A flavour of 19th-century rural Mallorca

Visiting Manacor on Saturday, February 2nd, we were surprised to see a large group of people wearing traditional period costume, gathered around a memorial stone. All soon became clear when we realised what day it was. These local people were honouring Antoni M Alcover, who became the parish priest of Manacor in 1886 but is best known today for having collected and written down more than three hundred traditional folk tales – known locally as Rondaies – from around Mallorca.

Antoni Alcover i Sureda was born into a farming family just outside Manacor on February 2nd in 1862. On this day, flowers are laid at the memorial stone and people in local costume of the 19th century come to celebrate the life and writings of the man often referred to as Mossèn Alcover. The town of Manacor has a number of events around the anniversary of his birth, including public readings of his stories.

Traditional Mallorcan dress

Local Manacor people wearing the traditional dress of Alcover’s era to celebrate the anniversary of his birth

We spoke to this group of people, proudly wearing the clothes of Alcover’s era. We are always fascinated by the locals’ willingness to dress themselves in traditional Mallorcan costume at every opportunity. I wouldn’t mind betting that most people have period garments hanging in their closets; we’ve certainly seen a few hanging in our local dry cleaner’s from time to time, freshly pressed for their next outing.

These garments would probably have been the ‘Sunday best’ of their time and not what your average rural Mallorcan would have worn when cultivating the land. I like to think that farming folk of that era would have worn more comfortable – and lighter – garb when working outdoors. The authentic 19th-century wardrobe looks a little warm for the Mediterranean climate!

Alcover didn’t just gather folklore from Mallorca; he also made notes for what would eventually become  the Diccionari Català-Valencià-Balear. The first volume of this magnum opus was published in 1930 – two years before Alcover died.

If you’re interested in reading some of the folk stories collected by Alcover, a selection of them is published in English in a volume entitled The Best Folk Tales of Mallorca, published by Editorial Moll in Palma.

Jan Edwards ©2019

Advertisements

No Smoke Without Fire in our Rural Mallorcan Valley

Bonfires are blazing at the bottom of our valley. We can’t see the flames from our finca, but smoke has been billowing from different parts for days. In summer, when the merest whiff of smoke tickles our nostrils, we’re outside peering all around in case a wildfire has broken out. Bonfires are forbidden in wooded areas such as ours for almost half the year and only barbecues are likely to be creating smoke during these months.

Bonfire smoke

Smoke billows from down in the valley

In the autumn and winter months, farmers and gardeners choose calm days to burn their mounds of combustible unwanteds. We sometimes see vertical columns of smoke making a lazy ascent towards the sky and can usually work out from its location which neighbour is having a burn-up. But the smoke that’s been wafting daily over our valley is not from ordinary bonfires.

Our torrente after the clearance

Our local landscape has changed dramatically as a result of the clearance work

Prevention is better than repair

I wrote a while back about the appalling floods that caused the loss of 13 lives in the northeast of Mallorca – the area known as the Llevant. As well as the tragic loss of life, property and roads suffered damage that in some cases is still being dealt with.

Since that incident, work has begun to ensure that the area’s torrentes – often-dry stream beds – are cleared of vegetation and widened to accommodate even excessive rainfall, such as that which fell on Sant Llorenç on October 9th.

For several weeks, enormous earth-moving vehicles have been trundling along the torrente at the bottom of our valley, ripping out trees and shrubs and reshaping the banks. The vehicles have fallen silent now and all that remains is for the workmen to burn the mountains of vegetation they’ve removed along the route of the stream. The bonfires have been happening for days and will probably continue for a while. Although they aren’t particularly close to our finca, our black car is dotted with ash particles – but it makes no sense to clean it yet.

Any excuse for a BBQ

Tomorrow evening the aroma of smoke will also hang over Manacor, our nearest town – but it won’t have wafted from our valley. The 16th of January is the eve of Sant Antoni and it’s traditional for fires to blaze in the streets during this much-loved fiesta. Tomorrow, butcher’s shops and supermarkets will do a roaring trade in Mallorcan sausages and pancetta, to be cooked alfresco over the roaring flames of the fires dotted all around town. And maybe also in our rural valley. Pass the BBQ sauce…

Jan Edwards ©2019

Motorsport rally comes to our valley

Rally sign

Unless you’re in a rally car, of course…

One of the reasons we wanted to live in rural Mallorca was the expectation of peace and quiet. I worked for quite a lot of years in radio and TV – environments where you’re subjected to sounds all day. My ears needed a rest.

We were quite surprised one morning during our first spring here to find that our back field had become a parking lot. Who were all these people who had taken advantage of a large gap in our old stone wall to park their cars on our property?

The answer came very soon: the annual Manacor motorsport rally was driving through our valley and the owners of the parked cars had arrived early to spectate. Finding nowhere to park in our narrow lane, they took the only obvious option. Mystery solved.

Revved and ready

Several years have passed since the last Manacor rally came through our area. Further down the valley, some of the water course walls had been repaired and we assumed the local council didn’t want skidding rally cars knocking them down!

Today, the engines were revving again. We had two weeks’ notice – via a large signboard – that our lane would be closed to all traffic except Rallye Llevant competitors between 8am and 3pm. We could either go out early and stay out until mid-afternoon, or stay put. We opted for the latter.

It’s quite exciting when something like a rally or other sporting event comes through our valley. Yes, it can be a little inconvenient for those of us who live here, but it provides some free entertainment and, when it’s all over, we get to appreciate rural tranquillity all over again.

 

©Jan Edwards 2018

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

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