Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New beginnings

Yesterday I told you how Chris and I got rid of a dead orange tree from our front garden. Well, today we took a trip to the garden centre, and after much deliberation, we bought a baby tangerine tree to replace the dead one, plus a very pretty climbing plant (a little like a scarlet morning glory), a lovely orange santana shrub and another ground cover creeper that I have seen before. It took my fancy because it has such unusual orange and red flowers, but I don't know what it is. We soaked the tree in it's pot, all afternoon, and this evening we removed all the pebbles from the ivy circle again, and managed to dig deep enouigh to plant it just next to the stump of the old tree. We also planted the santana and the other creeper at the tree's base, and gave them all a good watering-in. So now we can sit back and watch to see whether our hard work has paid off. Unfortunately we couldn't find a mature bourganvillea in the colour we wanted, for the patch at the back, but we did buy a very poor little thing with three spindley branches that we will spread up the fence, and hopefully some fertiliser and regular watering will encourage it to grow stronger. I expect we will have a go at planting that one tomorrow.
Little Paco is making good progress. The reason we went to Turre yesterday was to take him to the vet again, and this time she said he was big enough for his first set of injections. So now he can go outside sometimes. I took him out when we sat on the porch for our lunch, and he had a good old nose around. He is not quite as adventurouis as I expected him to be but that is a good thing, because if he had gone straight over the back fence it would have been hard to retreive him. I am sure he will soon be much more confident out there, but by then he will have learned to come back when I call him or when he wants food and water. When we bought the floating hose for the pond 'hoover' it came in a big cardboard box, and yesterday I taped it all up and then cut holes in each side to make him a playhouse. He loves it. I can hear him roling around in it behind me now. I love watching him play. I can't wait to get Destino as well so I can see how they get on together. I shall be phoning the breeder next weekend to see when she will be ready for me to collect, so watch this space!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gardener's delight

I guess we all like it when we know we have done a good job on something, and that's how Chris and I felt after a hard afternoon's graft in the garden. It started when we went to Turre this morning and popped into a ferriteria (Spains answer to Wilkinsons). There Chris happened to notice, and buy, the kind of tool he had been looking for to dig up the very hard ground just beyond our back fence. I have mentioned before that we own the first couple of feet of land passed our back fence, and we want to plant a deep red bourganvillea there, to climb along the fence, and maybe something else pretty too, though I have my eye on one small plot to try some runner beans next year. I have been told they will grow here but you have to plant them in January and harvest around April as it is too hot for them in the summer. I don't like any of the gereen beans they grow here. Anyway, the ground in question was covered in dry grass and weeds, with a few plants growing through it. So after lunch, Chris set to and cleared and dug up a piece about a meter and a half long and a couple of feet wide. You'll see he has more clothes on than usual. This was essential as he was working up to the oleander which has poisonous sap that causes an irritation if you touch it, and the very prickly aloe vera plants that the previous owners put in as a deterrent to intruders. We could clear the bit we wanted without cutting any of them down so that was good. Now we have to get to a garden centre and buy some plants. I wasn't much help with that except to keep emptying the bin into the big rubbish container just outside our gate.
Next we turned our attention to the little square of garden at the front. What I had thought was plumbago, and I now know is pink jasmine, has been beautiful for ages, but most of the flowers have gone now, and the plant was much too big. The wind catches it and blows it off the wall, and it's trellis was bowed and in danger of breaking, so I got the shears and was really ruthless with it. I just hope I haven't killed it. It looks a bit sad now, but I gave it a good soak tonight so hopefully it will perk up a bit by morning. I also cut back the lovely ivy that had formed a big mound in a circle where it is planted around some rocks. I loved it as it was, but it had grown a lot since we moved in and was trying to swamp the roses, so it needed a good haircut. There was an aweful lot of debris to get rid of, but the bin outside is very useful. We can put anything in it and it is emptied every night (at around 1.00 a.m.!!) While I was doing all of this, Chris removed all the big pebbles from the centre of the ivy circle and sawed down the dead orange tree that grew there. Unfortunately the man who used to live here, used the wrong spray when it was a bit deseased, and he killed it. We wanted to dig it out and replace it, but we realised that this just wasn't possible. We are still going to try to plant a new one next to the stump, but it depends how many roots it has; it was a mature tree; and whether we can dig a big enough planting hole. So all in all it was a good afternoons work. I went straight into the pool to cool down when I had finished, and then had a shower and drank a gallon of water. It's hard work doing anything like that in the heat. The water in the pool is 26º this week, so the air is considerably higher.
One other thing that pleases us in the garden is a bottle brush tree. Just at the side of the drive into the garage we have three trees in pots. The first one had pretty blossom for a couple of weeks but that was it. The second one I am sure was covered in apple blossom, and although most of it just dried up and fell, it has set about five fruits. Whether these will survive in the heat I don't know, but I am misting them regularly and watering the pot each day. I was almost sure the third tree was a bottle brush tree as I had one in my porch at Ardways, though it didn't survive the winter. This looked more dead than alive, with a lot of brown leaves and empty branches. I saw some of these trees in flower in some of the municipal garden areas last month, and ours still looked pretty poor, so I thought it may just be passed its best. However, last week we noticed that the dead-looking buds at the ends of the branches were beginning to lengthen out and showed signes of red, and sure enough, today we have several brushes out. This is similar to our other red 'fluffy' bush, but that one has the hairs in bunches, whereas the bottle brush tree has them sticking straight out all around the branch. Anyone who has had to wash out a baby's feeding bottle will know exactly how this plant got its name. Now I know it is still 'alive and kicking' I shall remove the brown leaves and branches from the centre of the tree and give it a bit of TLC. Maybe it will catch up and bloom at the right time next year.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Circus has come to town

