Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, Feliz Navidad.....

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We have had a good year here at La Pasera with bountiful harvests, welcome visits from friends and family, good health and breathtaking walks. Luis' craft blog has also exceeded expectations with over 750 visitors a week. We are constantly amazed at the number of people who look at and read our blog. From the UK, America, Malaysia, India, Romania...etc etc...30 different countries since the start of November.Why not get in touch or leave a comment, we would love to hear about your life and ideas. We wish you all a prosperous and healthy 2010. Have a great Christmas.  From all at La Pasera. x

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Reduce, re-use and recycle

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Our green credentials are open to question on so many fronts however, where possible we try and have as little impact on our environment as possible. We were recently given the opportunity to have a tour of the Cogersa Plant near Gijon and Aviles. This is the main processing plant for refuse in our part of the world. This came about as we are a part of a pilot scheme they have intiated on composting. After a few presentations from key people within Cogersa and from a regional government representative, we were toured around the plant and exhibition. We were impressed with their efforts - especially the sheds for composting massive amounts of green waste - equivalent to 4 or five football pitch sized buildings. Another highlight was the demonstration of Falconry by the resident Male and Female Falcons used to control the potentially huge population of seagulls. They were flown and enticed the dive to catch a lure.....very impressive birds. The refuse processing plant currently puts into landfill any waste it cannot process - this site is almost full and European Law prevents further sites being considered. The only solution being considered is an incinerator.




Friday, December 04, 2009

A rainy day at La Pasera

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The rain in Spain falls mainly.... Well, let me tell you that at times it seems that it should be: "the rain in Spain falls mainly in Asturias" That came to my mind this afternoon when I decided to go for a cycle ride in the rain. It had been raining all day and I wanted a change from mosaic making and chair caning. When I first set off, it looked as if the rain would stop and I thought that if it continued it would be nice to cycle in the warm rain. At the end it rained almost all the way. Todays route took me up some villages off the beaten track and to a small mountain. I would not like to guess how high but it was a smallish mountain to get me started on my training regime before I have a go at cycling up to the lakes that you find in the heart of the Picos National Park. It appears that the cycling route up to the lakes is the toughest in the cycling tour of Spain (La Vuelta ciclista) and I have decided to do it this month after Ian returns from his latest visit to the UK. Ian will provide my with an easier alternative way of going up as he will follow me with the car. In total, the route is about 20 K climbing nearly 3000 feet with an average 6'87% inclination and the greatest incline is at the site known as "La Huesera" (place of bones), 800 m between 12 and 15% ascent. Wish me good luck. If I succeed I will let you know when I do it. Needless to say how much I enjoyed a hot shower when I got back.
In spite of the rain and dripping with rain, I could not resist stopping at Saint Antolin´s beach on the way back to admire the views on a day when the sea was very rough. The photo shows the beach I am talking about on a sunny day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A walk to the cliffs of Hell

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One of the pleasures of life at La Pasera is the beauty of the landscape that we explore on a regular basis. One of our favourite walks takes you to the Cliffs of Hell - Acantilados del Infierno and Tomason (Tomason is shown in the photograph above).
Starting from La Pasera, we walk down the lane for a few meters until we join the famous pilgrim´s route to Galicia or "Camino de Santiago" (St James´ Walk). This is the coastal route that starts at the border with France, there is also an alternative route that takes you through the heart of Spain.
To walk to the cliffs we join the Camino de Santiago and soon leave behind the apple orchards that line the first part of the route. The apples have just been harvested to make the famous Asturian cider. Within a mile or so, we join a path to the right that leads you straight to the coast. As you walk past the meadows and hedgerows, you may come across some domestic animals grazing and if you are lucky enough a variety of wild animals and birds such as song birds, pheasant, deer, insects, lizards, snakes and a variety of raptors. With regards to the flora, it is very interesting to see many wild forms of plants and flowers we had in the garden in the UK. The wild flowers you come across on this walk are a treat and there is always some to be admired regardless of the season. The best time of the year for the meadow flowers is late Spring before the farmers cut the grass when the abundance and variety of flowers and especially the orchids is very impressive.
As you get closer to the coast, you can smell the sea and hear the waves pounding against the cliffs especially if the seas are rough and the waves crash over the cliffs.



