Tag Archives: Southern Spain

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.

Frosty days at Navasola. Dog days and more plumbing!

Take a photo of me not those frosty plants and hurry up and get on with the walk.
Take a photo of me not those frosty plants and hurry up and get on with the walk.

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.

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Hurry up it's cold sitting here!
Hurry up it’s cold sitting here!

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.bl frost on leaves frosty days end Feb march 2016 037

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We moved on to reach the gate. The sun was beginning to get a bit higher and warmer.

early morning sun by the entrance to Navasola
early morning sun by the entrance to Navasola
The gorse keeps flowering through the wintry frosts.
The gorse keeps flowering through the wintry frosts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Project.

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.bl solar thermal radiator frosty days end Feb march 2016 097bl plumbing frosty days end Feb march 2016 068bl trev and Richard frosty days end Feb march 2016 070

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Last of the summer flowers: And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Final farewell fotos of flowers  on the finca.  August 2014. Summer is passing…….

In August in Spain the weather is usually too hot and dry in the summer. The flowers start to fade and all seems rather dried out. Some flowers resist the parched conditions but most decide to allow their seeds to finish developing and be ready to disperse. This helps survival of the species  through a long dry summer. Deep roots keep the trees and other bushes in business.

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare and a different interpretation based on the natural world.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate,

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Hoary Mullein
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Candytuft
Knautia  - small blue/ purple
Knautia – small blue/ purple

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

And sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, ( the very hot sun as in Spain?)

And often is his gold complexion dimmed; ( English weather with clouds in the summer!)

And every fair from fair oft times declines,

By chance or by nature’s unchanging course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Silene
Silene

Shakespeare’s sonnet reflects the transience of beauty with the beauty of summer. But nature like the focus of his sonnet has an everlasting and ever changing beauty, beyond the flower! This is my  interpretation of a sonnet often thought to be about love. Maybe it can be about the intricate workings of nature that go beyond the transient beauty of a flower or a young man or woman! When we understand the true beauty of a person or of nature we can truly appreciate the deeper aspects of love, life and the natural world. Or was Shakespeare just trying to immortalise himself or his’dark lad..y’ love  with words?  His words offer such richness and are open to interpretation and appreciation through the ages and to different cultures.
I think I have found another angle on this sonnet and an admiration for what goes on beyond our sight within the seeds creating the changing seasons.

May Day : spring flowers, insects, beetles and attempts at botanical drawing

imageHere on the first day of May it must be the first public holiday in Spain I am experiencing this year which does not have the link to holiness. Unless of course it is unholy, unhealthy, or not wholesome to treat work and workers unfairly.

There are too many flowers out for me to draw as it takes a long time and real concentration. However there are at least two that I have found out more about by close observation and looking up in my Collins Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean Guide. Am still practising my drawing skills and it is part of my new work to try and pay really close attention to the natural world !

Tassel Hyacinth; the top part is sterile but the buds below will carry the genes forward!
Tassel Hyacinth; the top part is sterile but the buds below will carry the genes forward!

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Halimium atriplicifolium, a yellow rock rose, whose flowers like the cistus will fall each night and other buds are ready to open the following day. Some of the leaves have 3 clear veins on the non flowering part so can’t be seen on this sprig!

The tension remains between keeping the wildness and cultivation. I have been busy and with some help am creating a place to grow vegetables but the wild boar need to be kept out or they will dig it all up. Hence an anti boar fence but small mammals can pass through. One of the better park directives. Sadly some white cistus also got dug up. One of the photos shows how this plant defeats lack of water. Every day a flower comes and then falls at dusk. The next day a new bud comes out and is ready for the bees and insects which help in pollination and life goes on. But not if we humans pull out all the wild and kill off the insects which are all part of a complex Eco system!

White cistus in flower, bud and stamens showing from previous day's flower all together on one branch.

White cistus in flower, bud and stamens showing from previous day’s flower all together on one branch.