Saturday, 31 May 2014

Where's our sun?

The sun has gone in,  the clouds are gathering all around,  quite gloomy looking out there at the moment,  and the forecast has rain from an hour ago till tomorrow evening.... :(  
So no swimming for me this afternoon,  and maybe no need to do any watering tomorrow,  it is our day for it but it might get done for us! 

We've had an outside tidying up week  and got some stuff thrown out,  which for us is unusual as we tend to keep more than we really need just in case.  It's sods law that the minute we have a good clear out then those things would have been useful but we have been a bit more thorough this time.  Take for instance the potting shed.  Piles of plastic trays kept from supermarket meat shopping,  they each hold 8 yoghurt pots for seedlings but are mostly all black plastic and we don't have many clear ones to use as lids.  So they've been paired up and the surplus thrown.  And  a pile of mismatched trays too,  none of which will stack or pair up as a bottom and lid so no use really -  I dropped 2 large bin bags of such stuff into the recycling on Thursday.  So now we have space in potting,  also J is hanging tools from the wall rather than the current  'just put it there'  arrangement.  He has been sorting out one of the sheds too,  lots of wood for making shelves and such like,  but no space to do anything! 

It always looks worse before it eventually gets better,    there's been lots of  'why did we keep this?'  and  'how long ago did we put this here?'  and  I've no doubt we'll be doing it again in a year or so.   But for now,  we have space! 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Busy days.

Sometimes I sit here and think I really ought to write something but what,   I know we've been busy and if you look back using the search box at this time last year,  or the year before,  or the year involves all the same things to some degree.  

Strawberries - picking, eating and making into wine,  45 litres so far.

Planting out seedlings - peppers, kohlrabi, tomatoes, chillies, squash, courgettes, sweetcorn, pak choi,

Putting in seeds - mostly dwarf Borlotto beans which we soaked overnight before planting and they were all up within a week,  second planting went in Monday just gone.

Picking and eating lettuce and radish,  harvesting the green coriander seeds for using in Indian and Mexican foods,  I've mentioned this before,  the green seeds are very juicy, bursting with coriander flavour and it's a bit like eating a green peppercorn but coriander taste instead.  Last year when we realised how wonderful they were,  we went to pick the seeds and found the ants had got there first.  The big ants were up the stems biting off the seed heads,  as they fell to the ground the little worker ants took the individual seeds off to their store.   But not this year!  We check the seed heads daily and pick as soon as they are plump.  Still waiting for the beetroot to do something...pretty colour leaves though!

Picking and brining the first of the capers,  the flowers are coming out so now is the time to pick the small flower buds then in a few weeks as soon as they set seed I'll pick them too.  We still have a few jars of each type but you never know if something will happen to prevent a good year and so it's best to keep well stocked. 

Stripped out the last of the pea beds and dried any missed pods for next years planting.

Then there is watering,  fortnightly on a Sunday is our main day when we refill tanks and water the olives and veg,  the Sunday in between -  today - we use our stored water to do the vegetables and there is enough for a Wednesday watering session as well in hot times.  Plus watering the tubs and pots of which I realised today we have lots and lots!   Pots of lavender and herbs,  spider plants and parsley,  a clog plant and 2 sorts of basil  are all on the front terrace,   pots of  aloe vera  and 2 cactuses  (cacti ?)  from Yegen along the terrace edge.... the list goes on and on.  Some of the pots are out in the garden tucked in amongst planted flowers,  some are what we used to have as house plants in uk,  purple tradescantia and swedish ivy,  but they keep warm and if they look unhappy they get moved.  Some are plants which only flower for a few weeks and they get moved around when in bloom and put in a shady place when resting,  plants such as grape hyacinth,  star of bethlehem,  narcissi,  autumn crocus.  Under the front garden olive tree are even more tubs of hebes,  dwarf gladioli,  various succulents,  more aloe vera,  more tradescantia,  geraniums and mint.

