Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The white stuff

Well,  the weather forecast was right,  it did snow!  Not much here,  and it was more crunchy and white,  than soft and fluffy,  but plenty of white all around.

We woke to the sound of heavy rain and thought well that's better than snow as it doesn't break the plants like the weight of snow does,  and we get a lie-in as neither of the dogs really enjoys a wet walk.   So when the rain slowed to a drizzle about 9am,  I took them out  for a leg stretch and  then saw that it had snowed everywhere but here.  Snow to the north and as far down as El Golco,   snow to the south covering the Contraviesa  but none in the direction of Ugijar.

Although the sun is struggling through this afternoon,  the snow is still there at the moment although I expect it'll be gone by tomorrow,  the forecast is sunny but not back to the swimming temperatures of 2 weeks ago - yet.

Monday, 29 April 2013

How tall?

How tall does coriander normally grow?  Not this tall I'm sure - normally about a couple of feet high?  

We grow it every autumn and pick until the weather gets too hot and it bolts and flowers then we collect the seeds for the next planting.  Around the end of December,  maybe January,  these coriander plants were  completely flat,  pickable just,  but suddenly they started to grow, and grow, and now look at them!  Almost as tall as me,  they have trunks not stalks,  and today I had to build them a frame for support as they've started to collapse.

The cucumber seedlings and basil seedlings in the potting area were looking a little sad this morning,  it was quite chilly last night compared to recent days and nights,  and so I've covered all of the pots up with clear plastic boxes to make mini-greenhouses and also covered those with bubble wrap - even those yoghurt pots which have as yet ungerminated seeds in,  to keep the compost warm.

And the reason for that is this...

whether it will get that cold we don't know but if you're a new seedling in an unheated potting shed,  you won't be very happy.

Unlike us,  we are as warm as toast indoors,  we've lit the fire already today,  only the second time we've had it on in weeks.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Grazing goats.

One of the Paco's who has land and a cortijo here in Montenegro comes down from Yegen everyday to see to his animals and dig and plant and water and do all the things that need doing.  Yesterday evening when I saw him,  he had filled a wheelbarrow with grass and clovery type of stuff for his rabbits - 15 I think he said that he has at the moment - and no,  not pets.   Food.   The barrow was so full, he'd tied rope around it to keep the grass in - or should that be on - the barrow.

He also has a couple of goats,  both female,  probably for milk,  they graze wherever the grass is richest,  and so they don't wander too far they are tied to whatever is handy but so they can still reach to eat.  I've seen their ropes tied to the window bars of the ermita,  tied onto a lamp post,  but  last night and tonight they were each tied to a clump of grass.

And each night when they see us,  they stop eating and look at us very quizzically,  then get nervous and try to get out of the way.  Their bells jingle,  their full udders quiver,  Pip tries to go as far away as she can, but she's on a lead  too so can't get far,  and  Monty just ignores them and potters on.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The first of many..

A few days ago I thought I saw a Golden Oriole flying down among the olive trees,  hard not to miss one really as the colour is so striking - a deep buttercup yellow and black for the male,   less obvious for the female.   Then a day  or so later came their distinctive song  and this morning John spied the first male going into  the mulberry tree.  This one will be the first of many that nest around our land every year.

Male Oriole

Female Oriole
These pictures, John took a couple of years ago,  hopefully they'll nest in the same tree for this years update.

And the other first is a strawberry.  No picture because I ate it,  but there are lots of flowers and lots of small fruits - and we have lots more plants than last year as there are strawberry beds that I've just left to themselves.  If they fruit,  well that's good.  If not then I'll dig them up come the autumn.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Flowering herbs.

I hope you're not fed up with flower pictures yet as here are a few more....

The wild thyme grows everywhere that you'd think not much would survive,  like on this dry rocky side of the path - and although we have got some in the garden,  it doesn't do as well as this is.

We also have lots of sage bushes in the garden and it's all in bloom now,  also there are a lot of  Jerusalem sage plants growing wild and although the leaves seem identical,  they don't have anywhere near the flavour,  in fact I'm not sure they have any smell or taste at all and the flowers are really different.  Extremely pretty though.

There is a sage bush in here, honestly!  It's just mingled in with sweet peas,  geraniums and pelargoniums. 

