Saturday, 21 November 2015

Cold Snap

After a lovely long warm Autumn the cold weather has arrived. The wind is very chill but my wood fired range is lit and I seem to be making endless cups of herbal tea. The Geese have grown at an incredible rate, Gloria at the back has developed Angel wing, which is a deformity of the last joint of her wings making them stand out sideways but it doesn't seem to bother her.
I am thrilled with the polytunnel. I have the best cauliflowers I have ever grown, they are huge, the broccoli is thriving and I am still picking aubergines, peppers, chillies and tomatoes. I have been curing over a dozen large butternut squashes in there before winter storage.
The tyre towers around the patio are also brilliant, they give a good depth of soil, something which is missing here as the soil is thin with a stony layer a couple of inches below the surface. It is going to take me a lifetime to build the soil up a reasonable depth in the main vegetable patch.

The mandarin tree in the polytunnel is in full bloom, smelling heavenly and even in this cold weather a hardy bumblebee is working hard. Sorry about the poor picture, Action shots are not my forte.
 It is brilliant to see the progress being made in the garden. Trees we planted three or four years ago are starting to fruit and no longer look like sticks. The range of trees and shrubs increase year on year as we order once a year from Martin Crawford at the Agroforestry Research Trust. Another 20 bare rooted trees are due to be delivered next month including some interesting nut varieties (don't tell the squirrels). Finally Tim took a quick trip out here a week ago to celebrate my birthday with me and we planted out a pot grown Seville orange and two Siberian pea trees into the chicken run. The Siberian peas provide chicken fodder which they harvest themselves and fix nitrogen into the soil. All of them grown by me from seed. Small triumphs such as these are moments to savour and more than make up for the many smallholding disasters along the way.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Summers End

I haven't blogged for a while but busyness got in the way and a succession of disasters included a minor car crash necessitating car repairs. Autumn has definitely arrived and we are madly harvesting chestnuts, parasol mushrooms, apples and drying seeds for next year. The poly-tunnel has been a great success, I got the dreaded tomato blight which meant I had to rip up most of the tomatoes but I still have one producing small salad tomatoes (thanks broad ripple yellow currant).

I have had a succession of family members staying which is great and ensures days out and great company. Tim is still looking for the remote working job which will allow him to work from here but they are few and far between. Most employers still prefer to stand over their employees with a whip.
I have discovered that the evil spanish mole-rats eat horseradish root from below, I will have to move the pitiful remnants to a tyre tower standing on concrete and hope they recover. The trees get bigger every year, we have had our first crop of quinces which are waiting to be turned into membrillo. The asian pears have also produced a bumper harvest. For the first time I have a decent chilli crop, all still ripening in the poly-tunnel. We had a huge glut of melons all ready at the same time, over a dozen. Ditto the butternut squashes which were real thugs but at least they store well.

Most of the turkeys have survived, I have four left of the six I started with which all happen to be male so no mating pair this year. The ones I lost all flew over the high fence and got killed by the dogs. Although clipping a wing was an option it still left them vulnerable to attack on the ground, on the rare occasion dogs got in despite our best fencing efforts. It is remarkably difficult to make an area of uneven ground dog proof when the small terrier can burrow under fences and the large bulky dog can leap over 1.5 m fences like a gazelle.

The next residents of the orchard, now that my dreams of a breeding pair of turkeys is on hold, is a trio of Toulouse goslings. Luckily they have been sexed for us, one male called Gandalf and his two women Gloria and Gwen, and despite  an attack of the snotty sniffles are now looking healthy and hooty and as soon as they are big enough they will live in the horreo where the turkeys currently reside. The death date for the turkeys has been arranged as I am determined that they don't get to the monstrous size that they did last year.
This is our second try at geese, the previous group were home hatched and proved to be too aggressive to live with humans or their fellow chickens. The Toulouse are renowned for being less aggressive and they will be living separately from the other poultry in the fenced orchard and I hope they will also prove to be less vulnerable to dogs and good grazers. Only time will tell.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

New Cooker

We have a new cooker which has just been installed by two lovely gentlemen. Tim is here with me to see it done (and pay for it) and we are both excited because it feels like a major step forwards. We have chosen a traditional 'cocina economica' wood fired with a vitreo-ceramic top for easy cleaning. It is the modern version of the cooker it replaces which has been here since 1927.
The old one looked like this and was so rusted through that it was impossible to repair.

