Things that go pit-pat in the night

Make no mistake, this is a wild place which, however beneficent one is, it can feel more inhospitable by the lack of access we have to any sort of knowledge about our status and legality here.  Although we went along to the town hall many months ago and they signed some form to say they approved of our getting trenches dug for mains water, I’ve still not received the official email from them.  Also, the Junta approval to move a bit of precious earth from their precious protected path (via pecuaria) has sunk without trace, even if it was ever afloat.  What a strange country this is; acknowledging that we are legal enough to take taxes from every year, but seemingly unprepared to allow us the dignity of mains electricity and water.

But, I have to say, the greatest gift we are both learning is to live for today and not project forward to what may or may not happen.  My post yesterday probably indicated that there are certainly a few difficulties associated with existing here in frontier land without the munificent gifts that mains services could potentially give us.  However, the other side of the coin is that once you’re in the Spanish system as regards bill paying for those wonders, it’s very hard to get off it.  This can render you quite impotent when money is inexplicably taken from your account, or you try to query a bill via an anonymous grey-suited interface who, however good your Spanish, still manages to be as unhelpful as it is possible to be.

27 Sep 13 (21)Our latest challenge today is that only half of our solar panels are producing electricity but I’m hoping against hope that when the two R’s (Roger and Robert) come out in a few days’ time that they find it’s only a connection problem.  It’ll be quite an expensive job if the panels have died and need replacing.  Here I am projecting again…

Views drive to Maroma 11 Apr 14 (1)White cistus & monolith 11 Apr 14But just look at this place! Despite such little irritants, the joy of being surrounded by nature’s bounty is almost incalculable. Certainly, we have to keep the plant life under a degree of control, or otherwise we would be in danger of the whole of the cabin and infrastructure being quickly reclaimed. Not to mention the fire risk if the vegetation is not sufficiently cut back.

Path around El Jefe 19 Oct 13Mounting block steps 6 Apr 13However overgrown the land might become in the future, Joe’s stone walls and paths will hopefully remain as a lasting tribute to what we’ve tried to do here.  So, as we pass through spring and into early summer, there is much work to be done once the wild flowers and beautiful grasses have blossomed and died.

Only orange 26 Apr 14Apple blossom & insects 28 Apr 14And how everything is now springing into life!  This is the first orange we’ve ever had on our poor battered trees that were planted way back in 2010. The almonds are bearing fruit for the first time, and can you see all the beetles on our apple blossom?  Most flowers and blossom are alive with insects and, of course, the ubiquitous honey bees.

New grapes Apr 14The vines are always a harbinger of early summer, and it’s gratifying to see even more baby bunches of grapes appearing than last year. Quite amazing that they produce such huge, glossy leaves despite the fact that they are never watered nowadays!

Cistus 28 Apr 14

Poppy 28 Apr 14Despite being brush-cutted to the ground last winter, the cistus are making their pink and silver presence known.  Poppies stand out amongst the largely yellow and pink colourways dominating the steep banks.

14 Apr 13  (1)This year, I’d like to do a head count of all the types of grasses we have; identifying them will probably be beyond my remit, but I sure would like to know how many species we have here.  50? 100?  I’ll get back to you.  Maybe I’ll even start flower painting again.  Who knows?

Med Tiger Centipede Apr 14You can’t have exquisite jewelled plants without creepy-crawlies.  Once they were my bête-noire (and spiders still are) but I’m learning not to always run a mile and call for the man.

But call the man I had to when this gruesome fellow appeared.  It was while Joe was away last week, and I was just getting the big salad bowl out when I saw him.  He was huge, about six inches long and writhing around rather a lot, so I took this photo quickly before despatching John to take him and the bowl outside somewhere, anywhere.  My book of Spanish wildlife just said he was a centipede.

The internet, luckily, was more expansive.  I should have had a clue that he was dangerous from the warning yellow and black stripes.  The Mediterranean Tiger Centipede has a two star toxic rating (out of three) and preys upon a wide range of invertebrates including spiders, scorpions and small reptiles which they grasp with their poison claws and inject with venom.  At worst the venom can produce anaphylactic shock  – fatal in some humans. At best, there is a sharp local pain followed by sweating and inflammation, which may become more severe over the next five to eight hours.  Painful inflammation of the affected limb may persist for several days to weeks. It was gratifying to read that they will only bite if handled or molested!  The article said that they are unable to climb smooth surfaces such as glass and metal – so he’d probably been stuck in the bowl for a while.

John took him all the way down the bottom of the drive and I scrubbed the salad bowl. Phew!   But that’s not quite the end of this particular tale.  The other night I was awoken by rain pit-pattering on the window.  Rain?  I put the light on.  Of course it wasn’t rain.  It was coming from the corner of the bedroom.  Once my eyes had got used to the light, I moved closer and saw another of the monsters thrashing and writhing around, having got itself wedged in a 3″ crack along the edge of the floor.  The lucky man I called this time was Joe who found himself being rudely awakened and being given some spaghetti tongs, a pair of tweezers and a plastic cup to deal with the crisis, having been warned of the injury to life and limb.  I’m afraid he declined to walk to the front gate, shame on him, instead going out onto the verandah and casually dropping it down to the ground below.

Silvery beetle Apr 14Unknown beetle Apr 14I’ve not been able to identify many of the beetles and bugs that have come into the house, but once I find a suitable resource then hopefully I will be able to caption with some authority the photographs I put on the blog.  Anyway, here are a few that I’ve found inside the house.  There have been at least three of these beautiful silver beetles, the spotty one is, I think, a white spotted rose beetle (lucky we haven’t got any roses).

P1140461Firebug 28 Apr 14Then there are the firebugs that always seem to be conjoined at the rear in some sort of mating ritual.  This one I found rushing around at great speed – obviously looking for his soulmate.

Cypress shadows drive 29 Apr 14Ants moving stuff 19 Apr 14 (1)Walk up the drive, look down anywhere and you will see tiny movements of seeds and leaves.  Look closer and you can just make out the shiny body of a struggling but very determined ant, hell bent on getting his precious delivery to the nest.  But the shame of it all is that all this hard work can be wiped out in a few short movements of the wild boar’s snout.

Boar damage 24 Apr 14 (4)I had an inkling that the boar had purposely flattened a large ants’ nest, from a grim discovery we made some years back. Was it to eat them? It seemed surprising at the time as I really didn’t think there would be enough substance there to provide food.

Boar damage 24 Apr 14 (3)The other night, the boar came within a few feet of the house which I found quite exciting. They flattened a small wall, made a crater and when we discovered it the next morning, there were hundreds of confused ants milling around amid the wreckage of their nest.  The boar had presumably found enough there to satisfy their hunger.  I read later that apart from roots, tubers, nuts and berries, they eat worms, insects, bird eggs, carrion, snakes, lizards and small mammals like mice.  Survival of the fittest, I guess.

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