Monday, November 19, 2018

Presenting the new Intern

Salutations and well met!

It is I, Breogán, Chief of Security and I have commandeered the glowing screen device to inform the wider public that I am happy to announce that I´ve finally gotten a staff increase approved by management.  It is my great pleasure to introduce our new intern, Brigantia, Pearl in the Crown of the Ancient Kingdom of Galicia.

She has mastiff credentials on her mother´s side with additional guarding qualifications in German Shepherd (and I suspect from his impressive mustachios, some wire-haired gryphon tracking aptitudes, as well) from her father.  All in all, she brings the whole package to the mix. She comes to us highly recommended and I´m sure will be an invaluable addition to the operation.

She is quite young at eight weeks, but you can never start too early with a new recruit and I fully expect her to be assisting in standard investigative and monitoring operations within a few months.  I will, of course, personally oversee her progress and initiation into the mysteries of the Mastiff Code and ongoing training in critter patrol, bone hiding/rotation and ball keep-away.

In the meantime, please join me in woofing her a warm welcome to the team.

Constant vigilance!

A courteous canine wag of the tail to all.

Breogán, The Belligerant, Bone Crusher, Cat´s Bane, Celtic Cur
Head of Security

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A change in the weather

As predicted, no sooner had we put up the clothesline than the weather changed.  First, a plunge in temperatures with snow on the hilltops, then wet and rainy.

Leaves are starting to turn and mushrooms are popping up all over.  The woodstove is crackling.

Fortunately, the rain means the burn ban has been lifted, so we got 2 years worth of trimmings and weeds out of the way.  Last year, it started to rain in November, didn´t quit until May and something always prevented us from doing it when we had a permit number up to July when burning is banned for the summer, so at least we´ve gotten something accomplished.  This, after moving a pile of beams, will allow for expansion of the growing space.  Assuming it stops raining.

Musings on mulch.  I was delighted to find straw at one of the ag stores and bought some for mulch on paths and beds.  Unfortunately, as you can see, it doesn´t do the job.  And it also provides cover for the d@mn voles.  So off will come the straw from the beds and I will hand weed.

Got the foxgloves and the early sweet peas in.  Next up are the aquilegias, dutch iris and tulips.  And I´m unsure about when to dig and lift the dahlias, as they need a hard frost and there´s no telling whether we´ll get one or when.

And sadly, I learned of the sudden death of an old friend from my university days in Texas.  She broadened my horizons and deepened my understanding, both valuable things in your twenties.  I reconnected with her again after 20 odd years via social media, and learned of her passing the same way.  I always thought someday she´d come over and we´d share some good food and better conversation.  RIP Tipler, you´ll be missed. Suddenly, these misty autumn days are more poignant and melancholy.

Monday, October 15, 2018

And furthermore

Small improvements.  After discussing for years where it should go, we finally got a clothesline up.  Just in time for the weather to turn, and we´ll probably have to dry clothes inside anyway.

We had the posts made at a metalworks down the road. The trick was keeping it relatively close to the house, but out of potential traffic patterns, and far enough from the trees to avoid bird droppings.  Now lots of space for sheets and pairs of jeans.

The roses are giving their final performance.  Here, Apricot Nectar celebrates the cooler temperatures with an explosion of apricot. She seems to be hitting her stride in her third year.

The electrical crews came and laid waste to the areas under the high tension wires.  These guys don´t mess around!  It seems to me they might as well put down some grass and give a concession to a shepherd as pay a team of guys with heavy equipment every few years.  By next spring, this will all be bracken again.

Tasks in the garden are bringing in the (very few) pumpkins, taking out the remains of the veg, reconditioning the beds and planting fall bulbs.  The daffodils are the only bulbs that come back here, and I thought it was lack of chilling hours.  But since the voles ate half the carrot harvest and did some damage to the potatoes, now I think they ate all the tulips and crocus that were planted.

Fencing barriers and layers of grit aren´t practical in my cut-flower context.  My dear friend W, brought me a bottle of castor oil from my favorite chemist shop in Madrid on a recent visit, and I´m going to try a mix of oil, dishwashing liquid and water as a vole repellent.  I read that cats are the only reliable method of control, but Breo has vetoed that option.

In local news, a friend had an unplanned litter of puppies, so I figured flowers were appropriate for becoming a new ¨grandma¨.  More on this anon.

The sad, wet remnants of hurricane Michael are passing over this week.  Hopefully, the fire ban will be lifted and we can get the burn pile taken care of.  After that, I´m hoping to call the tractor guy to expand the planting area again and then I´ll have until next spring to trench, shape the beds and fence. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Fall preps

Happy Equinox!

My favorite time of the year has begun.  The light is so lovely on our morning walks.

Busy times.  Still canning/bottling from the veg plot.  The courgettes/zucchinni are on their last and the pumpkin harvest this year looks miserable, perhaps 2 or 3.  The roses are doing their fall flush and the dahlias are still flowering, but shorter.  Ripping out the old annual flowers, bringing in manure and prepping new beds. Trying a little seed saving.

