Category: Aspects of the Alpujarras

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If you’ve never tried snowshoeing, you should! When the fresh snow lies thick on the hillsides of the Alpujarras and Sierra Nevada head for the upper pine forests and have some fun! There is no finer place to enjoy a day’s snowshoeing after recent snowfall than above Puente Palo in the pine forests of the Alpujarras. Last week we were privileged to enjoy the company of a family from the USA, as we guided them on a days snowshoeing.
Whatever the future holds for the farm at Semilla Besada, situated high above Lanjaron in the Alpujarras region of Andalucia, it will always be known to us as “David and Aspen’s place”. Aspen Edge We remember well our trips to visit David and Aspen. From the outset we were made to feel at home. Aspen’s warm, freshly baked buns washed down with strong coffee is a potent combination.
An acequia is a community operated waterway and most were established more than 200 years ago. The Arabs brought the technology to Spain during their occupation. The acequia is how we irrigate our land and is a source of great entertainment for our dogs. Our water comes from the snows in the Sierra Nevada and is collected in a lake called the Laguna de Lanjaron high up in the mountains. As the snow melts it flows down the various channels.
Everybody hard at work in the “Campo” planting crops at the moment. Emma, Kiersten and Jorge have been busy all day. We have had some recent nocturnal visits from jabali (wild boar), presumably interested too! Trying to figure out a way to keep the crops protected? Cabbage planting Young potato plants
Well, we’ve had the busiest February since we arrived in 2002. Spanish Highs Mountain guides have been working hard at the winter mountaineering and alpine courses and ascents of Mulhacen recently. I seem to have been demoted to “office boy” and whilst others have been out doing all the “mountain” fun things, I’ve been running to/from Malaga airport, sorting out gear, equipment and accommodation issues, as well as keeping the flow of clients coming in!
Ive roped in my daughter, Emma, recently, to help out with some repair work to my roof and the pool area. She hasnt had any experience with construction but she has done really well and got “stuck in”, as can be seen from the photos!
10 September / Aspects of the Alpujarras
Just in time! I guess we couldn’t have cut it much closer. Our leaky roof has been worked on for the last week and we managed to complete just a few hours before the first rains since 11th May fell on Lanjaron. Many thanks to Jorge and my daughter, Emma for helping us out. Our new roof is now fully waterproofed although there are still the tiles to lay down.
My neighbour, Tracy has a mare called Missy, that gave birth yesterday to a foal. We happened to be alerted by the dogs at 4pm, who went wild with excitement, before starting up a not stop racket. I guess the dogs had seen the emergence of the foal. Wouldn’t it be great to have been inside the dog’s mind at that point? The foal is to be called “Murphy for some reason?
Paneer cheese with vegetable curry I’ve just discovered how to make cheese, well, Indian cheese actually. Called Paneer. It shows I’ve not got too much to do when all Ive got to worry about is either (a) will England manage to bowl out South Africa and win the 1st Test, or (b) will my newly made paneer cheese set properly! Simple this cheese making lark, actually.
pasta drying out in the kitchen Bit bored today. Too hot to go outside, so I thought I’d have a go at making homemade pasta. A bit complicated for a northerner like me, but not that hard actually. You go through various stages of dough preparation. Just flour, eggs and lots of gentle massaging, sorry kneading. Leave for an hour and roll out into round pancakes.
**Saturday evening 21st June “LA PUBLICA” ** A wild carnival through the streets of Lanjaron. A chance for all the townsfolk to dress up, put on clothing normally worn by the opposite sex, go wild and have a party.  
Ok let’s get this straight …………… I am a red blooded meat eater, always was and always will be! However I happen to live with a woman who has been a vegetarian for over 20 years. It hasn’t been too difficult for me living with a ”veggie” as the veggie cooking world has been easy to get into. In fact I am much healthier now than when I used to eat red meat (and the occasional Macdonalds hamburger) every day.
It’s that time of year again. The waters from the snowmelt of the high Sierra Nevada are flowing strongly. Soon this will end, and from mid-June to October or November we can expect little irrigation water. So the time is ripe for all good “camposinos” (country workers) to water their lands before the summer droughts Now this may seem a great idea at first glance, but putting it into practice is not as easy as it would seem.
