miércoles, 30 de enero de 2013

Fauna of La Mancha

While not much is happening in the garden during winter, I thought it would be a good time to upload some photos of the local fauna.  All these photos were taken from our living room.

This Golden Eagle (Águila Real, Aquila chrysaetos) doesn't come around much, but when he does he just takes your breath away.
My friend, the hawk (Buteo buteo), felt daring one day and decided to perch on the mulberry tree in our garden instead of down by the stream.

I had never seen this little guy before.  Turns out he's a Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis),
but I haven't seen him since. 

This is a Red Kite (Milvus milvus), which is aptly named because they love windy days. 
Here he is at the start of a snow flurry...

... and with a friend a few minutes later.
Not exactly wild animals (but still very much a part of our local fauna) are these soldiers from the Infantry Academy in Toledo.  In our rural area, you can often come across them loaded down with packs and carrying rifles on training missions, trying to get from point A to point B with maps and compasses in hand.  O's cousin, a military helicopter pilot who trained in Toledo, says it's not unusual for them to be dropped off some 70k (around 40 miles) away and be expected to find their way back.
Although I'm used to them by now, let's just say that the first time I came across a soldier, at night, jogging down a back road with rifle in hand in the middle of winter and wearing a ski mask, it took me a moment to decide whether to scream!       

martes, 15 de enero de 2013

Olive Garden

Or should I say olive grove? Yes, it's olive harvest time once again in La Mancha. Olive harvesting always means lots of hard, back-straining work, but it's also a great way to kick start those new year's exercise resolutions!

Once again, we are helping our friends with their family groves, and toiling away with friends always makes for light work. If you have never experienced olive harvesting, here's the quick low-down:

Years ago, before tractors and farm machinery, harvesting was done by hand, or actually by stick. Large blankets were placed on the ground around the trees and these were beaten with long varas, which were traditionally flexible poplar saplings, believe it or not. Modern-day harvesting has varied very little. The tree limbs are still beaten with varas, although they are now manufactured out of man-made materials, and, instead of blankets, large mesh mats are used to collect the olives that fall. And when I say large, I mean a good 35-40 feet on each side.

The biggest difference is the use of tractors fitted with vibrating claws that grab onto the large tree limbs and give them a good shake until the olives rain down onto the mats. The tractors are also used to drag the mats from tree to tree, and to empty the mats into a trailer when they get full. In the old days, dragging olive-laden blankets and loading them into mule-drawn carts must have been absolutely gruelling!

Here we are at work 

 I have always loved the linearity of olive groves.

Children at play

A beautiful end to a beautiful day

miércoles, 2 de enero de 2013

Welcome, 2013!

Wow, 2013 already.  This is the year my eldest son becomes a teenager (and will most likely pass me in height!).  Lots of Spaniards are nervous about the new year because it started on Tuesday, and Tuesday and the number 13 in Spain is like Friday the 13th in the U.S.  And given our economic situation, I dare say that yes, we should be nervous.
2012 is over, but we will remember it as our first year living in our new home.  Unfortunately, I feel that we didn't get all that much done (or, at least, not all that I had hoped).  This was mainly determined by budget constraints, but, hey, what isn't?
Outdoors, our main project completed this year was the front wall and gates.  Yes, I finally bowed to Spanish tradition and we raised a wall high enough so only the tallest of NBA players could take a peek over it.  For some reason, here there is a big fear of people peeking in your yards and/or homes.  Must be because there is always someone trying to do it!
Here are the results:

Front door

Front gate

Front wall
The wall was built by our friend, Pedro, to my specifications (poor guy).  The stones for the wall were brought in by Pedro and his backhoe from another empty house lot where they had been dumped.   The little stone path to the door was made by my father-in-law, who used the smaller stones that Pedro had discarded.  My DH and I have found smaller river rocks on another vacant house lot that we are (slowly) filling in the front with. 
      All in all, I'd say it looks pretty good...
....until you open the door and ACH!  You see this:       

Front yard
Front yard (taken from porch) 

Ditches, electrical cables, discarded fencing, sand piles and buckets, OH! and let's not forget the weeds and my dead oak tree (wimper, sob).  So, you see, an 8-foot wall is a good thing.
Obviously, this yard represents my project for 2013, and I've made a New Year's resolution to work at least 15 min per day in this space.  I hope that one day these photos will be "before" photos and that the "after" photos will be a huge improvement! 
So, what's your New Year's resolution for 2013?