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

Cat Chat in Mallorca on International Cat Day

Is it time to wake up?

International Cat Day is today, August the 8th. And since we became international by moving to rural Mallorca, we’ve had plenty of cats in our lives.

Seventeen feral or homeless felines have called our finca home over the years we’ve lived here. We currently have Dusty, Shorty, Nibbles, Sweetie (all born on the finca and now ten years old), and Pip. Pip arrived as a tiny kitten – dumped, we believe – and inveigled her way into our home after our own cat Minstral died.

We’ve taken responsibility for each of the cats that have spent time around the place. As a result, we’ve named them, fed them, looked after their welfare, and neutered them (not personally, you understand). In return, they keep the rural rodent population away from our house. Believe me, it’s a good deal.

Find Yourself a Feline

We’re not running a cat refuge here, although at times we feel as though we are. However, there are plenty of people in Mallorca who look after stray and unwanted cats and kittens. On International Cat Day, I salute their dedication. If you’re on the island and would like to adopt or event foster a feline, I’ve posted some links below to a few of the animal sanctuaries in Mallorca. All of them are always grateful for donations towards their costs; Eden Sanctuary especially needs urgent financial assistance as the property owner is selling the land Eden Sanctuary has been renting.

Refugio Marylou

This particular cat refuge is a figment of my imagination and plays a major part in my debut novel. Write about what you know, they say. Well, Daughter of Deià features a radio presenter, cats, and Mallorca. I think I’ve ticked the ‘write what you know’ box.

Daughter of Deià will be published in early September. If you’re not a subscriber to this blog, click the follow button for updates and further news.

Real Cat Refuges in Mallorca

Some of the below also care for other unwanted animals.

Feliz Animal, Andratx

Amics Puigpunyent, Galilea

Cat Protection Pollensa

Forever Home Cat Sanctuary

Eden Sanctuary

Moixos de Son Talent, Manacor (Facebook only),

SOS Animal Mallorca, Calvià

Kats Karma (rescues and sends street cats to Germany)

©Jan Edwards 2021

Making Room for the Mushrooms

In its new home … for a few days

During my time at the BBC in Oxfordshire, I was invited to be an auctioneer for a charity evening in the small village of Bladen (the final resting place of Sir Winston Churchill).

Before the event began, there was the usual opportunity to peruse the lots going under the hammer. One of these caught our attention: a wooden carving of some mushrooms, standing about as tall as me. It had been carved by someone with considerable talent out of a piece of wood from the nearby Blenheim Estate.

‘Wouldn’t that look fantastic in Mallorca?’ I said to The Boss, mindful that we’d soon be moving from the UK to our new home on the Spanish island. Fortunately, he agreed. As the auctioneer, I couldn’t bid for the item, so The Boss agreed to do it from his seat in the audience.

We weren’t the only ones lusting after this gorgeous garden ornament. Sadly for us (but happily for the charity in question), the carving went for a much higher bid than we could manage.

However, after the auction was over, we met the artisan who’d made the mushrooms and when we told him we’d liked to have bought his carving he offered to make us one, and we agreed on a price.

Mushrooms to Mallorca

Our wonderful mushrooms made the trip to Mallorca without incident and were eventually installed in our fledgling garden in a spot between two agaves. Have you any idea how enormous agaves can grow? We didn’t when we planted these two small ones – gifts from a kind neighbour.

Before long, the mushroom carving was hemmed in by agaves of a matching height. Agaves have dangerous spikes on the tips and sides of the ‘leaves’ and close contact is best avoided. We left our wooden feature where it was until it was no longer fully visible.

Fallen … and split again

When we started our latest garden project (not yet finished, folks), we decided to liberate our mushrooms from their ‘prison’, only to find the wood had dried out and the mushrooms had split vertically into two separate garden ornaments, being held up by their captors. Inevitably, The Boss sustained an unfortunate number of attacks from the spiny agave ‘leaves’ in the process of retrieving our wooden feature. One of which required a quick visit to the local Urgències hospital department, some antihistamine pills and anti-inflammatory cream.

