Category Archives: Spain

Los Reyes Magos in the Sierra Aracena. Feast of the Kings Processions.

It has been good to have a friend to stay and we have had a busy week. However, one of the main attractions was to see the processions for the Feast of the Kings in Higuera. This procession is said to be the second biggest in Spain. This fact came from a glossy book about all the cabalgata processions in the Sierra Aracena. Each village had their own procession and timing and the Higuera one was the last. Photographs are thanks to Madeleine with her Fuji camera.  By chance in the morning we stumbled across the preparation of the floats for the main town Aracena’s procession. It was interesting to see how much work and time was involved and the workshop was near the emporium Mercedes ( a real Aladdin’s cave for the home) .

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Here we were very specifically told that the rain which was just beginning would stop at 6 in the evening. God must have been very willing and indeed the downpours came to an end just after 6.

We were able to see our local one  in Fuenteheridos, which was lovely and very community based with children on the floats. It started from the local school and ended at the church. We were showered with sweets and footballs. There seems to be a tradition for a float with a windmill. I wonder why?

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Onto Higuera, with some good parking advice from a friend in the village, we were able to dive into one of the local museums about the distilling of liquor. There was still time for a free offering of the local chestnut liquor. This warmed us up because now the night was very cold and starry. Orion seemed to be doing a break dance position over the small town of Higuera.

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We now realised why this was the second biggest procession in Spain. Gone were the small tractors pulling the beautifully decorated floats and young people of Fuenteheridos. Gone were the bigger tractors and more stylised floats of Aracena. Here in Higuera were the juggernauts of engines with their long trailers. All of the areas big lorries were probably here tonight. And their trailers all dressed up very realistically with scenes from the bible story surrounding the birth of Christ and the the three wise men or kings as the Spanish tells us. Los Reyes Magos.  Here we were lucky to see the Guiding Star getting into position. There was a real baby for Jesus, Several brass bands. Fireworks at the start. There was such a stillness in the tableaux as many familiar scenes passed by and some unfamiliar. There was no hiding the horror of Herod and the slaughter of innocent new born babies.

And the cold! How did they all keep so still in the cold January night? My iphone photo of the Angel’s feet is my own symbolic gesture to the devotion and effort which goes into this night. And then the sweets! In the villages the local children are also given presents from the community later on towards the end of the procession.blhig slaughter

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All through the Sierra Aracena in each of each village or towns there is a  distinct tradition for celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Kings. Here no camel was in sight!  The other floats showed scenes based on the Holy Land with goats, wells and sheep. Real ones and all quite still!  I am so pleased I have finally been in Spain for Christmas and this time. Have usually had to go back to work by the 5th and 6th of January!  I’d certainly recommend it and to wrap up warm. And if you want to be involved don’t offer to be an angel with bare feet!

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Clear Skies, Bright Stars. Advent and Hope for Peace.

Here is a seasonal post inspired by  Dverse Poets and the stars.

We are now back at Navasola and although the stars and the sun do shine very brightly here I will miss being with my daughters this Christmas. It will be our first Christmas outside the UK and our first at Navasola. We were first greeted in Seville with grey and overcast skies; same as in London and other parts of the UK over the past month.Today the sun has come out bright,warm and strong and with the clearer skies the stars too are shining bright in the very dark skies we have here in the Sierra Aracena.  The viburnum tinus berries are metallic and bright. A Sardinian warbler, great tit and jays were gathering food by the house and now and again a butterfly flies by! The vultures also enjoyed the thermals when I was out on a walk with Lotti and Ruth. See post on Autumn for Ruth’s photography and links to her art work. She inspires me to draw!

We are looking forward to finding out more about how Christmas is celebrated here and in particular the Feast of the Kings on the 5th and 6th of January. Here there are processions showing this part of the Nativity story and children get presents.

It is the end of another blogging year and I have been inspired by so many of the links made to Navasola through nature blogs and many others now. I have managed to read some books by Opher Goodwin and in particular Anthropocene Apocalypse and Ebola in the Garden of Eden. Both very good reads and with current concerns about the future of our planet. Opher Goodwin

 

I am also glad to be linked to Dverse poets who have managed to spark some poetic muse in me. The poem below is inspired by poems by Victoria Slotto and Bjorn Rudberg  about the stars. I have also linked to another poet Malcolm Guite and bought his book with poetry for Advent. These have inspired me to write this poem about the stars I saw above Navasola in the summer months.

