Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ground force

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We recently helped two people John and Belinda to prepare virgin ground for a new vegetable plot on the banks of the River Sella. The land is being loaned to them by Bill and Sara from La Rondita so that they can grow their own produce until such time they have a garden of their own.

The plot lies on the banks of the river and is totally overgrown with brambles and weeds. Armed with strimmer, spades, brush cutter and edging tool we set about clearing a decent sized plot for the intial two-three beds. Although it is late in the year we felt that if we could plant a few vegetables for over winter, then it would help keep the ground clear and with a bit of luck, a few tasty home-grown vegetables for spring.

Under the strict and watchful eye of Luis, we were each given jobs to do and instructed in the correct methods........say no more. Before long we made excellent progress and managed to clear a large area - the soil is lovely black gold. 
Planting begins under the watchful eye of Luis

100 leeks, red cabbage, cabbage, onions and two types of lettuce were lovingly planted, watered and tended. Oregano, sage and chives were transplanted into one end of the first bed and black plastic was secured over the second bed to suppress the many weeds that will inevitably grow over winter. 

Job well done

Already John is looking worried at Be's plans for a third, forth and fifth bed with plans afoot for fruit bushes, rhubarb, bird hide, compost bin, irrigation this space.

The resident toad - keeping guard for slugs and snails

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Walking in Asturias 7- The Sajambra villages

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The Sajambre valley lies in the Castille and Leon side of the Picos Mountains National Park. Every time we go back to my birthplace in north Palencia to visit my family, we drive on the road that takes you through the stunning Sajambra valley which lies about 1 hour´s car journey from La Pasera.
To do this 7.5 mile circular walk, we need to drive along the narrow and winding road that runs alongside the river Sella as it cuts its way though the rock to form the impresive Beyos Gorge. After 1 hour´s drive and as we leave this beautiful gorge, we drive through the villaje of Oseja de Sajambre where we can park the car and start the walk. If we follow this road, we will climb up to the mountain pass of "El Pontón" one of the three mountain passes that connect Asturias with Castille.

In Oseja de Sajambre is where the walk starts and as we follow the way marks and start walking along the very well known "archdeacon´s path" (senda del arcediano) which is a linear walk taking you deep into the Western Massif, one of the three massifs that comprise the Picos de Europa National Parrk. In time, the Archdeakon's Path takes us trough a deciduous woodland on the mountain side and gives us an opportunity to enjoy the views across the valley before reaching Soto de Sajambre, the next village on our path.

Soto de Sajambre is a village slightly off our path but well worth the extra few yards walking. I normally like to take this short detour as this small village has some very interesting architecture, we can enjoy a coffee stop while admiring the impressive surrounding scenery. Wandering along the two streets is almost like walking through a village that seems half forgotten by time and where a nice sun dial rests against a wall telling us that "time does not stop".

Retracing our steps, we soon pick up the path to the Upper and Lower Ribota villages. This stretch of the walk presents us with some of the more exciting opportunities for admiring a rich alpine flora that varies with the passage of the seasons. During late Winter and as soon as the snow melts away, the primulas, violas, hepaticas and four spices of Asturias wild daffodil are some of the alpine plants that I most enjoy.
During late Spring, there is a profusion and great variety of wild flowers producing a riot of colour. Counting number of the different types of wild orchids is one of my distractions on this leg of the path during the month of May. The sighting of all four species of Asturian wild daffodils on the same day is something that I treasure.

Lower Ribota is a good stop for lunch next to a very fast river Sella. This is a village where have been tempted to stop and sit quietly on one of those village benches where many local affairs had being discussed on days gone by and before the population of these villages started to decline in the 80's and ever since. One day while having lunch on one of those benches, we were joined by a mastiff dog carrying a big piece of stale bread in its mouth that would not eat after being treated to some of our home made bread. From the lower Ribota, the walk follows a path parallel with the river where the hedgerow is very thick and it is a good place for some bird watching. We soon start climbing up towards Oseja de Sajambre where the car awaits us passing through some very open meadows that are full of wild flowers, insects and birds; an ideal place to lie in the grass for a while and let you mind relax. 