This walk is very beautiful on a nice sunny day when we enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of the sea views. If you turn your back to the sea, you can admire the mountains. At times we just let time pass by while we observe the fishing boats and distant mountains. During a storm when the sea is rough, this walk offers a completely different experience with the drama of the sound and views of the rough sea as the next photos and video show. The coastline is littered with Bufones (blow holes) where sea water is forced through holes in the limestone - some of them are extremely dangerous and people have died in the past being blown of their feet - thrown up in the air and land on sharp jagged rocks.

video


Friday, November 20, 2009

Ladybirds in the garden

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There is no doubt that since we started gardening at La Pasera we have altered the nature of the original meadow where our home has been built. This change has been inevitable and to compensate for it, we try to garden in an environmentaly friendly manner incorporating practices that encourage biodiversity in the garden. To achieve this, we have created different environments or areas of interest to different sets of animals, insects and plants. A sign of encouragement is an increase in the number of ladybird sightings that we are experiencing. Let us hope that such an invaluable gardener´s ally continues to thrive in the garden.




Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Chestnut Fair

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Each year in Arriondas there is a large fiesta and fair to celebrate the chestnut harvest, vegetable produce and crafts. Running along side the chestnut fair is a two-day furniture and wood exhibition where local craftsmen and women exhibit their crafts and demonstrate their skills. We had a stall for chair seating restoration where I demonstrated Bergére cane work (under the watchful eye of Luis of course!) and Luis demonstrated rush work. We also took along various antique chairs that we had previously restored to sell. The weather this year was appalling with torrential rain and storm like winds, this resulted in fewer people coming along than previous years but never-the-less, many people did brave the storms and came along to see what was happening. We had a really productive fair making many contacts for future restoration work and we managed to sell a few chairs as well despite the downturn in the economy. The chair seating demonstration always attracts a crowd as it is a craft that has been lost over the past 3 or 4 generations. Many older visitors are thrilled to see us at work as they remember their fathers and grandfathers doing similar work. My dread is always being asked a load of questions that I am unable to either understand or reply to. Luckily I have a few stock phrases I can resort to otherwise it is over to Luis to answer the more detailed questions. The other artisans at the fair included wood carvers (a big tradition of woodcarving here in Asturias), furniture restorers, model makers and furniture makers. This year we took along a collection box for the Donkey Sanctuary we are involved with and made a point of asking for a donation if the visitors wanted to take a picture of us at work. Other aspects of the chestnut fair included exhibition of chestnuts and garden produce (I never realised there were so many different varieties of chestnuts), general crafts, cheeses, traditional Asturian games and dancing, music and drinking. All in all, despite the weather everyone had a great time. Nigel from the Hotel Posada del Valle has written a great overview of the fair on his blog which is worth reading. We are already booked for next years fair.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Mushroom Hunt

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The autumn weather is perfect for mushrooms and fungi. Each year we endeavour to seek out and find edible mushrooms that we are 100% sure of. Basically, there are only 3-4 varieties that we would be confident in collecting and eating and only then with set criteria that is verified by our guidebook. The cliffs near La Pasera are great hunting ground and with a short burst of autumnal rain followed by warm humid sunshine the timing was perfect for the hunt. Setting off early in the morning with knife, binoculars, basket and guidebook, we took the Camino de Santiago (just down the lane from La Pasera) and made our way across the fields and meadows. It wasn't long before we spotted in a corner of a distant field something that we recognised as Macro Lepiota Procera - the parasol mushroom (this is where the binoculars come in very useful). We didn't find much else that day but were pleased with the harvest - cleaned, sliced and sautéed, sprinkled with a touch of sea salt - perfect. Unless you are 100% sure about picking wild mushrooms, then stick with the greengrocers - many people die or become seriously ill each year through over confidence or ignorance.


