In Hot Water? Not at our Mallorcan Finca

The English idiom ‘to be in hot water’ currently applies to several people in trouble for their actions. Think UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Duke of York, and tennis player Novak Djokovic.

I wish we were in hot water – but in a different way. You see, we’ve had no hot water in the kitchen or guest bathroom for a while. Before your nostrils wrinkle and you take one step back, I should add that our shower room has a separate water heater. Personal ablutions have continued in comfort.

The Sunday before Christmas, we had a Big Problem. Water was gushing out of the butane-powered water heater at one end of the house. After a couple of minutes of frozen panic, we switched off the mains water supply and eventually the gush became a dribble, and then drips.

Call the Plumber

Water-related incidents have not been uncommon at our finca. We found a brilliant plumber almost immediately we moved here. He’d been our ‘man who can’ ever since. Until he recently retired. It was unthinkable that friendly Sito wouldn’t be arriving with his bag of plumbing tricks to solve the water-pump problem we had in October. He did, however, suggest another plumber – who did a good job.

As the household’s only user of WhatsApp, it fell to me to contact Señor Fontanero about this latest plumbing nightmare. I tapped out a short message to him, apologising for disturbing him on a Sunday and giving a brief explanation of the problem. My hope was that he’d turn up on Monday morning. Even Tuesday. I didn’t expect him to reply to my message on a Sunday – and he didn’t. But he did turn up at the house within the hour. How impressive was that? What he did enabled us to have cold water at least.

Eating Out is the New Washing Up

We are still, however, waiting for him to supply and install a replacement water-heater. Which means we have had only cold water in the kitchen and guest bathroom for almost a month. Our plans to invite a friend to stay over for a night or two are on hold: he may be Dutch but he’s not Wim Hof!

It’s fortunate we have a dishwasher – albeit a small, counter-top model. But we still had to wash big pots and pans by hand, which meant boiling the kettle to fill the washing-up bowl. I must say The Boss has been remarkably tolerant about fulfilling his washing-up duties without the aid of piping-hot water from the tap. Although, come to think of it, he has suggested eating out more frequently than usual.

It seems that all plumbers are extremely busy and have more work than they can shake a pipe wrench at. If you’re ever thinking about a career change, becoming a plumber could be a lucrative choice.

Anyone have a spare copy of Plumbing for Dummies?

©Jan Edwards 2021

This December in Mallorca: Colder than Usual

Is it me – or has this month flown by? It’s been a colder than usual December here in Mallorca, after a very wet November.

December has certainly been a challenging month. We were unable to use our Jotul log burner for about five increasingly cold days, because of a problem with the insulation at the top of the stovepipe, where it goes into the wall. Our plan was to get some techie wizard in from the store where we bought the stove back in the day.

Sadly (for us), the store is so busy installing new stoves (I told you it was cold this December), they couldn’t send anyone out to us for five weeks. Five weeks! So we bought some insulation material, and The Boss brought the ladder into the house to do the job himself. He managed to sort out the problem before coming back down the ladder like Bert the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins – but without the dodgy Cockney accent. Result.

The Builders are in …

‘Builders? Just before Christmas?’ I can almost hear someone saying that to us. Yes, we do have builders in. Although when I say in, I don’t mean working inside the house. That would be crazy so close to Christmas.

Builders working on beams
Beam ’em up!

In fact the two outside jobs concerned have been on the cards for many months but, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, had to be put on hold.

The covered terrace outside our annexe guest suite has beams holding up the roof. And two of the beams were rotten. Replacing them without having the whole roof collapse was clearly a job for professionals. Otherwise, it had the potential of being like a horizontal version of Jenga.

Our builders, Handy Hands*, removed the rotten beams (and thoughtfully cut them up so we could use them as firewood), replaced them with new beams, and sanded and treated all the others. A job well done.

Step This Way

Access to the lid of our water tank – cisterna – has been by ladder ever since we bought the finca. The Boss takes a stepladder to climb up to the tank each week to measure the remaining amount of water. The ladder is far from steady, standing on the uneven ground next to the tank. When Jaume delivers our water supply by tanker, we leave him the ladder so he can also climb up, dragging his giant hose with him.

As none of us is getting any fitter, there had to be a safer way. It’s in the form of a small flight of steps (and handrail) adjoining the tank. Handy Hands finished this important addition to our finca this afternoon. What a fantastic job.

It’ll be better for The Boss and for me (I do have a bad rep with ladders), but we’re happy for Jaume to think of that short flight of steps as his Christmas gift from us …

  • We are happy to recommend Handy Hands; contact them via their Facebook page.

Have a Merry One

Our tree December 2021

Covid is again impacting on Christmas in various ways (depending on where you are) but, in spite of the challenges we all face, The Boss and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a much improved New Year. Think positive and stay safe. As they say here, Feliz Navidad or Feliç Nadal.

©Jan Edwards 2021

How to Stop Painting Mallorcan Shutters

Persianas are the slatted shutters gracing the windows (and sometimes doors) of most traditional houses in Mallorca. They do an excellent job of shading the interior from the hot summer sun. If the windows are open (most open inwards here), the slats allow air into the house.

The old … minus a few slats

Visit any town or village in Mallorca and you could think many of the properties are uninhabited. People mostly leave their shutters closed on the street-facing side of their homes for privacy. Walk past though and you may smell drifting aromas of cooking and hear animated conversation or one of those melodramatic Spanish soaps blasting from the TV within.

On very wet days – believe me, we’ve had a lot of those this November – we leave our persianas closed. This protects our old doors and window frames from the worst of the rain. On these days, we feel like moles living without natural light. So it’s a relief after the rain to open the shutters and emerge blinking into the daylight.

Painting … with Treacle?

Persianas are usually made of painted or varnished wood; brown and green are probably the most popular paint colours in rural properties, blending with the natural environment. But the extremes of summer heat and winter damp (it’s not shorts and T’s year-round in Mallorca) take their toll. And that means periodic maintenance.

It didn’t take too much paintbrush-wielding for us to decide there had to be a better way. We painted ours in warm weather and the brown paint soon resembled treacle. More of it stayed on our brushes than was transferred to the prepared shutters. My clagged-up brush head was almost the size of my own head by the time I’d finished the shutter I was working on.

A Worthwhile Investment

Our alternative came in the form of aluminium shutters. The shutters at the front of our house are subject to the most sun damage. Some of the slats were loose or had already fallen out, so time was of the essence. We replaced those first, opting for brown, wood-effect aluminium shutters from Can Tovell in Manacor.

Replacing the rest of the old wooden shutters has been on a need-to-do-it-before-they-fall-apart basis. The price of aluminium has soared, which means the price of shutters has too. Sadly, not our income. Becoming a published author has not changed my life financially! Or any other way, except that there’s one more book to dust on the shelf.

We had two more sets of French window shutters replaced in the summer and any day now the last two wooden ones will be consigned to history. Shutter-painting is a thing of the past. Sadly painting ceilings isn’t …

©Jan Edwards 2021

Christmas in Mallorca – Dare I Mention it Yet?

Tree at the M House Hotel in Palma

Where does the time go? Not so long ago we were wondering if we should have another dip in the sea because the autumn weather was still warm. (The answer from The Boss was a resounding ‘no’). This week you find us in full-on winter mode: the electric blanket is back on duty and the Jotul wood-burning stove is now blazing. The weather this November has not been pleasant (understatement).

Palma Preparing for the Season

I went to Mallorca’s capital, Palma, yesterday for a meet-up with other writers on the island and saw signs of the festive season coming to life. The stacks of wooden panels piled in Plaza de Espanya were an indication that the Christmas market stalls – wooden open-fronted huts, or casetas – are being erected. Around the corner, the roast-chestnut vendor was seducing passers by with the evocative aroma of his wares.

Let There be Lights!

The festivities in Palma seem to start a little earlier each year. This year, the big switch-on of the Christmas lights there will be on Wednesday, November 24th at 8pm. This coincides with the start of TaPalma – a popular annual event showcasing tapas and cocktails, continuing until Sunday, 28th. The Spanish Met Office – AEMET – says we may even have snow in Mallorca next week, although it would probably fall in the mountains, rather than in Palma.

Fir-ly Interesting News

For our home in rural Mallorca, we invested in a high-quality artificial Christmas tree before we left England, not expecting to find any – fake or real – on the island. Christmas trees have since become widely available in Mallorca and you wouldn’t believe some of the ghastly colours of the artificial ones. We’ve stuck with our original tree. It still looks good, although it smells a little musty for a day or two after a year stashed in its storage box.

