Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Hup, Hup, Hup.....

We had a pleasant ramble yesterday, with Jack lolloping along ahead as usual in the hills above the house. The weather was pleasant and sunny, as usual! But, as we neared the end of our route back on the fringe of the village, this delightful visitor flew across our path and landed in a tree alongside us. A Hoopoe, one of my favourite South European birds. Always a pleasure to see and hear and a sure sign of the coming of Spring:

The trees on the campo behind the house are now turning green again and many of our neighbours are again out being dragged around by rotovators. Another indicator of a seasonal change. I saw a Hollyhock and a Rose both in bloom. And the noise in the Campo from the birdlife each morning is escalating daily!

The Acequias/watercourses that line the hills are mostly very dry but there is some water coming down from the mountain, so all is not lost, I suppose.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Pining Away.....

We've been up in the forests above the village recently, where we found lots of these cocoons/nests in the pine trees. Processionary Moths. http://web.cortland.edu/fitzgerald/pineprocessionary.html Dangerously unpleasant creatures, certainly not to be trifled with in whatever shape, state or form they may be in:

Over the past few weekend days, we went foraging in the higher hills above the village, looking for Pine Cones and decent kindling for the woodburner. There are countless criss-crossing tracks over the hills and swathes of forestry, mostly pine and spruce, with batches of holm oak too. It was a fruitful pursuit and very pleasant in the sunshine albeit with a light chill in the occasional mountain breeze. The car was filled with sacks of both kindling and pinecones within about 30 minutes. We also kept an eye out for traces of mushrooms but saw none. Probably a bit too cold up there for them at this time of year:

This is the small village of Berchules, seen from the hill above. The work that must have gone into making, managing and maintaining these terraces of Olives and Almonds must have been truly formidable:

Another view looking down towards one of our nearby small towns, Ugijar, from on high:

At one point, we bumped into the Gannal/Shepherd with his random melange of sheep and goats, straggling and struggling uphill on the dusty mountain track:

There is still a fair covering of the white stuff on the higher hills above the village, despite the sun:

And the track up the mountain is really pretty good, given how remote it is up there:

Our village, Mecina Bombaron, seen from high above. (Our house is to the left):

We also came across this wonderful piece of dry stone-walling. In the middle of nowhere, with no apparent purpose - no terraces or cultivated land for miles around - we christened it the Great Wall of Mecina:

Throughout our time up there we could hear the crash and bang of rifles in the ditance. Great bombardments of shots echoed across the valley where the local hunters sounded as if they were shredding their prey with Gattling Guns. The smoke from their volleys was clearly visible in the still valley air:

Jack was in his element, snuffling around happily on the hillside track, probably with scent of wild boar and others:

More terracing around Berchules:

Clear blue skies on the high hills of the Sierra de Alpujarra:

We have been discussing our future here in Spain. While we both enjoy the weather/climate and cheapness of everything, we both miss our Swedish home and its wildness. We also miss our good neighbours up in the North and the general, at times challenging, lifestyle. We originally came down here to our Spanish place in a bid to organise a sale of the property, to get it cleaned up and on the market. Obviously, the market is dead here - like most of Europe - so this will take some time. As a result, we think we will investigate the holiday/summer rental market and maybe try that while trying to sell the house. Our daughter, LVP, will have to organise a website etc., for this but that should not be a problem. And the income would be handy.

If we proceed along these lines, we will almost certainly return to Vaster Norrland in the North of Sweden, where we still have the house and cabin, with a view to renovating the cabin (to a fairly basic standard, nothing fancy) a bit and also going for the summer/holiday rental market with that. The bird-life, flora and fauna etc., is superb there, so we believe there would be a market for it. If so, we'll probably head back up to Sweden in a few months time, when the weather is beginning to improve and summer is still full of promise.

This is a shot of the gathering flocks of Canada Geese that meet up prior to flying South in Autumn. Each year they - and huge numbers of Common Cranes - gather in the field below the house. They are incredibly noisy, stay for four or five days, eating contstantly and then, one day, they have gone. They just up and off, on an extraordinary migratory journey South to Africa:

Friday, 20 January 2012

Staying Alive.....

This is not oil exploration. It's our old friend and neighbour, HÃ¥kan, drilling for water on the farm. A few years ago, he decided to dispense with the local Kommun water supply and, as the village is basically on sand and surrounded by lakes, thought he could have a lifetime supply free. He was right but it was a lot deeper down than expected and came at considerable cost. This shot shows the first shaley/mucky breaching of the core and the beginning of the supply! Everyone - save for me, who had the common sense to step back - got covered in the cloying muddy goo. Great fun:

We were planning to watch the Stargazing prog on the Beeb with the Sat Telly but didn't get round to it. We are used to clear, stunning skies, in general, including this kind of thing in the late afternoon/early evenings as the sun dips behind the tree line:

And, truth be known, we both miss the beauty and weirdness of the North! It was often fun and packed with new, sometimes bizarre, experiences:

Here, in the aftermath of the snowfall, it has turned chilly with sunshine and blue skies that promise warmth but don't really deliver. At least in the North, you know where you are with weathery things! And bizarrely, this Spanish house is harder to heat than our old wooden home in Sweden, where the central heating, glazing, insulation etc., are all made for the climate and cope more than admirably. In the mornings I'm loathe to get out of bed because of the cold. Takes me back to my Scottish childhood, or our time in Trotternish, on the North of Skye, when J was pregnant with our daughter, JVP.

I got the guitar down to the Luthier in Granada yesterday for repair. Unfortunately, he was at home, so I didn't see the atelier/studio/workshop. But I'll make sure of a visit when I return to collect it, which will probably be in February, he reckons. A Canadian, John Ray, http://www.johnguitar.com/ he moved to Granada about 20 odd years ago to learn the art of guitar-making. It took him ten years - being distracted by such things as wine, tapas, music and pretty senoritas - before he produced something he was proud of. Now he makes about twelve guitars a year and finds this suits him just fine. He seems a nice guy and I'm sure my guitar is in good hands:

We received this striking image today from our daughter, JVP, in WestWales. It's a Fuzzy Felt CAstle, made by the Grandsprog, Hamish. He has just been given an early birthday gift by a Godparent, Robin Gibb, - the BeeGee - and his wife, Dwina, who are friends of JVP and her partner. (JVP does websitey design and websitey maintenance things for them both, and they often stay with them up in Oxfordshire/Berkshire). He seems to have chosen a winner because Hamish absolutely loves it. (His other Godparent is less likely to provide something so useful, as he is that old Fork-Bender General, Uri Geller!)

J and I both watched the telly prog recently about 'Nation's Favourite BeeGee tracks', with interest and noted some other musicians saying that the BeeGees had always been generous with their material/songs. From what we know of Robin, he is a very generous and genuinely decent guy. Every Xmas he sends LVP a huge Xmas hamper stuffed full of goodies. Bear in mind, he's a veggie, though! J has a really lovely jumper, one of her favourites, that also came from him.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

'Snow As Much As We're Used To.....

Well, the snow has been ........and, I'm glad to say, largely gone! Temps are lower and there is a chill in the breeze. So, winter has arrived. Just as everyone was preparing for Spring! It snowed quite steadily and heavily (not Swedish style, where we once had blizzard conditions for 27 hours without pause!) and settled over everything. Only to disappear the next day when the sun poked its head out again. Still, mustn't grumble, mustn't grumble.

Here's the car parked down outside the front of the house:

And here's the campo behind the house:

And, finally, here's one of the roof terraces, where we usually sit and read in the sunshine:

Today we have fairly thick cloud again but, so far, no snow or rain; no doubt, there will be more snow on the higher ground. Tomorrow, we head for Granada. J to ski, me to take a guitar or two along to the Luthier for repair work. I've never visited a guitar maker's place before and I am quite looking forward to meeting the guy and having a look at his studio/workshop. Should be interesting.

Charlie was less than impressed by the snowfall: he went out for a couple of hours but returned to the warmth of the sitting-room and its wood-burner. A sensible Swede! He's back out today though, searching for tasty mice, I expect. 'Tis odd how reluctant he was to stay out in the snow, especially after his winters in Sweden when he'd be clambering around on the Birches trying to catch a feathered morsel from the feeders:

Or simply plodding home for tucker through deep stuff:

And even Jack was always up for a romp in the freezing waste:

But the snow here is of the old, as I recall, Scottish kind - wet and slushy and mushy. Whereas in Sweden it is deep and dry. And the village looked like this, for months on end!:

Sunday, 15 January 2012

'Snow Joke.....