I counted 40 pots today as I watered,  that wasn't including the ones under the olive tree or in the flower beds,  just  on the terraces,  and there are some out by the pool too.  The beds out there have been tidied up this week - and expanded as the plants just keep growing so I take cuttings,  and then have to find somewhere to plant the new ones,  and so it goes on!  But everywhere is  so bright and colourful. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

All white.

Some white flowers at the moment in the garden,  it's the time that our lilies are blooming and also the olive trees are covered in blossom although an awful lot of it seems to be covering the tables in the garden and then over the last 24 hours it's been quite breezy and now the blossom is covering the surface of the pool. 

The olive blossom is much much smaller and I could only get an overview of the blossom on the branches...

but when John came out with his camera and took pictures it was so much better - so much detail...

each flower seems to have 3 blossoms,  probably not the correct term,  but we think the middle will become the olive and the 2 flowers to the left and right will be what helps make the olive.  Not good on plant biology as you can probably tell!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A stripey sky at sunset.

Taken a few days ago at sunset when we were sitting outside watching the sky change colour.   Probably these are vapour trails from flights going in and out of Malaga,  the trails have drifted and widened  and then been caught by the setting sun.....

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Another week, another fiesta.

This time it was the fiesta here in Montenegro - Santa Fatima.   The rockets started at 11am,  a signal for Pip to go at high speed under the bed,  again at 11.30,  at 12.00 the rockets signalled the start of the service and unlike other years,  we stayed here preparing food to take for the picnic afterwards.  As soon as we heard the 'end of procession rockets'  fire off,  we packed the remaining food and cold drinks and headed up.  By then the pews were  moved into a square shape under the only unpruned mulberry tree,  a table with a wine box (from one of the Paco's)  plus jamón and bread and crisps were laid out and then we arrived with our offerings.   Not typical Spanish food at all,  a variation on English I suppose,  we took  pasties but made with a spicy filling,  onion bahjis, (I'd made 96!!!!! the day before and took half up)  fresh strawberries and strawberry wine plus locally made Tempranillo wine.  Then other friends arrived with a variety of spicy chicken,  tortilla,  breads,  spicy salsas,  more crisps,  more wine - they have different grapes to us - all together I think there were 5 different wines from us, our friends and the two Pacos,  all local, all different.  Some fruity, some hefty.  Plus of course beer and water.

Everyone tried everything,  they really don't get the  'wine from anything but a grape'  idea, after all wine from grapes is free and ours needed sugar added..... but they are all willing to taste and maybe taste again just to make sure it's ok  and then try a strawberry....did you buy them ?  oh no, all grown here in Montenegro....oh!    then there are lots of nodding of heads...maybe they are starting to realise that we do grow things, make wines, produce something from our land.

And now a few photos from inside the chapel.....

Did I mention that it was hot as well?  Sunday afternoon the thermometer hit 30.1 on our terrace,  Monday was slightly cooler at 27....yesterday we had a nice bit of breeze,  possibly because the chapel is on a more open area which helps.  Today back down a bit more to 25,  but nothing changing on the forecast.  We use eltiempo  which has an accurate forecast although the temperatures are usually off by anything up to 5 degrees.  Not surprising when you think that the weather stations are - as far as I know - at the airports.  Not near here.  But if you look at this site of John's  you'll see that it has an average temperature from the airports - Malaga, Almeria and Granada - and that is within a degree or two of what our terrace thermometer records. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Cherry season.

It's cherry season now,  I've been keeping an eye on the tree  over these last few days,  picking and tasting,  if it's too soon they are a bit sour and difficult to pick,  leave it a day or two more and it can be  too late and the birds clean out the whole tree.  Or worse, just peck at the cherries and spoil them.

I picked a bowlful this morning...

then one very sticky hour later I had a kilo of de-stalked and de-stoned  cherries  (is that right?  The stalking and stoning bit -  I've got red lines under my spellings but I know what I mean!) 

In the cupboard was a litre of local Spanish rum,  on the shelf a jar of miel de caña - sugar cane honey -  and  after sterilising 3 large jars,  we now have preserved cherries.  The preserving recipe book says to keep them in a dark place for about 3 months before eating.....we'll see if they last that long!