Also blooming is the wild garlic,   a lot of it starts off quite a strong pink colour but as the flowers open bigger the colour fades to white.

And finally another tassel hyacinth,   this one was just catching the early morning sunshine.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Podding and shelling.

How come we can pick so many peas and beans but by the time they're podded and shelled there is only enough for a few meals? 

Picked half a bucket of peas this afternoon and the same amount of broad beans but by the time the peas were podded there were only 450g,  enough for about  2 servings for 2 of us,   and the beans weighed in at 600g.   They were very big beans - we eat the small ones and keep some to grow very big and then freeze them.  Once defrosted,  they can be de-skinned and then the nice bright-green tender bean that slips out from the pale chewy-looking skin cooks in seconds. 

A few years ago we tried to make pea and bean pod wine -  all I can say about it is that yes, it had alcohol but what a weird taste!   Never again,  complete waste of sugar and time and effort.  Maybe we did something very wrong as I know there are people who make lots of these 'country wines',   from all sorts of wild plants and fruits,   I think we used to have a wine making  book at one time that had  recipes for all sorts of odd things in.   The only 'country' style wine we make successfully is from figs.

Our neighbours have tried our fig wine,  'very nice it is too'  they say,  'which grapes did you use?'    'No no,  it's made from figs.'    Lots of tasting,  a bit of head shaking,  and then... 'so which grape is it?'   Friends of ours made some wine from oranges, it sounds odd but  wasn't,  and they had  the same conversation.  'Very nice, but which grape?  Oranges,  yes, but which grape?' 

If it's not made from grapes then it can't be wine,  although they are very happy to drink it!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Testing the water.

Taken at the end of last week when we had sun and  the pool was just filled, 

Just testing the water... no, she doesn't swim in it.

looking south...

and the latest wild flowers that this morning had some sunshine on them!

tassel hyacinths growing on the era by the ermita

small gladioli - they pop up at the side of the pista every year

some orchids which have just appeared at the side of the pista but blooming much later than the same ones by the fuente,  they have all finished flowering.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Highs and lows

After the high temperatures and blue skies and swimming of last week,  we woke on Saturday to hazy cloud which during the day got thicker and thicker,  lower and lower,  until by the late evening - well, it was swirling around the house and when we went for our last dog walk, there was nothing to be seen.   No village lights from anywhere, we could barely see  our street lights which were just yellow pools in the swirling cloud.

Yesterday it tried so hard to brighten up, even to the point where I thought about putting some washing in the machine,  but then thought again about not doing it and leaving it till today.  Maybe I should have done it yesterday as today has been cloudy again and just like Saturday the cloud got thicker and lower and during the afternoon it drizzled.

Just come back from the last walk,  and just like Saturday there is nothing to be seen.  No village lights from Yátor or Mecina or Golco,  just swirls of low cloud and  some pools of yellow from the 3 remaining street lights of Montenegro.  

So no brilliantly coloured flower photos today,   they aren't even blooming properly today. Although there are some more wild flowers out there now  it'll have to wait till the sun comes back before I take any pictures of them. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Pata de gallo.

Today's colourful photo is of a flower which the locals call pata de gallo - cockerel's foot - but which when I looked for it in various plant books and on line,  only came up with a type of ivy and long wavy grasses for that name.  However another search for  'succulent ground cover with pink flowers' came up with the name  Sea Fig -  but then - Ice Plant  or Pig Face or Hottentot fig!  Wonderful names.

So I carried on reading and I think the pink one that is blooming now is the Sea fig,  Carprobrotus Chilensis as it's description says the flowers are deep magenta.  The other one we have has pale yellow flowers which is the Ice Plant or C. Edulis. 

Thanks to John for the photos....

After yesterday's digging I was a little stiff and quite achy this morning and thought a walk would loosen me up but it didn't,  however after a breakfast of coffee and ibruprofen I felt much less painful but thought it wise to keep away from the spade,  rake and the  work on the veg patches.  So I had a pottering morning including picking peas for dinner tonight and lettuce and rocket leaves for a salad,  then  this afternoon I've been making the most of the sun.  Half hour in the sun followed by a swim,  repeat twice more till nicely toasted and refreshed.

