Keeping dry in rural Mallorca

Bathers in Med

Spotted at Cala Ratjada on November 15th 2015.

Mallorca is enjoying some exceptional autumn weather this year: daytime temperatures peaking in the low 20s; blue skies, and very warm sunshine. This is what the locals call the veranillo de San Martín or, as we’d call it, an Indian summer. It looks as though it’s set to continue for the rest of November at least, which means we may save some money on logs for the fire this year.

But despite the warmth and sunshine, we are still experiencing the early morning mists and fog that are typical at this time of year. Very often the sea mists are below our finca, moving through the valley and creating an ethereal beauty that begs to be captured on camera. Sometimes the mist moves around our house, the swirling droplets visible in the air and settling on the coats of the cats who have adopted the finca as their favourite restaurant and hotel.

Fighting the damp 

It all adds up to a damp environment, of course. In our first autumn here I had to throw away several pairs of shoes that had grown furry in the damp conditions. It really was uncomfortable before we had electricity – especially as the gas heaters we were using to warm the house were increasing the dampness in the atmosphere. Once we had an electricity supply, we purchased a portable dehumidifier – and still sing its praises every year throughout the ‘soggy season’.

Portable dehumidifier

Our essential finca friend.

The damp situation inside the house did improve dramatically once we’d had a new roof and a chunky layer of insulation added, but our living room still suffers until we start to have regular log fires. It gets no sunshine at this time of the year, and the north-facing wall at the end of the room is built from concrete blocks, rather than stone.

And recycle . . .

With ample sunshine recently we’ve been running the dehumidifier every morning for a couple of hours. It makes a real difference to the comfort level in the room. And because we have had very little rain for some time, the extracted water that accumulates in the dehumidifier’s tank is proving useful in the garden; we do love a bit of recycling . . .

 

Since I drafted this on Sunday (after enjoying a tapas lunch by the sea), the forecast is for the warm spell to end within a few days. This weekend, from Sunday, we shall see wind, rain, and daytime highs of around 13 degrees Celsius. It’ll be a shock to the system after such a warm and sunny two-thirds of the autumn . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

On the road again: changing our car on Mallorca

There are plenty of things we don’t really need in our rural Mallorcan lifestyle: earplugs to drown out the sound of noisy neighbours (although the wildlife can sometimes assault the ears); designer footwear (except perhaps by Hunter or Dr Martens), or a lawn mower – just to name a few.

But as we live in a rural area untouched by public transport, a set of wheels is essential.  Preferably four of them (and a spare, of course). We had this driven home (pardon the pun) when our overworked Toyota RAV 4 broke down in August while I was on the way to interview the artist Arturo Rhodes  in Deià for abcMallorca magazine.

The Boss had decided to come along for the ride but, as we approached the Sóller tunnel, dark smoke started to belch from the car. Goodbye turbo. The interview was hastily postponed and we had a breakneck-speed ride back to the Toyota garage in Manacor in a grua (tow truck).

Turbo trouble

Long story short, there was no way to tell whether a replacement turbo would be the solution. The mechanic was 90 per cent sure the engine was OK, but obviously couldn’t tell definitely until a new turbo was fitted. A large sum of money was exchanged for a car that worked again – and, for a while, better than it had for some time.

Fast forward a few weeks and a new problem developed: if the engine was cold, it started easily. If the engine was still warm from recent use, it wouldn’t re-start. We experienced this several times – including one rather alarming one when the engine died in the middle lane of Palma’s Via Cintura – the motorway around the city. Amidst blaring horns (it was rush hour), we somehow reached the hard shoulder, where we donned flattering fluorescent waistcoats to stand out of danger. Three-quarters of an hour later, the engine had cooled sufficiently to enable us to restart the car.

Goodbye Toyota

Our garage declared our much-loved car a terminal case. Unless we wanted to invest in a new engine. The car was already of an age (and mileage) that meant we had been contemplating replacing it in the not-too-distant future, so The Boss buried himself in the task of finding a replacement vehicle.  Because we need a 4×4, to tow a trailer-load of logs home regularly in winter, our budget would stretch only to a secondhand vehicle.

Buying a secondhand 4×4 isn’t easy on Mallorca. Unlike in the UK, many car dealers offer few used vehicles. We even looked at what was available for sale in Barcelona, just in case there was something that would make the journey worthwhile. In the end, we were fortunate to find one that fitted the bill in Manacor. A fortnight ago it became ours. Next week a tow bar will be fitted and we’ll be able to collect our first load of logs for autumn. It’s just as well that Mallorca’s been enjoying what our neighbours call el veranillo de San Martín – a little Indian summer . . .

Only one of our cats has so far climbed up to sit on the new cars roof.

Only one of our cats has so far climbed up to sit on the roof of our new car.

Buying a secondhand car on Mallorca?

  • Car hire companies often sell off ex-rental saloon cars at the end of the season; check websites to see what’s on offer.
  • On Facebook, the page Second Hand Cars Mallorca may yield something of interest.
  • If you buy a secondhand car you become liable for any debts relating to it, such as unpaid vehicle tax, outstanding hire purchase payments, or traffic offence fines. Checks can be made (see below).
  • As with many things in Spain, there’s some bureaucratic stuff to wade through related the vehicle purchase, sale, or importation (which we once did and wouldn’t recommend!). If you haven’t the patience/language skills/time/desire to bang your head repeatedly against a brick wall to want to tackle this yourself, you can enlist some help. We can recommend the following:

Zoe Leggett (also specializes in classic car registration).

Mallorca Solutions – offers a host of helpful services, including vehicle related.

Things that go crash in the night

Our home in rural Mallorca is peaceful. Very peaceful. A few cars and agricultural vehicles pass our place during the day. And the sheep in the field across the road can be very noisy – the old bells around their necks clunking as they bend their heads to rip up something vaguely edible from the ground.

By night though, there’s little to hear bar the occasional stone curlew flying over or the yowling of a minor cat spat (considering that eight of them live on our Mallorcan finca, this is surprisingly quite rare). Any loud noises come as quite a shock.

A rude awakening

This was the case last night. We’d not been in bed long, but The Boss was already asleep. I was still awake, thinking about my brother’s imminent visit, when it happened. A HUGE crash – right outside our bedroom window (our home is just one storey). Exceptionally heavy rain had been pounding on the roof earlier and I voiced my fear that a whole load of tiles had fallen off in the force of the water.

“It wasn’t that loud,” said The Boss, rudely awakened. But then, he had been asleep when it happened. I had experienced the full audio impact. Nothing would have surprised me after that. We peered out of the window with a torch: perhaps it was the old cart, covered in bougainvillea, finally collapsing from old age? No.

Curiosity got the better of us, so we went outside to investigate. The relatively new roof was still intact. But a big section of the old traditional terracotta guttering had fallen off the wall and shattered into numerous pieces. One of the gutter supports had given way – perhaps because of the volume of water or, simply, because it was very old. Anyway, we returned to bed – at least knowing the cause of the noise and that there was a mess to clean up this morning.

The extent of the damage.

The extent of the damage.

Time to clear the mess . . .

Time to clear the mess . . .

Terracotta or zinc?

This won’t be a repair job for The Boss’s list. We’ll be calling in Joan, owner of the construction company we’ve used numerous times (they should be giving us frequent-user discounts really).

What we do to remedy the situation will depend on the cost. Ideally – for aesthetic and traditional reasons – we’d replace the part with more terracotta guttering. But the rest of it is also old and the same thing could happen elsewhere along the front of the house. The alternative would be to replace the whole lot with terracotta, or with zinc. Either way is likely to be quite costly.

Sadly, aesthetics may have to lose out to economics . . .