Flowing goodness


In these bottles, sitting in our kitchen, are five litres of amazing olive oil.  They come from Els Mussols, an olive smallholding (or finca), abandoned about 50 years ago, near the village of Xerta in southern Tarragona province in Catalonia, Spain. Since the middle of 2007, friends of ours have been working hard to get it back into the production of high-quality olive oil, with no herbicides or pesticides used in the process.  Today the product of their labours, having passed through a network of contacts, enriches our life.  Yesterday we pruned the vine in the polytunnel – will we be able to send goodness flowing to them?

Lots of Weather

As February comes to end we have weather data for a complete calendar month for the first time:


Some things are obviously not right – we have had lots of sunshine but don’t have a solar sensor.  Also I think temperature maximums are boosted by direct sunshine, something I can prevent when there is time to resite the sensor. The snow stats have to be entered manually, which I have not been doing

The mean minimum has been above freezing, not bad for February at 900′ Twelve days have been completely dry.

Here is the temperature graph for the month:


and here are some daily stats:


Some things we have learned about the weather without needing numbers are:

  • We seem to get more weather in a day here – showers seem to move over more quickly.
  • It is often surprisingly calm for this altitude
  • It has never been too uncomfortable to be doing things outside!

Local Currency

I was told that moving into this rural setting a lot of buying and selling was done through exchange rather than the use of cash.  This wasn’t suggested by the garage today when they fitted new discs and pads to the vehicle, nor indeed by the farmer when I picked up some hay and straw. However, listening to this gave me hope:

I thought I could not lose: either I could turn aubergines into currency, or use them in local barter, or just eat a lot of them.  Now we know these vegetables don’t really belong on a 900 foot high hail swept Welsh hillside, being originally from India, but they did manage on a Sheffield allotment:


They were purchased as seedlings but here everything has to be done from first principles of course.


They will require a delicate cosy compost covering:


And surrounding air at 25 degrees:


But with 45 pots at seven seeds to the pot:


We should be rich, one way or the other.

Meanwhile, this gentleman has taken up residence under the bird feeders:


But one of his lady friends had a bit of a mishap last night:


Rural Utilities

Living in the city there were certain things which arrived and departed through hidden pipes and wires.  Here things are a lot more visible – which is thought provoking.

Energy arrives either in great big orange cylinders – which arrive full but then have no means of saying how much is used until they are empty – or like this:


Burning wood might sound romantic and, more importantly, cheap – roaming through the wilderness gathering nature’s bounty – but arriving in the middle of winter with limited laid-up resources that is not the case. Buying seasoned wood ready for burning does not appear to be cheap.  We need to start laying up green wood for next winter (although two year’s seasoning seems to be recommended) but that is another story.  We are wondering if burning wood is more expensive than burning LPG – we are attempting to monitor the situation.

The cities underground pipes are here laid bare:


an occasional event, with one end of the pipe leading here:


and the other here:


What lies down here:


is a bit of a mystery but the thought that is provoked is that there must be a better way than relying on a visit from a tanker that has to take something away.

(The job sheet said up to 1000 gallons.  Did he take 1000 gallons?  Who knows.  He did say that when he arrived at a job he could tell be looking at the people what he would find down there and he knew our contribution would be free from hazardous additions.)

So we have got a copy of this:


and are looking forward to building something like this:

Meanwhile, the main excitement today has been Molly and Dahlia meeting Flora and Marge:


Which seemed to go off without too much aggression.

Plus this!


Urban refugees

As well as evacuating from the city four human beings, one dog, two hens and three guinea-pigs we also liberated a quantity of plants.  However I am not sure they see it that way as they were unceremoniously dumped in various spots round the site and basically ignored for the last month.

Today we rounded them up, sorted them out, and promised them a better future.

The herbs we kept near the house door:


Then there were the trees (plus a few larger ones that we took to possible permanent locations):


Some soft fruit:


Some shrubs and bushes:


A few bulbs:


and a random collection of miscellaneous:


We promised them all that they would be properly planted within the next week or so.

Meanwhile this gentleman (and his lady friend) spent a lot of time strutting around the bird feeders (a poor picture taken through the window):


and seen in the kitchen:


The 10 day week

We are considering instigating a ten day week.

