Monday, February 6, 2017

After the Storm

We had a nor´wester blow through.  Or two.  Right after the Siberian blast.  So much for the warm, dry winter.

Electricity went on and off again all weekend.  Must find a better lighting solution than candles, of which we have quite a few, but not enough light to read by.  Fortunately, we didn´t lose anything in the freezer or anything.  We remember a 4 day blackout in Chicago, with V recently arrived, during a record heat wave.  A hundred year old transformer blew.  V remarked after the second day that governments would fall in Spain if such a thing happened.  He was impressed that people managed to cross intersections with non-functioning traffic lights in such a civilized fashion.

The current joke is after complaining about the price gouging on electrical rates during the cold snap, people are now doing without, whether they want to or not.

Anyway, no notable damage.  A tree in the woods alongside our lot fell.  A couple of branches also came down.  Some yard stuff blown around.  A road sign at the corner blew into the ditch.

I´d planted two baby bare root oak trees just before, which are certainly watered in at this point.  They are in memory of my parents who are both gone now, but one has a split down by the base that I didn´t notice when purchasing, so I have my doubts about it´s future.  Still, at €3.50 at the farmer´s market, not difficult to replace.  Bought some more blueberries, an almond tree, and the only hazelnut they had, along with an impulse Lingonberry, which I´m not sure will thrive in this zone.  I miss cranberries.

Breo´s been ordered to ¨rest¨ after pulling something in a back leg.  Conveniently, he doesn´t like going out in the rain.  We think it´s from his stint at the shelter. But even without walks, when he ¨sees¨ something in the garden he takes off like a rocket and then hobbles the rest of the day. 

The rain guage blew over twice so I can´t be sure how much actually fell.  Now waiting for the water to drain to get back to the garden and planting.  It´s starting to smell like spring.  And the plucky little japanese quince is blooming!

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Projects

Lots of Projects for 2017 big and small, which will be expounded upon in further posts:

1.  Barn renovation

So we have this 1917 barn, or what´s left of it.  The roof had a gaping hole when we bought the place, and based on the builder´s recommendation, had the roof taken off and the rotten elements removed.  In retrospect, it might have been wiser to patch the roof, though the builder insists that the weight wasn´t good for the structure.  In any event, as a first phase we´d like to get it covered, install a floor, and fill in the openings so we´d have a dry place for storage.  Eventually, I want a studio workshop and a dry, secure place for storing feed/bedding/firewood/tools.  V wants a mancave.

2.  Garden

The veg area will be expanded, but is limited by tree roots and the zone around the barn which will be churned up by workers and vehicles.  Closer to the house, I´ll creating an area for flowers, culinary and medicinal herbs and dye plants. 

3. Assorted Interior projects:  backsplash, range hood, laundry sink

While livable, there are a few elements still missing from the house.  This year we´d like to get those finished, along with buying the last furniture items.  We´re still sitting on patio chairs at the kitchen table.  The laundry room needs a complete makeover, but depends on what kind of laundry sink we get.  A bigger, longer term project still pending is solar thermal hot water.  I wasn´t really convinced that Galicia had a climate for solar anything, but with summers getting hotter and drier, it´s probably time to investigate this more thoroughly.  We simply can´t afford a solar electricity set up, and the government is now taxing those who do, even if they´re off grid.

4.  Experimenting with natural dyes/cheesemaking/brewing

I miss doing creative stuff, even though I don´t seem to have time to do what I should on any given day.  Lately, I´ve been really intrigued by eco-printing and botanical dying, which uses plant material and found objects to print patterns and colors on fabric.  I got a copy of India Flint´s Eco Colour, who´s an Australian fibre artist and does very interesting work, and have a couple of books on dye plants and dyeing to put to use.  I got some cheesemaking supplies while I was in the States and will have to look into finding a supply of raw milk and maybe a local mentor to show me the ropes on producing cheese.  Another goal is to renew our brewing hobby, now that our bottle collection is out of basement storage in Madrid and here in Galicia.  Another reason to organize the laundry room space - storage for bulky brewing stuff. 

