Friday, 29 November 2013

Black Friday?

Apparently today is also known as Black Friday,  the Friday  after Thanksgiving in America regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.   And now this seems to have come to other parts of the world.    We don't often watch tv,  in fact the last time we had the television on was for the Wimbledon men's finals...... but we do read the news on-line and so keep up with current events, even if they don't always seem to have much relevance to our day to day life.

So this morning,  lots of stuff in the papers about Black Friday,  special deals in the shops,  people apparently trying to buy more than they could - one discounted item each - and some problems.

We had to go into Cadiar today to meet some very kind people who are lending us baby stuff for over the Christmas holidays, thanks to Anna we have a cot,  thanks to Ruth we have a car seat,  also we needed to replace the windscreen wipers  (23 euros for all 3,   and fitted)  Although they  don't get much use  - lack of rain and we don't go out much - we are due to take the car for its ITV (MOT) soon and they needed changing.

And then on to the fruit and veg shop.  Which is what got me thinking about buying in bulk and cheaply.  I joined the queue,  quién es la última  (who is last?)   I asked ...  the man at the front came with his own crate for his shopping,  he got it weighed and then asked about the price of the apples.  2 euros for 3 kilos.  He got a crate full of apples,  12.5 kilos!!   Big family?  Lots of cooking to do?  It does you make you wonder!  

And then my turn,  a bag full of onions,  4 or 5 kilos, whatever fits,  it doesn't matter. 

 Ginger ?  yes. 

 Limas? (limes)   I need 12.   ¿Cuántos  (How many)   you need 12??  

Now when the man in front asked for a crate full of apples - 12 kilos - not a raised eyebrow.  But when I asked for 12 limes I got the 'how many?' raised eyebrow question.  Maybe he doesn't know about our lime pickle recipe,    he doesn't know what he is missing!

So this afternoon another sunny walk,  only 11 in the shade but lovely in the sun out walking.  The big billy goat was making the most of the mulberry tree by the chapel....

and there is the first dusting of snow on Sierra Gador....

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Menu del dia.

In the days of old,  before the new super fast roads came,  the roads were narrow and windy and went from village to village,  not always the quickest of journeys but never very busy either.  Now the roads are straight and fast,  still not much traffic but  you have to make a deliberate effort to see the villages now,  no doubt that they are much quieter places but the local shops and restaurants must surely have noticed a difference.

One such village is Cherín,  there is a restaurant on the edge of the village that we have stopped at a few times in the past for menu del dia,  it was always very busy - not so busy that we've had to wait for a table, but the restaurant tables overflowed into the bar area last time we were there.  But since the new road has by passed the village we  haven't stopped.  Until today.  We were on our way back from Berja,  it was almost 2pm so lunchtime here,  John suggested we stop and see if they were still in business. 

Looking across to Cherín

Only a couple of cars plus one articulated lorry outside,  half a dozen people eating, so plenty of room for us.  One thing that hasn't changed is the menu,  not what you have as a choice but how you are told about it.  Nothing written down,  but rattled off at high speed by the waitress. 

First question,  do you want salad?  yes please.  Next question,  and to drink?  Water, wine or beer?  It doesn't matter which you order,  you get a litre of it and drink as much as you like.  So we had wine,  local rosado,  very nice.  First plate is either - and here we can only remember 3 dishes,  arroz (rice),  asparagus with garlic mayo and salad (for me)  and  bacalao (salt cod) with vegetables (for him).

Second plate is either pork chops (me),   steak (him),   salmonete (red mullet),   costilla (ribs) in sauce or a la plancha (grilled),   calamares (squid),   a fried fish platter,  or  an alpujarran platter which includes jamón, morcilla (like a black pudding) usually an egg and everything comes with chips.  Plus a large basket of fresh bread.

And if you've managed all that then there is pudding,  arroz con leche (rice pud to you and me but cold)  cheese cakes, chocolate tarts,  whisky tart,  tiramisu,  flan (creme caramel-ish)  and when you've finished that,   don't forget there is coffee.