New Lease of Life

The Boss did a fantastic job of glueing the two halves of our wooden garden feature together, and we found a new location for it under our rather handsome tree, where we’d be able to enjoy looking at it. The next job would be for me to give it some wood treatment. But before I could do that, a freak, strong gust of wind blew through the garden and felled the feature – splitting it back into two.

Now, where did we put the rest of that glue?

Jan Edwards ©2021

Our New Mallorcan Garden Project – Part 1

A few years ago, we replaced the old wooden, outdoor dining table and chairs on our main terrace with a Moroccan tiled-top table and iron chairs. The old wooden set was scruffy and somewhat wobbly but was usable, so we put it in our field just beyond our garden area. Afforded some dappled light and shade from our tree, it turned out to be a useful lunch spot, often cooled by the lunchtime breeze known here as l’embat. We used it a time or two when my dad and Uncle Ray visited, but the weeds under the table and chairs were scratchy around our legs.

Last spring’s strict Spanish lockdown gave us time to do something about this. Over a period of several weeks, hours were spent pulling up weeds until we had only bare earth beneath the furniture. Inspiration struck: what if we put down some weed matting and then gravel, to stop the weeds returning? We’d have yet another decent area to eat and drink or use our laptops during the day.

This became our new project, which would have been completed were it not for a major obstacle. Except for supermarkets, pharmacies, and a few essential businesses, nothing was open. We couldn’t buy weed matting or gravel. By the time lockdown ended and businesses were allowed to open again, our thoughts were elsewhere … we were in the process of having our guest bathroom converted into a guest shower room.

More Weeding Required

And lift!

This summer we’ve been getting up early to take advantage of the cool, fresh air before the sun has risen too far over the ridge. And our 2020 project has been revived. Sadly, the weeds had all returned over the winter, requiring another mega weeding effort. This week we reached the stage of buying the weed matting and the gravel.

Big packs

We hitched up our trailer and visited Juan Lliteras, the construction-materials company on the Felanitx road, where we bought what’s called a ‘big pack’ (yes, they use the English) of gravel. We’ve bought stuff from this yard before and have been impressed by the man who served us (who may be the owner), who is one of the smiliest people you could meet. It’s also impressive that the business is open weekdays from 7am until 7pm, without closing for lunch.

We returned home and parked the trailer close to the area where we’d be working. Our intention was to lay the materials early next morning.

To be continued …

Jan Edwards ©2021

Hear the Latest Episode of the Living in Rural Mallorca Podcast

Sylvia Baker de Perkal

It’s a privilege for me to be able to hear the stories of other expats who have chosen the rural lifestyle here in Mallorca. This island is a magnet for fascinating people and if I had time to do more interviews, I’d certainly never run out of interesting subjects for this podcast.

My latest guest is not only a well-qualified translator with some top-notch international clients, but also an accomplished artist. Some of her art was chosen to become part of the décor of a boutique hotel in Lisbon.

Sylvia Baker de Perkal and I sat in the pretty garden of her finca for our conversation, with the background sounds of birds, peacocks, and her rescue dogs. How rural is that!

I hope you’ll enjoy listening. The show notes include Sylvia’s website details, as well as websites for some of the animal refuges on the island (there are many more).

