Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 71

Ripe for the picking

Here in Mallorca, we’re about to move into Phase 2 of the de-escalation of the strictest lockdown measures in Europe.  In Phase 1 (from May 11th) The Boss and I did pretty much the same as we did in Phase 0. We were allowed to – but didn’t – venture out to a bar terrace, lusting after that first coffee ‘out’ again (although we are very much looking forward to doing this), or meet up with ten friends – socially distanced, of course.

But we did have two enjoyable outings. Since lockdown started, we’ve had a fruit-and-veg box delivery from a company called Terracor/Terragust in Manacor. They’ve been delivering to us on Fridays but we had A Big Plan for Friday 22nd, so we went to their small farm shop (set up in an open-sided barn-like structure). What made this little shopping trip fun was that we were able – if we wanted – to pick our own peaches and nectarines from the orchards. Well, that sounded fun (we take our excitement where we can, these days).

On arrival, we were greeted by the now customary squirt of sanitizing gel. Anyone with shares in companies making this stuff is set to see big dividends, I imagine.

One of the team took us into the orchard, showed us which rows of trees had the sweetest fruit at that time, and told us what to look for in terms of fruit-skin colour.

As usual, the quality of the produce we took home was excellent. Those nectarines and peaches? They tasted all the more delicious, knowing that we’d plucked them from the trees ourselves.

Terragust offers a really enjoyable farm-to-table experience during the summer months, which we can highly recommend. You can read about it here, on my other blog.

A Big Plan

On Friday, 22nd, we went out for lunch. Before lockdown began in Spain, this wouldn’t have been unusual. But things have changed, haven’t they.

For a couple of years now, I’ve been writing a novel. The idea for the novel had been in my head for a lot longer and a few thousand words I originally wrote years ago still lurk in my computer. The novel is set in Mallorca (natch) and the beautiful mountain village of Deià – where I had several lovely holidays, back in the day, with my very dear friend Sally – has a role in the story.

Well, I finally finished the first draft (80k+ words) a couple of days ago – the perfect excuse to celebrate by dipping our toes into the waters of eating out again. And it seemed appropriate to do it in Deià.

We had an excellent lunch at Es Racó d’es Teix (which has a Michelin star but offers a very reasonably priced set lunch on weekdays). It’s family run, with Josef Sauerschell in the kitchen, his wife Eleanor front of house, and their identical-twin daughters (that confused us) helping out. As we entered the garden terrace, there was a bottle of sanitizing gel, so we could treat our hands before sitting down.

After a superb lunch – appreciated all the more because it was the first time we’d eaten out since mid-March – we drove down the twisting lane to Cala Deià, where we were the closest to the Mediterranean that we’d been since…you guessed, mid-March.

The Mediterranean at Cala Deia

Beaches Beckon

From tomorrow, Mallorca moves into Phase 2 and the beaches will open again. For those of us who live here, we have a few weeks to enjoy them with fewer people on than usual – before the hoped-for influx of tourists, when the island reopens to international travellers in July.

The sea has never looked cleaner or more tempting than it does now. What has been forbidden fruit will be ripe for enjoyment from tomorrow.

Do you live or have a home in Bunyola, Mallorca? If so, Max – who has a home there and whose comment is below – would like to be in contact.

Jan Edwards ©2020

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 64

Here in rural Mallorca, we’ve been discovering the lanes of our valley again, now that we are permitted to walk beyond the boundaries of our finca. Each morning, we head off for a walk of about half an hour. It’s been a real tonic and a habit I hope we’ll continue.

After almost two months walking only around our own property, it’s been such a joy to be out in the open countryside, seeing what nature’s been up to in our absence – and encountering a few neighbours we haven’t seen for a long while.

One of this week’s memorable events was spotting a mare and her frisky foal in one of the fields bordering the lane down into the valley. The field belongs to a farmer called José. Because we know several people with this name, we’ve given each one a nickname – which is a common practice anyway in Mallorca.

A Handy Farmer

We refer to this farmer as ‘Hairy-Handed José’ – although not to his face, of course. He no longer lives in the house on his farm, but comes every day to tend his animals and whatever else Mallorcan farmers do to fill their days (and avoid helping their wives with the housework back at home in town).

The nickname came about because (a) this man’s remarkably hirsute – even the backs of his fingers are forested, and (b) his hands are huge, so it’s hard to miss them, given that Mallorcans (and most Latin-types) tend to wave them about as a side order to the spoken word.

A Horse with no Name

The foal’s mother. The foal was too far away to photograph on this occasion

A couple of days after spotting the foal – who gave a spirited little performance for my phone camera – we saw ‘Hairy-Handed José’ for the first time for more than the couple of months we’ve all been confined to home. He looked older and a bit thinner, but his hands were pleasingly as hairy as ever.

