Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fiesta and the village comes together


Our home La Pasera is on the edge of Toriello, a small village about 5 Km from Ribadesella in the Spanish northern region of Asturias. Life in the main is very quiet with few cars passing by as villagers use it to take the children to school, commute to work or drive to nearby towns and cities. Other than for the occasional person who may walk or cycle past our home, we can easily go by days during which we would see very few people other than for those whom we may meet as we walk past at the time when they may be waiting for the bread to be delivered to their doorstep by one of the several bakers that serve the village.

The general peace and quiet of the village may be disturbed mainly by the occasional tractor driving past with fodder for the animal that graze the surrounding meadows or by a distant animal raising an alarm when threatened. 

The overall quiet feel alters when we come together to celebrate the two annual fiestas we have in the village. 

The first fiesta was celebrated last weekend was in honour of Our Lady of Fatima, one of the two patron saints. The other been St Martin which gets celebrated in mid November.

For the May fiesta, about a month before, the festivities committee visits every household asking for donations to help finance the event and the hiring of a big marquee in case of rain. The fiesta is always celebrated on the weekend that coincides with mid May.

On the Friday, the general peace of the village is broken when several rockets get fired up into the sky to herald that the effigy of Our Lady of Fatima is about to be taken to the neighbouring village where she will left overnight in the church.

Very early on Saturday morning, more rockets are fired to announce the big day and that the festivities committee is starting to work to ensure the remaining tasks are completed.

Just before midday, villagers and those visiting will be gathering to walk over the next village and bring back the effigy of Fatima. Many of the women, men and children taking part will be dressed in very fancy costumes. The ramu, a wooden structure covered with bread cakes, sweeties for the children and decorations will be also carried and after a hymn is sung in hour of Fatima we all return to the village where the fiesta continues before retiring home for linnch.

During the night. two bands will be playing music in the marquee where there is also a bar where people gather to have a good time and celebrate the coming together of a community until the early hours of the morning when the bands finish their merrymaking. The serving of hot chocolate heralds the end of the fiesta for those who had been partying all night and the return to quietness once more until the next fiesta in June when the village will once again gather to celebrate the Summer solstice with an evening "al fresco" picnic.

Wentworth and Gawber always welcome the passing of the fiesta taking away with it the influx of people, cars, loud noises and rockets although they seem to get immune to the loud bangs after a few rockets have gone off.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

The lusty month of May...

It's May, it's May, the lusty month of May...

What a start to the month, its been extremely busy with lots of jobs to do in and around the garden. The seedlings are progressing well and we'll soon be planting beans, marrow, cucumber and squash and kohlrabi. The peas, potatoes and beetroot have been in the ground for a few weeks now and are growing with vigour but the tomatoes have just not moved, probably due to the unseasonal cold weather and overcast days. The two new apple trees we planted are doing well and have set fruit so hopefully we will have an extended season of apples from this year on.

We've had an eventful month so far with Luis venturing out into the mountains both alone and with his brother Ruben, both in training for a 50 Km mountain walk on the 23rd May organised by El Soplao. You may remember Luis is seeking sponsorship for this and two other challenges he has set himself this Spring to raise monies for The Donkey Paradise here in Asturias - more of that later.

Earlier in the month it was World Nude Gardening Day and of course, Luis participated as he has done for the past three years. Fortunately, it wasn't too cold on the day and I managed to sneak a photograph when he wasn't looking...

The garden is looking very colourful at the moment with lots of plants in full flower both in the beds and rockeries. Lots of dead heading and cosmetic pruning takes up a bit of time but it extends the flowering period and helps keep debris and invaders down such as slugs, aphids and black fly. Fortunately we seem to have a healthy colony of ladybirds this year which is a great natural control.

We were rather disturbed to see a European Hornet in the garden. I managed to get a shot or two but I was wary of venturing too close as they have a nasty sting and can be aggressive.

Wentworth and Gawber the cats are recovering well from their recent illness although Gawber has ongoing eye problems that require regular check-ups and daily eye drops. He is such a timid cat and despite our efforts to re-assure him, he freaks at the site of the cat carrier and now is wary whenever we call him as he thinks the eye dropper is close at hand but it needs to be done.

