Living in rural Mallorca

Country life in an old Mallorcan finca

Look who’s cooking . . .

The Boss has excelled himself this year with his BBQ cooking. He’s not particularly keen on conventional cooking in the kitchen – although he used to cook dinner for me on weekdays when I was working at the BBC. Back then I really appreciated coming home to a hot meal after battling Oxford’s terrible traffic on the way home. These days I do most of the cooking, but the warmer months bring me the chance to enjoy the results of The Boss’s labours over a hot BBQ.

This year we invested in a new Weber, after our more-than-12-year-old Outback BBQ burst into flames one evening late last summer, while my dad and uncle were staying with us. Using a Weber has been a totally different experience, which The Boss has embraced with enthusiasm. Living in rural Mallorca, we’ve had the weather most  evenings over the past five months to cook outside. Our versatile lidded Weber could even cope with cooking our Christmas turkey, but we probably won’t risk it (unless there’s an emergency pizza in the freezer).

Like many men, The Boss is a little bit territorial about his BBQ, but I’m not complaining. I get my dinner cooked for me – even if I have to do some of the kitchen prep. And if there’s any doubt about who’s the king of the coals (although, strictly speaking, there are none on our BBQ) this apron – a gift from our friends Duncan and Kristina when they visited in September – says it all!

untitled (1 of 1)-17

If you’d like to see a bit more of the camera-shy Boss, hop over to http://www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com (my other blog – which is one year old today) or visit http://www.ponderosabeach.com. Yes, those feet in the sand are his . . .

Leave a comment »

Home . . .

untitled (1 of 1)-2 Home is where the heart is. And our hearts and home are firmly in rural Mallorca, at our finca. We cannot imagine going back to live in England, but quite a few of our friends and acquaintances have done just that. The recently published NatWest IPB Quality of Life Country Index* – based on a survey of 1,804 (strange number, eh?) British expats by the Centre for Future Studies – reported that 63 per cent of those living on the European continent had thought about moving “back home”. We’re firmly in the other 37 per cent: Mallorca is our home. Back to Blighty Last evening we met up in Palma with fun friends Karen and Ian, who are spending a week’s holiday on the island. Until two years ago they lived and worked here. They went back to the UK – not because they didn’t like living on the island but, rather, because it can be difficult to make a decent living here. They’re very happy back in England, but clearly also miss the island. We miss them – as we miss other friends who have left. Some have sadly regretted their move away from Mallorca. It’s easy to forget the negative aspects of your home country that probably influenced the decision to leave it in the first place. It’s also easy to adapt to the more relaxed pace of Mallorcan life, and forget how fast-paced life is back in ‘the old country’. Of course there are some things we miss about England, including our families and friends, rivers, the rolling Cotswold landscape, good bookshops, and Waitrose. But we enjoy having relatives and friends to stay with us here, and have found compensations for the other things. One day, if Euromillions surprises us with a substantial win, we may even find ourselves holidaying back in the homeland. For now though, this is home – for us and for our David Austin rose . . . a little piece of England on Mallorca.

The first rose of autumn for our David Austin 'Lady Hillingdon' rose.

The first rose of autumn for our David Austin ‘Lady Hillingdon’ rose.

*For information, Spain slipped to 11th position in the index. From 2008 until 2011 it had held 7th position. Portugal came in at 12th. Top of the list was Australia.

Leave a comment »

September storms on Mallorca

It’s the last day of September and, although we expect storms on Mallorca this month – after the long hot summer – we seem to have had more of them than usual. And along with high temperatures, the high humidity has made things uncomfortable at times.

We’ve also had three lots of visitors staying with us during September. The first visit was from our friends Duncan and Kristina, who were surprised to find it so hot and humid – having stayed at the finca with us before at around this time. During their stay, we spent the best part of one day with them in the lovely coastal village of Banyalbufar (enjoying an excellent lunch at 1661 Cuina de Banyalbufar – a most-visit restaurant if you’re ever in that part of the Mallorca). The sun had shone all day and was still shining as we approached home. One thing was evident though: puddles were everywhere.  Clearly it had rained, but stopped in time to give us a warm and sunny end to the day.

A trail of destruction

The weather, in our absence, turned out to have been more than a heavy shower.  As we drove through the gates onto our drive, we noticed that the dishes under all the flowerpots were full of water. That was the only sign there that there’d been a storm. But when we opened the shutters at the back of the house, all was revealed: two teak dining chairs blown over; a parasol (on a stand) lying on the ground, and another parasol broken and blown some distance from its original position. And down in our field, two almond trees had suffered severe damage. We now have a couple of almond tree trunks standing forlorn and without branches and leaves.

