Living in rural Mallorca

Country life in an old Mallorcan finca

A Mallorcan moggy mystery

Something weird has happened. And I don’t like it when something strange cannot be logically explained.

When we took on the role of ‘adopted parents’ to some Mallorcan feral cats, we decided that we would have them all neutered when they reached the appropriate time. On Tuesday it was the turn of Peanut, the tiny ginger kitten that arrived – seemingly from nowhere – at the end of October 2013.

The Boss delivered her to the vet’s in the morning for the operation. The veterinary nurse pointed out the nick in Peanut’s ear – it looks as though she’d either been in a fight or had the defect at birth. The Boss explained it had been there when she arrived. The nurse called in one of the vets to look at it, and then a second. The trio of animal experts informed The Boss that a nick in the ear like this is usually an indication that a feral cat has been neutered.

Peanut was no more than two months when she arrived at our finca – and probably more like a month – so surely sterilization was unlikely? A battle scar or birth defect seemed more likely. The vets took her to the operating theatre.

Patient discharged . . .

When we collected her a few hours later, we had some very surprising news: Peanut had already been sterilized – as our vet discovered when he opened up our little bundle of fun. He sewed up the wound and sent her home.

Of course, we’re delighted that Peanut isn’t facing a few days of discomfort, medication and convalescence in our annexe bedroom – but we cannot understand how a tiny kitten of probably less than two months of age came to be neutered.

Have you ever come across anything like this before? We certainly haven’t.

Homeward-bound Peanut, sporting a cute leopard-print plaster on her leg.

Homeward-bound Peanut, sporting a cute leopard-print plaster on her leg.

 

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What do you give a cat on its birthday? A fishcake!

They say the old jokes are the best. They lie, of course. Corny jokes aside, Beamer and his blue-eyed brother Dusty – two of the glaring (love that collective noun) of cats that have adopted us – are three years old today. It hardly seems possible that three years have passed since the memorable day they came into the world.

On this date in 2011, their heavily pregnant mum Jetta – a feral who’d adopted us – was huge, clearly uncomfortable and showing signs of going into labour. She kept wandering off, then returning to the front door of our house to mew at us in an agitated fashion.

She seemed to want us to follow her down the field, which we did – with her stopping every few seconds and looking back to see if we were still with her. It was quite an emotional moment when she struggled up onto the wall and turned to miaow at us as if to say “I’ll be OK now”, before disappearing to the place she’d chosen for her happy event, in the abandoned casita in the neighbouring field.

Four little bundles of joy

Post-delivery, Jetta came daily for her food, as usual, but it would be quite a few weeks before we saw her kittens: four tiny scraps of furry fun, who obligingly came to meet us for the first time while my dad was holidaying with us.

The little female – a dark tabby – sadly died in an accident in the lane while very young. The Boss buried her at the bottom of our field, just yards from where she’d come into the world.  Bear, the black cat, was with us for a lot longer but eventually went off one day and never returned. We like to think he’s out there, walking on the wild side, and still looking like a mini panther.

Home sweet home for the brothers

Today, only Beamer and Dusty remain of those four kittens, but they are very much part of our feline family and at home around our finca. And we had them both neutered as soon as they were old enough, as our contribution to keeping the local feral cat population in check.

I won’t be making fishcakes for Beamer and Dusty today. I’m sure they’re happy with their cat food and the local fast food (the vermin that’s not fast enough to avoid being caught!). But I may just make fishcakes for our own dinner. And that’s not a joke . . .

A relaxed Beamer in summer

A relaxed Beamer in summer

Dusty perched on the balustrade - surveying the glaring's territory.

Dusty perched on the balustrade – surveying the glaring’s territory.

 

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You know it’s spring on Mallorca when . . .

Getting figgy with it

Getting figgy with it

. . . the first of the fig leaves emerge on the trees. Don’t they look like little green butterflies resting for a while?

. . . your shoulders and back ache from all the weeding you thought wouldn’t be necessary after having laid a special membrane to stop weeds growing.

. . . you have to be careful not to tread on a tortoise when walking in the undergrowth.

. . . your arms look and feel like pincushions after trimming all the agaves and sword-like plants.

. . . the birds start checking out nesting sites in the old almond tree in the field (the one the cats like to climb).

. . . the warm sunshine that bathed the island in the final weeks of winter is replaced by grey skies, cool temperatures and drizzle!

 

Mallorca’s Michelin-starred restaurant Es Fum has a new chef: read more on http://www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com

 

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Cleaning the terraces – the easy way

At about this time every year we start the process of getting the terraces of our rural Mallorca finca ready for the warmer months, and our usual alfresco lifestyle. We have three terracotta-tiled terrace areas and, before the outdoor furniture is brought out from its winter storage in our annexe bedroom, these areas have to be cleaned of the muck that accumulates over the winter.

It’s The Boss’s job. He’s the one with a pair of wellies. He’s always tackled this task with vigour,  using a large scrubbing brush and hose. I think he’s motivated by the prospect of long balmy evenings on the terrace with a bottle of good Mallorcan red (there are many of them – both wines and long balmy evenings) and something sizzling on the BBQ.

Another ‘boy’s toy’ for the collection

In previous years there have been murmurings about hiring a pressure washer for the job, but it’s never happened. This year he’ll be using one: The Boss is now the owner of a new ‘boy’s toy’ (although as he has pointed out to me, this is not a toy, but a serious tool).

While musing over the possibility of bringing some motorized muscle to this annual spring chore, we found a bargain on promotion at the Hiper DIY store in Manacor: last year’s model with all the spec tech of this year’s – for 150 euros less than the latest model. Who cares if it’s not the latest design? Ker-ching! Sold to The Boss.

Soon the sound of our pressure washer will echo around the valley. Let’s hope it doesn’t frighten the sheep . . .

Clean terraces? No pressure, with one of these.

Clean terraces? No pressure, with one of these.

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Mediterranean menace preparing to march

Not the underside of a bird, but the home of a Mediterranean menace!

Not the underside of a bird, but the home of a Mediterranean menace!

If you go down to the woods today, it’s not a teddy bears’ picnic you’re like to find, but the nest of the processionary caterpillar – at least, if the woods are mainly pine trees. These are the habitat of this crawling Mediterranean menace and these strange almost candyfloss-like nests are where they plot their manoeuvres. At around this time of year, they’re preparing to leave the nest to pupate in the soil and when they do, watch out!

We first saw these on the appropriately named Pine Walk in Puerto Pollensa. We hadn’t a clue what they were then (it was our first spring on the island) but watched in fascination as these hairy striped beasties marched across our path, nose-to-tail (do caterpillars have noses?), like a well-disciplined army corps.

Keep your pets away

They look like the sort of thing that a small boy would want to collect and keep in a shoebox under his bed. But processionary caterpillars are definitely to be avoided, as their hairs are irritant to humans and potentially dangerous to pets and other animals. And you don’t even need to come into physical contact with a caterpillar: when under threat, they shed hairs which can be unknowingly ingested.

For the time being, we’ll be giving pine trees a wide berth . . . and joining the teddy bears’ picnic on the beach instead.

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Awaiting a cart-astrophe

One of the first things we noticed when we first saw our finca in rural Mallorca – during a four-day property-hunting visit to the island – was an exuberant bougainvillea growing over an old iron and wooden cart. Breathtakingly pretty, it was one of several things we fell in love with about the property we’ve called home for nearly 10 years.

In better days . . .

In better days . . .

On closer inspection we discovered the cart was also home to climbing geraniums. The finca had been a holiday home for the previous owners, who used to buy pots of geraniums when they arrived and, at the end of their holiday, would plant the geraniums in the soil around the bottom of the cart, and leave the rest to Mother Nature. The geraniums are admittedly a bit straggly now, but they still flower each year.

Wheely unsteady

For the past few years we’ve wondered whether the cart is supporting the bougainvillea or vice versa. This relic from a gentler agricultural past is showing its age and looking decidedly unsteady. It’s shored up with rocks – and has been since we bought the place – but I don’t do any weeding anywhere near it now; I even decided not to prune the bougainvillea when it was last due to be done.

