What do you give a cat on its birthday? A fishcake!

They say the old jokes are the best. They lie, of course. Corny jokes aside, Beamer and his blue-eyed brother Dusty – two of the glaring (love that collective noun) of cats that have adopted us – are three years old today. It hardly seems possible that three years have passed since the memorable day they came into the world.

On this date in 2011, their heavily pregnant mum Jetta – a feral who’d adopted us – was huge, clearly uncomfortable and showing signs of going into labour. She kept wandering off, then returning to the front door of our house to mew at us in an agitated fashion.

She seemed to want us to follow her down the field, which we did – with her stopping every few seconds and looking back to see if we were still with her. It was quite an emotional moment when she struggled up onto the wall and turned to miaow at us as if to say “I’ll be OK now”, before disappearing to the place she’d chosen for her happy event, in the abandoned casita in the neighbouring field.

Four little bundles of joy

Post-delivery, Jetta came daily for her food, as usual, but it would be quite a few weeks before we saw her kittens: four tiny scraps of furry fun, who obligingly came to meet us for the first time while my dad was holidaying with us.

The little female – a dark tabby – sadly died in an accident in the lane while very young. The Boss buried her at the bottom of our field, just yards from where she’d come into the world.  Bear, the black cat, was with us for a lot longer but eventually went off one day and never returned. We like to think he’s out there, walking on the wild side, and still looking like a mini panther.

Home sweet home for the brothers

Today, only Beamer and Dusty remain of those four kittens, but they are very much part of our feline family and at home around our finca. And we had them both neutered as soon as they were old enough, as our contribution to keeping the local feral cat population in check.

I won’t be making fishcakes for Beamer and Dusty today. I’m sure they’re happy with their cat food and the local fast food (the vermin that’s not fast enough to avoid being caught!). But I may just make fishcakes for our own dinner. And that’s not a joke . . .

A relaxed Beamer in summer

A relaxed Beamer in summer

Dusty perched on the balustrade - surveying the glaring's territory.

Dusty perched on the balustrade – surveying the glaring’s territory.

 

You know it’s spring on Mallorca when . . .

Getting figgy with it

Getting figgy with it

. . . the first of the fig leaves emerge on the trees. Don’t they look like little green butterflies resting for a while?

. . . your shoulders and back ache from all the weeding you thought wouldn’t be necessary after having laid a special membrane to stop weeds growing.

. . . you have to be careful not to tread on a tortoise when walking in the undergrowth.

. . . your arms look and feel like pincushions after trimming all the agaves and sword-like plants.

. . . the birds start checking out nesting sites in the old almond tree in the field (the one the cats like to climb).

. . . the warm sunshine that bathed the island in the final weeks of winter is replaced by grey skies, cool temperatures and drizzle!

 

Mallorca’s Michelin-starred restaurant Es Fum has a new chef: read more on http://www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com

 

Cleaning the terraces – the easy way

At about this time every year we start the process of getting the terraces of our rural Mallorca finca ready for the warmer months, and our usual alfresco lifestyle. We have three terracotta-tiled terrace areas and, before the outdoor furniture is brought out from its winter storage in our annexe bedroom, these areas have to be cleaned of the muck that accumulates over the winter.

It’s The Boss’s job. He’s the one with a pair of wellies. He’s always tackled this task with vigour,  using a large scrubbing brush and hose. I think he’s motivated by the prospect of long balmy evenings on the terrace with a bottle of good Mallorcan red (there are many of them – both wines and long balmy evenings) and something sizzling on the BBQ.

Another ‘boy’s toy’ for the collection

In previous years there have been murmurings about hiring a pressure washer for the job, but it’s never happened. This year he’ll be using one: The Boss is now the owner of a new ‘boy’s toy’ (although as he has pointed out to me, this is not a toy, but a serious tool).

While musing over the possibility of bringing some motorized muscle to this annual spring chore, we found a bargain on promotion at the Hiper DIY store in Manacor: last year’s model with all the spec tech of this year’s – for 150 euros less than the latest model. Who cares if it’s not the latest design? Ker-ching! Sold to The Boss.

Soon the sound of our pressure washer will echo around the valley. Let’s hope it doesn’t frighten the sheep . . .

Clean terraces? No pressure, with one of these.

Clean terraces? No pressure, with one of these.

Mediterranean menace preparing to march

Not the underside of a bird, but the home of a Mediterranean menace!

Not the underside of a bird, but the home of a Mediterranean menace!

If you go down to the woods today, it’s not a teddy bears’ picnic you’re like to find, but the nest of the processionary caterpillar – at least, if the woods are mainly pine trees. These are the habitat of this crawling Mediterranean menace and these strange almost candyfloss-like nests are where they plot their manoeuvres. At around this time of year, they’re preparing to leave the nest to pupate in the soil and when they do, watch out!

We first saw these on the appropriately named Pine Walk in Puerto Pollensa. We hadn’t a clue what they were then (it was our first spring on the island) but watched in fascination as these hairy striped beasties marched across our path, nose-to-tail (do caterpillars have noses?), like a well-disciplined army corps.

Keep your pets away

They look like the sort of thing that a small boy would want to collect and keep in a shoebox under his bed. But processionary caterpillars are definitely to be avoided, as their hairs are irritant to humans and potentially dangerous to pets and other animals. And you don’t even need to come into physical contact with a caterpillar: when under threat, they shed hairs which can be unknowingly ingested.

For the time being, we’ll be giving pine trees a wide berth . . . and joining the teddy bears’ picnic on the beach instead.