Sunday, 29 December 2013

A snapshot of our Christmas

So that was Christmas week -  mostly sunny and bright and quite warm,   except for the day itself when it was wet and windy.  We weren't the only ones to have wet and windy weather in the world,  family in Sydney had rain too,  as did UK,  at least we only had one brief 10 minute power cut.  Airi had just plugged the hairdryer in when the lights went out - she thought she'd blown up something but it wasn't her or the drier just the weather.

A week in pictures...
 .... the angel is firmly back on her perch at the top of the tree now

...lights over the arch and along the grape vines

...Monday 23rd in the afternoon,  exploring the wind damaged tomato and chilli plants

...Christmas eve lunchtime,  early start for the Santa hats,  although Elliott wasn't convinced it was a good idea.

...Christmas day in the morning,  the first presents,  wheels are so fascinating!

 ....woolly jumper number 1 for me,

 ...and a cashmere one  from M&A,  plus a magic jacket for John - it rolls up into a tiny bag!

...and a fluffy jumper for Airi

The evening of Boxing Day we were all invited to a buffet supper at a friends' house in Yátor,  there were 12 of us plus Elliott and their 10 year old son,  who luckily for Elliott had a nice red shiny sturdy car that he pushed around the carpet and turned it over to spin its wheels.  Lots of hot tasty food - chilli,  jacket potatoes,  chicken,  salad,  cheeses and biscuits,  patés,  and a large sherry trifle.  Not much left after we'd all had a plateful or two...

We left them at 10pm to get Elliott into bed although he was still going strong and playing.

Next day,  tree pruning in the sunshine,

...a beer break in the afternoon of the 27th - we'd been pruning the olive tree and cutting up the branches - hot thirsty work!   Elliott was supervising from his high chair under the sun umbrella.

 ...and then yesterday the 28th we went down to Salobreña in the morning - as you can see it was windy and grey, both the sea and sky.

 ...but looking in the opposite direction,  the sea is really blue. 

 ... then lunchtime.  We went to La Bodega de Salobreña,  within walking distance of the bus stop as M&A had booked the bus to Malaga for their evening flight to Paris.

 ...pez espada a la plancha  (swordfish) for Airi

 ...tortilla gambas  (prawn omelette) for me

 ...and 2 plates of solomillo de cerdo  (pork fillet) for J and M

add a drink each,  then a bottle of house red at 7 euros and we shared a bill of 62 euros.

We waved them off on the bus and did a little restocking at the supermarket before coming home.  By the time we'd put the shopping away  the clouds had lifted and the sky was blue but only just warm enough to sit out and catch the last dying rays for an evening drink.

Today we have a very confused Pip dog.  Monty took very little notice of a baby crawling round the carpet,  walking along holding onto the furniture, or sitting playing with toys,  whereas Pip seemed to think Elliott was another puppy.   He didn't know what to make of her either,  but was happy to watch them from  his highchair.   She got very distressed when he cried, followed him when he was crawling around,  when he headed off into our bedroom she followed him,  circling around almost as if she was making sure he was ok.  Today she keeps going into their bedroom and looking for them,  but they aren't there.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas clean up again

It started off as quite a nice day yesterday,  washing out on the line early,  then came a few spots of rain - just enough to get the washing put into the tumble drier - then we had a heavier shower, but after lunch it cleared up and we were back to blue skies and a nice sunny walk up to Yegen.

During the morning I got the Christmas decorations out and put the tree up on the terrace as normal,  it looked really pretty even in daylight and even better at night.

Then at about 5 o'clock the sky went  dark,  a breeze started,  then it went windy, and windier,  and windier.  We did our usual batten down the hatches routine,  stacking chairs,  moving garden tables to a safer place - we know just what to expect now.  And boy,  did the wind blow last night!!!  It battered and howled round the house from sunset till sun rise.  It kept me awake for much of the night,  I laid there wondering where we'd find stuff this morning.  Would the tree still have any decorations left?  What about the angel on the top - where would she have ended up?  The tree itself is bolted down onto a secure base so that didn't concern me,  and we've had windy nights before when the tree has been up,  but there's a first time for everything!

As it happened, the angel had only fallen under the tree,  a few ornaments had come unhooked and were also on the floor,  but what a lot of leaves everywhere!  Every corner of the terrace,  under the table, down the stairs, in my trainers, I eventually swept up a sackful!  And then another sackful floating on the pool, the carefully stacked chairs were definitely not stacked any more and weren't far away from falling in the pool with the leaves.  The table was upside in a flower bed,  the watering cans had blown down a terrace - and we'd left them full up so they wouldn't move.  I have no idea what strength the wind was and am just so glad that although it lasted for 12 hours or so,  it doesn't happen very often.

So that's why it's clean up day again.  I was going to make mince pies this morning but will do them tomorrow instead.

And if I don't get time to write between now and next Wednesday - a very happy Christmas to everyone.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The end of an almond tree.

We don't have many almond trees on our land but the ones we do have produce big,  fat, quite roundish shaped almonds.  They are a variety known as Marcona,  special to Spain but getting more popular apparently elsewhere according to this cookery site.   There is more about the marcona  here  as well.  The other trees around us produce a much smaller narrow nut and they are harder to shell.  Harder because of the way we shell.  We haven't yet found a nut cracker that will break an almond shell,  the nut cracker gives up first,  the locals - well,  you see them with a small hammer and the almond on maybe a stone,  or a very old well seasoned log stood on it's end,   I've found somewhere over the past years a very handy hand-sized stone,  and I crack the nuts outside  on the  concrete top by the sheds.  All works well usually,  the concrete top has nut shaped divets now in it,  but the small narrow nuts are more difficult to line up and more often than not,  I'll end up with a sore finger where the cracking stone has caught my skin.

