Monday, 30 September 2013

El Veranillo de San Miguel.

Late September in Andalucía is known as El Veranillo de San Miguel - the little summer of Saint Michael - and although we are officially in autumn,  the sun is shining - mostly - although there are some weird clouds around.  Large fluffy ones,  some look like they've been combed out,  some starter space-ships,  and away back beyond Válor are some looming dark ones.  But generally nice,  around  25° today but although I didn't swim this afternoon, I did lay out on the sunbed catching a few rays and doing the inevitable back exercises.

Yesterday was San Miguel and it was celebrated in a few villages within earshot of us,  mainly up in Mecina Bombaron.  Starting on Saturday late afternoon,  all day Sunday and most of today,  there have been church bells ringing,  fireworks booming,  early morning brass marching bands,  loud music once or twice,  and looking at the fiesta programme, we are in for a midnight treat of fuegos artificiales - a firework display to you and me.  Most of the fireworks so far have been of the more bang than beauty type. 

We belong to Mecina,  it's where we pay our rates,  known here as IBI,  which stands for  Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles.  But it's a long way round to Mecina and we can sit by our pool and watch the fireworks from the comfort of a chair,  with a bottle of wine by our side,  and not have to worry about getting home.  And probably get a better view of all the fireworks as well.

If you happen to look at the link to the fiesta programme,  it has all the fiestas for the year, plus the ones in Yegen and El Golco and here in Montenegro as we all belong to the same Ayuntamiento.  With some pictures too,  including our Santa Fatima.

Another link,  this one a translation into English.....more about the fiestas rather than the actual programme of events.

And as I write this,  the first of the evening fireworks has just gone up,  they start about now,  I think more of a  "reminder/get out of bed/end of siesta/get your party clothes on"  type of firework rather than anything actually about to start.  Although at 6pm - that's a Spanish 6pm which could be anytime - there is  a

Carrera de cintas para bicicletas, motos y burros con trofeos para los participantes.

which translates literally as  race tapes for bikes, motorcycles and donkeys,  with trophies for the participants,  hopefully not all at the same time!  When they were going to have a race in Yátor which sounded like this,  we were told the tape went down the road and ribbons were tied onto it,  the participants had to pull the ribbons off the tape as they raced down.  Maybe someone knows more about this than I do,  as I said before it's a long way round to Mecina to find out!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Strawberry crumble.

Over the last few weeks I've been trying to find spaces for the new strawberry plants - some had hidden themselves under other plants and needed moving into a bigger space,  most I'd popped into yoghurt pots to root,  some 'mother' plants have died this year for no apparent reason so the babes have gone to replace them.  The day before yesterday I was planting out again,  reached for a bucket of water to give them a drink and yes,  back pain again.  So I very carefully straightened up and walked around a bit to loosen up.  But no more planting or watering that day,  but back exercises that afternoon.  I've been doing them almost every day this summer,  usually after my swim,  but I haven't swum for about 10 days, and no exercises either,  maybe that's the cause.  Or maybe the bucket was too full and I  lifted it awkwardly. 

I did a check round the strawberry beds yesterday afternoon as they are still ripening although far less to pick now.  But after the rain they rot,  and as it was forecast for showers last night and also today I thought I'd better get them picked.  500 grams again.  But I really wanted something different to do with them,  cream and icecream are all very well but after 5 months of strawberries and cream.....

A quick google of strawberry crumble - why not?  Surely the fruit can only go jam like,  soften a bit and maybe be juicy.  And there was a scrummy sounding recipe from Nigella - ground almonds and vanilla and sugar in with the fruit,  brown sugar and sliced almonds in the crumble.  I thought I'd make it for Sunday night but then John said, why not tonight?  What difference does it make if we have a pudding on a Friday,  we eat them so rarely anyway.   So strawberry crumble it was,  with cream,  and enough for Sunday as well.  And as delicious as the recipe promised. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Cement trucks - aaagh!

Been meaning to write this week but things don't always go to plan.  When I last wrote,  we'd had a deluge and spent the day repairing and tidying the road amongst other things.  Then of course another deluge came down on Friday afternoon,  only 1 clap of thunder and 1 flash of lightning,   the  re-dug pool gulley held up so no more dirty water washing into the hippo pond,  the road humps also kept back a lot of the rain,  we watched from the side terrace as it poured down the road like a river. 

More that usual rushed down the road partly because the gulley/hump further up has flattened out,  and silted up,  I did mention that we had been discussing with our nearest neighbours what others were doing,  one of the many Paco's is having a water deposit built,  on ground,  out of concrete,  about 9 metres by 4 or even 5 wide, about 3 or so high.  Quite an undertaking,  and a lot of very heavy lorries and concrete mixers up what is really a single track road.

The first mixer came last Monday afternoon,  followed on Tuesday by at least 3 more, maybe 4.  Then a large lorry laden with metal shuttering for the framework.  We have a curved road passing our house,  all our water pipes - drinking water and acequias and garden watering - run under ground from our land opposite and beneath the road.  Never a problem but with each successive mixer,  they cut the corner and drove further and further into the banking.   There was a real danger of pipes being exposed and crushed if we weren't careful,  so we made a temporary 'watch-out' wall of bloques where they had been driving.  Not out into the road, but just on the curve they'd created.  We filled them with soil for a bit of stability and I even put some geranium cuttings in the end ones, then John also painted the ends white to show in the dark.  What more could we do?  We cut off the lowest palm branches which were touching their lorries,  we made sure the grass at the side of the road was cut down so they could gauge the width easily.....

Paco didn't think much of it, he stopped the next morning and with lots of arm waving said we couldn't do that blah blah blah..... of course we can it's our land.  The mixers will have to take more care,  they weren't any where near the other side, had plenty of room.  And so to yesterday.  First up a pump lorry used to pump the concrete into the mold.  Out we went with the camera in case of problems,  up he went nice and slow,  watching in his mirrors.  All ok.  Then the mixers,  5 of them in all during the day,  2 different drivers,  one careful and one 'cigarette in mouth / arm out the window'  driver,  who just shrugged when first he caught the bloques with his wheel,  next trip he ran over them,  eventually we were just left a crushed pile of stone.  Annoying I know,  but at least it kept them from going any further into the banking.  The shuttering lorry has been up twice today collecting all the metal work, acro's etc,  he has even missed the crushed remnants.  And said goodbye  this afternoon when he went down.  Photos on request,  John said he's going to make it into a video of  'how not to drive a cement truck'.

In between trucks and photos, we have been doing the usual stuff,  John is Chief of Seed Germination now,  amongst other things, he has lots of coriander plants and parsley, and also 34 runner beans germinated and ready for planting out for the autumn crop,  I've dug over the beds and got the canes and framework ready and this morning put them out.  24 Kentucky Wonder Wax,  a long cream coloured bean,  and 10 that we don't know the name of.  A very long flat bean which has a bright red pod,  came from one of the other Paco's last year. Also got 3 pea beds  and their frame work ready,  usually put the first peas in at the end of September.  Plus next will be the first sowing of broad beans but as yet they have nowhere to go.  The strawberry runners which I put in yoghurt pots to root have grown out the bottom into the ground,  so they are being transplanted as I find a space.

Next up,  more wine.  Probably starting to pick grapes as from Monday week which gives us the rest of this week to sort out the peas, broad beans and to clean the hippo pond. 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

What a storm!

What a storm we had yesterday afternoon!   It only lasted an hour but so much rain came down.  The electricity had been cutting on and off since about 11am,  and the clouds were gathering,  not so many of the big shiny thunder clouds but just generally murky looking things all around,  both north and south of us.

At 2.30 we were outside in the sun talking to our up the hill neighbours about life,  other neighbours and things happening locally,  soon after we came in the thunder started to rumble and the first spots of rain came.  Then there was lightning,  thunder, really heavy rain,  haven't seen anything like it for years.  It poured off the roof in places in never comes off,  I think the sheer volume made that happen,  it couldn't get down the gulleys.  It filled the garden,  it filled the land round the pool  - yes,  again - and washed dirt and grit in - yes, again.

We were sitting on the terrace during the storm watching the lightning, I was sewing as well and when the thunder cracked overhead it really made me jump!  John was more prepared as he saw the lightning and was ready for it.  And so it went on,  Pip for some reason hadn't made it indoors to her hiding place under the bed,  I didn't realise for a while,  went indoors to check on her,  looked everywhere by torchlight but couldn't find her,  put on a raincoat and went paddling in my flipflops - still in shorts and a t-shirt as it wasn't cold - and found her trembling under the caravan.  She wouldn't come out so I had to leave her there. 

And then the hail started.  Huge hail stones bouncing everywhere,  even in onto the terrace and up onto the table and the doorstep.  Pip appeared then,  probably too  frightened to stay outside on her own.  All the time the thunder cracked and rumbled overhead,  to the north and south,  the lightning flashed all around all the time.  Quite amazing to watch.

But even when the storm finished the electric didn't come back on.  We weren't really surprised,  thought something had probably exploded somewhere, but our neighbours rang to say there was electric in Yátor and they were phoning Antonio to let him know we didn't have any here.  There is a pylon on Era Alta with a transformer,  then another one at the last pylon about 100 metres below us,  after that it goes underground through Montenegro.  About 8pm, maybe a bit later,  Antonio and Rosendo - he was the man in charge of the pylons and cabling when our supply was installed - came up, we heard them stop at the transformer,  then they drove past us but a bit later came back to see if we had electric now.  All the circuit breakers had tripped and the light in the box that shows if we have power in the house was not illuminated.  Even when John reset the breakers,  that didn't light up.  And then we saw why.  It had exploded,  was in bits at the bottom of the box,  there must have been an enormous power surge for that to happen - or so my technical advisor tells me!

So today has been a bit of a clear-up day.  The hump on the pista which catches surface water and channels it into the acequia had also caught mud and stones and was no longer a hump.  That needed redigging.  The rainwater had overflowed the hump and gathered speed on it's way past our gate,  most of it missed the channel down the side of the road that we keep clear for it,  and made some deep gulleys on the bend below us.  We have made a gulley round the edge of the pool  so water will now hopefully run off into the flowerbeds and not muddy the water again.  John reckons there could be a hippo in there and we wouldn't know it's so bad.  Last time it took 10 days and 2 cleans before it was sparkling so I think I've had my last swim of the year, in 10 days time it might be too cool.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Catching up...

Almost a week has passed since I was here - so what's been happening?  Tuesday we realised that we hadn't taken the carpets to be cleaned before the winter comes,  usually they go as soon as they get taken up - when the floors start to feel nice and warm in the spring.  This year we put them into big bags and into the caravan out of the way,  and forgot about them.  We did think about trying to wash them ourselves on a day when the acequias were running,  we could put them into our side garden water storage tank,  but they are pretty heavy when dry and I'm not sure that we'd be able to get them out easily - and then where would we dry them?  The lavandería has big industrial machines and driers,  she charges €10 per carpet,  well worth it.  I collected them yesterday morning.

The mornings have been lovely and clear recently,  some cloud though in the afternoons and thunder rumbled a couple of days but only gave a spot or two of rain.  So swimming still in the afternoons,  except for Tuesday and Friday,  on those days I did some odd jobs indoors that needed doing but hadn't done as  I prefer to be outside when it's nice. 

The sage bushes,  all 7 of them,  have been pruned and the leaves dried and stored in jars.  The celeriac - never managed to grow any before - and this year we've got 5 looking healthy - the book says to take off any leaves growing out sideways and only leave top growth.  I bought the leaves back and googled to see if they had a use and yes.  Bouquet garni,  or chopped small in salads,  or added to stews and soups,  a very strong celery flavour so not much needed.  Yesterday John washed the leaves and shredded them,  then this morning they went in the drier for a few hours,  he just crumbled them up and  they are now stored with all the other herbs. 

I've cleaned the pool this morning and done my normal Monday morning jobs too as there is a notice in the phone box in Yátor warning of a power cut tomorrow morning for 'routine maintenance'.  Not perhaps the first place you'd think of looking for notices, but that's where they are always put,  any information about anything - fiestas,  lottery tickets for Christmas or el Gordo,  meetings,  whatever. 

You may have noticed a sad lack of photos on here,  it's because my camera has died,  given up,  won't stay turned on,  it's four and a half years old,  May 08,  John bought it for me.  When I turn it on now,  the lens zooms out, then in,  and it turns off.  Once this week it stayed on so I reset it back to factory settings just in case something had happened, but it didn't make any difference.   I don't like to throw things away so have put it back in it's box, minus the battery and memory card and I'm going to use one of John's cameras.  Even his smallest camera is not as 'pocket friendly' as mine is - or was - but still,  it's better than nothing. 

The last photo it took - our Autumn Crocus is blooming.  This was taken Friday,  there are now 3 flowers open.  Beautiful.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Pressing the figs.

Fig squeezing time today,  while John was doing things out on the side garden / vegetable patch,  I took the fruit press,  9 buckets of figs,  and assorted paraphernalia outside to do the pressing in the sunshine.  First I did the black figs,  17.5 kilos which has produced 12 litres of wine,  then 33 kilos of white which didn't do quite as much as I'd hoped, but still has given us about 18 litres.  I was hoping for nearer 20 or even 25, but no matter how much the press pressed,  even when John came to do the final squeeze, we couldn't get any more out.

It was hot in the sunshine but I did notice big gleaming thunder clouds coming down from the north,  just got everything washed down and laid out to dry on the seat outside the dining room window,  when thunder started rumbling.  It was lunchtime anyway and there was a loaf of fresh bread waiting for us - thick slices, butter,  cheese and pickle - simple quick and tasty. 