One advantage of being here is that we have greater control of our own rhythms – we are not being bombarded with cues from the outside world telling us it is time to DO things.

So, you know all those things which you feel you have to do each week?  What if you had ten days within which to do them, rather than seven?

After writing the above, I thought I better check out who else has had this idea.  I see a ten day week was used by the Chinese from around 2000 BC – why do the Chinese have to do everything first?   It was also used in Ancient Egypt and, of course, Revolutionary France.  So I think we are in good company.

Rainbows and tit swarms

In the last few days the ever changing giant cinerama screen which is our Northerly prospect has revealed a new ingredient, rainbows:


Because the vista is so wide and deep they can pop up in various places at different times,

The bird feeders have been attracting large groups of Blue tits, Great tits, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Siskins.  At one point there were more than ten chaffinches on the ground pecking at the feeder droppings.  A regular swarm of  more than thirty Blue tits zoom in and out, happy to come and feed even if one stands close by.  Here they play the Blue tit equivalent of how many people can we get into a phone box:


Warming up to germinate

The days tick by and our minds turn to seeds.  Time to think about this place:


and how it doesn’t really look ready as a place to grow things.

It does feel warm though.  Here is the outdoor temperature here today:


I don’t trust that peak around 10.45 am, when the sun came out for a while.  I presumed the casing on the temperature sensor was sufficient protection from direct sunlight but experience and further research have proved me wrong.  I will be building a shelter for the sensor soon.  So I reckon the maximum outdoor temperature today was about seven degrees.  Here is what was recorded in the polytunnel today:


So, even without direct sunlight, an increase of ten degrees inside compared with out.  So better get it cleared, we made a start:


In our mind it is already looking like this one at Bealtaine Cottage:

Meanwhile outside each day the snowdrops are a littler more full:



And as always, our neighbours take a lot of interest in our activity:


Joining things up

On the 19th August 2014 we set off on a camping holiday at Acorns small holding. We were so enraptured by what Phil and Roz had done to four acres of farmland in five years that we decided there and then to change our life.

So what a delight when we Phil and Roz arrived today to visit us on our new patch.  If we can half match their enthusiasm, energy and vision we will work wondrous deeds in this place.  You can see Roz’s thoughts here.

Four weeks

Four weeks today we arrived at this place.  The weather the last couple of days has not been conducive to photographs – misty flat light – so let’s start with a list:

Birds seen on, or over, our patch during the last four weeks:

  • Siskin
  • Blue Tit
  • Great Tit
  • Chaffinch
  • Robin
  • Dunnock
  • Wren
  • Heron
  • Buzzard
  • Crow
  • Starling
  • Goldcrest
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Blackbird
  • Greenfinch
  • Pheasant
  • Raven
  • Magpie
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Goldfinch
  • Bullfinch (male)
  • Coal Tit
  • Longtailed Tit
  • Treecreeper

Of particular delight are the wren, constantly flitting round the stumps and creepers; the woodpecker, now visiting the peanut feeder daily; and the treecreeper, creeping up the hazel just outside the window.

After a few days enclosed in the run Flora and Marge were looking a bit fed up:


So we set up the hen netting to try giving them a bit more freedom.  They briefly shared a space with Molly and Dahlia but after one hackles raised spurs out confrontation to find top hen we decided 10 year-old Molly didn’t deserve such stress and we made two separate enclosures.  They could completely free range but patches of snowdrops and daffodils are close by and we don’t really want them scratched up.  We were a bit fearful that Flora and Marge, having come from a completely free range setting where they roosted in trees, would be over adventurous but they have been quite happy to know where their base is.


We have set up our survey basemap and are beginning to gather information to make overlays of existing structures and our observations:


Thoughts are also turning to the imminent growing season so we have decided to start with the biggest challenge:


“requires 20 to 25 degrees to germinate” Nowhere is that temperature.  Except maybe here:


I think that shelf might stop coating our tea-towels and food containers with wood smoke and start doing something more useful.

Meanwhile, mixed life forms spotted in the conservatory this afternoon: