Let’s catch up with Colin …..

 

The changeable ‘lockdown’ weather we had for a good few weeks really helped Colin’s plot although it was a bit unkind to some of the newly planted fruit trees.

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An absolute abundance of potatoes, leeks, cauliflower, onions etc….. And as I type, Colin is busy planting out more of his seedlings.

Planting the courgettes attracted some friends!

As we approach phase two easing of Spain’s lockdown measures, I can’t wait until we are allowed to meet up, as last time we got together, Colin gave us a bag of goodies! Recently courgettes,  strawberries and eggs have been added to Colin and Steve’s menus. Yes, eggs, so that was Colin’s next project he hinted at, in my post Basket Case in Jauro (February)

I asked Colin how this latest project came about? He said that developing the plots was always on their dream Spanish lifestyle ‘to do’ list but with the major renovations on the house plus their beach apartments it couldn’t be a priority. Fast forward several years, and an action plan was spurred on due to their neighbour Sofia subtle words in Colin’s ear about how some of the other neighbours were complaining that the weeds from the two plots were seeding on the neighbours plots!

Colin said that after they cleared the land, the plots looked so much larger than they first thought. Jokingly, Colin suggested to Steve they should keep some chickens and Colin already had a design in mind. A few weeks went by and Steve said if Colin drew up the plans he would build it. On discussing keeping hens with neighbours, there were lots of arm waving and warnings for Colin about foxes, wolves, wild cats and the village dogs! Also, beware of eagles and hawks, so a strong fenced run with a covering to stop predators getting to the hens was added to Colin’s design.

The good thing about Steve’s mancave was that he had lots of bits of timber laying around. An advert on Facebook resulted in 6 lengths of 6in x 4in and a small wooden window! These posts were cemented into the ground, and this set the villagers tongues wagging and funny how they then started going by the plots on their walks, pausing to stop and point, trying to work out what was going on?

The floor of the hen house was constructed on site in a morning and the side panels constructed and put up the same afternoon. The roofing being a sheet of marine plywood was put up just before sunset. On the second day the upcycled wooden window was fitted and doors put on.

Then the wood was stained and vinyl floor went in and that completed another long, mostly fun day! Egg laying boxes were connected at one end.

Next, support posts were cemented into the boundary for the run and left to set overnight. A boundary fence on the chicken run was cemented two foot underground so predators couldn’t dig under the fence and get in. The door was fitted with padlock and wire topping complete with a solar security light in place. Finally, finishing touches with curtains over the egg nesting boxes for privacy …. and pretty curtains up at the window! Cosy and safe! In total it was five days work at a cost  of 275 euros on materials and  after just fifteen minutes drawing up the plans. It’s super stylish and I am sure there is a business venture there for Steve offering  2 bespoke coup styles, the large model ‘Rural Jauro‘ and the smaller model ‘Urban Antas‘ …..LOL!

Last but not least Colin spent another 36 euros and enter the girls ….. Meryl, Beryl, Cheryl (grey hens) and Molly, Lolly and Dolly (orange brown hens). And no surprises they are very happily settled in their bespoke hand built hen coup.

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They started laying eggs after a week and totalled 6 a day after a few weeks. Meryl lays double yolk eggs and several huge eggs which have triple yolks!

Colin told me at night he always makes sure the hens are locked in, much to the delight of his neighbour Juan who always says to Colin as he walks by “todos los niños en la cama” (all the children in bed). Colins replies “si, y buenas noches besado!” (yes and kissed goodnight!) Juan gives the biggest toothless grin!

So, Colin another project? “Yes I want a donkey” ….. watch this space …..

As for me, I hope to be back out soon and sharing this lovely part of Spain I live in!

Meanwhile , here’s a video of Colin’s home seed production with the most beautiful views!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I was having a coffee right now …..

If I was having a coffee right now, I would be thinking, like many of us, what a strange world we are currently living in. We’ve completed the 7th week of lockdown and now we are beginning our phased exit. I was thinking of writing about what tricks we have used to survive this period but honestly, none of it was particularly interesting or original! (Apart from Steve’s self haircut and no photos allowed!) So, I thought I would talk about the first thing I would like to do on release from lockdown?

But my mind started wandering (not too difficult in these times) to the ‘firsts’ that Steve and I have experienced during our 5 year Spanish adventure, so here are a few of the more memorable ones …..

Realising quickly, that as a proud owner of gardening design City and Guilds certificate, it meant nothing in our garden where 3 meter plus cacti sat waiting to attack me rather than me pruning them! Eventually, I found them mostly stunning when in flower.

