Making Room for the Mushrooms

In its new home … for a few days

During my time at the BBC in Oxfordshire, I was invited to be an auctioneer for a charity evening in the small village of Bladen (the final resting place of Sir Winston Churchill).

Before the event began, there was the usual opportunity to peruse the lots going under the hammer. One of these caught our attention: a wooden carving of some mushrooms, standing about as tall as me. It had been carved by someone with considerable talent out of a piece of wood from the nearby Blenheim Estate.

‘Wouldn’t that look fantastic in Mallorca?’ I said to The Boss, mindful that we’d soon be moving from the UK to our new home on the Spanish island. Fortunately, he agreed. As the auctioneer, I couldn’t bid for the item, so The Boss agreed to do it from his seat in the audience.

We weren’t the only ones lusting after this gorgeous garden ornament. Sadly for us (but happily for the charity in question), the carving went for a much higher bid than we could manage.

However, after the auction was over, we met the artisan who’d made the mushrooms and when we told him we’d liked to have bought his carving he offered to make us one, and we agreed on a price.

Mushrooms to Mallorca

Our wonderful mushrooms made the trip to Mallorca without incident and were eventually installed in our fledgling garden in a spot between two agaves. Have you any idea how enormous agaves can grow? We didn’t when we planted these two small ones – gifts from a kind neighbour.

Before long, the mushroom carving was hemmed in by agaves of a matching height. Agaves have dangerous spikes on the tips and sides of the ‘leaves’ and close contact is best avoided. We left our wooden feature where it was until it was no longer fully visible.

Fallen … and split again

When we started our latest garden project (not yet finished, folks), we decided to liberate our mushrooms from their ‘prison’, only to find the wood had dried out and the mushrooms had split vertically into two separate garden ornaments, being held up by their captors. Inevitably, The Boss sustained an unfortunate number of attacks from the spiny agave ‘leaves’ in the process of retrieving our wooden feature. One of which required a quick visit to the local Urgències hospital department, some antihistamine pills and anti-inflammatory cream.

New Lease of Life

The Boss did a fantastic job of glueing the two halves of our wooden garden feature together, and we found a new location for it under our rather handsome tree, where we’d be able to enjoy looking at it. The next job would be for me to give it some wood treatment. But before I could do that, a freak, strong gust of wind blew through the garden and felled the feature – splitting it back into two.

Now, where did we put the rest of that glue?

Jan Edwards ©2021

Our New Mallorcan Garden Project – Part 1

A few years ago, we replaced the old wooden, outdoor dining table and chairs on our main terrace with a Moroccan tiled-top table and iron chairs. The old wooden set was scruffy and somewhat wobbly but was usable, so we put it in our field just beyond our garden area. Afforded some dappled light and shade from our tree, it turned out to be a useful lunch spot, often cooled by the lunchtime breeze known here as l’embat. We used it a time or two when my dad and Uncle Ray visited, but the weeds under the table and chairs were scratchy around our legs.

Last spring’s strict Spanish lockdown gave us time to do something about this. Over a period of several weeks, hours were spent pulling up weeds until we had only bare earth beneath the furniture. Inspiration struck: what if we put down some weed matting and then gravel, to stop the weeds returning? We’d have yet another decent area to eat and drink or use our laptops during the day.

This became our new project, which would have been completed were it not for a major obstacle. Except for supermarkets, pharmacies, and a few essential businesses, nothing was open. We couldn’t buy weed matting or gravel. By the time lockdown ended and businesses were allowed to open again, our thoughts were elsewhere … we were in the process of having our guest bathroom converted into a guest shower room.

More Weeding Required

And lift!

This summer we’ve been getting up early to take advantage of the cool, fresh air before the sun has risen too far over the ridge. And our 2020 project has been revived. Sadly, the weeds had all returned over the winter, requiring another mega weeding effort. This week we reached the stage of buying the weed matting and the gravel.

Big packs

We hitched up our trailer and visited Juan Lliteras, the construction-materials company on the Felanitx road, where we bought what’s called a ‘big pack’ (yes, they use the English) of gravel. We’ve bought stuff from this yard before and have been impressed by the man who served us (who may be the owner), who is one of the smiliest people you could meet. It’s also impressive that the business is open weekdays from 7am until 7pm, without closing for lunch.

