Thursday, November 28, 2013

The geese/cranes fly south

The weather has turned cold here in Asturias with snow on the mountains, rain on the lowlands and winds making their presence known as they travel east from the Atlantic through the Bay of Biscay. It has been a bit too wet to do very much at all in the garden but today the sun is shining bright and out of the shadows, the warmth is welcome. One bonus of the cooler weather is that the Acers are in full glorious colour and look wonderful.

We have been collecting leaves and composting them to make valuable leaf mould for next year. The green oats we have sown for green manure are sprouting and the vegetable garden is still producing a healthy crop of leeks, flower sprouts, endive, beetroot, celeriac, chard, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot and fennel. The early sprouting broccoli suffered early on with rot at the tips but has recovered a little.

The cats Wentworth and Gawber are spending increasing amounts of time indoors and it does not take them long to suss out if the fires are lit or not. This little clip shows them play fighting in the garden, taking the opportunity to enjoy the brief spell of sunny weather.

There is still plenty of wildlife activity in the garden with visits from the pine marten, many birds and insects. You can following the visiting creatures on our other supplementary blog Smaller tales from Toriello. 

Luis is back from Ravenna and in full scale mosaic production. Needless to say he is full of new ideas and energy and is currently finishing fish and water-lily mosaics for the terrace and a sculptural mosaic he started a few months ago. He is currently writing an article about his Ravenna trip for an online mosaic site which I will publish the link to when it is up and visible.

We have seen several formations of geese/cranes flying overhead but as is always the case, I never have the camera or right lens to hand when we spot them.  I did manage to get one not too clear photo and hope to spot them again soon...

footnote: a friend from France says these could be Gru (cranes) I think she might be right. What do you think?

Friday, November 22, 2013

My trip to visit Ravenna Mosaico 2013


Ravenna in northern Italy is considered worldwide to be one of the main centers for contemporary mosaic art; a place where many mosaic artists work and teach this craft and art. When visiting Ravenna, in addition to the beautiful Byzantine mosaics that adorn seven UNESCO World Heritage sites you can also appreciate the beauty of classic Roman mosaics as well as modern and contemporary ones.

This year, Ravenna was celebrating the third edition of  a two yearly event called "Ravenna Mosaico" with multiple events related to contemporary mosaic art at an international level. This year I had the opportunity to travel to Ravenna during this event. I visited the famous Byzantine mosaics, the numerous mosaics spread throughout several temporary and permanent mosaic exhibitions. I also arranged to visit some mosaic schools and studios with the view of taking a mosaic course in the future. A highlight for me was when I met some artists who live there and with whom I had been in contact over the last few years via the Internet. In fact, some of the mosaicists living in the city happen to be some of my most admired artists worldwide.

Visiting both old and modern mosaics, provided me with an opportunity to admire an art that has endured the passage of time and closely study both technical and aesthetic aspects related to mosaic making.

You cannot imagine my surprise when I accidentally discovered a mosaic studio and as I went in I met Marco de Luca, an internationally recognized artist whose work I greatly admire. To stand there admiring mosaics belonging to his private collection while he was telling me all about them was an unexpected pleasure I never dreamt of experiencing.

Earlier on in the day I had been invited to a private viewing of a mosaic exhibition in the company of the editors of Mosaique Magazine CaCO3 studios. I enjoyed my exchange of comments with the editors about a particular work of art whose creator I would later on meet in person.

Another highlight was meeting Sergio Policicchio a young artist I believe will become a great influence within contemporary mosaic art. He approached me while visiting an exhibition and offered to show me his other works exhibited elsewhere.

Sergio Policicchio

I value the opportunity I had to spend some time with a local artist and one of my mosaic Internet- based friends, Rosanna Fattorini, with whom I exchanged thoughts and  impressions on the mosaics exhibited within two of the main exhibitions: "Works from the World" and "Crossing times". In the exhibition "Works from the World" I was able to appreciate examples of the work from several other artists I greatly admire while discovering some exciting artists whose work I fell in love with instantly.

Rosanna Fattorini- detail

To Rosanna I am so thankful for taking me to visit Sergio Cicognani, her friend,  mosaic teacher and worldwide respected artist who was involved in the restoration of the Byzantine mosaics the World Heritage sites in Ravenna and other parts of Italy. The stone cubes or tesserae he gave me and the glass I received from Rosanna decorated by herself with gold leaf and paint colours and that she normally uses in her creations is something I look forward to incorporating in a future mosaic.

The numerous photos I took of particular mosaics, the books, detailed postcards, magazines and catalogues of exhibitions I bought and collected, some with a personal dedication from the artist, will provide me with a wealth of information that I will benefit from during the next stage of my mosaic making.

The homage to the artist Iliya Iliev, that the International Association of Contemporary Mosaists  had arranged gave me the opportunity to admire in person, many of the works of another of my most admired contemporary mosaic artists. Shame we did not coincide in Ravenna so that I could have met him in person. Iliya is another of my Internet contacts from one of the international mosaic sites I belong to.