At the back of our house there is a strip of land that we think is a part of a dry river bed. It is not officially a 'rambla' but it is on the town plan as a 'green zone' which means it shouldn't be built on. It has an assortment of almond, orange, olive and pomegranate trees planted on it, which I believe belong to a man who lives a few doors down from us, and it is crossed by several footpaths. It is a play area for local children and the home of many of the birds we see around here. Beyond it there is a wide, flat area which is really a dirt road, and we were surprised to see some big lorries pull up there yesterday evening. We can now see that they are a travelling circus and they have a show on three nights, Friday to Sunday. Today they were slowly unloading what I think is the framework for a tent, and a van went round the streets announcing the performances over a loud-speaker. It is very close to us so we could be in for a noisy weekend, but a man we were speaking to this evening said that there are so many villagers out of work that he doubts they will get many spectators.
Now for some more lovely flowers. This first one is in a pot in our front garden. We thought it was almost dead as when we moved in it had lots of bare twiggy branches and some yellowing leaves. But I watered it regularly when I did all the others, and one day I realised that each of the 'bare branches' was beginning to send out shoots and ended with a flower bud. I watched these buds for weeks and they were very slow to open, but this week we have been rewarded with these lovely pale peach flowers with such a pretty centre. I don't know what it is, but I shall ask around and see if I can learn its name.
The other flower that you see everywhere this month is the jacaranda tree. It has very few, rather insignificant leaves but loads of blossom in this beautiful lavender-blue. The round brown discs are last year's seed pods which seem reluctant to let go. There is a tree outside the town hall and a whole row of them along the bottom edge of the village. This one is somebody's garden and it looks so nice against the dark green palms behind it. As the open land is beginning to look a bit parched, and is mainly covered now with yellowing grass and thistle seed-heads, it is so nice to see these lovely clouds of blue in every direction that you look. I hope they don't fade too quickly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

All in a day's work!

I am not keen on doing too much housework now it is getting hotter, though I do keep the house clean and the washing is done regularly, but I was pleased when Chris took on the work of looking after the swimming pool. The water ph level has to be tested regularly, and more often once it has more 'bodies' in it, and the chemicals must be added and adjusted accordingly. Also the pump is turned on twice a day (it's on a time switch) to keep the water, and the chlorine, circulating. But of course, it also has to be kept clean so that it is inviting to get into. There are not too many trees around but we still get leaves in the water most days, and there is a big net for fishing these out. Then there is a very long handled broom to sweep any debris on the bottom, towards the outlets. However, we have had some very high winds lately and we realised that the pool had a layer of fine sand in it which was just disturbed by the broom, and settled again, rather than being sucked out by the pump. So today we went 'gadget hunting'. It took a while to locate a swimming-pool supplies merchant, and when we did, they didn't have what we wanted. We then stopped off at a supermarket for bread and milk and we met a couple from my church who were able to direct us to another shop. This one had closed for lunch by the time we got to it, but Chris went back after siesta time, and he bought 12 metres of hose some connectors and a very long pole. These connected up to a cleaner-head we found in the shed and we now have a pool 'hoover'. The other end of the hose fits onto the pump so it sucks up the sand into the waste water pipe. We discovered that you have to do this fairly fast or it sucks out too much water. Our water is on a meter so we try not to top the pool up too often, but the water level has to be above the inlet/outlet holes, or it will ruin the pump. So now Chris can hoover outside while I hoover inside, and we'll both have everything spic-and-span!
I took another photo of the white strelitzia to show you. It has got several layers of flowers on it now. It's not the most beautiful flower I have ever seen, in fact I think I prefer the orange one, but it is very interesting all the same. I read today that it doesn't like the full mid-day sun which is exactly what ours gets, but it doesn't seem to mind too much. It also said to spray it daily when the sun is not directly on it so I might start doing that tomorrow. We are really please to se that the plant I think is stephanotis, that we cut half the roots off last month and repotted, is now sending out lots of new shoots. So we didn't kill it! I have also found three tiny lemons on our little tree that looked so sad when we moved in. I am misting them twice a day to encourage them not to drop off. I'd be really chuffed to get some fruit on it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The party continues

