Pot luck in Manacor

Our mission – which we had no choice but to accept – was to find a new flowerpot to replace the one that was recently blown over and broken by a particularly fierce gust of wind. Usually this would entail a trip to one of the garden centres in the area. I’ve written before about garden centres in Mallorca: I have yet to find one to match the gorgeous Burford Garden Company – a place in the Cotswolds I used to love visiting.

The trouble with garden centres in general is that I find it hard to leave them with only the one thing I intended to buy. And I am not a shopaholic by nature. Go in for a bag of compost and I’m likely to emerge with a pot or two of herbs as well. One local garden centre was selling large nets full of home-grown oranges for juicing…well, I couldn’t resist those, could I?

In one of the better local garden centres, I once bought a large mirror for the guest bathroom as well as a new trowel. Clearly it would be more economical to go straight to a terracotta pot manufacturer, cutting out the middleman (and their range of tempting goodies).

Traditional Mallorcan terracotta

Black wood smoke often billows from a local factory on the outskirts of Manacor and it was time to check the place out. The kilns weren’t fired up the day we visited but the place was already well stocked with terracotta flowerpots and pretty much anything else you could want made from terracotta (Mallorcan ceiling and roof tiles included).

Inside the terracotta factory

Tejar Bandris’s terracotta factory near Manacor

Tejar Bandrís is a family business of master artisans and Toní told us he was the third generation in the firm. As we were the only customers, he spent some time telling us that people come from all over Mallorca and beyond to buy from him. If you buy an old finca on the island and want some authentic terracotta features, this is the place to come. Soooo many things…. Focus, Jan!

Terracotta products Mallorca

Potty about the choice!

Terracotta goods at Tejas Bandris

These look attractive over lights on exterior walls

It didn’t take long to choose the perfect pot – handmade on a potter’s wheel. Although we didn’t see the wheel in action while we were there, just the thought of it took me back to my school pottery classes. I never did master the art of throwing a pot that didn’t look like a cheap souvenir of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. (Demi Moore made it look so easy in Ghost).

English spoken here…

If you’re in the market for a well-made terracotta pot – or anything else fired in a kiln – it’s worth checking out Tejar Bandrís. Even though we’d be speaking Spanish, we’d only been there a few minutes when Toní asked if we were from England (why is it so obvious?) and, hearing that we were, said he’d like to practise his English for the rest of the conversation. Useful to know if you want to visit but don’t speak much or any Spanish.

At least we know where to go when the next gust of fierce wind wreaks havoc on our terrace…

©Jan Edwards 2017

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Mallorca takes an autumn battering

It’s been very windy here in the northeast of Mallorca for a couple of days and, being a north wind, it’s felt pretty cold too. Our finca is particularly exposed, being at one end of a valley, and we brace ourselves for the inevitable arrival of these gusty autumn days as best we can. Most of our outdoor furniture is now put away in our annexe guest room (which becomes a storage space in winter, when anyone sleeping in there would surely expire from hypothermia).

Broken terracotta pot

New pot required

When we ventured outside yesterday morning to feed the cats (who become super-skittish when it’s windy), evidence of the gusty night was all around. (Have you noticed that the wind always blows hard the day after you’ve swept the terraces?). One of the casualties this time was a fairly large shrub I planted during the summer – in a decent-sized pot (weighted down with heavy stones under the soil).  The pot is no more.

It never fails to amaze me that the wind brings over large heavy pots, yet the lighter potted plants sitting along a small wall remain unaffected by the gusts. Ah, well, the mysteries of life in the Mallorcan countryside…

©Jan Edwards 2017

How we remove condensation from our windows in Mallorca

The Boss’s eldest son was over for a couple of days at the weekend. The weather continued warm and sunny on Saturday and we took a long walk around Porto Colom harbour (one of Mallorca’s highlights) towards the lighthouse. We didn’t expect to find either of the two small beach bars along the route still open in early November but the first one we came to was doing a decent trade. A few people were on the beach or even in the sea. Who’d have believed it? We grabbed some beers and soaked up the sunshine for a while.

Chiringuito Porto Colom

Open for business – even in November

Beach scene, Porto Colom

On the beach – November 4th, 2017

Hello again, condensation

It all changed on Sunday, with heavy rain and cooler temperatures arriving during that day. Overnight temperatures have been a lot lower since and that means we find condensation running down the inside of all our thin-glass windows in the mornings. Just looking at them makes us feel colder…

Last year – tired of wiping away all the moisture with a cloth every morning – we bought a Kärcher window cleaner. It sucks the condensation away from all the windows and it’s job done in a matter of minutes. And it’s surprising how much water ends up in the built-in collection bottle. No more soggy cloths, thank goodness.

