Hi folks! I hope you are all coping okay, especially in these worrying and sad times…
I just wanted to share a couple of photos with you from my early morning walk, here in my local countryside of Posadas (a village in the province of Andalusia, lying about 35 miles west of the historic town of Córdoba).
As you can see, I was well-accompanied by my six of my fifteen (I think) cats.
“How we behave towards cats here below, determines our status in heaven.”
— Robert A. Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) an American science fiction author, aeronautical engineer and naval officer. Together with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the «Big Three» of English-language science fiction authors. His works include Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
When I arrived back, my (destructive) mastiff puppies were only too pleased to help me untie my laces!
«The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.»
— Mark Twain; his real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), was an American writer, humourist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. He was lauded as the «greatest humourist the United States has produced», and «the father of American literature.” His novels included The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).
(However, judging by the above photo, I’m not so sure about the gentleman bit!)
Before I sign off though, I just wanted to share a site I found and now love on the homemade-crafts Etsy shop, called Costurero Real. No, I’m not promoting myself, nor a friend or relative, but just some lovely hair slides that I came across when looking for a clip for my hair. He or she does some beautiful work, and I’ll be buying the blue butterfly for my hair. It’s so pretty! I love butterflies, and though it might be a bit young for my age, I just can’t resist it! You can see his or her workby clicking here.
(I’m going to order the blue one). They also have leather leaves and moths and butterfly capes! All very lovely and woodlandy!
PS. I hope I’m not infringing any copyrights, but I think it’ll be alright as I am sort-of advertising for them…
Well, that’s all for now. As usual, your comments are always welcome, I love the interaction!
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…
Today is the day of the immigrant — and this is something I can identify with, as I too am an immigrant. It is something, that once started can be passed on from generation to generation: I emigrated to Cordova due to my husband’s health; my mother immigrated to London from Italy with her parents because of financial reasons — though first they tried their luck in Australia.
When my grandfather went over to Australia a second time with his brother (which entailed a long, arduous journey by boat, lasting a month), my grandmother and mother were due to follow, but unfortunately WWII broke out and they were separated — seven years passed before they were finally reunited, by which time my mother had grown into a young woman and felt her father quite a stranger. In his absence, my great grandfather (her mother’s father) had adopted the role of father and she grew extremely fond of him: he was a loving, sensible and very wise man, so much so that he was elected to be the mayor of their town in the Piemonti region. When he died a few years later, the whole town and neighbouring villages turned up at his funeral; but my mother and grandmother felt their world had collapsed.
After a few years had passed, my grandfather, or ‘nonno’ as we say in Italian, decided to up and leave Italy once again, looking for a better fortune in London. So my mother, together with her mother (my ‘nonna’) and uncle emigrated to London. They left their whole life behind them: friends, family, customs, climate, traditions, way of life, education… and so much more. My mother, being the only child just like her mother was an only child, felt the sharp and harsh contrast of the loneliness and lost feeling that an immigrant can feel. However, in the end, my grandparents had to go back to Italy because my nonno suffered from bad angina due to the smutty, London fogs. My mother was left behind in London where she had a stable job and where she had already met my father. Her future in that cold, grey city was soon signed and sealed.
Meanwhile, the story was much the same for my father and his family, with the exception that my ‘nonni’ (grandparents) went straight from the Trentino region in the Dolomites to London, with no detours. However, many relatives did head for America instead; hence my family is distributed far and wide. It was hard for my paternal grandparents too. When the war broke out, my father, grandfather and uncles were all interned in prison for a while until it could be proved that they weren’t Mussolini’s spies. So they also left behind everything they had, while trying to anglicise themselves (though my grandparent’s English was fairly poor as they always preferred to speak in their Italian dialect). The contrast between living in Italy and England was stark, what with the better weather and more laid-back approach of Italy as compared to the then colder, frostier climate and sterner way-of-life in England.
So when I look back and remember my earlier generations, I can sympathise with them: I too had to leave my country in search of a dry, arid climate. Though I am very fortunate in many more ways than one, I still feel the pinch after all these years of being an immigrant, always different to the rest, to not having your family round you nor there to support you and to mostly going it ‘alone’; this is felt even more so when you live in a small community like a village, where you see that most people have their ‘extended’ family around them. It is not easy either if you have had to give up your career or studies and adapt and retrain, redirecting the course of your life, or when you see the best friends you had gradually fade in the background due to not being able to physically meet up as often as before, or when you notice that part of your character may sometimes become muted by the sense of wistfulness and nostalgia… though, needless to say, much worse are those who leave because of wars, political instability, poverty and natural disasters — this is no comparison to my case.
