Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Autumn Planting

Autumn? Really? It's been so warm and so very little rain has fallen it's getting hard to believe that it really is autumn. I have been desperate to get some planting done in the veggie patch for a couple of weeks now - as it is I think we've probably missed having home grown Brussels for the midwinter festive season, but better late than never.

Steve rotavated, I hate the rotavator. Firstly our soil is mostly Sahara sand blown in over hundreds of years and rotating does nothing but dry it out further. It makes a horrid noise and it smells awful but mostly it's just too heavy for me so I can't really help with it and I also can't get on with anything until it's done, just have to wait until the man has finished.

We have no worms. A whole garden dug over and not a single worm. This is not good. I thought we were doing very well with our soil improvement regimen but it's not looking good at the moment.

I have a huge bag of Dutch organic fertilizer to go on the patch before it next rains (all fingers crossed). Casualties of our never ending summer this year are a pear and an apple tree. The other apple is doing fine. Why??

We made a start at any rate with some beans planted - our track record for beans is pretty poor to date but we keep hoping. Some lettuce - three different varieties. Leeks, beetroot, turnip, spinach, Brussels, cauliflower - regular and Romanesque and broccoli.

There will be space left over for a second planting which will hopefully stagger the season. Assuming everything grows. It never does but one cannot lose hope!

I must say we are fairly up to date with the seasonal jobs this year and are now fretting about the olive harvest. Our promised help has been silent for several weeks and once again we fear we will be left in the lurch. After such a dry year I don't think we have as many olives as last year, though some of the trees are laden. Steve coped pretty much on his own last time as I had to dash to Japan on mummy duty when our son was injured. Hopefully this year will be drama free. All digits crossed on that one.  And there we go.. Just received word that we have a volunteer for the olive harvest. It all comes together in the end.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Hitting the Ground Running!

Things are always busy. Why do I remark on it? I should just take it as given - I have a busy life! I had an incredible week in Scotland. Firstly the Loch Ness Knitfest was amazing. I got to meet some of my favourite knitwear designers. I bought some fibre for spinning and had a long chat with some ladies from the local spinners and weavers guild. Pretty much kinda heaven really.

I then had a great time catching up with relatives, had a tour around the Johnstons wool mill while hurricane Ophelia approached and turned the sky dark at 2pm. In the end the NE Scotland escaped pretty much all of the storm damage.

I had deliberately taken a large suitcase because I knew I would be bringing stuff home. It ended up at just over 18kg and the wheels were definitely feeling the strain. The week went by very fast and I began my return journey the day before my flight. Spending a great afternoon and evening in Edinburgh.

 But by the time I reached Madrid the following afternoon I was already exhausted and still had to take the train to the bus station and then a three hour bus journey followed by forty minutes in the car. It's a gruelling trip.And not cheap either.

I didn't really give myself any rest once I got home as it's a case of spin spin spin now until I have enough yarn for my exhibition. I reluctantly put away all my pretty bought fibre so that I can concentrate on the local stuff.

Our lovely French volunteer moved on to a donkey sanctuary somewhere up north taking with her a new skill (knitting!) And now we are busy organising help for the upcoming olive harvest and beyond. The to-do list gets juggled about but doesn't get any shorter.

A little good news. Miss Boppity was sat on three eggs and hatched three chicks last Sunday. One brown, one white, one black! They are proving difficult to photograph but I got 30 seconds of film.

The hot weather broke while I was away and it rained. But since then we have had some very hot days and so my poor almonds have had to be watered. The night time temperatures have been quite cool and the early mornings very autumnal. The Ayuntamiento issued us a fire licence so obviously they are not concerned about the lack of rain and we had our first autumn bonfire complete with cheese toasties for elevenses.

I've been vaguely thinking about Yule and the midwinter celebrations but honestly we are feeling so busy that we were on the verge of simply ignoring it all this year. It depends upon whether our olive harvest help materialises or not!  Am I a bit frazzled at the edges? Well definitely yes I am! But I still take time to sit and watch the chicks for a few minutes every day. There's nothing much wrong with the world when you have new chicks!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Typically Spanish

After living here for more than four years you would think that we would be used to the Spanish way of doing things. Two words.. yes and no. We love it here and we haven't had that much trouble adjusting to the more relaxed lifestyle, it is, after all why we are here. But sometimes it's impossible to escape our upbringing and the typically British love of orderly organisation surfaces and highlights how chaotic Spanish culture can be and we wonder how anything could possibly get done here.

This is how the art exhibition in the village is shaping up. The long meeting I attended which was supposed to answer my questions was very haphazard. Everyone talked at the same time, people took phone calls, some people arrived late. Trying to make sense of what was happening made my head hurt but somehow at the end of it we had progressed... a bit.

Don't get me wrong, it's still very chaotic. For example a start date has not been decided upon. At the moment the best guess is December.  Knowing the start date is fundamental to me. It's the first question everyone asks.. when is  it? The next obvious question would be how long is it? No one knows the answer to this either. And the worst bit was that the only people who thought this was crazy were the three foreigners participating.

