvest,  and we decided the wood was far more useful as firewood.  It's not the first time this tree has been pruned but this time it's coming down to a much smaller size.  The winds when they come in the winter, quite often blow from that direction so we are going to leave it with low growth, more as a wind break to protect the vegetables and flower beds.  

Friday morning John got some large branches down which he cut up and then I could cut  off the greenery and smaller bits.  In the afternoon a large trunk came down which he logged and split then we put that to dry for next year.  Saturday we spent time finishing off and tidying up all the smaller willowy branches and greenery.  None of it gets wasted,  we don't have a bonfire licence  but we don't want to waste the heat the greenery can produce so  we dry it out  and burn it in the wood burners.

Sunday was Epifania del Señor and a holiday and the sun shone even brighter and hotter.  Today was also a holiday,  can't have a holiday on a Sunday when you're off work anyway can you!  So today was a day in lieu of yesterday and sunny again.  And the reason why we didn't walk yesterday or today.......

4pm this afternoon in the shade...

and guess where I've been......

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Yet another fiesta!

Tonight is 12th night or Dia de los Reyes as it is here,  when presents are exchanged.  The villages all celebrate this occasion and the fireworks  have already started.

On our first year here we were surprised to find a gathering in the square outside the bar in Yator  of  2 horses and a donkey,  3 locals dressed up as the Kings,  all carrying flaming torches - real flames too -  rags on sticks dipped in oil - and that years fiesta committee with buckets of sweets  walking behind,  as they processed through the village they threw sweets to the children.  Also every child got a present from the Kings - handed in earlier but given direct to the child as they passed the family house.  We had some friends staying that year who had 3 young children  and even they were given a small present from the village.  A wonderful first 3 Kings night.

In 2008 we went into Cadiar for the night  to watch their celebrations.  Like Yator's but on a much bigger scale.  Looking back at the photos now it's a wonder no-one got hurt, the children carry flaming torches to light the way,  the horses have to go quite fast to get up the steep cobbled streets,  sweets and freebies from local businesses and banks (baseball caps and such like)  were thrown by the Kings for people  to scrabble for under and in between the horses hooves......

Our friend's son was a torch bearer, he was about 8 years old.

Throwing sweets for everyone.

But tonight we've decided to stay in and if the fireworks really get going well,  we will go out and watch them.  Last week was also fiesta in Yegen,  January 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  Wonderful display on the night of the  2nd which we watched from the front garden.  Maybe more tonight.  No wonder the country is broke!  All fiestas and fireworks!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

An afternoon walk.

In an effort  to kick start the winter kilo loss - I don't do diets, but I do enjoy walking -  I set off this afternoon with the dogs for an hours walk up to Yegen and back.  Not a lot of kilos to lose,  3 would do,  but  with a lack of olives to  harvest which normally does the trick it's got to be more walking and/or digging for the spring vegetable planting.

A glorious day,  deep blue skies and sunshine but it's very deceptive as there is also a chill wind.  Fine if you're in the sun or busy but cool otherwise.  I went in a sweatshirt and was hot while walking uphill in the sun but ok most of the time. 

On the way out of Montenegro you go uphill and  then round a corner, down to a stream.  Up above you on the left - and maybe 50 metres or so above - is a hanging rock.  It's cracked and seems to be poised there,  I'm always amazed it's not fallen down onto the pista and we do walk along that stretch quickly just in case.  On windy days or after rain I keep one eye on it as well!  Nor sure I could outrun it if it moved but at least I'd give it a go.

Hanging rock.  Doesn't look too bad on a photo!

Above the stream is another craggy rock face with what appears to be a cave and above that  are several terraces faced with dry stone walls.  How on earth anyone got there to build the walls I can't imagine.  Probably they were done in the days when all you had was your land and you made the most of what there was,  so you could also grow vegetables on the flat land in between the trees.

See the cave?  Above it are 2 rows of terracing.
We stopped at the cemetery for a photo opportunity.....

and then set off back home.   Waiting at the area we call the 'big fig' which is where the footpaths to Montenegro, Yegen and El Golco join,  was a horse (at least I think it's a horse but maybe a mule?)   He was tied to the tree waiting for his owner Raphael to finish work on his land. 
Horse or mule?

A nice way to commute to work!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Spring flowers and sunny photos for the first one of the year,  might cheer up those who have had a wet Christmas.

This gorse doesn't normally burst into bloom till February or so,  and I think the Giant Hyacinth orchid should be nearer March time...

I'm not a fan of ironing and normally only get the ironing board out when we are running out of pillow cases or  t-shirts which is about once every 4 weeks or so.  The days of 5 smart work shirts a week have long gone,  but as this has been a Christmas festive time, there were smart shirts and trousers in the basket today along with every pillow case that we own.  A friend of mine has a 'steam station'  which apparently gets the ironing done very fast but I had a wonderful view this afternoon of blue sky and sunshine which helped make a boring job go a little bit quicker. 

However, the forecast has flakes of snow as from 8pm tonight, although when I checked the snow levels on the Sierra Nevada ski website,  they say the snow line will be 1200 - 1500 metres and we are only 850.  So maybe no snow just yet.

Happy New Year to you all,  carry on reading,  hope that this year brings everyone continued health and happiness and maybe wealth too  -  if that's not too many things to wish for!