Reservoir Dogs. Water, wells and walkies.

To own a dog is both a privilege and a responsibility. Walks are essential. To live in the countryside, close to nature, with an abundance of trees is both a joy and a worry. Water is essential for all living things. Here in the Sierra we took a trip to the reservoir or embalse in Spanish. It is a large lake with a dam. The water is a clear deep blue under the bright blues of an Andalusian sky. We walked around the shore and enjoyed the warmth, the rocks and the beauty of water, rippling gently in a slight breeze.

In the summer of 2016 I swam in the reservoir with my daughter. The water level was at is normal shoreline. In 2017 we have not had any usual downpours of rain for which this area is well known and gives it its green and wide range of trees. The water level was very low, perhaps 2 metres and we walked over the dry rocks where we had swam.

It has been a busy few weeks back, with the chestnut harvest in full swing in our area. One of the main comments is the size of chestnuts are smaller than usual due to little water. These trees need a reasonable amount of water and are not found on the hotter and drier south side of the Sierra. To me it seems amazing how the chestnuts and all the other trees seem to cope with the lack of rainfall. It has only been the cherries that have looked wilted. Their roots must penetrate deep and draw out water from sources underground. Our well on the finca is called a manantiel, meaning a possible spring coming into the rocks. It is not a very deep well and there are some stairs that go down too. This makes it easy to adjust and check the water pump. We have had to do that twice this Autumn as the water levels have gone below the pump. We must now use our water supply very carefully. Lets pray for the rain to come soon. A raindance might be lively but also perhaps we should take action in whatever ways we can to mitigate the effects of our species on this planet.

While looking after Lotte my friend Ruth’s tibetan terrier we walked down to the well and I took photographs of the changing colours of leaves in the late afternoon sun. She’s used to this as a Ruth is an artist and photographer. So there were lots of stops and starts in the walk.

Hawthorn berries
Arbutus Unedo berries.
Quince or membrillo

The Sierra Aracena is well known for its Autumn Fall colours and is quite unique in the south for this. It is the most popular time to visit and coaches come on tours too. In Southern Spain this variety of colour from many trees is rare. Because here we usually have very high rainfall and a variety of deciduous trees.

I have been busy with produce too and making chestnut rissoles, membrillo from the quinces and madrono jam from the rather gritty but bright red fruits of  Arbutus Unedo, the strawberry tree. For this month of November I have taken on the challenge of eating vegan food. I thought cutting the dairy would be hard but have got used to my tea, light black with lemon and ginger. AI love to eat a lot of fresh vegetables and rice it has not been too hard. Perhaps a recipe post is needed at the end of the month?

Lentiscus leaves
Chestnut leaves

Abrazos, hugs from us all in Spain and thank you all for all the lovely comment on the arrival of my first grandchild, Olivia Jane. I am having a go at planting some olive seeds courtesy of you tube!

Olivia and the Olive Trees of Navasola

I am back at Navasola and involved in the chestnut harvest and looking for any olives I can find that have not fallen. So I will post about the wonders of the Mediterranean olive tree and my first granddaughter Olivia. Thank you for all the kind comments on my previous post as we awaited the birth and particularly Eliza Waters for the interesting expression about birth ‘ may it unfold with ease! Well, as with most births there is some drama but it was with ‘relative ease’ that Olivia Jane arrived into this world. The name Olivia was chosen by her father and the name Jane is a family name. Unknown to this little Olivia the name seems to derive from Italian and Oliva after the significance of olive trees in Mediterranean and biblical culture. However, it seems to be William Shakespeare who made a slight addition of the ‘i’ to create the character Olivia in 12 th Night.
So here at Navasola I have plenty of olive trees for Olivia to one day get to know. I’ve included a photo from Wikipedia to show the development of the flowers. These can be so small and easily missed. On my botanical illustration course I drew some olives from a photo but could not remember ever seeing the flowers. As that was when I was working I thought I just missed the season they bloomed. I am also aware that I am missing some of the small changes as Olivia grows but thanks to video and Skype I can follow the progress of a small human too!

View from era to house, through olive grove of 21 trees

The beauty of the olive tree may be in its evergreen silvery grey dancing leaves, its light bark and of course its fruit, the bitter olive that the birds still peck at in Autumn. Olive cultivation is very old but seems to have originated from the region around Italy. We are not sure how this bitter fruit was first discovered to be so useful as there are certain processes needed to remove the bitter phenols in it. However, with crushing the bitter phenols break down. Therichness of the oil became sacred and well known for its healthiness and healing properties. The Olive branch has become a symbol of peace, purity and wisdom in ancient times used in wreaths to recognise achievements. 

I decided to plant an olive seed or two for Olivia but on looking this up encountered a few surprising facts about cultivated Olive trees. It seems to be that by just planting  a seed it will only produce a wild olive. This will produce smaller fruit.  Cultivated Olives are engendered mainly through grafting. This might explain why I do not find many new olive trees growing on the finca unlike the productivity of the chestnut seeds. These and plums seem to grow up anywhere possible!

Black olives high in tree against Andalusian blue sky
However, the Olive is a long lived tree and it’s roots can withstand fires and will send out sucklings. Here at Navasola the trees have become too tall to harvest commercially but I will set out today to see what olives I can find for our own use. It has been such a dry, long hot summer and this has affected the size of the chestnuts and seems to have dried out a lot of olives. Many have fallen to the ground early and in a wizened state. But there are some and I will finally do a count of the olive trees, mostly situated on rocky slopes, where they can survive with much less water than the chestnuts. How much less is not yet known. I hope we can help all learn to be more resilient to climate changes and its effect on our own landscape, flora and flora here and globally help prevent more rises in temperature.  This has been our hottest and driest year yet.

With thanks to all my readers and followers and I hope to have more of a routine set up to write to and follow all your posts in the coming year.

Below, the growth of Olivia Jane, week by week. From newborn to 4 weeks and many subtle  changes. And the growth of flowers on an Olive tree!



The growth of Olive flowers by J Oteros on wikipedia