Sunday, 27 December 2015

Happy New Year.

We are nearly at the end of December and another year of intermittent writing from me,  thanks for reading! 

Just looking back at my most recent photos and there seem to be a lot of blue skies and wonderful sunrises and sunsets.  It has been a gloriously hot summer - the longest heatwave ever recorded although the max temperatures have been higher in other years.

This is taken from El País - the English version:

This year will go down as one of Spain’s hottest in history. According to figures compiled by the Spanish State Meteorological Agency (Aemet), the annual average temperature in the country up until November 30 was 16.5ºC – about 0.8ºC higher than the average between 1981 and 2010.
Aemet states that 2015 is the fourth hottest year on record in Spain – only last year, 2006 and 2011 saw higher average temperatures.
This summer was also the country’s second-hottest since 1961 and included the longest heatwave ever recorded.

Spaniards are also experiencing one of the driest periods on record, Aemet said in a report released Thursday.
Between December 1 and 14, average rainfall was 485 millimeters – around 20 percent lower than average. The dry period has been blamed on a lack of rain during the second half of spring and during November.
This fall has been particularly dry, with 18 percent less rainfall than other years. Aemet said the autumn of 2015 has been the fifth driest on record after those of 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2013.

That explains the blue skies and lack of snow on the mountains.  We were in Berja on December 15th for some shopping and took a quick pic of their Christmas tree as we drove through town,  John driving very slowly, then a quick stop for this picture before the man behind beeped at us.  It's probably very pretty when it's lit up at night.

On the way home along the A348 and just before we turned off towards Cherín and then Ugíjar,   I took a photo through the windscreen,  of the very un-snowy hills ahead of us.  Normally those hills would be snow-capped.

Up on the ski slopes of the Sierra Nevada,  well it doesn't look too snowy there either.  Webcam links are here. 

Only 6 out of 21 ski lifts open,  only 8 out of 124 pistas,  visibility is clear,  and  the temperatures way up there - from 2100m to about 2625m which is maybe 9000 feet high - are between  2 and 11 degrees.  And there is a lot of green to be seen. 

I leave you with a final sunrise,  yes another one, sorry!  But the mornings are so colourful I can't resist taking a picture.

And finally,  the pine arch on our terrace.

Whereas Christmas Eve - Nochebuena - is traditionally a quiet one spent indoors with family,  New Years Eve - Nochevieja - is an occasion for going out.  At midnight as the chimes of the Puerta del Sol clock in Madrid strike, it is traditional to eat 12 grapes, one for each chime.  A custom known as las uvas de la suerte or las doce uvas.  Small tins of peeled grapes are in the shops,  unfortunately we don't have any - will sultanas do instead?

Happy New Year to everyone,  lets hope it's a good one.  Enjoy New Years Eve or Nochevieja - let's eat, drink and be merry!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Cucumber crisis!

Well, this is a strange one!  I know that if you grow crops you can easily have a glut but never thought about the weather affecting the crops grown around this region in the invernaderos  - plastic greenhouses - which cover a vast area of Southern Spain.

I have posted links to The Seaside Gazette before,  and read these articles today,  not sure a glut is quite the word for the humungous number of kilos they have!

MOT Cucum 07Great weather for tourists, but just the right conditions to cause havoc to the cucumber crops under plastic.
The atypical weather is causing the cucumber plants to go berserk and flood the sector, causing many producers to sell at below-production prices.
When the season began in September – it finishes in July – prices stood at 60 cents a kilo, which was pretty good and they would have remained that way had the production rhythm not thrown a wobbly causing one crop to overlap the next.
The cold which should have slowed production never came so that in the first three months the market has been swamped and prices have fallen to 25 cents a kilo. Trouble is, it costs 35 cents a kilo to grow them.
November saw a 20% over production with Granada throwing 18-million kilos of cucumbers at the international market a week.
There are two solutions; grin and bear the lapse until the arrival of the cold or start dumping.
Be prepared to share the beach again with mounds of cucumbers!

ECO Pepino PlightThe sector is considering dumping one million kilos a day until the price recovers – we’re talking about 40% of the production. And that’s not including Almería’s production; just Granada’s.For this to work, everybody would have to agree and be in on it, but unlike the previous cucumber crisis, when the Carchuna beach at the western end had mountains of cucumbers along it, there is no consensus. Consequently, farmers are afraid to take the first step.
After all, if you dump all your crop then your neighbour sneakily sells his, not only will the erratic dumping not bring the prices up, but you will also end up in prison after murdering your neighbour.
Despite huge and repetitive donations to local food banks and charities in general, it only accounts for an insignificant percentage of the over production – in other words, simply giving it away instead of sending it to the rubbish tip doesn’t work because there is a limit to how many cucumbers that the needy can munch through.
And you can’t give them away further afield because you start incurring in transport costs.
Only one thing can save the sector…. bring on the winter cold!

