Monday, 28 March 2016

Jesus and the fireworks

Lots of wild flowers in the countryside at the moment

We had a bit of time off at the beginning of March: Mark went to the UK to visit his family, and I had friend from the UK over to stay. It was good to take some time out, and on one of the days we went for a lovely lunch at a restaurant on the beach in SalobreƱa.

We sat here and ate lunch. Fish, of course

After our short breaks, we have had a very busy month doing physically hard manual work each day, driven by a schedule dictated largely by the changing season. 

We have continued making very good use of our chipper and have lots of lovely mulch from olive branches which we have scattered around the various fruit trees, the citrus in particular. However, we have had to burn prunings that are too hard or gnarled or awkward to put through the chipper easily. This includes twisted citrus wood, bramble, ivy. We are very cautious about the risks of burning - I am really quite nervous about it. It still hasn't rained. However, we now have all our burns completed in time for the deadline, which is 31st March.

It is now three years since we bought our cortijo, give or take a month, and we have really let the citrus trees get away from us, so we have had a good old pruning to generate more bonfire material. But the trees we have pruned do look proper smart.

Vulcan himself. Note the smartly pruned orange tree in the background.
Random lemon photo-bombing in the foreground

Some of the citrus wood is very spiky. This is usually the wild citrus tree and it grows out below the level of the graft. It is not pleasant to handle!

This is not a torture instrument, it's a bit of woody citrus which we pruned out of a plant.

To top off all the tree work we have been doing, we have coppiced most of the trees around our water deposit. They drink a lot of the water, particularly in summer. As well as this disadvantage, a couple were leaning at very precarious angles and a couple had split trunks. We wanted to have some control over where the heavy wood landed, to minimise damage to the plants and land. We were lucky enough to find someone who could climb with ropes and chains, and he reduced the trees in sections as far as possible. This demanding work took a full week. The gentleman worked with a companion, a fellow tree-surgeon, who had the skills to rescue him if needed.  Thankfully a rescue was not necessary. Lots of strategies were discussed whilst one of them was dangling at a height from one tree or another over a large pool of irrigation water. A dangerous job. Mark did a 3 month course at Kew many years ago and was appreciative of the skill and physical strength involved. 

Ropes, chains and special spiked climbing boots: can you spot him?!


We were also lucky in that the gentleman we found to do the work is committed to the ethos of permaculture, something dear to our hearts, both spiritually as well as scientifically. Thankfully all went well with minimal damage to our trees and nobody injured. However, two of the stumps have fallen into the water deposit and we will be hiring a lorry with a device to heave them from the water.

Now that everything that we wanted to cut back has been done this year, we know the extent of our work for the next month and beyond: chipping, cutting up logs and finding somewhere to put it all! Not much time for housework or decorating at the moment! Thankfully, eucalyptus and poplar go through the chipper like a dream!

There are still two very mature poplars around the alberca and some younger ones. The reduced trees will recuperate but Mark will now be able to reach them and manage their height. The land is looking a bit bare but things are coming into leaf. The sap it rising, as they say!

* * * * 

Here in our local village, we have had the Festival of Cristo de la ExpiraciĆ³n. A procession through town in Christ's honour occurs 9 days before Palm Sunday. Prior to the effigies of Christ and Mary being carried through the streets, there are firecrackers, followed by a solemn band and young women dressed as mourners bearing flowers.

The fireworks were truly the loudest I had ever experienced, probably because we were allowed to stand so close and they were set off in the main street between 3 and 4 storey buildings. My blog title, Jesus and the fireworks, was due to the fact that the two together seem so incongruous. Mark read that in the past people used to bang pots and pans to make a noise in order to ward away evil spirits. Nowadays the fireworks do the job!

Here are the firecrackers set up before the area was evacuated

Cristo with Our Lady photo-bombing behind.
People on their balconies have the best view!
After the ceremony outside the church, Jesus and Mary are carried through the narrow streets by bearers (they are heavy) and they stop at intervals for more fireworks. It's quite a drawn out ceremony and it was a cold evening so we went for a meal at a favourite Sufi restaurant then went back to see Jesus and Our Lady and a few more fireworks after the meal.
Jesus is brought to a standstill and a Catherine wheel is set off.
This is all happening in very close proximity.

Catherine wheel gathers momentum. 

Our Lady with mourners

Our Lady is being carried through the narrow streets.

Although we haven't had much time off we did go for a lovely walk from our house and down to the river bed one day. We ended up at the campground restaurant and had the menu del dia, three courses, drink and coffee all for 10 Euros. There were quite a few workmen in overalls eating there -- we took that as a sign that it must be good! We certainly enjoyed the food.
Down at the river in the valley below us.

Euphorbia sp. at the riverbed

I never really used to pay much attention to Euphorbias, but I am really warming to them! What a pretty flower!

Euphorbia sp.

Mr Sparrow can spot an orchid at 100 metres, no problem! 
The plant was along the track above our house.

What's happening in the garden at the mo? Well, as well as the intoxicating perfume of orange blossom, we have a peach tree which we planted 2 years ago in flower.

Peach tree in blossom

Unfortunately some little critters, a beetle found in Southern Europe called Oxythyrus, is eating the flowers, so we may end up with no fruit. I have been on beetle patrol with a pair of scissors, but I can't spend all the time just standing watching! As peach blossom is largely wind pollinated, I have bought an organic insecticide which I am applying conservatively but I really don't like using it. Apparently, a favourite of this little beetle is pear blossom and that is yet to come into bloom. I would imagine that it hasn't really been cold enough to keep the number of beetles down this year.

Our lime tree has blossom on it:

The lime tree our son bought us for Christmas has blossom. Yay!

The banana plant has made it through the very mild winter so maybe we are in good stead for a bunch of bananas (but we mustn't count our chickens).

Banana and son

Nispera, nearly ripe (5 weeks ahead of last year)

Broad beans (habas) - very Spanish!

We had to harvest a lot of oranges when we pruned the citrus - but we are getting through them no trouble!

Paella at the Sparrows'. From the garden: carrots, parsley, peas, chilli, lemons.
We have just had Easter weekend (Easter Monday is not a public holiday in Spain). As the tree surgery was still taking place over Easter we didn't make it into town apart from Saturday evening. There was a local food & drink and craft fair going on in the sports' hall called 'Hecho en Alpujarra' (made in Alpujarra). We bought ourselves a delicious goats' cheese covered with crushed rosemary and three bottles of crianza red wine made in Laroles, a town not too far away from us. I also bought a lovely pair of sandals, (made in Spain no less!) for only 20 Euros - a lot cheaper than you would expect to pay in a craft fair! 

So all in all, an extremely busy time - the busiest so far since moving out. However, before I sat down to write this post I didn't think I had much to say other than about all the manual labour we have been involved in. Now that I have put 'pen to paper', so to speak, I've realised that quite a bit has gone on. And tomorrow the builders are back to finish off the side of the house, after having had a week off so a bit more upheaval but all towards a good end!

Something is wrong here! They never sit together on the same chair!

1 comment:

  1. Seems to be the same there as here just not enough hours in the day. I don;t know what they mean about semi retirement!!!! Sara and I were orchid fans and when in Greece (we always went at the beginning of May the olive groves would be amass of them. Great that you are fully embracing life and culture out there. Dave