Saturday, June 25, 2011

Looking both ways!

I am feeling quite impressed with both Chris and myself this week. With Chris because, having recently changed from England to Spain to pay taxes, he needed to fill out a tax return for last year and managed to do it all online. Ploughing through Spanish paperwork can be a minefield, but he did it and had a suitably impressive set of papers to take to the tax office in Huercal Overa for checking. I then impressed myself by conversing in Spanish with the assistant there, so we came away with everything Chris had prepared, stamped and approved, and with the relevant official paper to then pay it at the bank.

So yesterday we went down to the playa at Mojacar, where our bank is, and paid the bill, so that's it for another year. Then we decided to have a walk along the sea front. It was very warm and sunny though a bit breezy, and Chris was bemoaning the fact that he was in long trousers and shoes (as befits a business visit to the bank), instead of his usual shorts and sandals. So we didn't go down on the sand, but we drove around the bay a bit to a place where there is a nice promenade to walk on, and the sea was beautiful. It was all shades of turquoise with lots of white breakers where the breeze was catching the cross currents. We stopped for a drink after our walk and as we left the cafe I looked along an almost deserted beach and took this picture. Then I turned round to the hills behind me and took this one! 'It was definitely raining on them there mountains!' I couldn't believe how black the sky was and we had been completly unaware of it. Fortunately the wind must have blown the clouds inland, because it remained a beautiful day for us, and we spent the afternoon doing a gentle bit of gardening and then swimming in the pool.

I have been getting up early some days to water all our plant pots before the full heat of the sun is on them (ideally it should be done in the evening but I get attacked by all the bugs then so I prefer to do it in the morning), and it has paid off because it is all looking very nice now. This week the stephanotis is in full flower and it smells gorgeous as you walk past it. It is overhung by a very pretty double pink orleander and they look so good together.

In the front garden the lantana has almost won its race to take over the whole patch, but it is so beautiful with its flowers that change from deep red, to bright orange and then a strong sunshine yellow, that I don't really mind it being poisonous and rather invasive. It will have to be cut back hard sometime, but now it is full of flowers again, it will probably stay until the autumn. Just on the edge of that patch we have a little self-seeded fig tree. Chris wants it left where it is, but I think we will have to move it when it gets a bit bigger, but I am happy to have it all the same.

Also out the front, but in pots, we have our hibiscus. We bought the lovely yellow one last year and it flowered really well, but by the end of the season the flowers were a pale orange/red instead of yellow. But I am pleased to say it is back on form this year. Then we have the more traditional red one, which is a rather old and spindley plant, but I think it is still my favourite. I wonder which one you like the best?

You may remember that on our wedding anniversary last year we bought an orange tree, and a huge stone pot to plant it in. We were a bit sad when all the flowers and baby fruit dropped off it, but it obviously didn't like being moved, and this year it flowered well and has about a dozen fruit on. It had hundreds which mostly fell a month or so ago, a bit like the 'June drop' of apples in UK, but the ones that have stayed are growing well and we are hopeful that we will have a few of our own fruit to pick for the first time this year.

In the back yard we had a cactus/succulent plant that was here when we arrived and it had developed from one into three crowns and was very pot-bound. The dogs managed to knock it over and break it's pot so for ages I have been meaning to sort it out. So yesterday I got Chris to take a hammer to it so the pot was completely broken and I could get the plant out. I cut it into its three separate crowns, and planted one in a new pot. The other two I put in opposing corners of our tiny square garden to discourage the dogs from digging in the only patch of soil we have. I planted a tiny cutting of honeysuckle there to train up the pump house eventually, but it wasn't growing because it was constantly being dug up! Now it has a cactus standing guard over it so maybe it will start to put out shoots.

In another pot we have a small palm tree that almost died. It went brown and we thought we had lost it. I felt it had also outgrown its pot so we bought a bigger one and I transplanted it, but it still looked very sad. But just lately it has picked up and produced several new green fronds. And this week it has flowered. I wasn't expecting that! So hopefully it has settled into its new home and will thrive again. It is not easy to tend as it has vicious thorns on it as has the cactus, but they are actually quite valuable plants. I was amazed when I saw the price of some of them in the garden centre, so it is worth a few scratches to give them a bit of TLC.