We returned home and parked the trailer close to the area where we’d be working. Our intention was to lay the materials early next morning.

To be continued …

Jan Edwards ©2021

Hear the Latest Episode of the Living in Rural Mallorca Podcast

Sylvia Baker de Perkal

It’s a privilege for me to be able to hear the stories of other expats who have chosen the rural lifestyle here in Mallorca. This island is a magnet for fascinating people and if I had time to do more interviews, I’d certainly never run out of interesting subjects for this podcast.

My latest guest is not only a well-qualified translator with some top-notch international clients, but also an accomplished artist. Some of her art was chosen to become part of the décor of a boutique hotel in Lisbon.

Sylvia Baker de Perkal and I sat in the pretty garden of her finca for our conversation, with the background sounds of birds, peacocks, and her rescue dogs. How rural is that!

I hope you’ll enjoy listening. The show notes include Sylvia’s website details, as well as websites for some of the animal refuges on the island (there are many more).

Sylvia Baker de Perkal – Translator & Artist Living in Rural Mallorca

Sylvia Baker de Perkal and her Californian husband Adam moved from banking careers in  Madrid to live in the countryside near the Mallorcan village of Algaida. This was twenty-six years ago, and they still live in the same rural home they fell in love with when they came to look for a property on the island.  Sylvia and Adam each have their own successful businesses in Mallorca: Sylvia is a highly qualified translator, specialising in legal and financial translations; Adam runs his wine importing company. Sylvia also devotes time to her passion for creating art; four of her canvases hang in a smart new hotel in Lisbon. Sylvia talks about sharing their environment with animals (some of which you'll hear in the background), the changes they made to their home when they arrived, how she integrated into the local community, what it's like to start a business here, and some of the illusions people have about living in Mallorca. http://www.sylviabakerdeperkal.com Facebook: Sylvia Baker de Perkal- Artworkwww.mundidrinks.comFor animal adoptions:Dogs 4 U                               https://dogsforu.orgAsociación Animalista  https://gatosyperros.orgProject Love                        http://www.sinhogarmallorca.com PODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”COMPOSER: Jack WaldenmaierPUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI) LIVING IN RURAL MALLORCA podcast will be back in September 2021, after the hot summer break. Enjoy your summer, wherever you are!  
  1. Sylvia Baker de Perkal – Translator & Artist
  2. Kate Brittan – Australian Expat, Foodie, and Fledgling Farmer
  3. Annie Verrinder – Wedding Planner, Celebrant … and More
  4. Marc Rieke – Wigmaker, Equestrian, Saddle Fitter
  5. Caroline Fuller – Gardening in Mallorca

Summer’s Arrived in Mallorca

Porto Cristo in the sunshine. The biggest boat belongs to tennis supremo Rafa Nadal

It’s officially here: summer 2021. In terms of the tourist season in Mallorca, it’s a late start – although some visitors from Germany began coming at Easter. At the moment we’ve seen few signs of many British tourists, because of the requirement for quarantine on their return home. From various media reports I’ve seen, that requirement could be lifted soon for those who are fully vaccinated. We shall see.

Our part-time neighbour and friend Vicky came to stay for a couple of weeks to check on her property and attend to things that needed doing. She had prepared for the subsequent quarantine by filling her freezer back at home.

The first thing to know about owning a second home in the countryside – a finca – is that there is always something to be done by way of maintenance or repair. A holiday in one’s rural second home usually begins with fixing things or organising a técnico to visit the property to sort out problems.

Beyond Repair

Some things, however, are beyond repair. One of those is the old cart we inherited when we bought our finca. Someone asked me the other day if we still had it. Yes, we do.

A very old bougainvillea keeps this cart more or less standing

During the last winter we looked at its poor state and wondered whether we should remove it. The Boss feared it could collapse and banned me from weeding in the area, just in case. One day I spotted a lot of the creeping weed Galium acarine, sometimes known as sticky bob or sticky willy. We’ve been plagued with it this year and I’ve pulled out metres of the stuff from just about every area of the garden.

The dreaded weed was threading its way through the old bougainvillea which grows from under the cart. Well, that had to go, or I feared we’d have no beautiful bracts this summer to add colour to this patch of our land. When The Boss spotted me at work near the cart he came to join me and we tackled the weeding together.

