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…
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!!!
Sorry, it’s short and sweet this time, because at 45° C (113° F) it’s far too hot to sit up and write. (The air conditioning has to go off at 5:30 in the afternoon because we rely on solar panels and electricity’s limited!…..)
Even the cat had to find a cool place to sit!…
“Cats have it all — admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it.”
—Rod McKuen(April 29, 1933 – January 29, 2015) (American singer-songwriter, actor and poet, Stanyan Street & Other Sorrows)
Hello again everyone! Sorry for the break, but as I explained previously I’ve been rather busy translating lately and couldn’t spend more time with my eyes glues to the screen.
However, today I took advantage of the cooler (28 °C) windier weather to go for a long drive up to the local sierra of Hornachuelos to visit a convent, Nuestra Señora de la Sierra in the area of San Calixto, lying almost in the middle of nowhere.
It’s surrounded by vegetation that ranges from open fields, olive groves, shrubs such as wild cistus, pistacia mastic and terebinthus, as well as old holm oak trees and cork oaks that have recently been stripped of their bark. (For more about the vegetation of the Hornachuelos Nature Reserve and its haunted monastery you can see my previous blog.)
The story of this particular convent goes back to the 16th century. It is said to have been founded by two monks who, after wandering the Sierra looking for a suitable place to make their sanctuary, finally came to rest in a hilly area full of thistles (cardos), high above the flood zone of the Bembézar River. Knowledge of their fervorous, holy pursuit spread, and they were soon joined by other hermits.
For shelter, they made a hut out of rockrose branches where they placed their image of Saint Michael. Eventually, in 1543, they founded the Monastery of San Basilio del Tardón. (It is said that Tardon derives from Cardón, which was the name given to this area by the monks. It is a derivative of cardo, or ‘thistle’, and refers to the thistle-covered hill where they lived.)
The monastery was inhabited by monks until 1808. A few years later, Francisco Sánchez, a Knight of the Order of Charles III was granted permission to build a hamlet on all the surrounding (thistly) land of Cardón/Tardón. He named the areaSan Calixto. Over the years the hamlet grew in size, and by the mid-19th century its population rose to a hundred and fifty. The village now boasted its own town hall, prison, communal oven and a posada (an inn). (San Calixto lies at about eleven miles above Hornachuelos, passing the visitor centre, Huerta del Rey.)
However, bit by bit the area and monastery fell into abandonment, perhaps due to its isolated location. It was not until 1940 that the hamlet and all the surrounding areas were bought by the marquis. As a result, the desolated, spiritual ground was resuscitated. This time though, a convent was constructed over the ruins of the ancient monastery, and was baptised Convento de las Carmelitas Descalzas de Nuestra Señora de la Sierra(Convent of the Barefoot Carmelites of Our Lady of the Sierra—a bit of a mouthful!).
Today, the convent serves as a spiritual retreat and tourist attraction, alluring many visitors with its fascinating charm and beauty. Two important guests included the former Belgium monarchs, King Balduino y Queen Fabiola. (They were related to the marquises via Fabiola, who was originally a Madrid-born Spanish aristocrat). The royal couple spent their honeymoon there in 1960.
Additionally, another attraction of this convent is the handiwork products that you can purchase, which are made by the nuns. These ladies-of-the-cloth are extremely talented in needlework and other crafts, employing local materials such as cork from the indigenous alcornoque oak trees, as well as wool, fur and antlers from the animals that inhabit the land. They also grow their own vegetables.
(A little word of advice here: if you do ring at the door of this convent wanting to have a look at their products, don’t be surprised when you are answered by a thin, delicate voice that glides out from the holes in the iron-grate window; it greets the visitor while at the same time pays homage to the Virgin Mary, murmuring piously, ‘Ave María Purissima’, to which the knowledgeable visitor is expected to reply, ‘sin pecado concebida’, meaning ‘conceived without sin’. However, if you are not so well-versed in devotional greetings—like I wasn’t—then you might just reply with an irreverent ‘¡Buenos días!’ So be warned!)
Well, that’s all for now folks! Thanks for bearing with me and my fabulous photography (ha ha!).
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!
I left early for my morning walk the other day because the sun’s already quite piquant and temperatures were forecasted to rise to 35° C = 95° F — yippee and yikes!
I came across lots of curry plant that’s in full flower, and yes, it certainly does smell of curry, and no, I don’t use it in my cooking, although I should really, and below you’ll see why.
The proper name for this plant is Helichrysum italicum (which I had to copy and paste because I didn’t trust myself with correctly reproducing these words if physically written out).
Well, after I did some research into this plant I realised just how rich it is in beneficial properties and below are just some of them:
According to the UIC Heritage Garden‘The curry plant is well-known for the oil extracted from its flowers. The oil has medicinal properties that can heal burned skin or chapped lips. It serves as an anti-inflammatory and fungicidal astringent for skin’.
Additionally, it is used as an anticoagulant, can reduce the risk of heart attacks, dissolve blood clots and can be used to treat coughing and fever. The oil also reduces anxiety and stress; it helps fade scars, heal cuts or wounds and can be used as a moisturizer.
As far as food is concerned, the plant’s young shoots and leaves are used in Mediterranean dishes for salads and to give meat, fish, or vegetable flavour, the flowers for herbal tea and the oil used as flavouring in ice creams, sweets, drinks, baked food, chewing gum etc.
So the conclusion is… I guess I’ll be using this plant after all!
I’d just like to end with this quote from the theoretical physicist Einstein(taken from a long list of his many very interesting quotes). Though, ‘What has Einstein got to do with the curry plant?’ I hear you ask. Well, as far as I know — nothing! It’s just that I was doing Einstein in my English conversation class the other day, and we were reading some of his quotes. So here it is:
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
— Albert Einstein (Born: 14 March 1879 Wurttemberg, German Empire — died: 18 April 1955, aged 76, New Jersey U.S.)