Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The gander hunt

Last January we lost our gander, as readers of our blog will know this turned into quite a saga, well the story continues. Two months ago we were having our doubts as to whether the new ganders were in fact ganders,a hint was the fact that they appeared to be laying eggs, well at least they were sitting on eggs but it's not unknown for ganders to do this while the females go out to feed, we had however set eggs in the incubator as well, nothing happened!! We had also seen the original geese trying to mate the 'ganders' in the pond, something was clearly amiss. We decided that we would contact the agricultural shop where we had bought all of our geese . As we no longer had a Spanish speaker staying with us we thought it best to email our request, the reply was affimitave, so we followed it up with a phone call to confirm that they could get a gander and that it would be at the shop waiting for us on Monday. In Spain we seem to travel vast distances to get what we need, and the geese are no exception, the shop being some two and a half hours drive away. Well, we arrived at the appointed time to find that the man in the shop knew nothing about it. After Simon had explained with his now vastly improving languge skills[a cross between Castilion Catalan and Galliegan] the man realized that we had in fact traveled a long way and that there were definite arrangements made and he knew exactly whom to phone! Someone somewhere had not passed on the message that the gander should in fact be in Padron, not still running around his field some forty km away, so with the aid of the map, plus an address and a phone number and a very protracted detailed list of directions we continued our journey, this time to the coast. The new gander, and yes, we do think he is a he, was awaiting us. It was by now two fourty five and we had planed to look for tiles for the downstairs loo in Santiago de Compestela, and were also due to go to lunch at three with friends who live an hours drive from Santiago[ in the right direction for us to get home] so the tile hunt was abandoned, a phone call made to our friends to explain what had happened, and a look at the map as Simon was sure we could find a shorter route to our friends house. Nice theory, the map showed a nice road, much shorter than the one we had come by, across the mountains, what however the map didn't show was how windy the road was, and in fact to get ten km nearer our destination you in fact travel twenty km. It would have been a beautiful scenic route if it hadn't been thick cloud and fog on the hills (mountains in our language, over 900 m, about the height of Snowdon).

At sometime in the future we plan to return to this coastal atea as it has great scenery and some interesting Celtic remains and monasteries but this will be for the warmer months.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

We love photographing fungi, just a small selection of the ones we found yesterday.

It's just a shame we cant find any pixies in the woods.

Sunday was all Souls Day, for the previous week or more all the shops were full of Chrysanthemum plants and the farmers market on Friday was just a sea of flowers, although this day is celebrated in Ireland it is a far quieter affair. Halloween is also celebrated big time with lots of parties, and the shops full of spooky gear.
On the first of each month there is a big market held in Monterosso, and the one for November is huge with just about everything for sale except geese! Yes, we are again on the wild goose chase, the two we had bought earlier in the year as male are in fact female, so we are back to searching for a husband for them, when we get one I just hope he doesn't find it too much having seven wives.
On the first of each month we meet up with other expats in a hotel in Monterosso, mainly British but one Russian lady as well, it struck me that the landlady there must find us very strange as we sit there drinking tea and coffee or maybe a coke, I cant imagine a group of Spanish just drinking soft drinks when they only meet up once a month.

The weather is now mild and damp, just the right weather for mushrooming, we have found six types of highly edible ones, plus many very pretty ones which are not.Hopefully the weather will stay as it is for a little longer so we can pick enough mushrooms for drying.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

A few more interesting fungi

Health and Safety 2

My concerns about the general safety for customers in shops is probably an over reaction especially when most accidents happen in the home, normally because people are using the wrong tools for the job, we are no exception to this, three weeks ago I attempted to remove part of a finger cutting up pork with a pair of scissors, on reflection not a good idea, this led to a very nasty blood infection which I'm still trying to get rid of, I guess if I wasn't so stubborn I would have gone to the doctor and by now it would have cleared up, but I didn't and it hasn't. I think Simon must have been feeling a little left out as I was feeling so bad so he thought it might be a good idea to chop up kindling wood with a 5kg axe and try to remove the side of his hand at the same time, he being so brave refused to go to the emergency room when it happened, so I patched him up as best as I could although to me it was clear that his hand needed more than a plaster, also the bathroom looked as though the chain saw massacre had just happened, however the following day I did convince him to at least go to see the nurse at the health centre to get it properly dressed, the nurse called the doctor who immediately wrote out the paper work for the hospital where we spent four hours being seen by numerous doctors nurses and the x ray dept, eventually he was stitched up and now has seven stitches to show for his efforts of chopping wood.
A chopper is used for chopping wood up small, an axe is for heavy logs that you aren't holding steady with your hand, scissors are great for cutting material paper etc, not for cutting meat. I guess we need to be a little more careful.

