Pip’s rite of passage

We’ve had friends from the UK staying for eight nights at our finca in rural Mallorca and, during their time here, they have been entertained in fine style by Pip, the kitten that appeared to have been dumped just inside our main gates last September. She is the most lively and hilarious kitten I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience, and her antics never fail to make us laugh.

Tiny kitten on Mallorca

Pip on the morning after her arrival in September 2014.

Because we already had a well-established ‘family’ of outdoor feral cats and our own elderly Birman living indoors, we initially considered finding another home for her. But Pip is still with us – and delighting us with her antics on a daily basis.

During our friends’ visit, Pip’s life changed dramatically: she became an outdoor cat full-time. As much as The Boss and I might have liked to have her safely indoors every night, it’s not really practical and, as we discovered this week, it’s not what she wants.

Pip’s ‘apartment’

Until this week, she had been spending her nights in the bathroom of our guest annexe, where we set up a cat basket with blankets, a couple of cardboard boxes (because kittens just love them), her food and water dishes, litter tray, and a couple of toys. (We removed the loo roll from its holder in the early days of her occupation, after finding the whole roll unwound and totally shredded one morning; it looked like a snow scene in there).

We wanted to keep her indoors at night until she had grown to a good size, and become fully accepted by the other cats. And, of course, we had to have her sterilized before she started roaming and sharing her favours with any passing tom.

We’ve ‘put her to bed’ every evening as it’s started to get dark and she’s always been enthusiastic about entering her little ‘apartment’ for the night. In fact she’d become quite possessive about the annexe and, if either The Boss or I went to fetch something from these rooms, would race ahead of us to the door, almost like a teenager saying ‘That’s my room – keep out!’

But over the past fortnight she’s been showing less inclination to be indoors at night and more interest in being outside playing with her new ‘adopted’ siblings.

Pip’s big adventure

One night this week there was no sign of Pip at the appointed hour and, although we looked several times for her before we headed to our own bed, we didn’t see her again until the next morning, when she was waiting at the door for her breakfast – none the worse for her Big Night Out.

We have now put her basket outside under the covered terrace, in case she wants some familiar comforts, and leave our dining room window shutter open so she can curl up in the recess – one of her favourite chill-out spots.

 

Tortoiseshell kitten in window

Pip in the dining room window recess – a favourite place to watch the world go by.

Pip has shown no further interest in her former part-time home and seems to be loving her new-found independence. It was good timing actually, as my uncle will soon be making it his temporary home for his spring holiday . . . after I’ve given it a very big spring clean!

 

 

 

 

 

Of plants and garden centres on Mallorca

Osteospermum

Osteospermum thriving in the stony soil of our garden.

I’ve just had my annual garden centre splurge, buying some plants for our finca in the Mallorcan countryside. Garden centre visits were rather more frequent when we lived in the UK, where these tempting places are also open on Sundays and offer much more than the average jardinería on Mallorca. Many of the UK versions sell decorative items for the home and garden, and have a café where you can indulge yourself in a mid-shop stop for refreshments.

In our early months of living on Mallorca, we were quite disappointed by the garden centres local to us – which were more like plant nurseries than those tempting places we knew in the UK. A favourite had been Burford Garden Centre, in the Cotswolds. Now that’s what I call a garden centre.

We did manage to find some decent plants and some helpful assistants in our local places, and were hopeful that we’d have a good show of colourful flowers later in the spring. Little did we know . . .

Dinner!

Within a week of planting our first purchases, there was nothing left to see. The rabbits – and there were many of them back then – had scoffed the lot! Since then we have become adopted by a family of feral cats (and a few feline hangers-on), and we have rarely seen any rabbits on our land. Can you blame them?

We also discovered that our land isn’t suitable for many plants, being mainly rocky and with only a shallow layer of poor-quality soil. Typical Mediterranean plants do well, but other plants struggle. Succulents, cacti, lavenders, rosemary, and osteospermum are among those plants that do well on our land.

