Cracking the problem of removing a dead almond tree

When do you give up on an old Mallorcan almond tree? We have a few on our finca and they’re past their prime. In spite of that, they are covered in beautiful blossom in the early weeks of each year and offer a reasonable crop of almonds in the autumn. They may be old, but we love them, so they can live out their years in rural Mallorca without fear of a chainsaw massacre.

Mallorcan almond blossom

Blooming lovely!

Sadly, two of our old almond trees were badly damaged in September 2014, when a mini-tornado cut a swathe right through our field. We removed the broken branches then and left the trunks in the hope that there would be some regrowth.

Three years on there was no sign of any life remaining in these two trees. One is set within a stone wall, so must stay (or the wall will tumble down). The other has stood in the middle of the field looking rather forlorn – but removing it would require more than a bit of brute human force. We were pondering this very challenge just the other day, having coffee in the field, while The Boss supervised yet another bonfire. (Fire. It’s a man thing).

I’ll say this for The Boss: he gets things done. I was sitting writing at my computer – my back to the French doors facing the field – when I heard a loud unfamiliar noise. I turned around and our neighbour Lorenzo was in the field on his tractor, pushing the old tree trunk over. He’d been trundling up the lane and stopped for a chat; The Boss asked if he’d be able to pop in sometime to remove the tree (we’ve paid him to do tractor-related jobs before) and Lorenzo said he’d do it there and then. It took just moments to do.Almond tree felled

Down…and destined for the log store

Fungi on an old tree

The tree was dead but the fungus wasn’t!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any man in possession of a large field must be in want of a tractor – or a kindly neighbour with one. Thanks, Lorenzo (and Jane Austen).

©Jan Edwards 2017

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Mallorca’s equivalent of the British MOT

Preparations for winter have begun here at our finca in rural Mallorca. Yes, The Boss was once a Boy Scout – and just as well, as I’d probably leave these things until the first northerly blasts of wind were battering our country home.

Most of the year our trailer sits in our field, acting as a good look-out perch for one or more of our cats but, in winter, it’s pressed into service to carry logs back from our supplier.

Cats on our trailer

“You mean you didn’t buy this for us to sit on?”

Before we can head onto public roads, we have to take the trailer for its ITV. In the UK, ITV is a television station (for which I worked as a regional continuity announcer for several years). Here, ITV stands for Inspección Técnica de Vehículos – the nearest thing to the British MOT. Even though a trailer doesn’t have an engine, it still has to go through this periodic inspection at an official ITV centre – of which there are three on the island: in Palma, Inca, and Manacor.

Wheely important

Whatever type of vehicle (or trailer) it is, the process takes a bit of time. When we first moved to Mallorca, booking an appointment for this obligatory test meant turning up at the nearest ITV centre and standing in line with lots of other bored-looking people. Not my favourite activity, to be honest, but today at least it’s possible to do this part online.

Unlike the MOT in the UK, you don’t just leave your vehicle in the hands of some boiler-suited mechanics, with fingers crossed that it’ll pass the inspection and not require a major injection of cash. Here in Spain, you’re with the vehicle every step of the way, able to see what’s involved, as you drive through a building open at both ends and equipped to test the different functions of your vehicle.

The last stage involves driving your vehicle over an inspection pit, where a clipboard-wielding inspector (who clearly doesn’t suffer from claustrophobia) takes a good hard look at your undercarriage. Or at least your vehicle’s…

Having driven your vehicle over this open pit (praying you don’t somehow misjudge your steering and squash said inspector), you land on some movable metal plates that shake the vehicle (and those inside it). Presumably it’s to test the suspension – or see if anything drops off. Perhaps the inspector should be wearing a hard hat? I find it a disconcerting experience and wouldn’t recommend going through this after a decent-sized meal if you suffer even remotely from motion sickness.

Go figure

Privately owned vehicles between four and 10 years old have to go through this ITV process every two years. Bizarrely – given that it has no engine – a trailer has to be tested every six months.

Meanwhile, although Mallorca is currently bathed in warm October sunshine during the day, we’re off on a log-buying mission. As Robert Baden-Powell used to say: “Be prepared.”