Ron the Joker - strange name for a rum you might think but ron is Spanish for rum,  can't explain the joker part though,  maybe it's something to do with the price as it's only €5.95 a litre,   £4.85 to those of you reading in UK.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

A strawberry surprise.

Strawberries!   Lots of them today!   I picked almost a kilo on Wednesday which we gave to our friend in Yátor as payment for the goody bag,  next week is fiesta here in Montenegro there is always a picnic afterwards and we want to take a bowlful to share with friends,  so I thought today would be a good day to pick some,  with it being halfway between the last and next picking day.

Luckily I took a big bowl with me,  and even then I struggled to carry it without them falling out.

3.8 kilos - just over 8 pounds.

We wanted some to eat today but not that many!   Don't need jam,  still got a dozen or so jars from last year,  we've already dried a couple of kilos and have dried ones left from last year..... so I made the first batch of strawberry wine instead.   Strawberry wine may sound a bit too fruity or sweet but surprisingly it isn't.  It's a gorgeous colour,  served very chilled or even over a bit of ice,  it's very refreshing.

I used the same recipe as last year as it worked so well,  but did a double batch today.

First I de-stalked,  weighed 500 grams at a time as we only have a fairly small food processor,  then whizzed them.

3.5 kilos of chopped up strawberries in a cleaned and sterilised bucket,  with a shower cap close by waiting to be put on.  Next we need to add  7 litres of boiled and cooled water into which has been added 2.275 kilos of sugar,  tannin - strawberries don't have any but a teabag in a mug provides enough - no sugar or milk though in the tea please - a squirt of lemon juice,  and later on a sachet of wine yeast.  

By the morning it will be frothing madly - hopefully the bucket,  which holds 12 litres,  will be big enough and it won't be bubbling all over the kitchen.  Next weekend or thereabouts we can strain it and will have the first 10 litres of this years wine made.

****An update****   the wine is so frothy that it has now filled 2 buckets  :o

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The rhythm of life.

I don't like to think that we have a routine,  that sounds so dull and boring and life here is anything but dull and boring,  but we do have things that we do everyday come rain or shine,  winter or summer.  Dog walking,  housework - as little as possible - cooking and eating, washing and ironing,  they are all routine jobs but not always dull. 

So to be in a rhythm sounds much nicer,  then I got to wondering what the rhythm of life really meant.  A quick google search came up with a  book   "The rhythm of life: living everyday with passion and purpose"  which sounds better than having a routine.   And then a blog  with the heading "routines: define your own rhythm of life".  So they are connected,  but just the change of word from routine which seems dull,  to rhythm which sounds more upbeat,  gives me more spark.

So what have we been doing this past week?   Enjoying the glorious sunshine,  eating all our meals outdoors,  early morning walks,  working outside till lunchtime either weeding or watering or planting or picking strawberries (3 kilos this week)  checking on the seedlings,  cutting back shrubs and deadheading, (a never ending job with the African daisies!)  then swimming and reading in the afternoon.    A friend visited us on Sunday afternoon armed with goodies from UK,  chocolate,  teabags,  and strong cheddar :)   We paid him with a glass or two of tinto de verano and a promise of strawberries when we go to Yator next.

Tinto de verano  just means summer red wine,  it's similar to sangria but simpler to make. Sangria has chopped fruit and maybe a splash of brandy too.   According to wikipedia  tinto de verano is just red wine and gaseosa or lemonade,  but round here they add a splash of red martini as well.  Plus lots of ice, and a wedge of lemon.  Very refreshing. 

This morning we walked towards Yegen,  lots and lots of swallows flying around the high craggy rocks,  I guess they nest in them,  took these pictures but the birds are too fast for me to catch on camera.

So back to my afternoon rhythm now -  first a swim of 60 laps (can you do laps across a round pool or should they be acrosses or diameters?)  then reading time before I need to  think of what to cook this evening.