Like our wood-burning stove and dehumidifier, this nifty little hand-held gadget helps to make indoor life in an old stone Mallorcan house a little more comfortable during the cooler months.

Kaercher window cleaner

Condensation blitzed with this handy hand-held tool

Snow?

The first few days of November were unusually warm, but it’s back to normality now. I’ve just read in the Diario de Mallorca that some snow is forecast to fall tomorrow in parts of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains (at 1,300m above sea level). This isn’t unusual for November and that frosting on the top of the highest peaks is what usually reminds me I should be starting the process of making a Christmas cake!

Although the sun is shining as I write this and the temperature is 18 degrees C in the shade, the north and northeast of Mallorca has a warning for heavy rain this evening from six o’clock, with up to 20 litres per square metre forecast to fall in an hour. I think our outdoor cats will be having an early dinner tonight…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Cracking the problem of removing a dead almond tree

When do you give up on an old Mallorcan almond tree? We have a few on our finca and they’re past their prime. In spite of that, they are covered in beautiful blossom in the early weeks of each year and offer a reasonable crop of almonds in the autumn. They may be old, but we love them, so they can live out their years in rural Mallorca without fear of a chainsaw massacre.

Mallorcan almond blossom

Blooming lovely!

Sadly, two of our old almond trees were badly damaged in September 2014, when a mini-tornado cut a swathe right through our field. We removed the broken branches then and left the trunks in the hope that there would be some regrowth.

Three years on there was no sign of any life remaining in these two trees. One is set within a stone wall, so must stay (or the wall will tumble down). The other has stood in the middle of the field looking rather forlorn – but removing it would require more than a bit of brute human force. We were pondering this very challenge just the other day, having coffee in the field, while The Boss supervised yet another bonfire. (Fire. It’s a man thing).

I’ll say this for The Boss: he gets things done. I was sitting writing at my computer – my back to the French doors facing the field – when I heard a loud unfamiliar noise. I turned around and our neighbour Lorenzo was in the field on his tractor, pushing the old tree trunk over. He’d been trundling up the lane and stopped for a chat; The Boss asked if he’d be able to pop in sometime to remove the tree (we’ve paid him to do tractor-related jobs before) and Lorenzo said he’d do it there and then. It took just moments to do.Almond tree felled

Down…and destined for the log store

Fungi on an old tree

The tree was dead but the fungus wasn’t!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any man in possession of a large field must be in want of a tractor – or a kindly neighbour with one. Thanks, Lorenzo (and Jane Austen).

©Jan Edwards 2017

Mallorca’s equivalent of the British MOT

Preparations for winter have begun here at our finca in rural Mallorca. Yes, The Boss was once a Boy Scout – and just as well, as I’d probably leave these things until the first northerly blasts of wind were battering our country home.

Most of the year our trailer sits in our field, acting as a good look-out perch for one or more of our cats but, in winter, it’s pressed into service to carry logs back from our supplier.

Cats on our trailer

“You mean you didn’t buy this for us to sit on?”

Before we can head onto public roads, we have to take the trailer for its ITV. In the UK, ITV is a television station (for which I worked as a regional continuity announcer for several years). Here, ITV stands for Inspección Técnica de Vehículos – the nearest thing to the British MOT. Even though a trailer doesn’t have an engine, it still has to go through this periodic inspection at an official ITV centre – of which there are three on the island: in Palma, Inca, and Manacor.

Wheely important

Whatever type of vehicle (or trailer) it is, the process takes a bit of time. When we first moved to Mallorca, booking an appointment for this obligatory test meant turning up at the nearest ITV centre and standing in line with lots of other bored-looking people. Not my favourite activity, to be honest, but today at least it’s possible to do this part online.

Unlike the MOT in the UK, you don’t just leave your vehicle in the hands of some boiler-suited mechanics, with fingers crossed that it’ll pass the inspection and not require a major injection of cash. Here in Spain, you’re with the vehicle every step of the way, able to see what’s involved, as you drive through a building open at both ends and equipped to test the different functions of your vehicle.