Luis had a bike accident this week and managed to knock himself out. He ended up stopping in hospital overnight for neurological observations but was discharged the following day with some residual concussion and a few cuts and many bruises. He was given strict instructions to rest. I have told him the gardening will wait until the weekend...;-)

The Caring for Rosie Challenge to raise monies for Rosie the Donkey and her stable mates at El Paraiso del Burro is going great and we are overwhelmed and grateful to the many people who have donated and helped us to promote this worthy cause. So far we have raised £1000 and hope that with two challenges left to complete, we can raise another £250. We visited the donkey sanctuary today and it was great to see the donkeys out in the pastures enjoying the lush spring grass. If you could help us reach our target, please follow the link below on the photograph of Rosie or click on the Go Fund Me button.

Rosie enjoying the lush pastures at El Paraiso del Burro

Back to the lusty month of May, for those of you who don't know it it is the title of a song but do you know which one and from which musical (extra points if you can name the composers)? The lyrics sort of sum up our May but with only half the month gone, there is still time for more lusty goings on as the weather warms up and life in and around La Pasera brings with it new adventures and lasting memories.

Now back to that World Nude Gardening Day photograph...if you really want to see it scroll down..................................Surely that's worth a few £, € or $ towards the donkeys?

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Lizard tales...


From time to time you come across an unexpected sight that reminds you just how glorious nature really is. Finding lizard eggs and watching tiny, fully independent and perfectly formed young lizards eat through their protective shell was one such moment. Nestled in a pile of unused rubble we stumbled upon a collection of tiny eggs incubating in their damp and warm surroundings. 

As the tiny lizards emerged they gained warmth from the surrounding rocks and pavements, building up their energy to begin a life living in and around the rocks and rockery here at La Pasera. At this age they are fairly trusting and you can get close enough to admire these miniature dragons.

Since building and extending our rockery garden the number of lizards has increased as it is an ideal habitat with many underground cavities and lots of limestone outcrops from which to soak up the warmth and feast on passing insects. The lizard can often be seen pursuing each other through the peaks and troughs of the rockery, resting for a while and resuming the chase for a mate. 

At this time of year it is common to see adults begin to shed their skin as they grow year on year. With a fresh skin their scales soak up the midday sun as they cling on to the rough rocks with their hand-like claws.

Elsewhere in and around the bog garden is a different type of lizard (Lacerta schreiberi) that glows emerald green and is three times the size of the common garden lizard. These beautiful specimens are much harder to spot but when you do, you really cannot miss them.

Wentworth and Gawber the cats, like to torment the lizards whenever they can but it is rare they catch one and seem somewhat at a loss to understand what has happened when the lizard detaches its tail in defence, leaving it twitching on the ground and causing just enough distraction to make a quick escape. The tail always grows again and you can always spot those that have had the misfortune of an encounter.

Gawber and Wentworth are progressing well now so thank you for all your good wishes. Treatments continue and we are keeping a close eye on them until fully recovered.

We have a mosaic in the garden which Luis created to celebrate the lizards we share our plot with. As the sun shines, the amethyst eyes sparkle and the rings of pebbles frame the slate lizard perfectly.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dear Deer...

Dear Deer,

The other day whilst chatting to friends on Skype I spotted you out of the corner of my eye from the study window about to take a drink from our garden pond. It was lovely to see you in daylight as we normally only ever see you and other members of your herd on the trailcam at night and sometimes in the early morning as the mist is lifting.

With your slender frame, bright dark eyes, and your growing antlers you looked very handsome and quite relaxed given the time of day (late afternoon). You took a small drink from the pond but then moved on to the birdbath which you seemed to prefer. I wondered if you were the same deer I had to rescue from a farmer's dog a few weeks earlier when you were running around and around the garden seeking an escape route? It was fortunate I managed to stop the dog in its tracks by running between you both.

We often see you in the meadows surrounding La Pasera and it was only the other morning when three of your herd grazed the bottom field whilst we watched on and finished our breakfast. There is a lot to eat around the fields and meadows so whilst I don't mind you nibbling the odd raspberry leaf in our soft fruit bed, I really do draw a line at nibbled mange tout and orange tree leaves.

I never saw your sibling until you wandered down towards the winter lettuce and started jumping playfully. You make a splendid pair I must say. I managed to open the window without too much noise but only had my compact camera available but I think I got some reasonable shots of you both. I noticed that you also like one or two of our garden plants...

We realise that April is a more relaxed time for you now that the hunters have stopped harassing you with their dogs and guns, and that you are generally less stressed but if you continue to munch away on our food we might just have to put up some barriers to keep you out. I really wouldn't like to do that, so please take note. We loved your curiosity when you spotted the ceramic hare and wondered what you would make of the cats if you came across them?

You are welcome to visit as your forebears have done over the years but stick to the meadows for your snacks. Take care and safe journey little ones.

Best wishes

La Pasera