5.  Water

This winter is shaping up to be very dry.  I´ve been busily building raised beds since historically Galicia is quite wet.  But this winter the weather is wierdly dry, warm and sunny and we´ll be needing to take advantage of all new roof surfaces to store water, especially at higher elevations.  I´d also like to refurbish the defunct well by the barn for watering the garden, and there needs to be some form of irrigation put into place.  We´ll see.

6.  Chickens

Still need to decide on a place to put a coop.  Disruption from work on the barn could be an issue here, also.  I´d just like to get started with a half dozen hens and start producing some fertilizer for the gardens.  Always good to have the ingredients for a tortilla española around the place.

7.  Integrate into the community

We´re really, really bad at socializing.  V has the excuse that he´s gone a lot, but I´m just anti-social.  We know our immediate neighbors and have met a few locals, but haven´t done a lot to participate in local functions or anything.  However, just before Christmas, we started hosting a lovely young woman for an English conversation practice once a week, and are planning to meet her family soon.  Turns out, she plays the gaita/pipes and is a member of the local folk band, so we hope to be more informed as to local festivities this year.

So those are the plans.  We´ll revisit to see how well we´ve done at the end of the year.  And now I must go get in another couple of loads of firewood as they´re predicting a siberian cold wave for the end of this week.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 in Review

Despite the appalling loss of celebrities in 2016, on the positive side we did get quite a lot done this year.

5.  Guest Bedroom

Although this didn´t make it on the blog, probably because it´s practically impossible to photograph, we cleared out the many, many boxes of stuff, bought a sofa bed and an armoire, put down a rug and now have a perfectly serviceable guest bedroom/office. Honestly, where did people buy furniture before Ikea?  We looked locally, asked all our contacts in Madrid and La Coruña and ended up back at the Swedish behemoth anyway. The room has received the approval of several family members so far this year.   I had toyed with the idea that the space might serve as a sewing/craft room for me, but once the furniture was in, that´s really not practical.  I toy with the idea of earning a small part time income doing something online, and there is Wifi reception in that room, so we´ll see as 2017 develops.

4.  Main bath finished

Finally painted, added sconces, and finished installing the lav sink in it´s antique cabinet.  Ongoing challenges in this room are the cold (it´s the northeast corner of the house) and the shower doors which have a 1/4 inch gap in the gasket corner at the hinge that flood the floor with water every time someone showers.  We´re thinking a heated towel rack might help with the heating issue, and I suppose we´ll have to look for replacement gaskets to fix the other.

3.  Garden started

The veg patch produced well for a first timer.  I pulled out bags and bags of trash, rocks and weeds and the veg seemed to appreciate it.  The experiment to leave the carrots in the ground has produced split carrots.  The kale and beet greens are still thriving, despite several frosts.  The peas are still growing, but I expect them to succumb this month.  They´ll get plowed in in the spring.  Hoping an earlier start will help with bigger harvests this year. 

2.  Patio area

One of The Best ideas of 2016.  This patio got used practically every day once it was done.  A truly lovely spot.  We finally just moved the table and chairs over along side and hung out in this shady little corner.  Put up some solar lanterns and had many enjoyable hours chatting and relaxing.  I encourage everyone to have an agreeable little corner like this to retire to.

 1.  Breo

The best idea of 2016!  After a couple of months of adapting, Breo has taken to the place and settled into being a delightful dog, though he can be a handful.  Ongoing challenges are due to our own lack of training skills and consistent discipline.  He´s a very willing collaborator around the place and caught 2 rabbits, much to V´s distress.

He gets walked, er ¨goes on patrol¨, twice a day and, weather permitting, gets an hour or so of ball time, er ¨prey practice¨.  There is a complicated, and highly secret, buried bone rotation in place.  He likes to help dig holes and absolutely loves it when the garden requires an application of manure.

