Little Owls in Olive Trees

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After only being on booking.com for seven months, we already received their award for having achieved 9.2 out of 10 points on their review scale, which is nice. Nicer still is when our guests tell us ‘don’t change anything, you are doing everything right’.

The most elaborate and lovely review was posted by our Canadian ‘birders’ Janice and Art on google maps: “A stay at Casa Halcon is worth going out of your way. If you happen to be interested in nature, this is a great place to start your tour of Donana National Park. El Rocio is a mere 23 minute car trip. Casa Halcon is worth a stay even if the local history and nature aren’t your main interest. The owners of this Inn are dynamic, talented and experienced hosts. They run the Casa and the surrounding olive farm. If you are fortunate, you may be able to ask Angelika for a super delicious homemade dinner for a modest fee. The breakfast is unbeatable. The accommodation is both attractive and comfortable, which is a major achievement as Angelika and Nigel are “off the grid”, an ecological bonus. The dogs stay outside. If you are dog people, though, be sure to ask for an outdoor visit with Sophie and Drops. Both are adorable. Take an evening stroll down the road and say hi to the horses. As darkness falls listen to the calls of the Little Owls from amongst the Olive trees-magical!”

Said Owls are active night and day, and their call is like a bunch of kittens, but none of us has ever spotted them, as they are very small and secretive.

Our guest book is also full of praise and maybe we have now come to expect that everybody should love it here, which is not the case. Occasionally we do get people that book, but do not stay. This leaves us a bit floundered, because they do not say what made them cancel. Our location shows now up correctly as being in the countryside, 4 kms outside of Almonte. It shows you can’t please everyone and it serves to keep our feet on the floor and our heads a reasonable size.

Our Canadians hired a guide from Ronda, who spent two days with them, showing them the local wildlife around here. See http://www.wildandalucia.com/trip-reports/    http://www.wildandalucia.com/ :

Latest birding trip reports to southern Spain  11, 12-2-2019. Best of Doñana
Our classical 2-day best of Doñana Tour with Art and Janice, Canada. Seen remarkable sights such as Greater Spotted Cuckoo, Black-winged Kite, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel and Squacco Heron. Our first day was a magnificent introduction to Doñana along the whole north side of the park, i.e., José Antonio Valverde visitor centre, Dehesa de Abajo, etc. On our second day we visited El Rocío area and the Odiel’s marshes at low tide, giving us a nice bunch of waders. Great days in good company, enjoying great local fish and challenging bird sights .  9 raptor species among a rough 90 species. The season’s officially started!

 

We have now also extended the back garden, this will be its final design. It is lovely to see the first seedlings coming up to herald spring: spinach, garlic, tomatoes, leeks and the potatoes that Nigel planted the 20th of January. The peas are also doing very well. I also tried my hand on decorating a few flowerpots, cheering them up a bit.

We had so many lemons, that I decided to make some lemon jelly and lemon chutney, which turned out nicely. The rest will go for lemonade – when I get around to it.

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shop in Castlepollard, Co Westmeath

We had to make a quick Ireland visit end of February. This time Nigel’s sister Elaine and her husband Ian kindly agreed to mind our finca, house and animals. It makes for a nice warm break from frigid Ireland, where we arrived to sparkling sunshine and blue sky. We started out in Tipperary, spending a night at one of Nigel’s best friends Paddy and Joan outside of Clonmel. I also got to see my son Frank, who is working on a dairy farm nearby. Further north though, in Leitrim, the sky turned the usual colour grey and I never took off my winter coat while helping Nigel to spruce up his farm, which is being rented out.

We stayed with his neighbour Mick and Valinda and their kids in the very nice house beside the lake. On the first morning we ‘walked the dogs’ which involved kayaking on the lake while the dogs run along the lakeshore. It was bliss slowly gliding along the serene, calm and silent lake. The next day, after a day toiling away pulling weeds and cleaning drains, I immersed myself in their sumptuous outside Jacuzzi with a view over the said lake and surrounding mountains. Not a bad way to enjoy the Irish countryside! We were also kindly invited by friends of Nigel to dinner on both nights, so we had a nice time socialising.

What was this machine used for not so long ago?

It sits in the Donana National Park, the El Acebuche Visitor Centre site [see http://www.juntadeandalucia.es%5D, where we went one Sunday for a long walk. This side of the National park is open to visitors at no cost. They have extensive board-walks and bird-watching huts scattered about and a wetland,  that greeted us with a frog- or toad-concert.

Answer; it is a pine-crusher, to expel the pine kernels from the cones. To this day you will see folks beating and climbing the pines to collect the pine cones to extract and sell the kernels.

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spring flowerSilene ssp.

CASA HALCON on booking.com

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Yes, finally the last touches are being added and we are ready to open our house and finca for guests. Time to pop the cork!

The first bookings are coming in and soon we are also live on Airbnb.

And, since temperatures are soaring, we are installing a swimming pool. A big round over-ground thingy, 17.4 m3, 1 m deep which will give us some refreshment during the hottest months here when we won’t make it to the beach.

In the meantime another fiesta in Almonte is in preparation.

But first I want to tell you about our experience with the Romeria, which takes place each year at Pentecost.

El Rocio – The Romeria at Pentecost, see  https://rove.me/to/seville/el-rocio-pilgrimage  for footage and general information.

El Rocio is a town build on sand, therefore all its streets are pure sand and predestined to be used by horses, riders and carriages.

It also is a pilgrimage town, where throughout the year the brotherhoods, ‘hermandados’, meet to prepare for the biggest of the fiestas, the Romeria, at Pentecost. Last year we were just leaving for Portugal, when the throng of carriages, waggons and riders descended upon El Rocio. This year we watched the build-up in Almonte, where children and whole families were beautifully dressed in traditional costumes and flamenco dresses. Little girls complete with flowers in their hair, lipstick and dresses. Even little boys looked like their fathers in traditional leather riding boots, cummerbund, white shirts and hats, a lovely sight.

El Rocío Pilgrimage or Romería de El Rocío in Seville - Best Time

Some of the pilgrims passed-by our entrance.

We are people that shy away from crowds. This is our excuse, for this year anyway, not to join in the festivities in El Rocio. Instead we watched the religious fervour unfold on the television. There is a whole channel devoted to going-ons in Donana, the Nature Reserve and area here which includes Almonte, Matalascanas and El Rocio and the Donana National Park. This is a very catholic celebration of the Virgin of El Rocio, La Paloma Blanca, the white dove. Every hermandado has a float, richly decorated with flowers, drawn preferably by oxen or horses or mules. There are prayers, incantations and blessings. Not really our style. And to be wedged in between nearly a million dressed-up followers in the beating sun isn’t really our idea of fun.

However, we sneaked into town at sunset on the Sunday. Therefore my photos are very dark and some were too wobbly, as catching the carriages driving by or riders and lady’s on horseback proofed too much for my limited photographic talents. On this evening, an almighty downpour drenched the town and the revellers and big puddles need to be negotiated.  The floats are proudly displayed in a separate tent beside the place for the bow-top caravans for families that do not own a house in El Rocio. It is very much a family festivity and there does not seem to be much alcohol involved.

El Rocio, circa 15 kms from our house, at night: