Awaiting a cart-astrophe

One of the first things we noticed when we first saw our finca in rural Mallorca – during a four-day property-hunting visit to the island – was an exuberant bougainvillea growing over an old iron and wooden cart. Breathtakingly pretty, it was one of several things we fell in love with about the property we’ve called home for nearly 10 years.

In better days . . .

In better days . . .

On closer inspection we discovered the cart was also home to climbing geraniums. The finca had been a holiday home for the previous owners, who used to buy pots of geraniums when they arrived and, at the end of their holiday, would plant the geraniums in the soil around the bottom of the cart, and leave the rest to Mother Nature. The geraniums are admittedly a bit straggly now, but they still flower each year.

Wheely unsteady

For the past few years we’ve wondered whether the cart is supporting the bougainvillea or vice versa. This relic from a gentler agricultural past is showing its age and looking decidedly unsteady. It’s shored up with rocks – and has been since we bought the place – but I don’t do any weeding anywhere near it now; I even decided not to prune the bougainvillea when it was last due to be done.

One day it will collapse and with it will go the plants that have given us so much pleasure. As much as we’d like to find another old cart to replace it, such items are now eagerly sought by people like us who want some authentic rustic touches for our much-loved rural homes on Mallorca. That means mucho dinero.

There’s still a metal plate on the cart that once bore the maker’s name, but the lettering has worn away. We’ll never know how long ago it was made, or how long it was used for the purpose for which it was intended, but it’s done almost ten years as a delightful garden ornament. You can’t say that about your average garden gnome . . .

The Guns Fall Silent

No hunting sign

Apart from the almond blossom, one of the best things about February on Mallorca is that the hunting season has finished. For a few months now we have a reprieve from the shots that have been our early morning alarm call for a few months. The rabbit and thrush population quite like it too . . .

Here’s Lead in Your Lycra

There’s a large old finca not far from us that was once dubbed ‘the shooting lodge’. Its owners used to allow hunters to shoot on their land; taxis full of macho gun-toting chaps from Palma would arrive at weekends. Their shots would echo around the valley and sometimes it felt like living in the Wild West. Let loose in the countryside, these urban hunters were seemingly unaware of the restrictions regarding shooting close to other properties and highways. On occasions, we even heard lead shot peppering the roof of our little house; once, a passing cyclist got a little lead in his Lycra . . .

Now that ‘the shooting lodge’ has been refurbished and is used as a weekend home, the Palma hunters no longer visit. The shooting we hear is largely that of our Mallorcan farming neighbours, who continue the tradition of hunting for the cooking pot.

But some of the outsiders who still come are not as careful about their targets. There have been cats shot in our valley – whether intentionally or because these men (I’ve not seen a single woman hunting around here) shoot as soon as they see something moving, I don’t know. When I hear the first shots on one of the days when hunting is allowed, I pray that all our outdoor cats will be safe.

The Return of Nibbles

Around seven weeks ago one of our cats disappeared. Nibbles has always been an affectionate cat but also inclined to go off for a day or two. We thought he’d return as usual – with an enormous appetite for food and a cuddle. But the days rolled by, and turned into weeks. The Boss and I told ourselves that he had simply decided to move on; we couldn’t bear to consider that anything bad might have befallen him.

On Saturday evening we had a jaw-dropping surprise: Nibbles was waiting outside the door for dinner, along with his siblings. He was welcomed back by the other cats like the prodigal son returning with a Euromillions lottery win. They weren’t the only ones pleased to have him home.

Home sweet home for Nibbles - reclining on our old stone oven outdoors

Home sweet home for Nibbles – reclining on our old stone oven outdoors

With the hunting season over, outdoor cats are now safe from this particular hazard. Just the others to worry about now . . .

Jan Edwards Copyright 2014

‘Snowing’ on Mallorca

We were talking earlier on the phone to The Boss’s elderly aunt in Birmingham (UK), who told us it had been snowing there this morning. Two years ago this month, Mallorca also saw a lot of snow – the most since the ’50s, we were told. The Boss’s cousin and wife had come over at that time for a walking holiday, staying in Camp de Mar. They were somewhat shocked to wake up one morning to find quite a lot of snow outside the door – and the wrong kind of walking gear in their wardrobe.

Although snow does usually fall on the Tramuntana mountains a few times over the winter, it doesn’t often make it to our part of the island; not that we’re complaining. We do, however, have a very special ‘snowfall’ on the island, which usually happens this month.

In the past few days, we’ve had some strong winds and quite a lot of rain. As a result, the almond blossom – a notable feature of the Mallorcan countryside at this time of the year – is coming to an end. A ‘snowfall’ of the delicate petals arrives with every strong gust of wind, and soon the ground will be littered with drifts of them. Goodbye almond blossom, hello new green leaves.

'Snow' drift on the terrace

‘Snow’ drift on the terrace

Mallorca + February = Almond Blossom

Almond blossom's delicate beauty

Almond blossom’s delicate beauty

February can be a cold month on Mallorca, but it can also be one of the most beautiful. This is the month when Mallorca’s thousands of almond trees burst into blossom (and show a hint of the new green growth that will rapidly follow). Those who know the island as a summer or autumn destination, but have never visited in this particular month are missing one of Mallorca’s most impressive natural events.

For those who do visit Mallorca at this time of year, a tour of the island’s rural interior offers plenty of photo opportunities and the delicate scent of almond blossom on the breeze (or, sometimes, the howling wind).

What could be more lovely on a clear day?

What could be more lovely on a clear day?

Mallorca has fiestas and fairs throughout the year and many of these firas are dedicated to produce from the island – including herbs, olives, sobrassada, honey, melons and, of course, almonds.

Step Back in Time

Today was the almond fair in Son Servera and, never having been before, we went this morning. We knew it was taking place in an old finca, and assumed it would be in the countryside outside the small town. Back in 1780, when it was built, it would have been. Today Ca s’Hereu has become incorporated into the town itself, with newer buildings around it. But once through the gates, the modern face of Son Servera is soon forgotten.

As you’d expect, stalls were selling a variety of products made from almonds, but there were also other foodstuffs available, as well as handicrafts. Wandering musicians played traditional Mallorcan music, and the local television cameras were there to capture it all. Perhaps you’ll spot us on IB3 TV news tonight? Just for a change, we weren’t caught on camera eating. We once appeared on the front cover of a couple of local Manacor magazines, gorging ourselves on ice cream at the town’s September fair; we only found out about that when several people we know in Manacor told us about our ‘starring role’.  Thankfully, we never did see what sounded like an embarrassing photo.

We decided to save our almond-munching until this evening, in the privacy of our own finca. What could be more delicious than a few roasted Mallorcan almonds with a pre-prandial drink? And more evocative of spring than the clouds of almond blossom decorating the island’s many orchards?

The venue for Son Servera's almond fair

The venue for Son Servera’s almond fair

Music, maestros, por favor!

Music, maestros, por favor!

Agricultural implements were on display.

Agricultural implements were on display.

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One day our own almond trees may be this productive . . .

One day our own almond trees may be this productive . . .

All photos by Jan Edwards

Jan Edwards Copyright 2014