Saturday, February 27, 2010

Territorio Nomada


This week we visited a friend of ours who has opened a Mongolian settlement with over 20 themed Yurts here in Asturias that is nestled in a beautiful green valley near Arriondas. Begonia travelled through Mongolia some years ago and dreamed of returning to Spain and sharing her passion with school groups, tourists and locals alike. Each Yurt is themed i.e. histroy of Mongolia, food, religion, games room etc. They are such lovely structures and heavily decorated. The smell of inscence, sunshine glistening through the open roof and gentle winds rustling canvas it is easy to imagine yourself living life in a Yurt. The construction of a yurt is fascinating and there is even an opportunity to have a go at erecting the wooden frame that supports the felt, canvas and linings. Here are a few pictures and also a link to a couple of television interviews she gave about Territorio Nomada.

Youtube Part one.

Youtube Part two.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


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Mountains of it...sweet and tender purple, early sprouting broccoli. Lightly steamed until just tender - divine or lightly steamed, sauté and add a splash of balsamic vinegar - Mmmmm!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vegetable Accounting

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Hi to everybody who reads this blog. As Winter is passing with longer hours of daylight, it is time to take stock of last years experiences in the vegetable plot before we make final decisions on this year's stock. As we mentioned in a previous blog entry, when we sow vegetables directly into the soil we lose many of the seedlings because of the leather jacket larvae which likes to feed on the roots of the young plants. There is some chemical control you can use to combat this pest but we aim to be as organic as possible and prefer not to apply chemicals. Instead, last season we experiemented with sowing vegetables in drainage pipes cut in half and then grow them on in the pipes until they are strong enough to withstand the pest attacks before planting in the ground. The results have been great. For example, we used to have to sow beetroot directly into the ground at least 3 to 4 times before we could manage to get sufficient number to survive the attack and since we tried the new sowing method, we have managed to grow them and harvest them successfully in good numbers per sowing.

Another successful trial has been that of the tomatoes, a fruit susceptible to blight in the high humidity that we normally have during early Summer. In the past we have tried blight resistant varieties with no luck, we also failed to crop many cherry tomatoes that are usually more resistant. There is a chemical that may help to control the blight but it fails to protect them entirely. This year we copied a local's method of growing tomatoes under partial cover and we sprayed them with copper sulphate before the plants start to fruit (a practice allowed in organic vegetable growing). We also grew two different varieties, Alicante and Brandywine, the former performed better than the latter variety. Last season we ate lots of tomatoes straight from the vine and were able to bottle several jars of pasata (a tomato sauce) to be used during the Winter.

Earlier last Spring I also mentioned that I grafted one of our cider apple trees with a nice russet variety. I did a total of 4 grafts and three of them have taken, not a bad starting point for a neophyte. I would have probably had a 100% success rate if impatience had not had the best of me - I could not resist having an early look and in the process I damaged one of the grafts. Never mind, I am very pleased with the results.

The final trial  I want to share with you is the results of our crop of onions. This year we planted them, 400 in total, as the locals do and they grew better and bigger than ever before. This local method entails the planting of the young onions in a trench filled with well rotted manure. The three varieties of onions we cropped have been really successful and they taste wonderful. We are still enjoying them now in February and they are keeping well.

Seedlings of beetroot, aubergine, turnips and many others are already nestled in their half of a drainage pipe ready for planting out when they reach a good size. If this year's harvest is as good as 2009, then we shall not have reason to complain.

Organic pest control on their winter break...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


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There is something strange happening around the village......lunchtime brought strange and silent visitors to our door:

After supplying them with some vino tinto, they seemed appeased and went on their merry way.

Monday brought large crowds of people into town, some dressed in weird and outrageous costumes and others in various guises. It was Carnival time. As usual, times were fluid and the 11.30pm start of the parade was of course, delayed. Time for another drink in a much warmer place then outside again as we heard the band strike up. The parade had many groups and individuals competing for the 800€ first prize and lots of other cash prizes. The carnival was as always a great atmosphere and brought many people into town. We managed to escape sometime in the early hours of the morning before frostbite set in.

Friday, February 12, 2010


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Celeriac: Described here

Roasted with oil, sprinkle of salt until just tender. Everything the dictionary says it is. Delicious. Managed to grow 10 this last year. This is the last one left. We'll need to grow at least 20 this coming year.....or more.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Oranges, sweet oranges

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We have always enjoyed oranges and in time our own orange tree will produce a fair crop. This year the few remaining fruits are doing well in spite of their small size. We were surprised to find out that shop bought oranges are waxed and dyed orange so that their colour does not change with the passage of time. On one of our visits to my family in Barrios de la Vega we ate the most delicious, juicy and sweet oranges that my family gets from a shop in Palencia. The owners of this shop have a contract for the whole orange crop of some orange groves in the south of the country. The good thing with these oranges is that they are not waxed or dyed and as a result you can use the the skins for making jam or liqueurs. In addition, they are the best oranges we have ever tasted.
This Winter and during one of the visits to my family I brought back with me 50 kg of oranges, some of them even with mud on their skins- that goes to show how unprocessed the fruits are and how directly from the growers you get the fruits. Although we have eaten many of them fresh, they also taste great when you juice them fresh. A few kg have been turned into a very nice jam, I would not call it a marmalade as the fruits are very sweet and you do not get the required bitter taste to make marmalade. Later in the season we will use some of it to make chocolate and orange cake as a treat for special occasions. Some of the oranges were used to make a nice orange liqueur based on orujo, a raw spirit obtained from the distillation of the vegetable remains after wine making. To make this liqueur, we add to the orujo a bit of sugar, orange peel and some orange juice. Once it has infused for 1 month we strain it and occasionally have it chilled- the best way to serve it. And as we say here in Spain: Salud!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Walking in Asturias 2


There are so many beautiful places to visit in Asturias. Last week we ventured to the Xanas Gorge just south of Oviedo. This walk had been on our list of walks to do for ages so with a good weather forecast and an early start we set off. The walk is either linear or circular depending on which route you take. We opted for the circular walk. The walk starts near to the feeding station for the semi-wild bears Paca and Tola. The path climbs around the edge of the gorge with spectacular views of the mountains above and waterfalls below. We saw many vultures as the day got warmer and managed to spot this little beauty foraging in a wooded copse (photograph by J. Shackleton).