Category Archives: Andalucia

Feliz Navidad, Felices Fiestas a todos. Seasons Greetings from Southern Spain

Greetings to all and as many of you know it has been a busy year but we are now in the Sierra Aracena and able to have a restful Christmastide. At present we can enjoy the Andalusian blue skies in the middle of the day and log fires for the evening chill. We managed a midday walk around the pueblo of Valdelarco. Here the Sierra villages have a tradition of crochet decoration for winter. In Valdelarco the trees in the square and the benches have been given a warm covering of colourful crochet.  A great idea for the cold iron benches.

It was our intention for our walk to be circular and we headed off from the upper part of the village. It was hard to park as all the parents and local school buses were attending a festive programme for the linked primary schools of our three local villages. Rural life seems well supported in Spain and there are the local school, village pharmacies and regular GP surgeries. As we climbed up there were some good views back over the village and through to the other hills of the Sierra Morena of which our Sierra is a part of.

We followed the map and turned right before the barranco/ stream with the pilgrimage church for the romeria on the other side. The romeria is the local village festival and usually takes place on the feast day of the village saint but usually in warmer weather! I showed the major romeria for most of the local villages in September when horses, carts and the bullocks set off for the church of the ‘Queen of the Angels.(La Reina de Los Angeles.)We walked quite a way and were hoping to complete a circular route. The path was pretty but finally came to an end with an impressive locked gate and lots of notices to confirm we would not be welcome to continue. Sin pasar! A lot of the well know public paths are kept open forming a network of ‘senderos’ but most of these are long distance and there are few circular routes. There is also a local group that tries to keep paths open and this had certainly looked a very clear path on the map.

Walking back was uphill! We planned to eat by the pilgrimage church in the full sun but ended up by a signed post and opposite the red sandy banks where the bee eaters nest in the spring. They have gone for a warm respite to somewhere in Africa. These birds also feature in my novel so I am very fond of them!

Greetings to all. We are all well and Trevor managed to overcome some of his difficulties with walking. We are plodding on with finishing the house hence view of my new shelves with Christmas cards and tools. I also managed to create a festive space with some solar lights.

We will have a pot luck veggie Christmas with friends. Chestnut and Apricot nut loaf and a trifle with sherry and madroño are my offerings. I am finally finished with the chestnuts and the blisters they give me. Why such a tasty and nutritious nut should prove so difficult to peel is beyond me! I managed to complete a vegan challenge in November and certainly felt good with the diet and overcame my desire for tea with milk. I now have light black tea with ginger and/ or lemon.

I am beginning to look into how the way we eat and farm does affect the natural world and is probably one of our biggest threats and challenges for the loss of biodiversity and climate change. In the news there was a report about the scale of recent deforestation amounting to the size of Spain. Spain is huge. The views I show of the Sierra should really be covered in trees. Reforestation could halt drastic rises in world temperatures.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2017/dec/22/failing-our-forests-in-two-years-weve-lost-enough-trees-to-cover-spain?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Thanks to everyone for all the love,support, cards, messages and comments this year. This is the time of year for the Baby Jesus story so I will sign off with the first smiles of my first grandchild. Babies seem to encourage us to look after them and think about doing what we can to provide a good life, inner and outer. Here’s to our desire and hope for peace, and for a future that’s good for all living things on this beautiful planet earth. Abrazos a todos. Hugs to everyone.

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!

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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!

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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!


 

 

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The growth of Olive flowers by J Oteros on wikipedia

Our Wild and Wonderful World

The human world seems to be distracting me from blogging. But I have been out and about at Navasola and also able to try photographs with a friend’s lumix camera. It was quite disturbing at first as all I wanted was an ordinary still photo and it was set on 4K! It’s been quite a learning curve and I have also been busy in my veg plot trying to create some beds which will retain moisture. I am trying out Hugel Kultur as I have lots of wood and have laid down branches at the base. More on that another time.

April and May have seen Navasola full of wild flowers so here is a glimpse of that glory as the heat from Saharan Africa has already reached us and the Spring flowers have given way to the more drought and heat resistant scabious and mulleins.

First the peonies. There were the most I’ve seen on the Finca this year. It was hard to photograph the overall effect  so there are some close ups with the new lumix camera.

Some of my favourites here in Spring are the tassel hyacinths, palmate anemone, celandine and the knapweed.

But there’s always the Spanish broom and Spanish lavender or French unless you are in Spain! Photo angle courtesy of Steve Schwartzman’s very informative blog for photography tips and botany.

I also had difficulty cultivating one of the vegetable beds. It was full of poppies and a first for me. I couldn’t then remove these beauties! Dig up the ground and they will come!

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We have had had plenty of birds around too but it is our water bath that is the draw not any food we put out! One day red rumped swallows checked out our new porch but didn’t return. Another day the sky was full of vultures. There must have been over 30 gathering and some flew so low over us you could hear the wing beats.

