Saturday, May 30, 2015

Caring for the Donkeys at El Paraiso del Burro

Luis successfully completed his second sports challenge last Saturday in his efforts to raise monies for the donkeys at El Paraiso del Burro here in Asturias. So far we have raised over £1000 and would like to thank everyone who has donated or helped us to promote this fundraiser. As we near the final challenge on the 6th June, please help us to achieve our new goal of £1250 by helping us to spread the word or by making a small donation.

He was joined by his younger brother Ruben and 10,000 others who were taking part in El Soplao - cyclists, walkers and marathon runners all taking part in various events starting from Cabezon de la Sal in Cantabria. Unlike the UK, not many people use these events to raise money for charity and in the main is is used as a personal challenge and experience.

The route Luis and Ruben completed was just over 47km in total on foot, through beautiful mountains, valleys and woodlands. They both completed the route in 11.5 hours which was a great achievement.

Rosie the donkey and her stable mates at El Paraiso del Burro (the Donkey Paradise) lead a tranquil and cared for life in a beautiful lush valley in Arobes, Asturias. For many it is in stark contrast to the life they previously led. Many arrive at the sanctuary badly nourished, mistreated, with numerous health problems and over-worked. Rosie arrived at the sanctuary unable to walk properly as her hooves had overgrown causing her to have muscle and tendon problems. She was depressed and in a poor general state of health. With daily massages, regular grooming, hoof care, good food and regular check-ups she has blossomed and now spends her days wandering the lush valley, socialising with fellow donkeys and enjoying the hands on care she receives daily. The monies raised will help to feed her, pay farrier bills, and contribute to the general running costs of the sanctuary. With 24 donkeys, several rescue dogs and many volunteers to feed and shelter it doesn't come cheap so every penny/cent/dime counts. You can contribute here: Caring for Rosie

Luis' third and final challenge will be  a 160km cycle ride on the 6th June following the route of the Canal de Castilla. Once again this is an organised event in which he will participate with his brother Ruben. Following the event we will keep the fund-raising page open for one week as we know there are some people who want to contribute once all three challenges are finished.  After that, we will close the page and make arrangements with Marleen Verhoef at the Donkey Paradise, to hand over the monies raised. We will let everyone know via this blog and the dedicated Facebook page how much money we raise. Once again, a big heart-felt thank you to everyone who has contributed it means a lot to us and we couldn't have done it without you. Here is a short film of Rosie and another of some of here stable mates enjoying life in their autumn years:

The fundraising page at: will close on

 Saturday 13th June


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.