Iliya Iliev

I had a great time in the beautiful city of Ravenna and enjoyed its culture, cuisine, ice cream and its gentle pace. The best Italian meal during my trip was by far the one I had when Rosanna and her husband welcomed me into their home. With the most aromatic limonchelo I have ever had we said goodbye to the memorable time I spent thanks to Rosanna. In a few words, the trip to Ravenna Mosaico 2013 surpassed my expectations. There are still many great mosaics I would love to see in person one day and more trips to plan... one day.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dehydrating apples


We love apples all year round. They are always present in the fruit bowl or protected in the store-room ready for ripening and eating. This year, our own trees didn't produce well at all and we had very little viable fruit that grew to harvest. Fortunately our neighbours in the village who are very generous have dropped off a couple of crates of small apples for us to enjoy.

The apples are sweet and very edible despite their diminutive appearance. We have made apple compote with some of them, eaten many and decided to try dehydrating a few to use as a snack for when we go out walking.

The apples were washed, cored and sliced into 1/4 inch slices, dipped in lemon and water (to prevent oxidisation), popped into the dehydrator for 10 hours then vacuum packed. We don't peel ours as we like the texture of the skin. This time I used powdered cinnamon on one tray of apple as an experiment. So far so good, a few bags of dehydrated apple slices we can enjoy later in the year. Early quality control measures indicate: sweet and fruity, a great texture with a bit of a bite and a touch of acidity - perfect.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013



As autumn deepens and the trees and bushes are stripped of their leaves, the flocks of greenfinch take refuge in the highest canopy, flitting from tree to tree and darting down to refresh themselves in the bird baths and ponds.

The weather is decidedly cool at times and in readiness for cool evenings we have been organising the wood-store. This has been a lot of hard work this year for a couple of reasons. Firstly we had to move all the wood we had in store to enable the painters to paint the studio and garage; the wood-store runs the full length of the rear wall (10m). Secondly, we also had cut and split many of the pieces we had in store. Many were far too big; the wood-man brought the wrong size earlier on in the year. Looking on the bright side, reducing the size of the stock gave us plenty of wood for the log burner we have in the studio which is much smaller than the one in the house.

It doesn't take long really, we cut with a chainsaw and split with an axe but it does let your muscles know they have done a bit of hard work. We have a good selection of oak, ash, eucalyptus and beech. This year we have just enough small kindling wood to start the fires but may need to collect more before the end of the season.

Luis is on a tour of mosaics exhibitions and installation in Ravenna, Italy at the moment so I am busy catching up with all the little admin type jobs that seem to mount up over time and pottering about the garden tidying up and cutting back. You can catch up with his travels here on his mosaic blog, he is posting daily.

Use Google translate if you want to hear what he has to say or just enjoy the photos. Ciao ....


Friday, November 08, 2013

The power of the flower

With the weather fluctuating between cold, blowy and damp through to warm, sunny and still, it is good to see some colour in the garden. Even on the dullest of days the sight of flowers, turning leaves and drying seed heads seems to lift the spirit.

The longer flowering season here at La Pasera results in having some flowers around most of the year, if not in the ground, then in pots and tubs.

The Christmas Cactus is in full glorious bloom at the beginning of November; flowering for the next 3-4 weeks if we are lucky. In past years it has had a second flowering around Christmas time so make of that what you will...

The Yucca is looking very regal at the moment with its long erect stem of jersey cream flowers contrasting sharply with the gold, red and deep purple leaves of the nearby acers.

The rockery plants have taken well and are beginning to spread amongst the crevices between rocks.

The insects are still visiting but in fewer numbers, a last ditched attempt to harvest reserves, lay eggs or find nesting grounds. Pollination continues.

The next opportunity you have, don't forget to look into the eye of a flower and let it lift your spirits.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The weather takes a turn...

The cats know when the weather is about to change, you can tell by the change in their behaviour. They become excitable as the breeze gather pace and their sense of smell is heightened with the rising humidity. Both Wentworth and Gawber change their routine and reside themselves to the fact that rain and colder weather is on it's way, despite the brief periods of warm sunshine. They don't venture far and take their comfort inside when necessary.

The gathering clouds signals stormy weather ahead. The winds gain momentum and sheets of strong cool rain advance across the meadows.

The remaining sweet chestnuts are blown from the branches, protected by their bright green but dying spiky casing. The seed-heads release their seed as they rock to and fro in the gathering winds.

Roe deer take greater risks due to increased hunting activity. These two were spotted in the garden at lunchtime - most unusual.

Daily walks to the coast now have a new incentive, with storms out at sea and the high autumnal tides bringing life to the many blow-holes formed in and amongst the jagged limestone cliffs. A high tide of nearly 5 meters ensures a spectacular display of 200 meter plus plumes of sea water and sand ex-pulsed into the air only for the wind to disperse.

Luis on the cliffs watching the blow-holes; some of them reaching 200 meters high. You can just see the people and cars on the other side of the cliffs.