Saturday, October 15, 2016

Odds and ends and a ruin or two

The weeks are passing quickly. It may be because we are waiting for our shipment from the U.S. and each week we marvel that it still has not arrived. Or perhaps it is because we leave a week from today for a trip to Korea and have been mindful of all the things we want to get done before that trip.  

Regardless, time really does fly when you are having fun!

Happy Sam

This week we had two rainy days. Rain is something that always brought a wave of depression for me when we lived in Oregon; I knew that once it started, it would not stop for nearly nine months. But here in La Alpujarra, rain is welcome after many months of sunshine. And so we rejoiced with the locals, and honestly, I loved it.  It smelled like "home," and it was cozy in our little cortijo with the rain falling outside, and the next day when we were enveloped by the clouds that resisted leaving.

The view over the edge of our property on Thursday

When the clouds did lift we had the most wonderful view of the snow covered mountains. I have always loved snow and I could look at this view for hours without tiring. In fact, I spent several hours waiting for the clouds to lift because I knew what was waiting for me.

A view that will never get old

We had a day in Granada and an evening with friends new and old.  A British man was here for a trek with our friends who run Spanish Highs Mountain Guides; we had met him in February when he was here for a winter climb and he was surprised to hear that we had moved here since we hadn't mentioned that to him in February - we explained that, in February we had not planned to move here!

And we have taken some lovely hikes.  One of the things about hiking here is that we constantly discover ruins scattered about the hillsides.  The house we live in was one of these ruins before it was restored several years ago.  And each ruin has an Era, or threshing circle - a feature that I find especially charming about this part of Spain.

An Era from times past

Ruined window

Approaching a ruin on one of our hikes

I want to know about the woman who cooked with this oven

Pantry shelves

View from a ruin

Sometimes the ruin is a car!

And sometimes we find interesting bugs on our hikes.  Today on the way home we spotted this Wolf spider on the road.  I thought it was just a fuzzy spider but when we got home I shared the photo on the Wildlife in Southern Spain Facebook site and discovered that the "fuzz" is actually baby spiders, hundreds of babies!

Female Wolf spider with a back full of babies

We leave for Korea next Saturday so I probably won't blog for a week or two. Thanks for following and I'll be back in November.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Walking (Wo)Man Walks

As James Taylor sings...

"Well the leaves have come to turning
And the Goose has gone to fly,
And bridges are for burning,
So don't you let that yearning pass you by.
Walking man, walking man walks."

If you live long enough you can think of a lyric for most any situation.

We have mostly oak trees and their leaves don't really turn, except to brown, but the poplars are a nice yellow. And while there are no Geese, the Bee Eaters have flown to Africa for the winter.

Autumn has arrived here in Las Alpujarras. When you live in a brown landscape the transition from summer to autumn is more subtle than in New England, where James Taylor writes his songs. 

New England leaves of autumn

Nevertheless, the season is changing and if you look closely the evidence is there.

The sun doesn't pop over the mountain until nearly 9 o'clock in the morning, and it is dark now soon after 8pm. We are reaching for our fleece in the mornings and evenings, even though we are still wearing shorts and t-shirts during the day. It isn't as hot as it was in August and September, so we are doing a bit more hiking. 

Yesterday we went high in the hills above us and enjoyed several hours without seeing another human. We did see a fox running through the pine trees, and that was magical. Today we walked out our road for a bit and saw views that we miss from the car. Sam took his clippers and trimmed the briars that scrape the car as we drive in and out. I took my camera and tried to capture signs of autumn.

High in the hills above our house

From the high hills

The sun is coming up later each morning

Sam trimming the briars along the road

Thistles have turned from purple to brown

The blackberries are drying up

If you look hard you can find a bit of fall color in the leaves

The rose hips have ripened


A Poplar leaf

Chestnuts are almost ready to fall

The pomegranates are getting larger

The baby geckos have grown large enough to climb

The olives have turned from green to purple

And figs have ripened

And at the Cami Hardware store in Orgiva, the fans and pool supplies have been replaced with wood stoves - all the signs are there. Winter is coming.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

"Good fences make good neighbours."

Mending Wall

Related Poem Content Details

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."

Look closely for the lizard on one of our walls, built by Manuel

   This poem has floated through my mind over and over during the past few weeks.  You see, we have a good neighbor who makes good fences, or walls.  But the mind is an odd thing.

   Manuel has lived on the mountain for about 15 years.  He and his wife, who he met when she was 14 and he was 20 live in a nearby cortijo with their black lab, "Blues."  Manuel is learning how to play the blues guitar, and therefore the name. As one of our British neighbors told me, "none of us could survive up here without Manuel's help."  He does odds and ends of jobs for various neighbors and we learned that wall building is a specialty of his.  

  Our property had many lovely walls when we arrived, but in making it our own, we wanted to add some.  We met Manuel first at a social gathering and Sam mentioned that he had a few things he could use help with.   A couple weeks went by and then one evening about 7 pm Manuel showed up and started working - it was August and the days were quite hot, so evening was best for this type of work.  He has been coming 5 days a week ever since.  

  He arrives promptly at 8:00 and leaves by about 2:00, but he only ever charges for 5 hours.  Blues comes along and occasionally wanders inside to see what I'm up to, but mostly he is a faithful companion at Manuel's side. Each day we prepare a cooler for him with a bottle of water and two beers, and I fix him coffee each morning - black with one sugar. 

  If you know Sam, you know that he rarely hires anyone to do anything because there is little chance that it will be done as well as Sam could do it himself.  This is not the case with Manuel.  Sam has been amazed to meet someone who works as hard as he does, and we have not had anything but total satisfaction with his work.  He is definitely skilled with walls, and also with steps, and we are proud to live with the results of his work. Frequently Sam is outside working on a project as well; one day Manuel walked over and squeezed his arm commenting on how strong Sam is; he clearly respects Sam's work ethic as much as Sam respects Manuel's.  

The lower wall was already here but we have had Manuel add the upper wall

Stairs, also by Manuel

   In other news, we finally got our car back, on Wednesday, so only a few days later than anticipated.  We learned a great deal during the 8 days we didn't have a car.  We are now confident using the bus system between here and Granada, we have learned our way around Granada by walking all over, and we have hiked home from the bus on two different routes up the mountain.  But it is good to have a car again.

   And today we took a gorgeous hike.  We drove further up the mountain for 15 km and then parked and hiked uphill for 90 minutes.  We ended at about 8800 feet, or 2700 meter elevation and ate our lunch looking at the view. At one point I realized that we could see our property way below!

High on the hill, in the center of the photo, is a point; that's where we hiked to.
And this is looking back down from our lunch spot.  It is too hard to describe, but our property is on the edge way down below.

360 degree view from our hike