The strange thing is that we very rarely see these long cucumbers in our local shops,  only the small pepinos - they have thicker slightly prickly skins - we'd rather have the 'glut' version,  usually sold here as Dutch or Holland cucs.  When you can find them that is!   

Friday, 11 December 2015

A surprising day.

It's that time of year again,  and I don't just mean that Christmas is around the corner,  but it is testing time for our Hyundai.  As in previous years we booked it in to the ITV testing station near Orgiva and as in previous years we drove there yesterday in sunshine with blue sky above.  But unlike other years,  the mountains of the Sierra Nevada were absolutely snow-free.  In fact I was so surprised that I forgot to take a photo to compare it with!

       December 10th 2014.

Imagine that picture without any snow and that's what we saw yesterday.  So surprising.  But we have - so far anyway - had a very dry and warm winter.  I'm sure it'll rain here and snow up there some time soon,  we generally reckon on it being colder and wetter around February and March time.

That wasn't the only surprising thing that happened yesterday though.  Our Hyundai is now 12 years old, although with low mileage and it hasn't had any problems.  New tyres due to wear and tear on the pista but still with the original battery etc.  The beginning of the test are oil check,   exhaust emissions, seat belts and tyres and things,  engine on, engine off, lights on, mainbeam, indicators etc.  Then on to the rolling road for the front brake test.  So far so good.  Move forward please for the rear brakes,  John started the engine - no.  Dead.  Tried again, it turned over but wouldn't start.  "Don't worry"  she said and called for 2 colleagues who pushed the car forward sufficiently for the rear brake test,  then pushed again  till we were over the inspection pit where they check the suspension (I think). 

With one final big push we were out into the car park and had sufficient movement for John to pop the clutch and the car started!  I went back in to collect the paperwork,  didn't really believe that we could have passed but we know that if  you fail,  then you have to wait at the end of the test run while they tell you what is wrong. 

"Here's your 2016 sticker, and your paperwork,  and I think you need a new battery."

Understatement of the year! 

Stopped at the mechanic on the way into Cadiar,  he had a battery but the terminals needed changing over to fit our car so we agreed to return this morning. Then he found the battery was a little bigger in size so had to adjust the mounting plate.  But we didn't have to wait long, maybe 20 minutes or so,  paid the €93,  and that should do us for another 12 years!

A quick look out the window just this moment at the sunset... some gorgeous colours.

Monday, 7 December 2015

¡Feliz puente!

A long weekend for some people - yesterday was Día de la Constitución and a national public holiday.

Tomorrow is Inmaculada Concepción,  the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and another holiday.

Because Sunday is day off work anyway today then becomes a bridge between the two holidays and most people seem to have the day off.  On Rafael's facebook page about the Alpujarras he says  ¡Feliz puente!  which if you do a translate actually means 'happy bridge' but you know what he means!  Happy long weekend!

I opened the front door this morning to see the most glorious deep orangey red sky with the leafless mulberry tree framed in front of it.

Can you see the birds nest still hanging on tight?

Friday, 4 December 2015

Early this morning..

It probably isn't  early for some people,  but going out for a walk with Monty and Pip at about 8am, means we see the sun rise over Sierra Gador.  This morning the hills and sunrise seemed to be floating in a misty valley.

Later on this morning we went into Cadiar to get some shopping - there are a few small supermarkets plus 2 butchers and 2 bakeries but now one of the supermarkets has moved into bigger premises and is a Carrefour Express.  Big, shiny,  with a huge range of products compared to what has been available in Cadiar.   Until now the closest Carrefour has been El Ejido which is an hour away,  or in Granada about 1 hour 30.  In Ugijar there is a supermarket called Dia which is also part of the Carrefour group.  Not that it's obvious, because  the products are Dia branded not Carrefour branded,  but the Carrefour website  has lots of information!

Ok,  so the upstairs isn't finished, rumour has it that it is/was going to be apartments.  And the car park to the side is a bit rough - anyone got any tarmac?!!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

What's happening?

Waiting for Monty while he pottered and sniffed this morning as dogs do,  up on the hill above us were 2 mountain goats watching us.

I took one more picture but they were gone.

Last post I added some local facebook links,  here are some more....

Firstly a new page Cadiar in English..

Also information on Spanish facebook pages....

Happy reading....

Friday, 27 November 2015

Waiting for the postman.

