Sunday, 30 August 2015

On a high!

Last Sunday afternoon, after the heat had subsided, we found ourselves driving up to one of the mountain villages, Pampaneira in the Poquiera valley, for a walk. There is a lovely track which goes up from Pampaneira, through a village called Bubión and onwards up to Capileira. Capileira stands at 1400 metres and is the second highest village in mainland Spain. It is my personal favourite of the mountain villages. It sits below Mulacén, which is the highest mountain of the Iberian Peninsula. The air is crisp and clean up there, even on the warmest of days. For about 6 months of the year, snow is visible on the mountain peaks above and this melts in Summer to form the spring waters which we love to drink.

In the foreground Pampaneira, Bubion and Capileira visble above.

The place is popular with tourists either on day trips or walkers holidaying in the mountains. In my opinion, Capileira oozes character and charm is immaculate. The tourist shops sell both local and Moroccan products but not a single kiss-me-quick hat in sight! Being at a much higher altitude, the vegetation in the Poqueira villages is a little different from where we live (at 650 metres).  There are no orange trees, almonds or olive trees to be seen.Walking up through the broadleaf woodland, there was a feeling of late summer in the air. Ripe apples and elderberries, ripening walnuts and advancing chestnuts were hanging from trees.

Chestnuts were traditionally used as beams to support the roofs of houses in the area, and still are used sometimes although cost and availability are often prohibitive.

As the evening was drawing in by the time we reached Capileira, there was only time for a swift beer in one of the bars before heading back down again through Bubión to Pampaneira. In Bubión there was a bit of a fiesta getting underway in the main square with stalls and the ubiquitous pop-up bar! In Pampaneira we filled our containers with water for the week from a spring in the village. By this time it was dark. We bought some local dessert wine from one of the shops and then had to drive home the long way round through our local village, as the shorter mountain path is unlit and only a single track, so reversing up to enable cars to pass would be dangerous without daylight. What a lovely evening, topped off with a glass of the delicious dessert wine! The 'red' wine  we bought is called vino oscuro (not tinto) and is more brown than dark red, not quite the flavour of a sherry, bordering onto the flavour of a country damson wine.

Some local wine is also being sold at the moment in the supermarket in town. Whilst shopping there last week, I found myself staring at a Coke bottle and thinking what a strange colour the Coke was, only to realise there was a stack of pop bottles being reused and filled with young wine produced on the mountain range which faces our house. At €3 for 2 litres, we've gotta get some of that, but I couldn't manage to carry it that day.

Our project this week has been to build and move the compost heap further away from the house. We are proud to have achieved this mainly by recycling materials (wood, screws, poles) that have been left over on the property from previous projects. The 'heap' has three receptacles, each measuring one cubic metre, and we are on the way to filling these from the materials we have moved. Two of the receptacles will be used to turn the pile regularly, and the third is for ripe humus, of which there was already quite a bit at the bottom of the existing heap. Hot and dusty work but very satisfying, we hope to have a good quick turnover if we can maintain heat and humidity within each 'mountain'. A quick turnover should hopefully overcome the space limitations as it will quickly be returned to the soil, although if composting takes longer than we are estimating, we could always add extra compartments. Uncle Bob (Flowerdew) would be very proud indeed. What a pretty pot pourri the purple figs, fallen pink bougainvillea flowers, oranges and green fig leaves made! The local honeybees have discovered that it is a good place for them to take up moisture and are not too keen on having a pile of organic waste dumped upon them at least once a day! The working compost heap is an important investment, for sure.

The vegetables we started off (a little late) are looking promising. There are three or four aubergines on their way and they are visibly bigger every day. The red peppers are starting to flower and there is a cluster of flower heads at the base of each of our courgette plants. There are also some tomato fruits setting. Maybe an Autumn ratatouille could be on the menu if there is still enough heat and light in the fading summer for the vegetables to ripen?

The figs are continuing to provide for us. The drying has been a bit hit and miss, either too dry and a bit hard or too moist and starting to go mouldy. However, as the very dry ones work well in recipes, I am planning to make a figgy pudding instead of a Christmas pudding this year. We have found a very nice smooth brandy in the shops which will complement the recipe. Ironically, its called 'Soberano'.

Whilst moving the compost to its new home, we found a palm tree sitting under the old waste pile, a Phoenix canariensis. Small, swamped and deprived of light it has been 'hanging in there' waiting to be discovered. That little fella will be staying in his place and incorporated into the design of the area. He may find himself a little lonely in the future, as all his bigger uncles are dying from attack by a beetle which gets under the bark. But he's too young to have bark yet so he'll be safe for a while.

This little chappie has earned his place in the garden.
 (I am not referring to Mark, I mean the Phoenix canariensis in the foreground!)

Although we are living out of town and in the countryside, we are not without good internet links. Using Chromecast, a much-appreciated birthday present from one of our sons, we have been streaming the World Athletics Championships this week. Initially, we needed to move the TV to get a good signal, but we have invested in a signal booster so the TV can go back in the place of our choice. What a lovely way to spend siesta, watching world class athletics!

Two days ago, stage 7 of the Vuelta a España (national bicycle race) passed through the edge of our village before turning off up to the higher mountain villages. Of course it would have been a shame not to go and see the posse of cyclists whizz past. So we drove to the village, parked up and then walked to the other side of town where it was to happen. There was a nice atmosphere building which we had time to savour to its full because I had looked at the timing of the journey on a British website which is an hour behind Spain - so we had arrived an hour too early!

Once the two or three groups of cyclists had passed, plus a few stragglers, we went into a bar in town and over a refreshing beer watched their ascent up into the higher mountain villages on Spanish TV. Coincidentally, their day's cycling ended in Capileira, the very village we had walked up to five days previously.

We have our next week's project planned. It is to finish the bulk of the almond harvest and dry them for storage (for our consumption) or selling if there is any surplus. The forecast is for wall-to-wall sunshine all week (in fact, we haven't seen a drop of rain in the 6 weeks we have been out here) so they should dry off nicely.


  1. I see you've found out why we freeze our figs after's an insurance!

    Sounds as if you're well settled now. I wish I could swap nuts with you. I still have almond envy.

  2. We are getting a freezer next week so that may be the solution. By the way, we love your blog.

    1. Thanks Janet. You had an easier entry to moving abroad but I think you have more challenges with regards growing.

      I always freeze what I am desperate not to lose, but have more confidence with dried beans, onions and garlic (always do some of the latter, better than buying in those first months of the year)