I’ve read that a landscape gardener from Berlin is bringing sustainable, rooted Nordmann fir trees in pots to Mallorca to rent or buy. I like the idea of having a tree we could plant in the garden after the festivities are over. With the agaves keeling over in our garden, we’ll have several gaps to fill.

Tempted by the prospect of a real fir-scented tree, we may check out the Christmas Forest at the rural hotel **Ses Cases de Fetget, near Son Servera. And, of course, the mulled wine that the hotel will be selling at the same time.

**The trees will be available on Fridays and Saturdays from November 26th & 27th to December 17th & 18th, from 12 noon until 8pm.

©Jan Edwards 2021

Preparing for Winter in Mallorca

But a Different Storm has Already Arrived

It may officially still be autumn but it feels like winter has arrived in spectacular style in Mallorca.

On Thursday, the northeast resort/port of Cala Ratjada suffered a freak hailstorm. It left the place looking as though a significant amount of snow had fallen. With COP26 happening in Glasgow, it seemed like a timely example of the sort of freak weather events we should expect more often in future.

Storm ‘Blas’ Brings a Winter Blast

Today, Mallorca is being battered by Storm ‘Blas’. Mallorca and Menorca are on orange alert for winds of up to 100km an hour and 14m waves. The Spanish Met Office – AEMET – says it’s possible the storm’s core has the characteristics of a tropical or sub-tropical cyclone.

It’s time to winter-proof the house, as best we can in an old property. I’ve taken down the cream sheers at our three sets of French windows and hung the thermal-lined winter curtains. I’ve also put back the rug on the tiled floor of the Library, where I do my writing; cold feet do not aid creativity in winter in Mallorca.

The duvet and electric blanket are back on duty, and it won’t be long before The Boss fires up the Jotul wood-burning stove – our main source of heat in the winter months. Our next job is to hitch up the trailer and go to the town of Porreres, to buy logs. But are we going out on a day like today? We are not.

November Can Be Quite Different

Facebook likes to remind its users of posts from previous years. Today, I noted that on this very date in 2015 my brother Steve was staying with us for a short break. The photos I shared on Facebook back then included one of Steve on a steamer chair on the terrace, clad in shorts and T-shirt and reading a book in warm sunshine. Others showed the BBQ ready to make our lunch, and Steve and The Boss paddling in the Mediterranean at beautiful Colònia de Sant Pere. Six years on, there’ll be nobody paddling in the sea around Mallorca today …

©Jan Edwards 2021

Irony & the Snout Weevil Strike

Agaves in our Mallorcan garden
Agaves were the start of our garden

In my last post, I wrote about the challenges of keeping our Mallorca garden’s agaves under control. What I didn’t mention was that The Boss had suggested removing a few of these plants to make gardening less risky in the future.

I’m all for simplifying life where possible, but we’ve had these agaves in our garden since they were very small. They were the foundation plants in what would become the garden, having cleared the part of our field closest to the house almost seventeen years ago.

Most of these agaves are now taller than I am and they provide a striking (sometimes literally) contrast to the other plants we’ve added over the years. I couldn’t bear the thought of removing any of these architecturally interesting plants and, after some discussion, we agreed to review the situation next year.

Nature Intervenes

Oh, the irony. We recently went into the garden and found that one of the agaves had fallen down – separated somehow from its core, which was still in the soil. We were mystified but told ourselves it was probably due to the plant’s considerable age – or the shock of The Boss’s recent pruning of it.

He duly removed the toppled plant, its core, and roots. Now we had only twenty-four agaves left. Still enough to start a tequila farm, although neither of us is partial to the famous Mexican tipple, made from the blue agave.

A message came from Vicky, one of our part-time neighbours, who’s created an attractive garden at her property here. Had any of our agaves been affected by the snout-nosed (aka snout-nose or snout) weevil? We’d never heard of such a creature and I went straight to Google in search of more information. It seemed likely that one of these voracious little beetles was at the heart – literally – of the problem. They may be small, but they’re a huge pest.