They are actually built into the island and surrounded by bricks providing a large thermal mass so that once heated they stay warm for hours and are very efficient. The chimneys go under the floor at the back and up the back wall so that every bit of heat is retained in the room and walls. This does mean that putting a new one in is a big job as the brick surroundings have to be demolished and rebuilt around the new one.

The job took two days as they excavated the underfloor bit, lined the chimney as they went and put in a new vent to control the airflow.

This morning we are going to make tea and coffee on our new pride and joy.

The kitchen really is the heart of the house and now we will have a warm room to work in, dry clothes and herbs, brew beer, prove bread and cook any number of stews and soups. The next stage pencilled in for next year is to built a wood fired summer kitchen outside under the large porch so that we can dispense entirely with Butane gas for our cooking and heating needs.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Entry for the Space Bats Competition

[Regular readers - don't panic! This is an entry for a short story competition hosted over at the Archdruid Report. We will be returning shortly to our regularly scheduled posts.]

The Baby

The thin wail twisted its way between the trees and licked the ears of interested parties. The wild pig paused its snuffling around the large roots of the western hemlock tree and gazed around it just as the spear pierced the pig’s ribs, pinning it to the needle-strewn ground. As it kicked out its last moments on the forest floor, Teco slit the pulsing throat and whispered words of thanks to the Mother as it gave up its life, spilling into the earth. Pan joined Teco looking down at the pig. She felt rather guilty; she too had been distracted by the wail but luckily Teco had followed through with the kill. It had been many hours of careful stalking and positioning before they had been able to get this close to their prey. The dog licked the bloodied ground; they both quickly gutted the pig with sharpened flints, throwing the stinking guts to the dog who received his reward eagerly.

As they threaded the stick through the sinews in the pig’s legs and raised it to their shoulders, Pan heard the cry again. This time it went on for longer, fading in and out of earshot as the breeze shifted direction through the forest canopy rich with mosses and lichens. Teco seemed oblivious to its call but it stirred something within her. She suggested that they go to investigate the sound but Teco seemed reluctant. It would mean walking further than necessary in the dripping forest with a dead pig between them, but Pan was adamant, she wanted to go and see what it was. As they were a newly bonded pair he could deny her nothing, and so they followed the sound.

As they entered the ferny clearing, they saw immediately that they were in the right place. There was a smell of putrefaction that was unmistakable. Clouds of flies rose from the corpse to meet them as they hesitantly stepped forward. The smell of death usually drew scavengers from far and wide, but they appeared to be the first larger animals to have discovered the body. It was a young woman, recently dead, her features pallid in death but still attractive. Her breasts distended. The flies were concentrating their efforts on the stinking discharge between her legs. She had clearly been dead for some hours. Another feeble wail from above made them both look up. There on a tree branch a bundle shifted in the breeze.

Pan swung up into the branches of the big-leaf maple tree, deftly shinned along the branch and cut the woven western red cedar cords supporting the bundle and lowered it down into the waiting arms of Teco. By the time she had jumped down onto the ground, Teco had already uncovered the infant. His revulsion showed itself on his face. “It’s deformed, leave it with its mother,” he said. He unsheathed the flint blade, preparing to kill it cleanly and quickly, but Pan placed a hand on his arm, restraining him. She gazed upon the child, taking in its overlarge head and the pale skin. Blue eyes met brown and a silent communion passed between them. “No,” she said, “we are taking him with us”. Teco snarled back angrily, his greater height and weight menacing her, but she stared boldly back at him. For a moment she thought he would hit her but then he lowered his gaze, his eyes softening. He could not stay angry at her for long. The dead woman deserved a better ending than this, no member of a tribe died alone out of choice and there was no one here to grieve for her. Pan stroked her face, rearranged the animal hides over her pale body and they both crouched over her in silent respect before moving away to continue their journey. The forest dwellers would return her remains back to the Mother from which she had sprung. They had retied the baby onto the stick behind the pig. It seemed to like the swaying and it settled back to sleep.