Up close and personal, we discovered that although the cart has collapsed on one side, rocks (of which we have a lot) and the old bougainvillea are forming the equivalent of a girdle to keep it all in place. The cart lives on … and the tidying of the sticky bob that The Boss and I did has paid off, as you can see.

Busy, Busy …

Our friends Maureen and Peter, other part-time English neighbours, wrote to me a few days ago, pointing out that they hadn’t seen a blog post for a while. We’ve been busy.

There have been various appointments here and there – one of which was to organise new persianas – the slatted window and door shutters that are a common feature of Spanish properties. We had the wooden ones replaced at the front quite a few years ago and now it’s the turn of some of the shutters at the back of the house.

I’ve also been busy working on getting my debut novel Daughter of Deià published. Because I have little patience, I am leaning towards the indie publishing route. Traditional publishing takes a long time and that’s if you can even find a publisher who’ll take you on. It helps to be a celebrity, apparently. I’m not.

My research into self-publishing, or indie publishing, suggests I am at the base of a steep learning curve, but I love learning new things, so I’m girding my loins for the journey and looking forward to holding that published book in my hand.

Wherever you are, I hope your summer has begun well and that you have the pleasure of looking forward to a holiday, somewhere, soon.

Jan Edwards © 2021

Manacor Becomes Enchanted

At this time of year, Manacor, our nearest town, celebrates its Spring Fairs and Fiestas – a jolly ten days of events, including an agricultural and livestock fair, and a very popular wine-tasting evening, which has grown enormously over the years we’ve attended. The whole shebang kicks off with the Dance of the Cossiers – the closest thing to Morris Dancing I’ve seen here.

For obvious reasons this important and well-supported event in the Manacor calendar didn’t happen last year, and this year’s Spring Fairs and Fiestas are still somewhat muted. Most events are taking place in the Municipal Park, to facilitate social distancing, and require advance reservation to attend. Our favourite event – the wine evening – sadly isn’t part of this year’s programme.

In addition, locals and visitors can enjoy Manacor’s El bosc encantat (enchanted forest), strolling around the town centre’s streets to see the six giant figures that have been installed in key locations. It’s a campaign designed to add some touches of magic and attract visitors and shoppers to the town. Manacor Encantat continues until June 7th.

If you were planning to visit Manacor this Friday, June 4th, the day is a public holiday in the town.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

From Australia to Mallorca … Meet Kate Brittan

Kate and her husband Alex

A week or two ago I had the great pleasure of meeting Kate Brittan, a delightful Australian who’s settled in Mallorca with her husband and young son. Kate has an interesting story to tell, because her family left their home and her husband’s veterinary hospital in Sydney to take a sabbatical in Europe – little imagining it would lead to living in Mallorca on a twenty-acre mountain farm.

I visited their Mallorcan home, where we had an interesting socially distanced conversation, courtesy of my lapel mics with extra-long cables. The Brittan family live in an extraordinary setting with breathtaking views. I’d go as far as to say the views from their lovely home are the best I’ve seen in any private house I’ve visited over the course of my time living in Mallorca (and I’ve been to quite a lot). On a clear day it’s possible to see the length of Mallorca’s sister island, Menorca, although the day was too hazy when I visited. I could certainly see the Bay of Alcúdia in the north of Mallorca.

Foodies on Facebook

Kate Brittan originally trained as a chef but her career took her in another direction. Her passion for food – and the challenge of finding favourite Asian ingredients in an unfamiliar country – led her to start the popular Facebook group ‘The Mallorca Foodies’.

Kate tells how Covid and the Australian wildfires impacted on their family life, and talks about their impressive plans for the farm, how she’s integrated with her Mallorcan neighbours, and why she loves her nearest town, Inca. And, of course, she shares her top tips for anyone wanting to move to Mallorca.

