Friday, 21 August 2015

Trailer Trials and Tribulations


We are delighted at the overwhelming quantity of figs that are raining down on the land. There appear to be at least 3 different varieties: one is a very deep purple and has a beautifully pungent aroma, another is very fleshy and pale green and visibly ripens within hours, the other type is a firmer green fig which is yet to ripen but is my favourite of them all, judging by last year's fruit.


The first batch we sun-dried were a bit hard and over dry. We are aiming to keep them as moist as possible but not too moist that they become mouldy. We have therefore dried a second batch and put them in jars a little earlier. The very dry ones will not go to waste. In the week we made a Moroccan casserole dish which called for dried apricots. We didn't have this ingredient so instead added some of the figs. It worked very well!
Blackberries on porridge - and Mister Sparrow has managed to find a few more oranges on the land that are not over-ripe
The blackberries have been ripe for a couple of weeks now. There are some on our land. They are small, but perfectly formed, the sweetest blackberries I have ever tasted and not a maggot between them.

The two demijohns of wine have been racked off into clean demijohns and will stand now until the finings are added to clear them before bottling. We had a sneak taster when siphoning and they are very dry, which hopefully means the sugar is now turned to alcohol (this sounds like a Pils advert).

As there are still many bunches of grapes we are going to see if we can dry some to make sultanas. The grapes have quite substantial pips in. Rather than remove them at the beginning and be swimming in grape juice, I have decided to half dry them and then will attempt to manually extract the pips by cutting them in half at this stage. We'll see!

Quality almonds drying off in the sun
The almonds are ripening and beginning to fall. The trees are ripening at different rates, which appears to depend mainly on their location, the ones in the hottest and driest areas falling first. We are well on top of identifying any bitter trees and will deal with them in due course. We are being very careful that none of these make their way into our store. It doesn't hurt to eat the odd one or two, but the bitter ones do contain traces of cyanide, so would be harmful if consumed in large doses. Commercially-grown almonds are all heat-treated to remove the toxins from any rogue bitter almonds. We want to take very seriously the quality of the food we produce and eat. The whole of our almond harvest will consist of sweet nuts and they will be raw because there will be no need for them to be heated.

I am feeling more relaxed about irrigation. In fact, whilst holding a spray nozzle attached to a hose pipe in my Cath Kidston gardening-gloved hand, I felt like an Alvin Stardust lookalike. Our current project, now that irrigation is under control, is to move the compost heap along the terrace away from the house. For this one I think I will be in gloves and suited and booted should any wildlife be disturbed in the process.

Talking of wildlife, Bobby our youngest male cat, found a centipede in the living room a couple of nights ago. When I say centipede, I mean it was big - at least 6 inches long, and moving fast. I think it may have been a scolopendra  but it did not have full markings and scolopendrae grow longer than this, so may have been a younger one? If it was a scolopendra, these centipedes can give a nasty bite. Needless to say, owing to its potential to behave outrageously, the centipede was escorted from the building. Bobby has also spotted the odd gecko in the house. I love these little fellas but as we currently have mosquito net on all the windows, we are not getting as many in the house as previously. But the wildlife event of the week has got to have been the one metre long snake that Mark caught sliding out of our toolshed (sadly I missed it). Mark couldn't quite see if Señor Serpiente was smiling or not, but we are hoping he may have dispatched and devoured Residente Rodent.

I am a very naughty boy

Now that the cats are going out, there has been a bit of boundary definition going on, led by our two fifteen year-old sisters, who are the key players. Yesterday morning Lisa was feeling a bit sorry for herself and obviously had some sort of sprain on her shoulder following a set-to with an alien mog. She laid low upstairs all day and we had to take up rations of food and water but by the end of the day she had managed to shuffle downstairs in her dressing gown and slippers and is almost back on form today.

 Mark and I are now starting to take a bit of time off from physical work at the weekends. Last weekend we had a lovely evening walk uphill from our house once the heat had subsided a little. There are lots of lovely walks both locally and in neighbouring areas and we look forward to these once the summer starts drawing to an end.