Yesterday went to the “Bar Flower” in Lanjarón. I had been rock climbing with 2 clients and had told them I’d take them to an really authentic Spanish working mens’ bar with flamenco/tapas etc. On approaching the bar’s entrance the drunken sounds of a man singing a strangely familar song split the air……………….. “We walked him to the station in the rain We kissed him as we put him on the train And we sang him a song of times long gone Though we knew that we’d be seeing him again (Far away) sad to say I must be on my way So buy me beer and whiskey ‘cause I’m going far away (far away) I’d like to think of me returning when I can To the greatest little boozer and to Sally MacLennane”
“Antonio the Muleman”, we call him. Why is it everybody round here is called Antonio? Anyway, this Antonio is in his late sixties I would guess. His prize possession is his mule, although I can’t tell you what he/she is called, I suspect its called “Burro”, the Spanish for “Donkey”. Antonio also (unbeknown to him) acts as a morning alarm call. At precisely 8.23am each morning the sounds of hoofbeats are heard from the bedroom, followed by the dogs barking, announcing the imminent arrival of Antonio the Muleman.
This summer seems to have lasted for ever. Lazy sunny days have become the norm and it’s been great to get up every day, slap on a T shirt and shorts and go out to see what the weather is doing ………… needless to say, its been hot and sunny! The grounds are looking very brown and bare and water is now required. Nights are getting much fresher however and the climate will soon change.
I gather the UK summer is not too good this year, so I thought I’d write and tell you about what it’s like out here now. Not to gloat, far from it. Actually to help you cope with it and to let you know that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Last year I was in Chamonix in July and August so did not experience the full summer here.
Emma’s out here now. Nice to see her, and I think she likes the laid back lifestyle here. Went to Granada on a big city shopping trip yesterday. She bought all sorts of gear usually load and unusual (what a surprise!) as it’s about half price than UK. We shopped in the morning, sat in some squares watching the tourists get fleeced, visited the Arab Quarter to drink tea in the tea shops and then went to some old tapas bars and got a bit tipsy.
I was having a mid morning coffee with my neighbour, Antonio, a few days ago. Trying hard to interpret what he was saying is very hard as he talks very quickly in a funny incoherrent language that’s supposed to be Spanish and I of course don’t talk much at all! No wonder understanding is difficult. Anyway I thought he asked me if I wanted to go fishing the following morning. He wanted me to get a large net to fish with.
Now that the last of the winter clients has departed attention has turned back to the land. The age-old problem of keeping the weeds at bay has returned, and we have to somehow cope with thick undergrowth some 2ft high on some terraces. The two horses, Gimly and Jack, have helped, and we rotate them on different terraces each day. They are selective eaters however and although undoubtedly helping they miss the worst bits near the edges.
Not too much to report here. I think we’ve just had the last major precipitation this year. Next major rain should be in October! Spring really is upon us with all the flowers coming out and the air filled constantly with the scent of rosemary, lavender and thyme. I have just made some essential oil with wild rosemary, which legend has it keeps insects at bay. The cherry trees are blossoming and the figs have green buds appearing ……………… anyway enough of the David Bellamy’s …………… last Sunday went to bar called “El Oasis” and had a good old fashioned Sunday roast beef lunch with all the trimmings including Yorkshire pud, horseradish sauce, rich gravy and some pork crackling, wicked.
Hope your Christmas and New Year was successful. Quiet here as usual, not a lot happening. They (the Spanish) seem to regard 5th January as more important for some strange esoteric reason. One nice tradition they have is that on the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve you have to eat a grape every second for 12 seconds. Now because in a former life I was an accountant, my quick and sharp brain calculated (within 10 minutes) that I needed to eat 12 grapes in total!
After 4 dogs, 2 cats, countless insects and reptiles you’d have thought that was enough to keep at Lanjarón Zoo (i.e my house). However I now also have …………… 2 horses in residence! My friends Sarah and Paul who run the riding stables have split up, and Sarah has problems finding alternative land for her horses. Tracy has brought her black horse, “Jack” (named after Jack Daniels whisky, I might add), down to reside on one of the less planted terraces.
So, Lanjarón’s just a sleepy little backwater of the world eh? Don’t things change fast, just when you think it’s all going so slow? Just when I thought I’d be spending the next two months strimming, gardening, sweating and straining to keep the land going along comes some ……. WOOFERS! Evidently Woofers is a pet name for a WWOF i.e a “Willing Worker on Organic Farm”. These young persons are usually aged in their early twenties, want to travel and see the world, but also want to contribute to the environment.
