Storm in a teacup

Night drive to los Arcos 27 Feb 15Whether one can blame the winds we’ve recently experienced on climate change, I can’t really say, but I hope that the last three or four weeks of blustery winds are now firmly behind us. Following yet another night of sleep deprivation, during what felt like the ‘worst ever’ gusts, we hatched an action plan. So, when it all started up again the next night, we were ready for it – we simply clambered into the Nissan and took ourselves off to sleep at our friend Horst’s finca just half a mile away.

Although we could still hear the wind, we slept peaceably.  Next morning we discovered that a chunky bough had sheared off his prize eucalyptus, narrowly avoiding the Nissan’s windscreen. So, at dusk for the next two nights, we decamped there. Thanks Horstie.

Almacen space under JB 24 Feb 15 (1)Caravan wall 23 Oct 13Sleep is such a precious commodity that we’ve started giving some thought to building some sort of ‘panic room’, either adjoining the cabin, a new room within the curtilage of the almacén, or building up the walls around the caravan to protect it more.  The latter two options would be fiddly and probably more costly than building a new structure .

Sunset clouds  cabin 25 Feb 15 (3)Clouds amazing dawn 26 Feb 15Since that windy episode we’ve had a continuous period of sunshine, apart from one day of welcome low cloud (fog) and spits of rain.  I say welcome because it meant that Joe could – undetected from the spy in the mountains monster – make inroads into setting fire to the huge pile of strimmings he’d cut down last winter.  I just couldn’t face queuing up at the town hall in the hope of getting a licence to burn, having to give specific date and time of the proposed momentous event.

Junta strimmers 26 Apr 13 (3)

Junta strimmers 25 Apr 13 (2)Last November, because of our vulnerability to fire, Joe decided to pop over the fence and strim the area adjoining and parallel with our plastic water pipes. Back in April 2013 the Junta team had cut down that very same area and all around our hill during their rotational tidy-up; unquestionably Parque land.  However, this was to result in more than just a pile of weedy cuttings.

“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”  Aristotle

Nissan collecting water 21 Feb 15 (1)We’d popped to the mountain spring to fill up our drinking water containers and our friendly neighbourhood goat herder screeched to a halt beside us.  He angrily demanded whether Joe had cut down the aforementioned area or whether the Junta had done it. It was me, said Joe, and then all hell broke loose as Ricardo went into some sort of apoplectic fit.  It was his land, and he was going to denounce Joe to the dreaded Guardia.  No further dialogue was possible as he ran to his jeep and disappeared in a cloud of dust and derring-do, dog propped up in the back seat.

Faintly amused, we awaited the arrival of the Guardia men in black who are duty bound to investigate any complaint by a member of the public, however trivial; I think Ricardo is well known to them.  Sure enough, they turned up a few days later and drove past the patch in question, now greening up nicely.  I would imagine that they then went to the town hall to consult the local plan.  Anyhow, that appears to be the end of this particular storm in a teacup, but antagonising someone so volatile is not something we would deliberately set out to do or even wish to do.

Speedwell 1 Mar 15

Rape flower 1 Mar 15Vetch & quartz 1 May 14Now Joe is doing more strimming as the paths and steps are over-run with tiny little yellow flowers, rape and thistles interspersed with these gorgeous little speedwells.  The common vetch flowers are also growing like the weeds they are, but one can’t help but be uplifted by their nodding pink and purple flowers and delicate but strangulating foliage.

Lemon crop 1 Mar 153 euros avocados oranges 23 Feb 15 - CopyIt was with no small delight that I skipped down to one of the lower terraces and picked off a lemon from our most prolific tree, leaving 7 to enjoy at some later date. All the more enjoyable since it’s taken 5 years to get such an ‘abundant’ crop!  After months of avoiding them in the shops because of their exorbitant cost, it was very rewarding to buy a load of these locally grown oranges and ready to eat avocados in the local second hand shop – all for the princely sum of 3 euro.

“I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so fuckin’ heroic.”  George Carlin

Avocado self seed frost 13 Feb 15Buddha wasp nests 13 Feb 15We have 3 avocado plants that have sprung up from the compost heap; a bit worse for wear from the biting winds, but still managing to cling to life.  Also, thanks to rooting hormone, three oleander cuttings have survived, so I will be planting those out shortly. But at 850m above sea level, it’s certainly a question of survival of the fittest, and I guess that’s what makes it feel so much of a triumph to see the emergence of tender shoots, like the first of the vine leaves that sprang into life today.  Even the Buddha has been enabling new wasp life over the few years that he’s been sitting peacefully in the oak grove!












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Steve the spider and other friends

P1040768At this time of year, the light and airy bedroom facing the Med (rather unfairly referred to as the laundry room) can be a lovely cosy place to go and sit, even meditate, as it is either warmed by the woodburner chimney, or by the sunlight streaming in through the large windows, or both on cold days.

Washing line snow Maroma 6 Feb 15

P1070098There is still a fair amount of humidity around, so hanging clothes outside on the line is now possible in the sunshine, even though there is still snow up on the high ground.

The washing is then hung up in the laundry room, but the combination of heat and dampish cloths can sometimes resemble a sauna!  I’ve noticed gecko droppings (thin, hard, black with a white pointed end) in this room so it must be heaven for them and also ideal conditions for my new friend, a teensy weensie jumping spider who I’ve been noticing for a number of weeks now.

P1040761He or she (I called him Steve) was always wandering around the middle left window. Intrigued, I got out the magnifying glass and could see his black furry fangs move left and right as though he was checking out the area, looking for food perhaps? This put me in mind of how Navy minesweepers patrol the waters in a grid formation, up and down. What could he find to eat, being as he doesn’t seem to stray beyond that one piece of glass? There are no insects around, and he hasn’t woven any sort of cobweb, poor little chap.

I have to admit to a bit of a problem with spiders that started when I was about 9 or 10 and watching a really scary film on television; it might have even been Quatermass.  It was night-time and I crept out to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Big mistake – I didn’t put on either the light or any shoes; I was barefoot.  There was a crunch, I put on the light and there was something very black, very big and very squashed stuck to my left foot which my poor arachnophobic mother had to scrape off with a knife and deal with because I was ridiculously hysterical.

I’ve heard that people can get nasty bites from these little jumping spiders, but surely not this little chap who seemed quite innocuous.  There are apparently something like 400 types of jumping spider in the world, and Spain has about 75 different species, so even with a reasonably close-up lens I would find it difficult to identify whether or not he was a ‘biter’. You have to admit, he’s rather sweet and I even felt some tenderness as I sat there ‘communing’ with him!

Anyhow, I have to laugh because since I took some macro photos of him yesterday, he’s now vanished into thin air.  Happy hunting and thanks Steve Spider, I think you may have helped me make some inroads into conquering the spider demon.


???????????????Living here these past years has certainly helped me with other creepie-crawlies like locusts and green crickets (which are both huge), scorpions, centipedes and even snakes.

No, snakes are no problem.  I’d go to any country, anywhere, any snakes, not a problem.”  Steve Irwin

Ladders snake 2 Feb 15 (2)I’ve never been that bothered about snakes either since my nephew Beau had a pet corn snake.  We came across a ladder snake yesterday sunning himself on the new road and Joe took this picture with his mobile phone as the snake got himself ready to strike.  We left him alone after that and he slithered off up the bank.  It was the first time I’ve ever heard a snake hissing.


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Poste haste

correos-logotip-horitzontalI think I’ve written before about the curious nature of the Spanish postal system.  The British concept of tailored post codes for small, specific areas doesn’t apply here.  Instead, the main towns have just one post code each.  Our province of Malaga is divided into 72 postal areas and Alfarnate, say, is 29194.   If you live within the curtilage of a town or village it’s likely you could get your mail delivered from a real live postman.  But for those of us that only have a house name but no number or street name then the mail is routed to the relevant post office.

Trip Acebuchal 26 Apr 13 (2)However, as you can see, with this set-up it would be far too complicated for the rural outlying areas to get a door to door postal delivery.  If they did, properties like ours in the sticks would need to quote either the GPS coordinates or full directions like: “third turning left after the last right hand bend out of the village.  Up the zig-zag hill, left fork, sharp right after Casa Mirabela, left after the next 2 fincas, left at the algarrobo trees, past the rubbish bins, down the hill, turn right at T junction where concrete road ends…”, etc. You get the picture.