As they returned through the rainforest, automatically traversing the ferns and slippery moss covered rocks as they talked, Teco was still convinced that killing the child was the merciful option. If the child was to live, going back to their honeymoon shelter was pointless; they had no milk for the child and Pan needed the counsel of the older women. The child was deformed and to find the dead mother so close to their encampment was a worrying sign. Sometimes entire tribes were killed by diseases but otherwise people lived within the protection of their tribe. No one lived alone from choice, except for the ghosts.

As the village drew near their dog ran ahead to greet his fellow pack members. The noisy playful children were the first members of the tribe to greet them but adults soon followed with worried looks upon their faces. To return so soon from a honeymoon did not bode well. Had they fought? Were they not suitable as mates? Pan was a popular member of the tribe and with her choice of mate being Teco from a neighbouring tribe, they had seemed to be a perfect pairing. Eager hands took the stick from them, cutting down the pig and carrying it away to be prepared for cooking, whilst the men carefully tended the fire. The male magic was fire making, taught by Kanzi so long ago to the males of the tribe, using the salmonberry branch as a hand drill stalk for making friction fires, with a western red cedar bow string and tinder. The knowledge was handed down from father to son. Fire was a protector of the tribe, keeping away the larger predators that proliferated under the protection of the forest. It cooked and warmed the sick and young and raised the spirits through the long dark winter evenings.

Pan grasped the smaller bundle and clasped it to her protectively. Teco stood silently, hesitantly, as they were bombarded with questions. He stood, his eyes avoiding looking at Pan or the bundle she carried. Finally he loped off to rejoin the other young men leaving Pan to cope alone and answer the questions. Now that she was here back amongst her tribe she felt bewildered. She was less certain that she had made the right decision bringing the infant home with her. Everyone knew everything that went on in the close-knit group but nothing like this had ever happened before to her knowledge and once the baby was discovered it might be killed before she had a chance to explain. People were fighting to see what she carried, sniffing at the unfamiliar urine scent mixing in with the odour of pig blood and rotting flesh. She held them at bay with her body language; rigidly upright walking on stiff legs she carried the bundle and the responsibility to the wisest woman in the tribe.

Salvia sat in her shelter and listened to the noise and excitement bubbling round the village. As the oldest female she had inherited the mantle of leadership, whatever that meant. To have survived childbirth, starvation and disaster so many times ensured that the leadership was self-selecting. It was she who knew the best places to gather food. She had experienced the vagaries of the changing climate and knew the best waterholes and campsites. She ensured that the tribe moved their territory slowly but unremittingly northwards where rain fell frequently and the lush growth of the advancing forest provided for their needs. She had seen storms and disease come and go and had met more members of neighbouring tribes than anyone else. She knew the lineage of all of her tribe and their parents and grandparents and was a good matchmaker, ensuring that family lines did not become too entangled. She had overseen the transfer of skills through the generations and she held the history of her tribe and the magical means of communication it required in her head. When her time to return to the Mother was close she would pass on her knowledge to a younger female, so that the history and knowledge would never die.

Pan scratched on the hide shelter to alert Salvia to her presence and then bent to enter. Her eyes took a while to adjust to the darkness within. The scent of Salvia filled the shelter, daunting yet familiar, mixed with dried herbs and wood smoke. Salvia’s nose wrinkled at the scent of the bundle in Pan’s arms. She drew back unconsciously: out of all the tribe she alone knew what Pan carried.

“Is it alive?” she asked.

“Yes,” was the soft reply.

This could change everything, the old woman mused to herself. 