However, I know that neither I nor my past generations were the only ones in this situation. Just in my catholic secondary school alone there were various nationalities and all were immigrants, also experiencing the same feelings. In my class there were Irish, Italians, Spanish, Czechs, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, Hongkongers, Indians, Sri Lankans, Africans, South Americans etc., etc., etc., (As you can see, I grew up with a wide mix of people, and great fun it was too, learning about other cultures and ways of life!) I know that their parents also felt the pinch of leaving everything behind. Many never grasped the language too well and continued to speak to their children in their mother tongues so the kids grew up learning their original language fluently. Even here in Cordova, which is much smaller than London, I know many immigrants: Moroccans, Syrians, Algerians, Dutch, Canadian, Chinese, Ghanaian, Senegalese, Turks, Colombians, Hondurans, Romanians, Pakistanis, Indians, Georgians, Israelis etc., etc., etc.
They and I are grateful for the opportunities, friendliness and accommodating ways that the host countries offer, as so too are our former generations, though generally when you are an immigrant, you do always feel a bit different… or at least those are my sentiments…
The important thing I have learnt from all this is:
to not to consider yourself too much,
to be ever-grateful of all you have,
to view other people as your family and to be like moving water, being able to flow past obstacles and always adapt, and
to be a child of God, a child of the world and another child, brother or sister in what is this, our vast, worldwide family.
Well, that’s it from me for now, but to end with, here’s a moving poem about immigrants:
“THINGS WE CARRY ON THE SEA” BY WANG PING (born 1957, Shanghai, China)
We carry tears in our eyes: good-bye father, good-bye mother
We carry soil in small bags: may home never fade in our hearts
We carry names, stories, memories of our villages, fields, boats
We carry scars from proxy wars of greed
We carry carnage of mining, droughts, floods, genocides
We carry dust of our families and neighbours incinerated in mushroom clouds
We carry our islands sinking under the sea
We carry our hands, feet, bones, hearts and best minds for a new life
We carry diplomas: medicine, engineer, nurse, education, math, poetry, even if they mean nothing to the other shore
We carry railroads, plantations, laundromats, bodegas, taco trucks, farms, factories, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, temples…built on our ancestors’ backs
We carry old homes along the spine, new dreams in our chests
We carry yesterday, today and tomorrow
We’re orphans of the wars forced upon us
We’re refugees of the sea rising from industrial wastes
And we carry our mother tongues 爱(ai)，حب (hubb), ליבע (libe), amor, love
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.
What an artistic village Posadas is! As I have mentioned before in my earlier blogs, there is a lot of art and craftwork, needlework, basket weaving, lace-making and crochet going on here (among other creative activities that I might have forgotten to mention). Some of theartwork, can be seen here; and earlier crochet projects (not including the Christmas work because it is out of season), here. Oh — for my crochet and lace-making classes to start once again!
However, in the photo below you can see the most recent example of the group’s crochet work: it is a large cross honouring Our Lady and Her month of May. In fact you can find many crosses that are on display for several days decorating the plazas, streets and shop windows all over Cordova; they are made up of a myriad of sweet-smelling flowers.
I remember often singing Bring flowers of the rarest hymn when I was living in England, since both my primary and secondary schools were catholic. (I also remember dear old Sister Carmela who used to nod off during our history class as she steadily munched her way through her McVitie’s digestives!).
Anyway, I have included the hymn below, for old times’ sake. I wonder how many of you remember it…
Happy month of May to all of you, even if it coming to a close!
Yep — it’s already 35° C here in Posadas (Cordova) and some of us are already feeling the heat!
“How we behave toward cats here below determines our status in heaven.” — Robert A. Heinlein US (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988)
Robert A. Heinlein was an American science fiction author, aeronautical engineer and naval officer. Known as the ‘dean of science fiction writers’, he, together with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke are often considered the «Big Three» of English-language science fiction authors.
He obviously had a higher understanding of cats too!
Since I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning, I decided not to linger in bed, entertaining endless thoughts in my head (that rhymes, doesn’t it?), but instead (and so does that), have an early cup of Tetley’s to rehydrate the brain and hopefully get it in some sort of working order — and if that failed, then have a invigorating shower followed by a healthy breakfast (of yoghurt with cut-up strawberries and bananas, plus raisins, mixed seeds, goji berries, all sprinkled over with cinnamon. Yummy!).
So I did all this, and finding myself pretty revitalised, despite my 5-hour night— (I was watching a documentary ‘til late on Hitler and the reaction of the different monarchies to him, the Nazis and the war) — I decided to go for an equally-invigorating walk along our country lane. Though the temperatures these days are reaching the 23°C mark, the morning temperatures are still fresh, around 8°C so it makes pleasant walking.
So off I set and what did I come across? The following photos will explain:
Now let me share with you what I have recently learnt about the pretty lupin:
The name comes from the Latin lupus, which means wolf, and the reason for the name is because it was believed that these flowers stole¸ cunningly like a wolf, the nutrients from the earth since they were commonly found on poor soils (the flowers that is, not the wolves). However, quite the opposite is true: lupins, like other legumes such as lentils, chick peas etc. actually enrich the soil and are useful for farming as they are high in nitrogen. Here in some traditional olive groves local to Posadas in the province of Cordova where the olives are picked by hand and not by machine, you can often see bushes of lentils, beans and chick peas that have been planted in rows between the trees. After the legumes have been harvested, the remaining plants will then be dug back into the soil in order to increase its fertility with all that added nitrogen.