Stars over Navasola

Above the silhouette of trees appear a clarity of stars
Numinous and numerous I search for one.
The childhood star my father saw I saw.
The Pole star’s perfect North still guiding some.

 

The wizened faces of the chestnut trees with me stare,
Abandoned olive branches touch the sky I seek to name,
With virtual app- titude we see the lights of Vega and Altair,
Bright threesome pulse with Deneb and the flighty swan.

 

An owl sounds out from Navasola East.

The moon still hides behind the hill.

Through the dark of earth and sky, wander many a beast.

Summer sounds and warmth surround me still.

 

 

Now in December’s dark chill drawn days,
Advent’s hope casts doubts on the prophecies of stars.
What and where is that bright star, the magi say?
How much to know, how far to go, to go, how far?

 

 

 

An Autumn Walk in the Sierra Aracena. The falling leaves of the ancient trees. The photography and Art of Ruth Koenigsberger

Old chestnut trees in the Sierra Aracena
Old chestnut trees in the Sierra Aracena

I am so pleased I have the opportunity to share the photography and links to art work of my friend and neighbour Ruth. Her photographs come from walking around the countryside with her dog, the lovely Lotti. ( featured in previous posts and a surrogate dog for me at present!) When I can I walk with her and breathe in the beauty of the changing seasons we have here. I have also shown her garden with all the poppies in my previous post and haiku to Liberty, Love and Light. The link is to her art work at the Artagora Galeria Virtual Ruth Koenigsberger. I love the way she can capture both colour and light. For me there is a deep link to nature in her work and a spiritual light within her creative art. Try the link on her name and walk round a virtual art gallery too! There are  castano trees, ancient chestnuts from the Sierra and the Caldera in La Palma but also some imaginative interpretations of our world from the inner eye of an artist.

I miss all my friends in the Sierra Aracena as I have to be in the UK for a short while. Many there live a peaceful lifestyle that can bring them close to the natural world through organic gardening, permaculture, spiritual practices, yoga and of course the creative arts. It is almost a year since I wrote Bats on my Birthday and have found blogging useful to warm up my writing muscles. I hope to write more stories and poems to help us come closer to this wonderful and diverse world of nature.

For this week I want to highlight the need to care for the living systems on the planet. There are so many people who want to rise above the atrocities in Paris and send a message that we must change the way we live in this world or the living planet will suffer and not be able to give us and all other creatures the habitats and food sources we need to thrive.

As I cannot walk on the Climate Change March  on the eve of the talks in Paris I will try some virtual walks like this one in the Sierra Aracena. Let’s hold the Climate Change talks in the light  and where possible petition and campaign for the change our planet needs.

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The lovely Lotti
The lovely Lotti
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Hollyhock and black carpenter bee in Ruth’s garden. October 2015

Animal encounters of the not so good kind. The cycle of Life.

Animal encounters at Navasola are few and far between. Much life is out there but usually elusive. A bird alights on a branch nearby and then moves behind some leaves and as if it knows you are watching creeps up the tree mainly out of view. Just enough for us to know it is there. So we were surprised and alarmed by a sudden bang at our kitchen window. It was a beautiful Red Rumped swallow. We were all taken by surprise and thankfully after allowing me to take some photos it recovered and flew off. The fat fly was left dead on the store roof.

The park regulations for windows are strange and large ones are not allowed. We would love more light but maybe it would be difficult for birds flying into the glass by mistake. We will get some bird stickers but that would have made no difference to the Red Rumped swallow on its mad chase of a fat fly. I’m glad the bird was only a little stunned and flew off in good feather.

Red rump swallow on battery shed roof after flying into window chasing fly!
Red rump swallow on shed roof after flying into window chasing fly!

