Spring has sprung . . . and so has a leak

A warm welcome to the spring

A warm welcome to the spring

Spring is finally here on Mallorca: today as we look up from our finca on this beautiful Mediterranean island we’re looking at a clear blue sky and bright sunshine. It’s my favourite season – a time of optimism, rebirth, and hope. Already there are a few poppy flowers dotted around our land, and soon the verges at the side of the lane down to our valley will be a mass of wild flowers. And, for gourmets, there’s the added treat of finding wild asparagus. People drive out from Manacor to hunt for the elusive slender stems in the verges and fields. Of course, those of us who live here in the valley have first pickings . . .

Pass the mallet

But amid all this positive stuff, we made an unpleasant discovery yesterday – a day after our latest delivery of 12,000 litres of water. Spring isn’t the only thing that’s sprung . . . we now have a rather serious leak in our water storage tank, or cisterna.  The lining we had installed in 2007 to repair a previous leak seems to have developed its own leaks.  Having discovered the problem, The Boss headed off to do some emergency repairs with a large mallet and a handful of wine bottle corks; I didn’t dare ask . . .  Whatever he did has stemmed the flow a little, but clearly something a little less Heath Robinson is needed for a permanent solution.

Fortunately we have a terrific builder – whose company balance sheet was given a favourable boost last autumn with the work done on our roof – and he came out to examine the cisterna within a couple of hours of our phone call. There’s too much water in the tank to assess the situation accurately, or make a repair, so we must wait until the water level has gone down considerably before he can do that.

Making a splash

Once the water has been used – or has leaked away (which it’s doing steadily) – we’ll be reliving the experience we had when the previous repair was done. It’ll mean one or two days without water, and we’ll be filling the bath and various buckets, so we can flush the loo and heat some up for dishwashing etc.  And for our own ablutions, we’ll be renewing our acquaintance with the public swimming baths in town – where we can have the luxury of a shower both before and after a few lengths of the pool. As it’s spring, let’s be optimistic: the exercise will do us good . . .

Bee aware

Since we came to live in rural Mallorca, we’ve always been careful to ensure that there’s water available on our land for any passing thirsty wildlife. It’s particularly important during the summer months when we often have no rain at all for many weeks, and the temperatures are consistently high.

We brought four birdbaths with us from the UK, which are dotted around our property – and it’s simply a matter of making sure they’re all cleaned and topped up regularly with water. Our feathered friends are certainly grateful, calling regularly year-round for drinks and a spot of exuberant bathing (after which a water top-up is usually required). On one occasion we saw a family of partridge – six birds in total – all perched around the edge of the birdbath closest to the house. It would have made a great photo, but as I grabbed my Nikon from a shelf and removed the lens cap, they took off – as one – with a clattering of wings.

Dusty's turn at the watering hole

Dusty’s turn at the watering hole

The cats, the birds . .  and the bees

Ironically – birds and cats being natural enemies – the feline family that has adopted us, also use the birdbaths for drinking. Thankfully, never together.

Bees ready to hit the water

Bees ready to hit the water

But there’s new competition at the bar: for the past few days we’ve had numerous bees coming to drink from the largest birdbath, at the front of the house. We’ve always had plenty of bees around the place, as two farmers further down the valley keep hives – and we deliberately made our garden bee-friendly, with plenty of tempting lavender and rosemary bushes. I love the buzz of a few bees around the place – makes me think of summer – but The Boss thinks that the huge number of bees around might just be from a swarm that’s settled somewhere on our land.

Just in case, I’ve just checked out beekeeping gear on the Internet, and found a natty white bee suit – looks like a onesie with attitude – that might look good on The Boss. Or we could just call on the expertise of our beekeeping Mallorcan neighbours . . .

