Living in rural Mallorca

Country life in an old Mallorcan finca

Farewell to another feline

If every feral cat that we’d fed/watered/had neutered or treated at the vet’s, had stayed with us, we’d have 17 cats living around our finca in rural Mallorca. But as The Boss often says: “They are only passing through.” We have to expect that a feral cat will one day hear the irresistible call of the wild, and leave behind the regular meals, companionship of siblings, and human attention. But even knowing that these cats are only in our temporary care (however short or long that may be), doesn’t mean that we haven’t fallen in love with all the felines that have ‘adopted’ us. We’ve given every one of them a name and enjoyed watching their characters develop.

Loved and lost

There have been some sad losses over the years: a  pretty female kitten lost her life when she jumped from an almond tree straight into the path of a neighbour’s car. The Boss buried her at the bottom of the field (her grave is marked by stones) – just yards from where she came into the world. Another – a gorgeous little chap we named Bluey – was killed by one of the relatively few lorries to visit the valley (he too has his burial place). Bluey had once left us, setting off on his great journey to an independent life. Eleven days later he was back – and thereafter left our land only at night. If I was kneeling to do some weeding in the garden, Bluey would ‘supervise’ from his perch on my shoulder. If I spent any time relaxing on the lounger on the terrace, he’d jump up and make himself comfortable, tucking his head under my chin. If I went anywhere on our land, he’d follow me. As much as I had tried not to become too fond of the young cat, which we’d seen grow from a kitten, it was impossible not to; I was devastated when I found his inert body in the lane.

El Tel returns

On one occasion – between the death of Bluey and the arrival of a black kitten we named Jetta – Bluey’s brother El Tel arrived at the house. He’d left us quite a few months before and we’d not seen anything of him since. But, on this particular day, he paid us a visit. He hopped up into the dining room window recess – a place where he’d often dozed during the day – as though he’d never been away. A short while later, having checked out his former home, he left. We’ve never seen him again.

Amazingly, five members of our current cat family – from two litters, but the same mum – are still with us, more than three years after they were born. Shorty, a ginger kitten that simply turned up one day, is now a well-nourished and affectionate two-year-old. He was clever enough to ingratiate himself with the existing cat clan, thus ensuring a harmonious life in his new surroundings.

Along came Peanut

Peanut – another ginger kitten, but female – arrived last October. She was tiny, but squealed like a banshee whenever she was hungry. Which was most of the time. The other cats weren’t quite as welcoming as they had been with Shorty, but Peanut was persistent and eventually they tolerated her. She spent much of her early time with us pouncing on the older cats and play-fighting them, but had matured in recent months. We’d taken Peanut to be spayed when she was around six months old – only to find that the deed had already been done (at what must have been a very early age).

The cats often stay together for some time after dinner, appearing to enjoy each other’s company (and ours if we’re outside). But Peanut eventually took to going off on her own, returning for breakfast the next morning. Then, two weeks ago, Peanut didn’t come back . . . and we haven’t seen her since. We’ve no evidence that any harm has come to her, so we’re telling ourselves that this feisty little ginger cat is one of those felines that couldn’t resist the call of the wild.

Buen viaje, Peanut. You were fun to have around . . .

 

A very small Peanut, in October 2013.

A very small Peanut, in October 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

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August in rural Mallorca

Someone’s turned up the thermostat. As I write this, at 5pm, it’s 35 degrees Celsius outdoors (I just popped outside to check the thermometer, which is located permanently in the shade – and popped back in very quickly). It’s very quiet out there. In fact, it’s very quiet in rural Mallorca for most of August. During the day, it’s too hot to do much more than head for the beach or stay indoors with the cooling hum of the air conditioner. (We do a lot of the latter, particularly at weekends, when space on the sands is at a premium.)

