Saturday, March 27, 2010

One wounded soldier

We have a very sad Chico this week. On Wednesday morning, during our walk, he was hit by a car and has hurt his leg. The reason we take them over the campo each day is so that we can let them off their leads so they can have a good run, and they love it. They are of course, getting more adventurous, and go a long way up the hills following the scent of rabbit and fox (and tortoise!). Usually they come back to us when we call them, and a pocketful of treats is helping with this training, but if something really catches their attention they suddenly go 'deaf' and ignor us. And when one goes, the others usually follow. None of them are very street-wise and tend to chase cars, so we make sure we are well away from the road before releasing them. On Wednesday they had shot off up the hill as usual, but at the top there is a small hotel, still under construction as it has been all year, and very occasionally a little more work is done on it. There is a narrow sandy track leading up to it and we saw a red pick-up truck heading up there so we called for the dogs and they started to return. Unfortunately the truck only stopped up at the hotel for a couple of minutes and then it came back down the track, much too fast for the condition of the road, and Chico, who was still quite near to the road, started running alongside it. Fortunately the other two were back with us by then. The next thing we knew, the truck was gone in a cloud of dust and we could hear Chico yelping. He stumbled out onto our path and fell over and we thought he had broken his leg. Chris backed the car down to us and we lifted him in, and I sat on the back seat with the other two while we slowly drove home. I put an ice pack on his leg, and as soon as the vet opened we took Chico down to see her. She sedated him and we left him there looking very sad, and waited for a phone call. The vet rang later to say that an X-ray showed no breaks so it was most likely a damaged tendon that would heal itself. She strapped him up, and at tea-time we fetched him home. We expected the other two to get very excited to see him, and we'd have trouble keeping them away from him, but in fact they seemed almost afraid of him, and kept well away. They are still keeping their distance which is quite a good thing really as he is not up to playing with them. His foot isn't causing him too much pain now, but he won't stand on it, and seems unable to straighten it. I spoke to the vet yesterday and she said to take the bandage off to encourage him to use it. He is getting pretty good at moving around on three legs, but the damaged paw just hangs down and he drags it along. Just now I noticed that where he is dragging the front of it on the ground, he has worn away the claw and his toe is bleeding, and the one next to it is going to be the same by tonight, so I have bandaged him up again. We are taking him back to the vet on Monday, so hopefully he will be standing properly on it by then. I suppose it is early days yet, but I wish he was at least attempting to hold it the right way up. He, at least, should have a healthy respect for cars now, but I don't know whether the other two took the lesson on board. For now Chris is staying at home with Chico and I am taking the two girls for their morning run, but I make sure we are much further down the track before I release them from their leads.

It has been
a beautiful day today and we decided to start tidying up the garden. We went down to a garden centre and bought four troughs and some plants, so we now have a window box at Chris' office window, the sitting room, and the two small windows in the garage. I did take some photos, but of course they don't look anything special yet. I'm sure a couple of weeks of Spanish sunshine will have them blooming. We also bought a pretty lilac lantana, which is the same family as the vivid red-orange flower that we planted out the front last year. This is potted up, but we'll have to keep an eye on it. It is a vigorous plant so it may not thrive in a tub. While I was out with the camera I had to take another picture of our jasmine. As you can see, all those buds in last weeks photo are now open. The scent is amazing, and it is so pretty. It's even prettier when the sun is on it, but the front garden is shady by the afternoon. The funny little creeping plant I showed you is also a mass of flowers now. I think of it as the fire-plant because the flowers are just like little flames, but I have no idea what it is really called. We had quite a surprise out the back of the house too. There is a pretty orleander just below our back fence, with variegated leaves and pink flowers later in the summer, and this year we noticed it was much taller and the leaves are darker green. We thought it was just a freak spray of the orleander that had reverted to the usual green leaves, but we have realised now that it is a mimosa tree. It is really tall and it wasn't there last year, so it must have self-seeded from the one across the rambla on the car park, and all of this is one year's growth. This is a very fertile land, and when things grow, they really grow! It hasn't got a lot of flowers on it, but you can just see the first ones opening and there are quite a lot of buds forming. Someone told us that there used to be one in the garden but the previous owners cut it down because the pool was like custard when the pollen blew down, so we shall have to wait and see. Much as I like all these flowers they have brought on a bout of hay-fever and I am coughing and sneezing all day! My little hanging trough on the back fence is looking pretty isn't it? I bought the three little pansies a few weeks back, and the day I planted them, one of the dogs pulled out the purple one and ate all its flowers! I replanted it and covered the whole trough with pepper dust which lasted long enough for it to take root, and it has just about recovered though it isn't as strong as the other two. And before I leave the garden, just look at my Christmas poinsettia. It's as lovely now as it was in December. It is still on the front porch because I can't bear to get rid of it while it has so much colour on it. The Spanish people all threw theirs away after Three Kings Day. Right across the door from it my Easter lily has it's first flower just about to unfurl. It is sheltered on the porch and the plants don't suffer from the cold nights and high winds there like they do in the garden. I don't know how I am going to fit in all these photos, but I'll give it a go! Hasta luego.