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Greetings to all those bloggers out there who follow me. I have been keeping an eye on your posts but needed to get back in gear. A new blogger and follower from a place I lived in 30 odd years ago sparked me to return to share. Landscaping Nature from Hyderabad in South India. I have got further with my novel about the wild world  and hope the blog can also help inspire us with nature and it’s diverse wonders.

Photos taken with Panasonic LUMIX FZ300

100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!

April is here in Navasola and the warblers have arrived and in full song. There seems to have been so much happening that I have lost the routine of blogging but have often taken photos and thought of posts I could write! So here are some images of my nature journey at Navasola and nearby over the past three months. There have been other journeys and certainly there is a lot to think about in the world today and particularly for the environmental health of the planet we and so many other species depend on. But for now this is about the beauty of nature and perhaps this is a way for me to do some ‘warm up’ writing Continue reading 100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!

A Butterfly and a Flower for a Birthday. And final celebrations on the birth of Jesus. Los Reyes Magos: The Night of the Visit of the Three Kings. 

Red Admiral on footpath to Galaroza, Vanessa Atlanta
Red Admiral on footpath to Galaroza, Vanessa Atlanta

This post is for my daughter Theodora. I cannot be with her on her birthday but can send this beautiful flower and a butterfly photo  from Southern Spain. So far the sun has shone and the red admiral came out of its hideaway and posed for us. I also bought this gazania to brighten up the rock garden and on looking up its name found it was named after Theodorus Gaza, in the 15 th Century.( On Wikipedia, and he translated Theophrastus on plants)

A popular garden flower; a gazania
A popular garden flower; a gazania

On one of those pregnant impulses I had decided to name my baby after the Saints day she or he would be born on. Luckily she decided against Jan 6 th and Epiphany and came on the day of St Theodosius. And are those days so long ago that we didn’t know or need to know the gender. So Theo sounded like a great idea at the time! But I was pushed to make it more feminine.

For the past two years I have missed her birthday as I had never been able to see the celebrations in Spain for the feast of the Kings. ( Joy of being a teacher and the Return to School) It all happens on the eve of Jan 6 th. Last year a friend came to stay and we visited the ‘big’ one in Higuera de la Sierra.  More in last year’s post. Los Reyes Magos in the Sierra Aracena. Feast of the Kings Processions.

Mary's mother waiting.
Mary’s mother waiting.

This year we went to Linares on the south side of the Sierra Aracena. Here they create scenes from the nativity story in their houses and gardens. Linares is a special village with cobblestone art work on the ground in front of many of the houses. This event is also very special and different from the processions.

I loved seeing inside some of the houses and also small stores, naves where animals would and still might be kept. It was very reminiscent of the closeness of village life over the centuries and miles to Bethlehem. Most of all I loved being able to see into the gardens and orchards. I am a little jealous because they can grow oranges on that side of the Sierra and we have to cope with chestnuts!

After this it was back to see our village procession. Although there may be many tourists here for the Los Reyes processions it is truly a local event. All the children of a village receive presents from the Three Wise Kings. First there is the procession led by the star. She must be the one who gets cold! She is followed by a variety of floats with different scenes, some biblical, some original. These may vary each year. The richness of the scenes shown really tell so many aspects of the Nativity.  The final three floats are for the three wise kings who bring gifts. Balls and sweets were thrown to the crowds watching and following.The irony of the sweets were ‘love bites’ made in Hyderabad, India, where we lived some years ago. Just for trade wars, there were also some made in Córdoba, Spain.

Here in our village it was charming and very much all the local people involved with small tractors pulling brightly decorated carts.

One thing that stood out were the smiles on everyone’s faces: children and adults.
Wishing Theo and everyone who reads my blog a very happy and peaceful 2017. And in 2018 and future years Theo, Josie, family and friends can visit the Sierra to see the wise men, women and children who create this event.

The other side of life: Pleasances and unpleasaunces or what the blogger doesn’t tell!

I have just had a welcome break from both the pleasant and less pleasant side of staying on our finca Navasola. It is not all sitting back in the sunshine and looking at the butterflies! I was struck by the writer and blogger at the greenwriting room Hilary on the idea of ‘pleasaunces and unpleasaunces ‘ in our gardens and perhaps in our blogs. There was also a challenge by another blogger to write about the ‘stuff’ we don’t always wish to mention.

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So sitting out in the sun in July and August is not one of my priorities. Avoiding it is! At temperatures over 30 and the need to water regularly the glorious sunshine loses some of its glory. But not all. The mornings and the evenings into late nights are wonderful.There is also the reminder to get the wood pile sorted and get more wood in. From November we will need a fire until April. The Sierra Aracena climate varies but we are high up above sea level.