Plenty of choice for the snout weevil
At risk of attack from the snout weevil

The Evil Weevil

The agave snout-nosed weevil is about half-an-inch long, black, and has a downward curving proboscis that it uses to deadly effect. This proboscis pierces the tough core of the agave, where the weevil lays its eggs. When the grubs hatch, their first meal awaits them: the agave heart. The plant keels over. Once the grubs have eaten their fill, they bury themselves into the soil to pupate. It’s unbelievable that such a tiny insect can lay waste to a plant that’s taller and wider than I am (not that I am especially wide, I should add).

A Solution as the Solution?

I found a website that could be useful when it comes to battling the snout-nosed weevil: American gardener Debra Lee Baldwin’s article on Agave Snout Weevil Prevention and Treatment seems to offer some hope, if action is taken. However, a few friends have informed me that we should expect to lose more agaves. And possibly other succulents.

It seems The Boss’s agave-trimming in the future may be a lot easier, after all.

Agaves on the Attack in Mallorca

The biggest challenge in our Mediterranean garden in rural Mallorca is keeping the agaves under control. This entails The Boss taking his special saw to the lowest ‘blades’ – they’re more like weapons than something as innocent-sounding as leaves.

This summer we did more gardening than is usual for the time of year, by getting up earlier in the morning. I’m Head of Weeding. The Boss is Head of Sawing & Agave Management. He doesn’t allow me access to his saw (boys and their toys), or the agaves. Thank goodness.

Agaves in a rural Mallorca garden
The Boss fights his way in

As well as a sharp point at the tip, each blade has spikes down each side. As careful as The Boss is when he squeezes himself among the agaves to trim them back, he still takes on the additional role of a human pincushion. Head of Weeding adds Emergency Nurse to her duties, wielding Betadine, cotton wool, and plasters. If you don’t yet have shares in a company making first-aid necessities, now could be the time to invest!

Off But Not Gone

Disposing of the sawn-off ‘blades’ is no easy task. Our local Parc Verde (recycling centre) won’t take them as garden waste, and these things have to dry out fully before we can burn them on the bonfire. We’re fortunate: we have a large field and the bottom of that field isn’t visible from our house. Just as well really, as several dozen agave ‘blades’ are spread out across the land to dry in the sun. One day they’ll have dried out enough to burn.

Agave blades drying in the sun
‘Sunbathing’ agave blades

We were gifted our agaves by a couple of kind neighbours. The plants were very small at the time, and we had no idea how close together and large (and dangerous) they would become. My advice if you acquire some small agaves to plant in your garden would be to space them out well, buy yourself a good saw and some sturdy gauntlets.

A pair of the latter is winging its way to our apartado (post office box) as I write. We should save a lot of money on plasters and iodine next year.

@Jan Edwards 2021

Available on Amazon https://books2read.com/u/4Dx8ad

Mallorca has a New Published Author

And it’s me! My novel, Daughter of Deià, has had a gestation period longer than that of an elephant, but this month it’s come out into the world.

Photo by Vicki McLeod of Phoenix Media

Last Saturday, I began to feel like a real author when I signed a few copies of the paperback version at Mallorca’s Universal Bookshop. Englishwoman Kay Halley’s book emporium in Portals Nous in southwest Mallorca is well worth a visit.

In case you missed my last post, I’ve donned my marketing hat – the same straw one I wear to do the gardening – to offer you what the publishing world calls the ‘blurb’.

What my novel Daughter of Deià is about …

When radio presenter Laura Lundon loses the job she adores – shortly after her beloved aunt’s death – things couldn’t get any worse. Until a long-kept family secret is revealed.

Stunned to discover she was conceived in Mallorca, home bird Laura faces up to her dislike of foreign travel to visit the Spanish holiday island … on a mission to discover her biological father’s true identity.

After gorgeous local photographer Carlos leads Laura to a shocking conclusion, she flees. So how does she end up in temporary charge of a Mallorcan cat refuge, despite knowing nothing about cats? She can cope with litter trays and needle-like claws, but not the wandering paws of the property’s randy landlord.

When Laura receives an eviction notice, the clock is ticking towards the day that she and the refuge cats will be homeless. Can she save them, and herself? Will the truth about her biological father’s identity have devastating repercussions? And will she ever be lucky in love?