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's strawberry time again.

Yes, we have had strawberries in the market for the past few weeks and lovely they are too! I have been waiting to see whether they drop in price a bit because I wanted to make some jam. I even brought a couple of bottles of Certo back home with me from the UK so I could set it. But the strawberries haven't got a lot cheaper, and this morning I went to Turre market and I had a chat with Josephina, the stall keeper who managed to get some bitter oranges for my marmalade. We exchange a few words each week now and she seems to understand what I say, and I can pick out enough words to get the gist of what she says to me. (I don't understand her husband though. His only speed is lightening speed!). Anyway she told me that the fruit is all staying expensive because of all the rain last month, and this is what we expected really. So I decided to go ahead and buy some strawberries anyway. I bought two and a half kilos; two for the jam and a half so we could enjoy some for our tea! They were huge and almost too good to use in jam, but they are always like that out here. I didn't want them to go off, so I thought I might as well get on and make the jam so that's how I spent my afternoon. Now I have about eleven pounds of lovely jam to go in the larder. Hopefully it will keep and will last us all year.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

'The broom blooms bonny, the broom blooms fair'..

Today's title is a line from a song on one of my folk music CDs, and it exactly fits the sight we get each morning when we walk the dogs over the campo. I believe I said a week or so ago that the broom was all in bud and about to break open, and now it has. The whole area is a mass of yellow and on the warmer mornings, we can hear the gentle buzzing of the first bees of summer, waking up to enjoy the abundance of flowers. There are quite a lot of wild flowers out now. I remember that March was the best month for them last year. This year they are a bit slower because it is still quite cool and there is a lot of standing water from last month's storms. The water table is full and it has no-where to go. But there are still plenty of flowers to enjoy. One of the most prolific is this mauve one. It is a bit like something from the cabbage family, and it grows everywhere that there is a patch of soil, from the campo to the highways and also the gardens. It makes a cloud of lilac and is so pretty, and it blends in lovely with all the yellow flowers everywhere. We are so lucky to have such a pretty place to live.
And the flowers are not only out on the campo. We have quite a few in the garden even though most things are a bit stunted because they are confined to pots. We do have one small square of earth in the corner of the front garden and this is home to a beautiful jasmine. It grows very robustly and we were quite ruthless when we cut it down in the autumn. But this spring it is up all over the wall again and it is a mass of buds. You can't put a pin between them. The buds are a deep pink but the flowers are almost white, and although only a few are open so far, the scent is strong. It wafts in through the sitting room window and I love it. In front of the jasmine we have a baby mandarin tree which shows no sign of growing or of producing any flowers, but at least it is still alive! All around its base, there is a circle of ivy with pretty variegated leaves, and inside this we planted a ground-cover succulent with small orange daisy-like flowers, that was a cutting I pulled up from the beach outside our flat in El Calón, and another trailing plant that we bought from the garden centre. I don't know what it is, but it has very interesting flowers which are just beginning to open. Quite soon it will be covered in them. The two plants together have swamped the ivy though I see it is spreading out from underneath them again now, and it all looks very nice together.
I have had a busy week starting with a ladies day at our pastor's house on Saturday (the men were away at a conference), followed by a very nice Mother's Day service on Sunday. I was leading the prayers, and Chris came to the service, and then we, and a dozen or so others from the church, all had an excellent Sunday roast at the bar/restaurant where we meet until our new premises are ready next month. Then on Tuesday we had a coffee morning to raise funds for the things we need to furnish the new church. I baked a load of cookies and took some of my marmalade and chutney, and came home with some of other people's chutney instead! I also renewed my supply of English books so I can do some relaxing reading when I get the time. Wednesday was my usual sewing group and today I have been to my monthly scrapbook club. I did the first page of Jonathan's book so maybe I will get on with that now. So although I don't exactly do a lot, I do keep busy and the days fly by. I am still trying to make my lace and this time I am doing a pattern called 'rose-ground'. It is more difficult than any I have done so far and it uses a lot of bobbins. But they are so pretty with all their coloured rings of beads on the bottom of them. These are called 'spangles'. I have been given some lovely ones. This week, a lady from my church gave me about forty pairs of bobbins that she no longer uses, and several of them have lovely painting on their shafts and they have spangles to match the paintings. I love them all. For this little piece I have 56 bobbins hanging, and it is hard to keep them from muddling up. Even one extra twist of a thread can be seen quite clearly in the finished lace. I have made this piece once already, but it had several mistakes in it and I decided to have another go. This one isn't perfect but it is much better than my first attempt. My teacher always tell me not to worry about the mistakes but I like to get it right before I move on. Hopefully it will be finished before next Wednesday and I will start something new then.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Happy Birthday !

