No country for old rubbish

Discarded in the countryside

Dumped white goods make me see red!

Exercise is good and, in the absence of a desire to don Lycra and join a gym, The Boss and I have recently set ourselves the challenge of a daily walk. As a writer, I spend a lot of time perched on my bottom – not good for its shape or my general health; this new regime is designed to make both of us a bit fitter (although it may be too late for my derrière). But, despite the benefits of repeatedly putting one foot in front of the other for upwards of 30 minutes, one of our latest walks has made our blood pressures soar.

The cause of our anger was finding two locations in our picturesque valley where people have dumped rubbish. First, we spotted an old fridge that had been pushed down a slope into a field, where it was almost concealed by the hedgerow. Then, further along that day’s walking route, we saw this lot dumped in the entrance to a field. The nature of the rubbish suggests it came from a restaurant or cafe; we have neither of these anywhere in the vicinity, which probably means that whoever left it went out of their way to get rid of what they didn’t want. Shame on them.

 

Discarded rubbish in Mallorcan countryside

Who dumped this lot in the entrance to a field in our valley?

When I first visited the Spanish peninsula in my late teens, on a touring holiday, I was shocked by the rubbish I saw discarded in the countryside. Stained mattresses, disgusting cookers, saggy sofas, and more were dumped here and there in rural areas.

That was quite a few years ago and I believed that people would be more enlightened by now. There is no excuse for fly-tipping in quiet rural areas or anywhere else: Mallorca (and most likely the peninsula too now) has plenty of official facilities (parcs verds) where people can take unwanted items.

Tourists wouldn’t have dumped this unwanted stuff in Mallorca’s glorious countryside, which means it must have been people who live on the island. People whom you’d imagine would want to preserve and protect the natural beauty of Mallorca.

 

©Jan Edwards 2018

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Freshly born lambs for our Mallorcan valley

Meadow in Mallorca with sheep

Two new arrivals for our rural valley

Almost hidden in this pastoral Mallorcan scene you may be able to see a ewe and, with her, two tiny Persil-white lambs that have just about managed to scramble up onto their feet. We stood silently for some time watching the second one’s efforts to stand up for the first time but, with only a phone camera to capture the image, I couldn’t zoom in any closer than this.

Given the state of mum’s nether regions (probably best you can’t see too clearly, especially if you’re about to eat), these little lambs were born whilst we were taking a long walk; we didn’t see them as we passed the field the first time, but did on our return journey home.

It’s easy to spot lambs in rural Mallorca at the moment; they’re everywhere. But seeing them so newly arrived was a magical moment. And one that put spring firmly in our sights.

©Jan Edwards 2018

Good reasons to own a trailer in rural Mallorca

On Monday, The Boss went to Porreres to buy our latest trailer-load of logs and we’re hoping that this will be the the last we’ll have to buy until late 2018. This winter on Mallorca has felt colder and wetter than previous winters we’ve had here. We certainly haven’t had as many coffees or lunches on the terrace – and it doesn’t take a lot of sunshine for us to eat and drink outside.

Some people are surprised that we buy our logs in, given that we do have a lot of trees on our land. But the issue is one of safety: most of our trees and shrubs grow on the steep sides of the valley on our land. The combination of loose stones and earth underfoot and a powerful chainsaw is one that, with one small slip, could end in a messy visit to our local hospital’s Urgencias department.

Logs in a trailer

Of course, there’s the work of unloading the trailer…here, nearly finished

Before we moved to Mallorca, we bought a trailer. At the time I was a bit sceptical about the need for such a thing: was it just another boy’s toy?  But when we arrived here and compared the cost of buying small sacks of logs from a garage or DIY store, or collecting logs in bulk direct from a woodyard, the benefit was obvious.

The trailer has proved its usefulness in other ways too – such as enabling us to bring bulky purchases home (rather than incurring the cost of delivery). And we’re not the only ones to appreciate it: some of our cats like to sit on the trailer’s heavy waterproof cover, enjoying prime views over their territory.

Cats on a trailer

Also makes a popular hangout for the cats!

©Jan Edwards 2018

 

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

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