Monday, February 25, 2013

...and Goodbye February.

This is my attempt at writing a shorter blog post, in an effort to get one more in before the end of February rushes up to meet us. 
I have been a bit distracted this month by the arrival of these two. Aren't they adorable. But don't worry. I haven't quite lost the plot. They are not here to stay; I am just fostering them for a month until they are old enough to live independently as someone's pet.

Earlier this month, a litter of nine pups were abandoned on the step of our vet's clinic. They were
only three and a half weeks old, with their eyes barely open, and they needed to be bottle fed, which was much too time-consuming for a vet who is already stretched to her limit. So she asked people to foster them for a month, so Toby (brown one) and Suzie(black) came home with us. 

They have been no trouble at all. Right from the start they slept through the night, curled up on a heated wheat-bag for warmth, and glad of one another's company I'm sure. I borrowed a big cage for them to live in to keep them safe from our other animals, but our big dogs are almost scared of them. Miki hides behind Chris' chair when they are awake, and the cats are only just beginning to go in the room where they are.

They have come on really well. They eat solid food now, though usually in such a frenzy that half of it end up on the floor! 

Toby barked for the first time this week. A proper "wuff, wuff" instead of his usual squeak. I think he was almost as surprised as we were.

I love this picture of Suzie. They are not, of course, house trained yet, so at meal times I have cordoned off a small area where they can walk around and explore, without wandering onto the carpet. The floor is all stone, so rather cold,  and Suzie didn't like it, so when she found my bag of knitting under the table, she sat on it and dared me to make her move!

I have been busy in the kitchen again, making more marmalade and also some piccalilli and hot chili and ginger jam. We don't use a lot of the pickles ourselves, but I made piccalilli for the first time at Christmas, and my customers keep asking me when I am going to make some more, and I can always sell as much of the hot one as I care to make.

Two week ago we had our first trip to a Spanish cinema to see the new film of Les Misérables. It was a funny little place set right on a corner on a roundabout! We bought our ticket at a tiny hole-in-the-wall on the front of the building and made our way into an empty room. 

There were seven of us, so we chose our seats and eventually a dozen or so more people came in just as the film started. All the songs were in English which was good, but the little speech that there was in it, was dubbed into Spanish. I had bought a CD of the film track so I was familiar with the story and we really enjoyed it. I love the music. We are singing the finale song as part of our summer concert with our choir this season.

We have also done some work in the garden. There is little ground for actual planting in, but we had a row of three trees each in a pot, ranged along the fence between our front garden and next door. Two of these had died. Their pots were too small, and they dried out very fast. So we went to the garden centre and bought three more, and we have moved them to across the front of our garage, as they used to get swamped each summer by our neighbour's incarvillea. It is very beautiful, but a very vigorous grower, and she is not around to cut it back very often. We managed to save the bottle-brush tree that was there when we moved in, by cutting it back quite a lot, and watering it regularly. Now it is flanked by a  kumquat bush on one side, and a tall thin tree with pretty pink foliage on the other. We also bought what I know as a 'potato tree' which has deep blue flowers on it. (I must remember to look up it's proper name). We decided this looked better on the corner of the house by the front steps. They are all coping well so far, despite the very cold wind this week, and our first proper rain since the floods in September.

Our beautiful pink jasmine is in bloom again. It's heady scent fills the garden and the house and can be detected from way down the road. I have never known a plant have quite so many flowers on as this. We cut it almost down to the ground two years ago, but it is back covering all the front wall again. 
The sunny side has been in flower all week, and now the shadier side is opening up. Everyone who passes, comments on it, and we have given one or two people cuttings. I don't know how successful they have been though.
Well. I didn't manage a very short post did I, but at least it is a bit shorter than usual!

P.S. I now know that this is "Solanum erianthum", also known as salvadora or potato tree. Apparently it is a member of the deadly nightshade family. It's pretty anyway!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hello February!

Yes I know we are a third of the way through February now, but this is the first time I have visited my blog this month. I have been busy in a fairly non-productive sort of way, and somehow the time just flies.
And not everything I do is non-productive. I was given a lovely bag of kumquats at the end of January, so I set about making kumquat jam. Last year I was not very taken with it as I thought it was too sweet (can jam be too sweet?) and rather lacking in flavour. This year I was more generous with the lemons I added to help set it, and I think the kumquats were not quite so ripe either, and the jam is really very good. It doesn't taste that different from marmalade, but there is very little peel once the fruit is cooked, so some people would like it for that. I have also been given a fresh bag of bitter oranges now so I must make marmalade again tomorrow before the fruit goes off. 

