Saturday, June 27, 2015

In the still of the night at La Pasera

In the still of the night when we are asleep, the garden continues to host an array of wildlife we rarely see or think about... What happens in your garden at night?

As dusk falls, the birds call out the end of the day before roosting in bushes, trees and crevices. The bats take flight and feast on the abundant mist of midges, flies and moths and the owls fly low from perch to perch in search of mice, voles and frogs. The frogs begin their chatter and the toads sing out loud announcing their presence to passing mates. Meanwhile the snails and slugs exit their daytime refuge and take advantage of the cooler air and dew that settles on the grasses and plants, easing their journey to feast on luscious greens and petals.

Excitement grows for Wentworth and Gawber as they tune in to the music of the night. A rustle here, a flutter there, a call in the distance, both Wentworth and Gawber finely tune their senses to ensure their safety and maintain their territory. A large male stag beetle signals its presence with a loud whirring noise as it navigates the garden only to be chased by two curios and playful cats.

Every so often we sit in the darkness on the terrace and experience the sounds and sights of the night. It is amazing to think that within a few meters, creatures great and small are feeding, travelling to and fro and, on constant alert for friend or foe. It is clear that we only ever experience a fraction of the abundance of life that uses our garden.

Here is a short compilation of night-time infrared videos filmed in the wildest parts of our plot. It features, badgers, deer, fox, pine marten, hedgehog, wild boar, a raton and of course, cats. When we view the films we can often see the reflections of curious cats eyes watching from a distance. The final scene is a lovely reminder that our domesticated cats bridge the life in the garden we know and the life we rarely catch a glimpse of...


Sunday, June 21, 2015

The first day of Summer

It is a bright sunny day with blue skies punctuated by white and pale grey Columbus clouds. It is warm bordering on hot in the sun but with plenty of shaded places to keep cool, it is a lovely first day of Summer.

The first peaches were harvested today and although the tree doesn't produce much fruit, what it does produce is sweet, very peachy and juicy if left to ripen naturally. One or two have already been pecked at by the birds and then plundered by the ants but as today was getting breezy I decided to harvest the first of the undamaged crop before they fell in the gathering winds.

The mosaic terrace table top has been united with its long-awaited bases and it not only looks great, it is also functional and perfect for the glass of red as the evening sun sets. Needless to say, Luis has started another mosaic project and the list of projects in mind continues to grow apace.

One of the showiest plants we have is in full bloom near the edge of the pond. The angels fishing rod is heavy with bright pink flowers that droop towards the water and encourage lots of bees and insects.

Another plant that gives all it has when flowering is the cactus. This one is in full glorious flower, sadly they last only very few hours so to get to witness their show is a true privilege.

Other worthy contenders for showiest bloomer are the air hyacynth and the bottom meadow, both of which are at their prime.

The cats are spending most of their day in the deep shade of the bog garden where it is damp and cool but occasionally venture out from the shade of the giant Gunera leaves and soak up the warmth of the sun for a few moments but soon return to the cool and welcome shade. They are brushed daily from now on as it is flea and tick season and regular grooming means we can keep an eye out for attacks. They are also fast loosing their winter coats so they seem to welcome a daily brush.

You might have heard of the Andrex puppy? Well we seem to have an Aubretia pussy who has taken to finding comfort when relieving himself resulting in large dying patches...I won't publicly name and shame, I'll leave it up to you to decide who is the guilty party!


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

1,600 Euros raised for Rosie and her stable mates.

This week we visited El Paraiso del Burro (The Donkey Paradise) in Arobes to hand over the total monies raised for the Caring for Rosie Challenge. It has been a wonderful three months with 50 people making donations and many more helping us to promote the cause and spread the word about the wonderful work Marleen and and the team of volunteers do at the sanctuary.

Through Go Fund Me, we sought sponsorship for Luis' three sporting challenges; mountain cycling, mountain walking and endurance cycling. We managed to raise a fantastic £1250 which after Go Fund Me fees translated into 1,600 Euros. The money will help to care for Rosie, her stable mates (24 other retired and abused donkeys), help to feed and shelter the volunteers and enable some maintenance work to be undertaken at the Sanctuary.

Rosie is doing well with her prosthetic hooves and daily leg massages and despite her walking problems she manages to wander around the lush verges and fields on a daily basis and live a happy and content life amongst other donkeys in paradise.

The sanctuary still needs your support and it would help if you would consider becoming a member of El Paraiso del Burro or sponsoring one of the donkeys, details of which can be found here: Or maybe you fancy volunteering in this beautiful region of Spain? If you do, give us a shout.....

Thank you, your kind thought and generous acts were respectfully received.

Best wishes

Luis and Ian x

Friday, June 12, 2015

June in the garden

The weather continues to be cooler than usual with several days of prolonged drizzle and low cloud. Sunny days have been few and far between but never-the-less the garden is looking colourful and filling out at a pace; sadly, the flowers do not last long enough when they get saturated in the persistent drizzle. We tend to wander around the garden daily to spot what is happening, to see what's in flower, prioritise weeding and spot any potential problems such as infestations and damage. We noticed several heavy infestations of aphids on the fruit trees. We had been told about a soap based product (soft potash soap) that is supposed to help eradicate such infestations so we bought some and have sprayed all the fruit trees to see if it works (50g/litre of water). We will let you know how efficient it is.

There are several spectacular flowers and plants in bloom at the moment including: The bird of paradise which we rescued from a house in the next village. It was constantly on the floor, dry and in a bad way so we knocked on the door and asked if we could take care of it. The lady said yes and with a bit of tender, loving care, it is back in great shape. It just needs re-potting now in something appropriately splendid.

The bee orchid is common in these parts but we have found some in the garden amongst the flowers -  We are not sure if it is a bee orchid or a woodcock ophry (thanks Nigel) as they are almost indistinguishable, they are truly lovely and we will encourage their spread. We now have at least four types of wild orchids that grow in the garden.

The Alliums are in full spectacle. As you approach they appear like miniature galaxies suspended in green space. Their structure and form are fascinating and a wonderful distraction.

A few years ago we planted a series of terracotta roof tiles with succulents. These were easy to make by blocking off the ends with pebbles and cement, filling with soil, adding plants and a few decorative pebbles and topping off with fine gravel. We have lined the steps down into the garden with them and they make a lovely addition and need very little attention.

Luis has been busy making mosaics in between all the other things we get up to. He has just completed two column bases for a mosaic table he made some time ago. They are designed so that they can be used independently but we will use them with the top as intended. The are a lovely addition to the terrace. We will feature them in-situ once fully dry (currently sealed and awaiting positioning).

Elsewhere the garden continues to keep us occupied with lots of fruit and vegetables to sow, maintain and harvest as appropriate. The lawns need regular cutting and the flower borders need dead-heading to prolong the flowering season. There is always something to do but it brings with it the opportunity to savour the beautiful colours, shapes and structures that nature provides. What do you enjoy in your garden?

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Soap Wars - Episode 2

The scent of lemongrass is divine. It's a while since we made soap but we had all the ingredients in stock and a bottle of lemongrass oil waiting to be used so, soap making was on the cards. We first made soap in 2012 and it was great but together with soap we had been given, bought and had in stock, we've had no real need to make it since. The good news is we are running low and the opportunity to make our own cannot be missed.

The recipe was pretty much as before but with amounts adjusted to create a perfect balance of hardness, bubbles, persistence, cleanliness and conditioning. We used an online calculator which gives you the values for each depending on your mix of ingredients. We also added some white clay which helps with the texture of the soap. The whole process of creating the right blend is know as a Saponification Calculation.

The soap was poured into a large wooden mold and a cupcake tin where it was allowed to cool and set overnight. The large block was cut into presentable slices and the whole soap will be left to cure for several weeks: it is caustic to the skin until it cures.

Home made soap is truly lovely and you can sure that it contains no unnecessary chemicals, micro beads or palm oil. If you do fancy having a go and making some it really is quite easy but special care is needed as you are dealing with chemical processes that can burn and injure unless handled with extreme care.

We used a processed lemongrass oil for the soap but we are also growing lemongrass in a pot. We hoped we would be able to harvest the bulbous part of the grass when it matured and infuse it with olive oil but last year it didn't reach such maturity. We'll just have to be content with the lovely fresh lemon smell it gives off as you brush past it. The cats love to eat lemongrass and can often be found grazing on the fresh green shoots.


Here is Soap Wars from 2012 if you missed it the first time around. Click here