Time now for a glass of something chilled and white,  outside in the shade of the olive tree.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

I knew it was hot....

I knew  our thermometer couldn't be that wrong although you do wonder if it's so sheltered that the heat is trapped,    but this is Spain as at 5pm today....

So back to yesterday.  The pool was filling nicely,  some of the water - only the overflow from the fuente,   there is so much running that we didn't need to open the deposito tap -  some of it we sent round our top land and while John was tiling those awkward bits under the bathroom sink,  I  started to rake clear the water channels.

At about 6pm, the water flow got slower and slower so we stopped filling and shut the taps.  Later it stopped altogether and when  I took the dogs for their evening walk noticed that the deposito water had been used by someone else, hence the lack of overflow.  At this time of year  no-one really is worried who uses what on which day but during the main watering season, which can't be far off, woe betide any one who uses water if it's not their designated day!

It all started overflowing again in the night so first thing this morning - 7.30 - we restarted the filling process.  All done by 11am.  From then till 4pm we've had the water all going to the top terraces,   a lot of it  has been dug, weeded, watered and all tanks filled up. 

After 5 hours in total of raking, weeding, watering, pulling out wild sweet peas that look pretty but are smothering the strawberry beds,  I was feeling a bit hot and grotty.  But  how inviting the pool looked - and yes I took the plunge.  Well, not really a plunge, more a slow entrance down the steps and did 20 widths by which  time I felt very refreshed. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Hot sunny weather :)

Can you see this OK?  It's not a mistake honestly,   I took this photo only 10 minutes ago at 3.20pm.....

the thermometer is on the  wall of our terrace,  always in the shade and with a breeze through from one end to the other.

the forecast shows this....

luckily the pool is nearly half full and if this heat continues we may be in it soon.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Summer is nearly here!

A lovely start to the week with plenty of sunshine and lots more to come.   The end of the fire burning season must surely be coming but this morning there was a large plume of smoke heading straight up into the clear blue sky.  No wind at all, but there must have been some breeze up there because the column of smoke suddenly turned left - or as I saw it  from the pista at Yegen.

Looking in the opposite direction,

the rocks above the olive terrace seemed to really be catching the morning sun.

And with a weather forecast of blue skies and highs of 19° or more,  we've started to empty and clean the pool.  The water drains down to our bottom olive terraces,  and  we try to brush the dirt/dead leaves/grass cuttings from  the pool walls  as it goes - it's far easier to do before it all bakes dry.  I'd just about finished the walls this morning when some friends arrived to visit, so have shut the tap and will sweep the floor clean tomorrow. 

Neither of us was dressed for  visitors,  I was in an oldish 'round the house' dress,  the sort that I just pull on and take the dogs out for a walk in, or potter on the land, nothing smart but not too scruffy,  but ok for pool cleaning too.  Add to that a pair of ankle socks and welly boots - for the sludge on the pool floor - and you'll realise that it was not smart clothing.  John was no better,  he was on his hands and knees tiling the bathroom floor when I heard a car  outside and called to him  'visitors!' 

So,  lovely as it is to see friends,  we need to finish today's jobs tomorrow and then the day after that we can start to fill the pool for the summer.  :)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

I'm confused!

What I'm confused about is why plants appear to have so many names.   I've been given 2 different names now for these beautiful flowers that we have,   and I've googled both,  and they have the same flowers as we've got.  They are obviously both correct but why?  Why are they both called an African Daisy (amongst lots of other names such as a Cape Daisy)  but have different Latin names. 

Arctotis Stoechadifolia 


If you look at  these links then you get  lovely pictures of our Daisies. 

So African daisy it is.



Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ploughing time

This week we've heard a squeaking and a rumbling noise during the day which has come from the direction of Yegen and when I've been out walking in the morning,  the  terraces at the side of the pista have been ploughed.  Some are just small olive groves,  some much larger with orange trees and   almond  trees as well,  and over the last couple of days the very large terrace planted twice a year with runner beans has also been ploughed.

This is what it looked like at the start of last year,  ready for the wigwams of cane  - see here   

 and now it is now all ploughed over and ready to go again. 

The tractor that does the ploughing is very noisy - it squeaks and rumbles,  probably due to it's caterpillar tracks  - and when friends were visiting on Wednesday afternoon, we did apologise for the noise as normally all you hear are birds and the occasional dog bark. 