Well as I told you yesterday, Spanish time does not match true time so although the programme said that the 'party' would start at 10.00, we weren't surprised to find the street still empty then, and the musicians still setting up and doing their sound and lighting checks. The street looked very strange with lots of table and chairs set out, and a big on-street bar selling beer and tapas. We went into a bar for a drink until things got going, but an hour later the whole place was heaving with people. Many families brought their children, who had had a good siesta all afternoon and were ready to play again. The photo on the left shows our street at 10.00, and the one on the right shows it an hour later. There was a lovely atmosphere, and we sat at one of the tables and watched everyone just enjoying meeting up with friends and neighbours, and chatting together. At first the music was 'taped' and relatively low volume, so you could hold a conversation. At around 11.30 the live musicians came on and the volume increased by several decibels! There were three girls and a man who took it in turns to sing, while music was provided by a keyboard, drums and guitars. I guess it was basically Spanish pop music. The singers were very good and we enjoyed listening to it. No-one danced to begin with but after mid-night they started and the space in front of the stage was full of movement. I tried to get a photo of them but they moved around too much and all my pictures were too blurred, so this one shows the singer before the dancing started.
We had had a lot of sun during the day, walking and watching the football, and by 1.30 this morning we had also had enough wine and noise, so we wandered home to bed. I thought the music would keep us awake, but our bedroom window faces down the road, away from the partying, and although we could hear it, it didn't stop us falling straight to sleep. Chris woke up at 5.00a.m. and he said they were still going then, so I don't know when it was all wrapped up, but everything was back to normal today. I have put a folder of picture about the whole day, on my gallery. Feel free to browse.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

San Isidro

Today is the saint's day for San Isidro who just happens to be the patron saint of our little village of Los Gallardos, (and of several other villages around here) so what better excuse for a party! The celebrations started with some local musicians walking round the streets followed by a Mass at 12.00. It was supposed to start at 10.00, but that was 10.00 Spanish time which bears little resemblance to anything on a clock or watch! We were a bit confused as we walked up to the square in front of the church around ten, only to witness a funeral. The 'hearse' was silver grey, not black, and it was covered in flowers. A huge crowd of villagers walked behind it as it wove its way through our narrow streets and it took us a few minutes to realise that this was not part of the San Isidro parade! Out here, when someone dies, the funeral is usually held the next day, so this unexpected service was probably part of the reason for everything else being delayed.
Anyway, we found a shady spot to sit and wait and gradually we saw folk of all ages arriving for the mass. Most noticeable were a lot of ladies all wearing beautiful red dresses with layers of flounces around the hem, red and white spotted boleros and a large white rose in their hair. They were very striking, and they turned out to be a choir who did all the singing throughout the mass. They were joined by just a few men also wearing a costume of grey striped trousers, black jackets, white shirts and scarlet cummerbunds. There weren't many men but you could certainly hear them when they joined in the singing. It was lovely. We stood at the back of the church through the whole mass. I shall add a short video at the end of this to give you a taste of the music. It is a rubbish video because I was trying not to film the mass, which didn't feel appropriate, but if I turned right away I lost the music, so close your eyes and just listen!?
During the mass a small cart arrived outside the church, pulled by a brown mule. The cart was decorated with flowers and palms, and carried the statue of San Isidro, who apparently is also the patron saint of farm labourers. After the mass, this cart led a small procession of some of the choir ladies and some villagers, a couple of the guardia, and us tagging along behind. A man from the town hall came up at the cross roads and gave everyone a straw hat, which we were happy to wear for the rest of the way. They may not look fantastic, but they are light and cool and keep the sun off your face. We went through the village, out on to the main road, under the motorway and on to the Los Gallardos sports centre. We knew this existed but we weren't sure where it was. It is situated half way up a hill beyond the top end of the village, on the other side of the wide dry river bed and the motorway. We watched the final of a football contest between various teams from the village. The heats were during last week, and today was the final with the winning team being presented with the 'San Isidro Trophy'. What an uncompromising piece of ground to play football on, but what a backdrop of trees and mountains!
After the football came the 'gran paella' that had been bubbling away behind us throughout the match. It was beautifully done, and in keeping with the farming theme it had a bowl of flowers in the centre, and a ring of fancy-cut lemons all around it. It was free to anyone who was there so we decided to stay for some instead of going home for lunch. It had all sorts of tender meat in it and some fish, and it was delicious. We then took the shorter route home across the rough ground, had a much needed cup of tea and a quick swim to revive us, and then enjoyed a lazy afternoon.
The real party is tonight, and guess where the venue is/ Calle Mayor. That's right-our street! The top end of the road has been cordoned off and decorated with strings of bunting and lots of lights, and a big stage has been constructed across the width of the road. There will be music and dancing but it doesn't kick-off until ten o'clock, so it is going to be a long and noisy night. But you know what they say, "If you can't beat them, join them", so we'll be there, and I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.
video