Sylvia Baker de Perkal – Translator & Artist Living in Rural Mallorca

Sylvia Baker de Perkal and her Californian husband Adam moved from banking careers in  Madrid to live in the countryside near the Mallorcan village of Algaida. This was twenty-six years ago, and they still live in the same rural home they fell in love with when they came to look for a property on the island.  Sylvia and Adam each have their own successful businesses in Mallorca: Sylvia is a highly qualified translator, specialising in legal and financial translations; Adam runs his wine importing company. Sylvia also devotes time to her passion for creating art; four of her canvases hang in a smart new hotel in Lisbon. Sylvia talks about sharing their environment with animals (some of which you'll hear in the background), the changes they made to their home when they arrived, how she integrated into the local community, what it's like to start a business here, and some of the illusions people have about living in Mallorca. http://www.sylviabakerdeperkal.com Facebook: Sylvia Baker de Perkal- Artworkwww.mundidrinks.comFor animal adoptions:Dogs 4 U                               https://dogsforu.orgAsociación Animalista  https://gatosyperros.orgProject Love                        http://www.sinhogarmallorca.com PODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”COMPOSER: Jack WaldenmaierPUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI) LIVING IN RURAL MALLORCA podcast will be back in September 2021, after the hot summer break. Enjoy your summer, wherever you are!  
  1. Sylvia Baker de Perkal – Translator & Artist
  2. Kate Brittan – Australian Expat, Foodie, and Fledgling Farmer
  3. Annie Verrinder – Wedding Planner, Celebrant … and More
  4. Marc Rieke – Wigmaker, Equestrian, Saddle Fitter
  5. Caroline Fuller – Gardening in Mallorca

PODCAST THEME TITLE: “Lifestyles”
COMPOSER: Jack Waldenmaier
PUBLISHER: Music Bakery Publishing (BMI)

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

A Visit to Manacor Hippodrome

Trotting practice at Manacor Hippodrome

It had been a while since we last went to Manacor’s trotting track, but we were there mid-April and we’ll be back on Thursday this week.

No, we haven’t turned into keen horse racing fans, although we went a few times in our early years here to watch trotting races. We were usually with visitors, giving them a flavour of Mallorca’s style of horse racing. It’s very different from that in the UK. And it’s certainly not Ascot.

The Manacor hipódromo has become one of Mallorca’s Covid vaccination centres and, after a sluggish start to the vaccination roll-out, the going is now good. The Boss had a phone call informing him of the appointment for his first jab, which was given on April 19th.

And They’re Off…

I went along with him, curious to see the operation of the local roll-out in practice. We expected to find queues of people – socially distanced, of course – and to have to wait a while. No. We were in and out of the hippodrome’s ringside building in just over twenty minutes, including the fifteen-minutes’ monitoring period afterwards. I was impressed by the efficiency and kindness of the health professionals carrying out the vaccination programme.

The Boss took a Paracetamol and a good slug of water immediately after, as I’d read was recommended. He was fortunate to have no ill-effects from his Pfizer vaccination, apart from a slightly sore arm. Too sore to pressure-wash the terraces but not too sore to raise a glass of wine, you’ll be pleased to know.

My turn next: I’ll be on the receiving end of the needle this Thursday morning, so it’s another trip to the Hippodrome for us. I’m phobic about needles so I’m already dreading it. What are the odds I’ll faint at the sight of the nurse looming towards me with the syringe? All bets are off …

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

Rural Village Life for Wedding Planner Annie

Not everyone who moves to rural Mallorca chooses a home in the open countryside, as we did. This week I went to talk to Annie Verrinder, a popular wedding planner and celebrant, who lives in a rural village.

Annie’s lived in Mallorca just over 20 years and, for some of that time, home was in Palma, the island’s capital. These days her home (and office for A White Hot Wedding) are in the village of Alaró, close to the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.

Annie is a true romantic – which is a prime requirement of being a wedding planner and celebrant. She’s passionate about what she does and any couple using her services for their own big day on the island can be sure of making memories to treasure for many years.

Tying the Knot in Mallorca

Mallorca is an idyllic location for a wedding in the sunshine and, before the pandemic, the weddings business on the island was booming. Everything is still in place for future weddings once restrictions have been lifted: passionate planners and/or celebrants like Annie, venues of every imaginable type, photographers and videographers, hair-and-make-up artists, caterers and cake-makers, musicians, and more. You can even have your wedding rings made in Alaró, as Annie told me when we chatted in her office.

Annie Verrinder is my latest guest on my podcast ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’. She’s a warm and caring person who qualified as a nurse, acupuncturist, and couples’ therapist but swapped healthcare, for work in the joyful business of romance, love, and weddings.

Annie explains why she came to Mallorca, why she left Palma, and talks about moving to the traditional Mallorcan village of Alaró. We chat about weddings, acupuncture, favourite places in Mallorca, and great scuba-diving locations. And more besides. One of Annie’s two beautiful cats even made a few contributions to the conversation!

