Category Archives: Autumn

That Old Chestnut

That old chestnut is very apt for the Sierra Aracena which on the north slopes is full of very old chestnut orchards. Some trees must be over 200 years old. For visitors November is a major attraction because the changing leaves of Autumn are a rare sight in these southern parts of Andalucia. The chestnuts, poplars and fruit trees all add to an intoxicating colour spectacle. There are coachloads of tourists and the plazas of the small white villages are full of people enjoying local food after some walks around the area or just views from a coach tour. However, the local people who historically have some land are busy with the chestnut harvest. Except it is difficult to really make this profitable and each year seems to bring a different problem.

Last year it was a raging storm called ‘ Borrasca Barbara. Due to Covid and the birth of my second granddaughter, Jessica Rose, we were not here to witness the devastation to the old trees. On our return most of the fallen branches had been converted into firewood. I am sure I would have been more upset but friends helped clear the worst of it.

This year the price of chestnuts is very low at 1 euro a kilo so this has not made it worth paying to collect and it is backbreaking to do this all myself. I managed some at the rate of 3 kilos in about 20 minutes!

Then there is the peeling to do. And there is always some advice on the best way to do this, Mine is revealed if you read on!

At Navasola we have many old chestnut trees and each tree can deliver up to 10 kg of chestnuts if there has been plenty of rain in both spring and autumn. My main tasks in November is to prepare and preserve as many chestnuts as I can for my own use. This involves the tedious task of trying to peel off the inner skin. I believe chestnuts do not intend to be eaten by humans. The wild boar and other creatures do not seem to mind and can continue foraging or inhabiting these belligerent nuts for many months. However for humans there is a procedure to follow.

First here is the outer spiny case which is referred to as a hedgehog in Spanish. Gloves and good boots are needed to get the chestnuts out of these if still in them on the ground. Am sure this makes mechanical picking impossible.

Then once picked, beware, these are fresh fruits of the earth which can be infested with a maggot or go mouldy very quickly. I think commercially they are dried but for my own use it is good to keep some in the fridge. This year I was told to then put them in the sunshine in order for the peels to come off more easily.

Ah ha, I sat in the warm sunshine about two weeks ago, not possible now as the chill has set in, and began peeling off the outer layer. Not too bad but the inner thin brown skin which is so bitter was still pretty reluctant. But it was a very meditative and pleasant sun filled serotonin inducing time. I sat for about two hours and had some beautiful whole peeled chestnuts at the end of this. About 20. A labour of love and certainly not profitable. I felt privileged to have the time to experience this but my aching hand that night rebelled. Two years previous to this (as 2020 was lost to this chestnut experience) I developed a chestnut callous on my finger from peeling.

So why do this? Well I feel the chestnuts are a good and sustainable source of protein and make good additions to stews, and chestnut rissoles. And there is this desire to pick them up all glossy and shiny. And roast them.

We hear from some friends in Tenerife that they are enjoying walking down to the plaza and having roast chestnuts and red wine. Mmmm. I must retire to a place in the sun where that is the only way I experience chestnuts.

Well, this year we have discovered the secret to removing the inner brown skin is steaming. After roasting, cover with a cloth to allow the steam to remove the thin skin more easily. Using a steamer was also much quicker than anything I have tried before. Still takes some time but easier!

And the olives this year have been amazing but very high up in the old olive trees which makes collection more difficult. But the olives and the different types and different methods for preserving must be another post.

One of our major issues post Brexit seems to be the changes to our roaming data and use of our mobile Wifi. So until we work out another system I cannot use up too much data. But soon I will catch up with you and all those wonderful photographs on so many amazing nature blogs.

With good wishes to all from Navasola for Thanksgiving time.

Wherever the Weather, Whatever the Weather, for Dverse Poets.

Here is a poem about the weather for Dverse poets as I look through my window onto a very London Garden of the past. There is still an old apple tree from when this area was an orchard in the 1920s! How aware are we of how the weather is changing and the causes of this are possibly much more of our own making. When will we wake up to the stronger winds? The British Met Office has decided to name storms. Storm force gales of 80 mph are supposed to be hitting the North of England soon. The weather may be a little quieter in the south,for a while.

Garden and apple tree in London
Garden and apple tree in London

Fuchsia for a dearly loved cat
Fuchsia for a dearly loved cat

In London Town the sun shines bright

After dismal days of rainy grey clouded skies.

Leaves falling with their tints of yellow red,

Tiny blue of tiny tit, pink plumage of wood pigeon

The lilac tones of fuchsia for a dearly loved cat.

A family garden of changing times

In the shade of an ivy clad old apple tree.

The weather is changing, November is now warm,

Am I too changing with the passing seasons.

The sky changes to a stormy grey, the leaves fall fast.
The Met Office wants us to feel storms are friendly too.
By giving names do we accept them more,
The changing times of climate crisis.

Abigail is brewing over the Isle of Skye

Far off in a North West corner of a very British Isle.

Warm and wet is that our future, clustered in a cloud.

Frozen drought and hurricane forces

Are coming further north or further south

The wind is knocking far too gently at our door.

Kew Gardens London UK . Storms and glasshouses.
Kew Gardens London UK .
Storms and glasshouses.

Stinkhorns and roses in the rain. Or phallus and posies!

Around Navasola after the rain there seems to be an abundance of mushrooms including these which attract flies and are supposed to be edible! After seeing so many flies on them any desire to eat them has gone!It seems the dear flies are being exploited by a cunning plan and Phallus Impudicus spreads its  spores on the feet of the flies! But the  rose is struggling to come out. I thought it was another poor purchase as it didn’t flower again after April BUT it is in these parts a very vibrant winter flowering rose.image

Phallus impudicus
Phallus impudicus

Flies on the stinkhorn! Look carefully!
Flies on the stinkhorn! Look carefully!

A fertile feeling: Ms Peoni Broteri getting ready for rebirth!

Our wild child Ms Peony Broteri is now settling down for the winter with hopefully tubers deep down by the chestnut tree roots and the seeds hidden away. Have been told the seeds can take two years to birth into another wild and seductive Ms Peony.

Wild peony forest January/February
Wild peony forest
January/February

The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects.
The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects.

Ms Peony chatterbox
Ms Peony chatterbox in  Autumn

image
October

Equinox flowers on Finca Navasola

Here we are back at the Finca in the Sierra Aracena. At first I thought there were no more flowers but on a short walk up to our era ( where the grain used to be threshed) we came across all these tiny flowers. In the bible of Mediterranean flowers it states they like rocky places and the stones are still in place on the era and it is on a rocky hillside. In the Latin names both the snowflake and squill are down as autumnal and with no leaves. These come after the flowering. And then there was this one extraordinary lily and again with no leaves and just a long stem. I’m hoping the Ohio blogger might cast some light on this variety. It is out now in the public gardens in the town of Aracena. An autumnal lily?

Having just passed the equinox at least all around the world we share the same amount of daytime for a while! And I really enjoy sharing blogs with everyone all around this most amazing world of nature and the humans that love and care for it!

Tiny flowers and one lily on the era this September.
Tiny flowers and one lily on the era this September.

Latin names Scilla Autumnalis  for Autumn squill Leucojum autumn ale for Autumn snowflake.
Latin names
Scilla Autumnalis for Autumn squill
Leucojum autumn ale for Autumn snowflake.

Snowflakes and Autumn Squill....very tiny.
Snowflakes and Autumn Squill….very tiny.

One lily.....seeded by birds as can be found in public gardens in the nearby town of Aracena.
One lily…..seeded by birds as can be found in public gardens in the nearby town of Aracena.