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You can't be right every time.

No, you can't be right every time and this has been proved to us twice this week. The first time was with our little cat Paco. Thinking wrongly that a kitten opens its eyes at around four weeks, (I should know, having had many litters pass through my hands over the years) I had worked out with the lady who found him that Paco was five to six weeks old when I got him last weekend. So I took him along to the vet yesterday to have his first set of injections so he can go outside, only to be told that in fact kittens open their eyes at two weeks old, making him only a bare five weeks now. He is very tiny still as you can see here. He huddles up in one little corner of his bed and it's hard to believe he will ever fill it. But being orphaned (abandoned) so very young he has learned very quickly to be independent, and he makes us laugh when he rolls around playing with anything and everything. Anyway, the vet decided he was too small for his injections just yet so we have to take him back at the end of next week, and poor Paco will have to stay indoors for bit longer yet. Which is probably just as well. He is so nosy and he would probably end up in the pool if I let him out there now!
Our second mistake was in the garden. We have a large plant in a pot that looks just like a banana tree. It has the same oval leaves that get dried by the wind and quickly shred into separate fronds, and it is about the right size too. We have been watching with interest two fat buds that appeared in the centre some time ago. These started to swell this week and as they opened they dripped large amounts of clear gel onto the stones below. I couldn't see how they were going to produce a 'banana flower' and when they finally opened on Tuesday I realised that it wasn't a banana plant at all! At first it sent out three pointed white 'petals' with a pale lilac blue separate tongue that had stamens at its base. The next day there were three more white petals and today more are trying to get out. I didn't know what it was, but searching the net I have identified it as a 'strelitzia alba, or strleitzia nicolai' or white bird of paradise flower. Now I know that's what it is, I can see that it is exactly like the more common orange bird of paradise flower that is in pots and tubs everywhere here, and is also sold as an exotic plant for conservatories etc in England, except the white one is bigger. I found the information about it on a page about banana plants, so perhaps they are related. Anyway I have enjoyed watching it develop over the past few weeks.
I haven't a lot of news this week so I will finish with a couple more shots of the garden. Our hibiscus had nine flowers on it today. That's the most so far and it looked so lovely. The flowers will have died by tomorrow but I am sure more will be out to take their place.
Another plant we have been watching for ages is this pink one which is on our land but just beyond the fence. I think I have told you before that it is an Oleander, and therefore very poisonous. But it is also very beautiful and I only want to look at it, not eat it! The buds are very slow to open but there are quite a few flowers out now and they remind me rather of a double bizzie-lizzie. As you can see, there are loads of buds on it, so it will go on looking beautiful for a long time yet. This is one of the more ornamental varieties, and it also has variegated leaves. The more usual one has dark green leaves and single flowers in shades of white, through pink to deep red. It is very common here and is often planted down the central reservation of the motorways. Apparently this is to discourage wild animals such a deer from wandering onto the main roads, as they know it is poisonous so they won't eat it. So right now there is a lovely show of colour as you drive along. The ones on our bit of motorway are nearly all the same pink as ours, and they are just coming into bloom.