Just as we reach the end of this beautiful walk, there is an interesting farming complex turned into a small ethnographic museum that provides a glimpse into a very traditional way of farming with little dependence on solid fuel that can occasionally be seeing practised when we walk through high pasture land in early Summer.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

European Tree Frog

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We had a wonderful surprise a few nights ago. The south winds were blowing a steady warm stream of air and the sky was crystal clear and showing off its many stars and milky way. Returning from feeding Wentworth and Gawber we spotted this tiny little fella. At first sight it looked like a small moth or large spider as it was so small - about 2.5cms in length. He was stuck to the wall about 2 metres from the ground on the back terrace. Luis remembers them from when he was a little boy in Spain and known to him as St Anthony's frog - apparently they are fairly rare these days so it was great to think that the environment we are providing here at La Pasera is attracting such fine creatures. His official name is:  Hyla Arborea (click to access Wiki Link).

Hyla Arborea - European Tree Frog

Tiny fella

Just landed on a candle sconce.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Our river - Rio Guadamia

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This week we took the opportunity to visit our local river and estuary at Guadamia. While Ian waited for wildlife to photograph, I just sat by the riverbank and listened to the water as it rushed down three little cascades before merging with the salty water of the incoming tide.

As I closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the water, I could tune into the different sounds that each of the three cascades was producing. In time, the incoming tide travelled up the river and as it reached the first cascade the sound coming from it would disappear to return a few seconds later once the tide retreated back towards the sea. After a few cycles, the tidal surge would be big enough to reach the second cascade and leave me only with the sound of the third cascade. Soon the water surge would retreat and I would be able to tune into the sounds originating from any of the three cascades.

The tide kept coming in and eventually would be big enough and gather momentum up the river to cover the three cascades and drown away the sound of the river until it started to retreat back into the sea letting me once again enjoy the sound of the water rushing down the cascades.
After watching the fish swimming up the river in search of food and rushing back as the level of the water decreased with the retreating tide, we made our way back to La Pasera enjoying the autumnal light and hot south  wind that we tend to experience at this time of the year.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Macrolepiota Procera

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We have just recovered from severe rain and very strong winds over the weekend resulting in the loss of much of our fruit and some vegetables. The wind was intense at times and throughout the region, many orchards are devastated. Luckily we managed to harvest about 30 kilos of our russet apple before the main storm passed though.

45 litres of rain fell over twenty-four hours, much needed but gentler and over a greater period would have been better... but that's mother nature for you.

Setting off from La Pasera

We had in mind to go mushroom hunting over the next couple of weeks and the recent downpours prompted us to venture out this morning. After so much rain and good warm temperatures it is an ideal time for fungi to push through and bloom. We set off early and took the Camino de Santiago path that runs though the village. Heading along one of the many caminos that veer off towards the cliffs, we soon reached a pasture we knew from previous years. This particular pasture is perched on the edge of the cliffs and usually has an abundance of Macrolepiota Proceras (Parasol Mushroom). Needless to say it did not disappoint and we soon filled our basket with the most magnificent specimens we've seen in a while.

Macrolepiota Procera
We made our way home along the cliff tops and through the winding tracks that criss-cross the pastures. With the fresh smell of wild mint underfoot, intense autumn light, cheerful birdsong and the site of beetles dragging goat droppings into newly dug burrows, it was a really enjoyable walk. So peaceful and refreshing.

Luis with our haul of 'shrooms'

On the way home we passed several Pilgrims making their way to Santiago de Compostela, all of whom, on spying our basket of 'shrooms' asked about our haul and photographed them. The local farmer was busy scything grass for the cattle as his horse munched happily on fresh green shoots and apart from the insects and birds, we were alone... Bliss.

Lunch was an easy decision - sautéed parasol mushrooms, scrambled eggs and home made lightly toasted bread. The remainder of the 'shroom's were blanched, drained and frozen for use later in the year.

Footnote: we only ever gather mushrooms when we are 100% sure of their edibility - if in doubt, never eat fungi or berries you have limited knowledge of...Oh and another thing, pick responsibly.