Today I am wishing I was a fly on the wall at the vicarage in Wolverhampton. All my boys are there to celebrate Jim's 40th birthday (tomorrow). Still, they are bemoaning the fact that rain is trying to spoil their barbeque, and I am in a sundress, just thinking about another dip in the pool, so maybe I am in the better place after all! Happy Birthday son. I can't believe it's been forty years!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We could all do with a little miracle now and then

People who know me are mostly aware that I am not a great lover of wine, especially the red variety, (It doesn't love me much either!), but occasionally I do enjoy a glass of rosé. So today I treated myself to a bottle, though I have to admit it was mainly because I liked the label! As well as the plain and simple front label, it waxes more lyrical on the back (in Spanish and English) with these words - "Whatever your pace of life, whoever you are with, and whatever the time of day, El Miracle Music is perfect for all occasions. Forget the rules. El Miracle Music is a revolutionary rosé , a masterpiece, a different note" Wow! It's got an awful lot to live up to. I'll let you know if it does!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

La luna

Last night we had a total eclipse of the moon. We could see it clearly from the back of our house and I tried to get some photos. The night setting on my camera has a very slow exposure time and it showed all the trembling of my hands, so there was a red spot dancing all over the sky! So I went back to the auto setting and these were the best I could get. The one on the left shows it when the eclipse was almost complete, and the second one shows the moon emerging back out from the other side.

While I was watching I was attacked by swarms of little bugs coming up from the green zone. needless to say, Chris didn't get bitten at all. The price we have to pay ...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

More animals

Yes, here I am again. I only did the first part of my post last night because Blogger was being unkind. Not only did the text turn out huge, but it refused to allow me to resize my picture before I published it or to place it where I wanted it, and the ability to click on it to get the full size picture when you read it, seems to have diappeared. Now yesterday, I changed from Firefox to Google chrome for my browser. Chris says this shouldn't have made any difference, but I have gone back to Firefox for this post to see what happens.

Firstly here is a picture of a rather lovely horse that lives across the rambla at the side of the village. While I was watching Chris finishing off the painting of the wall, he walked up the street passed us. He does most nights and he is really well trained. He picks up his feet very daintily and sort of flicks them out. The man sits very tall and proud on him. Needless to say, whenever he goes by the house, our dogs bark like mad.

This next photo is again my beautiful Arwen. She has deserted me today and gone to sit in Chris' office which is most unusual. She hardly ever leaves this room. At this time of year, I have my window open all day and she usually spends all afternoon layed out along the windowsill, as I showed you in an earlier post. But when the evening comes I close the window to keep the biting bugs out, so she has to move. This week she has discovered that an equally warm place is wedged in the little space behind my laptop. It is on all day and does get very warm by the evening. She just layed there and kept peeping round the corner at me. (Note, my screen saver is a picture of me riding the elephant Watsabi, meaning Destiny, on our holiday in Thailand).

And finally I have another photo of those beautiful birds, the bee-eaters. I was driving passed the road where I saw them before and couldn't resist the chance for one more quick look. I actually didn't expect to see any as I am sure someone had told me that they move on in June, so I was surprised to find they were still feeding young babies. I didn't want to disturb them, so I stopped the car and turned the engine off, but I didn't get out. I just sat very still, (that's hard for me!), and took a couple of photos through the window and then left them in peace. I doubt whether I shall see them again this year. But I was quite pleased with this picture of one that flew passed as it shows the colours of its feathers. It's at rather an odd angle because it was diving down to its nest in the mud bank at the side of the road.

As you will have noticed, the ability to do all the things I like to with my blog has returned using Firefox, so I think I will have to stick with it just for blogging. Now I am wondering whether you all see it differently, depending on which browser you use....

Friday, June 10, 2011

Casa Verde

Before we lived here, this house was called Casa Cynder (The previous owners were Cynthia and Dereck), but last year we changed this to Casa Krispy, also a combination of both our names. However no-one takes much notice of this. The post lady knows us just as number 11, and everyone in the village refers to us as Casa Verde which means the Green House. The walls of the house are in fact white, but the trim along the top, the garage doors and the front wall used to be green, though it was always a pale green and now is nearer to a faded aqua. Earlier in the year I mentioned that I had drawn up a 'Things to do in 2011' list, and on it was to repair and paint the front wall. This was quite badly marked and the surface had fallen off in places because it gets damp when the agricultural water flows through a gully just behind it to our neighbour's orange grove. Ages ago we bought some special water proofing solution to paint on it, and also set about finding some paint of approximately the same colour as before. A couple of months ago Chris cleaned it up, filled some of the worst holes, and waterproofed it. But somehow the weather, lack of enthusiasm at the time, and just life, got in the way and the task was never finished. So I was very happy to come home from the hairdressers yesterday to find Chris, roller in hand, turning our wall green once more. And it is very green! We knew the paint was a bit brighter than before, but it looks quite different now it is on the wall. Fortunately we both like it, and it will be a good landmark to look out for whenever we are giving anyone directions to our house! And now we really do deserve the name of Casa Verde. (Hopefully one day the garage doors and wall trim will match, but I'm not holding my breathe!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Happiness is ...