Another encounter was the return of the Wood Mouse and with a vengeance in a large cardboard box I had stored some bed linen in. But not for the mouse! After excavating all the bedding I find the cause of the sounds and bitten bedding. The mouse was trapped at the bottom of this deep box .  We decided to lure it with food and straw in a box but that was the last thing it wanted was to take a rest, go into the little box and then we would have humanely released it back to the wood pile. It jumped high, somersaulted and then bit the bottom of the box ferociously. We need a net but I find a bit of cardboard for a ladder out.  It falls into the box and with a quick action I get a lid on it. We release it into the rock garden where it bounds off. Well, was it a lucky mouse……. Two days later I open the front door to an amazing view of a weasel poised on the rock. I can see its back very clearly and for a while it doesn’t move. As it turns its head I can see a wood mouse in its mouth. Whether it was the same one we shall never know. The weasel turned, looked at me and then slunk off.  We probably don’t need to find a cat! Maybe this was the same weasel I saw some time ago. They can live for a few years and we have plenty of wood mice.

Wood mouse trapped in gigantic cardboard box
Wood mouse trapped in gigantic cardboard box
Woody Wood Mouse
Woody Wood Mouse
Churchyard beetle
Churchyard beetle keeping me awake at night!

If you ever have the fortune to come and stay with us do not be surprised to be woken at night by strange creatures.

I told a previous tale of the bat on my birthday when our friends came to stay and were woken by the bat.

It is also not really advisable to keep windows wide open even if very hot. Bat wings are actually quite noisy as I found out myself one sleepless night. Mice scrabbling has been dealt with too and we try a row of bricks by the door and have been given a humane trap. But the noisiest for its size has been the churchyard beetle. Now to wake me fine but not another friend in the brand new bedroom. There was a scream when the culprit showed itself.

Ladder back snake crushed by car wheel?
Ladder back snake crushed by car

A sad tale was when we discovered the crushed and quite dead ladder snake. It had probably been our friend’s car when leaving. These are the friends who have suffered bat visitations and the beast on the roof that turns tiles over. The noisy night criminal is quick to get away and has as yet not revealed its identity. Even though it was me who had gone out in the dead of night with torch it slipped away. This was just as well as it sounded so loud on the roof.  possibly a beech marten, genet or that darned fox. We did come across a  drowned beech marten once. Someone had stolen the top of a water butt and this creature was inside. Hopefully it is another member of that family banging on our roof.

However, the demise of the ladder snake gave a good banquet to these large ants. I had put this beautiful but dead creature on a rock. The next day the ants were carrying off the skeleton with excellent team work skills.

Snake being cleaned up by ants!
Snake being cleaned up by ants!

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As for the bird life a baby swift is saved from the feral cats of the village. There is a centre just out of Seville which monitors swifts and helps in recuperation. There have been declining numbers of swifts, swallows and house martins and hopefully every little helps.

Watching these swallows swooping down the valley or the great hordes of swifts in one village and the house martins in Cabanas might make me think there is no problem but much more needs to be done to ensure survival of these migratory birds.

Red rump swallow recovering from being stunned and ready to fly off.
Red rump swallow recovering from being stunned and ready to fly off.

Yellow is the colour of……..Botany studies in yellow

And with thanks to Opher’s World for nominating me for some blogging awards. Check Opher out as there are plenty of references to the great music of the 60s, Dylan, definitely and maybe Donovan! But Opher Goodwin has written some great books and one that he has shown extracts of is about Anthropocene Collapse. I love one of the futures he envisages where we as a species do survive and also keep 50% of the Earth wild. Here’s to some of the wild flowers at Finca Navasola. It’s always amazing where they pop up.

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Tolpis and so much sun makes photo difficult. A lot of radiating light.

 

A vipers grass. But the lovely lemon flower Rays often closed again within the bud.
A vipers grass. But the lovely lemon flower rays often closed again within the bud.

Yellow is the colour of these wild flowers in the morning.
Yellow is the colour of the Thapsia, tall and elegant from dawn to dusk.
Yellow is the colour of the many, many daisy and dandelion types.
Yellow is the colour that vibrates so bright
Bringing more than just the sunshine’s light.
Bringing the joy of nature’s alluring fight
For the future, the next day, the next year, not the night.