He stopped his car in the lane for a socially distanced chat. I was about to ask him what the foal was called when I remembered our first encounter, in our early months here. At the time, he had a huge black dog chained up just inside the gates of his farm. Every time we walked past it, the dog went mental, snarling and straining at its chain. I figured that if we knew its name, we could call it out when we passed, to let him know that we were friends not foes and there was no need for all the barky behaviour.

‘What’s your dog’s name?’ we had asked ‘Hairy Handed’ (our abbreviated version of his nickname) when we saw him out and about one day.

Translated, his reply was this: ‘Name? Name? He’s just a dog!’ Supposing that the foal in the field was ‘just a foal’, we didn’t bother to ask this time. We’ll choose our own name for it soon…

Jan Edwards ©2020

Lockdown Log in Mallorca – Day 56

Almost two months have passed since we went into lockdown in Spain. From last Saturday we were allowed a new privilege: that of one daily session of exercise, or a walk (the latter within a radius of one kilometre from our home).

After our first walk up the lane – passing numerous cyclists huffing and puffing up the hill – we changed to another route. We’ve since walked down to the floor of the valley, as far as one of the bridges over the torrente (stream) that runs through our valley.

It’s a glorious stretch of countryside, through the farmland of mallorquín neighbours Llorenzo and Bárbara. We hadn’t seen either of them since the lockdown began (in fact we’ve barely seen a soul, apart from the nice man from Terragust delivering our picked-that-morning fruit and veg each Friday).

Bárbara was picking chard in their produce garden, close to the lane, as we went past and it was good to have a decent chat with her – albeit one observing a safe distance and without the traditional hug and cheek kissing.

‘I’ll leave some for you by the gate, for when you come back,’ she said to us in castellano, waving a bunch of enormous chard leaves as we returned to our walk. These are not wealthy people, and their generosity is touching.

All Change

The torrente in March 2019, which we walked alongside

In March 2019, we went for a (very) long walk with Peter (one of our part-time neighbours), following the path of the stream. The stream bed and the banks had been cleared of all vegetation by the local town hall, as a precautionary measure, following the devastating floods of October 2018. It looked horribly stark but enabled us to walk through fields that hadn’t been accessible before.

That long walk revealed new vistas of the valley and an abundance of ducks living in the area. Before turning back for home, we spotted an orange tree on the other side of the stream, in the garden of what looked like an abandoned property. Peter – wearing some very sturdy boots – waded manfully through the water to do a little scrumping. Sitting on the bank of the stream, feeling like naughty children, we really appreciated those juicy fruits before our return walk.

When we arrived at the bridge this week, we were amazed to see how overgrown the torrente had become. On one side of the bridge there was so much vegetation growing that we couldn’t see any water. Only a single duck – startled by us into a noisy take-off – suggested there was water somewhere down there. Looking in the other direction (see below), we could see water but also much vegetation. The path through the fields that we had taken was no longer visible amidst the undergrowth. What a change in just 14 months.

Close-up of the same stretch of the torrente.

Another Not-So-Close Encounter

On our way back from this latest walk, we saw a stranger working in the garden of the house just down the lane from our own. Having been starved of face-to-face contact with other humans for so many weeks, we stopped to talk to him – again at a safe distance – and found out that he was a gardener. We said we hadn’t seen our neighbour José Luis for a very long time. Was he OK?

The gardener told us that our unfortunate neighbour has developed an extreme pollen allergy: if he’s outside for more than a few minutes, his eyelids and lips swell. What a horrible affliction to have – not only at this most beautiful time of the year (IMHO), but also when many of us are now taking advantage of the freedom to go outdoors again for exercise or walks. No wonder we haven’t seen him.

If we didn’t already appreciate how fortunate we are to be enjoying The Great Outdoors once again, this would have been a salient reminder.

Mallorca Moves into Phase 1

Spain has begun a four-phase de-escalation of the emergency measures that came into force at midnight on March 14th. Each province of Spain will progress through these phases at a rate that’s appropriate to the local circumstances, but each phase is expected to last around two weeks.

From Monday, May 11th, Mallorca begins Phase 1 – as will Menorca and Ibiza. (The small island of Formentera entered Phase 1 last Monday).

Here are some of the things possible during this new phase:

  • Going out together in the car (so far, only one of us has been able to go out to the supermarket, bank, or pharmacy)
  • Leaving our municipality and travelling to other parts of Mallorca
  • Social contact with a maximum of ten people who don’t live with us – observing social distancing measures, of course
  • Shopping in places no larger than 400m²
  • Having a drink on the terrace of a bar (but not indoors)
  • Visiting a library or museum
  • Going to church

There are, of course, still restrictions, such as limited capacities in places that are re-opening. And although hotels are allowed to re-open, only guests who are lodging can use them – and there are some access restrictions.

