Here is a photo of a cork oak tree taken from my morning’s walk in the countryside of Posadas (Cordova province in Andalusia). The photo’s a bit dark because rain’s expected (at long last, we’re having serious drought here!). You can see the red-brown trunk which has been exposed after the cork has been harvested.
Pigs love to eat the acorns that drop from its boughs:-
To see more photos of the oak trees and the PAINTINGS I do on the cork, you can click here.
Nikos Kazantzakis was a Greek writer, considered a giant of modern Greek literature, awarded the Nobel Prize in nine times. Kazantzakis’ novels included Zorba the Greek,Christ Recrucified, Captain Michalis, and The Last Temptation of Christ. He also translated a number of notable works into Modern Greek, such as the Divine Comedy,Thus Spoke Zarathustra, On the Origins OfSpecies, the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Thank you for visiting. I hope this finds you well — take care!
I just wanted to share this sunrise photo with you. In the background you can see the impressive, haunted, Christian-cum-Moorish castle of Almodóvar del Río, stage set for various films and ads. These include:
1967, Camelot, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero
1972, the famous Martini advert
1986, Harem / Dardanelos with Ava Gadner, Nancy Traver, Omar Sharif and Silvia Marsó
2002 the children’s Dutch series Pippo
2015, the Russian singer’s Tiger Cave video clip
2019 a Budweiser advert
And more recently, HBO’s Game of Thrones, and chapter 3 of Netflix’s Warrior Nun, as well asvarious documentaries that took place in between.
The castle, its surrounding villages of Almodóvar del Río, Posadas and Hornachuelos that lie in the Guadalquivir Valley close to the historic town of Cordova, are really well-worth a visit! They are steeped in a rich history and culture, and are replete with traditions. The landscape is beautiful too, varying from flat valleys that rise to the imposing Sierra Morena in the north. (You can find a description of these places in my earlier blogs.)
Well, before leaving I would also like to close with a classic poem about Spanish castles, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Castles in Spain
How much of my young heart, O Spain,
Went out to thee in days of yore! What dreams romantic filled my brain, And summoned back to life again The Paladins of Charlemagne, The Cid Campeador!
And shapes more shadowy than these, In the dim twilight half revealed; Phoenician galleys on the seas, The Roman camps like hives of bees, The Goth uplifting from his knees Pelayo on his shield.
It was these memories perchance, From annals of remotest eld, That lent the colors of romance To every trivial circumstance, And changed the form and countenance Of all that I beheld.
Old towns, whose history lies hid In monkish chronicle or rhyme,– Burgos, the birthplace of the Cid, Zamora and Valladolid, Toledo, built and walled amid The wars of Wamba’s time;
The long, straight line of the highway, The distant town that seems so near, The peasants in the fields, that stay Their toil to cross themselves and pray, When from the belfry at midday The Angelus they hear;
White crosses in the mountain pass, Mules gay with tassels, the loud din Of muleteers, the tethered ass That crops the dusty wayside grass, And cavaliers with spurs of brass Alighting at the inn;
White hamlets hidden in fields of wheat, White cities slumbering by the sea, White sunshine flooding square and street, Dark mountain ranges, at whose feet The river beds are dry with heat,– All was a dream to me.
Yet something sombre and severe O’er the enchanted landscape reigned; A terror in the atmosphere As if King Philip listened near, Or Torquemada, the austere, His ghostly sway maintained.
The softer Andalusian skies Dispelled the sadness and the gloom; There Cadiz by the seaside lies, And Seville’s orange-orchards rise, Making the land a paradise Of beauty and of bloom.
There Cordova is hidden among The palm, the olive, and the vine; Gem of the South, by poets sung, And in whose Mosque Ahmanzor hung As lamps the bells that once had rung At Compostella’s shrine.
But over all the rest supreme, The star of stars, the cynosure, The artist’s and the poet’s theme, The young man’s vision, the old man’s dream,– Granada by its winding stream, The city of the Moor!
And there the Alhambra still recalls Aladdin’s palace of delight; Allah il Allah! through its halls Whispers the fountain as it falls, The Darro darts beneath its walls, The hills with snow are white.
Ah yes, the hills are white with snow, And cold with blasts that bite and freeze; But in the happy vale below The orange and pomegranate grow, And wafts of air toss to and fro The blossoming almond trees.