Owning a swimming pool and watching my husband learn how to balance the chemicals to keep it safe and clean so I could paddle safely!

Getting up close and personal with snakes and being bitten by a spider. Steve has seen the biggest centipede which the 6′ 3 gardener, working at the house, jumped 6′ 3 in the air and then decapitated the centipede with a spade but it kept on walking ! (no photos …..google this creature if you want!)

Steve and our neighbour removing processionary (or marching) caterpillars from a pine tree. They first sprayed the nest with hairspray, lobbed off the branch the nest was on, catching it in a bin liner and then digging a large hole in the ground placing the bag and setting fire to it. It is so important to do this, as the caterpillar hairs are so toxic and can become airborne in the wind and give nasty rash to humans and with dogs in severe cases can be fatal. (again google if you wish!)

The night a wild boar visited and re landscaped the front flower beds.

(Still thinking of moving to Spain ….. lol!) 

Back to the nice things …..

Harvesting our olive tress, going to the olive press and exchanging our olives for pure extra virgin olive oil that was unbelievably delicious. However, our neighbours had to ‘lend’ us one of their olive trees in order for us to just to fill a crate! (read more – blog post December 2017).

Joined an art class and painted for the first time since I was 16. And I sold my first painting last December ….. who would have thought?

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Obviously, speaking another language although still not fluent with our Spanish, we can get by of sorts. I recall the first time I went to a Spanish hairdresser and requested a cut and colour, it was as scary as the first visit to our Spanish dentist!

Started Spanish dog training classes with our German Shepherd, Charlie when he was a puppy….. that also helped with learning the language. Any shop assistant or waiter I can confidently tell to ‘sit’ stay’ ‘down’ ‘turn’ etc! But the highlight was entering Charlie into an obedience competition held in Vera bullring. Sadly, he didn’t achieve a rosette but I was just relieved he didn’t escape!

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assessment day, best hide!

Administration here in Spain is a test of wills, not logical and extremely time consuming with different rules depending on who you are dealing with and what day of the week it is! So I will skip over setting up house taxes, car tax, car ITV (MOT in UK) and the 4 visits to Almeria to secure our residencia! But each mission accomplished was celebrated with a large vodka and tonic!

Oh! yes, so what is the first thing I will do on my full ‘release’ …… a walk along the promenade with Steve and Charlie, our dog, and stopping for a coffee. Sounds a dream? Well we are now moving forward with a slow easing of lockdown mode and heading for the ‘new normal’ that everyone talks about!

How exciting to think I can become a ‘new normal’ ….. ha! ha! ha!

Oh! PS, Steve has finished his book and one day to be published.

 

 

 

The Basket Case in Jauro

It never ceases to amaze me how people become part of your life. With Colin and Steve they became the font of knowledge, our Wikipedia de España. We were introduced to them by our Belgium friends Georges and Jeannine when my Steve was desperate to find a sports therapist to help with a sciatic problem he had. Ray solved the problem in a matter of weeks and my Steve was eternally grateful to them for their help. Fast forward four years and we are now firm friends!

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Colin and Steve moved to a small pueblo in the hills called Jauro near Antas in 2006 after buying one house. Two years later they bought the house next door as well. They did the majority of the renovations themselves and completed most of the combined houses in 2012. The pool, terraces and garden were completed in 2013 and finally the front courtyard in 2015. They have maintained the Spanish character and furnished their home in a traditional Spanish manor.

(Just a little background info to set the scene of their latest venture we have comically called ‘The Basket Case in Jauro’)

Colin and Steve have two plots of land of 800m2 and last September Steve decided Colin needed a new challenge. Idle hands and all that, so they set about clearing plot one and readying it for planting. This involved weeding, digging and rotovating. No easy task as the ground here in Almeria is rock hard. Colin already had a vision of how it would look with interlocking paths, borders and a wooden gated entrance. The clearing was just a start, a treasure was unearthed in the shape of a set of false teeth and with five ‘gummy’ neighbours nearby, the owner remains a mystery! 

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Actually, this new mini series will be known as ‘What’s in Colin’s Trug!? And not just any old trug, it is a Thomas Smith Royal Sussex Trug (for those who have no idea what a trug is, myself included, its a garden basket used to carry flowers or produce). Trugs are hand made from sweet chestnut and willow strips of wood. A full insight can be found at sussextrugs.com.