©Jan Edwards 2017

 

Cycle (or walk?) this way…

We had to go to town hall yesterday morning for ‘a bit of bureaucracy’ (there’s plenty of it for those of us who live in Spain) and, as we drove out of our gates, we spotted a pick-up truck at the corner of the lane, laden with wooden posts. Two workmen were pulling various bits of kit  off the back of the wagon, seemingly preparing for some action. Perhaps some work to a neighbour’s gate?

Curious, but fixed on our mission, we headed into town and thought nothing more about it. On our return, we found out what those posts were all about: our valley now seems to be part of an official walking route; the posts have been distributed along the way to guide walkers.

Walking signpost

Walk this way…

We’ve occasionally seen hikers in the lanes around us, kitted out with their rucksacks, hiking boots, and walking poles. Cyclists regularly challenge themselves on the steep lanes, heads down and leg muscles bulging with the effort. Once we saw a whole team of speed skaters, clad in brightly hued Lycra, whizzing down the lane past our house; like most of the cyclists who pass through the valley, I doubt that they spotted much of the countryside along the way…

Our valley is picturesque and peaceful and, if we didn’t live here, we’d love to come and walk the lanes too. It’s not surprising that our municipality decided to create an official walking route through such an unspoilt area. But I found it rather ironic that, on our return, we spotted some plastic water bottles discarded into the verge – exactly where we’d seen the workmen unloading their pick-up truck to install one of the posts.  Could they not have just slung the empties into the back of their wagon and disposed of them properly in town?

Littering the countryside

It’s enough to make my blood boil!

Rant over for now; I’m off to make some DIY ‘No litter’ signs…

POSTSCRIPT: A little subsequent research has revealed that the route through our valley is intended for cyclists, rather than walkers, and is part of a round-trip route of more than  40km. I’m not sure I’ll be trying that one on my trusty (or, more accurately, rusty) mountain bike… 

©Jan Edwards 2017

Word of mouth sells…or not

Our ‘hood has changed in recent weeks: two British couples who owned fincas in our valley as holiday homes have sold them to new owners.  We have yet to meet either of them, although the Polish couple who bought the larger of the two properties is due to arrive in the next couple of weeks and has kindly sent us an invitation to meet them.

It wasn’t obvious that these two properties were on the market, as you don’t see real estate agents’ ‘For sale’ boards erected in the Mallorcan countryside. If you did, there’d be an alarming number of them all over Mallorca, because many empty rural properties are on the market…but in a passive kind of way.

As someone who inherited a finca from his parents once told us, “if someone makes me the right offer, I’ll sell it.” He doesn’t have it on a real estate agent’s books but word of mouth may one day bring him a sale. There’s no rush.

DIY marketing

Spanish DIY for sale sign

And the number is…?

There are currently two other fincas for sale in our valley. One is unoccupied and has quite a lot of fertile land, including a large separate field with a pigsty and a magnificent fig tree. In our early years here, we used to see the pigs lying underneath it, waiting to snaffle any luscious figs that fell to the ground. We always imagined their meat would be particularly tasty but, having had a tour a decade ago of the pig farm when it was in full operation (an eye-opening experience), pork was off our shopping list.

The owner – who now lives amidst modern conveniences in town – has put up the type of ‘Se Vende‘ signs you can buy in a stationery store or newsagent’s and to which you add your own phone number.

Two things amuse us about this sign. Firstly, it’s been there so long that the sun has faded the ink, rendering the number illegible. And very few people – other than those who already live at that remote end of the valley – will drive or walk past this sign anyway. I guess it’s another case of word of mouth being preferable to a real estate agent’s fees.

©Jan Edwards 2017

 

Useful books for a life in Mallorca

Which non-fiction books about Mallorca would you recommend to someone moving to the island? That’s a question I’ve been asked a few times, so I thought I’d answer it in this post.

We arrived to live in rural Mallorca in 2004 with one thumping good book about the island (in English): Majorca – Culture and Life (Könemann). It had been a farewell gift from a BBC work friend (Julia) and was so interesting that, before we left the UK, we bought another copy to give to my dad – destined to spend holidays with us on Mallorca; you can also find this book for sale on the island.

Over the years, we have added further books about Mallorca to our bookshelves and, if it’s of interest, these are some others we’ve found to be practical, inspiring, and interesting:

Mallorca books

Just a few of our books about Mallorca.