P.S. Since posting this blog I have been looking up more information on my exotic garden plant, and I have learnt that whereas the common orange bird of paradise flower (Strelitzia reginae) grows to around 3 feet in height, the white one can reach 20 feet! Hence it is often referred to as the giant strelitzia. Of course ours will never be that big as it is confined to a pot. It also has much broader, rounder leaves than the orange variety. And it did say that strelitzia are close relations of the banana family, so my first idea wasn't so far off the mark after all. Isn't the internet wonderful!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Introducing Paco

Well here he is, my little bundle of joy! As I said in last night's blog, today I went up to Alfoquia to collect my little kitten. He is very tiny with tiger stripes on his head and sides, huge blue eyes and a piece of string for a tail! He has undergone a name change, and instead of Destino, he is to be called Paco. (More about that later) I have it on good authority that Paco is a dimunitive version of the name Francisco or Francis, but how they get from one to the other I have no idea. Anyway, the name suits him. It is easy to call when he goes walk-about, and I have a feeling I will be calling him in quite often. He is only just six weeks old, but already he is quite adventurous. Today he is a bit lonely , and as soon as I open the door he is round my feet, crying for attention. He likes to sit on my shoulder, and when we first got him home, he climbed inside the front of my dress, played with my necklace for a while and then went to sleep there. This afternoon we had a siesta together so now he is ready to play, and I obviously make a good climbing frame. He wants to learn to type, but my last two kittens were good at removing the computer keys, so I shall keep him away from there if I can. He seems to like his bed and the dry food so he is off to a good start, but it's not easy to eat your dinner when the dish it is in is much the same size as you are.
Of course he really needs a companion, and as for the last thirty years or more, I have successfully kept rescued cats along side more special breeds, I have been looking around for something a bit different here. After trawling the internet for days, I had discovered that the main breed out here is Persians, and most breeders live in Madrid or further north. However I eventually found a small scale breeder in Murcia who had a litter of two babies born on 2nd April, that are 'pet quality'. In other words they are not perfect enough for showing. This was exactly what I wanted so I tried phoning him and sending e-mails. Unfortunately his grasp of English is even worse than my grasp of Spanish, so although he understood what I wanted, when I asked him to e-mail me his address, he gave a long answer that I could not fathom, and we both hung up. I sent three e-mails that went unanswered, and spoke to him on the phone again. I now knew a little more about the cats but still didn't know where in Murcia he lived. In the end I admitted defeat and asked my Spanish teacher (Paco!) to ring him for me. From this I learned his address, and that his computer was not working, hence my unanswered e-mails. So we made an appointment to visit him this morning and saw his two beautiful little balls of fluff. So I chose this one, and she will be called Destino. This is not because she is any more special, but being a girl, I felt it suited her more to be Destino and the little boy to be Paco. They will both be treated exactly the same, and I hope they will be good friends. Destino is more likely to stay around the house, while Paco will probably be a wanderer, but they will sleep and eat together. (They will both be nuetered before they become too good friends!) The couple who breed the persians live in what appeared to be quite a small flat with a big dog, (a pit bull crossed with a british bull terrier!), and three big cats, two of which are champion show cats. One of these is Destino's father. Fortunately the man's wife was there today and she spoke a little English, and understood my Spanish, so we got along quite well. Persians are slow to develop so the kitten needs another month with her mother, and I have to wait patiently for a phone call to say I can collect her.
On a completely different subject, today we witnessed another piece of local tradition that we had heard about but not seen up until now. When we got up this morning we saw that the orange grove next door was under water. All agricultural growers have access to a natural water source on a regular basis, and as it happened today, we are assuming this is from May until around September/October, but we don't know the frequency yet. It is done by a system of underground and overground pipes called acequias. Each land owner has a particular day and time when he can turn some stopcocks that direct the water to his land. In a couple of hours the land is completely under water, and then the next farm along the road gets its turn. As the ground next door flooded, some water seeped through the cracks in the walls and through small overflow pipes, onto our side patio, including the small patch of ground where my little lemon tree is, so I moved some of my tubs onto it to soak up the excess. When we came home the air felt warm and damp, and I am sure the orange trees appreciated it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Home-makers

