Even though this April seems to be going on the record for Spain’s coldest since 1974 , here in the south of Spain we have had glimpses of Spring. The variability and size of Spain means that there can be variation in the weather but this year the news is showing snow today in Cantabria and people sunbathing on the Mediterranean coast!
At Navasola we are lucky to have had so much rainfall after the drought that lasted throughout the summer and into the winter. Spring has brought much needed rain. One Spanish programme seemed to be suggesting that the reservoirs were now back to capacity. And there’s still some more rain due! These photos are from early April and at a friend’s finca on the warmer south facing side of the valley. Signs of butterflies, bees and blossom are always welcome.
The Easter celebrations went smoothly in the town of Aracena and it is amazing the dedication and work that goes into the Holy Week processions. The story of the Passion is brought onto the streets and is both a religious and cultural occasion.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
When there’s a dog about, an early morning walk is required. I have just spent a week looking after my friend Ruth’s adorable Tibetan terrier Lotti. I think I do miss having a dog but this is a gentle reminder of the responsibilities. It was one of those glorious sunny early mornings. There was so much frost on the ground too. So I set off with dog and camera. At times no one believes how cold it can be here at night in Southern Spain but we are high up at 740m and on the north side of the Sierra Aracena. I have lost some good plants to the frost; an hibiscus, kalanchoe and aloe vera. However, the native plants are the survivors and the viburnum is always half in bud and flower at this time of year.
We walked up to the Era where the grain used to be threshed. It’s also where I have taken photographs of the butterflies in May. It was very frosty. Lotti was eager to walk on but I was busy trying some close ups of frosty plants.
We moved on to reach the gate. The sun was beginning to get a bit higher and warmer.
Trevor has been working on a method to heat the water when the weather finally warms up in Spring and lighting a fire will no longer be necessary. Hopefully then I will also be released from the endless trips to the wood pile and the relentless work with the many branches of wood, fallen or from pruned trees. Over the last week he worked with a friend and plumber on putting a radiator, painted black, on our roof. It needs quite complicated controls and a pump. The two worked together discussing the intricacies of this system and the financial markets. Most people we encounter in the Sierra have interesting histories and ideas! Hopefully the solar radiator will add some heat to the tank. It can reach up to 100 degrees so the system has to prevent boiling.
The sun has been brilliant the last few days and warm during the day. This has been welcome after quite a few cloudy and cold February days. Now with clear skies the stars are also very visible. Saturn is in the east, Sirius bright and just below Orion. Polaris and the Great Bear as always in the North! The flowers and birds will be the subject of the next post. Although still wintry there are signs of Spring. Thanks for reading and hope Spring is soon with you if you abide in the Northern hemisphere of this amazing planet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!