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I have not blogged much about the building work. Perhaps I try and avoid the fact that we have spent almost 3 years with the house being a building site. The end is in sight but also seems far off. There are also some chores or maintenance work. If getting on the roof and hosing down the dusty solar panels seems like a chore. And there is a lot of house painting, inner and outer to do. But the wasps have set up their homes too.

I am trying to create some garden areas, vegetable and flowers but the conditions sometimes thwart me. It can be too hot and too cold and rain a lot for weeks and then not rain at all for months. My triangle outside the house is the living space between the building materials still needed.

Butterfly on marigold
Butterfly on marigold

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I always wish to go and visit family in the UK so keeping animals seems impossible at present. I was happy to have my friend’s dog, the lovely Lotti for a week. That was my dog retreat week. I was on my own with a tibetan terrier for company, and some spiders, our giant moths and one night a gigantic cricket. Lots of walks and at least a dog to talk to. But I will need to keep the burrs and seeds at bay if I am to have a dog. I remember from when my golden retriever came on holiday with us here some years back. Burrs galore and constantly having to check paws and get rid of such a variety of ways of distributing seeds. The lovely Daucus Carota or wild carrot might need to be kept in check. A fellow blogger warned me of these being near the washing. Or a dog! They will stick onto almost anything. Splendid in a photograph though.

Seed pod of Daucus Carota, wild carrot
Seed pod of Daucus Carota, wild carrot

 

Daucus carota= wild carrot thrives in July and August
Daucus carota= wild carrot thrives in July and August

And then we’ve had another holiday. It really has been a break from the heat and the ‘pressures’ of work. Time to reflect in a very beautiful spot. We had decided to revisit the Azores as it was so rainy and cloudy in January. This time to another island; Horta on Faial. More on that later.

Oh No! Back to Work! What work when its a labour of love?
Oh No! Back to Work! What work when its a labour of love?

It’s now back to work time. Finish off more on the building and DIY, hide away some of those unpleasaunces. Another growing season to get ready and more revising and editing of the novel.

Back home: June at Navasola, Wild flowers and Wicked ways. Never pick wild flowers. No recoge las flores salvaje.

‘Wild flowers are for everyone to enjoy. Leave them alone.’ The photo is of a wild iris for all to admire, part of the ecosystem for bees and pollinators, the plant needs to fulfil its life cycle to survive and reproduce.  Never pick wild flowers. No recogas flores salvajes. Some are very rare now and some extinct. Many are extremely poisonous. Best left alone!

I have spent over a month away from Navasola. While I have experienced snow in Dorset, spring  breezes in Rhodes and hot weather in London and Manchester during April and May the weather here in the South of Spain has been mainly wet. This desperate downfall of water has created an abundance of growth: wild flowers, bracken and high grasses. My vegetable garden is hard to see and also the rock flower garden. But with a bit of work I am getting it less sneeze inducing and for better or worse a bit less wild. I struggle with this but need a few patches where I can try and grow things. This is where I have to discern rare flowers from less rare but all have their part and I love seeing how so many can self seed. I leave many but the cultivated ones struggle to survive if overgrown with the wild ones!  Below is the view from my sanctuary window after a bit of work. I moved the lemon balm which had gone mad and put in a rose from Ruth. There are some wild ones in the photo, a local lily,  three wild alliums  and some to be named! This type of red rose is cultivated and irrigated in this area. It flowers for a long time and the bees love it.

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1591

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1587

 

 

 

 

 

I have been busy in the UK visiting friends, family and two lovely weddings and for the last week I have had friends and family to stay with me here. We have walked around the finca and found lots of different wild flowers and exuberant growth. Lotti, Ruth’s dog also found where the boar had been taking mud baths and had left their two toe prints. For a short while we had had a stream running into our pond and out the other side. I could have grown rice!

There are also lots of wild iris and foxglove about. Higher up on the hillside it is covered with pink silene and some white ones. There are also lots of yellow flowers and tolpis with tiny white snowflake flowers close to the ground. Too hard to photograph the beauty of such a spread.

Last year outside our gate there was a beautiful wild orchid which I photographed but not clearly enough. This year I was sent a message and we joked and using the expression from the German New Year comedy ‘same procedure as last year’ . Unfortunately, this year within the last few days, someone has come and picked the flower stem.  It seems that the wild iris  is picked too. It is such a shame when wild flowers are interfered with and the orchids are rare. I can only hope that the main part of the plant will be able to flower again. I’m sure it was my parents who used to say wild flowers are for everyone to enjoy, leave them alone. Now, it is a conservation issue too. Too much of the wild is being lost by human hands.

Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola
Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola

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Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1477

 

 

 

Now I am back I hope to catch up with as many of you as I can  while trying to grow my own veg and finish that novel about the wild ones.