SUMMER – VERANO 2021

It’s only now that I have uploaded the photos onto the PC that I realise I haven’t been writing my blog for quite some time; since April in fact.

There are a few reasons for that.

Firstly, being a teenager-in-reverse means a lot of mood swings and a grumpy author is not the best starting point. With it come lack of sleep and therefore unfocused mind and a general feeling of malaise.

But never mind that, the sun shines brightly and it is a natural condition to be dealt with as best as one can, hand over the G&T…..

Then I have taken to updating my status on Whatsapp frequently with a nice photo, as a snapshot what happens here.

Not to forget the football season, as then my laptop is used to transmit the matches and therefore out of bounds for me in the evenings.

And since May we are blessed with a rotation of guests streaming in and out.

In fact, after the quiet 2020 we had thanks to the draconian Corona-restrictions, it is difficult for me to adjust to sharing our home again with people, be they strangers, friends or neighbours. But this is how we make money and there is a great deal of excitement and satisfaction in it.

Enough of the excuses; now it’s time for another episode of ‘Life at Finca Casa Halcon’.

Manfred and Angelina – Beware of the Scammers

Most guests are nice, respectful that this is our home and easy going. And then there is the other type. And this is the other reason I kept stumm, as I had to get over the shock of being conned out of €300.

In May I got simultaneously a last-minute booking literally, as the Spanish couple arrived half an hour later, hungry and needing to be fed, and a phone call from as it turned out a young German couple needing a bed for the night. They had no car so Nigel, ever eager to please, went to collect them in Almonte. Alas, he couldn’t find them and returned a bit put out. In the meantime I had several calls from them, Manfred and Angelina, quite agitated. In the end they took a taxi.

The minute they arrived, the drama began. They had been robbed on the train from Barcelona to Almeria, passport, credit card and mobile phone. Still, they pre-paid the night and their meal in cash. We got a barrage of stories about his wanderings around the world, apparently 47 countries and how this never happened before, blablabla. He told us about his job in tourism in Germany and we connected on Facebook, where I could see all his posted photos of his journey, videos with music etc.

They wanted to stay another night, but I just could not put up with more stories and this intensiveness. They wanted to travel on to Portugal as they had rented an apartment somewhere near Faro. So I put them on the bus the next day, being proud of me enforcing my boundaries.

On Saturday while I made lunch I received a phone call, again a Spanish number, from those two begging me to help them. They had no money left, nobody was helping them, not the police, the banks, the Money Union Transfer. They suggested their family could transfer money into my account and I give them the cash. Well, what was I to do? Leave them to their mercy? At any rate I was booked out and they had to sleep in their tent. I went to collect them, gave them €50 to buy food and a phone card. In the evening I received the email with a photo of the money transfer form with all details filled in.

Then I booked them a bus ticket to Sevilla, because from there they could go either way to Malaga or Madrid, where there actually is a German embassy to sort out the lost passports, but maybe that was a lie, well spun with all the details how Manfred went to the police to file a report of the theft.

I brought them to the bus station on Sunday afternoon. On Tuesday I received a messenger sms that they are on their way to Madrid and I also saw a video footage on facebook taken on a bus, over an hour long.

Since the Monday was a Pentecostal holiday in Germany I was not too concerned about the money transfer until the Friday. I tried to contact him via facebook messenger but – but I was blocked from his facebook account.

I went into his facebook through Nigel’s and there he still was, but all the previous posts since June 2020 were taken down. How very strange and discomfiting. There was obviously something wrong going on. The following Monday I made it my business to phone up the bank in question to ask about the transfer, but got nowhere. Only on the Friday I finally made contact with a nice person, who told me not to expect any money, as the emailed filled out form was no proof. I also tried to find out about the company he claimed to work for and they did not know a person by that name.

So it all turned out to be a very well executed scam. Or maybe I am just astonishingly gullible, naive and trusting. However, I will not just let it go and filed a report with the police in Germany and also added his and her name to a German facebook site (!Vorsicht Betrueger!) for scammers, just in case they continue to finance their tour of Europe through swindling money of others.

In the meantime the idiot has been posting again on his public facebook page and below it is a long rant from a fuming Portuguese lady, who apparently put them up for four days, she being out of money and sick, and they just run away. But one day they will get their comeuppance and karma is a wonderful thing.

New and shady Car Port

Since the lemon tree had to be chopped off to make space for the concrete lorry, we now had the space to erect a car port. Temperatures can go up to 40 degrees Celsius and are over 30 degrees for at least 5 months, so having a bit of shade is essential, if you want to be able to touch the steering wheel.

Nigel constructed the frame with nine uprights and cross beams and we covered it with a mat of cañas, reeds which we purchased at the local builders yard. It works a treat and hopefully the Passionflower plant will make its way up it.

Czech Invasion

Our international guests are back in full force. We had a French lady mad into horse riding, a Belgian documentary maker, an English couple looking for a patch of Andalusian soil and five Czechs, who are also all into horse breeding and love my food.

This last week we had seven people staying, lots of breakfasts, innumerable cups of coffee and some lunches to provide. We will be happy to see them again some time.

Peafowl Chicks

I am for the birds, but that’s not really news. I am now the proud owner of four cute pea chicks, pavo reales, but I have no idea whether they are male peacocks or female peahens, only time will tell. I adore their little heads with their black beady eyes, long elegant necks and the little crown of feathers that is just forming.

As small as they are, nearly from birth they can fly, and if they get a fright they will, which is astonishing.

It will take three months before I can let them out of the hen house, so the dogs won’t take them for dinner and two years before they become adults, four years before the long vibrant tail feathers will develop, in case I have a (male) peacock.

I have learned a lot about these wild birds with their haunting cries. For example, they only lay up to 20 eggs once a year.

Peafowl are not only beautiful, they are also useful. They will control vermin like rats and mice, snakes, reptiles, insects and bugs like ants, ticks, fleas and snails, etc.

They will also function as an alarm system in addition to our dogs.

As we can already hear peacocks not far away and there is a breeder down the road, our neighbours should be fine with the noise they will make in time.

I don’t mind the strange noises they make, the screams, honks, squawk and cries. To me it’s a sound of the wild, evocative of castles and the wonderful Peacock Island, with 67 ha, in Berlin, where my mum brought me often as a child. My brother even worked for a while on this small island as a gardener. It is a most romantic place with a mock castle, statues, peacocks strutting, an old dairy, and a rose garden.

The Reverse Teenager Syndrome

About fifty percent of the population, any population, has to put up with ‘the change’, menopause or rather peri-menopause.

I am now about five years experiencing the hot flushes, the broken, sleepless broken nights and the irritability.

Just now, I can add befuddlement, forgetfulness and sheer stroppiness to the list.

It’s like being a teenager again, on the threshold to the fertile phase in a woman’s life, but just reversed, now on the verge of becoming the wise crone.

It certainly has its advantages when the monthly bleeding ceases, and with it the PMS and bloated feeling, although there still is some of that lingering in the background.

Right now is not a good time to feel like this. But when is ever a good time to feel this seemingly un-reason-able anger, bursting forth at any moment, for simple reasons or none. Most women at this stage have a career and have to put up with a boss or colleagues, or a less than happy marriage, maybe still some children at home or other stress factors, like sick and elderly parents, that need their care and attention.

Added to that we are now in a time where apparently the sun is having a moment herself with an increase of solar activity, resulting in geo-magnetic storms, which also have an effect on the human psyche, see for example this study:

Geomagnetic Activity and Violent Behaviour

[ https://journals.sfu.ca/seemj/index.php/seemj/article/viewFile/102/84]

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/-next-solar-cycle-may-be-stronger-than-previous-one–62421

And not to forget the Corona pandemic, that has, thanks to the very many restrictions imposed on us, another negative effect on our well-being.

I am in the lucky position to live outside of town in the countryside with plenty of space and privacy, have no boss or work colleagues, my children have built their own lives and my parents are already dead and everything else is going well. So I have absolutely no reason to be this angry.

I just can’t help the hormones, which have a merry dance and throwing everything out of kilter, Nigel my poor significant other taking the brunt of it.