A Home in Majorca by Tomás Graves (La Foradada)

Written by the son of the late writer Robert Graves, this book is fascinating for anyone with an old Mallorcan finca. Its strapline is ‘A practical guide to the traditional house and rural life’ and that about sums it up perfectly.  This is a book to pick up and dip into just for the interest of its contents, or to scour for a possible solution to a domestic ‘situation’ – such as cleaning a chimney or dealing with a crop of olives. It’s available in English (and probably quite a few other languages by now) and I can thoroughly recommend buying a copy.

Beloved Majorcans – Guy de Forestier (La Foradada)

Here’s a book that gives a useful insight into the character of the islanders themselves. Described as ‘An outsider’s guide to social and personal relations on the isle of Majorca’, it should help you avoid making any major social gaffs and go some way to explaining greetings such as what The Boss and I call ‘the chin cock’. Guy de Forestier is a pseudonym; the book was written by the Catalan architect Carlos García Delgado, who has lived on the island since he was a child.

A Birding Tourist’s Guide to Majorca (www.birdingmajorca.com)

If you live in the Mallorcan countryside, chances are you may be curious about some of those feathered friends you’ll see around your land. This book is the perfect twitcher’s companion, explaining which birds may be seen on the island – where and when. We bought our copy (19,50 euros) from the visitor centre at S’Albufera natural park (which is well worth a visit as it has the island’s greatest diversity of birds).

El Litoral de Mallorca (geoPlaneta)

This is a complete guide to Mallorca’s coastline, illustrated with aerial photographs. The text is in castellano but even if you don’t speak the language, it’s fascinating to look at the images, which also show footpaths and some points of interest. When we first arrived we went through it page by page, identifying beaches that looked promising. Nautical sorts will also find it useful, as it includes basic information about marinas around Mallorca.

Todas las playas de Mallorca – Miquel Ángel Álvarez Alperi (La luz en papel)

If you love spending time on a beach, you have 262 to discover on Mallorca! And this book will help you find those that most fit your tastes – whether it’s a popular resort with all the facilities you could want, or a hideaway cove where you may share the sand with a gull or two. As far as I know, it’s only available in castellano, but each beach has its own page, illustrated with a photograph and annotated with symbols that are easy enough to understand.

Gardens of Mallorca – Charlotte Seeling and Carina Landau (Feierabend)

This will look good on the coffee table, but it’s also a useful book if you’re interested in gazing at gardens of a Mediterranean nature, or seeking inspiration for your own patch of paradise. It’s in three languages – English, castellano, and German – and is illustrated with lots of beautiful photographs. Useful if you want to identify the type of trees and plants that grow best on Mallorca.

Country Houses of Majorca – Barbara and René Stoeltie (Taschen)

With texts in German, English, and French, this is one to inspire the interior décor of your rural home on Mallorca. Each chapter is dedicated to a country property, with a description and photographs. Be prepared to drool a bit…

Living in Style Mallorca (teNeues)

Larger and glossier than the above book, this one earns a place on many coffee tables. It’s packed with lots of full-page photos of gorgeous properties (not all rural) and will give you plenty of ideas for decorating a home on Mallorca. Be prepared to drool quite a lot!

If you’re in Palma, it’s worth popping into the lifestyle store Rialto Living to check out the books section – which usually has a choice relating to Mallorca.

Anders – a loyal reader of Living in Rural Mallorca and also a finca owner – got in touch with me to share the list he has compiled of books about Mallorca. Whilst mine is of  books we’ve found useful and informative for practical purposes, Anders’s list comprises a broad spectrum of books about Mallorca and it’s surprising how many there are! Check the list out here – the season for reading a good book, sitting by the log fire with a glass of good Mallorcan tinto, will soon be here!

©Jan Edwards 2017

 

Finding Mallorca’s “loneliest area”

The best-known walks and hikes on Mallorca are in the Serra de Tramuntana, but you don’t have to head to the magnificent mountains to enjoy great views and decent walks.

This morning began very windy but mild. The thermometer in the shade on the terrace was already registering 18 degrees C before breakfast, so we decided to brave the hoolie that was blowing and check out a walk we’d read about in a book I bought recently in Palma.

As we parked the car on the side of a quiet country road, near the small town of Sant Llorenç, the sun was shining out of a bright blue sky. It looked perfect, but for the trees waving from side to side like a swinging pendulum. I figured the few extra pounds gained over Christmas (which this year’s walking effort has not yet shifted) would act as a kind of ballast and stop me flying off like an umbrella-less Mary Poppins.