DSC_1260

 

One broken almond tree

One broken almond tree

Flying chairs

Flying chairs

Another broken tree

Another broken tree

We found out later that there had been an intense hailstorm, with severe winds. It seemed that a mini-tornado had whipped its way through our garden, leaving its calling card in its wake. We checked out our Swiss neighbours’ garden (in their absence) as it appeared to be on the trajectory of whatever had passed through our garden, but the only damage suffered there was a potted plant that had been blown over.

Mallorca’s green and pleasant land

This was a very localized storm, and there have been quite a few of those on Mallorca over the past few weeks. Every day we’ve checked various weather apps, finding the forecast of more storms. Our visitors this September have not had quite the weather they’d expected. We’ve now had enough rain (hopefully) to top up the reservoirs depleted during the summer months. Mallorca is looking green again, with an enthusiastic showing of early weeds in our garden. But the most unexpected sight in our garden – due no doubt to the continuing warmth and all the rainfall – has been almond blossom on one of our several trees (undamaged by the storm). We don’t usually see that until January/February. It’s been a strange September . . .

 

 All photos courtesy of Duncan Matthews.

 

 

Leave a comment »

Yet another kitten arrives at our Mallorcan finca

Last Thursday evening we returned late from Palma (where we’d attended La Nit de l’Art with the previous owners of our Mallorcan finca, who are now dear friends). As usual, when we come home late, our glaring of cats – a family of ferals that have adopted us – came to greet us, in the hope of a little more food.  The Boss went out to add some more biscuits to their bowls before we locked up for the night. He’d been outside a few minutes when he called me back out of the house to come and see something.

There, cowering near the dustbin, was a tiny kitten. Another one. Only a few weeks have passed since our last ‘arrival’ – Peanut – left us, presumably in search of a territory of her own.  After her departure, the rest of the cats seemed much calmer:  Peanut had been a bit disruptive to their peaceful lives around our place and, although she’d been with us for around 10 months, they had tolerated rather than enjoyed the presence of the little ginger female.

This latest arrival immediately ran over to us and seemed to be seeking attention. We were  able to stroke it and pick it up. Clearly this was no feral kitten that had wandered away from its mother and become lost. Its ease with humans suggested that this was an unwanted kitten that had been dumped in the countryside and left to fend for itself. This kind of thing happens frequently around here and such cruelty makes me furious . . .

Short shrift from Shorty

The other cats were not impressed. Shorty – who was the first of the ‘outsiders’ to arrive and successfully infiltrated the ‘family’ – surprised us the most, growling at the small kitten in a very aggressive and un-Shorty-like way. He clearly didn’t remember that he was once the scared kitten in need of food and care. We didn’t want to bring the kitten into the house in case it was carrying any disease (we have an elderly Birman living indoors), so for the little one’s safety, we put it overnight into one of our large cat-carrying baskets, along with food, water, and a litter tray.

On Saturday morning we discovered that Itty-Bitty-Kitty (well, we had to call her something) had been sick and seemed to be a little feverish. We had The Boss’s sons staying for the weekend, so I left them at home to have some ‘man-time’ and headed off to the vet’s with the kitten. Our vet always records a name for the animals it treats. Clearly I’d have been there a long time if I had to spell out Itty-bitty-kitty in the Spanish alphabet, so little one became Pip. Easy to spell, and appropriate, given her diminutive size. Yes, it’s another female . . .

A few days’ medication later, Pip seems to have recovered from her virus and is eating well. The vet says she’s about three months old, although she looks very small. Today we are taking her to be vaccinated and for blood tests to make sure there’s nothing nasty lurking within. As for the future, who knows? It will certainly be brighter than if Pip hadn’t found a feline-friendly place to hide . . .

The latest arrival

The latest arrival

Chilling out on the terrace.

Chilling out on the terrace.

Such a small creature in The Boss's arms.

Such a small creature in The Boss’s arms.

 

 

 

 

1 Comment »

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.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments »

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment »

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.

Leave a comment »

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.

DSC_0152

6 Comments »

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

 

DSC_0246

View, including part of the house.

View, including part of the house.

 

Extensive views of the Mallorcan countryside.

Extensive views of the Mallorcan countryside.

Leave a comment »

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

 

 

 

2 Comments »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 117 other followers

%d bloggers like this: