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.

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.