With huge difficulty I pushed past the tantrum in my head (which was in danger of making me incapable of proceeding any further) and simply concentrated on what exactly my art thing is going to look like. The only brief I received was that the wool of Almoharin should be the star of the show. Since everything in my allocated space will be made with the local fleece I took that as a given.

One thing was very clear, I'm going to need alot of yarn. The annual online spinning competition 'Spinzilla' took place last week and I used the week as an excuse to get some yarn spun. I had a day off in the middle to go on a birthday trip with a chum and still managed to achieve my goal of spinning 5 miles of yarn.

Of course my plans for knitting a jumper and matching gloves is now on hold as I've earmarked the yarn for purely artistic uses. And as I look more into using yarn in an artistic way I discover things I had never heard of before but that I really love and enjoy making.

So it's full steam ahead for the foreseeable future with yarn occupying most of my time. I have a trip to Scotland squeezed in next week as I am attending the Loch Ness Knitfest - it's going to be yarn heaven! And then I'll be flat out spinning, dyeing, knitting and knotting when I get back because, of course, I don't know when the exhibition starts!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Fig Festival

Our village is well known locally for the production of first class fig products. A little farther afield they are less well known. There is a presence out in the wider world but it's scant. That's a shame because the fig products they make here are truly excellent. They deserve a bigger profile.

Almoharin held its first Fig Festival this weekend. We were looking forward to it. The programme was advertised and we decided to visit on the Saturday when a cooking demonstration was to take place. Along with lots of stands full of local food and wine to taste. It promised to be a great event.

Unfortunately for me it wasn't. The noise level was phenomenal, a chef with a needlessly loud PA system (I say needlessly loud because no one was listening to him at all) and a very large crowd full of people shouting at each other.   After a short while of trying to communicate with friends and neighbours and giving myself a terrible sore throat, I had to admit defeat and leave. That was disappointing because the event looked excellent. The food yummy and the whole set up really professional.

Before running away clutching at my ears I managed to get a few photos.

I know it looks like they are watching and listening, perhaps, but they were talking too.

These ladies were demonstrating how the local co operative used to package the figs 40 years ago. A very hands on labour intensive process - I doubt they were paid very much either. The simple blouses and peasant head scarves were very fetching. If it suited me I think I'd wear one for working too.

At Maribel's insistence I pose for a photo with the ladies.

The festivities continue this evening with live music and no doubt dancing. I think we'll pass. Am I sounding a little bit jaded? I don't mean to. This sort of thing is generally right up my street, it was just so noisy.. it became unbearable. And my throat is so painful now I can barely speak. 😮

In other news we have our first volunteer since the casita was finished. A 19 year old French girl, travelling Europe alone. Is that brave or foolhardy or is the world a safer place for girls now? I'd like to think so. At any rate she is proving very helpful, likes to cook (an excellent skill to have). The next week or two is going to be very very busy with Spinzilla (the annual spinning mileage competition) starting on the 2nd October and a visit home to Scotland the following week. I'll catch up with you guys after that!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

That was Easy!

No sooner than I express the desire to be a textile artist than it happens! Just like that!  Well actually no, not quite. I had been expressing the desire for quite some time before posting on my blog and when friends alerted me to the fact that the village was looking for artists of all kinds to put on an art 'thing' during the month of November I jumped at the chance. No that's a lie. I hesitated big time for several reasons - the main one being that I didn't and still don't understand exactly what this 'thing' is.

Anyway after some persuasion by friends I submitted a proposal which was sent off with lots of others to the powers that be - apparently more than one town is participating in this Art Container (that's the literal translation, yeah, don't ask me!).
Anyway to cut a very long convoluted story short, I have been allocated three small rooms within which to mount an exhibition about the Wool of Almoharin and demonstrate the process of how it becomes yarn and finally... Produce a piece of art that the community (general public) has contributed to during the course of the exhibition.

After my initial Wheeeee! moment when I realised that I hadn't actually got a clue what kind of joint art installation me and Joe public were going to produce the horror of what I've done sunk in.

The powers that be wanted me to teach people to make yarn - just as they are passing by and produce a giant ball of wool at the end. After explaining that it takes many hours of practice they agreed that I would produce the yarn and the general public should make something with it.

The best I've come up with so far is stick weaving - making turtles which would be included in a mobile, something along these lines...

I would do the vaguely fishy themed creatures and perhaps, hopefully, other people would make turtles and perhaps stars to contribute to an ocean themed final installation. There is much to consider - will people want to make turtles? Will they want to take the turtles home? (well you can't!!), Will enough people want to make turtles? Will there be too many and will I run out of supplies? Have I enough wool? Have I enough time to process more wool? Can I put hooks in the ceilings of these rooms? The questions are pretty much never ending and the answers seem to elude me.

Just be careful what you wish for people!!

