Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Long Summer

It's still only August and the fig harvest is done and dusted. In fact we received a phonecall before we were ready asking us to bring our figs to the Co op to be weighed. Summer started weeks ago with a searing hot June that took us by surprise. With the exception of a strange week during July when temperatures fell very low the heat has continued unabated. We have had no summer storms. Not even the threat of one.

Remember we are not on holiday, we have to work and get on with stuff so constant high temperatures are making life difficult for us. Especially with caring for the trees and the veggie garden. Our almond trees have suffered. Once we realised they were under stress it was already too late. Just crossing my fingers that they will recover with a good wet autumn/winter.

The vegetables have been good and bad. Everything fruited really fast or simply bolted. Our tomatoes were incredibly early and finished almost before the cheap tomato glut appeared in the local markets. We had enough plums to make one jar of plum butter - which didn't last long. We had three brilliant peaches that were juicy and sweet and went into an ice-cream sundae.

The butternut squash continue to produce a decent sized squash every week and we have had two large melons with more still to come.

The aubergines have been small. The corn was a huge disappointment, non of the cobs swelled enough to eat and the peppers hit and miss. Half the onions died and the  globe artichokes likewise.

Some of the strawberries also withered with the heat. No matter how much you water when the air temperature is so high it's hard to keep them going. The answer is shade of course and we say this every year. But plans have been made to provide movable shade in the veggie patch. Only the time to get it done eludes us. Perhaps next year.

We are once again starting to get enquiries from potential Volunteers. This is encouraging, there are so many jobs to be done.  Annoyingly, alot of enquiries come to nothing. We say 'yes when exactly can you come' and then never hear from them again. I imagine they had a better offer elsewhere. Hey ho.

So. All continues more or less in the right direction and the seasons turn as they always have and we complain about each in turn, as we always have. There is alot of comfort in that. Our complaints are very tongue in cheek by the way. We do alot of that!

We do alot of this also. It's a hard life in paradise.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Good with Colour

Some people are just good with colour, I am not one of them. I naturally lean towards chaos in colours or maybe it's that I simply don't see colours the same as most other folk. I know what looks nice when I see it but somehow I can't predict beforehand what is going to look nice.

I bought a beautiful book of knitting patterns. It's called Colours of Shetland. It is a goal of mine to learn how to do fairisle knitting and the colour combinations in this book appealed to me.

So my challenge was to make almost all the patterns in the book (there is only one I dislike) but using my own homespun yarn. That means, spinning and dying the yarn myself. I didn't even know what size a Shetland Jumper weight yarn was!

Well ok, a little research gave me the answer to that one. So I started on my first favourite from the book and spun enough yarn to make the fingerless gauntlets that go with the jumper. It took me a long time to decide whether to go with the same colour scheme or not. I have a limited number of dyes (due to cost) and I knew that I would not be able to match exactly her colours. So, accepting that the decision was whether to stick to yellow, blue and white or choose a different colour combination entirely.

You may already have seen that her colour scheme isn't actually yellow, blue and white but ORANGE. I didn't notice that until now. Perhaps I have a kind of colour blindness?

So, I opted for her original colourways because I wasn't sure which other three colours would look good. And I measured out the dyes and very excitedly dyed the yarn. At this point I did mention to my other half that it was going to be brighter in colour than the book. No matter, he said, bright is good.

So I began knitting. I knitted for a couple of days with a growing sense of unease. Look.

It's totally different. And I'm not sure that I like it. I mean it's very much the colours of Spain, that bright, hot, searing sunshine and sky that is typical of even winter days here, rather than the muted, rain washed subtlety of a northern Scottish sky. Dreich is the Scots terminology - it means bleak, damp, rain streaked, grey - basically a typical spring morning in the far north. These are not words to describe the colour scheme I've ended up with.

Why I didn't realise this before is neither here nor there. The question is do I continue or not? Should I try to achieve similar darker colours like the ones she has used? Or totally different colours perhaps? And if the latter, which colours?