A poem to capture the variety of flowers seen at Navasola this May and June. I had to start identifying through colour as this seemed easier than botanical keys and I had got stuck with 26,000 within the daisy family. Thankfully, we have various books and our own survey which helps narrow this down. But it is still a challenge as there were about five different kinds in yellow. As I was more confident with a range of other flowers I focused on trying to narrow down the daisy types. As we move into June some of this variety are already turning to seed but there are still more to feed the interest of the range of butterflies about. Another post or poem on those!

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Perforate St John’s Wort
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Thapsia, tall and elegant.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
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Leontodon Hispidus I think!
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A wild euphorbia. Yellowish. With wasp with very waspish waist!
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Curry plant and very aromatic
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A lone yellow dahlia facing the bedroom window. At least some things grow well without too much water in my real rock garden.

 

The Journey. From one home to another through France, Basque Country, Extremadura to the Sierra Aracena, Andalucia.

With a long road trip ahead of us and the car laden with stuff to take, including all the wood carving tools given to me because of the sad closure of Heston Woodcarving Club, I was just a little bit anxious that our old car would make it. I was also sad to leave London, and all our family and friends but was also missing our little hidden valley in the South of Spain. Almost 2000km between us. I feel split between two worlds but am fortunate to have that choice.

Travelling through the green of France made me really think France could feed the world. So much agricultural land and such an industry with tractor factories all over the place too! Later I read that France was going to pass a law about waste food in supermarkets. Ironic and sad in a time of food banks for many.We had decided to go on roads without tolls and although a bit slower it was much more interesting and gave me more of an insight into being in France. Hopefully, it was also more fuel efficient and would save at least 100 euros in tolls.
I know Northern France quite well and am always amazed by its peacefulness as we used to take school trips to the World War 1 battlefield sites: Vimy Ridge and Beaumont Hamel, the Canadian sites are both historic and a reminder of a Europe torn and devastated by war, a hundred years ago. We passed to the south of some of these but did pass some graves still immaculately kept in small villages. These places are an important reminder of those who fought and of how now we need to continue to fight for a better world for humans and all species to live in. So many died so young and of a similar age to my 17 and 18 year old A Level students. So we travelled through minor roads near the Somme and even further back in time to Agincourt and finally came to the land of the rich. We stayed at Chateaudun, just south of Chartres. Here is supposed to be the first chateau to be found when coming from Paris to the Loire region, famous for all its chateaux along the river. Holiday homes for the rich. And then the revolution and the French love of Egalite, Fraternite,Liberte and all things French, like good food and wine. On the good food and keeping the French language French, there are some popular eating places such as Macdonalds and Buffalo grill which seem to be doing well as fast food chains, though along with Flunch, a cheap way to self service French dining. We enjoy finding Flunch and can easily even share a meal there!

By the small Loir in Northern France.
By the small Loir in Northern France.
Chateau by Loir, without an e.
Chateau by Loir, without an e.
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Tree lined road of planes near Dax in South West France.
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A not so narrow road but well used by the big trucks avoiding tolls.
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The only way to go in France, by bike!
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The only traffic jam on all the N roads but with a view of the Pyrenees, near Spanish and French border.

The journey through the Basque Country of Spain was beautiful and there are now some amazing roads but the Spanish do charge on these new super highways with major long tunnels through the mountains. The amount of road trucking transport is phenomenal. It is times like this that I do wonder how all this will have to change and hope that by reading Naomi Klein’s book ‘This Changes Everything’ a bit more I can get some insight. It seems to me from the book that there is too much control and investment in the fossil fuels industries which has slowed down the technologies we could all be changing to now. Will these be the giants like the dinosaurs bringing us and other species closer and closer to extinction. Or will it be me, one little ant with a lot of emissions. Could I have been driving a solar powered car? Well, certainly the sun shone most of the way this time!
We then stopped in Salamanca, always worthy of a return visit and always something new to see.mthis time it was the historic Paza Mayor,made all the more interesting by a political demonstration by the new found voice of local people. Ganemos in some way connected to Podemos, the fast growing alternative to the big two party system that has run the show for so long in Spain.