Monday, 11 September 2017


Some people just have style don't they? The rest of us follow. I don't mind admitting to being a follower. I have searched for decades for my own style but am so easily swayed by everything!  You know how women used to go into hairdressers with a photo of a film star and say 'I want to look like that!' and of course you know it was an impossible task because what they wanted wasn't simply to copy the hairstyle but somehow they thought that the hairstyle would make them look like their idol, irregardless of what their face actually looked like.

I am like that with clothes to a certain extent. I see something and I love it but trying it on makes me see that actually I don't have the right shape for this or the colour does nothing for me.  Sometimes we need to try something different to see if it works.

Recently my mother in law sent me a huge pile of fabric. She asked several times if I'd done something with it so I devoted an entire weekend to The Tunic.

I bought this book sometime ago but never got around to using it. The fabric wasn't what I would choose but as I said before, I don't always make good choices so what the heck here goes.

From the one pattern I made 3 tunics so far.

And another tunic dress is in progress. I don't know if the tunic is my thing but it's comfortable to wear and practical for the finca. The addition of extra darts and a zip should make the tunic dress more formal. A special occasion wear perhaps. It's all in an effort to find 'my style'. I would love to find a look that suits me and then just vary the fabric and the colours to produce a hand made wardrobe. But I am fickle and I'm not sure I could dedicate myself to one particular style.

And then there is the thing that we don't always see ourselves the same as everyone else sees us. I remember a close relative gave me a bag once saying 'I saw this and it's just so YOU, I had to buy it for you'.  I looked at the multicoloured plastic monstrosity with horror and a feigned smile 'oh you shouldn't have' was never so apt!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Hello New Decade

Earlier this year I wrote a post about my father's passing entitled 'End of an Era'. That was very much a backwards looking, sad reminiscing of things that I will miss. This post is about the future, and what I am looking forward to. This week I celebrated my birthday. I have started a new decade and it seems a very good time to announce a new start, a new beginning.

Firstly everyone I told about my age instantly commiserated with me and began to try and cheer me up. They misunderstood. I am delighted to be 60. Not everyone makes it to this age so that makes me a very lucky person for a start. I am doubly lucky to be healthy and with very few age related aches and pains. Of course I am not as fit as I was in my twenties, but I no longer feel the need to jog or go to aerobics classes - perhaps I should, I sometimes feel bad about no longer practicing yoga, I often make a resolution to begin again, I have the time and the space, but not the will as I never do.

I can divide my life into several distinct stages each very different from the other. This was not planned it just happened. My childhood was cut short by the death of my mother when I was 11. It was as if I had my eyes closed before and suddenly they were open and the world I saw was different.

The next phase of my life was chaos and jumbled emotions, during this time I married for the first time and had two children. The birth of my children brought clarity and purpose to my life and a steadying influence that made me realise that I had made a mistake in my choice of life partner.

Soon after this I began a new phase, a much calmer and more self assured me chose a much more suitable partner to travel through life with. A man who is still with me today. Then followed the longest phase (which passed so quickly I might add). Two more children and a return to the world of work. The responsibilities of motherhood and the desire to help my offspring navigate their own choppy waters just seemed to take all our energies and time.

Then with our babies fully grown we made a big change, moving to a foreign country to pursue a long standing dream that, like most dreams, was only half envisaged at the start. And now? Well now that we have settled into a rhythm and feel very much at home in our adopted country I want to follow a personal dream.

If anyone asked me what do you do? Or what is your profession? I never knew what to say. I always felt diminished by the question because being a mother and managing a home and a marriage successfully is one of the most difficult jobs in the world but it doesn't seem to get the recognition it deserves. I was 'only' a housewife, or I was 'just' a secretary when out in the world of work. None of these descriptions quite captured who I felt I was. Up until a year or so ago I still felt like I hadn't actually decided what I wanted to be when I grew up! But now it is as clear as can be.

I want to be a textile artist. Working with fabrics and yarn is a passion, a joy and a comfort to me. Creating things with textiles inspires me in a way nothing else does. I wish I had realised this earlier but obviously the time was not right. It is now.

So. Can I just tell everyone I am a textile artist? Do I need formal qualifications to say I'm an artist? Do I need to exhibit my work? Should my work be for sale? Is there a difference between art and craft? I kinda know that much of what I do is craft but what is art then? How do I elevate it to artistic status? These are all questions that I am looking forward to exploring in the years to come. I am excited by the challenges ahead, looking forward to improving my skills and perhaps sharing my knowledge with others. It's a bright brave new world I see before me and I have never been happier. It's so cool to be in my 60's!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Organic Cotton

I grew cotton here on the finca for the first time two years ago. It didn't grow very tall and there weren't that many bolls, enough to get a feel for the process and a little understanding of what it's like to spin cotton. Fiddley but I enjoyed it.

This year I grew a bit more. The plants were healthier and a bit stronger. I hope this is an indication that our soil improvement is working!


If anyone wants some seeds. Drop me an email with your name and address. J dot LeGalloudec at symbol gmail.com and I'll put a few in the post for you. A long hot summer is required for the bolls to form but I believe you can still grow the bushes even if it's not that warm where you live.