Friday, October 30, 2009

El Paraiso del Burro

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We recently met lovely a Dutch lady called Marleen who has relocated to Spain after retirement as a teacher in Holland. She bought a large area of land here in Asturias and opened up a sanctuary for old and retired Donkeys. We have decided to try and help out a bit by promoting the sanctuary and helping her and the volunteers to raise funds and attract other volunteers. Marleen works extremely hard and not only looks after 17 Donkeys, 3 horses, 4 dogs and two cats, but also cooks for and looks out for the volunteers she has visiting and helping out. There is always a lot of land management work to be carried out such as repairing fences, collecting apples, clearing brambles, tending trees and excavating dumped rubbish. The Donkeys also require daily care: grooming, feeding and watering, stables need to be cleaned and healthcare needs are monitored. The Paradise for Donkeys (El Paradiso del Burro), is situated in a lush green valley covering 8 hectares and has extensive meadows, large apple orchards and several wooded copse. We are currently working on developing the website and preparing a bi-lingual blog so have a look at the link and bookmark it for future use.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One of our coastal walks

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We are lucky that our house is very near the Oriental Coast of Asturias, a well known stretch of the asturian coast that is famous both for its numerous sandy beaches and its dramatic limestone cliffs, over 50km of coast stretching from the boundary between Asturias with Cantabria in the east to Ribadesella further west, Ribadesella is the municipal district where we live. If you continue along the coast from Ribadesella, further west, you will enjoy many long sandy beaches but the cliffs are not as impressive.
We have always enjoyed walking and from La Pasera there are several walks that we can choose from that will take us along the coast.
One of our favourite walks takes us to a bay where the Guadamia river meets the sea, where there is a nice picnic area, a lovely sandy (but tidal) beach, excellent views of the mountains, the cliffs and the coast. Sometimes we walk there following the quiet country lanes whilst other times we walk through our village and pass the little chapel to a path that will lead us to the spectacular cliffs and eventually to the picnic area were we can sit and enjoy the views. It is always a pleasant and enjoyable experience to walk to Guadamia whether you do so along the cliffs or the lanes. Sometimes when we conicide with low tides we walk along the beach and river banks where we occasionally see a kingfisher, quite often you just notice its bright blue plumage as it flies along the river. In Summer we sometimes take a towel and go for a swim in the sea before we return home.
The views of the sea, the cliffs and the mountains are always impressive. Today we are having rough seas and we decided to walk up to the coast and enjoyed watching the strong sea crashing againts the cliffs with the waves coming over the cliffs. Today we also had spectacular Bufones, these are plumes or blow holes of sea water vapour coming up the ground, through fissures in the limestone - mostly when the rough seas coincide with the autumn and Spring high incoming tides. You can also hear the noise that the water and wind make as it rushes through the numerous bufones near Guadamia. We can hear them at night breathing like a distant dragon. In a different blog entry I will tell you of another of our local walks further west towards Ribadesella that takes us to The Cliffs of Hell.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Autumn Harvest

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The winds have arrived together with brilliant sunshine and spectacular clouds. There is an early morning and late evening chill in the air and the leaves are losing their shades of green. We have collected many walnuts and hazelnuts from around the caminos and picked figs for jam from trees around the village. No-one locally uses very much fruit apart from apples for cider and a few for eating, therefore lots to be had for free. We have undertaken several walks in the Redes National Park, the coast and the woodland of Peloño in Ponga. We were hoping to see the autumnal colours in the beech forests but we were probably a couple of weeks too early. We did however see some beautiful semi-wild horses and some fantastic landscapes.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Autumn

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The light has changed recently and now has an Autumnal glow that has altered the colours of nature. Here are few pictures taken on local walks. Click on each picture to get a bigger view.




Monday, September 21, 2009

Dragonfly

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Now the pond is becoming established: pond weeds, fish, water-skaters, water beetles, larvae....etc, we have noticed a growing number of dragonflies checking out the pond and the most appropriate places for it to lay its eggs. There are several varieties visiting regularly however, the most spectacular at anything up to 8cms long is this little beauty. A daily visitor and egg layer at the moment. This lady and others, face and have faced arial cat fights with Gawber - sometime the cat wins, sometimes the dragonfly. Beautiful creatures.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Food

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September is a busy time of year with food processing taking up many hours in the kitchen. There's tomatoes to skin, de-seed and pulp ready for Passata (concentrate of tomato with onion, oregano and garlic) Beetroot to boil and bottle, Soups aplenty to concoct and freeze, aubergines to stuff, slice for Moussaka and dice to make pâté from. Herbs to harvest and dry, along with Beans ready for stripping later in the month. Bread is a reoccurring event with 5 large loaves made at a time using a mix of white and wholemeal flour, seed mix and occaisionally added herbs. Sloes to be collected for Sloe Gin and blackberries for jams and blackberry brandy. Jam season continues as various fruits ripen: damsons, greengage, figs, apples and green tomato for jam. Pickles are high on the food agenda as well with a large batch of Piccalilli, Indian Spiced fruit chutney and pickled chilli peppers. We have also started to make our own stock cubes comprising of parsley, red and green pepper, onion and garlic, blitzed in a processor and then frozen as quenelles to add to sauces, soups and casseroles as required. With salt, pepper, herbs and spices to taste they are a convenient and healthier option to the bought cubes.


