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


Thursday, April 16, 2015

They're only cats...

We've had a difficult few days with Wentworth (Black) and Gawber (Tabby) the cats. About 10 days ago Wentworth came home from his daily wanderings and was obviously sore on his tail and whimpered whenever we went near him. This is a sure sign he had been in a fight with another cat during his nightly adventures. This isn't the first time he has had such problems and we are very used to the process of bite, abscess formation, localised hair loss, abscess bursting, cleaning, scab formation and healing. This time it was a bit different.

After three days the abscess grew and grew, hair loss was significant in and around the bite/s and Wentworth became subdued and generally unwell. It was clear from the amount of scratches on his body and from closer inspection of his tail, that this time it had been a significant fight and he was suffering much more than usual; a trip to the vets was indicated. On examination he had three puncture wounds on his tail and three abscesses. He was given antibiotic cover and a pain killer before having them drained and flushed out with hydrogen peroxide. With instructions to remove the scabs as they formed and continue to drain any puss formation we took him home, grounded him and continued with the treatment regime. Poor little thing (he is only very slight for a male cat), he was very sore and hated our interference with his very inflamed tail. With regular anti-inflammatory medication and wound cleansing his tail began to heal.

We became concerned that despite healing well, he was sleeping for much more than usual and he had developed very watery eyes, sneezing and a build up of mucus in his upper respiratory tract. Apart from the odd bit of yogurt and water, he wasn't eating. We did some research and talked to the vet and concluded that it could be a viral infection passed on from the cat which he had fought with. The antibiotics would give him cover for any subsequent bacterial infections so it was just case of tender loving care and wait and see. Unfortunately we suspected that if it was viral, Gawber, his brother, was also at risk. Sure enough two days later Gawber started becoming unwell.

At first he just seemed to have a bit of a cough and would sit with his neck slumped and his mouth open. He went off his food and wouldn't drink. It was weekend and by the Sunday we were really concerned for his prognosis without intervention, so the emergency vet was called. On examination Gawber was found to have an extremely inflamed pharynx resulting in difficulty swallowing, a lot of pain and respiratory difficulties. Injections of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications were given. With instructions to contact the vet if he should deteriorate, we set about trying to keep him hydrated and comfortable along with his brother Wentworth. When ill, cats can deteriorate very quickly.

Gawber's condition deteriorated rapidly and on Monday we took him back to the vets where a decision was made to give him a stat dose of steroids by injection. It was a worrying 24 hours and distressing to see him gasping, vomiting and extremely subdued. Thankfully he began to show signs of improvement by Wednesday and began to voluntarily drink water. He is now back eating soft food and beginning to recover well as is Wentworth. They both now have runny noses, weepy eyes and frequent sneezing but are doing well. We've been back to the vets today and she is pleased with Gawber's progress. With a couple more weeks of TLC, good food and a few extra vitamins there is no reason why they shouldn't make a full recovery.

They're only cats... This has been said in one of several forms a few times over the years by a few people who really should know better. To set the record straight, the cats are not children substitutes, they are not pampered or spoilt, they are not treat better than humans neither are we wasting money on good quality food, shelter or care. We took the decision to take on the responsibility for the guardianship of two independent, domesticated animals. To us they are not pets, playthings or trophies, they are fascinating, intelligent, graceful and endearing creatures who require us to act as their advocates when it is required. We owe them the best care and treatment we can provide and we will continue to love and respect them as unique and intelligent animals. In our opinion, if you are not prepared to work in this way with another animal, you really should stick to a life without one.

On a final note, whoever developed these multivitamin tablets for cats has obviously never product tested adminstration....

Friday, April 10, 2015

Knowing your onions...

When something works, why meddle? 

Onions have always cropped well for us, granted, some years have been better than others but on the whole we usually grow enough onions to last us most of the year. We use a lot of onions in cooking, in chutneys and pickles and in salads. This year like previous years we have planted 150 early onions, 150 red and 150 white. Together with spring onions and leeks we will, mother nature willing, have enough at harvest time to last throughout the year.

The ground is prepared by ensuring it has lots of compost and green manure dug in and left for a few weeks for the worms and micro organisms to start their work. We buy our main onion crop as small plants from a local grower who has a stall in Ribadesella market. Although they are not organic, we will grow them on using organic principals. We bought 400 onions and 12 lettuce from him for 20€.

We look for a good green and strong plant that has been well watered and not left to grow too leggy in the plant module. We have always been pleased with the quality of his stock.

We give the onions a good start in the ground by supplementing the rich soil with extremely well rotted manure. We have found a source near to us from a local farmer who has a few cows and horses. Over the years he has just piled up the manure and it has turned into black gold. We usually drop him off a bottle of home made liqueur based on Orujo and orange which we know he likes. We take the car up, fill a few sacks and off we go.

Heaps of black gold

A small trench is dug and filled in the base with black gold and then watered. The onions are laid out about 15cms apart, the trench filled and the onions bedded in. A final watering is pretty much all there is left to do and apart from a bit of light weeding from time to time and spraying with a natural fungicide, the onions will grow and swell without little interference from us.

Knowing our onions, the conditions they like, when and when not to spray and when to harvest works for us and results in a year round supply of delicious red and white onions for cooking and preserving. What are your tips on onion growing, maybe leave us a comment below or a link to your blog and we'll check them out? I bet they're not as big as ours.... ;-)

Sunday, April 05, 2015

An update from Toriello

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It has been full on here for the past seven days with lots of gardening, general maintenance, cycling challenges and visiting family.

This recent spell of bright sunshine and warmer weather has brought everything on at a pace and we now have lots of blossom on the peach and greengage, the pear is just about to bloom and the orange tree is full of tiny white buds. The vegetable plot now has 100 potatoes planted, several rows of peas and mange tout, a new lavender hedge (for the bees, soap and hand cream making) and, the remainder of the compost has been added around the raspberry canes. The ground also is prepared for the onions which will be planted next week. We are currently harvesting broccoli, leeks, celeriac, ruby chard and the last of the kalettes.

Luis' brother and his family came to stay this past week as Ruben planned to join Luis on the first of his challenges in the Caring for Rosie challenge (read more here). Last Tuesday Luis and Ruben set off from home at 8am and caught the train to Arriondas from where they commenced their cycle ride to the Lakes of the Picos de Europa mountains. They decided to start from Arriondas as there was a strong head wind on the day and they needed every drop of energy to tackle the 12 km ascent and the other 90 kms of road cycling.  They completed their epic ride and in total covered 100km with a total ascent of 2,827 m. So far We have raised over £750 for the Donkeys but with two further challenges to go I am confident we can meet our target of £1000.

It was good to spend time with Ruben, Veronica and the children and show them some of our local beaches and sights. The baby, Sara, is delightful and such a content and happy child. Kelan and Haizea are full of energy and really enjoyed playing in the garden and running wild on the sands. As for Luis and I, time to rest and recuperate over Easter in preparation for a busy Summer ahead.