He´s diligent about warning off passersby, whether on foot or in enormous farm machinery.  He completely charmed all friends and family who came to visit and behaved quite well with other dogs, both family and strays who´ve happened by, all while maintaining the property absolutely cat-free.

We´ve switched from feeding raw to one raw and one kibble meal a day.  Mostly because, should we have to drop everything and go to Madrid for a family emergency, a dog residence will have an easier time feeding kibble, and also because the Vet is always warning us to watch his weight.  So he´s on Acana Light and Fit and he seems to enjoy it. 

On the other hand, the hair!  The ongoing, constant, unstoppable shedding.  Clouds of hair.  Tumbleweeds of hair moving through the patio.  Also, I cannot in all conscience recommend a blonde dog with black cabinets.  But here we are.

We´re delighted with him, and he seems to be with us, especially lately he´s been more and more cuddly.  It will be a year now, since we brought him home, and yes, the Reyes Magos will be bringing presents.

And in honor of the love and joy and life he´s brought to the place, we´ve named the house ¨Fogar de Breogán¨, or Breogan´s Home, which figures prominently in the Galician anthem.  Some purist Galleguistas will no doubt be offended, but that´s OK.

So that´s 2016.  Many thanks for reading and following our story.  Projects for 2017 will be forthcoming.  We wish you all the best for a happy, healthy 2017!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cleaning up the beds

Got started on cleaning up the beds for winter.  V dug out 2 extension beds along the curve of the ruined wood oven and planted the standard roses, the loquat and a dwarf apple tree we had in pots.  Took some hard digging as you can see by the rocks he took out.

I planted some tulips and daffodils around.  Not sure they´ll have enough chill hours, but fingers crossed.  Dug up the dahlia I liked and divided the prodigious roots.  Not confident any will survive replanting next spring.  Dusted them with cinnamon, which the internet tells me is a natural anti-fungal.  We´ll see.  Still need to divide and move some irises and roses.

Also got started on hanging some Christmas decorations.  I cut some greenery around the place and in the woods when walking with Breo.  I never remember what a faff this is, until I´m doing it.

Retrieved some barrel hoops from a dumping spot to try making some ¨rustic¨ wreathes.  I always start off with a lot of enthusiasm, but the hamfisted results frustrate me.  Why people dump crap in the woods instead of taking it to the punto limpio where they can get rid of it for free baffles me.

On to the holiday baking, which I haven´t even started yet.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Wrapping up

I went to LA for a couple of weeks to wrap some things up, which was both very sad and yet satisfying.  Probably the last time I´ll be there.  Things end and things begin, I suppose.  So now I´ll be focusing on my little corner of the world and making it as magical as I can.

Since getting back, the weather has been gorgeous, and also completely atypical for this time of year.  A few rains and a frost, but mostly warm and sunny and dry.

Got started digging the new area of the veg patch.  About 1/3 done, going a little at a time, takes about 2 hours to dig a 4 square meter patch.  Now resting with a few bags of the abundant leaves this year mixed in.  Still needs amending with some manure and worm castings.  Will be potatoes and onions at least in the spring.

The beet greens (Grelos de Santiago) are fabulous.  Started from seed a couple of months ago and thinned twice.  And the kale, also from seed, is up and such a pretty color.  The carrots are approaching the size of my forearm and frankly a little woody, but the fragrance is so intense.  Great roasted or in stews.

Garlic that I planted just before I left is up.  The bed shows signs of Breo ¨helping¨ while I was gone.  Waited until November this year and hopefully raised it enough that it won´t be waterlogged by April.

Look at the nasturtiums!  A sign of the mild weather this fall.  Nice the bees have something to snack on, along with the borage which is still going strong.

We finally burned the remains of the weeds and the majority of the scrap heap of wood, saving larger pieces for firewood or eventual use in the garden.  Now need to distribute the ashes before it rains again next week, principally around the old pear and the apple/nut trees.

Plenty to keep busy with while the weather holds.  Flower beds to go through and lots of things to move. The Christmas spirit is yet to arrive, though. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A short break

Taking a short break.  Back soon.