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Near Monfrague national park. Time to look out for vultures.
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Long roads through hot and dry Extremadura.
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The sandy track through the abandoned chestnut fields.
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Inside Navasola and down my magical track!
Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola
Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola

Finally home in our hidden green valley. And was it green. I had worried more about lack of but had been told it was often raining in April! I had to rejoined ice in the exuberance of the wild things growing or despair as my vegetable area was covered in all types of grasses and vetches.some time will need to be spent finding the beans and fruit bushes. Time will also have to be spent in looking at all the wild flowers. There are so many will keep me busy for months but suspect they will not last into the heat of late June.

The journey without tolls was from Dunkirk to Chateuadun to Dax. (with some help from the AA non toll maps.)Dax to Irun and then we chose the highways to Salamanca,mfinally paying a toll near Burgos of 27 euros. We have done this section without tolls but the new autoroute is quite spectacular.

Wings of a butterfly to wildness of wild boar: Close encounters of the natural kind.

 

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What is it that makes an encounter with a wild animal so fascinating and wonderful. It seems to me like a privilege that you are able to see one and at a safe distance in the case of the more threatening ones! We know there are boar on the Finca. We see evidence of their digging, in particular around the path up to the studio.It is a rocky and grassy path and full of wild flowers such as candytuft in the summer. I also had to go to some expense to have a boar proof fence around my new Huerta or allotment patch for vegetables. Fidel who helps us with the chestnut harvest once asked if he could hunt them. Mr T rang me up and got my most adamant reply NO! So they are quite happy here being destructive with the rocky walls, digging up the earth and making it rough to walk over, clearing pathways through the undergrowth and finding enough to eat. In Spain there is a boar hunting season and we had a man chase a boar though the Finca with his dogs once. I only saw the undergrowth move fast but later a dog with a collar and bell appeared and for a while we were wondering what to do with the dog. There are No hunting signs around the campsite and these are areas where people live and walk so again the most dangerous animal is a man with a gun.

Yesterday as I got out of the car to unlock the gate, about 2 on. Rainy afternoon. I pushed the gate open on one side and looked down towards the crest of a hill dipping down the path. For me it seemed like a great big dog appeared, blackish, about the size of a German shepherd dog. I thought at first it was maybe our friend Rainers’s dog but it looked rather grey around the muzzle .
It turned up onto the path and looked to cross. I realised then it must be a boar. It stopped on the path and turned its head round. For a few moments I was staring at the boar and the boar was staring at me. I must have been very still and the boar was motionless until it turned its head agin and wandered off across the path. Mr T was quite indignant that I hadn’t told him and he got out of the car and went down the path to see if the boar was still nearby. He had never seen one on the Finca but had several years ago taken some pictures of some young ones with one of those night automatic infra red cameras. I think it must have been a male and I have twice in the past almost run over one crossing a main road. This is a reminder to me that they are big but not usually about during the daytime. I might now have to take my walks around the Finca with my Spanish boar stick and thudding the ground with it but of course that might ensure I have no more close wild encounters. Usually these wild ones keep well clear of us if we are not to be prey!

The other close encounter was with a butterfly. It was a beautiful evening with the sun just about to disappear behind the hill to the west of our small boat shaped valley. The shadows of the chestnuts in the Navasola west fields were getting longer but I saw a lump of old broken off chestnut with the sun shining fully on it. It looked like a warm place to sit and soak up the last rays of the sun. Then something fluttered by, surely not, a butterfly in January? As I tried to follow it and perhaps identify it it landed on that piece of old wood. A good spot in the sun for a butterfly to warm its wings before a cold night. I couldn’t move but just stared down at it. It’s wings were large with bright red. It stayed there quite a while. I even thought I might have been able to go back for my camera! The butterfly and I just warming ourselves in the sun. When it finally flew off I went and sat on the wood where the butterfly had warmed its wings. I stayed there until the sun dipped down enjoying a time of quiet reflection on small things and inner delight. Ahh… A red admiral, that had been hibernating over winter and had woken with the warmth of a January sunny day here in Andalucia. My photo is of one taken at the Martin Mere Wetlands centre in Lancashire in the UK. Need to go back to my iPhone in my pocket for those sudden photo opportunities when least expecting a close encounter!