Having a luxurious thick fur coat, our Birman cat Minstral seems to appreciate the air conditioning. I’m not sure he’d survive without it, unless he had a radical haircut. And I wouldn’t want to be the person to administer that! Our outdoor cats – the adoptees – stay close to the house, but hidden from the sun. If we have to go out in the car, we usually have to wait for one or two cats to drag themselves away from the shade underneath it. Beamer – probably the most intelligent member of our outdoor feline family – likes to curl up on the cool concrete floor in the dependencia, where our logs are stored for the winter. But they never venture far from the water sources we keep topped up, so they can drink when necessary.

We all become a bit livelier in the evenings, when it’s usually blissful to be outside, on one of the terraces. After dinner we often sit until bedtime, chatting, watching the cats, and marvelling at the geckoes on the wall. The latter look like dinosaurs in miniature and have stalking abilities that put our cat collection to shame. It’s fascinating to watch these lively lizards going into slo-mo as they approach an unsuspecting insect (dinner) that’s been attracted to the wall by the outside light.

And that’s what sometimes passes for entertainment on a hot August night in rural Mallorca!

Checking out the evening's menu

Checking out the evening’s menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finca footwear follies

Glamour isn’t a word that springs to mind when I open my wardrobe door. Living in rural Mallorca, in a valley that’s dusty in the long hot summer and often muddy in winter, doesn’t call for the type of clothes or footwear that I had in my former career as a BBC local radio broadcaster.

Most days are spent at home in the countryside, doing housework, gardening, and my freelance writing/editing work. One of the great things about the latter is that working from home means I can wear what I like – what is most comfortable. In winter this usually means jeans and a shirt or sweater. Today it’s a pair of shorts and a loose top, to keep cool.

Going out

When I have to go to the office of the magazine I write for, or to interview someone in connection with an article, I pull out the few clothes I have that pass muster as ‘business attire’. And I do mean few.

If The Boss and I have a party or other ‘do’ requiring something a bit more glamorous, I have a couple of years-old ‘occasion’ dresses lurking at the back of the wardrobe. Since Mallorca is an island where informal dressing is the norm, and we don’t get invited to too many posh events, the chances are that fellow guests won’t notice that I’m wearing the same dress and shoes yet again.

Seduced by sparkle . . . 

So I can’t explain the sudden desire that came over me a week or two ago during a visit to Palma. Sparkly sandals! My footwear is mainly of the practical variety: flatties in winter, flip-flops or Menorcan sandals (oh-so-comfortable) in summer. Our gravel drive does horrible things to high heels and most of my domestic non-writing tasks call for fit-for-purpose shoes, such as my gardening clogs. I resisted the temptation to buy the shiny shoes. For a week. During my next visit to Palma, I spotted that they’d been reduced in price by 10 euros. Ker-ching!

I won’t be wearing them around the finca, having learnt the hard way that ‘the wrong shoes’ can lead to accidents. There was the time I fell off a stepladder while varnishing a door . . . wearing flip-flops. When a flip-flop flopped, I dropped – along with the best part of a pot of honey-coloured varnish.

Then there was the time when I climbed over the low wall to our garden to pick some freesias for our guest room. We’d been about to leave for the airport when I remembered I hadn’t put flowers in my brother and sister-in-law’s room – and I was wearing heels. Going over was fine. Coming back, my heel caught on the wall and I fell flat on my face on the gravel drive, gaining a collar bone  fracture that wasn’t identified for six weeks!

My new sparkly sandals will be worn only on nights out. But, in the meantime, they greet me with a touch of glamour every time I open the wardrobe door.

Glamour meets gardening.

Glamour meets gardening.

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Flowering agave is the bee’s needs

Back in June I wrote about the agave that was beginning to flower in the garden of some friends here in the valley. Initially a huge stalk – looking rather like a giant asparagus spear – grew from the centre of the spiky leaves. As the agave dies once it has flowered, it’s probably as well that the stalk’s growth and subsequent appearance of the flowers takes place over the course of several weeks.

Yesterday morning The Boss and I went to check out the progress of this Mediterranean plant. The Boss took his iPod to capture some images to send to our friends (currently back in the UK) and I used my Nikon’s zoom lens to focus on the detail of the lofty yellow flowers.