Well, I’m back in sunny Spain where, funnily enough, for the first time since mid-May, it’s raining! Hence the time to spend catching up with emails. Got back from France last Sunday after mega 17 hour drive from Chamonix. Had a good season out there but Mont Blanc was too dangerous during August. The hot weather had destroyed the underlying permafrost and much rockfall was the result. Made the summit with a group late July but that was our only successful effort.
Just come in from the heat and watched Tim Henman losing at Wimbledon! He’ll never make it will he? Why do they all get so worked up? Seems really strange …….. I’m so far away yet can watch tennis, football, rugby etc. Just like I never left. Even Coronation Street if I want! We’ll, the summer’s in full swing here. We’ve had no rain since a 15 minute shower in the middle of May.
We’re well into our 6th week without rain, and temperatures are in the upper 30’s each day. I now understand siestas much better! Just been down to Orgiva with my friends from the riding stables. I don’t usually like Orgiva but on Thursdays it’s market day and Orgiva is a lively blend of colour, smells and sounds. Flamenco music blares out from all corners as hippies try to sell spices and all manner of weird articles.
After a lunchtime/afternoon JD (Jack Daniels for the uninitiated) session yesterday and just about to fall asleep in the hot late-afternoon sun, I heard my neighbour Antonio, strimming in his olive groves. Now we Yorkshire folk are a very friendly sort and my conscience wouldnt allow me not to go help him out. I got kitted out in strimming gear and went out to meet him …….. big mistake! He was so pleased to have some help that after we were finished he invited me to his house for, yes you’ve guessed it, more drinks!
Had a few interesting times these last few weeks. Firstly, I had some unusual clients, a couple of Hells Angels whose names were Sean and Clare. Both dressed in black and were covered in tattoos. Clare wished to be called and known as “Bear” (for some obscure reason). She was covered in tattoos of Bears. Everytime I pointed out some of the magnificent mountain scenery (over 3500 metres high!) they kept insisting it was very much like the Peak District, only not as interesting.
Didn’t realise how much I’d taken on until last week when Antonio (the original owner of the cortijo and my neighbour) indicated to me that the weeds and grasses were now over 2 ft high on my terraces. With disapproving Gaelic shrugs he walked off. Well, yesterday I decided to show him how committed to the land I was, so I went out and bought a motorised strimmer. After finally figuring out how to make the damn thing work, I set about avidly chopping down all in sight (except the trees of course!
Have started Spanish lessons. At my assessement with the teacher, Eduardo, last week I was quite pleased as he placed me in course 4 (out of 14). I’m now having 3 lessons of 1.5hrs each per week when I’m not in the hills working. Now, Eduardo is an Argentinian who has evidently been brought up on the Costa del Sol. Hence I’ve now learned to say “Dos grandes beers por favor?
Well, the wood has finally arrived! A little man in a big truck dropped it in the drive. Anybody know what 2 tonnes of wood looks like?…a bloody lot I can tell you. Spent the next 3 hrs moving it up to the top terrace behind the villa and then packing it neatly against the wall. Looks pretty good actually. Tonight I’m going to have the “mother of all fires”. Rocky and Leo helped.
I hear the weather isn’t too good there at the moment so I’d better not tell you about the weather here. Won’t mention the fact that there’s only been 1 day of rain in 3 weeks or that the temps were in the upper 20’s yesterday. I’m very lucky, you know. Out of a hole in the wall at the bottom of the garden flows the “Fuente Hoya del Grillo” (The Cricket Spring Hole).
Still nice weather here ………..20 deg in the shade most days (about 30 in the sun). The problem is that nights can get cold and these houses were designed to keep the heat out. I’d been staring at the fireplace for a week before my quick mind realised that if I built a fire then I’d be warmer! 1st attempts were awful due to smoke, until I realised that a lever needed pulling which opened up the chimney….
Accommodation update: Toilet - doesn’t flush so needs filling up before leaving it ‘cos not good news if the situation is desperate! Will be fixed “shortly” (Spanish for “whenever”). Bath - takes half hour to fill up bacause of trickle of warm water that exudes from tap. Soon to be resolved ….again “shortly”! Kitchen - not enough space to swing a cat, sorry…..dog Terrace - the sun gets there at 1.