Tuesday, 8 September 2015

First Rain

We have just seen the first rain in the 8 weeks we have been here. Apparently, it has not rained here for about four months, according to a conversation I was having earlier today with my Spanish teacher. When it rains for the first time after a very dry period, the water tends to wash over the soil rather than soak in, taking with it the accumulated debris and dust that have built up. The downpours we had were very heavy at times and, in true proper-rain character, there was thunder and lightning, made all the more dramatic by the mountains we are enveloped in. The first drops produced that lovely rain-on-hot-ground smell, and now that it is clearing up, the garden smells beautifully fresh.
As rain has stopped play, the almond harvest is extending for another week. We have calculated approximately another three mornings work getting the almonds off the trees, and then several hours more separating the husks and drying the nuts for a few days in the sunshine. Maybe a celebratory meal out could be in store when all is done??

A barrow-load of almonds

To gather the nuts, it is customary to tap the branches with a stick. Nets are placed on the ground prior to this to catch the fallen produce. Some nuts fall free of the husk whilst others need to be separated (manually, in our case). Last year when we went to sell our produce to the almond dealer (!!) we bought a carbon fibre rod. This implement is light enough to control accurately but heavy enough to  deliver an effective whack where needed to the odd stubborn nut.

I never imagined I would be able to wax lyrical about almonds
We have several different types of nuts on our land.  I will have to confirm with my Spanish neighbour what they are all called. The biggest and the one that is considered 'king of the nut is the 'marcona' - we have several marcona trees. These fetch the highest price if selling them on. Needless to say, we won't be selling any of these beauties. There are elongated types, which I think are called 'desmayo larguetas'. They have a lovely milky flavour. Some of the tiny ones are very hard to break and have a very strong almondy (but not bitter) flavour - I think they will be great in marzipan. One thing we have discovered is that the size of the nut shell is not proportionate to the size of the nut inside, and some of the tiny ones are surprisingly large once cracked open!
Clockwise from top left: 1.marconas, 2.desmayo larguetas,
3.teeny weenies, 4.regular almonds (haha)
When harvesting from one of the almond trees, we found a vine which was wrapped around the branches and heavily laden with grapes. We collected about fifteen kilos of grapes and have started a second batch of wine. As we have already filled our demijohns and used the little wine yeast we brought with us on the previous batch, this next lot was to be a 'rough and ready' batch. We have relied on the natural yeasts on the grape to ferment and, after only a couple of days, it has started to bubble vigorously. The only ingredient we have added to the grapes has been sufficient sugar to achieve a 12% wine, as indicated by the hydrometer. This concentration of alcohol should deter the organisms that would impair the quality of the wine. Once the fermentation has subsided, the wine will be racked off from Mark's beer fermentation bucket to an empty five-litre mineral water bottle. Improvisation will have to be the name of the game!

The French beans have been planted out. Following the example of our experienced neighbours, we are planting out in mounds then flooding the furrows in between. As the soil is not very free-draining, water seeps into the mounds within reach of the roots. (Actually, I couldn't resist a quick spray with my thumb over the end of the hose as well! Old habits die hard!)

The eating of the aubergine
We did this deed last weekend. The first vegetable we had grown since arriving! It had reached a respectable 6, no! 7, no! 8 inches and cutting it should enable the one beside it to develop. We prepared a sauce consisting of aubergine, onions, garlic, fresh basil and tomato salsa made from plum tomatoes (the Spanish call them pear tomatoes!). It tasted g-o-o-o-d and we hope there will be enough warmth and light for a few more aubergine dishes on the dinner table.

The courgette plants are finally starting to produce female flowers. There seemed to be a dearth of air-bourne creatures following the rain so Mark went out and attempted hand-pollinating this morning.
We have found somewhere that sells organic fertilizer and have invested in a sack to give the plants a bit of a kick-start until the compost heap conveyor belt starts to move. We look forward to chicken manure once we have set up the hens' accommodation.

A nearby hermitage - a pretty destination to end up at on an evening's walk

Pomegranates are ripening!
So, here we are at the end of another very rewarding week, bathed in beautiful sunlight and surrounded by the many gifts nature has to offer.


  1. Interesting to hear you are planting on the mounds. Here in Bulgaria we following the neighbours lead dig trenches and plant in the trenches. That way there is only the need to place the hose pipe at one end of the trench and gravity does the rest and water flows down the trench.

    1. Hi Dave. Yes we are flooding the trenches as well using hose pipe at one end.. We don't have very free draining soil so it soaks into the mounds. I assume you must have really free draining soil.