My choices of dye are limited as I said and also the exact colour that I get is not really controlled due to my inexperience. But I have the possibility of dark brown, tea stain, pinky, yellow, teal blue (light to quite dark), silver grey (untested so not sure how this looks on yarn), moss green (light to darkish) and of course the natural white. All of the above can be modified by the addition of copper or iron (which is supposed to sadden the colours) but I have no control over the outcome. Also, I will have to start spinning more yarn, it really is almost back to the beginning again.

Basically HELP!!!

Friday, 21 July 2017

A Good Holiday

What makes a great holiday? The answer is truly a subjective one. For each of us it is different, however, the most memorable holidays are often when things were less than perfect. I have a photograph in my house of a French family eating al fresco in what appears to be a slightly neglected garden or allotment. The pergola where their picnic table is set is in need of repair and the whole feel of the scene is one of having seen better days. BUT! I can imagine the food is excellent and this is the best summer holiday that little girl ever had.

You will have to excuse the reflections in the photo but you can see the whole thing is like a memory of childhood when the summers were endless and the shabbiness simply not noticed.

It also reminds me of a tale I heard from a friend who purchased a small farm in rural Italy. The people who sold it told them that a family from Rome came every summer for a vacation. They stayed in two rooms, one with beds in it, the other was a kitchen of sorts, farmhouse table, large sink, fireplace and a single gas burner. No electricity either, kerosene lamps and candles at night. The toilet was at the bottom of the garden and a hosepipe outside was used for the 'shower'. The family sometimes consisted of 7 or 8 people and they paid the farmer and his wife good money for those two rooms. They had been coming regularly for more than ten years and when they were told that the place was no longer for holiday rent the mother and grandmother wept. It was the end of an era. I expect the children, now grown, still talk of the fun they had on holiday as children.

Do we expect too much these days? Can we no longer make our own fun? Do we need TV and internet and a bar or restaurant, MacDonalds?

I believe the true purpose of a holiday is not simply to get away from your work or daily routine, but is about making memories. Significant memories. Spending time as a family, as a couple, away from the busy-ness of the modern world. Somewhere you have time to watch for the birds, to listen to stories, to eat at your leisure, to learn something new. A place to make memories.

I present to you.. The Casita at Finca La Reina. I know, it hardly looks finished, cosmetics only.. which will be sorted very soon!

We have electricity. Modern shower/bathroom (indoor toilet). A kitchen big enough and well equipped enough to cook a proper meal.

Here the bedroom is set up with two single beds but these can easily be pushed together to make a double. There is a futon for an extra person or child.

There is TV and WiFi is available once a day up at the main house for those important daily catch-ups and reassurance.  There is a BBQ area outside as well as an outdoor shower and the new pergola just needs a coat of paint and then the willow 'matting' will provide shade.

There are still some finishing touches to be done, the outside wall needs cladding (this will be done before winter) and the verandah needs levelling (waiting on word from the builder about this one), but otherwise we are ready for guests.

Not at the bottom of the garden!

We are thinking that people who enjoy the simple things in life, are perhaps wanting to come to Extremadura for the wildlife, the hiking or the search for a glimpse of a real Spain that is fast disappearing, people on a budget or people searching for their dream retirement home will appreciate best what we have to offer. The cost? 30 euros per night plus 10 euros extra if you want a welcome pack (bread, milk, eggs, cheese, ham and a bottle of wine) for those who don't want to bother with shopping on their arrival day. This price is whether you are travelling on your own or with friends (the casita will take a maximum of three people plus you could just about squeeze in a child in a cot).

The minimum stay is three nights but if  I you stay longer than a week we will reduce the price. We can not take visitors during June, July or August as it is simply too hot to be comfortable here and the use of the BBQ is forbidden by law during those months but the rest of the year we are open for business. Just email j.legalloudec at (symbol) Gmail  dot com to book your dates. Just like any other holiday you do need to pay up front before you come but a small deposit will secure your booking and the rest can be paid afterwards. What do you think?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Junky Shop

We went into Miajades today so that Fergus could get a haircut. 2 hours dog free means we can do some serious perusing in our favourite places.