As much as we love walking in our valley, the carrot on a stick for us is having a long walk on a seafront, followed by a coffee or cold drink on the terrace of a bar, looking out to the Mediterranean. Small pleasures. It’s not every weekend that you can say you’re looking forward to Monday…

Jan Edwards ©2020

Logdown Log in Mallorca – Day 51

Wildflowers growing on the side of the lane in our valley

Yes, it’s day 3,789 of lockdown here in Mallorca (Spain). Not really; it just feels a bit like it sometimes.

But there was A Big Change in this country on Saturday, as Spain’s restrictions – reported as the toughest in Europe – were eased slightly for adults. From Saturday, May 2nd, we were allowed out for exercise (sports) or a walk.

Of course, there are restrictions, such as dedicated time bands for going out; this is is designed to minimise the risk to those most vulnerable to the virus. For walks, we can travel up to a radius of one kilometre from our homes; exercise is not so restrictive, but must be done within the same municipality. We cannot hop in the car and drive anywhere to walk or work out. (Oh, how I long to walk beside the Mediterranean again).

Lucky to Have Land

We’ve not exactly been lazy during the lockdown. Exercising to online videos could have been an option if our wifi signal was better, but we opted to walk.

We’re fortunate that our finca has plenty of land. More than half of it is still virgin territory for me, as it forms a valley within our valley and not only are the sides of this mini-valley steep, they’re also perilous, as the land underfoot is just loose stones. I had a small taste of this danger in our early years here, when I ventured out and slid several feet, ending up in a heap on the ground – my unplanned descent broken by a well-located shrub. This required a hospital visit to check on very painful ribs which, fortunately, were just badly bruised, rather than broken.

From this limited personal experience, I know that one careless step could lead to hurtling down the side, through a tangle of wild olives and mastic bushes, to an uncomfortable stop at what is the long-dried-up bed of a stream. Andres and Guillermo, elderly brothers who lived in the valley as small boys, once told us they’d fished for eels down there. And that there had been peach and apricot trees for scrumping.

Stepping Out

The rest of our land is not as dangerous. As well as the garden we’ve created, there’s a large flat field – which has become our walking track during lockdown. We don’t use the field for anything in particular, as it’s mainly layered with huge rocks and stones. The Boss used to get out his man toy (a bushwacker) to level the wild growth to the ground, but this marvellous piece of kit died last year and we have yet to replace it.

Almost since lockdown began, we have had a routine: 20 circuits of the field in the morning and 20 in the early evening. This was mainly to counter all the extra baking I’d been doing. We’ve missed very few sessions and, as a result, now have a well-trodden and compressed roundish track amidst what is now a field of waist-high (and in my case, some  shoulder-high) wild grasses and wildflowers. You could probably spot it from the International Space Station, if you were up there looking down on our part of rural Mallorca.

Felines in the Field

The cats that share our finca have been visibly bemused by our routine. Shorty, our affectionate ginger, started to follow us but realised that if he just sat in the middle of our track, he would get a few terms of endearment and a stroke on the head from me each time we came around. The others just sit in the grass at the side of the track and watch us.

During these walks we’ve also discovered Dusty’s secret daytime hiding place. He has a spot in a dense cluster of wild fennel and a plumbago bush that we certainly didn’t plant, but which thrives in the ashy area that was once our bonfire site. You’d never know that he was there but, one day, we saw him stalking through the grasses and then disappear from view. It was as though he’d entered the door to a parallel cat universe. Now that we know his secret spot, we can just about see him as we pass by.

As the weeks have gone by, we have watched Mother Nature continue her spring tasks. Some wildflowers have died, to be replaced by new ones. This morning we spotted some pretty blue flowers that weren’t out yesterday. We’ve seen several tortoises and butterflies galore. These little details are so easily be missed in the daily pace of ‘normal’ life (remember that?).

Venturing Out

On Saturday we used our allotted walking period to check on a couple of neighbouring holiday homes for their owners. It was good to see the land of other people’s properties for a change.

Yesterday, we walked up the lane for the permitted one kilometre. We didn’t expect to see many people out in the valley; but did spot a woman walking a dog in the distance and waved (but had no idea who she was).

What we did see were cyclists. Lots of them. In fact I woke up yesterday to the sound of cyclists yelling as they freewheeled down the lane. Our valley is a magnet for cyclists: it has a very steep and challenging gradient that has earned it a place on the route of the Mallorca 312 cycling event, which takes place at the end of April each year. (This year’s event has been rescheduled to October 10th, 2020).

Our rural valley is in the municipality of Manacor and it seemed that every cycling enthusiast in the town had taken the opportunity to escape on two wheels to the countryside yesterday.

Social distancing wasn’t as easy as it should have been, with huffing and puffing cyclists constantly passing us. In future, we’ll be wearing our black bandit-like masks…or continuing our field circuits, away from the sporty sorts.

Jan Edwards©2020