My ‘official’ address tied me in to using the post office of our nearest village, the address that would always be used by the powers-that-be.  I once had a Junta (government) letter (about nothing in particular) sellotaped to the front gate by some well-meaning soul. Someone told me that if an Important Communication is sent but not collected then it’s sent back to the relevant Junta department who then make sure the recipient is notified by other means.  The town hall have always had my phone and email address so I’m pretty sure that nothing Important came my way.  I didn’t even have a courtesy letter after ‘they’ unilaterally took ownership of about two-thirds of our land back in 2008.

The post office occupied a small room adjoining the mayoral/town hall offices. The whole ‘going to collect the mail visitor experience’ proved too much of a pain for me because there appeared to be something like a two hour window when the post person was likely to appear, if at all.  There was nowhere to wait/sit outside.

?????????????????????????People would drift in and out on important town hall affairs, with no apparent queue system, and I would lurk outside trying not to look as though I was eavesdropping but as the Spanish typically converse in shrill, loud voices and the door was usually left open, I moved as far away from the door as possible.  For a period of time, the road was being dug up for ‘major improvements’ and I became more and more disillusioned with the dust, noise and inconvenience of it all.  There had to be a better solution, I told myself.

JDF Canillas 11 May 13 (2)

In 2009 I defected to the next-nearest village and began to quote its post code. But things weren’t a lot different there either, except that I was usually in the company of one or two Brits, as confused as me as to how such a haphazard service could exist in a modern, progressive country. None of us really knew when the shadowy post person would turn up but if you were expecting something from the UK, for instance, they wouldn’t bat an eyelid about returning the package to sender if you weren’t actually in attendance on the day it arrived!  I did try to rent one of their post boxes, but I was told they had none to spare.

Competa JDF 8 May 13 (5)Hallelulah!  Things have been much easier since we found out about and started using a post box system operated by an English couple in our nearest big town.  They, for a modest annual fee, take in letters and parcels, even signing for them on your behalf. Emboldened by such professionalism, I decided to change the Nissan car tax details to the new address.

I decided to ask the Asesoria (company who handle legal paperwork) who dealt with the purchase of the Nissan to handle this reasonably simple task for me.  She emailed back to say she would need my driving licence, passport, my NIE number and registration, a copy of the car’s latest ITV (MoT), plus 21 euro – a small price to pay considering.

Bureaucracies are inherently antidemocratic. Bureaucrats derive their power from their position in the structure, not from their relations with the people they are supposed to serve. The people are not masters of the bureaucracy, but its clients.”  Alan Keyes

Buying a car in Spain – or doing anything involving bureaucracy in Spain – is not for the faint-hearted, the impatient, or those who optimistically think they can communicate efficiently and get a satisfactory outcome. The cover-all nature of the form she attached gave me the shudders and I thought, if I fill it in fully, then they will know a heck of a lot more about me than I would wish to tell them.

27 May 13Anyhow, I fished out the ITV and found that it ran out in two days’ time. The Nissan shouldn’t now officially be on the road until 2nd March when we sneak it across to Honest John at his auto centre, some 20km away.  Fingers crossed for an optimistic outcome – we’ve only been back in Spain for a month and already shelled out 950 euro on repairs!  But I suppose Mr Nissan does have a hard life.

People to whom nothing has ever happened cannot understand the unimportance of events.” T S Eliot

Hopefully after 2nd March I can finally start the ball rolling for the momentous address change event!  As you can probably gather, we have as little exposure to the authorities as possible.

Yellow flower Oxalis Bermuda 13 Feb 15 (1)Copies for blog (1)I actually found it difficult to write this post, but bureaucracy is all part of life here.  As we go into our 9th year, I’m much happier observing and recording nature’s wonder as spring once again breathes life into the trees and bushes and we begin to see the emergence of buds, shoots and the early yellow plants that are so characteristic of this time of year.

P1140015Euphorbia dew 13 Feb 15Flowers like the Oxalis Bermuda Buttercup that grows like a weed in Andalucia, the Hawkweed, the Spanish Gorse and the Euphorbia all herald the beginning of the warmer weather. Which is, after all, one of the major reasons that we Brits come in droves to holiday or settle here.