This is a shop set up in a garage. They sell second hand items and stuff from house clearances. The locals have a funny idea of what constitutes an antique, most of it being just junk, but often it's junk with very high prices. Very old tatty books can command huge prices while other quite tasteful items can often be just a few euros. Mind you, finding tasteful items can be quite hard! Its the kind of place I like to rummage.

There are some great finds if you take the time to search and have the imagination to use/repurpose them. I often think that one or two carefully selected vintage pieces will finish off the look of a room and give it character, even if all the rest of the items in the room are modern and commonplace.

There is a lot of religious iconography. And even modern Spanish homes seem to have their fair share of this. Huge crosses or crucifixes that I would expect to only find in a church are quite normal above the bed in most Spanish homes.

Old treadle sewing machines with unknown makers names.

A quick inspection shows that they are usable/repairable, most needing only a clean and a little oil. I've recovered a machine much older and in worse repair. But I don't have room for any more sewing machines!

Collections of old tools. Dressing farm buildings or making a cottage look quaint perhaps? These old rusted implements look great on the outside wall of a house. Our house isn't old but the right farm implement would suggest that people have been living and farming here for many many years - only half true but nevertheless it's an impression I like. One day, our plans include an old plough or donkey harness for an outside wall.

Dubious art work.. there is alot of this, none of it very good, but obviously it was fashionable... once.

A motorbike???? The fact that Steve is looking the other way should give you a clue as to whether it's any good.

Some old fashioned linens. I am very fond of vintage textiles but the prices on most of it was crazy. An old linen sheet was 40 euros!! Good quality linen but you couldn't sleep on it any more!

I love these. Very vintage. One day, I may just have a place for something like this. There appears to be a fairly consistent turn around on wash stands. An item that is very common in Spanish houses that predate plumbing (which is most of them!)

And the prize for the least tasteful object I've seen in a very long time goes to these clothes hooks.

And poignant reminders of other peoples lives. What special occasion were these bought for I wonder?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

And Then There Were None!

Farm life is full of ups and downs. We try to be philosophical about it all. Miss Black Speckle was not successful in her attempt to become a mother. One egg semi-hatched but the chick was dead. The rest did nothing. No peeps, no cracking, nothing.

We are beyond sad. Although we maintained that we were not counting our chicks, I guess we were after all. On top of that Bippity somehow managed to roll both her eggs out of the broody coop, cracking them. She appeared not to notice and continued to sit on an empty nest until we turfed her off and closed it up. So there will be no chicks for the foreseeable.

Deductions made from the look, feel and weight of the non hatching eggs, are that Mac (the cockerel) is doing a fair job - we had questions about his virility - but that other factors contributed to the deaths.  We did not crack open the non hatching eggs, that's just a little gruesome for us.  My best guess is that it is simply too hot at the moment and/or the hens are too inexperienced. 

It's good to know that Mac is not infertile. Although we think he is a bit of a softy and allows the hens to get away from him more often than not. This, although a downside, is precisely the qualities we looked for in a rooster. After hearing and reading about aggressive cockerels we deliberately opted for a more timid one, that was Raul, Mac's father.  Mac will do fine especially as he fulfills all the other important tasks like breaking up fights among the other hens, standing guard duty, warning of danger and helping find food.

The thing we wonder about now is that we have probably genetically weakened the flock already and given the incest going on (which we were told didn't matter with hens so much) we have perhaps not given potential new chicks the best start in life.

As Steve pointed out the easiest way to introduce new blood would be to replace Mac. But I am reluctant to do that because he is so calm and non threatening to us or the cats and the dog. An aggressive cockerel is no laughing matter.

I think a little bit more research is required on the breeding of hens is in order. There is always stuff to learn where animals are concerned.