The biggest surprise of all that though is when you ask for the bill.  10 euros each.  For 3 courses,  salad,  bread,  just about all you can drink,  and coffees. 

Needless to say we are not thinking of cooking tonight! 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sunshine and frost!

We have had a lovely warm autumn,  even now if you're out in the sun,  it's glorious.  So not surprisingly there seems to be some confused plants.  A clump of iris that normally bloom in May  or June,  have decided to bloom again.  Only  one clump,  quite a shady clump,  none of the others are showing any signs of thinking that it's spring again.

A view taken from the pista on our way up to Yegen the day before yesterday,  sometimes the sun just shines in the right place and you can see so many hills and valleys and colours.

We all went yesterday afternoon for a stroll in the sunshine,  Monty got so hot that he laid down in the running water up at the fuente,  and even Pip paddled with all four feet which is unlike her.  She normally stands with one foot on dry land,  or holds one foot up as if poised to run.

And then this is morning it was oh so cold.   4.5°.    I even thought about gloves, especially when we reached the big fig junction where we go left on the GR7 towards the fuente.  Very white and frosty on the open land and the long grass at the side of the footpath.  But no frost here,  only 200 metres or so difference in distance,  I suppose we are just that little bit more sheltered and that little bit lower.

Sunrise this morning...

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Goats and gloomy skies.

After our walk the day before yesterday,  both Monty and Pip now stand looking hopeful after lunch,  as soon as I'd folded the washing yesterday afternoon they rushed around and around the front garden,  in and out of the house,  getting more and more excited.  And that was before I'd got a woollie on or shoes!   But the sun was shining and I had no plans for the next hour so off we went up to the cemetery at Yegen.  John was busy tiling shelves in the kitchen and I didn't want to stop him.....

A lonely almond tree

Surprisingly warm out walking in the sunshine,  I tied my woollie round my waist as I didn't need it.  I bumped into one of the Paco's,  he asked how we were,  said he'd been watering his olive trees,  and how are they I asked?   Lot's of olives this year?  A shake of the head and a nod,  yes there are olives, but all bad,  full of bichos (insects),  dry and already dropping onto the ground with every gust of wind that blows.  He always comes and harvests his olives,  leaves the sacks at the corner by the big fig and Eduardo  from the olive mill comes up to collect them. 

We had a nice quiet walk up in the sun.    We went just past the cemetery  as there is usually an acequia running,  water for the dogs if they need it,  and on the corner is a tree with extremely large leaves.  The tree itself is not big,  maybe 2.5 metres tall and wide,  but the leaves.....well,  here is one with my hand for comparison.  Any ideas what tree it could be?

A change in the weather today though,  no blue skies in fact the sky is extremely dark towards the north and getting darker.

However we have been for a walk although not as far as yesterday.  Up to the fuente and back.  First though we had to get past the 4 billy goats gruff!  Big billy goat reared up on his back legs but then ran into the bushes as far as he could get as he was tied to a plant.  One of the others ran up the opposite bank as far as she could with her rope tied to a clump of grass,  but baby billy goat didn't stray far from it's mum and she was tied to the lamp post. 

The 3 billy goats,  and Christmas dinner  :(

However on the way back they all tried to run away,  the 2 tied to grassy clumps managed to pull themselves free and the baby ran all over the place till we were past. I went to tell Paco his goats were free but he'd heard the bells jingling frantically and said not to worry, they wouldn't go far.   You've another one,  I said,  quite young.  Oh yes,  that's for Christmas he replied.  Oh no!  So cute!    No, that's life,  he said.

I think we'll stick with an oven-ready  turkey for Christmas dinner.   I couldn't do that,  fatten  it and then eat it.  I like my meat to be anonymous;   dead,  boned and skinned,  not quite shrink-wrapped and bar-coded,  but not far off. 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Getting cooler...

Cold but sunny today,  ok if you're outside doing something and good enough to dry the washing but not warm enough to sit in,  John took his cup of tea outside after lunch but didn't stay out long,  I'm not sure what got cold first - him or the tea.   And when I asked if he was coming out for a walk this afternoon he didn't seem to think it was quite what he wanted to do.   Of course Monty and Pip thought it was a wonderful idea and leapt and bounced while I got a woollie on and my boots and we set off for the stream that runs below el Golco.

The clouds had started to gather by then,  these were off to the west of us,  space ship clouds usually mean big winds high up.

Out of sight of Montenegro the path starts to curve round the hillside and dip down to the river where there are lots of poplars - álamo - all changing colour now.  On down to the stream which seems to be running deeper than last time we went,  the banks seem more cut away and there are huge clumps of reeds growing by the sides.  We haven't had any heavy rain since the 3rd week of September but a lot of water will have passed through on it's way down from the mountains so that's probably caused the deeper sides.  We did manage to get down to a shallow edge though,  paddling for Pip and wallowing for Monty.

We lit the first fire of the winter the night before last,  the mornings have been getting much chillier and over the last week the temperatures have dropped a degree or so each day,  this morning it was only 4.7 on the terrace and we haven't reached double figures during the day for 3 or 4 days now.  Luckily the sun has been shining,  and shines in the lounge and dining room windows all day which helps keep the house warm.  But by sunset - time to light up.

We were lucky enough to be given - or rather we could take the wood if we did the work - all the eucalyptus wood when Miguel wanted his tree cut down this summer.  I expected it to dry out quickly which it seems to have done,  but also to then be very lightweight and to burn quickly,  unlike olive and almond which are very dense and burn slowly.  But we've used it the last couple of nights and haven't used any more chunks than we normally would.  Which is a pleasant surprise as it means it'll last longer than expected.  We do have almond and olive logs as well,  but they are all at the bottom of the wood pile,  our intention was to mix the woods but somehow that didn't happen. 

I found the website for the Sierra Nevada ski station again yesterday and looked at the webcams.  Not surprisingly there is snow up there,  here's the link to the main page,  and from there you can find lots of info about the place.  Maps of the ski runs,  weather forecast - cold -  and on the webcam page is a short video of the area. 


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Autumn in Montenegro

Up until yesterday afternoon,  the skies have been clear and blue,  then the forecast changed and at 3pm we got the first spots of rain.  It drizzled all evening,  never very heavy rain,  just what we call nice rain that soaks in and does the ground some good.

We picked the first of the runner beans for dinner last night,  but the huge runner bean terrace on the way up to Yegen is now being cleared out,  half the caña is out and in bundles for storing,  although there still looks to be some greenery on the plants that are still to be removed.

Our neighbour's quince tree is still unpicked,  the branches bending under the weight of the fruit - it seems a shame for it to go to waste but we have enough made into chutney,  frozen for puddings and pureed to use instead of apple sauce.  There is only so much you can do with fruit and only so much you can store.

And now at last the trees are beginning to change colour and drop their leaves,  I took these photos yesterday morning.

But for these poor specimens,  well there isn't a lot left,  someone has started pruning - if that's the right word - their olive trees.  Normally the tree is 'doughnutted',  the middle branches are taken out for the light to get in and for ease of harvesting,  sometimes though the trees are so big they are taken down to the stump and the new growth from the base is left to grow big and strong.  This seems to be something totally different though!   Maybe they haven't quite finished,   but what were  lovely olive green rows of trees are now bright white stumps.  

Sunday, 10 November 2013

I'm back!

You may have noticed that I've not been here and that's because I've been to England to see family.......

The sun was there too,  as were some gorgeous autumn colours as the leaves are changing,  I took an umbrella as a precaution and it only rained once,  that of course was the afternoon I left it indoors - I hadn't needed it so far and it's just one more thing to carry - and so the heavens opened!  Is that Sod's law?  What can go wrong will go wrong,  or some such phrase.

Back home yesterday via an overcrowded, under stocked supermarket.  Seemed to have caught them in the middle of the Christmas shelf stocking-up.  Nothing was where I expected it to be,  there were Christmas goodies where I thought the  sultanas used to live,  there were Christmas goodies where the beer should be,  I found that on the pet food aisle! At least Christmas comes to the shops later here,  I read that it appears in some UK shops even before Halloween and November 5th bonfire night.

So today I've done the washing - or rather loaded the machine twice - watered the chillies, peppers,  celeriac,  beans, peas and strawberries (you don't want to know do you?  another half kilo,  sliced, sugared and Muscateled for dessert tonight)  The runner beans are now beaning and the peas are way above their first supporting strings so I need to put another row of string on.  The peas I planted on the 31st October are just appearing today.  John's kohlrabi seedlings are looking very healthy as are his lettuce seedlings and coriander plants so we are going to plant them out this week.  We watered their new beds this afternoon,  so the ground will be nice and damp and warm for them.

Also currently ripening are our pomegranates,  and they are huge!  The trees are not that big and the branches are not that strong and so they are bowing (boughing?) maybe bending is better but whatever,  the branches have bent under the weight.   I like them,  and have eaten 3 so far,  last year we made grenadine but don't use it very often and don't need to make any more,  so it's a race to see who can eat them first, me or the birds.  As soon as they've split open the birds get in there pecking but - and  I must check this before I pick too many - I think they keep for quite a while if picked when ripe but not split.

Talking of warmth,  still 18 in the shade today, John says it's been like it all week as well,  and the forecast isn't any different.  So no heating on yet,  the windows are open all day to let the sun in and keep the temperature up indoors,  long may this last!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Who turned the temperature down?

We don't notice much difference when the clocks change apart from the sun coming up an hour earlier,  that makes Monty and Pip more alert earlier and of course it gets darker earlier.  But normally the temperatures stay pretty much the same,  apart from this week that is.  My normal routine is to get up,  pull on shorts and t-shirt,  take the dogs out while John sorts out the coffee,  opens windows etc,  and it was like that until Tuesday morning. 

On with the shorts and t-shirt,  socks and trainers,  extra woollie around my waist in case,  and out the front door.  Woo!  Cold legs!  Looked at the thermometer and instead of the 16 to 18 recent overnight temperatures, it said 12.  And on bare legs,  that   6 degree drop was chilly.

It was back to normal by the time the sun came over the trees,  and we had our coffee on the terrace as normal,  but by 6pm when the sun went down over the hill,  who turned off the heating?  Just the sun going makes so much difference. 

So now I go out in the morning in trousers, down to  10° this morning  :(  change into shorts for the sunny (in the shade temp)  of 18°  :)  back into trousers at night.  Carpets down on the floors for the winter months as of yesterday morning,  autumn must be coming soon although still no rain, wind or leaves down. 

The last of the summer grapes are in,  we thought we'd done them all apart from the not-yet-black ones,  and they still weren't black but by the end of October how can they ripen any more?  So out we went with the buckets and mangle and now have the final final final picking - about 35 kilos - hopefully 25 to 30 litres more once pressed.

The runner beans have run up their poles and along the  cross supports, some are up into the olive trees and most are in flower so hopefully beans will be coming along soon.  The second batch of peas are in,  with the first lot clinging onto their criss-cross support strings.  

Strawberries......I know....boring isn't it!   But another 700 grams today. Doesn't seem too many when you're just picking them but then you think, now what?  This year we've dried, frozen,  pulped, lollied,  wined,  vodka'd,  had with cream,  with ice cream,  jammed,  crumbled,  sponge puddinged, had as part of a fruit salad,  eaten just as they are straight from the plant......have I forgotten any versions?   So this weekend back to the strawberry almond crumble with cream.   Bad for the waistline but oh so tasty.