Hi everyone. Like many of you I am sure, I consider myself to be a home-maker, and although we are pretty much sorted in our new home now, I still rearrange things if I think it will be more comfortable or convenient for us. But today I have been busy with a different sort of homemaking, because I have been preparing a 'home' for my new little kitten which I hope to collect tomorrow afternoon. Because I will need to keep him indoors until he has at least had his first round of injections at the end of next week, and because I spend a lot of time there and will be able to keep an eye on him, I am going to make my craft room his home for the time being. So I have bought him a soft padded bed, a litter tray and a big bag of kitten food. I expect he'll be happy to stretch out on the stone floor as it gets hotter, but at first he will miss the warmth and company of the rest of his litter, and the dog that has been his foster mum since he was abandonned at around four weeks old. (You can see more details of this in a previous blog). He will still fit into the bed when he is an adult cat, and he'll be glad enough of it when next winter comes around, and the stone floors are again very cold! I don't expect he will like the dry kitten food very much either as he has been weaned from milk onto ordinary cat meat, but the dry food is healthier for him and will not attract the ants as much as meat would, so I want him to have it all the time. I'll soak it for him while he is tiny, and mix a little meat into it until he is used to it. I also visited the vet today. He was a very pleasant man, and fortunately he speaks good English. So I was able to find out what is leagally required for a cat here (microchip and rabies injection), and what else is advisable. It will be nice to have a cat about the place again.
Out in the garden, home-makers of a different kind have been busy. I first spotted this wasp nest last week. It is in a small potted tree, and it is only tiny, about the size of a walnut. I cannot decide whether the wasps are just building it, renovating an old one, or are busy laying eggs in it. I only saw two wasps on it the first time, but there are now several more and quite a few cells seem to be occupied this evening. They are not the sort of wasps we have in England, and as they haven't bothered us when we have been eating outside, I have left them alone. It is such a beautiful construction, it would be a shame to spoil it, but if it gets any bigger I may have to think again.
One other thing I have been keeping an eye on in the garden is this palm tree which suddenly produced a flower stem. It has grown so quickly and now it is opening up it is really pretty close-up. I have been watering the trees fairly regularly as none of them are in a very big pot, and this one obviously liked that and has rewarded us with a flower. Just another little surprise for us to enjoy.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Power of Attraction!

Anyone who has worked with me in a nursery, will know how much I loved playing with the children with anything 'scintific', that would make them ask questions,and want to find out more, and one of my real favourites was magnets. I never missed the opportunity to buy toys that used magnets in some way, and our boys were similarly supplied. The first magnetic building bricks I bought were a a huge success, but when I later replaced them with a more sophisticated kit, I think I played with it more than they did. In fact I have brought it here with me so I can 'play' some more when the grandchildren come out to visit. While searching for these on-line and in catalogues, I have also come across various 'toys' aimed at the adult audience, and bought some of them as well. Among my collection is, what boasts to be, 'The Strongest magnet in the World'. It's actually a very tiny cube, approximately one centimeter each way, and it is very strong. So yesterday, when Chris needed to retrieve a small metal rod that had gone where he didn't want it to be, I thought of my strong magnet. It turned out not to be Chris' solution as the rod was made of the wrong metal and was not attracted to the magnet, but having dug it out of a deep drawer, I, of course, started playing with it. I was using it to pull off some of my fridge magnets, which are a daily reminder of all the lovely places around the world that I have visited, when it leapt out of my hand onto the fridge door, and stuck there. Being tiny, it was hard to get a grip on it and try as I might, I simply couldn't pull it off the door. In the end I had to enlist the help of my young man, and even he had to use a knife blade to lever it off. So perhaps its name was not such an idle boast after all!
Today we needed to visit the bank in Mojacar, and business dealt with, it was such a lovely morning that we decided to have a stroll along the sea front. We drove the first bit, until we reached the point where it becomes Garrucha, because we actually prefer it there. We parked up and started to walk along the promenade. Garrucha is famous for two things, red prawns caught just off shore and sold in all the beach cafes, and the white marble balustrade all along the prom. The marble is quarried at Macel, just inland from here. It was really hot and there were a few holiday makers enjoying the beach, but really everywhere was so quiet. The prom is wide and clean, and we only passed a few other folk along the way. Then we turned up into the village because I had been told that there was a panaderia (bread shop), that will sell its bread flour loose, a lot more cheaply that the supermarkets do. I found the shop and bought a kilo of flour, and then we wandered further up into the back streets. We had never been that far from the beach before and we were surprised at how much more there was. The streets rise steeply and are on many levels, and mostly it was rows of apartments, housing a thriving Spanish community. Before when people have said to me that Garrucha is a typical little Spanish village, I have been surprised, because the bit we usually go to is a tourist town with flats, souvenir shops and cafes, but now I know what they mean. We found a pretty little rest area with a statue of the 'virgin on the rocks' in it, and then we came to the church, know as the 'Iglesia de San Joaquin'. This was quite high up at the back of the village, and it had obviously had some work done on it fairly recently. I stood in the square in front of the church taking photos when a Spanish lady came to her door. She called out 'Señora, señora', and then followed with a long sentence from which I managed to pick out the words 'door' and 'beautiful'. I thanked her and went back to Chris, and I told him that I thought she was telling me that there was a door round the side that we could use. So we went around the corner and there was this beautiful door with embossed metal pictures on it. It was obviously what she had been telling me about. It was part of the renovations, and the wall beside it was made of ridged glass, and from the notices we saw, we think it lights up after dark. I'd like to go and look one night. The church was so high up that all roads leading from it were made of steps. It must be really difficult for those who carry a trono in one of the fiesta processions, as they always seem to start and end at the church. I only took a few pictures but I will make a small folder on my gallery, unless I already have a folder called Garrucha, in which case I will put them in there!

