Sunday, 18 December 2016

Reflection and anticipation

We have it officially. According to AEMET, the meteorological office of Spain, 2016 was the third hottest and the second driest summer since 1965. To top that, the other two years that appear within AEMET's data include 2015. So basically, unprecedented heat and drought. You can therefore imagine our glee at having had a couple of weeks on and off of decent rainfall. 

The land around us is starting to develop a bright green carpet of weeds. We have put weeding on our 'jobs to do' list for next week.

It is quite something to look down the valley and see clouds ......

The Sierra de Lujar mountain range opposite us has a sprinkling of snow ......

Last Sunday we went for a walk above the High Alpujarran villages. Since then the snow line has dropped further and will be close to where we stood on grass and earth last week.

Lunch in Capileira last Sunday. It has snowed there this last week.

Since our last post, we have seen a bit more of Spain. In the middle of November, we flew from Malaga to Madrid one weekend and met up with two very good friends in the capital. We visited the Prado art museum, the Royal Palace and we worked our way through a list our friends had brought with them of craft breweries. We returned to Malaga on the high speed AVE train, a very relaxing experience, then enjoyed the week together at our cortijo before spending the last night in Malaga. We are not shy of having fun!

After a lovely week of relaxing, we could see that the olive harvest was not far off. Some of our olives were going to be hard to reach and we realised we would have to leave some to drop naturally. So we gauged the right time by drawing a balance between quantity of fruits that were already dropping and would spoil from hanging around and those that we would not be able to pick at the harvest and would end up dropping later. 

We would love to have our own oil from our own olives, i.e. single-estate oil, but we need to be able to produce the magic 500 kilos for that to become a reality. This is the fourth year that we harvested and we are collecting slightly more each year. Last spring some of our large established trees were pruned back heavily and have rejuvenated very well. Although these trees did not produce fruit this year, we have high hopes for them in the future and so not think it would be unrealistic to expect to achieve 500 kilos + in a few years to come.

This year we harvested 158 kilos, which should give us about 25 litres of oil, plenty to see us through the year.

Once harvested (it took us about 3 days), we loaded the car and drove the olives off to the mill.

The scene at the mill is as follows....

You reverse your car up to the grille

You get out your sacks and tip your olives down into the metal chute which has a false floor. Once all the olives are deposited, the floor moves away and the olives pass through to have any twigs and leaves blown away and to be washed and weighed.

The clean olives, still a bit wet, pass out onto a conveyor belt.

A very proud moment and a lovely smell of raw olives.

The weight of your load is registered on a computer in a hut at the side. You are given a slip of paper and asked to return in several weeks to collect your oil. You don't have to have all oil in return for your olives, you can request money instead, or a bit of both. We like the mill we go to as the procedure is straightforward and we like the taste of the oil. It is sold in our local supermarket.

Following the olive harvest, we are still picking up the olives that have since fallen and we may take a smaller, second batch to the mill in the New Year.

Talking of produce, we have just bottled the wine we made from the grapes we picked in August. We only managed twelve bottles this year. We do need to study pruning techniques a bit more when it comes to grapes!

We have also been getting creative on the land. We cut back some of the willow around our alberca and have formed the shoots into a willow arbour....

We will put an irrigation pipe around the willow shoots and hopefully they will send out roots and grow into a decorative living shelter.

We have also built steps up one of the slopes that leads to the terrace above our house. Most of the steps have been formed by using the logs (from the trees we had reduced last year) as risers and by forming some of the smaller branches into pegs to hold the risers in place.....

It's always good to do before and after photos. Sometimes we forget and when we get to the end of a project we regret not having taken a photo before we started.

There are several slopes on our land that would benefit from steps. We chose to start with this slope because we want to keep our chickens somewhere at the top and, as the steps are likely to be used the most they were the priority.

Whilst working on the land on the sunny days, we introduced our little kitten, Chula, to the garden.  She was so ready to go out and was starting to get a bit bored indoors. Also, our home has quite small windows to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter so it was good to get her out into the sunshine. She loves being outdoors and thankfully is not wandering too far from us at the moment. 

Recently, after being out in the garden on and off all day, we have had one tired kitten flopped in front of the fire.

One rainy day it was a bit too wet to let Chula out, so we put the tree up and she helped to put the finishing touches to it.

It is very much the time of year for citrus to be ripening. We have watered them diligently ever since the fruit set last spring and to be honest they already looked as though they would be juicy before the rains came. We have quite a few different citrus plants our land:

Oranges, loads of 'em, sweet ones and Sevilles

We pruned our white grapefruit tree quite hard last spring to rejuvenate it.
 It has still managed to give us two fruits this year.... and lots of new green growth.

The pink grapefruits are ripening nicely.......

....and they taste very good indeed.

We have miniature lemons

And we also have some rather large lemons....

These are limes on a tree our son gave us for Christmas last year.

Mandarins - very Christmassy!

This lemon tree is pushing its luck! Those purple leaves are young and tender new growth.
Given the forecast for this week, I think the cold is going to get the better of them.

As well as our lovely citrus harvest, we have some vegetables coming along.

Cabbages interspersed with garlic....

Lettuce and radish - they bolt so quickly in the heat of summer but the climate is more clement for them right now. This evening we ate a lettuce with our tea and it was delicious, so crisp.

We invested a bit of time in our strawberry bed over the year and I think it is starting to pay off.

A few aubergines are still holding on. I have a nice recipe for an aubergine pasta pie!

....and yesterday we sliced a rather large courgette and added it to the Bolognaise sauce.

The habas (broad beans) are coming on a treat. They are a very Spanish crop to grow. They are not far off flowering.

The geraniums are coming into their own. They seem to prefer the cooler, wetter weather.

Moving further into winter, our first big task for the New Year has presented itself. The acequia water supply is cut off at present as it has rained and everyone has a full water deposit, except for us! Our irrigation alberca loses water. The deposit must hold about 150,000 litres of water and all of this has slipped away into the land over the course of two weeks and whilst we have used nothing at all from it. So, together with our neighbours who have watering rights from the deposit, we have decided to line it.   We don't like covering the land with bits of plastic but global warming is here to stay. With a depleted aquifer meaning that our winter water has only just started to flow, we need to take action. More to follow about this in the New Year! Lining our alberca will be a very big tick for us in terms of summer water management and has been on our list for a while. 

So, we have our jobs lined up for the weeks and months ahead and a purpose-

driven year in store. But before any of this we are looking forward to Christmas, a time of year when we reflect on how lucky we are to have a house full of food and to live in a safe and beautiful part of the world.

1 comment:

  1. Nice to find your blog Janet! What a lot of work you do! Loved the kitten.