 

Sloe, sloe, dig, dig, sloe

A hedge-in-the-making: one of 20 blackthorn shrubs that now grace our back field

A hedge-in-the-making: one of 20 blackthorn shrubs that now grace our back field

The Boss has an aching back – but he’s convinced it will have been worth it: he’s just planted 20 blackthorn bushes in the back field of our finca in rural Mallorca. One day they’ll grow up to become a long hedge and bear a multitude of sloes (see how hopeful I am?) with which he’ll make sloe gin. The fact that we can look forward to our own crop of sloes is down to our fantastic friends from Oxfordshire, who kindly brought the young shrubs over to Mallorca in their cabin baggage! https://livinginruralmallorca.com/2013/02/15/sloe-road-to-mallorca/

Planting anything on our land calls for more than a spade and fork, because what looks like normal land is mainly rocks with a covering of soil. Rarely can we plant something where we’d ideally like it to be, because a few test probes with a fork usually reveal that there’s not enough earth, or a mammoth rock is lurking beneath. Where would we be without a pickaxe?

Dynamite might do it

A Mallorcan wine-maker who lives nearby once told us how, as a child, he remembered dynamite being used to blast away rocks in one of the family’s fields so that an orchard could be planted. It’s a large field, so we can only imagine how noisy that must have been!

Whilst dynamite would be a quick solution – and less back-breaking – it would surely frighten the sheep in the field across the lane . . . and probably sound the death knell for what’s left of the ruined neighbouring casita. And think of the dust!

So our fledgling hedge was planted with muscle power. And don’t those muscles know it . . .

Seeing red

Our little patch of rural Mallorca – our finca – is not blessed with a swimming pool. Several neighbours around us have a pool, but we couldn’t add one to our property if we wanted to, as the land is protected. During the heat of July and August I often think it must be lovely to be able to jump into a pool to cool off from time to time.

But there’s an upside to not owning a pool – especially after a ‘weather event’ (don’t you just love all those expressions that British TV weather presenters drop into their forecasts?). The ‘weather event’ earlier this week was a storm which brought sand from Africa up to Mallorca, and dumped it with a load of rain on those of us who were foolish enough to leave our washing out on the line overnight! This doesn’t happen too frequently, fortunately – leaving the washing out, or raining mud – but it does make a horrible mess.

Mud, mud, not so glorious mud

Going outside the morning after the night of the mud rain – as locals often call it – we found terracotta-tinged smalls on the washing line, and persianas and white-painted metal garden furniture that were splattered with reddish dust. And worse still, as far as The Boss was concerned, the car was covered in dry muddy streaks.

Dried mud rain on our car - a challenge too far for any automatic car wash!

Dried mud rain on our car – a challenge too far for any automatic car wash!

It’s bad enough to have to re-do the washing, clean the car, and wash down the window shutters and outdoor furniture (still to be done), but cleaning the layer of sand from the bottom of a swimming pool must be horrendous. So, I’ll stick to the Mediterranean for my summer dips, thank you.

Trailer tales

In preparation for our move to live in rural Mallorca, The Boss purchased a trailer to hitch up to our car. I wasn’t convinced that such a piece of equipment – known here as a remolque – would really be necessary in our new country life, but it’s proved to be very useful for all manner of things.

Having towed it down through France and Spain before we moved here (loaded with some items for our future new home), we had to set about legalising it for use on Mallorca’s roads. It proved to be a task fraught with complications. Long story short, the process took longer than it did to transfer our car registration from British to Spanish – involving phone calls to the trailer manufacturers in the Netherlands, visits to various ITV (Inspección Técnica de Vehículos) centres, and much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth.

Hitch ‘er up

But it’s all been worth it. We soon discovered that having logs delivered for our woodburning stove was an expensive exercise, and meant that we had no choice in the wood that we received. Having the trailer has enabled The Boss to go and buy our wood from a farmer who sells it from his land, and he can hand-pick decent logs that will fit inside our stove.  We’ve also used it to take sizeable unwanted items to the local Parc Verde (recycling and household refuse centre).

We recently went to buy a large quantity of small stones to put down on our drive, and were shocked to find that the cost of delivering them to our property was higher than the cost of the stones themselves. So The Boss duly hitched up the trailer and returned to the builders’ merchants to collect the stones himself.

A trailer of two (or more) kitties

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie - enjoying the trailer life

Shorty, Beamer and, almost hidden, Sweetie – enjoying the trailer life

But we’re not the only ones who see the value in having this trailer. With its soft black cover in place, it has proved very popular as a lounging spot for some of our family of adopted cats. I guess that makes it worth every penny . . .