Thursday, 27 March 2014

Windy Wednesday.

Actually,  the wind started to get a bit blustery on Tuesday evening,  it was much worse in the night,  Pip took fright as she does whenever the wind gets noisy and crept up onto our bed,  but as the sun came up in the morning so the wind went.
We spent a few hours yesterday morning sweeping up the dust,  grit and leaves,  re-stacking chairs,  de-leafing the pool,   we had to rebuild the framework of the largest pea bed which had tilted sideways and a few canes had snapped under the weight of the leaning peas,   the lettuce seedlings that haven't been eaten by whatever it is that's taken a fancy to them,  were protected by upturned 5 litre bottles - we've found most of the bottles but not all of them yet.  Luckily the lettuces were not damaged. The box of pegs and a washing up bowl had somehow managed to fly up over a work surface ( the one where we do almonds) and land down in the courtyard area outside the sheds - pegs everywhere,  the washing up bowl - a plastic one - now split and broken. 

But by about 11am we were back to normal.    And it all started again,  maybe not as strong but not pleasant.  We went indoors and at times it looked like a sandstorm outside.  Dust and stuff swirling round and round.  It stopped again after a few hours and we did cleaned up again.

No surprise to find some tree branches down this morning.   Paco's door curtain was nowhere to be seen so his cats were sunning themselves on the step - usually they hide behind the curtain.

And the light on the Ermita is looking very precarious indeed.  Not sure what is holding it in place at the moment.  

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Twisted wood

Trees grow in a most peculiar way sometimes,   almond trees  grow almost in a spiral which makes it extremely hard to cut,  the branches of a fig tree twist and turn together,  some trees manage to grow from the base of a large rock with roots exposed and no obvious source of water.  

Paco's pear tree split in half a few years ago but amazingly continues to grow and is now in full flower...

This fig tree is growing from a rock base,  close up it's roots look quite strange - you can almost see faces in there.

The twists and turns of a collapsed almond tree....

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Take 1,2,3..

Take 1 large tub of almonds...

1 handy sized stone...

1 sunny spot...

a solid work surface...

and a good dollop of sunlotion...

2 hours later you have...

3 jars of shelled almonds..

and 5 litre cartons of almond shells ready for next years wood burner.

and possibly if you've not been careful,  you have a sore finger or two where you've missed the almond when trying to crack the shell   :(

But after blanching,  we toast the almonds in a little garlic oil with salt, black pepper and cumin.  Yummy  tapas.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Make do and mend...

Something that we have always done,  we don't  throw things out but we keep them because the day will come - eventually - that one of us says  'have you seen such and such, I could use it right now'.  Of course you have to have space for all the 'one day' items!

This week has been a mending week:  going back 10 years almost to the day,  we bought three sets of garden furniture,  each set had a square glass topped table and two chairs.  Very comfy chairs,  sort of basket weave bases, but plasticky man-made fabric that only lasted just over a year before disintegrating.  (It's the heat and sun that does it)  John made new seats from wood,  not as comfy but sturdy and long lasting.  But he only fixed  2 of the seats,  just to see how they'd be and stored the rest of the wood for finishing the other chairs later.  Later has now arrived!  But of course by now all the frames are showing their age and are going rusty,  so we have started to sand down all the frames,  he is then painting them with silver metal paint - it's what we had - and putting on the newly sanded and wood preserved slats.

The other mend this week has been the top blue pool.  It's a paddling pool, circular,  about 8 feet in diameter so holds lots of water,  and has a blow-up top ring.  We bought it back in the summer of 2007 when some friends were visiting with 3 young children and our pool/deposito wasn't finished.  Since 2008 it has been up on the top veg terrace as water storage.  Unfortunately during one of this winter's windy days some twiggy prunings blew from who knows where and landed in the pool, when I found them and fished them out there were lots of little nicks in the blow-up part.  Despite trying to find the holes,  mending 5 of them and pumping up the ring,  we realised there were more holes than we had patches for.  So the end of the pool we thought,  it can't hold water without an inflated ring, it just collapses in on itself.  But John had a brainwave.  Cans of expanding foam squirted into the ring!   And it worked!   He squirted in 4 cans this morning,  they've almost filled the entire ring and as the water was running we've filled the pool up this afternoon.   And only €3.50 a can - far, far cheaper than a replacement pool. 

And then I wondered where the phrase 'make do and mend' came from.  I guessed the 2nd world war,  which it did,  and I've found this site called Victoryliving which has all sorts of info about gardening,  recipes,  preserving and of course a make do and mend section.  So I'm  off to browse it - who knows what else we might be able to do with our 'one day' things!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

High hopes.

What seems a long time ago,  maybe 6 or 7 years or so,  I saw on a local market what I thought was fresh ginger but it was Jerusalem Artichoke.  Never heard of it or even eaten it,  at least not that I remember,  but I didn't buy any.

A couple of years ago some friends of ours who like us have  problems growing root vegetables,  said that they were growing Jerusalem Artichokes without any trouble.  So I looked in my tried and trusted veg book  'The New Kitchen Garden'  - there will be an Amazon link  to it on the pop up ads to the left of this.....and yes it would appear to be one of the better root veg for us.

Then fast forward to early December last year when on the market in Ugijar I saw them for sale again.  At least this time I knew they would (probably) grow on our land but still hadn't ever tasted them.  So I bought a kilo - 1 euro - and first we peeled, boiled and mashed a large knobbly bit,  then another large piece we peeled and roasted alongside our Sunday roast.  We both enjoyed the roasted version better,  the flavour seemed richer, more intense.  The other 7 pieces I put into potting compost  to hopefully over-winter and a few weeks ago we started to water them. 

Yesterday  we tipped out the roots and lo and behold they had started to grow!  Lots of roots from each piece so up to the top terrace we went and planted them in a row in front of  a fence.  In a row,  because they should - fingers crossed - grow to about 2 or even 2.4 metres high and they will be an good screen.  Sometimes the plant is known as a Sun Choke,  all to do with its name....  Helianthus tuberosus. 

This from Wikipedia:

Despite its name, the Jerusalem artichoke has no relation to Jerusalem, and it is not a type of artichoke, though both are members of the daisy family. The origin of the name is uncertain. Italian settlers in the USA called the plant girasole, the Italian word for sunflower, because of its resemblance to the garden sunflower (note: both the sunflower and the sunchoke are part of the same genus: Helianthus). Over time, the name girasole may have been changed to Jerusalem.  The English later corrupted girasole artichoke (meaning, “sunflower artichoke”) to Jerusalem artichoke.  Another explanation for the name is that the Pilgrims, when they came to the New World, named the plant with regard to the “New Jerusalem” they believed they were creating in the wilderness.

 However there maybe a slight side effect which you may not want to know about,  their nickname is 'fartichokes'  as explained here:    

In 1621 the writer John Goodyer wrote of the Jerusalem Artichoke, “…in my judgement, which way soever they be drest and eaten they stir up and cause a filthie loathsome stinking winde with the bodie, thereby causing the belly to bee much pained and tormented…. more fit for swine, than men.

So they are planted,  they should grow,  we will enjoy them and if there is a side effect,  I won't say.

But as to the high hopes, all to do with the height of the plant and the lovely 'sun' flowers that we will be able to see.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

First fruit and nuts

Some photos today of early flowers,  fruits and  nuts.

The bank of iris which have been in full flower for a while now...

Some tiny almonds against the most amazing blue sky....

The durillo (Viburnum tinus) is an evergreen shrub which has tiny almost yellow flowers at the moment,  is humming with bees,  and later in the year it produces little black berries...

The first figs and leaves are appearing too.... early season figs - about June  -  are called brevas  whereas the main summer crop  which we pick during  August and September are called higos

Flowers on the bay tree...

And the rosemary bushes are covered in blossom and bees too.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The village veg lorry.

The winter winds went away at the end of last week,  we went shopping on Friday morning down to Berja and the sun shone all day,  although we decided it was still a little chilly to be eating outside and came home for a late lunch.  In the sun it's hot,  in the shade - not hot.  Basically the air temperature is still too low.  We've  spent  the last few days doing stuff outside,  except for Saturday when we went in to watch the rugby.    Sunday was watering day,  the peas  are covered with pods and needed a good drink plus there were enough to pick for dinner that night,  the land is very dry as we haven't had that much rain this winter.  Monday and Tuesday we have been sanding and painting outside walls plus a bit of cementing for John finishing off some walls.  You know how it is,  things get started but they don't always get completely finished for one reason or another.  It gets too hot to be working outside,  or  it's an exposed corner and cold if windy,  but eventually the day comes when little jobs get tidied up.

During my garden tidying I found some small almond trees.  Considering that we don't always pick every almond and they drop off  it's surprising that more don't grow.  They do have extremely hard shells and are difficult to crack,  but  given time in the ground I suppose the shells must soften and split - or else the root and shoot are very strong and force their way out!   I found 6 small trees this week which I dug out and transplanted along the fence on our top terraces.  This one still has it's nut and shell attached..

Wednesday is the day that the fruit and veg lorry comes to Yátor,  except last week when we needed some veg - potatoes and onions mainly - and he didn't come.  Normally about 11am we hear him - there is an air horn on  the lorry that is very loud,  loud enough for us to hear.  This morning as expected I heard the first blast,  went down for courgettes,  aubergines,  peppers,  cabbage,  tomatoes and sweet potatoes.   Just 1 cabbage,  a kilo of tomatoes and 2 of every thing else.  Not 2 much as he'd like to sell me things by the kilo we can't eat that much.   Then it was the usual...   ¿qué más?   (which translates as 'what more?")  and he rattled off a list of everything on the lorry in case I hadn't seen what there was while I waited for the old dears in their dressing gowns to do their weekly shopping.   

Yes,  dressing gowns during the day are quite a normal sight in the village,  going out in your slippers is even more common and last time I bought some slippers I was asked if I wanted house slippers or campo slippers  (campo being country)

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Winter winds.

Winter -  it comes at different times of the year depending on where you live and we are sometimes asked when our winter months are.   Not when you'd expect really,  we were used to the English winter months until we came here and were pleasantly surprised to find that October,  November,  December and even January can be sunny  enough for t-shirts in the daytime  -  surprisingly warm once the sun is up.  Night time temperatures are another matter entirely and heating - wood burners for us - are on from the end of October till the end of March at least. 

Our most unpredictable months are February and March,   it can be really windy,  really cold and snowy (although long time readers will remember pictures of heavy snow one year on Nov 30th soon after this blog started...)  we get days and days of greyness and drizzle - or we might get days and days of blue sky and sunshine - basically we just take each day as it comes,  we look out the window in the morning and decide after coffee what to do that day.

This week has been one of those weeks,  really windy last Friday - our neighbours were here and trying to do some tidying up on their land but the branches and twigs were blowing away as fast as they tried to pile them up.    Saturday was just grey, a bit drizzley at times but mostly grey,  then the winds came and howled all night long.  Sunday was sunny and after  sweeping up,  restaking the peas for the umpteenth time  and skimming the blossom and leaves from the pool it was an enjoyable day.  Breezy but not bad.  Monday the winds started again just as I was pegging out the washing -  8 pegs on each sheet  to hold them down some of which pinged off and I found on the floor of  the pool. 

Thursday almost 2 weeks ago now,  I took Monty  to the vet for his annual vaccinations - he now has this year's pale blue disc on his collar to show he is up to date with the rabies jab,  last years disc was a raspberry pink colour.   Soon after we got home we heard the familiar sounds of a digger  rumbling and clanging - the pista was being cleaned.  Man and machine  had worked their way down from Yegen filling in the dips and gullies and levelling humps  and arrived here just before 6pm.   By the time the digger had gone past us and levelled from here down to the start of the concrete road,  it was definitely dusk.  We had our outside lights on and he still had to drive back up to Yegen.   Long days work. 

Despite the winds the spring flowers are not damaged.  Most of our  almond blossom had already  finished and we have baby almonds on the  trees already.  A bank of white iris are in full bloom by the shed,  the freesias are blooming in their tub as are the grape hyacinths.  Some plants never seem to stop flowering though....