The nearest tree to the house is also the nuttiest and easiest to reach as it grows by the sheds and overhangs the roofs.  Or should that be rooves?  But it is also the only almond tree that always,  without fail,  gets an infestation of aphids,  sticky stuff,  ants and wasps every spring and on through the summer.  And so every year we spray  the tree with a soap and water mix,   it seems to work for a few days and the wasps go away,  then back it all comes again.  We get through a lot of washing up liquid!

And so going in and out of the shed is not pleasant,  especially for me as I have an allergy to wasp stings and swell alarmingly if stung,  the ground under the tree is just awful and sticky,  we made a flat work area to do small jobs,  maybe potting plants,  but can't use it,  so this year we decided that as soon as the almonds were off, and the leaves had fallen,  we'd cut it down and find a better use for it as firewood.

But the leaves still haven't fallen and now there are flower buds on it!   But better late than never,  so down it came on Wednesday.  All cut up into wood burner sized logs,  split if needed,    and the sticks and twiggy bits all put for drying as good fire-starters.  Should give us an extra good few weeks of warmth.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

ITV time again

Today has been another ITV day,   the ITV (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos)   here being the equivalent of the UK  MOT annual car inspection,   except that here it's not annually until your car is 10 years old,  before that it's every 2 years,  unless you have something that is a small van or furgoneta,  when the rules are different.  It's not easy living here you know! 

We'd booked a test time of 11.30,  got to the test station at Orgiva at just  gone 11.15,  hoped to be seen early,  but even though no-one else was going through the process,  we waited and were called exactly on time.  And sailed through,  out in just over 10 minutes with this year's sticker for the windscreen. 

I'd hoped for some photos of blue skies and snowy topped mountains,  blue skies yes,  but snowy tops no.  Just a dusting of white stuff way up high.   Coming home though was a flock of goats heading up a steep hillside,  following the contours of the hill.

Can you see them?  Just above the 'orange'  tree? 

This afternoon we've been tidying up stuff,  the mulberry has finally given up some of it's leaves,  and we raked a sack and a half of leaves for the compost heap.  Also the walnut is dropping nuts and leaves - we picked up a couple of dozen nuts and picked more from the tree.  Most are good,  there is the odd one that is black and yucky inside which will go into the compost.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A date for my diary...

but not that sort of date.  

We have 4 palm trees outside our house,  each year they produce some kind of a long, flat pods which open up into lots of small 'flowers' for want of a better word.  Small,  pale,  almost rubbery feeling buds.  Eventually the whole branch-like pod thing dries up and the next year the trees do it all again.  Next door however,  their palm trees produce a long pod which opens up and from it hang loads and loads of green, large, coffee- bean -shaped seeds.  They always drop off,  usually after they've gone brown but are always dried up.  We've always assumed that they are the seed.

Until this summer,  when we were next door talking to Miguel and Marie-Carmen and he said that the datiles still weren't ready even though they were dropping onto the ground and some were brown.  Datiles?  You mean dates that we can eat?  10 years living next door and I didn't know we had fresh dates growing!  Wait till they're brown - and we are assuming they also have to be sticky feeling like the ones you see in the shops - and then help yourselves.

So we are waiting and waiting.  Today they looked like this -

going brown maybe, but not there yet.

This time last year,  well actually November,  we discovered that the nispero tree that we'd thought was a medlar,  was actually a lumquat.  Wonder what we will find out next year!

Odd things flowering still,  the iris now has even more blooms on it and yesterday I found this honeysuckle in flower! 

Last but not least,  sunrise this morning.  There was a thin cloud below Sierra Gador,  hugging the ground,  with the sun coming up as we went out for our walk at 8.15.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Autumn wine colours

We thought we'd have a tidy up of the wine shelf this afternoon - although a lot of the wine was in 25 litre barrels which obviously were on the floor as they are far too heavy to lift onto the shelf.

3 hours later......we've siphoned, sterilised, re-bottled,  tasted and tasted again just to be sure everything was good and have now got all the various wines into slightly more manageable bottles.  Some are still in 25 litre barrels,  some in 10's,  some in 5's,  and a few in ex lemonade 1.5 litres.

It's  a good job that we don't throw these empties away because as we siphoned the wines off their settled yeasty base,  we stopped and said well, if that goes into that one, then we can clean that and put that one into 2 fives,  this one can then go into that one when its been cleaned out......and then we had to try and keep track of which wine was where, we made several different batches of white over a month, then rosado, then "the last of the summer wine" which is slightly pink but fruity.

Confused?  So were we!  But it's done,  its all been labelled,  there's a bottle or two of white and rosado ready for drinking and a glass in front of me as I write this.

And as you walk into the kitchen,  facing you is this very colourful shelf.

Pear,  strawberry,  black fig,  white grape,  rosado,  with white fig and 'the last of the summer' mixed grapes behind and the 10's and 25's - mostly white and rosado - lined up in front of the shelves on the floor.  All in all,  about 240 litres or so.  We'll try not to drink it too fast!