The once-sturdy leaves at the base of the plant are now beginning to droop, as all the energy has gone into producing the spectacular flower. What struck us most was the huge number of bees swarming around the blooms. The property has some old hives and the bees often fly over to visit our finca’s bird baths, but we haven’t seen many for a few days.  We know little about bees (except that The Boss doesn’t react too well to being stung) but, from what we’ve observed, they love anything that’s yellow. They’re certainly loving the agave flower, but for how much longer? Only time will tell . . .

 

A daylight  glimpse of the moon as well.

A daylight
glimpse of the moon as well.

 

High in the sky.

High in the sky.

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Finca for sale in rural Mallorca

In case this headline shocks those who know The Boss and me, I must add that it’s not our finca on the market. The finca in question belongs to a friend of ours, who’s had it as a holiday home for 20 years. Now he’s preparing to start a new chapter in his life, and is selling his Mallorca property to fund future plans.

We’re not in the real estate business, but we do like to help out friends, if we can. So we offered to place the details of his finca here – just in case you’re looking for a holiday or permanent home on this beautiful Spanish island.

Michael’s finca is a one-storey property, with the benefit of extensive rural views. It’s in the northeast of Mallorca, in a tranquil, protected area, within 10 minutes’ drive of the town of Manacor. Coastal spots including Son Serra de Marina (a virgin beach with two adjacent eateries) and pretty Colonia Sant Pere (with a marina) are about 15 minutes’ drive away. The bungalow-style home has a large amount of natural land that attracts Mediterranean tortoises and a variety of bird life – and there are also fig, almond, and pomegranate trees.

These are the key features:

  • Two good-sized bedrooms.
  • One bathroom.
  • Spacious living room, with woodburning stove, beamed ceilings and double doors to terrace.
  • Fitted kitchen leading to another terrace.
  • Laundry area.
  • Above-ground swimming pool (with cover).
  • Gas-oil central heating, with radiators in every room and Worcester Bosch boiler.
  • Windows framed in wood.
  • Electricity from solar panels, with three-cylinder, 16 kva generator (latter, with solar batteries are stored in a machine room, in a building set apart from the house).
  • Large double garage-cum-workshop, with ample shelving and a long work bench – ideal for those who enjoy handicrafts or DIY (adjacent to above machine room).

The finca is on the market for 199,950 euros (fully furnished). If you’d like more information, or to talk to the owner, please email me through this blog.

Main bedroom

Main bedroom

 

One view of living room

One view of living room

Another view of living room

Another view of living room

 

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View, including part of the house.

View, including part of the house.

 

Extensive views of the Mallorcan countryside.

Extensive views of the Mallorcan countryside.

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From the boat to our table – via Porto Cristo fish market

When we started looking at properties for sale in rural Mallorca, we’d already decided that we wanted to be able to reach the coast fairly easily from our future home.  Mallorca isn’t a very large island so this wasn’t much of a restriction.

From our finca in the Mallorcan countryside we can drive to the coast to the north or east of our home within 25 minutes. One of the several seaside places we enjoy going to is Porto Cristo – Manacor’s port.

Porto Cristo is bustling in the summer – and not just with holidaymakers from abroad. Many citizens of Manacor own second homes here in the port and relocate themselves to their seaside homes – only some 11 kilometres away – during July and August. When we first heard about this we were quite amused: people we’ve known in the UK with second homes usually had to travel a long way to reach them – either in the air or on Britain’s clogged-up motorways.  Folks here may travel only around 15 minutes to reach their home-from-home.

Summer at the seaside

We don’t blame the Manacor folks for moving to the coast. During the two hottest summer months many businesses in Manacor itself close at lunchtime and don’t reopen until the following day. People who relocate to Porto Cristo may have further to travel to work in Manacor but, when the day’s (or half day’s) work is done, they can beetle back to the port for the cooling sea breezes.

Porto Cristo is in party mode for the Festes del Carme each July. Events during the week include a seafood fair (this year on Monday, 7th) and a late-night weekend firework display that never fails to delight the crowds lining the port. These are two events we – and apparently the entire population of Porto Cristo and Manacor – attend every year.