Qué aproveche!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Walking in Asturias

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Picos de Europa Mountains - Western Massif

Walking is a hobby that we have always enjoyed and since arriving at La pasera, we have continued to enjoy. Asturias has a very varied, beautiful and dramatic countryside - nestled between the Cantabrian Sea and the Picos de Europa Mountains. You can choose to walk along the coast with its magnificent cliffs, cross its numerous pastures, venture into its lush woodlands, climb one of its many peaks, or follow the Camino de Santiago (St Jame´s Way) running the length of the north coast and a just few meters from La Pasera.
One of the limitations of walking in Asturias is the lack of good descriptions and detailed maps. In terms of the paths, some are very good and well marked but overall, especially when you head into the mountains, remote areas or less well known trails you need to have a good map as the path often follows the tracks that animals use and the waymarking is not very clear. On future blogs we will be sharing with you some of the walks we know and have done.
Many people visiting Asturias tend to head for the mountains and aim to walk along the very popular and well known Cares Gorge Path, it is very impressive and runs within the heart of the Picos National Park. Another well known walk as previously mentioned is the Camino de Santiago.
Her at La Pasera, we continue to enjoy and discover many walks both locally and around the region. Starting at La Pasera, we have some impressive walking opportunities along the cliffs, through the many villages and across the countryside near us. Within a short drive we we have enjoyed different walks in the Picos National Park and the many beautuful beaches.
Walking gives us an opportunity not only to discover new areas but also to appreciate the abundant wildlife, flora and culture.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blackberry and apple jam

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As you know, we have been making our own bread from some time. For breakfast, we enjoy home-baked bread, toasted with a good helping of one of our home made jams. With the arrival of the first ripened blackberries we are busy picking them regularly from the hedgerows along the Camino de Santiago (St James' Path) near home at La Pasera.... we have started the jam making season.

The first batch of blackberry jam is already cooked and bottled up. Our jams are made using fruits and sugar, there are no additives or preservatives. To make the jams, we add sugar to the fruit in a ratio of 500g of sugar for every 1kg of fruit, 250g of apple per kg of blackberries was also added this time, in total we used 2.5 kg of fruit. Once the jam has been boiled and cooked we test it to ensure it sets before it is put in the jars. In previous years we have sealed them and used a bain marie to create a vacuum to help preserve the jam. A reduced amount of sugar in our jam recipes makes it healthier (if you do not end up eating more of it!) but requires extra care to preserve it.


Last year we discovered that in Spain many people use wax to seal and preserve the jam once in the jars. This year we are giving it a go for all the Jams, as last year we experimented with a few jars and it seemed to work very well. In addition to blackberry and apple jam, we will also make jam with a local small and very tasty peach, figs, plums, greengage, quince, raspberry and orange. Fig jam is an all time favourite followed by orange jam (that also goes extremely well in a chocolate and orange cake we sometimes bake). It is a big job to make all the jam but we think it is worth the effort, it is so much better that commercial jams often made with added preservatives, colourants and a greater proportion of sugar, besides they do not taste as good as our own....