Pan held the deformed baby out to the old female. The baby fussed and sucked on its fist. Salvia instructed Pan to get some milk from one of the bitches who had recently given birth and bring it back in a bladder for the baby. Until they decided the baby’s fate she would not ask one of the nursing females from the tribe to feed it. The dog’s milk would do for now. As the baby sucked hungrily from the bladder Pan told her story, trying to remember everything she had seen. Salvia listened intently, watching the way Pan held the child protectively, and then made her decision. 

“All life is sacred, it is part of Mother Earth; we do not take life lightly, we thank the Mother after we kill for meat, and we leave part of every food for the Mother and all of her children. The mothers of this tribe must decide the future of this baby, for it is they that will need to order its death or feed and raise it to adulthood. Leave the child here and go and tell the mothers that we shall meet at sunset for a storytelling.”

The mature females gathered, hailing the full moon as it rose at the twilight's last gleaming, it frequently rained in the temperate rainforest that now covered most of what once was called North America but tonight was still and clear. Bats flitted above their heads, catching the insects that were drawn towards the firelight. The fire was built up so that all could see the ancient communication reserved only for storytelling sessions. To tell stories special words were needed, words that did not refer to the immediate hunter-gathering needs of now but to abstract events of the past and future. Words made of hand gestures, like a dance weaving and shimmering. Salvia sat close to the flickering fire, its light reflecting off her so that all of her could clearly be seen. Pan sat with the women feeling uncomfortable and the subject of curious glances. She was only allowed here because of the extraordinary circumstances. All of the other women had given birth to life and her premature passport to this meeting was the bundle in her arms, sleeping quietly.

Salvia started the tale of the tribe from the beginning of known history, earlier than any of the women had ever heard before. She had chosen to start at a place that only wise women spoke about to each other, passing on the knowledge and the signs for unfamiliar concepts from wise woman to woman down the generations. She told of Kanzi and his sister Panbanisha, the first amongst them when tribal life had changed so long ago in the south that was called Oregon, now desert. She spoke of their teachers Sue and Nick who had introduced them to a different way of thinking and communicating. The many lessons learnt so well together with their natural gifts had allowed them to survive when so many other creatures had perished, and thrive on a planet which was metamorphosing into a new future. She spoke of the gradual flight northwards over multiple generations, following the great forests as they spread ever northwards. Their rapid evolution, tool making, shelter building, living lightly upon the earth, moving around with the seasons never staying anywhere for too long. She spoke of the female magic of creation and birth. She continued to speak even as the young women brought the roasted pork, fruit and vegetables to them and retired again. They all ate as she continued to speak of lessons learnt over time, the art of preserving food for future use when food was scarce and drying the medicinal herbs which instinct told them would cure sickness, and the tribal habit of leaving their environment clean as they moved on, their dung fertilising the regrowth and spreading the seeds of edible plants for others to consume. Pan listened entranced: it was her first female gathering and as the story unfolded she thought she never wanted it to end.

Once the meal was over the mood changed. Salvia spoke of Pan and the circumstances surrounding the baby’s discovery. Pan stood up and held the infant for all to see, naked, its pale skin, blue eyes and large misshapen head gleaming in the moon and firelight combined. The cold air chilled it and it started to cry again. The women drew back in horror, voices raised in fear and loathing. It was a beast, ugly, stupid and violent like its parents. It could never be taught; it would destroy them all as its kind had always done. Salvia let them speak, pouring out their fears real or imagined. They spoke of the ghost that would have fathered it, remembered or imagined. Infants were taught to be good or the ghosts would get them. The tribe’s women rarely roamed alone for fear of rape by ghosts who lived alone in the forests. The ghosts had no formal society; they lived by eating carrion or stealing what they needed. They were pale, naked apart from the skins they wrapped around them. No one had ever seen a female ghost. That this child’s mother lived without the safety of a tribe and gave birth alone was shocking to the women, incomprehensible and yet…. They had all felt the pull of mother-love. That moment when the bond is made, when the baby kicks inside, when nature wells up so strongly within her that she would fight tooth and nail for the new life within her. Eventually the tirade lessened and then stopped; all seemed to be in favour of letting the child die but no one had offered to do the deed to ensure a quick and painless death. Pan clutched the baby more tightly to her as the night grew colder and waited with bated breath.