Although lupins are part of the pea family, they are poisonous, containing toxic seeds and can therefore pose a threat to livestock and cattle. However, there is now the ‘sweet lupin’ a genetically-engineered variety of the original in which the toxic alkaloids have been removed. The beans of the lupin plant are edible and used for both human and cattle consumption. Australia is a major producer of these lupins
NOTE: you cannot eat just any lupin seeds from your garden or countryside the seeds must be processed first to remove the toxicity.
Lupin beans are a great favourite here in Spain (in fact in all the Mediterranean Basin countries, as well as North Africa and Latin America. They were also popular with the Incans, Native Americans, Romans and the Egyptian pharaohs too). Here, the lupin beans, or altramuces in Spanish, are often given as a free tapa in many bars (they are previously soaked until soft). Beware though: people who have a peanut allergy are fairly likely to be allergic to lupin beans too.
The beans are very nutritious and the extract from the seeds of the white lupin help the production of collagen, promoting cellular repair and growth. They are low in fat, gluten-free, rich in amino acids, antioxidants and fatty acids, high in fibre and contain protein too. They are also prebiotic. (I’ll think in future I’ll be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix — yippee, here comes super-woman!)
On a more mystical note, apart from their symbolism with wolves and the moon, the lupin represents happiness, imagination, creativity and admiration, also energising one’s inner strength. They represent hope for new opportunities too. (Yes, I’ll definitely be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix in the mornings, possibly soaking them first in a cup of Tetley’s to give them that extra kick!)
So, all in all, apart from being pretty and useful, lupins are also positive-meaning flowers, encouraging good cheer and hope. Something I wish for all of us.
But to finish with, here’s a poem about lupins bySeamus Heaney — poet, playwright and translator, lecturer and professor, (and one of nine children!), from a farming, cattle dealing and linen mill worker background.
Seamus Heaney (Ireland 13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013)
They stood. And stood for something. Just by standing. In waiting. Unavailable. But there For sure. Sure and unbending. Rose-fingered dawn’s and navy midnight’s flower.
Seed packets to begin with, pink and azure, Sifting lightness and small jittery promise: Lupin spires, erotics of the future, Lip-brush of the blue and earth’s deep purchase.
O pastel turrets, pods and tapering stalks That stood their ground for all our summer wending And even when they blanched would never balk. And none of this surpassed our understanding.
Just to say that I wasn’t able to write a usual mid-week blog because apart from my online teaching and writing work, I’ve been quite busy trying to prepare a few items for my online Etsy shop.
I have been inspired by the sudden explosion of springtime flowers here in Posadas (in the province of Cordova) which has happened a little earlier than usual.
There has also been a return of many species of birds, including my usual visitors, the hoopoe, blue tit and partridges (which will feature in my next blog…), as well as loads of bunnies and hares, little lambs and baby goats (already smelling of acidy milk!).
The things I don’t approve of (that is until they have reached their beautiful butterfly stage) are the caterpillars — we have been inundated with them! They have drilled into my iris flower buds, chomped their way steadily through my broad bean plantlets and are causing havoc to any budding grape vines which haven’t been previously sprayed. Now I don’t like to use pesticides or chemicals, so it is quite a normal sight for me to go rushing out into my garden and vegetable patch first thing in the morning (usually still in my fluffy pyjamas and mules) and run up and down the rows of plants, flicking off these furry creatures.
(I don’t know what our neighbour must think when he spies me from afar with his extra-strong binoculars, which I know he does because he did openly admit it one day when we were sat together having a leche manchada — milky coffee: his excuse is that he likes to invigilate our house as well as his for security reasons, as we do live out in the sticks a bit and we only have mastiffs and an adopted mongrel as alarms.)
Anyway, to cut a long story short, here are a couple of photos explaining what I’ve been up to since last we met…
And here is a merry little poem about spring (yes, I know I’m being a bit premature, but try telling that to the Cordobese flowers and bunnies!)
Spring by William Blake — (London 1757–1827) ‘Poet, painter, engraver, and visionary… considered one of the leading lights of English poetry’ — The Poetry Foundation.
“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are God. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are God.” — Christopher Hitchens (13 April 1949, Hampshire England – 15 December 2011).
Christopher Hitchens was certainly a very colourful man, as far as thinking, reasoning, debating and philosophy is concerned.
He was ‘an English intellectual, polemicist, and socio-political critic who expressed himself as an author, orator, essayist, journalist, and columnist. He was the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of over 30 books, including five collections of essays on culture, politics, and literature.’ (Wikipedia).
He was an anti-theist and his dictum,«What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence»is now known as Hitchen’s Razor.
In short, he was quite a character and as you can see from the above quote, he even went as far as discussing and concluding the differences between cats and dogs!
Thank you for reading. I hope this finds you well — take care!xxx