On a brighter note the country side is now full of mushrooms and toadstools and we had a feast of parasol mushrooms yesterday, tasting all the better as they were free, also the autumn crocus are now in bloom it's lovely to see the brightness of them nestling in the grass, these are NOT the saffron crocus although many people refer to them as such, indeed they are poisonous.There are also masses of chestnuts although they are not one of my favorites I must try to think of ways to use them as I hate to waste things.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

So! ..it does remember how to rain, I just hope it remembers to stop as well, after two months of no rain at all we now have very heavy rain, we managed to harvest the peaches before it started but the maize is still in the field. The peaches are now bottled and all we have to do is to find somewhere to store them, the next job on the agenda is the downstairs loo and a large larder, the sun room is almost finished, and more pointing has been done by our last helpers, but there's still one big wall to complete, then comes the major job, converting the old kitchen and adjoining barn into independent accommodation.

A couple of weeks ago was the Lugo honey festival, there were around twenty five producers all with wonderful displays and some super honeys including Organic honey which of course we bought.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Health and Safety

We have now lived in Spain for five and a half years and for the most part it is good, however, when it comes to health and safety it's like living in a third world country.
Today was a typical example of customer beware, we paid a visit to the large DIY store in Lugo, on display were shelving units, these had been placed on a slightly raised area to represent a living area surrounded by a metal strip, needless to say this was not properly fixed, so I tripped on it but no harm done, we continued round the store, loaded up the trolley and made our way to the check out, this took us past the offending display, a mother and child went to look at the units and the child went flying, luckily caught by his mother. This sort of thing is not unusual in Spain, toilets in cafes often have a small step down, or even worse a door marked aseos which opens into darkness and a steep flight of stairs, I am against the Nanny State, however, I do expect a certain degree of safety in public places, I'm sure that there must be EU regulations covering this, however, if there is Spain has not read it.
The weather continues to be warm and apart from one day of light rain we are still in drought mode meaning we are still having to water the garden every couple of days or so.
The geese have started laying again but not sitting as yet, if they do hatch any they wont be ready for Xmas, but we will have geese for Easter. All the chicks are doing well, we hatched four in the incubator, and a hen hatched seven, so we will have to see how many males there are for the table.The peaches are ripening slowly, they need some rain, and also to be left alone by the geese who have learnt how to pick them, and the goats try to break loose whenever they can and make a bee line for them, but there's so many on the tree that we can spare some for the live stock.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Summer's back

Just when I thought things were getting cooler at the start of the month with the first rain for weeks I was mistaken, the weather is even hotter, and at 6.30am last wed in Lugo it was 19 c. Lugo being several degrees cooler than here.
There are several people we know who are either on water restrictions or even worse, have no water at all.
We still have water and the garden gets watered every third day but really it needs a good downpour. The fruit and veg are still doing very well with lots of strawberries and raspberries, the first of the cauliflower are ready and this year for the first time ever we have grown garden peas as well as the mangetout.
Work is on hold for the next week as Simon is away, but the sun-room that he has started is three quarters done so hopefully that will be finished by the end of the month.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The start of Autum

It seems as though the weather can understand the calendar,we had a light shower of rain overnight on the last day of August which freshened things up well and reduced the temperatures to more workable levels. Today we awoke to the first of the Autumn mists, a lot of Galicia seem to have these mists all year round, ours are few and far between but they do help with the watering of the garden.
The young rabbits are now weaned and were removed from Mum yesterday, much to her relief.They love their new home, and are hopping around like, well, young rabbits!
The past week we don't seem to have got a lot of work done, besides having damaged my back we have been trying to get together the materials for the sun room. This has involved visits to two wood yards. Of course, being Spain, one of the orders is not ready so we have to go back later, a visit to the builders yard for the blocks, and a trip to Lugo to a window manufacturor who we learned sells second hand windows. It's quite unusual to be able to get second hand anything in Spain, but we got exactly what we wanted very cheaply.
The main reason for the sun room is for a permanent home for the lemon tree and overwintering tender plants such as our geraniums and the oleander.
Although the sun room had been planned for some time in the future, after all we have plenty of work to be getting on with in the main house, we know that winter will soon be upon us and for just a weeks work we should be able to give a comfortable home for our precious plants.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Costing the Earth.