La Pasera seen from the bottom field:

Friday, August 21, 2009

First steps

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Hello to everyone. I hope that you are enjoying the Summer and that the weather is good. Here at La pasera we continue having a hot Summer in spite of the regular and short lived rainy spells that help to reduce the amount of watering we need to do. We have just said goodbye to Laura my youngest niece, 20 months old, who came to visit us with her parents Cesar (my brother) and Dioni. Laura loved Wentworth and Gawber but the cats kept their distance as they found the baby was too boisterous for them. She is a very lively baby and was fascinated by the flowers, the insects and the animals that surround us. We had to keep her well away from the pond as she loves water as you can see from the short clip showing Laura´s taking her first steps on the beach and also running along Santa Marina beach in Ribadesella, 5 km from home. video

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Water for the wildlife

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Having lived with a garden pond for many years, it was always our aim to create one here at La Pasera. We bought pond liner before moving here in the knowledge that one day we would create a small watery haven for wildlife. The area has few natural fresh water areas but an abundance of amphibians including frogs, salamanders and toads. Whilst out walking you can often see tractor tyre tracks with numerous tadpoles fighting for survival. We have designed the pond to encourage amphibians, water beetles, dragonfly and damselfly, birds and other creatures that need a constant supply of fresh water. The short slide show illustrates the construction of the pond and shows various environments that allow access to the water - a pebble beach, rocks and pebble outcrops and grass verge. The pond is small but large enough to sustain water levels and balance. We have installed a small solar powered fountain to help maintain the oxygenation of the water and planted several types of water loving plants including a large bundle of oxygenating weed that I got from my Dad's pond. The fountain is gentle but helps to add sound and movement to the area. With the addition of a small bundle of Barley straw, we have soon seen the water become crystal clear and teaming with insect life including water beetles, water boatmen and water snail. Sadly there doesn't seem to be any evidence of developing tadpoles - maybe they have been eaten by the beetles? We have however, spotted several tiny baby toads in the bog garden that now adjoins the pond. The bird life frequently use the pebble beach to bathe and drink with the Jays being the most acrobatic - holding onto the grass bank with one foot/claw whilst dipping in and quickly out of the water. The pond area now needs planting up and allowing time to establish. We sited the pond in an area that enables the bog garden to thrive and which is the natural drainage area for water that will drain from the patio and higher garden. Wentworth and Gawber have now decided to use the pond as a daily source of drinking water preferring it to the flouride rich tap water that serves the village. Throughout the build of the pond Gawber has been with us at every stage, carefully examining every new stone, sniffing every new plant and deliberating just how far he can venture into this mirrored moving mass that has swimming beetles and insects that can walk on water.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Freshly picked vegetables

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I recently read a news item reporting on research that looked at whether or not there was any differences between organically and non-organically produced vegetables from a nutritional view point. That particular study showed that there are no nutritional differences, I personally question the results and would find it interesting to be able to read the research to make up my own mind regarding its validity.
Eveyone has a choice to make but for me, knowing that it has been produced organically, free from pesticides and other chemicals is reassuring, as the news item never reported on the long term effect on health of such chemicals. And as for the nutritional value, I know that our freshly produced organic fruit and vegetable always, without exception, tastes better than under-ripe and bland supermarket produce - Nutritionally different? Maybe not according to the study, but we know which type of vegetable we will always favour.
Summer continues to be busy with each morning having to pick a range of seasonal produce. At the moment we are gathering french beans, celery, carrots, salad crops, beetroot, leeks, peppers, tomatoes and raspberries.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Summertime and the living is easy...

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Today I would like to tell you some of the things I have done or seen while Ian has been in the UK. Not all has been work, in fact I must confess that I have done little work as the weather has been very nice and hot. I have been swimming in the sea at Torimbia beach several times. The beach shown in the pic is Torimbia as you approach it from the east, the nicest beach in Asturias. The photo does not do justice to it. I have been cycling to get there as it is a few miles away, a nice 90 minute run with a challenging up hill stretch. I have also been walking with a neighbour around the lanes leading to the coast. On less hot days I went cycling and one day I cycled along the road that runs parallel to the river Sella, very nice and not a difficult run. I extended this ride further than first anticipated and ended doing 40 miles before lunch. It was a treat to stop for a snack outside the pre-romanesque church of Saint Peter of Villanueva at the Parador of Cangas de Onis.

In the garden I have done a bit of work before it got too hot - improving and preparing the soil behind the front wall to create a herb garden. The garden is looking very good and in the photo of the garden you can appreciate the beauty of Ian´s design.
What has been very pleasant has been to sit and relax during the midday hours away from the sun relaxing with some music and a book. Wentworth and Gawber have also avoided the midday heat and several days they "fell asleep amongst the flowers for a couple of hours on a beautiful day" as the song goes. I hope you are also enjoying the Summer.