Friday, May 14, 2010

The Wonder of Creation

I can't believe it is a whole week since my last blog. Where does the time go? I'm afraid I am going to plague you with more pictures of flowers and wild life. I get so much enjoyment watching the changes all around me, and I just want to share my enthusiasm, in the hope that at least one of my readers is equally excited by it. So first, here are a couple of shots taken on the campo. Every patch of open land is covered right now by dying, common thistles. They were very pretty for a while, with simple pale lilac-blue flowers, but now they are fading almost to grey, and their drying thorns can be very lethal!! However a new group of thistles have now arrived. First it was a small but much deeper purple one, not overly significant, but very pretty. Then I saw that from among the dying pale ones, there were a few plants shooting up much taller, easily as tall as me, and they had much bigger buds on them. I was very surprised when they opened to reveal not purple, but bright yellow flowers. I didn't know that thistles were ever anything except shades of mauve to purple. Then there was suddenly some big bushes of what also looked like thistles, but these were shorter with huge buds forming, so I have watched them with interest and today I was rewarded with the sight of these beautiful flowers. They all seem to have bloomed together. Just look at this lovely plant. The flower in the photo I am using for a close up has three beetles visiting it. Two are burrowing deep inside, and one, with a pollen stained back, is at the base of the flower. We are having to find alternative routes to walk the dogs this month as a nature patrol man is riding around on a quad bike and keeping all dogs off the campo while there are ground nesting birds there. That's fair enough so we are doing our best to comply, and presumably we will be allowed back on in a few weeeks. So walking down a different track this morning I spotted what I thought was a clutch of hairy caterpillars. I approached with caution because there are one or two types out here that can cause quite a violent allergic reaction, so violent that dogs have been known to die from it. But I soon realised that these weren't caterpillars at all. They were, in fact, the seeds of a plant that grows and spreads very close to the ground. I've inserted a close up of one of them. Aren't they lovely? Then, finally, as I was walking the dogs back to the car, I passed a small ornamental lake at the edge of the housing, and just as we got there, a white heron landed on the shore. What better way to end a nature walk with my furry friends.

But my nature watching doesn't end on the campo. There is plenty to see in and around the garden. The other day this rather fine fellow came to visit us, and Chris called me out with the words 'You'd better bring your camera'. He knows me so well! The hopper was about three inches long and he sat on our potted palm for ages before moving to the roses. We went out soon after, and we think he may have came to a sticky end. Some vaguely familiar remains were found in the dogs bed later that day! Even more exciting is what you see here. The green area behind the house is full of little birds and we love watching them bring food for their young who live in the tiniest holes in the eaves of the house next door. But up til now they haven't been too close to us, because of the animals. But just lately the sparrows and occasionally the swifts, have popped down for drinks of fresh water from the base of our plant pots. They will drink from the pools when they are thirsty enough, but of course they prefer their water unchlorinated. Anyway, the other day Chris noticed a nest squashed into the tiny space betrween the air-conditioning unit and the house wall. We thought it was an old one, but this week there is a continuous call of baby birds and mum and dad sparrow are in and out with food. I sat still (well as still as I am capable of) for quite a while in the hope of getting a picture of mum feeding the babies, but when she had surveyed us from the roof tiles for ages, and chattered to her partner about us, and she finally decided it was safe to go to the nest, she disappeared right inside it, with not so much as a little beak or a tail feather to see, but as soon as she went in the nest, dad came and sat guard on the pipes, so here is the best shot I could get.

My new little garden is looking good. There was one ornamental cactus in the front corner, that the dogs just would not leave alone. It must have had the right smell, or sweet sap or something, because in a few days it was wrecked. So I rescued it and potted it up in the front garden to see whether it will revive for next year, and I replaced it in the garden with a yellow osteospermen, which is doing fine. But the plant that we are most pleased with is the bottle brush tree round in the front yard. It was almost dead when we moved in. Derek had been too ill to care properly for the plants all autumn, and then the house was empty for a few weeks, and the patio tubs soon dry out if they are neglected. So we trimmed out all the dead branches and watered it regulalry all through the winter and spring, and now it has lots of bright red brushes on it. It is looking really good. Amazing what a bit of TLC can do, even for a plant.

At this time of year I enjoy sitting out in the garden, because it is not too hot, and even on really sunny days the shade is comfortable. So after lunch I either read for an hour or two, do some cross-stitch sewing, or make my lace. However, I really need the right chair for this. The two loungers that we inherited with the house, are too low and not at all comfortable. Chris is quite happy with them because he likes to lie flat to sunbathe for his siesta, whereas that just makes my back really ache. What I wanted is a proper height seat, with a detachable foot rest that can be used while the chair is upright, and a back that can recline independently when I need to change position, or relax for a while. I am really cross because we had six of these in England, two with a foot rest and four without, and we left them at the house as we thought we would replace them very easily out here. Instead we find that they just don't exist here. All the recliners and beds are very low, and the loungers have a footrest that only comes up when the chair is reclined. I had just decided that we would have to bite the bullet and pay silly money to have one sent out from UK, but when I looked on the sites like, Argos, Wilko's, Tesco, and several garden furniture companies, I found that they don't have them in England now either. There are some without foot rests, but I really need to put my feet up to sit comfortably, especially in the heat. The nearest is the 'steamer' chairs, which again are very low, and in my experience, not very comfortable. So for now I have to accept that I can't have one, and while we were out shopping yesterday we saw this lounger in a shop, and Chris bought it for me. I can sit upright in it, and it is comfortable. It is a sunbed really, and the long foot rest section makes it awkward to get right on to to sit up, and also to get off again, but I am grateful to have something where I can put my feet up and enjoy the early summer weather.

And finally I must show you our friend, the traffic signal man. Isn't he wonderful? To copy my own quote on facebook, "Who needs traffic lights when you can have an automated man doing semaphore with flags". I think he's a brilliant idea. You can't fail to see him as he stands waving to warn everyone to slow down, when there are roadworks just around the next bend. He was very effective on our main coastal road this week. He was a bit poorly one day when his batteries were low, but he soon perked up again, and then he hitched a lift from on a worker's lorry, and set up camp a bit further down the road. He's effective and saves on manpower. I bet the bored roadworkers who stand waving everyone down to warn of roadworks back home, would like to have an automated replacement now and then.

And finally, finally, here is a view that I took from the top of the campo, looking towards our beautiful mountains. I am including it here, because the cluster of terracotta houses you can see quite low down, is the start of Cortijo Grande where we went for our drive last week. I am sure you can imagine how good the scenery is as you go up there. Looking at this photo I was struck by how green everywhere is still. I am sure it was already dying off and turning brown in May last year. I think we just had so much more rain than usual this winter, and the bad weather lasted much longer, so all the plants have more stamina this year, and it is still looking good.

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