One day it will collapse and with it will go the plants that have given us so much pleasure. As much as we’d like to find another old cart to replace it, such items are now eagerly sought by people like us who want some authentic rustic touches for our much-loved rural homes on Mallorca. That means mucho dinero.

There’s still a metal plate on the cart that once bore the maker’s name, but the lettering has worn away. We’ll never know how long ago it was made, or how long it was used for the purpose for which it was intended, but it’s done almost ten years as a delightful garden ornament. You can’t say that about your average garden gnome . . .

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The guns fall silent

No hunting sign

Apart from the almond blossom, one of the best things about February on Mallorca is that the hunting season has finished. For a few months now we have a reprieve from the shots that have been our early morning alarm call for a few months. The rabbit and thrush population quite like it too . . .

Here’s lead in your Lycra

There’s a large old finca not far from us that was once dubbed ‘the shooting lodge’. Its owners used to allow hunters to shoot on their land; taxis full of macho gun-toting chaps from Palma would arrive at weekends. Their shots would echo around the valley and sometimes it felt like living in the Wild West. Let loose in the countryside, these urban hunters were seemingly unaware of the restrictions regarding shooting close to other properties and highways. On occasions, we even heard lead shot peppering the roof of our little house; once, a passing cyclist got a little lead in his Lycra . . .

Now that ‘the shooting lodge’ has been refurbished and is used as a weekend home, the Palma hunters no longer visit. The shooting we hear is largely that of our Mallorcan farming neighbours, who continue the tradition of hunting for the cooking pot.

But some of the outsiders who still come are not as careful about their targets. There have been cats shot in our valley – whether intentionally or because these men (I’ve not seen a single woman hunting around here) shoot as soon as they see something moving, I don’t know. When I hear the first shots on one of the days when hunting is allowed, I pray that all our outdoor cats will be safe.

The return of Nibbles

Around seven weeks ago one of our cats disappeared. Nibbles has always been an affectionate cat but also inclined to go off for a day or two. We thought he’d return as usual – with an enormous appetite for food and a cuddle. But the days rolled by, and turned into weeks. The Boss and I told ourselves that he had simply decided to move on; we couldn’t bear to consider that anything bad might have befallen him.

On Saturday evening we had a jaw-dropping surprise: Nibbles was waiting outside the door for dinner, along with his siblings. He was welcomed back by the other cats like the prodigal son returning with a Euromillions lottery win. They weren’t the only ones pleased to have him home.

Home sweet home for Nibbles - reclining on our old stone oven outdoors

Home sweet home for Nibbles – reclining on our old stone oven outdoors

With the hunting season over, outdoor cats are now safe from this particular hazard. Just the others to worry about now . . .

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‘Snowing’ on Mallorca

We were talking earlier on the phone to The Boss’s elderly aunt in Birmingham (UK), who told us it had been snowing there this morning. Two years ago this month, Mallorca also saw a lot of snow – the most since the ’50s, we were told. The Boss’s cousin and wife had come over at that time for a walking holiday, staying in Camp de Mar. They were somewhat shocked to wake up one morning to find quite a lot of snow outside the door – and the wrong kind of walking gear in their wardrobe.

Although snow does usually fall on the Tramuntana mountains a few times over the winter, it doesn’t often make it to our part of the island; not that we’re complaining. We do, however, have a very special ‘snowfall’ on the island, which usually happens this month.

In the past few days, we’ve had some strong winds and quite a lot of rain. As a result, the almond blossom – a notable feature of the Mallorcan countryside at this time of the year – is coming to an end. A ‘snowfall’ of the delicate petals arrives with every strong gust of wind, and soon the ground will be littered with drifts of them. Goodbye almond blossom, hello new green leaves.

'Snow' drift on the terrace

‘Snow’ drift on the terrace

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Always something to discover on Mallorca

Kay Newton is a friend of mine who also lives in a finca on Mallorca. Today, I bring you a guest post from Kay . . .

I have lived on Mallorca for nearly 27 years. You would think that by now I would know all of this little rock in the middle of the Mediterranean – and yet this past week has proved me wrong.

As the almond blossom flourished and the sun came out, I was indoctrinated into the world of hosting retreats. My home had to be cleaned from top to bottom. The breakfast and evening meals bought for and pre-prepped. Worst job of all was persuading my husband to let me have his seven-seater car. Permission was granted providing I cleaned it. He works on a building site … two days later with very sore fingers, it looked nearly new!

I have a wonderful friend who for many years has been telling me about her spirituality and beliefs. Some of it I have immediately resonated with, other bits I find different and I am still coming to terms with it all. Sue wanted to host a workshop and needed living space. Since she lives ten minutes away, we pulled together to create a very special event.

Gaiadon Heart Mallorca    http://inspirationforchange.es

Gaiadon Heart - Mallorca 2014

As well as Sue’s two-day Gaiadon workshop we went to Palma cathedral to see the ‘Spectacle of the Eight’. Twice each year on the 2nd of February and again on the 11th of November, the sun (if it’s a cloudless sky) shines through the main rose window and lights the wall below the the small rose window. Exactly one hour later both were in-line, creating a figure of 8, or the infinity sign. Well worth getting out of bed early and joining the crowds of people who had also made the effort.

Palma Cathedral puts on a twice-a-year spectacle

Palma Cathedral puts on a twice-a-year spectacle

During our guests’ stay, we also visited Sta Magdalena, Pollença, a crystal skull mesa in Calvía and one of the Talaiot sites on the island not far from my home in Inca. I have often driven past the signs for the Talaiot on my way to Sencelles, yet I have never stopped. These round stone structures were created by the Bronze Age megaliths and are well worth a visit. There are many Talaiot sites here on the island.

I can’t wait for the next retreat and an excuse to see more of this beautiful island!

Kay Newton is a Personal Development Coach – you can find her at http://SensiblySelfish.com

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Mallorca + February = almond blossom

Almond blossom's delicate beauty

Almond blossom’s delicate beauty

February can be a cold month on Mallorca, but it can also be one of the most beautiful. This is the month when Mallorca’s thousands of almond trees burst into blossom (and show a hint of the new green growth that will rapidly follow). Those who know the island as a summer or autumn destination, but have never visited in this particular month are missing one of Mallorca’s most impressive natural events.

For those who do visit Mallorca at this time of year, a tour of the island’s rural interior offers plenty of photo opportunities and the delicate scent of almond blossom on the breeze (or, sometimes, the howling wind).

What could be more lovely on a clear day?

What could be more lovely on a clear day?

Mallorca has fiestas and fairs throughout the year and many of these firas are dedicated to produce from the island – including herbs, olives, sobrassada, honey, melons and, of course, almonds.

Step back in time

Today was the almond fair in Son Servera and, never having been before, we went this morning. We knew it was taking place in an old finca, and assumed it would be in the countryside outside the small town. Back in 1780, when it was built, it would have been. Today Ca s’Hereu has become incorporated into the town itself, with newer buildings around it. But once through the gates, the modern face of Son Servera is soon forgotten.

As you’d expect, stalls were selling a variety of products made from almonds, but there were also other foodstuffs available, as well as handicrafts. Wandering musicians played traditional Mallorcan music, and the local television cameras were there to capture it all. Perhaps you’ll spot us on IB3 TV news tonight? Just for a change, we weren’t caught on camera eating. We once appeared on the front cover of a couple of local Manacor magazines, gorging ourselves on ice cream at the town’s September fair; we only found out about that when several people we know in Manacor told us about our ‘starring role’.  Thankfully, we never did see what sounded like an embarrassing photo.

We decided to save our almond-munching until this evening, in the privacy of our own finca. What could be more delicious than a few roasted Mallorcan almonds with a pre-prandial drink? And more evocative of spring than the clouds of almond blossom decorating the island’s many orchards?

The venue for Son Servera's almond fair

The venue for Son Servera’s almond fair

Music, maestros, por favor!

Music, maestros, por favor!

Agricultural implements were on display.

Agricultural implements were on display.

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One day our own almond trees may be this productive . . .

One day our own almond trees may be this productive . . .

All photos by Jan Edwards

 

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