You can hear this episode of ‘Living in Rural Mallorca’ here.

Photos supplied by Annie.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

Spring’s Here… But Not in Mallorca

We cannot complain. Mallorca’s winter weather was, on reflection, not too bad. Yes, we had some significant storms, strong winds, and heavy rain at times, but we’ve also often enjoyed al fresco coffees and lunches in warm sunshine on our terrace on several occasions. I’ve even been known to sit outside and have my breakfast (at about nine o’clock), while The Boss watches the morning news on TV. I prefer not to mix doom-and-gloom news bulletins with my home-made yogurt, fruit, seeds, and nuts!

Friday was a very cold day and, in the afternoon, hail fell for a while in our valley. Meanwhile, in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, winter’s last hurrah came in the form of snow.

Yesterday in our valley we had squally rain, strong winds, and low temperatures, serving as a reminder this is only the first day of the new season. Today, Sunday, the sun is shining (at the moment), but the wind is fierce and it’s very cold.

German tourists have begun to arrive in Mallorca for an Easter holiday (despite the rising number of Covid cases in their home country). I’m reminded of something an outdoorsy type said to us once: ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing.’ I hope these early visitors have packed for the conditions in Mallorca right now.

Equestrian neighbour Marc Rieke

The Reins in Spain

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

I didn’t step outside the door yesterday, although The Boss had to do his usual cat-feeding duties. When it’s wet or cold, he feeds them extra to help keep them warm. Animals must be fed and some have to be exercised, whatever the weather, which brings me neatly to a relatively new neighbour in our valley, who has three horses on his land.

We met Marc Rieke late last year when he bought his house from Mallorcan friends of ours, who’d outgrown the property since becoming parents. Marc’s from Berlin originally and is a professional wigmaker and an equestrian. He’s made wigs and hairpieces for the movie industry – including for an acclaimed British actress – and is also a dressage rider, riding instructor, and saddle fitter.

With such an interesting background – and, like us, living in rural Mallorca – he was a perfect guest for my podcast. Have a listen on the link below.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021

A Burning Need

Goodness, where is this year going? Although Mallorca is not in lockdown, restaurants, bars, and cafes have been closed for what feels like ten years (at least to those of us who do all the cooking at home). Establishments with terraces were allowed to open these again from Tuesday, March 2nd – albeit with limited capacity and an obligatory closing time of 5pm. We’ve not yet been out for lunch, as the weather’s been dull and chilly for eating out, but we have had a coffee on a terrace – in a tiny bid to help a local business. Lunch out is on the agenda for next week, when I hope it will be a little warmer and sunnier.

The Boss and I have spent most of our time at home, although there have been the weekly food-shopping trips and coastal walks for some exercise and bracing sea air. The lack of variety in our daily lives has meant that time has seemed to pass quickly. Relatable?

Well, cue some major excitement! We had a bonfire. Yes, that’s what passes these days for a thrill around these parts. In truth, having a bonfire where we live is a heart-rate-raising activity, because it brings back memories of the wildfire that swept onto our land from a neighbour’s out-of-season bonfire which reignited without warning and spread like… you guessed it.

We hadn’t had a bonfire on the finca for almost two years, partly because we are able to have one for a limited period in the year (usually October to April, but dates can vary depending on the weather conditions) and we just didn’t get around to doing it when we were allowed. As a result, we had what looked like a scaled-down version of Mallorca’s tallest mountain, Puig Mayor – in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Serra de Tramuntana mountains – near the end of our field.

The Boss was Chief Fire Master and he’s super-cautious, lining up a large, full watering can, and the garden hose unfurled and connected to the outdoor tap. Yours truly was there to provide a second pair of eyes on proceedings and, given how chilly it felt to me on the day, to enjoy the heat. From start to finish, our bonfire activities took around two hours – after which we rewarded ourselves with coffee and cookies for a good morning’s work.

‘That’s a long-overdue job off my list,’ The Boss said, with a sigh of relief, as we looked at the smouldering black circle of ash where once a mountain of garden detritus had stood. Perhaps it’s best I don’t tell him I’ve already started a new pile…

Update on Dusty

He’s forgiven us. Post-operation, Dusty is now coming for his meals at the same time as his siblings and we are able to stroke him again. Let’s hope no further trips to the vet’s are required.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2021