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Nodding acquaintances

“If we are looking for insurance against want and oppression, we will find it only in our neighbours’ prosperity and goodwill and, beyond that, in the good health of our worldly places, our homelands. If we were sincerely looking for a place of safety, for real security and success, then we would begin to turn to our communities – and not the communities simply of our human neighbours but also of the water, earth, and air, the plants and animals, all the creatures with whom our local life is shared.” Wendell Berry

Cabin from bump Sep 13 (3)Despite living here with hardly any full-time near neighbours and with burglaries apparently on the increase, somehow or other we don’t feel that we are at particularly high-risk. What we have in our favour, I guess, is that our little home is exactly what it is and what you can glimpse through the trees – a wooden shack.  To the practised thief there would seem to be far richer pickings elsewhere.  You know, all those nice whitewashed houses with roomy extensions, lots of concrete archways, columns, portico infrastructures and the ubiquitous pools.

Deepani rose 5 Oct 11 (2)And what a disappointment it would probably be for anyone hoping to find anything of value to nick and flog! Over the years, and forever alert to the fact that a forest fire could wipe out our homeInterior cabin 24 Jun 14 (4), we’ve deliberately kept its contents low value but of high colour and personal interest.  Of course, things like books, kitchenware and linen would be a nuisance to replace, but unlikely to be stolen.  Our i-pads always travel with us.

Copies for blog (9)Gates 29 Sep 13The front gates are always secured, with a four digit combination lock, and usually a heavy chain and serious padlock, too. Just below that we always keep the goat gate locked with another combination lock. Neither of which would deter the dedicated burglar but would certainly dissuade any casual callers – and the dreaded goats.

Hang gliders 16 Oct 13 (1)????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????During the day we will always be at the mercy of trespass by the odd bird- watcher, back-packer or hang glider pilot and , of course, hunters and goat-herders who may wrongly think they have a right to cross our land for some reason. However, most of these men of nature have usually got enough on their plate scouring the hinterland for their goats or for hidden jabali (wild boar).

When I was here on my own I do admit to sleeping with a rusty, blunt antique sword by the bed, an air rifle nearby – without pellets; still not sure where they are!  We bought a Spanish made gas pistol but it never properly worked and I’ve actually forgotten how to put the gas cartridge in and load the damn thing with pellets.

A wholesome oblivion of one’s neighbours is the beginning of wisdom.”  Richard Le Gallienne.

P1030113Our ‘community’ comprises an assortment of nationalities, some here full-time, some part-time and some hardly ever. We have 4 lots of Germans, two lots of Brits, three lots of Belgians, one unknown, 2 lots of Spanish, and one Scandinavian household. Their houses are scattered around the hillside, most with fine views of the Mediterranean.

An astonishing five properties have changed hands reasonably recently, and I’m not quite sure how the conveyancing went through as we were told by the Alcalde (mayor) himself that all the houses, except for those within the strict curtilage of the village, are illegal. That means they have been built on rural land and at some stage someone has to make a decision as to which houses will be granted permission, which will never be declared legal, and those which will be designated for demolition.

It seems that, at the moment, there is a building frenzy around us; maybe home-owners want to increase the size of their houses before ‘the man’ comes round with his clipboard and rubber stamps their legality.  Last year, a German family who come here occasionally added a swimming pool, sauna and a huge solar complex at the back of their already capacious dwelling.  A few doors down, some new people have earned my total respect for of converting what was an empty space beside their house into a fully tiled garage – in just one day.  The plastering took a further day.

Our object should be peace within, and peace without. We want to live peacefully and maintain cordial friendly relations with our immediate neighbours and with the world at large.” Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Well, living peacefully is definitely the aim, but it’s quite difficult to strike up a dialogue with a series of ghosts.  We are on nodding acquaintance with only 3 lots of neighbours and have the odd conversation with two further lots, but that suits us fine.  We’re not the types to impose ourselves on others and I would imagine that we would only find out what the ‘ghosts’ look like and how friendly they are if we were suddenly to come across them one day on the narrow track.

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.” George Washington

Almacen wall 28 Jul 14 (18)Cortijo Paco 21 Jul 2012 disrespect (24)However, having a special friend in Horst more than makes up for any lack of social contact with anyone else on our hill!  Horst is from Germany and he, along with his Sri Lankan wife Deepani, spend half the year here and the other half at their tea plantation in Sri Lanka.  How lucky we are to have them both in our life.