We bought in the firewood and stacked it in V´s latest structure.  Such a good feeling having it on hand.

I´ve been seeding hardy annuals, and the biannual starts that germinated.  I really need a course in seed starting, my germination percentage is miserable.  The ranunculus, iris and tulip order is on the way.  Not so many tulips as the ones I´ve planted around come up about 3 inches and then disappear forever.  Perhaps not enough chilling.

Still need to start the sweet peas for next spring. Garlic and grelos (beet greens) will be a project for October.

Hope your fall harvests are spectacular!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Cooking with gas

The guests have gone home, the mornings have an autumn chill, and I have veg and fruit to deal with.

The good news is that the tomatoes and tomatillos produced after all!  I took the advice offered and just waited to see if I´d get a crop, and while a number were brown and blotchy from the blight, there are quite a few perfectly acceptable tomatoes.  There is also, for the first time, some blossom end rot.

Mostly it´s obvious, as in the upper case here.  But, I have also found rot inside some that were apparently perfect on the outside, just as a word to the wise.  One of the benefits of quartering and roasting the tomatoes before saucing, I guess.

The tomatillos finally sized up on the ones I planted earliest.  Also roasted for salsa.  If only there were some cilantro left, but it all bolted weeks ago.  Hoping for at least one more picking and will try mixing in some golden tomatoes to the pan.

The potatoes were small and not very numerous and a number were nibbled.  As were these, so I pulled them all.  No sense encouraging the varmints.

And it´s a great apple year.  So I tried another apple pie recipe from Smitten Kitchen - Dutch Apple Pie, and I´m glad to report that it´s delish, and our apples didn´t turn to mush in the oven!

The crust is interesting on this one, more like cookie dough and not as elastic as short crust, and I´m afraid I rolled it out too thin, it wanted to collapse in the latticing.  And I had no raisins on hand, so I threw in a handful of walnuts.  But tasty, nonetheless, and I may be enjoying it for breakfast.

Hope your harvests are plentiful!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

What a week

The weather finally broke, taking us from 90 degrees to 70.  Breo is most pleased.

The power went out, and when it came on again for some reason the circuit controlling the ceiling lights kept tripping. First, we checked all the light bulbs in the house, but that made no difference, so we called the electrician, who came (!) and located a split cable.  He thinks it got hit by a nail when they were installing the flooring.  Just a coincidence?  All now working again and for only 50€.

We´ve discovered mice, once again, in the kitchen.  Traps now laid and cabinets cleaned.

I met with two lovely women who run a local florist shop.  They were very nice and informative, but I went home with all the flowers as they were considered too short and too open to be useful.  Still, I dread this whole face-to-face thing so much that I´m chuffed I´ve started the process.  Must prick out the biennials today before the rain starts.

Breo had a kerfuffle with his cousin the Jack Russell from Madrid, so the sister´s visit had to be reorganized. Now battening down the hatches for the annual 2 week stay of the In-laws. See you in September!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The July Garden

I wish this was going to be more positive, but lately I´m a little frustrated.

The weather this year has been challenging, to say the least.  A looooooong wet spring, followed by an alternating cool wet/hot dry summer has played havoc with anything planted.

So far, lettuce, peas, onions, peppers, french beans, courgettes/zucchinni are all being eaten as well as parsley, cilantro and basil.  Carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, tomatillos, and broad beans are on the way.

Unfortunately, once again the tomatoes and potatoes came down with late blight and I filled two large trash bags of affected foliage yesterday for disposal.

The spring onions went directly to flowering, which means they won´t store.  Never had that happen before, but they´re tough and useless in salads.

Frankly, I´m reconsidering the potatoes and peas for next year.  The peas never seem to climb or produce well, this year they´ve got mildew, and they´re cheap, frozen in the store.  I always plant potatoes mostly just to get started in the spring, but again, Galicia is a big potato producer so I can get good, if basic white/yellow varieties, reasonably priced potatoes in the shops.  I had some small red fingerlings saved for planting, but they rotted before the weather improved. I don´t know what to do about the tomatoes.  Probably I overcroweded them since I was so thrilled that they actually germinated and grew.  I reluctantly used the last of the copper spray, late and obviously not effective, but that will get washed off soon in the odd summer weather we´re having.  I guess blight is just omnipresent in the environment round these parts.

August offers more family visits/dramas, lots more effing housecleaning (OMG the spiders!) and less work done.  And for various reasons, my plans for the flower business are being delayed by at least 6 months, so there will be no poly tunnel or irrigation system this year.  I´ll have to put my efforts into market research and play around with natural dyes and dry flowers I think.  I´ve got trays of biennials germinating (hopefully) so need to get started on a couple of beds for them.

And now, really all I want to do is sit in the shade on the patio and drink.  Which won´t accomplish anything, but there it is.

Hope all your summers are idyllic and filled with bbqs and beaches!