The last stage involves driving your vehicle over an inspection pit, where a clipboard-wielding inspector (who clearly doesn’t suffer from claustrophobia) takes a good hard look at your undercarriage. Or at least your vehicle’s…

Having driven your vehicle over this open pit (praying you don’t somehow misjudge your steering and squash said inspector), you land on some movable metal plates that shake the vehicle (and those inside it). Presumably it’s to test the suspension – or see if anything drops off. Perhaps the inspector should be wearing a hard hat? I find it a disconcerting experience and wouldn’t recommend going through this after a decent-sized meal if you suffer even remotely from motion sickness.

Go figure

Privately owned vehicles between four and 10 years old have to go through this ITV process every two years. Bizarrely – given that it has no engine – a trailer has to be tested every six months.

Meanwhile, although Mallorca is currently bathed in warm October sunshine during the day, we’re off on a log-buying mission. As Robert Baden-Powell used to say: “Be prepared.”

©Jan Edwards 2017

 

Cycle (or walk?) this way…

We had to go to town hall yesterday morning for ‘a bit of bureaucracy’ (there’s plenty of it for those of us who live in Spain) and, as we drove out of our gates, we spotted a pick-up truck at the corner of the lane, laden with wooden posts. Two workmen were pulling various bits of kit  off the back of the wagon, seemingly preparing for some action. Perhaps some work to a neighbour’s gate?

Curious, but fixed on our mission, we headed into town and thought nothing more about it. On our return, we found out what those posts were all about: our valley now seems to be part of an official walking route; the posts have been distributed along the way to guide walkers.

Walking signpost

Walk this way…

We’ve occasionally seen hikers in the lanes around us, kitted out with their rucksacks, hiking boots, and walking poles. Cyclists regularly challenge themselves on the steep lanes, heads down and leg muscles bulging with the effort. Once we saw a whole team of speed skaters, clad in brightly hued Lycra, whizzing down the lane past our house; like most of the cyclists who pass through the valley, I doubt that they spotted much of the countryside along the way…

Our valley is picturesque and peaceful and, if we didn’t live here, we’d love to come and walk the lanes too. It’s not surprising that our municipality decided to create an official walking route through such an unspoilt area. But I found it rather ironic that, on our return, we spotted some plastic water bottles discarded into the verge – exactly where we’d seen the workmen unloading their pick-up truck to install one of the posts.  Could they not have just slung the empties into the back of their wagon and disposed of them properly in town?

Littering the countryside

It’s enough to make my blood boil!

Rant over for now; I’m off to make some DIY ‘No litter’ signs…

POSTSCRIPT: A little subsequent research has revealed that the route through our valley is intended for cyclists, rather than walkers, and is part of a round-trip route of more than  40km. I’m not sure I’ll be trying that one on my trusty (or, more accurately, rusty) mountain bike… 

©Jan Edwards 2017

Word of mouth sells…or not

Our ‘hood has changed in recent weeks: two British couples who owned fincas in our valley as holiday homes have sold them to new owners.  We have yet to meet either of them, although the Polish couple who bought the larger of the two properties is due to arrive in the next couple of weeks and has kindly sent us an invitation to meet them.

It wasn’t obvious that these two properties were on the market, as you don’t see real estate agents’ ‘For sale’ boards erected in the Mallorcan countryside. If you did, there’d be an alarming number of them all over Mallorca, because many empty rural properties are on the market…but in a passive kind of way.

As someone who inherited a finca from his parents once told us, “if someone makes me the right offer, I’ll sell it.” He doesn’t have it on a real estate agent’s books but word of mouth may one day bring him a sale. There’s no rush.

DIY marketing

Spanish DIY for sale sign

And the number is…?

There are currently two other fincas for sale in our valley. One is unoccupied and has quite a lot of fertile land, including a large separate field with a pigsty and a magnificent fig tree. In our early years here, we used to see the pigs lying underneath it, waiting to snaffle any luscious figs that fell to the ground. We always imagined their meat would be particularly tasty but, having had a tour a decade ago of the pig farm when it was in full operation (an eye-opening experience), pork was off our shopping list.

The owner – who now lives amidst modern conveniences in town – has put up the type of ‘Se Vende‘ signs you can buy in a stationery store or newsagent’s and to which you add your own phone number.

Two things amuse us about this sign. Firstly, it’s been there so long that the sun has faded the ink, rendering the number illegible. And very few people – other than those who already live at that remote end of the valley – will drive or walk past this sign anyway. I guess it’s another case of word of mouth being preferable to a real estate agent’s fees.

©Jan Edwards 2017