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Winds of change

13 Feb 14 (3)I have seen many storms in my life.  Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.” Paulo Coelho

Apologies for bringing up the ‘W’ word again, but we’ve just experienced the worst winds here that we’ve ever known – how often have I written that?!  This time, it wasn’t the ‘normal’ katabatic wind blowing straight down the mountain, but from a different angle and was like being in some alternative reality where you can’t actually believe that something so powerful could exist. I’ve written about the strong winds here on many occasions, but this one was in a league of its own.  The magnitude and fury of it all took us both by surprise; we who are so used to raw nature here at 850m altitude.

Boarded bedroom 25 Jan 15Earlier in the afternoon as the storm got into its stride, it felt as though I took my life in my hands just by venturing upstairs to clear the main bedroom of any potential flotsam and jetsam, grabbing anything of vague import to take to the comparative safety of downstairs.  It was fortuitous that Joe had, some weeks back, had the foresight to temporarily board up the larger bedroom window with an old door.

I could feel the icy fingers of complete panic start to constrict around my heart, I felt very sick and the hairs on the back of my neck prickled. I had to take control of myself, because there was nowhere to run to, nothing that we could do.  As the afternoon and evening progressed without respite, sleep was obviously out of the question.  And it was bloody cold; something like -6 deg c including wind chill.

Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Thich Nhat Hanh

As I lay on the swaying sofabed downstairs with house vibrating and shuddering, I started to put into practice what I’d so far learned about mindfulness.  I did my best to concentrate on breathing and not project about what the myriad of ‘what if’s’.  I began counting my breaths in blocks of 10’s and continued this for hour upon hour. Somehow I managed to find a place of relative calm and there I stayed.  I think that Joe must have been doing likewise. He said later that he pushed his earplugs in so far that they hurt his ears, but they did little to muffle the sound.

It was strangely reassuring to see the light of day.  New noises and sensations had come into play due to the severity of the wind; so far nothing had come crashing about our ears. But the wind hadn’t finished with us yet.  Horizontal debris – twigs, earth, stones, leaves flew past at an alarming rate, shot blasting the cars.  It was like hitting a patch of turbulence in an aeroplane; things fell off shelves and cups of coffee wobbled uncertainly. Even with the sun streaming through the windows the thermometer barely made 40 deg f inside the house.  It was pointless lighting the wood burner as the wind would have knocked out the flames.  So we concentrated on drinking coffee, eating and watching something absorbing on Netflix.

Still the storm raged on.  The toilet wouldn’t flush; had the pipe from the depositos to the house burst?  It was too dangerous for Joe to go up there and investigate, but as it transpired later, it was due to the water in the pipe freezing solid.  He did venture out at some stage to just check around the house, and came back incredulous that our little wooden home was still standing and still had all its tiles on the roof.  While he was outside, hanging on for dear life, he watched a whole row of tiles lift up simultaneously like a wave and then crash down again, something that we’d got used to hearing happen from the inside since the storm began.

Log burner 6 Feb 15We eventually lit the wood burner which looked cheerful and kept the kettle warm but until the wind subsided a bit more it had little impact on heating the room.  I did my best to find an accurate weather forecast but couldn’t make any sense of any of them. They all said sunny, with wind strength between 8 km/h to 16 km/h – giving the impression that this was a typical calm, Mediterranean day.  Only one forecast hinted that there was anything amiss – gusts of 54 km/h were mentioned but no amber alerts. When we had the last gales around Christmas 2013 the gusts were recorded at 123km/h (76 mph), but this surely had to be stronger.

Aftermath storm 6 Feb 15 (3)Aftermath storm 6 Feb 15 (5)Aftermath storm 6 Feb 15 (4)It was mid afternoon before the wind died down, and it took a further few hours to stop completely.  A quick check outside revealed that our upstairs verandah rail had been ripped off; a heavy iron cover had blown off the water filter box and landed near the house; the 6ft tall yucca had split in half and there was one very distressed looking agave! There were the usual casualties of snapped wooden stakes holding up the cypresses but, apart from those things, nothing out of place.  In the aftermath, everywhere looked a bit shell-shocked, the trees bent over and stripped of much of their winter foliage.