This morning we had an appointment in Porto Cristo. Afterwards, we achieved something we’ve meant to do since we moved to Mallorca: we bought a fish at the small harbour fish market.  You only notice the place is there because a few weathered fishermen are usually hanging around outside. The fish market is open six mornings a week and, in summer, for an hour in the early evening. We’d always thought you had to buy fish in bulk here but, no, they are happy to sell individual fish too.

Wind and rough seas had limited the catch today, but we chose a good-looking Cap Roig (also known as a Red Scorpion fish). We’ve eaten this fish in restaurants, but never cooked – or cleaned – one. I was pleased that one of the lingering fishermen volunteered to gut it for me.  Now all I have to do is cook it this evening . . .

Get your fresh fish here!

Get your fresh fish here!

 

Fresh from the Med

Fresh from the Med

 

 

 

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Solar-powered water features not on tap on Mallorca

When we moved to rural Mallorca a decade ago (was it really as long ago as that?), solar panels weren’t a very common sight. Now, there are solar ‘farms’ all over the island – huge banks of panels basking in the Mediterranean sunshine. Our nearest used to be a quarry. We’re much happier with the solar ‘farm’, as it means no more heavy lorries thundering along the main road.

Solar makes sense – we enjoy around 300 days of sunshine a year on Mallorca. But can we find a solar-powered water feature for the garden? No. We have a small corner of our dining terrace that would be the perfect home for something small and tasteful, that would enable us to enjoy the cooling sound of trickling water on a balmy evening.

It’s easy to find these things in the UK – even though our motherland doesn’t enjoy anything like the amount of sunshine we have here on the island. I’ve found websites galore, with water features to suit every taste (including lack of any) and budget. But none ships outside the UK. I’ve looked on Spanish websites too and have not yet found anything.

So far, our search of garden centres and DIY places on Mallorca has been fruitless. One friend suggested that perhaps we could buy a solar pump (easier to source) and design/make our own. I’m sure The Boss is more than capable of doing this, but he has enough to do around the place without another job for the list.

We’ll keep searching, but it looks as though this will be our only water feature this summer . . .

Not quite what I had in mind . . .

Not quite what I had in mind . . .

 

 

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Reaping the fruits of a valley walk

On Sunday we decided to combine a morning walk around the valley with a few tasks involving our neighbours.

First stop was the finca of our friends Peter and Maureen, to take photos of their rather impressive agave ‘flower’. It still appears to be growing and, for the time being, there’s no sign of the thing keeling over in its death throes. Our friends have a plum tree, seemingly growing out of a concrete terrace, and in previous years they’ve been able to harvest plenty of fruit. This year, it had just six plums growing and Peter told us to help ourselves when they were ripe. Having done our David Bailey bit with the agave, we picked the few fruits – which were at the point of perfection.

Grapes-in-a-bottle

With three in each pocket of my shorts, we continued down to our German neighbours, where we delivered a bottle of Mallorcan Sa Rota wine from Bodegas Bordoy in Llucmajor. This was our way of thanking them for a recent gift of oranges, courgettes and lemons from their garden. Many years ago they kept horses and, because of that, their land is very fertile. Ours isn’t, which means we can’t reciprocate with any produce of our own. But we’ve found an arrangement that seems to suit both giver and receiver: a thank-you gift of grapes-in-a-bottle.

Halfway through our walk, plum juice started to seep through my shorts: the motion of walking had bruised the fruit, so we had no choice but to eat them as we went.  And they were delicious. We were still licking the juice from our lips when we passed the old pig farm – now used mainly for arable crops (although there are always two porkers snuffling around under their huge fig tree).  Toni – the Mallorcan who works the land there – called out a greeting and offered us some of his plums. The branches of his old tree were heavily laden with the ripe fruit. He whipped a plastic carrier bag out of his pocket and, minutes later, it was full of plums.

