Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Basking, baking and bathing.

All related to the hot sunny weather that we've got at the moment,  apart from a blip on Easter Sunday when it got blustery and then rained all night,  it's been glorious.   26 on the terrace early this afternoon,   I've been swimming twice a day - once just before lunch to freshen up and again later in the afternoon.

Far more birds around now too,  the swallows have been swooping for a few weeks and about a week ago we saw the first flash of gold and heard the song of the Golden Oriole - such a pretty summer song.  We have a pair of goldfinches nesting in our front garden olive tree this year too which we haven't had before.  We've seen them around but not nesting so close.

The dogs are on their summer schedule now as well which means up earlier,  walk before it gets too hot,  then lie in the sun  (how? black dogs?  surely too hot?)   for most of the day..... them,  not us,  lying in the sun that is,  although I do lie out to dry off after swimming.

The little  lizards with long greeny-blue tails that scurry around the terraces,  into the bushes or up the walls are also basking in this weather.  As are the geckos or salamandras which bask in the sun too.  They hang on the walls in the sun but move very quickly if anything goes near them. 

The vegetable patches are doing well in this warm weather too,  kohlrabi,  beetroot,  radish all  up and looking good.  The lettuces and rocket give us enough whenever we need salad,  even the garlic and potatoes are looking good and we don't normally bother growing them as they are so cheap (and better) than we can do.  However 2 lots of potatoes recently sprouted before we could eat them and the garlic did the same back in the winter,  so we plant rather than throw out.   All 7 Jerusalem Artichokes are up and healthy,  I planted out the 5 biggest squash plants this afternoon,  and tomorrow the first dwarf Borlotto beans are going in.  Eventually 26 out of 30 sweetcorn germinated and are planted out,  not sure what to expect,  maybe 2 or 3 cobs per plant?    The last pea plantation is still producing enough to eat and freeze but maybe not for much longer, not many flowers on them now.

Strawberries....over a kilo in the last 3 days and so many flowers, small fruits and almost ripe ones to come.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

A tangle of peas.

Planting peas is quite straightforward,  dig the bed,  plant the seeds,   push in the canes,  add string round the outside and criss-cross the middle to support the peas as they grow.  Add more rows of string as needed.

But now the first 2 plantings have finished podding and we need the space for the next lot of summer vegetables.  So while John was busy doing his outside jobs,  I went up to the pea beds yesterday morning to take them apart.  I expected to be able to do a reverse job,  start from the top and take off the strings,  layer by layer,  pull out the canes,  pull out the finished with pea plants  and that would be it.  But things don't always happen as you expect. 

One pea bed had collapsed in the first winter winds and we'd had to re-string and re-stake,  this meant that it was all tangled up and took forever to get apart - knotted string tangled with pea plants and too many canes.  The second pea bed wasn't as bad,  but still ended up as a huge tangled mass,  after a while I managed to get the canes out and eventually de-tangled the string - some of it was so frayed and tatty that it's been thrown out, but some I've kept for another time.  The third pea bed was the easiest,  heaven knows why as they were all planted the same,  and all ended up the same height,  maybe I just got better at taking it apart.

By the time I'd done that it was lunchtime and after lunch that area is in full sun,  not my ideal time for re digging to make it ready for the next veg.  I sat in the sun out by the pool and  read for an hour or so - and watched John finishing his work in a very sunny hot spot -  but went back today to re-dig the pea patch.  It was just as sunny but with a breeze this afternoon which made it nicer to work in,  a couple of hours later the patch was re-dug, instead of 4 narrow beds I changed it to 2 wide ones,  with a path between them and plan on putting in dwarf Borlotto beans.  We have lots of climbing bean seeds but not enough tall canes to support them and I think we get more beans per square foot/metre  if we plant dwarf/bush beans. 

It may be early in the season,  but our strawberry plants are covered in flowers and also loads of small fruits.  We had our first strawberries for breakfast this morning,  with  toast (homemade brown bread)  and strawberry jam that I made May 26th last year.  To make jam that early in the year means that we had already picked a lot, normally we make jam when we have had enough fresh fruit to eat and are looking for other things to do with it....more wine? more lollipops?  more strawberry/almond crumble?  dried?  I have been looking at alternatives to the traditional mincemeat for Xmas mince pies and it seems that any dried fruits preserved can be used so maybe ours will be strawberry and fig based this time.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A thousand words or more

They say a picture is worth a thousand words,  so here are lots of words.....


Firstly some orange blossom

also blooming is the 'Mock Orange'  - Philadelphus -  which is close to the terrace and smells wonderful

They also say roses are red,  but not these...


And twisting and turning amongst the pink ice plants is the bindweed,  it climbs amongst the bushes,  twists up the stems of so many plants and is quite pretty.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Seeds, doing what they want.

What is it with seeds?  You do your best,  new potting compost,  clean pots,  warm weather,  lids for the night in case the temperature drops....  and sometimes green shoots appear within days,  other times - nada.  Nothing. 

And then as you are looking around at last years raised bed,  (the bottle garden)  and watering,  and   'oh! what's that?  looks like a cucumber,  and another'....

As you might have guessed, that's what has happened to us.  On the 1st April we planted lots of seeds,  maybe the wrong day? something having a joke on us?  but out of 30 sweetcorn we have 26 plants up,  40 home dried tomato seeds have so far produced 15 seedlings,  the squash are not far behind with 7 up, but the 6 cucumbers have done nothing.  Now 6 may not seem many but you never know how many will produce cucs  -  last year we had a glut from just 2 plants,  enough to eat fresh whenever we needed and the rest I pickled for out of season.  Still have 5 jars of sliced pickled cucs till this lot get going...