The post man comes every day Monday to Friday at about 10.30am.  And if you live in the village he delivers to your house.  For those of us who live outside the village,  there is no delivery but we have all put mailboxes on to the wall in the square.  About 8 boxes at the moment...
Mail boxes on the wall by the car...

Mail is delivered to the boxes to be collected whenever is convenient and if you have a parcel then the delivery notification is put in your box.  Up till earlier this year,  you then went with note in hand, to the post office in Cadiar to collect your package,  between 08.30 and 10.30 in the morning.  That worked well, and has done for the 12 years we've lived here.

However it's now changed - for the better?  Not sure.  The post man now has your parcels in his car,  the note says he will be at the mailboxes between 10.30 and 11.00.  Sounds straightforward,  but the first time we had a parcel to collect,  I went down to the village for a 10.30 collection and he'd been and gone.  Small village, not much mail that day....  The next day  I went at 10.15 just to be certain and waited and waited till nearer 11.00 as that day he'd had lots of mail to deliver....

The trick is to go and wait in the sun,  take a book - in my case my kindle - be prepared to chat to  every one who is out and about as they all want to know what you're waiting for,  maybe go for a coffee.  Above all, be flexible!

Parcels due this week,  I missed the postman yesterday so went back down this morning for the 10.15 wait.  Talked to one of the Antonio's,  one of the Lola's,  saw some of the women trying to sweep up the piles of falling leaves,  fighting a loosing battle really as the tree has so many more leaves to drop yet,  and finally at 11.05 the  postman arrived with my parcels.

A change for the better? You can see why I'm not sure.  Before the change we knew we had a 2 hour window to get to the post office,  and  while in Cadiar did any shopping we needed. Now it's a case of less distance but more, much more, hanging around.  But on the good side it's much more sociable  as I got to chat with people that I only normally get to wave to on the way past.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The hills are alive..

The hills are alive with the sound of bees buzzing,  mostly in the rosemary bushes but also in the nispero trees - a loquat  (Eriobotrya japonica)  in England.  More info and pics - just click the on the link :)

At this time of the year the weather is generally good although temperatures may fluctuate a lot - sounds like a stock market report - prices may go up or down!   Last Friday  we woke up  to 14 degrees and  got to a high of 22,  then a few days later it was 4.5  first thing in the morning and frost on the ground,  we struggled to about 10 degrees that day.  Although the air temperature in the shade isn't so good,  out in the sun it's wonderful.  We're able to work and walk in sleeveless t-shirts between 11 and 5 - after that it's chilly.

This morning was a bit cloudier that we'd expected so outside painting jobs are waiting for a really clear day,  that gave me some spare time so I took the dogs out intending to go for a longer than normal walk this afternoon.  We went in the direction of El Golco,  although after half an hour we turned round and came back.  Monty has just had his 12th birthday - 12 dog years are 84 human ones,  and he is slowing down a lot.  The bounce has gone,  he is always behind us plodding along and I don't want to stress him too much.  So less distance now for our walks. 

The hills either side of the path are covered in rosemary bushes and all in full flower and buzzing with bees.  Occasionally a bright yellow gorse bush pops out - sort of like the sun in the blue sky. 

At the point where we turned round to come home are the remains of a building,  I'm guessing a shelter for animals once upon a time,  many years ago by the look of what is left.  Certainly needs some work doing!

From here you are looking forwards to El Golco....

and if you look backwards, there is  Montenegro with Sierra Gador in the background.

These last 2 pictures overlap,  sorry but I don't how to get them side by side!  If you click on them they will enlarge.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

IV Rally of Ugijar/Eastern Alpujarras

At the beginning of November I planted out lots of seeds,  salad leaves, lettuce, kohlrabi and a variety of seeds we either bought in Japan in 2012 or have been given since then.  As they are Japanese we don't really know when to plant or how out of date they it was a case of put them in and see what happens.  The pak choi,  2 types of round white radish and 1 type of long white radish have appeared already.  Looking in the diary I planted them on the 10th and noticed them growing a couple of days ago.  So not too out of date then!  Just waiting now for the broccoli,  what look like peas on the packet but the seeds were far bigger than local ones, okra and another long radish.  Will they or won't they?

One of the reasons for going out yesterday was to buy a new watering can - we do have 2 but 1 has sprung a leak and neither of them has the sprinkling end anymore.  (Why is the sprinkling end called a rose??)  The seeds desperately need a good gentle drink - although rain is forecast tonight if we don't water it won't rain, and if we do water then it's bound to rain,  that's the way things work!!   

Got home yesterday,  unpacked,  got out the receipts and shopping list and there in big writing it said WATERING CAN.  And what didn't we have?  Yup,  and that was the main reason for going up to the bazaar.  No pressing engagements this morning so I decided to go back and  get one.  Walking up through Ugijar in the sun,  I could hear engines.  Loud engines.  More than one as well,  and there on the car park opposite the Guardia headquarters  were rally cars and their support teams.  34 of them apparently. 