Then the heavens opened,  I rushed out to get in the now dry brewing paraphernalia (have to write it again as it took me 3 goes to get the spelling right!)  then we finished eating our lunch.  Pip disappeared upstairs and hid down the side of the bed,  but has come out now it's all over.  I've tested the wine and now need to add some sugar/water as there isn't much left to ferment with.  (that doesn't sound right but I'm sure you know what I mean)  Extra liquid  will boost the number of litres we get too.

The sun is back out now,  hopefully it'll stay out as September is usually a lovely month.  Not too hot,  not too wet,  around 25 or so every day.  Actually it is 25 today,  just not as sunny as it should be.  Some friends of ours arrived in Spain today,  travelling down from Madrid and getting here next Monday - welcome to sunny Spain!   The weather maps only have the rain down here,  with thunder and localised heavy rain in the provinces of Málaga, Almería, Granada, Murcia and Alicante.  The rest of Spain is clear with temperatures of 27 to 30.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Personal loaves.

Fresh from the bakery....otherwise known as the kitchen.  Made 9 mini brown loaves yesterday and 9 white ones today.  Most of them are in the freezer as, although freshly baked bread is wonderful,  we can't eat that much.  But handy to have for breakfast  or lunch  or dinner.  Or thinly sliced with tapas.  Haven't tried it yet,  but I read that you can make the dough and freeze it in the tin till solid,  transfer to a bag,  thaw as needed and bake as 'fresh'. 

Another 8 kilos of black figs today as well,  I picked while the dogs ate windfalls this morning,  and while the dough was rising I started another batch of wine.  What with the yeast from the bread and the fermenting wine,  the kitchen is smelling just like a brewery!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Anniversary week.

Three anniversaries this week,  yesterday was our 36th wedding anniversary and we took a day off and went out to Berja,  it's about half an hour away,  some nice shops and we planned to wander and have a drink and later on some lunch.  We stopped at the tourist information office to pick up some leaflets of points of interest which we'll tuck into our file of local stuff for when we next have visitors.

This is a recently renovated building on Avenido de Manuel Salmerón  which has been converted into flats,  currently for sale.

The building faces onto Plaza Porticada,  built in 1860,  there are 37 arcos - arches - on the 3 sides of the Plaza.  Some small shops and a bar or two as well.

On with the walk,  found a new supermarket so we had a browse in there, easy to get to by car but not sure about the way out as all roads seemed to lead in the wrong direction for us.  Might try it another time.  But tummies were rumbling by now so we wandered down in the direction of a busy bar.  We had no fixed plans so we ordered a  beer and the waiter bought us a menu,  double sided,  a choice of tapas or  filled rolls or   tostadas and a choice of fish dishes,  with a 'todays special' as well. 

 First up,  mine was a slice of lomo (pork loin)  with alioli (garlic mayo) lettuce, tomato and a few fries,  while John had a home made burger with a fried egg and a few chips.
Second,  mine was a breast of chicken grilled and sliced then drizzled with miel de caña - sugarcane honey.   John had a kebab,  with minced spiced pork and shredded lettuce and onion.

Very tasty,  nice beer,  only 8 euros for the lot.  Well done,  La Tejilla.

A quick supermarket stop in Mercadona for a few essentials then a slow wander up the shady side of Calle del Veintiocho de Febrero on the way back to the car park.  As we went past another nice looking bar with the front open to the street but shady,  we stopped for  another cool drink.

Or red wine in my case,  plus a tapas of green olives that had been marinaded in a spicy oil,  and jamón in bread.  Same price as before, 2 euros each.

Back on our feet and up to Plaza de la Constitutión where the local police station is and next to it is La Iglesia de la Anunciación.  The church was built  after the earthquake (terremoto - what a wonderful word!)  of 1804.  (More pics of Berja are here....)

And then we got back to the car - hot or what!  Started the engine,  aircon on full blast, while we waited in the shade for the inside of the car to get down to some sensible temperature.  Home about 5ish. 

Pepper steaks and a few fries - again! - for dinner and a bought  pudding of profiteroles.  Plus a very very nice bottle of red,  Coto de Imaz Reserva Rioja 2004.  A pressie,  but when I googled it - somewhere between 15 and 19 euros. 

Yesterday was also the 10th anniversary of when we left UK for a different life down here.  The anniversary of our arrival won't be till Sunday as we took a few days driving down,  one day driving then one day off.  So another nice bottle for Sunday night,  but maybe not quite as good as yesterdays.