The Vega cleft by the Xenil, The fascination and allure Of the sweet landscape chains the will; The traveller lingers on the hill, His parted lips are breathing still The last sigh of the Moor.
How like a ruin overgrown With flowers that hide the rents of time, Stands now the Past that I have known; Castles in Spain, not built of stone But of white summer clouds, and blown Into this little mist of rhyme!
A very beautiful poem, encompassing many parts of Spain and touching on its history.
Well, it’s that time of year again! And when I say ‘That time’, I mean olive picking time!
My son has been busy: firstly he and his friend picked some of the trees on the flatter ground around our house. The trees are old and beautiful, what with their greyish, twisted, gnarling trunks — each one different, individual, possessing its own character and personality.
The trees are ‘secano’ meaning dry, not irrigated and are also grown ecologically (no chemicals, pesticides etc.) The variety of olive is ‘lechin’ — this is an ovoidal and slightly asymmetric olive and the leaves are elliptical, short and of medium width. It is considered a variety of rustic olive, with cold tolerance, very good adaptation to limestone soils and very high resistance to drought.
As you can see from the photos, these were picked by hand. The branches were vigorously beaten with long, light and very strong fibreglass poles. The olives fell onto the large nets which were spread around the base of the tree and then these were gathered up and tipped straight into a trailer.
Meanwhile, I looked on eagerly…
The boys worked from 8:30 am to about 5 pm, (stopping to have a hearty lunch of green pepper, onion and nutty macaroni cheese, with homemade chips cooked Italian-style in olive oil and butter and seasoned with plenty of salt, garlic and rosemary; this was followed by a generous chunk of my homemade apple cake, the recipe of which I have included below).
The lunch certainly recharged their batteries, and by the time they finished work, they had picked 550 kilos!!! The following day they drove the olives to the local press in Posadas and the fruit was converted to olive oil — thick, greeny-gold and strong-smelling, still with bits of olive debris floating about which eventually settles to the bottom (i.e. unrefined, first-pressing, virginal and in all its purity — like I used to be!). The booty was equally divided between the two boys, so now we have about 10 x 5-litre bottles of gorgeous oil, which should keep us going for a while!
Last weekend there was more olive picking in my son’s finca (located on the foothills of the Sierrezuela), but this time, because the olive trees are still fairly small, being only three years old and planted as semi-intensive, the tractor was called in to pick them. This was fascinating for me because I have never seen one of these 3 &1/2 m tall giants at work. It passes over the trees and vibrates them with it ‘jaws’ while at the same time, guzzles up all the olives. No wonder these tractors are so expensive — this one’s price was 250.000 € (about £210.000!).
When the deposit is full of olives, it then spews out its contents into the hungry truck that awaits close by.
The work commenced at 8am and by 3 p.m. they finished (just as well, since the tractor charges a hefty price per hour!). Mind you, this will only be the method for the next year or two, while the olive trees can fit under the tractor. The idea is to let these grow tall and big so that they can be picked by hand when they are more mature. I think that the olives weighed in at a handsome 5000, more or less and will also be used for oil. The variety of olive is ‘arberquina’, a smaller, rounder olive that produces a sweet oil with no bitter aftertaste and gives fruity aromas, like banana and apple. It has a soft, sweet aroma.
So we had some enjoyable and profitable days! But not so fast — it’ll be my turn for action soon, once I have picked some olives that have turned from green to black. I will prepare them Greek style, that is by first preserving them under salt for about three weeks (after having previously put a cut in each one), and when they have dried and become all wrinkly, I will wash all the salt away, dry them thoroughly, then pack them into jars and perhaps top with some oil and maybe flavour with oregano. They are delicious! See this link for photos of the process.
Anyway, I think I’ve gone on for long enough for now!
Thank you for visiting! Your comments and/or questions are always welcome…
Hi folks! I hope this finds you all in good health and spirits.
Just a brief post to say that I probably won’t be writing ‘til the beginning of November as tomorrow I will be leaving for England and will be staying there until the end of October.
I am excited and nervous as it has been almost two years since I last saw my mother and brother. Emotions run high.