Yes, today we had a birthday to celebrate. Chico and Miki are one today. It doesn't seem possible really. On one hand it seems like no time at all since we bought them home as bouncy puppies, and on the other hand, it is hard to remember a time when we didn't have them. They posed for a very nice birthday photo, but apart from that it is just another day. They did get a few extra treats this morning, and a few this afternoon to bribe them to sit still for the camera, and this afternoon we have sat out the back with them, enjoying the sun while sheltering from a very chilly wind.
We had quite a surprise yesterday morning when we took the dogs for their first quick run across the road. I said to Chris, "Look at the clouds on the mountains this morning. They look almost like snow", and he said "I think it is snow!" And sure enough, as it got lighter we could see quite clearly that they were indeed covered with snow. This is the Cabrera range of mountains which lies between our village and the sea. (They are the ones that were ablaze in those aweful fires last summer). They are not particularly high and it is very rare indeed to have snow on them. We took some lovely pictures looking down our street between the flats, and leaning over the back fence. It remained chilly all day but the sun was out, and by lunch time the snow had gone. It has been bright again today and the forecast is good for the whole week, but the temperatures are way below what we expect and hope for. It seems as though all of Europe is experiencing unusual weather. Some friends of mine were due to drive to England yesterday, so they set off at midday, but they had to turn back because there were traffic jams for 200Km on the motorway towards Barcelona. Apparently the road was closed due to a heavy snow fall!
Once again we have a circus in town. There seems to be one every few months. They set up their Big-top on the ground behind our house, and park their vehicles alongside it. This one has the long lorries containing big cats again. They seem very restless and we can hear the lions roaring on and off all day. This morning the sides of their van were lifted and we could see the cats legs as they walked up and down inside the caged interior. A shaft of sun just caught the end corner of the cage and one big cat made the most of it and sat there to rest. All we could see was a huge paw sticking out through the wire. Next to that there is a caged enclosure where three lions have been pacing up and down all day. It is time for them to get hungry now so we will hear them again any time soon. I took this photo from our garden. It is quite intimidating to have such huge wide beasts almost in our back yard!
In my last blog I posted what I said was the penultimate picture of our road, so I thought I had better post the 'ultimate' one today. Yes, it is finally open. When I got home last Friday night, the workman watched me struggle up the road with a load of things and then excitedly told me I could now drive up, and indicated that the lane on our side was for parking. With a lot of hand waving and a few Spanish words each, I learned that it is now a stretch of one-way road. We can drive up it but have to go around the side roads to the plaza to get back out of the village. It will take a bit of getting used to, and the locals seem rather inclined to ignor the signs when it suits them, so I hope it doesn't take an accident before everyone accepts the new arrangement. We had expected it to be one-way down the road, but they obviously think this is better. Anyway, it is nice to be able to park outside our own house again, and it is so much easier when I have a load of shopping on board.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Henry for a day

The dogs have missed out on a few long walks lately because the heavy rain has turned the campo into a quagmire, but it was fine and warm over the weekend, so on Tuesday we decided to give it a try. We drive to the edge of the campo and park up, and, as soon as we open the boot and release their car anchors, the dogs shoot off up the hills and just enjoy running free.They mostly stay in sight and soon come back when we call them, but they often bring us presents such as an old, bleached goat skull, or other such treats! So it was no surprise when Chico came bounding back with what appeared to be a large, dark rock in his mouth. I told him to drop it which he did, and it was then I realised that he had found a tortoise! I know they live wild in the national park at Cabo de Gato, but I hadn't realised there were any on the campo near us. Chico had dropped it hard from a fair height and I was worried that he may have damaged it. I couldn't decide whether it was dead, still in hibernation or just hiding from shock. I couldn't just leave it there because the dogs would have played with it again, so I put it in my shoulder bag and brought it home with me. It still showed no sign of life so I made it as comfortable as possible in our cat carrier and provided some lettuce leaves and water, and left it in peace. As children Mum always insisted that all our toys, dolls, teddies etc had names, and that has stuck so I tend to give a name to all the livestock that comes my way, even if it is only a temporary visitor, so the tortoise became Henry for a day. I was very pleased when, an hour or so later, Henry emerged from his shell and started walking around. He didn't mind me holding him but he wasn't very keen on the lettuce. I guess he is used to a rather rougher diet out in the wild. Anyway, I knew they are becoming scarce and are protected, so I couldn't keep him, and yesterday afternoon I drove back to the campo without the dogs, and set him free back in his own territory. I have since been warned that, however good my intentions were, had the Guardia Civil seen me with him, I would have been given a hefty fine, because they would have thought "Perhaps she is going to make tortoise soup"! So it is just as well that he is safely back home. He was my first wild tortoise, and I am thrilled to have seen him.
I had some exciting news this week concerning my craft. As you know, Jean and I regularly make Artist Trading Cards, small pieces of original artwork, which we swap with other like-minded crafters, via the internet, craft magazines, and with personal friends throughout the world. We both make them for a magazine called Craft Stamper which we subscribe to. It is the highlight of my month when I see it sticking out of our mail box. In the latest issue they printed a selection of ATCs sent in on the theme "Monochrome", and one of mine was chosen as the winner of the Editor's choice. I win a small prize of some rubber stamps and a book of miniature images to use on cards, and my ATC is featured in the magazine. It is always a big confidence booster to see your work appreciated by someone in the business, and fun to see your name in print too, so now I shall be watching the post again for a little parcel to arrive. I'd better get on with making the next set now.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Dia de Andalucia