Happiness is a sunny windowsill, and nothing to do all day except to lie on it!

Happiness is also having a friend who is never far away!

Arwen and Baggins enjoying a lazy afternoon in my craftroom. At least they are not sitting on my work for once.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

So Pretty - and more Interesting than pretty!

I felt I neded a breathe of fresh air to blow the cobwebs away this morning so I had a wander around the village, with, of course, my camera in hand. The wild flowers are mostly over now, but the recent rain has kept them going a little longer than usual. I found this interesting set of flowers. They were all growing wild, all have the same shaped flowers, yet all are distinct varieties, as can be seen by their very different leaves.

These first ones are very small, no bigger across than a fifty pence piece. They are the closest to our white English bindweed (certainly their leaf is), and probably they are just as pernicious, but they are so pretty. If they chose to climb up my fence, I wouldn't stop them. They are purely a climber. These ones were racing up a chain-link fence.

The second ones are very common around here, and they are only a little bit bigger than the striped one above. They are a ground cover plant and in April and May they are smothered in flowers. I have seen them growing from roadsides to beaches, and everywhere else between. There are lots running down the bank to the green zone behind us.

This is a new variety that I
haven't seen near here before. The flowers are a beautiful shade of lilac, changing to deep purple in the centre. The flowers are much larger than the others, and the plant not only sends runners all over the ground, but it also climbs up the fence. The leaves reminded me of the passion flower plant. These were growing at the top of the village on the sandy banks along the newly constructed road. I brought a small stem home with me to see if it will send roots down from a leaf joint.

And lastly, of course, I couldn't leave out the magnificent morning glory. This plant grows up the fence of an orange grove just over the road from us. The flowers look almost as though they have a light shining out of their centres. Although it is wild, and goes untended all year, I have been unable to root any of it yet, but I keep trying. Maybe I'm trying too hard. They seem to thrive on neglect!

So, aren't they a beau
tiful quartet?

And now for the not quite so pretty, but to me at least, equally interesting:-

My little tabby cat Luna seems to delight in foraging for 'different' creatures to bring in and show me. She is a great hunter, and right now the large grasshoppers are copious in the green zone at the back. She knows if I see her with one I will rescue it, but she still brings in several every day. I am not quick enough to save them all so I find various dismembered bodies and stray legs lying about all over the place! But when I went into the hall yesterday afternoon, I found Luna and Baggins sitting watching this strange creature. (Baggins is too lazy to hunt for his own, but he's always up for a game with any that Luna has caught). It was unharmed so I took it outside and had a good look at it. I was pretty sure it was a type of grass hopper but it was very different from the common one we usually see. It had a long neck, short flat antennae and a brown stripe along its side. What fantastic camouflage for life among the grasses. I had trouble finding it on the internet at first, but eventually I identified it as a Long-headed grass hopper, which seems to be more at home in S. America than here in Spain. This was all I could find out about it: “Identified by its green colour with brown stripes on its head, the long-headed grasshopper gets its name because of its long head which has short and flat antennae. It has long hind legs as well. When disturbed, the Long Headed Grasshopper opens its wings, makes a noise and shows its pinkish-red abdomen. They feed on blades of grass, are slow moving and are poor flyers. This grasshopper depends on camouflage to avoid predators".

With a write up like that the poor creature doesn't stand much chance against a naturally predatory cat who can move like grease lightening when she wants to! Still I am enjoying learning about who I share my little bit of the world with.

And while on the
subject of grasshoppers, some of the common ones I have been rescuing have given birth to a host of babies! I started to find them on a plant near the front door. Last week they were bright green and the size of ants, but now they are brown, and already they have grown. I put my thumb next to this one so you could see its size. It is rather cute, but we can't allow too many to stay around in the garden or we will have no plants left!
And finally, here is a plant that I bought as a cutting from my friend's garden, at her table top sale a couple of months ago. It was a tall spindley little thing, but it is a lovely plant now. It has this very pretty pink flower, but now new plants are coming out of the flower head. I am not sure yet whether these will continue to grow where they are, fall off and root as new plants, or whether I need to cut them down, but for now they look good just as they are. Here is the whole plant growing behind some others which another friend gave me as cuttings at the same time. I thought she might like to see how well they are growing.