The rabbit experience shaped our gardening habits. I started taking cuttings from existing plants, knowing that if the new plant died (or was eaten), it wouldn’t have cost us anything. Neighbours gave us ‘babies’ from their aloe veras and other succulents. I did invest in two climbing roses last year by mail order from David Austin; one quickly died, but the other is thriving.

A recommended garden centre

Now, I restrict myself to buying new plants just once a year, in the spring. A garden centre we had been using in Manacor sadly closed down recently. We’d bought our lemon tree and previous geraniums from this place, and were always impressed with the quality of the plants. Now the place sells garden furniture (and very good it looks too).

My recommendation for a good garden centre on Mallorca? It would have to be Magatzem Verd in Palma de Mallorca (just off the Via Cintura). It’s probably because the place is most like the garden centres we knew and loved back in the UK. Unusually, on Mallorca, it’s open on Sundays – although we never shop on this day of the week.

On Friday, I steered an enormous trolley around this garden centre, mentally spending a fortune on glorious colourful plants. In reality, it was just a few euros for the year’s new geraniums and herbs.

We must have saved a fortune on plant purchases since moving to Mallorca . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of birds and beasts in Mallorca’s spring

Living in rural Mallorca and no longer having to commute into a city for work has given us more time and appreciation for the nature that surrounds us. We’re more aware of seasonal changes – and have become just a teeny bit obsessed about noting the ‘firsts’ of each season.

It’s been a good week for ‘firsts’. We went for a walk on Sunday and retraced some of our earlier steps on the Via Verde (or Via Verda as it’s known locally). This ‘green way’ is one of Spain’s network of eco-paths – conversions of disused railway line routes – and connects Manacor with the small town of Artà, in the northeast of Mallorca.

These feet were made for walking

The path opened without a great deal of fanfare in October 2014 and we began 2015 by resolving to walk the full length of some 29 km – in stages – during January. A spell of bad weather meant we didn’t finish until mid-February. But, hey ho, we did it.

Spring wildflowers on Via Verde, Mallorca

Wildflowers in abundance on the Via Verde, near Son Carrio.

Poppies on the Via Verde

Poppies on the Via Verde

The path looked very different on Sunday, with so much greenery around and swathes of wildflowers lining the route. Our latest walk gave us some ornithological sightings that were our ‘firsts’ of the season: a swallow (yes, this early) and a bee-eater.

In the past couple of days we have also seen our first tortoise of the spring, ambling through the undergrowth in an untamed part (one of many) of our land. It was Pip – the newest addition to our family of adopted felines – who discovered the creature, alerted by the rustling sounds from the foliage it was navigating its way through. A tortoise was clearly ‘the very first’ for this relentlessly inquisitive little cat, and she wasn’t quite sure what to make of it!

Tortie kitten in window

Inquisitive Pip seems to have heard something interesting . . .

Mediterranean tortoise, Mallorca

An early outing for this Mediterranean tortoise

The sighting was good news. Our area is a natural habitat for the Mediterranean tortoise and we’re always pleased to see them surviving. No doubt there will be coin-sized babies soon, which means we have to tread carefully when we’re out on the land.

A cyclist’s surprise

First-time visitors are always surprised to see tortoises roaming freely around. Last autumn we heard a shout from the other side of our gates and opened them to find an English Lycra-clad cyclist with a concerned expression on his face.

“Have you lost a pet tortoise?” he asked, in a broad Mancunian accent, pointing back up the lane. “Only I’ve just seen one up there.”

We explained that the creature he’d seen was a wild Mediterranean tortoise and that sightings were quite common; he beamed in surprise. It reminded us – for the zillionth time – how much we enjoy living  in the Mallorcan countryside, in the midst of nature.

Our next seasonal ‘first’? Who knows? But you can be sure we’ll be as thrilled as we are every season . . .

Read more about the ‘Via Verde’ here in my article recently published in abcMallorca magazine’s spring edition, and online:

http://www.abc-mallorca.com/via-verde/