Last Friday evening, there was a flamenco festival in town, held on a temporary stage which had been set up in the playground of a college. It consisted of four acts, one of them having a very energetic and vibrant dancer. It is very difficult to understand what the performers are singing about apart from the odd word, but it was clear from the passionate expressions on the performers' faces that the songs were either yearning for a love that wasn't to be or had been cheated on! There was tremendous feeling in all of the performances and the two guitarists that accompanied them were breathtaking. At various points in the performance, the crowd took the cue to shout 'Olé' and applaud. Mark and I did not recognise these cues but they were obvious to the Spanish spectators, so we kept well quiet until we were sure we could safely join in. How lovely to be sitting out in the open air at 11pm wearing only thin cotton clothing and not the restrictions of fleeces, scarves and the like! The next day was a fiesta day and all the shops were shut. There was to be an eighties night in the main square in town and a 'pop-up bar' (there seems to be a lot of these) was being set up. There were posters in the square showing pictures of Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson wearing his eighties gear. In true Spanish style, things were not to get going until 10.30 pm! As We are both early-to-bed, early-to-rise people, we sadly had to give it a miss. However, I did stir from my sleep at about 2am to hear sounds of 'Thriller' drifting through the valley, which was rather eerie!

The towbar experience
The last time I blogged we were on the cusp of taking our car for a technical inspection following having a towbar fitted. This inspection is necessary in Spain before you can legally pull a trailer, and once it has been carried out your vehicle documentation is marked and stamped accordingly. Our first visit to the ITV (MOT) station was futile as the full chassis number of our vehicle did not appear on the paperwork the mechanic had prepared in conjunction with the manufacturer, and a vital letter 'R' had been omitted. Also we did not have the handbook to the trailer with all the spec in it, which the inspecting station requires and keeps. So this involved two trips back to the mechanic whilst he obtained new documentation from the manufacturer of the towbar. He was very apologetic and kind enough to speak slowly so that I can understand everything he says!  Our second trip back to the ITV (it's pronounced 'ee - tay - ooo- bay')station was also futile, because the number on the sticker of the towbar did not match the number on the manufacturer's documentation. The clerk said he would phone us in two days' time. As he hadn't phoned, we paid a third futile visit, but there's nothing wrong in showing your face when you want an outcome! The next day, I received a phone call asking me to come for a further technical inspection. To cut a long story short after 3 visits to the mechanic, 4 to the ITV station and approximately 8 hours of our time invested, we now have a legalised towbar! It is very difficult to get to the bottom of exactly what went on to resolve the situation because conversation was fast and contained lots of technical jargon. I'm not sure if I would have understood a similar situation in England although I may have felt more compelled in asking more questions! However, from previous experience, we realise that bureaucracy must take its course.

In actual fact, we don't really care exactly what happened because now, with stamped documentation safely tucked under our belt, we can drive forward with our projects, quite literally, pulling our trusty trailer behind us!

I really don't care about anything.

1 comment:

  1. I've tried allsorts with figs (and apricots) and decided I liked them best semi dried and frozen for safety. But last year I made some fig and ginger jam after being given bucketloads of small figs. I sold it at a car boot sale to Bulgarians who love figs, the sweeter the better. I made as much as I could for the next sale and the same people bought the lot! The lady who bought most(and used to buy a lot of jam) is now looking for it again, but I have no figs this year, last winter saw to that. It seems nothing else will do now. It makes very good presents for when we are summoned at short notice for drinks or more, the neighbours love it!

    Grapes...our's are all pipped too, grown for rakia and wine, very old vines. I tried squeezung the pips out before drying last year but inevitably missed some and ad some crunchy cakes. This year, the bumper crop will be going next door for rakia, but Dave has stoned some by cutting them in half and digging the pips out before drying. It will help eke out bought fruit but is too labour intensive with small grapes.

    I was given some almonds last year, they were unlike any almonds I have ever had, absolutely delicious. The last of them I shelled and bottled, but adn't dried them enough and they went mouldy. I was gutted! So glad it was just the last few. Walnuts I tend to shell and freeze when they first fall and are very fresh as they are so important to my diet, being a veggie. If we have a lot as it looks like this year I will leave some whole in the shell once I have enough for my nut sausages/roasts/cakes in the freezer

    We have laws on trailers and towing here too, a nightmare of paperwork which we are not used to!