But I digress, back to the plot literally! All of their produce is totally organic as no fertilizers or sprays are being used which is quite an achievement considering there are countless bugs in southern Spain ready to pounce at a hint of a shoot.

Everything is watered by hand as an irrigation system is yet to be installed. To protect the plants a high tech gnome called ‘Arthur’ has been employed, well actually Arthur is pretty low tech but appears more effective than shiny tinsel fluttering in the wind (maybe wind is Arthur’s secret weapon!). Whatever the success is down to, the local Spanish neighbours are highly impressed and have taken a keen interest in the local basket case, offering tips and advice. They themselves produce on a grand scale and it has been a lovely way for Colin and Steve to further integrate into the local community and improve language skills. Colin is pretty fluent so ¿Que hay en tu cesta esta semana, Colin?

And if you are also inspired here’s the planting schedule to get to this stage?

September  – clear the plot.

October 12th – planted broccoli, cauliflower and onions

October 21st – planted garlic, leeks, red onions and broad beans.

October 25th  – planted more broccoli and cauliflower

October – fencing put up as protection from the wind

November 1st – planted orange, lemon and lime tree

Then more features, a lovely wooden bench (ideal for those mid morning coffee breaks!) and herb planters made from reclaimed wooden pallets.

January 2nd – planted herbs, mint, rosemary, oregano, sage and chives.

January 12th  the first crop harvested!

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As Colin says, its amazing how quickly everything grows. Lots of work keeping the plot groomed and manicured but looks very impressive! And such a pleasure and the satisfaction is immense.

And veggie costs so far for this new hobby? Broccoli and cauliflowers – 10 for 1 euro. Garlic – 10 for 2 euros. Leeks – 30 for 1 euro. Seed packs – carrots 1.79 peas 2.40 and broad 2.79!

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Colin and Steve’s house is the backdrop to this project!

What is happening next Colin? “Well, plot 2 cleared and propagated ….. so watch this space …..”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer fades to Autumn

 

Just can’t believe my last post was over 2 months ago – sorry! Where did the wonderful summer go? A cruise, trip to England, watching the World Cup, partying at a few fiestas and days on the beach of course.

Then, on the really scorching hot afternoons here, it was a case of sofa, a good movie and ice cream. That got me thinking of my favourite movies – not easy! I often see on other blogs – top 10 lists but Steve and I listed 40 plus movies straight off. Somehow, I have got my list down to top 20….sort of…. It would change yet again if I was asked tomorrow!

movie

  • Officer and a Gentleman
  • Pretty Woman
  • Rain Man
  • Forest Gump
  • When Harry met Sally
  • Sleepless in Seattle
  • Groundhog Day
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • Good Morning, Vietnam
  • Oceans Eleven
  • As Good as it Gets
  • Terms of Endearment
  • Apollo 13
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Gravity
  • Top Gun
  • Grease
  • The Italian Job (original)
  • ET
  • Jaws

Steve loves all movies, so his list is not in a time warp like mine! What are your favourite films?

Anyway, we said ‘adios’ to August and welcomed a little September rain. (Now that’s something I didn’t think I would say when living in Spain.)

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But the rains brought a lovely freshness and it is still around 24 degrees but with no humidity. Autumn is here and the garden  has come alive with so much flowering.

Why do weeds grow faster than plants? But hey, we will even have the start of a ‘lawn’ in the coming weeks!  It really is more like Spring.

Soon, we are allowed to take Charlie for long walks on the beach followed by hot fresh coffee. Yes, it will also be ‘adios’ to my lovely iced coffees!

The farmer who owns most of the land around our house is also busy. After removing dead orange trees from 3 fields back in May, we are now all ‘ploughed’ ready for the farmer to plant the much promised olive and almond trees. Wow, the smell from the blossom in a few months time will be gorgeous!

In a few weeks the pellet burner will be firing up the central heating and we will be all snuggled up. Dare I say, making plans for Christmas????!!!

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Then and now…some of my favourite photos

 

It’s July and as the searing sun beats down on Antas, the scenery looks more and more parched and desert like. (We’re about 80 kilometres from Tabernas Desert.)  So, I started looking back at photos I took a few weeks ago which led me to reminisce on how our garden has evolved in the last three years but is still very, very much a work in progress and always will be and  I have never experienced such fast growing weeds as here in Spain!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started on the garden around our refurbished courtyard back in November 2015.

 

 

And the courtyard went from this…

…to this, our modern surprise inside our cortijo. The perfect chill out or party (fly free) outdoor room!