Although it's not why I set this blog up I'm going to have a go about the crisis in Kenya, we are downloading a program called The Future Of Food, Kenya produces a high percentage of food for EU super markets, french beans for instance, which can easily be produced in Europe these are grow in Kenya, flown over to UK super markets and sold for 1 pound for 350 grams, in plastic of course, these damn supermarkets will not accept anything except the perfect bean, IE it must be straight and heaven forbid that it should have any sign of soil on it, anything which is not perfect is destroyed whilst the people of Kenya starve, it's not just the supplying half way across the world, these crops need water to grow, so deeper wells have to be bored which means that the indigenous people no longer have access to water either to grow their own crops or to drink. It's time that subsidies for exporting food were stopped, the money doesn't go to the growers, it goes to the governments and makes their balance of payments look good and enables them to repay their loans to the world bank.
Also we dont need food out of season although the supermarkets have convinces everyone that they do. People complain that food doesn't taste the same as it used to, of course not,
A it's been flown halfway across the world and
B it's picked unripe, so has no chance to acquire the flavour from the sun,
and C it's kept in cold storage, often gassified to keep it fresh!
I think that all young people should unite and set up communes to grow their own food, ten families buy 100 acres of land, each works ten acres, rotating their crops, and hey presto, you have no food bills, people can still work at their jobs but have a good lifestyle to come home to [ the houses would be self build of course from local materials] beside knowing where your food has come from, you have exercise as well, so are far healthier. That is my Utopia and that of the late John Seymour, however people nowadays want it all and want it now, they dont care where it's come from, or that it's costing the Earth! They seem to forget that we are tenants of this planet, we don't own it, and it's the only one we have.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Lessons of growing older

When we are young we think we can do everything, but have no need to do so, when we get older we still think we can do everything, and have the need to do so and then find we cant!
The weather has got a little cooler this week making it bearable to work outside, so I thought I could get on with repairing a wall and pointing the same , the first day things went quite well, I was only pointing, just a little back ache, day two was replacing stones in the wall, to be more accurate rebuilding it in places, I now cant move my back and walking is pure hell! I have managed to trap the sciatic nerve, I know from past experience that the only treatment is rest, not something that I'm too good at, but as Simon is away to the UK in ten days time and I have a farm to run on my own whilst he's away it's what I have to do, so the wall will have to wait, it wont fall down and it's been like it for a couple on century's, the veg will have to compete with the weeds, but the veg are well established, and things will just have to wait, including myself.

Meanwhile the strawberries and raspberries keep on producing, plus all the veg.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Re-assuring [ Car insurance] and the Fat Cats.

When we first moved to Spain we came with our original vehicle, our insurance from Ireland covered us for six months, we had intended to keep this Nissan Urvan , but as it was a commercial vehicle ,re- registering it would have been a long and expensive procedure, so we decided it would be best to buy a Spanish registered car, we asked around to find a garage who had a good reputation, found the car that we needed and the garage arranged the transfer of ownership and the insurance, which although was higher than we were used to didn't seem too bad, the following year we found that the premiums had increased considerably so went to our local 'gestoria' he was an agent for several companies and got us a good deal.
Then we moved to Galicia and although we had informed the 'gestoria' of this fact several times we have never received updated insurance details showing our new address, although we had contacted the company directly, we were told we had to go through the 'gestoria', so it was the never ending circle.
Now the insurance is due for renewal the beginning of Sept and our bank had informed us that they were now doing car insurance, so we asked then to give us a quote, this took a week to arrive and when we had stopped laughing, we thanked them and said NO THANKS! It was 120% higher than we had been paying. So we did what sensible people do and asked the other Brits in the area, we were given the name of three company's, one of which we tried to get a quote on line, after half an hour of filling forms the reply came up that we would have to phone them, so we did and were told that they would phone us back with an English speaker, well ,we are still waiting, however, as we always go into Lugo on a Friday we popped into one of the other recommended agencies, although she spoke no English and our Spanish is not good, within five minutes she had the quote, it has better coverage than we had before and was forty euros cheaper! We left with a smile on our faces, and celebrated with a cup of coffee. We are now pondering as to why the bank quote should have been 150% more, or is this going towards the Fat Cats bonuses ?
The one thing we have learnt living in Spain is always to asked around, normally within the Brit community after all, we all face the same problems and someone will have the answers.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Friends and Foes.

Being 'Organic' brings many beneficial animals and insects, however it also brings unwanted guests, our latest friend is Mrs tiggywinkle, a hedgehog who moved into our big barn, to give birth we think, the unwelcome visitor was a Stoat! Now, as anyone who keep poultry will tell you, as pretty as they might be, you dont want them, fortunately one of the cats had killed this young one that we found, but there must be others around, last year we had a problem with Pine Martens, and we lost three broods of chicks. Our rabbits should be safe enough as they are housed where the dogs sleep, but the hens are very vulnerable, especially the chicks, we now have four more chicks from the incubator, two black and two blond, we are hoping that there is a colour link to the sex and the the black ones are female, we shall have to wait and see.

We have now set the first batch of quails eggs in the incubator, although we had to go back twice to the agricultural suppliers to get the females that we required, the man had a very strange way of sexing them, he looked into their eyes! in the end I had to show him the males foam ball, I do suspect he had a surplus of males and thought he could palm them off to the stupid Brits.