According to the local gossip (and a few internet sites), snow is expected within the next day or so: two days of snow, in fact! Here, of course, it means a hefty fall on the highest hills and Mount Mulhacin but, in reality, a mere smattering at our village level, and a coating that will be gone as soon as the temps warm up and sun appears again. So, no great hardship, but a novelty of sorts. J is planning a ski outing at Pradollano on Wednesday after the fall, and hoping for good conditions then.

I wonder what Charlie will make of it: he's a Swedish cat and used to real, proper snow, rather than the expected wimpy white stuff. Patrick is already flapping because his car - a Ford Tourneo, or some'at like that - is apparently very bad on snow or ice! I'm sure he doesn't realise how pitiful the snowfall is likely to be hereabouts!

Panda/Rocky folowed me back indoors again yesterday and is now quite friendly and contented. I think I'll take my chances with her and hope Charlie comes around to her presence. The only problem is that her mother comes and wails at the door when Panda's in the house, causing her to also wail a bit. No doubt, that will sort itself out in time, though.

Sadly, and inexplicably, Panda's old buddy, Ginger, seems to have completely disappeared: I've looked around, even going up to John Wayne's finca in search of him, but still no sign! Hopefully, he's okay and safe and secure with someone.

While J's skiing, I'll be taking this lovely 1900 Parlour Guitar off to a Luthier in Granada for some urgent remedial work. The bridge has come adrift, fortunately lifting cleanly, from the body, so needs re-glued. It's probably because it would have originally been made for Gut/Nylon strings and I use light-guage steels on it. Still, it's a lovely thing and made from the very best woods - now illegal - of Brazilian Rosewood and American Spruce.

Whatever happens with the forthcoming tempest!!, I'm pretty confident J will not have to get out and labour like this:

That's All Folks......

Thursday, 12 January 2012

L'Aigle Has Landed.....

It looks and feels a bit like Spring here: the locals are busy preparing the land already. Seems kind of weird to us. In January! Here are some plants already breaking through. Maybe Beans, we think, though there are also clearly some Spuds being cultivated. Even the trees are beginning to green-up once more and we have a pair of sparrows busy setting up home in the beams of the Azotea/covered terrace:

Weather still bearing up nicely here, almost monotonous, in fact! Not something I'd have thought I'd ever say about sunshine and clear skies. Well, certainly not in Sweden anyway! Or the UK!

Our French friend, Patrick, has finally arrived and is in renting an appartment from some Brits, who are now living in France. He's based in a neighbouring village about five kilometers away and, so far, seems to be enjoying things down here. He's certainly finding it a lot cheaper than his homeland, La Belle France.

I'm still feeding the stray/feral cats although Ginger seems to have disappeared; I've not seen him this new year at all. Don't know what's happened to him and only hope someone has possibly taken him in. He had such character. Panda/Rocky and her mother, another pretty, blue-eyed moggy, now follow me back to the door and come in and wander around the Entrada/Hallway exploring. Panda lets me stroke her with no problems and even now rubs her cheeks against my hand and purrs. I think I must make a decision about her soon. If it were not for Charlie, I'd have no hesitation but he can be such a contrary and difficult little booger. And I do adore him so!

Our nearest neighbours have again had a share of some pig killing: for the past few days strings of back pudding and Mozilla have been hanging on their line, presumably to cure and dry:

Today, we met Patrick at our preferred, local bar for a few lunchtime beers. One of the locals strolled past with two huge, cured, smoked hams. They looked delicious!

Charlie spends most of his days out now from around 07:00 till 18:00, returning as dusk falls and the temperature drops. He's not daft! He then wakes me with an affectionate nose-bashing most mornings at around 06:00, before curling up alongside me and catnapping for an hour or so until Jack gets restless and demands to be let out for an early morning Pee!

J is finding it difficult geting used to the fact she doesn't have to rush off to work. But, she's getting the hang of it......gradually!