Yes; It's festival time again. The 28th February is Dia de Andalucia, which commemorates the day in 1980 when Andalucia became a recognised independent community. It is made up of a lot of provinces, including Almeria and Granada, and it's capital is Seville. All over the area, this special day is celebrated with a carnival, which seems quite strange, occurring as it does, right in the middle of Lent, and this year, on a Sunday too. But that did not deter them. I went to church as usual in the morning, which meant I came home around 1.30 and then started cooking a traditional roast dinner. (I'm not Spanish enough to forego the Sunday roast yet!) While it was in the oven I wandered across the village to see what was going on. I knew the village choir had been singing earlier and I would have liked to have heard them, but the carnival won't be on a Sunday next year and hopefully they'll sing again then. The big marquee used on Three Kings Day was again erected on the area at the back of our house, and when I got there I found three rows of trestle tables set up down the whole length of it, with chairs packed along both sides of them and around the walls. The tables were filled with plates of meat, ham, sausage, black pudding etc, fish, salads, crisps and nuts, and lots of rough country bread. There were bottles of wine and glasses of beer, continuously being refreshed by a tribe of waitresses, and it was just a free-for-all; in other words, a bit of a bun fight, but everyone was just there to have a good time, and the atmosphere was great. I could have eaten there, but knowing my dinner was in the oven, I refrained, and went back home for a while. At 5.00 we both went back over to the plaza for the carnival parade. I don't know where all the people came from, but the whole place was heaving. There seemed to be groups of people with themed costumes who, I presume, each represented a club, or one of the surrounding villages that all come under the umbrella of 'Los Gallardos'. We have a fairly large contingent of South Americans, mainly from Ecuador, living at the top of the village, and they wore lovely colourful clothes. There were also many individuals wearing costumes, or just wigs or face paint. It seemed like everyone wanted to get in on the act. I particularly loved all the little children, right down to babies who had fancy dress on. It would seem that Spanish men enjoy the opportunity to 'dress up' as they had by far the most outrageous costumes! Some costumes were very elaborate and must have taken many weeks to produce, while others were little more than lengths of cloth wrapped or draped around the people, but they all added to the overall effect. There were several bands playing and everyone was dancing, stopping regularly to swig from bottles; your guess is as good as mine as to what was in them. The whole event was an experience in colour and noise, and having fun, and we loved being a part of it. There are more carnival images in my gallery on
So, today is the first day of March, and we have enjoyed a beautiful sunny day. Because the fiesta fell on a Sunday today is a holiday too, so there are no shops open, but the bars and restaurants are of course open as usual. So after walking the dogs, Chris and I drove down to Mojacar and strolled along the beach. I even got my feet wet in the sea, but this wasn't intentional! Fortunately I had taken my shoes off when the wave caught me, and the sand was so warm underfoot, that I was soon dry again. We then wandered back to our favourite beach café for our elevenses, before driving home for lunch. We ate out on the porch and it was so warm and nice, I stayed out there to do some sewing, and have just come in now because I was getting too hot! They are forecasting light drizzle again tomorrow but we will wait and see. Our weather seems almost harder to predict than English weather, and the forecast can never be relied on.
It is now a year since we took the keys to our house, and this time last year, we were in UK tying up the loose ends and arranging for our furniture to be shipped over to us. One of the first blog entries I did from this village was titled 'March is yellow', and although this is only the first day of March, already it is turning yellow. All over the campo where we walk the dogs, bushes of broom are full of buds and they are just starting to open. I have seen a couple of mimosa trees in bloom, but the yellow seen everywhere is the very acid yellow of the oxalis which is endemic to this area of Spain. It grows along every road, in every garden, and is rampant under trees, especially citrus trees. I read somewhere that it is allowed to flourish there because when it dies down it feeds the soil and the trees benefit from it. This is a photo of the orange grove next door (What a difference a couple of weeks makes Jean!). It is almost like the bluebells in an English wood, but a far less peaceful colour. Other wild flowers are opening everywhere, the birds are twittering like there's no tomorrow, and on the campo we could hear a wild bees nest buzzing into action. This is a lovely time of year to be here. Look at these photos and I think you will see why, when asked on my UK break last week, "Do you have any regrets?" I answered with an emphatic "No!"
And finally, what is probably the penultimate photo of the roadworks. Our road is now almost complete. We think it will be one-way traffic when it reopens for cars to use. Our side of the road is a parking bay, and small bollards have been fixed all along the edge of the pavements to prevent parking on them. This is good, as it would have been easy to drive on them as they are on the same level as the road, just a different colour bricks. So at least we will be able to park outside the house soon, which will make it easier for unloading shopping etc. All the new lights are in place, and the drainage trench that ran right down to the bottom of the village has tarmac on it. There is loose sand over the surface at the minute, which they are compounding to fill between the bricks, and there is still a lot of builders 'rubbish' to be moved before the road can be used, but we can see an end to the work at last. As we walked home from the carnival there wasn't a soul in sight, so I snapped this shot of our peaceful street. Looking good, isn't it?