Colorado beetles will always be a problem, as will mice, who nibble the potatoes, as do mole crickets, they also eat any roots of young plants, moles are a menace as well. We have found that the second lot of potatoes planted didn't get either the beetle or blight, we experimented with just using stinging nettle juice and using cut nettles to earth up, we shall rerun this experiment next year to see if it was just a fluke.

Latest catch of veg

Growing vegetables here is too easy, we seem to have a constant glut of most things, our tomatoes were self seeded and are producing well, the physalis are the plants from last year which I had cut down and left just the stubs in, when I went to pull them up in March I found that they had new shoots so I just let them get on with it, the cucumbers are also self sown, I just transplanted them to another spot, we had grown salsify last year, that also has self seeded, and in fact looks though it might take over the vegetable garden, this of course appeared after we had planted scorzonera! We have for the first time got some pears, the trees had been neglected for years, so last year we attacked them and they have rewarded us with fruit, I must look up the correct way to care for them.

Our last helpers left last Friday, they were a great couple from Texas, they did a vast amount of weeding, chainsawing wood and lifted all our potatoes, so many thank guys.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Yesterday was the day of the Samos artisan fair, a month earlier than last year and with half the amount of crafts on show, as far as we could tell there was also no traditional dancing, we are guessing that this is probably due to the recession, although there was the local honey on sale there was no organic honey included this year, we are suspicious that this may be due to GMO contamination as there are many hectares of GM maize planted, if this is the case it will put many Organic farmers livelihoods at risk. Unfortunately we do not have a good enough command of the Spanish language to ask the question. It was however a nice afternoon out and gave us all a time to relax, and for our helpers to see a little more of Galicia and the surrounding country side.

The courgettes have now won, and taken over, you can only eat so many of them before you get sick of the sight of them especial as now the runner beans and calabrese are ready two weeks earlier than last year.
Today one of our neighbours has turned up to cut our field for the winter hay, so the goats and ever increasing family of rabbits should be well fed. The litter that was born last week appears to have eleven kittens, but we may have miscounted, it might be twelve!
We have a great selection of amphibians that have moved onto our land, frogs, toads, lizards and newts, and we are very grateful for the help they give us with the slugs

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

The soft fruit has done very well, we have been picking strawberries since March and the suckers which we transplanted are now in flower. We also have blackcurrant bushes, rhubarb and raspberries, it's a shame that the garlic has not done better.

Just about every thing grows well in Galicia, our main failure is garlic which might have been planted too deep.

Sunday we found where one of the hens had been for the last three weeks, sitting on eggs! so we now have an extra seven chicks, we just hope they survive our dogs cats and the various birds of prey, plus the pine martens, so far so good, but she has taken them into the field which is not a good idea. Zoe, the rabbit also gave birth last night, but we dont know how many she has yet.

Thing seem to be two weeks ahead of last year, this includes the weather, which is not as hot and we have had more rain, this does mean we dont have to water the garden so often, which is good, it also makes weeding easier. Already we have a glut of courgetts, and it looks as though we will have a mass of runner beans, the first ones are ready for picking.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Having lived in Spain for over five years we are still traditional with the Sunday roast. The veg are of course fresh from the garden, roast potatoes, carrots and french beans, the beef we always buy from our local butcher, his beef all comes from local farms, all within 10k of his shop, he is so well respected for his beef that a lot of it is sold to the restaurants in Madrid. The horseradish sauce is still Colman's, we are however now growing it, but must wait until next year before we start harvesting it. We were minus the Yorkshire puds this week as I had left Simon in charge.

The first batch of plum and fig chutney has turned out better than I thought it would, it is a very good combination , nice and spicy, look out Branston!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

The plums are now ready and it is a bumper crop, we estimate that there is around 140 lbs, far too much for us to bottle or make jam and chutney with , so a lot will be given to friends to do whatever with, so far I have bottled 16 bottles, experimented with plum and ginger jam which is delicious. I do have a few more kilner jars, but it also looks as though we have a large peach harvest, so have to keep jars back for them. I will be making chutney, with ginger and figs,although have not tried this combination before, it should work out fine.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Yesterday we had long awaited heavy rain, the garden needed a good drenching, however, at 4am this morning I was awoken by the sound of funneling wind, I heard things crashing but was not prepared for the sight of our maize crop being flattened, from the sight of the crop it would seem that we had a mini tornado which has flattened the centre of the crop, it remains to be seen if we can do anything about it over the weekend.

Adding insult to injury the wind had blown open the tunnel door, the hens took full advantage of this and decided that dust bathing in the middle of the lettuces was a good idea, so we have to plant

more lettuce, might just eat the hens instead!