To the right of our house (if you are on the street looking at it) there is a big house which used to be the village farmacia. The owner, Angelina, now lives in Murcia and she is trying half-heartedly to sell it. She came back last week for a few days, and we managed a reasonable conversation, so I must be improving as she speaks no English at all. She said neither of her sons have any interest in the house, but when I asked her if anyone had seemed interested in buying it, she shrugged and said 'I am very fond of my house' so she is obviously not trying to sell it too hard. 

While she was here, she employed a couple of gardeners to tidy up all the grounds. They did a very thorough job, including removing a couple of dead trees, pruning all the others and planting a couple of new shrubs. I think they are ornamental but time will tell. She stripped all the trees of fruit and took big boxes of them back to Murcia with her, but she also brought a big box round for us. We don't eat a lot of oranges but we love the fresh juice, so I will have to do some squeezing.

I am just about keeping up with my Project life. I haven't done last weeks double page yet, but the page is all set up and the photos ready, so I just have to put it all together.
What I have done this week is to make a mini-album of family photos. I have just completed the first of three short courses online to learn more about how  my Silhouette Cameo cutting machine works. The end task for the first course was to make this album. All the shaped pages, the script and the flowers, butterflies etc, were designed on my computer, resized and then sent to my Silhouette machine to cut. The photos were all fairly recent ones taken from my files, that I changed to black and white and cropped etc to the sizes I needed. 
This photo shows the finished album from different angles, but if you would like to see the inside pages properly, just click here, and you will see them all on my craft blog post.

I went for walk earlier in the week, just before sundown. I went across to Huerta Nueva (new orchard), the urbanisation just opposite our village. There is a small pond in the centre which was supposed to have been developed into a recreational area, but like so many building projects out here, it was never finished off. However the whole urbanisation has recently been taken over by our town hall, and the pond has been tidied up a bit. Some of the local residents clubbed together to buy some ducks to go there so I walked over to see how they were settling in. They looked very much at home and were pecking around on the bank and swimming leisurely around the pond. The little island in the centre is covered with tamarisk shrubs which are a rusty orange at this time of year, and they reflected the rays of the setting sun making a very pretty scene.

Our choir is back in full swing and we are learning some lovely songs for our concerts this summer. On Friday, our friend Julie came over so we could take her to a nearby restaurant called la Cumbre. You have seen photos of it on here before - it is the one with big pictures of Roman ruins on the walls. There is a lovely outside area with beautiful views over the village and across to the Cabrera mountains. There is an outside stage and we thought it would make an ideal setting for one of our concerts, so we have booked it for the 8th of June.
This week the circus is back in town. Circo Francia comes here twice a year and they park their vans just across the green zone at the back of our house. I can see them from this chair, but more importantly I can hear the constant roar of the lions as their feeding time approaches. At least it is their feeding time on some days, but when it is a day for an evening performance, they are not fed until after the show. 
They live in this van, and each morning the side flaps are opened, and we can just see the shadow of the big cats moving around inside. In fairness, all the animals we have seen in circus and fairs out here, appear to be well cared for, well fed, even maybe loved, but it is their lack of freedom to roam that upsets me, and I would never go to watch them performing tricks. It is just not what they were designed for! Their rather mournful roaring is also quite disturbing and it upsets our dogs too. There is just a bit of wire and rope, and a few mobile barriers fencing off their site, with a couple of guard dogs on the prowl, but no-one goes to bother them. It is just the way of life out here. I guess it seems strange to us, especially the lack of security, because we have not seen such things in UK for many years now.

Last week we walked the dogs over on the campo again and the broom was just beginning to flower. It made a golden haze all around. The land is very dry for this stage of the winter. See how cracked and dusty it is. Yet still tiny plants fight their way through, flower for a few days, and then die off and disappear again. It is amazing how strong and resilient they are.

As we come to the end of our route we rejoin a dirt road and there is a newly built sandy bank on the other side. From a distance we could see 'spots' all over it but as we got closer we could see they were individual ears of chumba (prickly pear). It looks quite funny at the minute, but if they all take, they will grow into a formidable security fence for the new high speed train track up at the top of the bank!
Well that is the end of my ramblings for the first half of February. Hopefully I will be back sooner next time, then I won't need to do such a long post!