A bit more petrol needed for this Audi Quattro!
 They do say if in doubt ask a policeman, so I did,  as I had no idea where the cars were going or for how long and whether it was worth waiting around for them to come back.  It is an all day event so I watched some go and then  - yes!  we have a watering can.

This is the "IV Rally Cuidad de Ugíjar - Alpujarra Oriental"  They set off at 4 to 5 minute intervals having first gone down through town, turned round and come back - warming the tyres?  I didn't see any posters anywhere in town advertising it,  but on the Ayuntamiento facebook page is a picture of an information  poster, plus info about road closures and the route etc.

There is also a facebook page about the Alpujarras run by Rafael who lives in Yátor.  He has 145 pictures of last years rally!!

The links are here - firstly the   Ayuntamiento de Ugijar

and also    La Alpujarra"llena de vida"    (the Alpujarra, full of life)

Anything that goes on in the Alpujarra is likely to be on Rafael's facebook, plus loads and loads of photos of food and traditions, some videos - just found a short clip of Yátor on there,  so have a look and enjoy.

John has just come indoors from the garden and said he can still hear the rally cars out there enjoying these wonderful curvy roads, blue skies and sunshine.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Tapas in the sunshine.

Making the most of the sunshine at the moment as the forecast has temperatures dropping tomorrow and Sunday - there is even a snowflake on the forecast but as the snow line is about a 1000 metres above us I think that's unlikely - but watch this space!

We went into Ugijar this morning to the supermarket,  walked round the market, and up to a new Chinese bazaar  that has recently opened  - how does a shop get so much stock into one place!  Then we stopped at La Vidaña for a bite to eat.  Instead of a full meal we decided on a beer and tapas - actually 2 beers and tapas each.

Carne con champinones - pork with mushrooms.

Bacon and cheese in this bun.

Bacalao con tomate -cod with tomato- plus ensalada rusa - russian salad.
And as seems the norm for our area,  each beer with tapas was 2 euros.  At todays rate that is £1.40.

The Christmas decorations are beginning to appear too,  this 'tree' is opposite the church.

Friday, 13 November 2015

A bit autumny this morning.

Yesterday morning when I was out shopping,  the weather was described to me as  'summer from 10am till 5pm then back to winter'.   12 degrees first thing,  up to 19 or 20,  and back down very quickly when the sun sets.

The mulberry tree decided to drop loads of leaves yesterday so after putting away the shopping which included some of this wonderful  'keep you warm when winter comes' drink....

(Not the whole barrel of course!  Just a litre bottle - should be enough for this winter!)

Back to the leaves.....3 sack fulls yesterday.  Luckily there was no breeze as the leaves were so dry they would have blown away at any hint of wind.

This morning when we  got up there was a long low cloud in the valley below us,  stretching as far as we could see.

From the lounge window..
Up the road a little way there was a good clear view of the clouds..

looking further to the right...

and looking South. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A second Spring.

We seem to be having a second Spring,  although it's about 12 or 13 degrees first thing in the morning,  the sun is out and the sky is totally clear and blue, not a cloud in sight.  In fact I haven't needed anything warmer than a cardigan for the morning walk at about 8am. During the afternoon we've had temperatures of just over 20,  so I'm back into my summer shorts and t-shirts for most of the day.

The seeds for the salad leaves that I put in on the 1st of the month appeared a few days ago,  so today I've  put in different lettuce seeds,  some kohlrabi seeds and transplanted 15 baby rocket plants.  Those are easy to come by as they grow wild at the side of the pista on our walk up to Yegen.  There is already a dark green carpet of baby plants.

The leaves are hanging on tight to the trees but looking glorious especially with the blue sky behind.

There are some trees that grow in towns,  Almeria Berja and Granada to name a few,  we don't know what the tree is but they have very glossy dark green  leaves with a smoothish slightly silvery bark.  They are cut into a donut shape - flat on the top and bottom with round edges and hollow.

In Almeria last Friday some were obviously waiting for their (annual?)  haircut,  not neat and tidy and with what appeared to be aerial roots dangling.  And across the road on  Paseo de Almeria we saw the pruning gang in action...

Then through a side street and onto Avenido Federico Garcia Lorca  where there is a lovely wide walk with fountains in between the roads.  It  reminded us of La Rambla in Barcelona and there is one like it in Granada behind El Corte Ingles and probably in lots more big cities as well.   The Spanish poet Federico García Lorca once said that La Rambla was "the only street in the world which I wish would never end."