If that sounds like an excuse to make a cuppa and curl up on the sofa for an escapist read, here’s the link to your local Amazon store: https://books2read.com/u/4Dx8ad. And of course, if you buy my novel Daughter of Deià, I’d be very grateful for a short review.

©Jan Edwards 2021

Feeling Drained in Mallorca

Early one morning …

When you live off-grid in Mallorca, as we do, there are some necessary periodic tasks that have to be done to keep everything working as it should. One of these is to empty the septic tank. Eugh! I hear you say. Fortunately, this isn’t a job we have to do personally. We’d have run from the hills long ago if that were the case.

Once a year, we arrange for a specialist company to come and do the deed for us. A tanker arrives, complete with a huge reel of tubing. The tanker driver attends to the controls from within the vehicle; the other man (I don’t envy him), feeds the tubes in and out of the mouth of the septic tank, which is buried underground and accessed by a hatch door.

Remarkably, this unpleasant but necessary off-grid task doesn’t involve smells, spillages, or sounds that are likely to put us off our breakfast. Yes, these people have a habit of arriving at seven-thirty in the morning. This September they arrived a week earlier than expected. Keen, eh?

The job was all done within a quarter of an hour and the men and their tanker were soon on their way – one hundred euros and a ten-euro tip better off. Worth every céntimo, I must say. That’s one job out of the way until September 2022.

Another Task Completed … Almost

If you’re a regular reader of Living in Rural Mallorca, you may recall that I’ve been writing a novel. For quite a long time. Well, finally, it’s published and is now available on your local Amazon store. Daughter of Deià features radio, cats, and Mallorca – three areas in which I have quite a bit of experience.

My debut novel was published last Thursday, 2nd, but the hard work is by no means over and, like our septic tank, I am feeling drained.

Now I have to do the book’s marketing – something of which I have little experience. Please wish me luck.

I am grateful to everyone who takes a chance on me as a novelist and buys the book. So if you fancy a bit of armchair travel – or share my interest in radio, cats, and Mallorca – check it out on Amazon here. Thank you.

Copyright Jan Edwards 2021

Heatwave Stops Work … and Everything

High temperatures in Spain's 'important heatwave' in Mallorca

Spain has been suffering what a local newspaper described as an ‘important heatwave’. Admittedly, Mallorca hasn’t been as ‘scorchio’ as the south of Spain, but we’ve had consistently high temperatures for more than a week, and it’s been horribly humid. For much of the past week, the island sat under a blanket of clouds bearing African dust. Most of the dust is now decorating Mallorca’s vehicles.

We’ve stopped all work on the area of our land we’d been clearing. We had been rising at seven in the morning to get out and work in the cooler air before the sun rises over the ridge. But we’ve had tropical overnight lows this week, with temperatures not falling below twenty-six degrees on three successive nights. Poor or little sleep and an unwillingness to work in a suffocating, hot fug have put our morning garden exertions on hold.

Not Quite a Lockdown

How to cope with Spain's 'important heatwave'
Watermelon is the key to keeping cool

Friends and family members in England have been in touch to see if we’re still alive, after seeing alarming weather reports in the media. Yes, still alive, but in a self-enforced type of lockdown. Apart from the necessary shopping and a medical appointment, we’ve stayed indoors. This is an alien concept for us in summer. Usually, we’re outdoors as much as possible – and never eat a meal inside the house.

Even the prospect of going to a beachfront restaurant has temporarily lost its appeal. Our appetites have been depleted by heat, humidity, and a lack of movement. Salads, fruit, and copious water are sustaining us. There’ll be some catching up to do when the ‘important heatwave’ abates.

‘Scorchio’ Indeed!

Before I sat down to write this (at a little after five in the afternoon), I popped outside to check the current temperature. The thermometer is in the shade and registered forty degrees – the highest we’ve had this week in our part of rural Mallorca. Yesterday, the Mallorcan town of Sa Pobla beat us, with a top temperature of forty-one. But Spain’s ‘important heatwave’ in Mallorca hasn’t been as bad as in Andalusia, where the temperature reached 47 degrees Celsius this week.

The Spanish Met Office forecasts cooler weather from tomorrow. We’ve already set the alarm early to catch up on some garden work. And maybe even a hearty breakfast.

©Jan Edwards 2021