Silence descended and women started to think of bed; the sounds of the night became audible and the moon shone on the central clearing and Salvia within it. For a moment, bathed in silver, Salvia looked like a ghost herself. Perhaps she was imbued with the spirit of a long dead ghost of a different era. As the women strained to hear her words she raised her brown eyes up to them as she spoke, her voice cracking and deeper, hoarse after the long evenings telling.

“The teachers Sue and Nick were ghosts,” she said. The gathered women gasped in shock. Pan couldn’t take her eyes off the old woman. “They called themselves humans. Once they were like us, thinking and speaking and manipulating the world around them, but where their soul should have been was a hunger that they could never satisfy. They ate and they ate until they consumed the whole world and yet it was never enough.”

As she spoke her sobs welled up unchecked for the death of a race they did not know, Homo Paniscus weeping for its lost brother Homo sapiens. Weeping for the countless creatures that died with them. For the destruction and the violence and the murder, for the hunger that never went away and the humans tortured by it, who lived with plenty but who were blinded to it. She mourned for the human race as it once was, and was now, scattered remnants, ghosts from the machine, slowly and painfully dying.

The women shared in Salvia’s pain, they rose one by one and comforted her, they touched her, they held her and murmured comfort to her. Within the tribe you were never alone to bear pain: it was shared. Pan held the infant to her and gazed into its strange human face again, the pale skin so different to her own thick black fur, its curious blue watery eyes meeting her brown ones. It started to fuss again, its strange cries becoming more insistent; gently a lactating bonobo female took the baby from Pan and held it to her breast to feed. They could do nothing for what was past but whilst there was still life, this baby would be given her chance to survive. 


Initial genetic studies characterised the DNA of chimpanzees and bonobos as being 98% to 99.4% identical to that of Homo sapiens. Further information is here:

Sunday, 5 July 2015

More Turkish Delight

I have held off getting turkeys this year until my health issues were sorted, and now I am back in Galicia for the rest of the year (I hope) it seemed like a good time to get them. After last years trials and tribulatuions with the bronze commercial birds I was determined to get something smaller and more robust so I am now the proud owner of six, four week old Spanish Black Turkeys. They arrived home with me in a small flimsy box held together with sellotape but luckily there were no escapes enroute.
They went into the prepared turkey house and spent 24 hours there to settle down with food and water.
This morning they were let out into the heavily vegetated orchard where they will spend the rest of their lives.
As they were from a commercial supplier they hadn't seen the sun, or had any surroundings other than wire cages but already they are pottering around enmass exploring and eating as they go. This breed has been less 'messed around with' and we hope they can mate naturally. Tim and I plan to eat some but keep a pair, hoping to raise our own poults next year.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Triffid Tomatoes

It is my first year growing in a polytunnel and so far it is all looking good. This area is very blighty and in previous years a good tomato start always ended in disaster. As a typically optimistic gardener I hope this year will be different. I am growing more blight resistant strains, Legend, Broad Ripple Yellow Currant and Amish Paste combined with polytunnel production and a thick mulch .
There has been very little rain this Spring and I am trying to mulch as much as possible to retain moisture in the soil. My next project over winter is to install some tanks to capture rainwater from the roof. The flowers are looking very beautiful. I am eating day lillies every day as a snack and still they bloom.

Due to ill health and frequent visits to the UK my veggie patch is very overgrown and badly in need of TLC but somehow it continues to be productive, despite the drought.
There is still no where else I would want to be in the world than Galicia and on a sunny day like this, it can't be beaten.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Living In The Moment

We are in the middle of a stretch of sunny weather and I am trying to enjoy every moment. Although I am always behind on the garden, running to catch up with the work, I always try to take some time out to smell the roses (literally and metaphorically). I am now the proud owner of a new poly-tunnel.

It is my first time growing in one and Galician Summers are hot so this year is an experiment to see if I can grow tomatoes, aubergines and various peppers without frazzling them to death. Fingers crossed it is going well so far.

Every year the flower garden next to the house gets brighter and more varied. The smell of the Californian lilac is heavenly and the bees and hover flies agree with me.

 There are masses of butterflies and yet the buddleia is nowhere near flowering yet but I have plenty of nettles for the caterpillars to thrive on and a mix of wild and cultivated flowers all year round.

Ill health has given me reflection time this year and necessitated two trips to the UK (a third is planned). Although not terminal after much thought and discussion with Tim, some priorities have changed. I am reducing the area under cultivation to a more manageable  size until I have help or regain my former vigour, although the latter outcome seems less likely as I continue to age.

So here I am smelling the roses, living in the moment, eating peas, broad beans, field beans, chard, broccoli and mangetout. Sunning myself on the patio every chance I get. Quaffing home made elder flower cordial and mead, and generally enjoying the good life. There is nowhere else I would rather be, and if Tim were here with me to share in natures joys, life would indeed be perfect.

Monday, 11 May 2015

A Garden of Rememberance

Gardens are not simply pretty, they create memories. My arum lilly has produced its first flower in Galicia.
I have several more dotted around but these arums have a story to tell. When I bought a new house in the UK with my first husband, my Grandmother dug up some arum lilly roots from her garden wrapped them in newspaper and gave them to me for my new garden. She also told me their story. When she was newly wed to my Granddad he was a gardener at Charterhouse Public School. He bought her some roots of the arum home to her as a gift.  Ever since she had faithfully taken pieces to every house she had lived in. This all happened nearly a hundred years ago and she died aged 95, a good age. 

My Granddad  died before I was born so I never knew him but the lilly is the best link I have to both of them.  My daughter bought the pieces of root over to Galicia in her suitcase from our house in the UK. Perhaps she will carry on the tradition to another generation.

 When I wander through the garden I see the plants but also the people who helped me with them. Over Winter, Tim and I chose four old  style scented roses together, including an old Gallica, Damask, and Moss types. I await their flowering with excitement, I won't be able to look at them without remembering the choosing process and discussion that went into it (there were lots to choose from). My daughter also can't resist a scented rose and I have a couple of impulse buys from her in the garden. The gift that lasts.

Trees are an even better way of leaving your mark on the landscape.

“A thing which I regret, and which I will try to remedy some time, is that I have never in my life planted a walnut. Nobody does plant them nowadays—when you see a walnut it is almost invariably an old tree. If you plant a walnut you are planting it for your grandchildren, and who cares a damn for his grandchildren?” 
― George Orwell

Tim and I have planted a couple of Walnuts, we both hope we will live long enough to eat a nut from them but if not maybe our grandchildren will.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Black Gold

Low tech farming or small-holding doesn't use expensive chemicals where free alternatives exist. In Galicia this is particularly true with most farms still being small and family run like my next door neighbours. Their main product is veal from the traditional Rubia Gallega breed, a high quality product covered by the European Protected Designation of Origin - PDO. The cows all graze outside all year round on unimproved permanent pasture, they also have a very small dairy herd, goats, pigs, chickens and grow their own hay. They also grow fodder crops and vegetables for themselves.

They pump out the slurry tanks under the barns and spray it on their fields before growing hay. They throw their vegetable waste onto the vegetable patch over winter before ploughing it in, in Spring. Soiled bedding is neatly stacked and left to age. Nothing is wasted.

Yesterday they were preparing the vegetable growing area and adding some wonderful aged manure to the soil. I asked nicely for some and they were kind enough to set some aside for me. I will add most of it to the soil in my new poly-tunnel when it arrives and the rest to the squash growing sites. Although I have chicken manure and compost my own waste, there is never enough of it to go round. Aged manure really is black gold and is valued accordingly.

After a warm couple of weeks the recent weather has mostly consisted of grey cold days with a biting Northerly wind. Leaves are slowly emerging and occasional blossom can be seen but it has all been a bit slow. Recently whilst gardening I occasionally caught an unidentified flowery scent which I couldn't pinpoint. Yesterday all was revealed, it is the Cornelian Cherry in the forest garden, looking beautiful and smelling divine, an absolute magnet for small flying insects. It needs to be because at this time of year there isn't much insect life about.

 Luckily the flowering dead nettles offer another snack to those hardy flying insects and one brave outdoor geranium is trying to flower.
I can't wait for more warm weather so that I too can blossom instead of hunching over the fire.

Monday, 9 March 2015

A Spring In My Step

It is amazing what sunshine can do. Suddenly we are having warm sunny days getting to 20 degrees C and every plant is bursting into leaf or flower.

Birds are singing, bees are buzzing and I saw my first butterfly this morning. I haven't managed to finish the winter work yet and suddenly I am joining the frantic rush to sow seeds and prepare the ground. Pruning did get finished but brush cutting the brambles is not finished and I have only mulched a few of the trees and shrubs. We seemed to be under snow or suffering torrential rain and then suddenly it stopped with far too much work still to be done.

The stalls at the local market are full of home grown seedlings and I succumbed to their lure yesterday buying lettuces, onions and various brassicas. The onion seedlings are tied using the local 'string' plant so everything is biodegradable, no plastic bags in sight. I hope to get them all planted this afternoon. We have finally saved enough for a poly-tunnel and it is on order to be delivered in mid April. This will allow me to raise more of my own seedlings. I have a propagator to start off my chillis, peppers and tomatoes but I have always lacked a warm light area to bring them on but the tunnel will enable me to be much more self sufficient in seedlings, nurturing the plants from seed to fruit/flower and back to seed saving again.
The calendulas have overwintered as usual and are in flower already, an ideal nectar snack for early flying insects.
Although there is plenty of work still to do I make sure that sitting on the patio and enjoying the warmth, scents, views and sounds around me is still high on my list.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Entroido Again

It is that time of year when madness hits the streets of Friol and everyone dresses up and bar crawl around Friol playing music and enjoying themselves. Yes it is Entroido or Carnival, an ancient celebration,  traditionally frowned up on by the Catholic Church where tricks are played upon people and masks are worn.
As ever the evening turns to merry making and feasting with traditional food. Pigs heads, stuffed pigs stomachs, turnip greens, potatoes and chickpeas. For desert we had pancakes, a sweet biscuit called pigs ears and all was washed down with wine. This is one of my favourite fiestas of the year and a wonderful tonic when the weather is at it's worst.

Friday, 16 January 2015

First Snow 2015

We have got away with a mild winter so far but yesterday the first proper storm of the year hit called Hermann with heavy rain and very strong winds, followed last night with snow which continued into this morning. It is as ever, very beautiful and proved to be very exciting for the dogs.

It is now sleety so I expect the snow will be gone fairly soon.

Tim is still here and we have had a wonderful six weeks together, four of which he has spent working but just having him here is great. We both hope he can spend more time here in the coming year. A new sowing year has arrived and I am busily planning what I will grow. It will include some unusual tubers this year, yacon and oca, a first for me. We didn't exchange Xmas presents this year but we did order some old style perfumed bare root roses from the UK and another small order from Martin Crawford's Agroforestry Research Trust. This includes sea buckthorns, juneberries, a damson a dogwood etc. which will add to our more unusual plants and trees in the steadily growing forest garden. We also spent time over Christmas brush-cutting the brambles which have been engulfing the land.

We both follow various blogs such as the Archdruid Report and this combined with economic and environmental news makes for depressing reading. We have also been watching some videos by John Pilger, which has opened my eyes further to the activities of the CIA  and backed up my rather poor opinion of them gained from reading the book by Naomi Klein called The Shock Doctrine.

In summary, the current world order is continuing to fail, and it will get worse for most of us unless you are one of the super rich. Buying As Petas and trying to decouple from the current system has been the best thing we ever did and whatever the future holds, we hope that our family can continue to eat well, keep warm and sleep safely at night.