It’s no wonder this puts a strain on any marriage and he runs for the hills into the arms of a younger, juicier model, which will inevitable also turn into a banshee when her times comes.

I have another theory why at this stage in a woman’s life everything goes down and out. If we don’t adjust our food intake and exercise regime we start to look a little pregnant. Which is what nature wants: for us, now not taking part in the procreation of the human species, to look like we already ‘have a bun in the oven’ and to turn the male’s attention firmly towards the younger women to spread their seed.

Nature is cruel in so many ways, but our society is caught in a ‘youth cult’ so that we do everything to stall this change into croneness, to become the old wise, grey-haired hag.

Just as well that with the aging process we also get to care less about what others think of us, which softens the blow somewhat.

I for one have decided to ditch the hair colouring merry-go-round and embrace the mottled look of a calico cat with the grey-white-dark coming into the previous black-brown hair, with a streak of blond added.

Also since my guts have signaled they won’t put up with lactose and gluten no more, my diet is even healthier than before, no more cream cheese, cream cakes and ice cream or any other milk-based desserts. This does not create a big gap in my diet, but I also now bake my own bread and the occasional cake, as the commercial stuff is both forbiddingly expensive or pure starch and sugar, no thanks.

So this phase of hormonal readjustment has to go hand in hand with a re-focussing on ourselves as women, who mostly put others first, and a reassessment of our lifestyle, if we want to maintain health and vibrancy.

If you want more information about women’s health go to Aviva Romm’s website ‘Empowered Natural Medicine for Women’  https://avivaromm.com/  .  Aviva is a midwife and herbalist and medical doctor who takes a holistic approach to ailments and believes in supporting the self-healing ability of the body instead of just treating the symptoms.

If you like to read more about the changes in our bodies and psyche, there is a blog that explores this: Winter’s Graces: The Surprising Gifts of Later Life [ https://wintersgraces.com/ ].

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March 2021 – Anniversary of our Journey to Spain 4 years ago

Beginning and end of the months. It started with floods and ended with a feeling of summer:

And as almost every months, March brought a lot of surprises, some good and some not so good.

Below are what are called ‘ollas’. Yes, I know they are terracotta pots.

A German friend of mine who is into pottery sent me a Whatsapp message about ‘Ollas’ (pronounced OY-yah).

These are ancient vessels of clay that are porous and used as a watering system for thousands of years. They are like vases and are buried in the ground between plants and filled with water.

See https://wateruseitwisely.com/olla-irrigation/

I have since read up on them and like this low-tech version of a watering system and have installed a home-made version in my vegetable garden.

Purpose made ollas are beautiful but quite expensive, so I have bought cheap terracotta pots in the Bazaar Chino, two sizes that just about fit snug into another and have sealed the edge with silicone, and also plugged the drain hole that goes into the ground.

The advantage over over-ground irrigation systems is there is no evaporation occurring, as the moisture seeps into the surrounding soil, right there where it is needed and only when it is needed, so it is extremely efficient. This will depend on a lot of things: the saturation of the soil, the soil type, the plant needs, the plant size and how far away it is. So in fact the plants needs dictate how much water is used. Overwatering is not possible, as the olla is full if no water is needed and empty when all is used up.

The other advantage is that because there is no overground moisture, no weeds will thrive. The top soil looks dry, but beneath and surrounding the olla the soil is damp.

How often it needs refilling depends on all these variables and also how often you water the garden. I look upon this system as a back up to my manual ‘flood irrigation’, which I do every two days at least in the heat of the summer. And in between the ollas will supply a steady bit of moisture.

The disadvantage, as far as I can see at this early stage is, that you need a lot of ollas, either one for every two or four plants and they take space away in small plots. Also our soil is nearly pure sand and does not retain any water due to its lack of humus, so any moisture gets sucked away immediately.

I also suspect that the plants will send out their roots towards the source of water and the olla will eventually be totally covered with hair roots. And then what? Will it clog up? Will I need to dig them up, dry them out and clean them?

Will faster and stronger growing plants take all the moisture for themselves? We will see. It is still an experiment for me and evolving as I put down more ollas and plants.

This system can be improved by connecting several ollas with pipes and having a line coming from a water butt for automatic refill if you are so inclined.

I however like to spend time in the garden with my plant children, so it is no chore to look after them or at them while giving them water. They will repay my diligence with beautiful, tasty, fresh and healthy vegetables and leaves.

Property Surprises

We had a surprise while trying to register the finca for the goat project. We did not realise that our abogado/notary did not register the property with the land registry at the time of purchase. Well, at the time we were just happy to close the deal and move on. That’s not so tragic in itself, but it turns out that a several thousand euro embargo is attached to our finca and we did not know about it.

So off we went to La Palma de Condado to check out, if there were any taxes unpaid, just to be on the safe side.

This embargo must be an issue with the previous owner and we immediately engaged a lawyer to shift this embargo off the property while at the same time starting the process of properly registering it into our name, which costs us a further €3,500, apart from the lawyers fee.

Apparently it is quite common that the local authorities will put an embargo on either your bank account or, if you do not have any funds, on your property for unpaid taxes or any incurred fines. They will either take their unpaid dues out over time from your account or prevent a sale of the property from happening. Sometimes the next owner will have to pay those fines, if they have to do with the property, for example not having obtained the required licences or having built too large or for a different purpose.

In our case at the time of sale, this embargo had not yet been put upon the finca, so we will not have to pay any of it. It just takes time and money to shift it.

This is beautiful La Palma de Condado, Iglesia San Juan Bautista, Plaza de Espana:

Garden Art

Thanks to our new neighbour we are now proud owners of not one, but three unique statues. I always coveted some art in my gardens, just not quite the type we now own. But never mind, they are quite fetching and different from the gargoyle that inhabits the vegetable garden.

These three are nymphs come from a nearby finca, whose owners were Dutch and the new owner just does not feel comfortable with them.

The biggest is a real beauty and the two smaller ones are of the same model, but all are unashamed depictions of the feminine form.

It’s really a deal – art for eggs. Astrid, our new neighbour, loves our farm fresh eggs and we really love her oranges and so we swap. I include in the deal surplus from the garden and so we are all happy.

Our terrace is the hottest place in the summer and really only good for an early morning yoga session or a late night wine chill-out. We erected a pergola and the first year I had a synthetic matting up to provide shade. Between the wind and rusty wire it went to bits. The ultimate idea is to have the wine, Kiwi and Bougainvillea climbing up and over it, but this will take years.

For now, we need an alternative type of awning.

So this year I cut the cañas, the reeds growing along the road, and proceeded to slip them into the wire grid. Fingers crossed, it will provide some kind of shade. It’s organic, free and I can always add some more.

Random photo gallery:

Between the times…

Garden produce….

The Nicest Time of Year

In this blog I will only talk of positive things, promise.

For example I am really pleased about my winter garden. It has brought us an endless supply of rocket, lettuce, Swiss chard, leek, herbs like parsley, mint, dill, coriander, marjoram, oregano, rosemary & thyme.

Now at the end of February even the nettles are coming to an end as they are starting to flower. I have been making good use of them in my nettle soup, which everybody loves, and have dried enough to keep me supplied for the year in my green tea with nettle and mint morning cuppa. The rest will be used as liquid fertiliser.

I am now also harvesting the biggest carrots I ever grew. Apart from that soon we can eat fresh peas, beetroot and later on leeks, onions and garlic. Courgettes and peppers are coming up, so are Calendula from my own seeds and poppies from last year.

My newest experiment is to dig a hole to dump the kitchen scraps into and let them decompose in-situ, right there where the nutrients are needed when I plant the next crop. It works a treat, as my rocket salad gave us huge amounts of delicious peppery leaves, enough to supply the neighbours.

Four Ladies and Nigel

At the moment we are full, meaning two rooms are taken. Downstairs is Maria from Malaga, a substitute teacher for a primary school in Almonte and here for 3 weeks. In our red bedroom with the single beds we have two ladies from the Czech Republic. One, Martina, is a professional photographer of horses and Lada, who has been here before. She owns a stud farm back home and buys her horses here, in Andalucia. This time she is here for 10 days to train a young horse. She intends to split her time between the Czech Republic and El Rocio.

You can look at Martina’s gallery here: https://projekt-atelierpropsy.webnode.cz/galerie/ for dogs or here for horses: https://projekt-martinaburianova.webnode.cz/galerie/

Cycling Joys

One fine Sunday I went on a cycle tour which brought me all the way to Hinojos on the nice calm road through the National Park. Usually I go as far as the Camping Village Doñarrayan Park or the Restaurante Almoradux but this time I followed the small cycle path and continued until I saw the first houses of Hinojos.

This concrete path is called the Carril de Cicloturismo El Arrayán and is 5.77 kms long and just gorgeous at this time of year. Everything is lush and green, it’s like cycling through a jungle.

All included I did 40 kms in three hours, including small breaks to sip water and take pictures and felt it the next day, but it was worth it.

Not for this Year….

We are now into March and finally construction on the swimming pool has started. The hole in the ground has been here since last May and with the help of Robert’s expertise in steelwork and building, it will progress.

They started with laying down a layer of insulation on the ground and around the sides. On top of the insulation three layers of steel frame has been put and rubble used as spacers to keep them slightly apart, so the concrete seeps between. Rods along the sides will reinforce the three rows of blocks.

Yesterday the concrete was poured and unfortunately the lemon tree was in the way of the concrete lorry and had to go. I am heart-broken.

Get THE TEST – and f*** the REST

                                                                        (*** forget)

Do you feel this is no time to travel?    Too many restrictions?

Well, let me tell you, what has been going on in this part of Spain.

As you know, we run a little guest house, just three rooms on booking.com.

Booking send me an invoice for January 2021 and to my utter surprise, we managed to pull in €200, not to mention the few guests under-the-radar, the phone bookings.

We had three cyclists staying with us, two from Poland and one French guy, who has been cycling since October 2020 and will keep going around southern Europe until July, mostly camping.

We also had a guy visiting his girlfriend in Almonte and our ex-guests-now-friends from Sweden made their way back to Spain by ferry and car.

Their journey was only disrupted by a road block in France, where they were asked for their Covid pcr-tests. They didn’t have any and are due a fine, although the fine would be a lot cheaper than the actual test back in Sweden. It would have been nearly impossible to be still in-test throughout the journey anyway.

Test costs seem to range from €30 to €60, or more in Sweden and France, where the test costs 135 Euro. 

A German lady and her friend also got on the road with two jeeps and pony trailers totally unencumbered, although they stuck to the night-driving ban.

And now we had a full house, or rather three occupied rooms with one substitute teacher and two lads working on wind turbines.

In the last week in January we went to Matalascanas, the beach and visited the car park at the end of the promenade, where in the winter campers usually stop by. This time there was only two, one German and one Dutch camper. We chatted to the young Dutch couple, which had two little pre-school children with them and had just come from Portugal. They took this last opportunity for an extended family adventure and would be on the road until the summer.

We hear also from football teams, golfers, sun-seekers and Spanish students taking to the air to achieve some sporty goal, get some badly needed sunshine or refresh their language skills.

A friend of a friend returned from five glorious weeks on Tenerife (she has her own hairdressing salon and had to close anyway) to Frankfurt at the Beginning of February. Nobody wanted to see any documentation. Only two days later the local health board phoned her and said: “We are aware that you were out of the country and have not registered with us. You need to take a test immediately.” She already had booked a test from the Canary Islands for the very next day after her arrival and was negative. So she had visited her recently renovated shop. But the reply was “Until we send you an official letter that you can go outside, you have to quarantine.”  Certainly the German bureaucracy is still working.

My mother always said no dish is eaten as hot as it is cooked (translated from German). Things seem or are made to seem far worse than they are in reality.

I certainly will visit who wants me within a reasonable range and have prepared accordingly. The condition in Spanish jails seems quite ok, because I will refuse to pay a fine  ….  (famous last words).

Collection of photos: a spider found on an olive tree trunk, possibly Eusparassus dufourii.

Three of our four cats in a tree; our lamb Laurie and our new gifted statue, what a Beauty!