And frogs at this time of the year too.

One frog in the pool this week,  but it seems to have got lonely and gone again.  Saves me having to try and catch it in the net. 

And a plant update,  thanks Tanya for identifying the flowers,   they are indeed an African Daisy,   Arctotis Stoechadifolia.    A large drink for you on your next visit as a thankyou.  :)

Thursday, 11 April 2013

A question for you

Does anybody know what these flowers are? 

They bloom from very early in the year until very late.   I'm talking about February onwards,  until  the end of November or even December.    Cuttings take very easily,  straight into the ground,   and now I have a third variety with very pale petals which have a slight pink tinge to the tips.

I have a feeling they are part of a chrysanthemum type of plant group but don't know why I think that,  I've been through my plant books but can't find anything with these distinctive yellow dots in the centre of the flower.   They were sold as Margarita's but aren't - as far as I know.

So anybody knowledgeable out there,  please get in touch - add a reply on here - email - phone - I would like to know as they are so pretty.


Sunday, 7 April 2013

Today's planting list.

Most times when I go out to plant seeds,  I think I'll remember what went in and where.  I do have plastic plant labels that I put at the ends of the rows with 'what, how many and when'  written on them but I also have a book indoors as a record.  However if I've planted lots of seeds, I get back indoors and  think   'hhmm, how many rows of kohlrabi?'    It's much easier to write down in the book  if  I've kept a note of things as I go.

Today I planted lots of seeds,  in boxes that mushrooms came in, in yoghurt pots,  in boxes that 'pollo entera' used to be sold in (that's a whole chicken for cooking/roasting)  - times have changed and now they come in plastic bags, not nearly as useful as a seed box - and basically any container that seems to be deep enough to allow a seed to germinate and produce roots before getting too pot bound.

Into the potting shed this morning  with my packets of seeds, a large bag of (bought)  compost - ours in no way near fine enough for seeds -  my glasses for those tiny seeds that the packet says 'sow thinly'  and that I can barely see,  trowel, plastic labels, and a permanent marker pen.

First  I filled all the various boxes with compost,  then started adding the seeds,  with labels.  At that point - and with compost everywhere - I realised I didn't bring a sheet of paper to scrawl down how many of each type I'd  planted.  OK,  I could go back out later and count up and make notes, but it's so much easier to do it as you go.  But there in a corner I spied an empty box from coke or limón - squashed but never mind -  still easy to write on. 

So here it is,  today's planting list.   The chillis all have 'nicknames' - depending on who gave us the originals or where they were bought,  so 'Paco's not hot"  is not describing him, but he gave us some very mild chillis.  'Cadiar thins'  are long thin chillis that came from plants bought locally.  The calabaza  (squash)  are also labelled according to who gave us the original as every year we have different varieties given to us,  long, green, round, orange.....

Make sense?  It does to us.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Just flowers

With the warm spring sunshine and the occasional shower,  there have been lots more wild flowers appearing along the sides of the paths and pistas. 

All colours - white, pink, blue, yellows and the red of the poppy.  Also now starting to open are the deep purple wild sweetpeas which clamber up banks and terraces all around us.

Enjoy the blooms...

The first sweet peas,  smaller and two colours.

The bigger, deep purple coloured ones coming out now.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Lunchtime tapas.

A few weeks ago I wrote about tapas,  the variety,  the amount and wondered how on earth bars make a profit when a drink and tapas costs less than 2 euros a go.

This morning  we were in Cádiar and stopped off in Yátor on the way back home to check the mail box,  the sun was shining,  it was lunchtime but no meals  planned so we went to the bar for a beer and tapas each. 

Two tubos  and a tapas of sardines, salad and bread.   A tapas each,  not to share.

Two more tubos  and 2 more tapas of morcilla,  bread and olives.  Morcilla is a blood sausage, sort of like black pudding only this one is softer in the middle and cooked till crispy outside.   Lots of different versions of morcilla,  some firmer,  some softer,  apparently they can be made with pine nuts or almonds in, but it may be made with rice and spices.  So you try them from different butchers and supermarkets till you find the one you like most.

And the cost?

€1.70 per drink.  Including food.  And sunshine.  :)