Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Black Friday

Normally, I resolve not to buy anything on Black Friday, but this year I found a deal I couldn´t resist.

I now have 5 40-pound sacks of horse manure spread between the garden beds and the compost heap.  Going back for  more today.  At 1€ a sack, all you can fill, I can´t pass it up.

And I didn´t have to stand in line at midnght.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hedges and Fences and Gates, oh my

Our pasture is rhombus shaped, closed in on the fourth side by the barn.  Three sides are hedges, trees and overgrown shrubs.  In some places there are scraps of fence, or someone has tried some rudimentary hedge-laying, in other places it´s just weedy tree tangles, like the thickets of bay laurel.

With an eye to keeping chickens and dogs in, and to keep out some very nervy neighbors from loosing their hounds through our place on their way to hunt rabbits, we´ve been turning over the idea of enclosing with fencing.  At the very minimum, we´ll need to shut off the driveway and alongside the house at the lane.  But the property is impossible to really secure, and I´m not really interested in creating a puppy penitentiary anyway.


Last week the guy who works the pasture next door whacked off the hedge to the south using some kind of flail, so anything planted will have to be inside that line.  I like the idea of productive hedges with nuts, fruits, flowers for the bees etc.  There will need to be some filling in of gaps, and pruning back.  There are a couple of small oaks I´m thinking of pollarding.  Another ongoing project for the list.

south, pretty closed

 Anyone know of a source for small, bareroot hedging plants in Spain?  Hazelnuts, crabapples, holly, willow, etc?

Otherwse, I´ve been out gathering leaves from around the lane.  They´ll be calling me the ¨loca de las hojas¨.  We fired up the wood cookstove for the first time over the weekend.  Not bad, no heating bills from Easter to almost Thanksgiving.  The fruits are soaking in brandy to make Christmas puddings next week.

And the autumn light is like no other.


Friday, November 13, 2015

La Lagoa de Sobrado

We went looking for an equestrian center rumored to have manure for sale, but took a wrong turn and ended up someplace else.

That someplace else is the Lagoa de Sobrado, close to the Monastery of Sobrado dos Monxes.  And for good reason, it was constructed by the Cistercian monks around 1500!  They used it for irrigation, powering water mills, and stocked it with trout for the monk´s table.

It was ceded to the Galician Society of Natural History in 1992 and is an important spot for flora and fauna, especially water birds.

There´s a little turn off area with a hut, a picnic table and a small dock of somewhat doubtful structural integrity and a path we didn´t have time to explore.

The Monastery itself is an imposing structure with an incredible façade.  We were there for a local festival once, but the deep fried trout didn´t look particularly appetizing and it was so packed with locals there was no place to sit.  Also, I should warn visitors that the visiting hours for the monastery were idiosyncratic and limited and we didn´t get the best impression of the cleanliness of the facilities or the welcome of the monk-in-charge on the day.  But, they raise Spanish mastiffs, so they can´t be all bad.

More on the Monastery here.
Video in gallego of the mastiffs on Galician TV here.  (Mastiffs 6:51, puppies 14:19)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

La Feira dos Santos

On November 1 every year there´s a market in Monterroso, just down the road a piece. They´ve been holding it for 500 years so it´s popular this time of year.

It was an absolutely magnificent fall day, and V just got back from another business trip, so we decided to have a day out.  We really should get out more.

Monterroso is an attractive small town, with a big church, and lots of winding streets and little plazas where the vendors set up.

A central building was where a lot of the food was for sale, but lots of people were selling produce all over. I´ve never seen so many sacks of chestnuts in my life, I think this must be a bumper year. And garlic, oh so much garlic.

Also, artisan crafts and gear.  One of these would suit anyone´s homemade hooch needs.

And poultry.  There were chickens, ducks, geese, songbirds, pea hens, game birds, even a peacock. (and puppies!!) The roosters were giant! I had no idea.

Then we hiked over to the livestock area, about a mile down the road.  Again, a there was a little of everything.  Quite a few cattle, as you would expect from a dairy province, horses, ponies and donkeys.

Sales mostly seem to be run by middle men, who make a living buying and selling animals all around at fairs.  They all look to be between 50 and 70, very weathered, and stand around leaning on the fences smoking, looking canny and wielding big sticks.  Let´s just say I would never, never, ever dare buy a used car from one of them.

On the other side were pigs, goats and sheep.  No unusual breeds, though I can´t identify the black and white sheep.  Someone was getting out of the goat business - there was a big group on offer.  One little goat in particular was just stunning - long eared and long haired, slender like a gazelle and the color of a labrador retriever.  So pretty.  You´ll have to take my word for it since there doesn´t appear to be a picture.

And a huge sow - how anyone got her home, I don´t know.

By this time we were actually sweating, so we stopped for a beer in a terraza. We were planning to get the traditional boiled octopus and potatoes but despite the large areas under tents set up, there were long, long lines of people waiting to get in. So we made our purchases and headed back to Melide and had some local pulpo a feira and were tired but happy after our day out.

Now I really have to figure out our fencing.  Puppies!!  Chickens!!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Progress (?)

This week a crew came by and resurfaced the lane to the house.

During the last election period, the some of the candidates for Mayor went door to door campaigning and the one who ultimately won observed to the neighbors he was shocked at the lamentable state of the road.

Frankly, I thought it was more picturesque before.  But, I´m confident that it will now be left to quietly decay in place, so in a few years it´ll develop that patina of rusticity that appealed to me.  At least it´s basically sturdy gravel, with a light spray of asphalt to hold it all together, and not a petro-chemical engineering project.  There was a rumor that they were going to repave all along the logging road up to some hamlet or other.  V and I were appalled.  There´s quite enough traffic in tractors, trucks and cars (!) as it is.  We suspect there won´t be enough in the budget for those sorts of projects ever again.

In other news, lately the sunrise is getting later and later, but the results are spectacular.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Veg patch

The season is definitely changing - the spiders and field mice are heading indoors.  But I´ve been outside working on something resembling a veg patch.  It´s still very much in the development stage, but practical before pretty.

Raised beds.  The one on the left is planted with garlic, the one on the right is waiting for something else, perhaps onions.  My MIL told me to plant onions.  Another, smaller hugel will go behind the second retaining wall.

These are transplanted starts of lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage.  I killed the brussels sprouts before I got them in the ground.  The woman at the farmer´s market assured me these would grow without plastic or row covers.  I have my doubts, but this is all an experiment anyway.

Spinach sprouting

Garlic up!  It may be too early here.  October is the target month in the Pacific northwest, which I´m using as my guide.  I may plant out some more in November to compare.

Hugelbed in front (could it have something to do with the mice?).  The next section is lasagna-style with cardboard over the grass.  Now, I´ve realized more than pasture grass, it´s really mostly weeds like nettle, mint, blackberry, and rushes.  Probably going to have to redo later. And it needs more soil.

In next section, I took off the weedy ground cover.  There is a thick layer of thatch with most of the weed runners that can be rolled back on itself like a carpet with a lot of work and leverage.  Then lasagna layers.  I suspect I´ll have to redo this one as well because of what I discovered digging the following section.

The last 2 raised beds had the weedy layer removed and then I dug down 18 inches.  About 10 inches down there is a layer of stone ranging from the size of my head to gravel.  It´s like there´s a Roman road under there.  Underneath that it turns to heavy clay.  So even if the lasagna works as advertised on the other sections, I´m not sure roots will ever penetrate that stony layer.  Anyway, it got the remains of the stinky anaerobic compost I had left in a plastic bin, and a bunch of dry grass the neighbors let me have, then cardboard and dirt.  It will be interesting to see how each section performs.

And V took pity on the poor, struggling Mencia grape vine that looked so, so pitiful in its container and built this fab planter for it.  Eventually we´ll put up supports and drape it along the house for shade in the traditional Galician fashion.

So for now I´ll be doing battle with weeds and the invading arachnid and rodent hordes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fresh Fig Tart

I had never eaten figs.  When they appeared by the bushel full at the farmer´s market, it seemed time to remedy that.

While sweet and enticingly soft and juicy, I have to say they were relatively flavorless eaten fresh.  So, with most of a kilo to get through, I happened upon Rick Stein´s recipe.  I´ve seen some of Mr. Stein´s cooking and travel shows and he seems like such a delightfully jolly fellow, curious and enthusiastic about all things edible. I adapted his recipe for a lack of marscapone by substituting cream cheese with a couple of tablespoons of grated lemon zest and some homemade yogurt to fill it out.

I used Smitten Kitchen´s non-shrinking crust recipe, and I did it without so much as a food processor.  As you can see, the crust is quite overdone, but in my defense, the oven shut off at some point early in the blind- baking stage and from then on I was improvising.  Covering the crust with protective foil during final baking didn´t give results and it turns out the back of the oven is hotter than the front.  Live and learn.

V liked it well enough.  The lemon cream saved the dessert - again, even after baking, the figs themselves didn´t speak to me.  I tried some of the black variety the next week, but still wasn´t bowled over by their flavor.  So, now I have two jars of fig compote in the fridge and figs have dropped to the bottom of the fruit tree list.