Anyway, what better than include a sunset photo and a prayer for travellers? So here goes…
Irish blessings for those who travel
«May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon your fields and, Until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
May God grant you always… A sunbeam to warm you, A moonbeam to charm you, A sheltering angel, so nothing can harm you.”
May the Saints protect you And bless you today And may troubles ignore you Each step of the way.”
The good news is that since the incidence numbers have fallen here in Cordova and the province is now in level 1, things are gradually opening up and there has been more movement on the tourist front. This is also good for me, as the tourist shop in the Judería (Jewish Quarters) which sells locally-crafted items, has also opened. (See photos of the Judería here.)
I regularly place some of my items with them, the latest being a couple of paintings on locally-sourced cork from the oak trees in my neighbouring Hornachuelos Natural Park area — you can read about this area here in case you’re thinking about visiting in the future — after all, it is a place rich in ecological diversity and also boasts a supposedly-haunted monastery).
I have also painted some stones with acrylics and will start my new autumn/winter/Christmassy selection next week.
Though why did I move to Cordova in the first place if I find the summers impossibly hot? Well, you can view my very first blog here for the reason; this also has lots of photos of the historic town and is actually the introduction to my book An English Lady in Cordova — the Alternative Guide(at present available from me).
Anyway, getting back to this morning’s photo — not only is the rich palette of colours inspiring, but you can also just spy the conical hill of Priego, La Tiñosa rising up from the plains that form part of the hilly Sierra Subbética. (The word Subbética has Roman origins and derives also from the Gualdalquivir River, which was then called the River Betis. The present Guadalquivir name is Arabic and harks back to the Moorish occupancy of the Iberian Peninsula, previously named Al-Andalus.) For more photos of the views from my home, you can visit the earlier blog of mine.
Though for now, I’d just like to end this blog with a quote from Jalāl ad-Dīn Mohammad Rūmī’ (30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273), the Persian poet, theologian, scholar and mystic’s,
The Breeze at Dawn
The Breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want. Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open. Don’t go back to sleep.
(Perhaps meaning something like: we can break old habits and tendencies and become the present. We don’t need to fall back into the same old ways…)
That’s all for now folks! Once again, thanks for visiting — and do take care! xxx
Hi folks! Hope this finds you in good health and spirits…
I just wanted to share some dawn clouds with you because this is like sharing the hope and promise that the day might be a little cooler… but actually, this is not so, as the temperatures have been forecast to hit the 48° C (118.4° F mark by next week). Yikes!!!
But, how could I leave off without a poem honouring the clouds. This time, it’s Percy Bysshe Shelley:-
THE CLOUD — Percy Bysshe Shelley
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.
I sift the snow on the mountains below,
And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night ‘tis my pillow white,
While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
Lightning my pilot sits;
In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,
Whilst he is dissolving in rains.
The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,
As still as a brooding dove.
That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.
I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone,
And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-coloured bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.
I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was an English romantic poet, dramatist, essayist and novelist. He was described by American literary critic, Harold Bloom as «a superb craftsman, a lyric poet without rival, and surely one of the most advanced sceptical intellects ever to write a poem.» For more on his biography, you can take a look at this Poetry Foundation link.
Last but not least — though bewarned, this has nothing to do with clouds and Shelley — I have been breaking up this monotony of heat by being frivolous and painting my nails! (See the photos below for proof!!!)
As prewarned, here are my frivolously painted nails (ha ha!) — not the most appropriate for rummaging about in my vegetable patch! However, due to the poor photography you can’t really appreciate them in their full glory, nor could I bear to go out in the heat again to take another photo!!!
Hi folks! I hope that this finds you well despite the difficult times we are all experiencing, one way or another…
I just wanted to share a couple of photos with you (well, three actually!) which prove that it’s not just us here in Posadas who keep cool and hydrated with WATERMELONS…
…but the sheep and cows too!
So if you don’t believe me, below is the proof!
The above farm is situated on the footslopes of the Sierrezuela Park which forms part of the large Nature Reserve of Hornachuelos, which is an ecological haven boasting a wide variety of fauna and flora. There are also great walks/hikes/running circuits/adventure park, and you can also appreciate the ancient history via its Stone Age dolmens (as well as enjoy the bar, restaurant or do-it-yourself picnic/BBQ area). To view more about this area you can visit my previous blogs, here and here.