Aftermath storm 6 Feb 15 (7)Aftermath storm 6 Feb 15 (6)Aftermath storm 6 Feb 15 (8)No real loss anywhere, but we also gained something, c/o a sturdy oak tree which lost an 8ft limb – soon carved up by Joe and chainsaw and laid aside to season for firewood next year.

Foggie rainbow 5 Apr 13 (4)Mindfulness helps us freeze the frame so that we can become aware of our sensations and experiences as they are, without the distorting colouration of socially-conditioned responses or habitual reactions.” Henepola Gunaratana

COPY 6 Oct 11I felt rather pleased with myself that I’d won a little victory over my usual default mode of panic as I’m basically a wimp at heart. Although I’m only in the early stages of mindfulness practice, in my desperation I had clung to what little I’d learned.  I emerged from the experience with a stronger awareness of how the mind thinks it’s being helpful by presenting you with a list of wild imaginings about what could happen, stressing you unnecessarily.

But none of those things did happen, and I’m sure had any of them transpired, I think I might now have the tools to deal with it in a much calmer and clearer way.  Winds of change indeed.

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The mackerel Mediterranean

P1040671The Mediterranean has the colour of mackerel, changeable I mean.  You don’t always know whether it is green or violet, you can’t even say it’s blue, because the next moment the changing reflection has taken on a tint of rose or grey.”  Vincent Van Gogh

I know what he means about the changing hues of the Med, but for me it seems to change in size too.  Some days it’s a thin blue ribbon, other days it’s covered in a luxurious duvet of sea fog, but on days like today it looks just plain huge, and so near you feel you can almost touch it. At night it’s fascinating to watch the shipping, especially the massive ocean liners with their aggregated blob of orange lights.

There is no sign yet that the golden eagles are back.   Apparently in this country, illegal shooting and poisoning remain one of the most serious threats to golden eagles. In Castilla y León, about 2% of the Golden Eagle population is killed through shooting and about 3% of the nests are either robbed or destroyed. Because golden eagles often feed on carrion (especially the young and during the winter) they are easy targets for illegal poisoning, which is on the increase in Spain.

Golden eagle 19 Aug 13 (1)Every year they patrol around us, mewing as they go, and the crag at the end of our hill is the usual lookout station for them.  Like swans, they tend to be monogamous and their territory stretches over a wide area of 20-200 sq km! Amazingly they can live for 38 years in the wild, and about 57 years in captivity!  Fingers crossed their so-far no show is not down to nefarious activities of our friendly Spanish hunters.

Copies for blog (5)Foggiehenge & steps25 Jan 15 - CopyNew steps by Foggiehenge 2 Aug 14Joe has laid more stone steps around our land including a small flight around Foggiehenge. I can now walk from OJ (Ode to Joy, the ‘artwork’ made from pine logs) down towards the front entrance – totally inaccessible to me before as, even two years on from my hip replacement, I’m like a great girl’s blouse on rough and hilly terrain.

The past is a stepping stone, not a millstone.”  Robert Plant

Agave clearing fire risk 22 Jul 14 (1)New path oleanders 6 Sep 14 (2)Agave planting to deposito 30 Jul 14Towards the end of last year, Joe did battle with the spiky agaves which had grown to massive proportions.  They needed pruning drastically and one or two of the biggies had to be removed via Nissan and rope.  All the uprooted baby plants have been planted elsewhere.  In fact, almost all of our land now has the benefit of row upon row of spiky sentinels; it’s nice to think they’re protecting us from fire and trespass.

Agave pulling out 2 Aug 14 (2)Planting pittas by gate Oct 13 (5)Agaves are vigorous and hardy and constantly throw out tubers with long white succulent stems (a bit like asparagus), culminating in green, sharp leaves.  Before long, I think we might run out of places to replant them.

The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself.” Bertrand Russell

Wall car park 2 Feb 15 (2)P1040674 - CopyWall car park 2 Feb 15 (1)I took a few photos yesterday in the bright sunlight of the first terrace above what I grandly call ‘the car park’ – you may remember the gigantic 40,000 litre water deposit lurks beneath it – looking up towards our hill.  The agaves have really flourished here, and the bare trees you see along the terrace are mulberries and figs.