So today I planted 6 more seeds,  these from one of last year's cucs,  the previous 6 were from the packet,  and then this evening we were watering the raised 'bottle bed'  and I saw not just one but two baby cucumber plants!   I can only think that a cucumber fell off the plant last summer and got dug in,  and as John has pointed out,  if they have taken till now to germinate and grow,  there is still hope for our first 6 seeds,  and now I've done another 6 seeds....we may be completely overrun with cucs.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Reflections of sunset.

Sunset last night - a few photos taken over just a few minutes....

 at 20.54.58

at 20.55.53

at 20.57.05

Thursday, 10 April 2014

What a lot of bottles..

A new meaning to a bottle garden,  most people would think of a large glass bottle full of miniature plants  - I've often wondered though how you're supposed to look after those plants,  I mean surely they need dead heading,  or  pruning or something,  or maybe not.  Who knows. 

Anyway,  I ramble a bit. 

This is our take on a bottle garden,  designed to beat the little critters that are so determined to have their 5 portions of vegetables a day.  Well, no longer.   The kohlrabi at the far end have started to go to seed,  although there are still 1 or 2 that are nearly big enough to eat.  The leaves can be cooked too,  it is cabbagey,  but the critters don't like the leaves now the plant is full grown.  The rocket has been ignored too so has the largest coriander and the garlic. 

The lettuces are growing beautifully under their netting covered hats, only 5 survived,  but we have enough at the moment just for picking the leaves to go as garnish,  in sandwiches,  not enough though for a big salad bowl  - yet.  Under the upturned bottles I put beetroot,  coriander and radish seeds.  They started to come up yesterday about a week or so after planting.   The soil is lovely and warm.

It's been  over 20° for about a week now,  it's still 24 on the terrace as I write this,  ideal for quick seed germination.   Monday we planted more seeds, and the shelves in the potting shed are full of yoghurt pots with 6 varieties of chilli seeds,  3 varieties of basil,  and the last of last years Cape Gooseberry seeds.  We were given a packet of seeds,  there were 14 in the packet of which we planted half and have still got 3 plants.  Those plants have produced fruits all winter - quite amazing we thought -  and I picked another 9 fruits last week.  Then very carefully de-seeded them.  What a slow and juicy job.  But each fruit had about 140 tiny seeds in it.  Yes I counted the seeds in the first berry.  So to only get 14 in a packet seems a bit...expensive?  Considering how productive a plant is anyway. 

Tuesday was a day off,  not that we went anywhere but met new friends,  a couple staying in Yegen for the week,  walking by,  got chatting,  came in for a cool drink and a longer chat,  found loads to talk about, so much in common,  you know how sometimes you click with people and  conversation just flows?  One of those situations.  So we had a drink and some tapas and then a bit more,  it got hot, so did they and the best way to cool down is to take the plunge and jump in.

 First swimmers of the year :)   Not me yet,  I just paddled my feet  although that's surprisingly cooling too.  

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Up and down.

Looking up:

after the rain on Saturday morning - and it came again on Wednesday morning -   our rain was somebody else's snow...

 this was above Mecina Bombaron on Sunday morning..  just a  touch of snow left high up in the hills.

 and  this was taken from the road between Yátor and Ugíjar on Friday morning.

Whereas down here,   the hillsides are covered in yellow as the broom is in full flower,

 our newest African daisy is also in full bloom, 

...the first flowers of the  pato de gallo or ice plant have opened over the last couple of days too.

And just to show that we don't only have white iris,  here are some of the blue/purple ones, 

but a question....why do the white ones grow straight up whereas the blue/purple ones grow down and up,  a bit swan-like.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

April Showers

April showers actually started on Saturday - but close enough to April - and the only day that we had any rain in March.  More like heavy drizzle that soaked into the ground and gave everything a good drink,  not 'running off the land type' of rain that does no good at all.  Then the next 3 days were lovely again and today it's cloudy with more drizzle.

 During the nice days we've done the first of the summer season pool cleanings, a yucky mucky dirty floor,  dust and grit,  leaves that we'd not managed to scoop off before they sunk.  It  took quite  while despite having a good pump,  we have to stop when the filter/basket is full,  empty it out and then continue.  One of us brushes the floor,  the other one is 'spotter' for checking how full the filter gets.

We put lots of seeds into soak overnight then planted them up yesterday afternoon.  I soaked the big seeds,  cucumber,  squash,  courgette, sweetcorn and also the tomato seeds.  They were all seeds from last year's harvest,  don't normally soak tomato seeds but they were all sticky and I couldn't separate them without soaking first.  Also in the raised beds and  protected from the little critters that eat so much down there,  are coriander, beetroot and radish.  The lettuces are still cloched with upturned 5 litre water bottles,  as is the smallest coriander plant.  The biggest coriander that went in during October is now over a metre high and must not have juicy enough tops for eating.  Also the kohlrabi has been ok now for a month or so.....and the rocket has never been eaten,  nor has the garlic.  Fussy critters down there!

Our make do and mend chairs are all finished,  looking very good too,  so then we looked at the cover of the sun umbrella as the top of it rotted through a year or so ago  and it fell off.  Fell down actually.  Big hole in the middle of the fabric so no way would it stay on the umbrella frame.  Fortunately we'd been given an umbrella and although that one's frame was bigger  (but has now broken,)  the fabric top sort of fitted our original frame - with the help of a few clips here and there.  But we hadn't thrown the original cover  away and in my sewing box I found some cut-off trouser legs (trousers turned into shorts)  and I've made the biggest and strongest patch ever seen!  John has got a hole punch thing and managed to get through the umpteen layers of fabric.  Now we just need the sun to come back out and we can remake the umbrella.  The top unscrews then when the cover is on,  the screw cap goes back in place.  Quite simple really.