Monday, May 4, 2009

How does my garden grow?

It is true that our garden in Oswestry was too big for us to care for properly, but I have always liked gardening and I am keen to learn about the flowers and other plants that grow here, and have a go at growing some for myself. At this house we have no garden as such, because all the outside area, except one small corner at the front, is paved. But we have inherited lots of plants in pots, and watching them develop is like very slowly unwrapping a mystery present. You are never quite sure what will pop out when the next bud unfurls. Our hibiscus plant had seven lovely red flowers on it today. They will be gone tomorrow but there are plenty more buds to come. Two potted 'trees' round the front have buds on, but we have no idea what their flowers will be like. We have a very small cacti bed and several succulents in tubs. Some of these have very exotic flowers. One of the cacti has suddenly sprouted little babies all over. I'll try and find room for a picture of it. It overhangs the front path and tends to 'grab' your ankles if you don't look where you are going.
Unfortunately some of our plants are a bit spindley, or their leaves are going yellow. We think this may be because they are pot-bound, but it will be a very big task to repot all of them, and in some cases it may be wiser to wait a couple more years and then start again from scratch. The one thing we didn't have any of (apart from the roses in the small front garden), was the familiar annuals and perennials that are common in gardens at home. I went to a charity coffee morning last week and bought two wooden troughs, and today we went to the garden centre to buy something to go in them. So this afternoon we had a gardening session. We bought three geraniums which do so well out here, and should over winter as we don't get frost, a verbena, a huge gazania and a white marguerite. I planted the geraniums in the first trough, but when I came to the second trough, the plants were so big I could only get two of them in it. So the marguerite ended up in a tub on its own. They make a nice show of colour under the wall. They won't be as close to one another as they are in the photo. I just wanted to get them in one shot. It is usual to cover any soil surface with large stones which help to keep the soil moist, and enable you to water them without washing all the soil out.
When the troughs were done I planted up a succulent cutting and a pot of sage that I also bought at the coffee morning, and some fancy gourd seeds that Tom and Jessie's friends in Orgiva gave me. I do hope I am not too late with them. The fruits are ornamental and they are quite extraordinary. Our last task was to repot the stephanotis that is trained along our back fence. It is very sad, and all the new leaves have turned yellow and dropped off. I am looking on-line to see whether this is caused by not enough water, too much water or an intolerance to the high calcium content of our water. But again we think it may just be pot-bound. We decided to be brutal, and if it dies we'll replace it next year. It was dying anyway so we will only have speeded it up! We cut around the edge of the pot and eventually managed to get it out. This was a tricky manoeuvre as all it's branches are tied to the fence and we didn't want to untie them. Then we cut off about a third of its roots. Now it is repotted in a larger pot and fresh compost. I've talked to it nicely and I hope it will now survive, though it may take one step backwards before it moves forward again. Chris hosed away all the mess we made while I watered all the new plants in, so now we have an even nicer patio to sit and look at on these warm, sunny days. A good afternoon's work!