Sylvia Baker de Perkal – Translator & Artist Living in Rural Mallorca

Sylvia Baker de Perkal and her Californian husband Adam moved from banking careers in  Madrid to live in the countryside near the Mallorcan village of Algaida. This was twenty-six years ago, and they still live in the same rural home they fell in love with when they came to look for a property on the island.  Sylvia and Adam each have their own successful businesses in Mallorca: Sylvia is a highly qualified translator, specialising in legal and financial translations; Adam runs his wine importing company. Sylvia also devotes time to her passion for creating art; four of her canvases hang in a smart new hotel in Lisbon. Sylvia talks about sharing their environment with animals (some of which you'll hear in the background), the changes they made to their home when they arrived, how she integrated into the local community, what it's like to start a business here, and some of the illusions people have about living in Mallorca. http://www.sylviabakerdeperkal.com Facebook: Sylvia Baker de Perkal- Artworkwww.mundidrinks.comFor animal adoptions:Dogs 4 U                               https://dogsforu.orgAsociación Animalista  https://gatosyperros.orgProject Love                        http://www.sinhogarmallorca.com PODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”COMPOSER: Jack WaldenmaierPUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI) LIVING IN RURAL MALLORCA podcast will be back in September 2021, after the hot summer break. Meanwhile, Jan Edwards's novel 'Daughter of Deià' – set in Mallorca – is now published and available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.
  1. Sylvia Baker de Perkal – Translator & Artist
  2. Kate Brittan – Australian Expat, Foodie, and Fledgling Farmer
  3. Annie Verrinder – Wedding Planner, Celebrant … and More
  4. Marc Rieke – Wigmaker, Equestrian, Saddle Fitter
  5. Caroline Fuller – Gardening in Mallorca

Summer’s Arrived in Mallorca

Porto Cristo in the sunshine. The biggest boat belongs to tennis supremo Rafa Nadal

It’s officially here: summer 2021. In terms of the tourist season in Mallorca, it’s a late start – although some visitors from Germany began coming at Easter. At the moment we’ve seen few signs of many British tourists, because of the requirement for quarantine on their return home. From various media reports I’ve seen, that requirement could be lifted soon for those who are fully vaccinated. We shall see.

Our part-time neighbour and friend Vicky came to stay for a couple of weeks to check on her property and attend to things that needed doing. She had prepared for the subsequent quarantine by filling her freezer back at home.

The first thing to know about owning a second home in the countryside – a finca – is that there is always something to be done by way of maintenance or repair. A holiday in one’s rural second home usually begins with fixing things or organising a técnico to visit the property to sort out problems.

Beyond Repair

Some things, however, are beyond repair. One of those is the old cart we inherited when we bought our finca. Someone asked me the other day if we still had it. Yes, we do.

A very old bougainvillea keeps this cart more or less standing

During the last winter we looked at its poor state and wondered whether we should remove it. The Boss feared it could collapse and banned me from weeding in the area, just in case. One day I spotted a lot of the creeping weed Galium acarine, sometimes known as sticky bob or sticky willy. We’ve been plagued with it this year and I’ve pulled out metres of the stuff from just about every area of the garden.

The dreaded weed was threading its way through the old bougainvillea which grows from under the cart. Well, that had to go, or I feared we’d have no beautiful bracts this summer to add colour to this patch of our land. When The Boss spotted me at work near the cart he came to join me and we tackled the weeding together.

Up close and personal, we discovered that although the cart has collapsed on one side, rocks (of which we have a lot) and the old bougainvillea are forming the equivalent of a girdle to keep it all in place. The cart lives on … and the tidying of the sticky bob that The Boss and I did has paid off, as you can see.

Busy, Busy …

Our friends Maureen and Peter, other part-time English neighbours, wrote to me a few days ago, pointing out that they hadn’t seen a blog post for a while. We’ve been busy.

There have been various appointments here and there – one of which was to organise new persianas – the slatted window and door shutters that are a common feature of Spanish properties. We had the wooden ones replaced at the front quite a few years ago and now it’s the turn of some of the shutters at the back of the house.

I’ve also been busy working on getting my debut novel Daughter of Deià published. Because I have little patience, I am leaning towards the indie publishing route. Traditional publishing takes a long time and that’s if you can even find a publisher who’ll take you on. It helps to be a celebrity, apparently. I’m not.

My research into self-publishing, or indie publishing, suggests I am at the base of a steep learning curve, but I love learning new things, so I’m girding my loins for the journey and looking forward to holding that published book in my hand.

Wherever you are, I hope your summer has begun well and that you have the pleasure of looking forward to a holiday, somewhere, soon.

Jan Edwards © 2021