Old stone drinking troughs - a marker for the route

Old stone drinking troughs – a marker for the route

Our walk to the Muntanya de Calicant started on a dirt track leading up to a manor house with old stone drinking troughs beside it. Despite the fierce wind, a bonfire was burning in the garden – with nobody in sight anywhere it.

After a while we crossed a dried-up river bed and then began the more challenging part of the walk, as the path up to the Calicant mountain is pretty indistinct in places and, at times, we were pushing our way through long, almost pampas-like grass, to follow the path. It’s a really stony route and I recommend using walking poles. Actually, a machete for all the vegetation obscuring the route would have been useful…

Bucolic beauty

Bucolic beauty

Cairns to mark the route are not always obvious in such stony surroundings

Cairns to mark the route are not always obvious in such stony surroundings

The nearby mountain known as Es Telegraf

The nearby mountain known as Es Telegraf

Gone were the blue skies...

Gone were the blue skies…

"Humans! Didn't they see the weather forecast?"

“Humans! Didn’t they see the weather forecast?”

Our goal was the top of the Calicant mountain, from which we had read that the Bay of Alcúdia is visible, but we didn’t make it today. What had started as a beautiful spring-like (albeit very windy) day had turned into one threatening rain. Shortly after we reluctantly turned back – to avoid getting soaked – the rain began to fall.

Our book describes this as “one of the loneliest areas on the island” and we didn’t see any other people for the duration of the walk. They probably all have a better weather-forecasting app than we do…

©Jan Edwards 2017

Hiking New Year from rural Mallorca

Walkers in Mallorca

A walkers’ coffee break by the Med

The Boss and I have started 2017 with plans to become regular walkers again. In the UK we lived close to the Cotswold countryside and Sundays were often spent striding through muddy fields and cool copses, trying to work out where we were supposed to be going. At the end of our walk we’d reward ourselves with lunch in a cosy pub or a hot drink and home-made cake in a traditional ‘ye olde tea shoppe’.

Since moving to Mallorca we’ve become less-frequent walkers, for a variety of reasons – none of which is related to the lack of English pubs and quaint tea shops on the island. In January 2015 (full of the usual good intentions at the start of a new year) we visited Lluc for a walk in the mountains. I had dragged my faithful Hawkshead walking boots from the back of the wardrobe, dusted them off, and reacquainted them with my feet. Alas, with every step I took in the mountains, a bit more of the soles turned to rubbery dust in my wake. I eventually hobbled – in sole-less boots – back to the car and we went for a drive instead.

Booted anew

About six weeks ago I finally got around to replacing my boots. But I did it in style, buying a sturdy pair from the renowned Mallorcan company Bestard, which was founded in 1940 in the small town of Lloseta. Mountaineers scale the scariest peaks in the world wearing this brand, so I’m confident they’ll be tough enough for our modest excursions. (I did the canny thing and bought mine at a discounted price from their shop at Festival Park Outlets).

My Christmas presents from The Boss included a pair of walking poles (highly recommended when walking in the mountains, on rough terrain, or the wilder areas of our own land). He unwrapped his own pair of Bestard walking boots. We wasted no time in trying out our new ‘toys’, notching up three decent walks in warm sunshine over the festive period. It’s hard to beat a fine-weather winter’s day for a good walk.

We’ve lived on Mallorca for 12 years and 2017 is the year we intend to discover more of the island’s renowned walking routes … taking our flask and cake rations with us, of course.

Es Calo

A walk to Es Calo on the Bay of Alcudia, with views to the Tramuntana

Mallorca woods walk

The walk above the coastline from Cala Molto near Cala Mesquida

Mountainous Mallorca

Puig Mayor in the Tramuntana mountains, from the walk around Cuber reservoir

The knowledge:

Keen walkers living on or visiting Mallorca may find the following of interest:

Mallorca Hiking Club – If you’d like to walk with a guided group (a great way to meet new people), check out the walks arranged by this Club.

Serra de Tramuntana – Here’s information about Mallorca’s magnificent mountain range, with its renowned GR221 hiking route.

The excellent book GR221 Mallorca Ruta de Pedra – published by Triangle Postals and available in Englishis packed with useful information.

©Jan Edwards 2017