Sierra walk CJM us 9 Sep 14 (2)A peaceful life is what we have in abundance here, and if we allow anything to ruffle our calm waters, we only have ourselves to blame for allowing it to enter without first challenging it with those immortal words, “friend or foe?”.










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Processionaries on the rise

Copies for blog (13)On our return from the UK a few weeks back it was quite a surprise to find that the processionary caterpillars had sneaked in and adorned most of our young pine trees with their silky tents; they managed to get at nine trees in all.

Copies for blog (15)They had also attacked 6 trees in our pine copse, our pride and joy, which is entirely self-seeded and seemed to have sprung up from nowhere about five years ago.  The pine trees themselves have a tough time of it when, potentially, a minimum of 150 caterpillars can creep out of a single nest at the dead of night to feast on young, succulent needles.  Not many trees fully recover from the onslaught.  I read in the local papers recently that the processionaries are on the rise in Andalucia.

These hideous things can be instruments of disfigurement or even death for curious pets and can cause severe irritation or even anaphylactic shock for humans.  The caterpillars are so dangerous that, once reported, the powers-that-be (allegedly) have a duty to send a SWAT team out to dispose of them. But in reality, I guess most people probably lack the will to jump through the necessary bureaucratic hoops, so they don’t bother.  Most of the danger comes from the caterpillars’ tiny hairs and we are counselled to wear full protective gear, even goggles, when attempting to dispose of them.

Processionary cocoon 6 Feb 14  (2)So, for some reason best known to himself, Joe eschewed protective gear and on the spur of the moment decided to attack each nest with a knife and a twig, pulling off the sticky nest (like white, writhing candyfloss), laying it to the ground and annihilating the occupants by stomping with his work boots. He didn’t escape totally unscathed as he developed a nasty rash on a few fingers.  It’s never a pleasure to feel good about killing hundreds of little creatures, but I have to say we felt enormous relief when they’d gone.  That is, until next year.

Solar panels 1 Feb 15The four extra solar panels have proved a worthwhile investment as they are keeping our system well topped up with power.  We really had quite a difficult time of it over the last five years or with insufficient panels and one dysfunctional battery that was only diagnosed as such and replaced recently. We also had generator problems.

Rolling cloud 27 Jan 15I can’t believe the difference, even on days when we’re literally in the clouds.  Firing up the generator for an hour or so keeps the whole electrical system topped up, and it’s a real treat for us after all these years!  Perhaps what’s not so good is the fact that we’re relying for top-ups on the poor old Robin generator which has been on its last legs for years.  There’s no way on earth I can start the damned thing, and although Joe has a certain knack with it (which I’ve never been privy to, but I’m sure it involves tickling its tummy and whispering sweet nothings in its oily, rusty ear) it can take him between 5-10 minutes to start.

Nissan & Merc 25 Jan 15We still have the ‘new’ red generator, but despite it being ‘fixed’ last week by Jose-Maria, it starts and runs, but doesn’t put out any charge.  By the way, the Nissan is now pronounced fit and has been sitting proudly on our drive for the last three days. To fix it took three visits to Jose-Maria and the not insignificant matter of greasing his oily palm with 950 euro. Since the Nissan’s return it appears to have an oil leak but maybe he slightly overfilled it when he serviced it?  We can only hope this is the case.

We haven’t seen much evidence of Ricardo and the goats until recently. Instead of continuing to sulk about the new road, he’s now taken to driving up and down it in his clapped out and very noisy red jeep, rounding up his tatty herd by hanging out of the window, shouting and beeping his horn, like some hooligan cowboy.

P1040655P1040661This arm’s length style of goat-herding is all very well, but he’s somehow mislaid a renegade band of goats (and one sheep) that have been on the loose for the last two days.

P1040665Last night they decamped by the Belgians’ swimming pool, and this afternoon they scrambled past our fence, nonchalantly chewing as they went.  Very amusing because at exactly the same time at the other end of our land, Ricardo was noisily chugging up the hill in the opposite direction probably looking for them!


For most people, we often marvel at the beauty of a sunrise or the magnificence of a full moon, but it is impossible to fathom the magnitude of the universe that surrounds us.  Richard H Baker

What a lovely day it’s been, a veritable pink cloud day.





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