In a jam

Our next stop was the house of another friend, Michael, who has a few fig trees. He’s not on the island at the moment and can’t take advantage of the figs that are already ripe.  So we came to an agreement with the wasps that were taking advantage of the seemingly unwanted figs and managed to pick a few without being stung.

With such a lovely bounty of fruit, there was only one thing to do when we returned home: despite the heat of the first full day of summer, I set to and made three pots of fig jam. When Michael returns to his island home, we’ll give him a pot and he’ll be able to taste the fruits of his own garden labours.

 

Bring on the toast!

Bring on the toast!

 

 

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Mallorca lashed by storms

We have old friends holidaying on the island in a finca down in the southeast. Like many sun-starved Brits, they were longing for some Mediterranean warmth and sunshine during their two weeks’ holiday on Mallorca. How disappointing for them that the weather changed on Sunday (the day after their arrival), with thunderstorms and rain replacing the fine spring weather we’d been enjoying over the past few weeks.

If Sunday’s storm wasn’t enough, we had more yesterday and last night. Yes, another night when The Boss had to get up, get out and switch off our solar power electricity system.  It was all quite dramatic – with some incredibly loud claps of thunder that rattled every pane of glass in our little casa – but, here in our valley, there wasn’t anything like the quantity of rain that fell elsewhere on the island.

Deluge day

Just five minutes’ drive from our home is a winery and, last night, we saw on the local IB3 TV news that their cellar had been flooded. Today, the Majorca Daily Bulletin reports rainfall yesterday in Campos (in the south of Mallorca), of some 69 litres per square metre and, in Palma, 47 litres/sq.m. TV news footage and social media photos show that Palma took quite a hit too, with flooding on some major roads and trees brought down in the city centre. The Bulletin also reports that 360 bolts of lightning struck the island in less than three hours.

Having been the victims of bad weather (and a dodgy roof) in the past, we feel for those people across Mallorca who are mopping up the mess and assessing damage this morning. As I look out of the window at a benign spring day with sun shining from a blue sky, I can’t help wondering: who counts the bolts of lightning?

The storm approaches. Meanwhile, we were sipping coffee in the sunshine.

The storm approaches. Meanwhile, we were sipping coffee in the sunshine.

 

 

 

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Mallorca’s most impressive plant?

Our Mediterranean-style garden on Mallorca began simply enough, with just a few baby plants of the Agave americana variety – given to us by a kind neighbour. We duly planted them, fairly close together, not appreciating quite how large they would become in due course. Later, we transplanted the ‘babies’ the original plants produced, increasing our garden stock.

They’re majestic-looking architectural plants, but can be painful if you get too close: the needle-like spike on the end of each ‘leaf’ is devilishly sharp and can cause bruising if the skin is penetrated deeply enough. Both The Boss and I have experienced weeder’s bottom – in other words, been ‘got’ by one of these leaves, while clearing the earth that surrounds the plants of unwanted greenery.

One day our agaves will probably flower – it can take a dozen years or more before they do so – and, after the magnificent effort of producing their only bloom in life, they die. We’re hoping ours don’t all keel over at once – the garden would look devastated.

Agave . . . or asparagus?

Meanwhile, our English part-time neighbours and friends are facing the demise of a massive specimen of Agave americana. They think it’s probably been on their property for around 20 years. Once the central spike that heralded the start of the flower became visible, they started to monitor progress, keeping measurements and marvelling at the rapid pace of growth. There’s something almost alien about their appearance – the flower stalk of the Agave americana, not our neighbours. It soon resembled the world’s largest piece of asparagus. We were tempted to send a photo to Sainsbury’s vegetable buyer, but didn’t think the gesture would be appreciated . . .

Our friends have returned to the UK for a while, so we are monitoring progress, which seems now to have slowed somewhat. We don’t want them to miss that moment when the flower is in its full glory.  As you can see, there’s still have a little way to go . . .

It's the start of an agave flower, not a tree. Photo by The Boss.

It’s the start of an agave flower, not a tree. Photo by The Boss.

 

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