But coming back to the watermelons… they might seem just simply watery, juicy and refreshing, but actually they’re packed full with goodness. Here are some of their plus points:
1) They keep you hydrated due to their high water content.They contain nutrients and beneficial plant compounds.
2) One cup (154 grams) of watermelon has many nutrients, including these vitamins and minerals:—
Vitamin C: 21% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
Vitamin A: 18% of the RDI
Potassium: 5% of the RDI
Magnesium: 4% of the RDI
Vitamins B1, B5 and B6: 3% of the RDI
3) Watermelons contain compounds that may help prevent cancer, such as cucurbitacin E and lycopene (though study results are mixed).
4) They may improve heart health as they contain several heart-healthy components, including lycopene, amino acid citrulline and other vitamins and minerals.
5) They can lower inflammation and oxidative stress because lycopene and vitamin C are anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases.
6) They may help prevent macular degeneration also due to their lycopene content.
7) Watermelons may help relieve muscle soreness — the amino acid citrulline may be partially responsible for its effect of easing this tenderness.
8) They are good for skin and hair because they contain vitamins A and C.
9) They can improve digestion as they are fibre-rich, and last (but not least),
10) being rich in lycopene, your body’s arginine levels are increased, which helps up the body’s fat-burning potential. At the same time the juicy red fruit helps the body burn fat, it also builds lean muscle. Just 1 cup a day does the trick.
CONCLUSION: it’s no wonder they feed watermelons to the sheep and cattle!!!
But now I’d like to finish off with a photo that has absolutely nothing at all to do with watermelons… my new kitten (one of four, but fifteen cats in total!).
Thank you for reading! As usual, comments and questions are always welcome.
Hi folks! I hope this finds you well and not melting in the heat like me — (hence my sporadic posts during these sizzling days of summer…)
I just wanted to share my lovely photo of this beautiful foxglove…
The scientific name for this flower is the Latindigitalis, meaning ‘finger’. The old German vernacular name that harks back to the 16th century is Fingerhut, translating literally as ‘finger hat’, though actually meaning ‘thimble’. The Olde English name, foxes glofa/eechoes the folk myth that foxes actually wore gloves on their paws so they could move silently when hunting their prey! Another more intimidating name for this deadly flower was ‘witch’s glove’.
Later names that emerged in the 19th century name were ‘folks’ glove’, where ‘folk’ means fairy and ‘foxes-glew’, meaning ‘fairy music’.
Foxgloves were also grown in medieval gardens and the flowers were dedicated to the Virgin Mary — here they were called ‘Our Lady’s Gloves’.
Apart from being very pretty, the flowers are also used for drug preparations that contain cardiac glycosides. The plant is very toxic to humans and other animals, and consumption can even lead to death. (I think this was one of the favourite toxins that wives would use in the olden days, before the advent of forensic science, to gradually poison problematic husbands!)
As to the symbolism of the foxgloves, they represent a whole host of themes ranging from pride, energy, magic, ambition, insincerity, intuition and creativity, to productivity, communication, cooperation, and confidence too (so that’s quite a load, isn’t it?!)
And last but not least, here’s a poem written by Mary Webb about the Foxglove:-
The foxglove bells, with lolling tongue, Will not reveal what peals were rung In Faery, in Faery, A thousand ages gone. All the golden clappers hang As if but now the changes rang; Only from the mottled throat Never any echoes float. Quite forgotten, in the wood, Pale, crowded steeples rise; All the time that they have stood None has heard their melodies. Deep, deep in wizardry All the foxglove belfries stand. Should they startle over the land, None would know what bells they be. Never any wind can ring them, Nor the great black bees that swing them– Every crimson bell, down-slanted, Is so utterly enchanted
Mary Gladys Webb was an English romantic novelist and poet of the early 20th century, whose work is set chiefly in the Shropshire countryside and among Shropshire characters and people whom she knew. Many of her books were dramatised, including Precious Bane (one of my favourite books!). For a fuller biography, see thisMary Webb Society link
And to finish with, here’s another photo of my cat chilling out in the 43° C temperatures amidst the aloe vera plant.
Well, that’s all for now — thanks for visiting, take care! xxx