A blaze of colour, although the farmer probably didn’t appreciate the invasion of his cereal crop!
Poppies seem to have been late emerging this spring on Mallorca. Perhaps it was because of the huge amount of rain that fell on the island over the winter months?
I love poppies and was keen to plant some in the garden, imagining a future scene reminiscent of Claude Monet’s famous Poppy Field. A welcome gift of California poppy seeds was liberally sewn over the small patch of our garden that has more than an inch or two of soil.
Lost to the lane
Last year a few of these seeds did grow into poppies but, this year, we haven’t had a single one in the garden. However, the wildflower-strewn verges of our lane have become home to a few that are more West-Coast America than rural Mallorca. Ho hum. Well, this is a breezy island…
A touch of Monet on Mallorca?
Elsewhere in rural Mallorca poppies are having a field day (pardon the pun). On our way back from an appointment in the town of Sa Pobla yesterday we spotted a particularly colourful field. I didn’t have my camera with me, so the image is courtesy of my iPad. And there are quite a few similar displays of poppies elsewhere on Mallorca…just not in our garden.
Something was missing when we looked out at the garden yesterday although, strictly speaking, not missing at all as it is still very much present …
In January this year we noticed that one of our huge sword plants had sprouted a stalk that looked like a giant piece of asparagus. It quickly grew taller and we knew that this was the beginning of the plant’s death knell. It would produce flowers, then eventually die. We had no idea of timescale but hoped it would survive so that our visitors in the spring could see it.
It survived until yesterday, nine months later, and all of our visitors this year were able to see what looked like a freaky type of tree. We’d been wondering how much longer it would last, as it still looked pretty green and healthy. The flowers it had sprouted up on high were a magnet for the local bees and, after the flowers had died, small green things replaced them. These baby swords would drop to the ground regularly and we’ve been scooping them up to avoid our garden eventually turning into a spiky no-go zone.
For most of its nine months, The Spike had had a tendency to lean, and we’d already worked out more or less where it would land if it fell over before we could remove it. When it crashed to the ground some time yesterday (we missed the event itself), our predictions turned out to be accurate.
Now we just have to dispose of the ‘trunk’ (which we’re told secretes an irritating fluid you don’t want to get on your skin) and pick up the thousands of baby sword plants from the garden path. Then decide what to do about the new gap in our garden greenery.
A recent writing project has left me feeling a bit ‘written-out’. I’ve scribed around 12,000 words in the past few weeks on this one project – in addition to other articles, and posts on http://www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com. No wonder my computer screen has been gazing blankly back at me when I’ve sat down to write about our life in rural Mallorca. It was as tired as I was; my keyboard and I needed a little time apart.
So, as it’s spring, I grabbed my camera and headed into our garden and field, to take a few photos of the mix of cultivated and uncultivated delights that remind me why it pays to get off my writer’s bottom (well spread) and get out into Mallorca’s great outdoors.
I hope that, wherever you are, spring is making itself known to you too.
The view from the roof of our water tank … not somewhere I venture up to very often!
First-ever blossoms on our blackthorn bushes – brought over from the UK by good friends. Sloe gin? Maybe in a few years’ time …
In the early days of setting up a garden in the field of our finca home in rural Mallorca, we had no idea quite how large everything would grow. It seems that the lack of soil depth on our rocky land has been no deterrent to growth: aloes, agaves, ‘swords’ (I have no idea of their official name), and yuccas, have all grown to sizes beyond our expectations.
I used to wonder when our garden would be considered ‘mature’. Well, I think it’s now: one of our ‘sword’ plants has sprouted something akin to the beanstalk of the famous fairytale, and resembling a giant stalk of asparagus. If only. Think of the culinary treats . . .
We know that the stalk will eventually throw out a flower and, once that has died, it’s goodbye plant. Although it’s quite exciting to see this thing grow (and it’s making fairly rapid progress out there), this mighty plant, having flowered, will wither and keel over. We’ve checked its future trajectory and our roof seems to be in no danger, but The Boss will have quite a job to dig the dead plant – and what are probably quite impressive roots – out of the ground. A decade ago it was a small and rather sickly thing when a kind neighbor gave it to us to help fill some of the yawning space that was crying out to be a Mediterranean garden.
No wonder it’s called the sword plant . . .
Although the evil spikes on the end of each sword-like leaf have punctured various bits of our bodies during gardening sessions (ouch!), we’ll still be sorry to lose such an impressive architectural plant.
Our artificial Christmas tree spruced up for the festivities.
When we were planning to move to Mallorca we decided to buy a good-quality artificial Christmas tree in the UK for future use. We were pretty sure that finding a real Christmas tree for our rural Balearic island home would be as unlikely as winning El Gordo (‘the fat one’) – the hugely popular Spanish lottery draw that takes place each year on December 22nd.
We’ve still not won El Gordo (perhaps buying a ticket would help?), but only a few years passed before real Christmas trees started to appear for sale in garden centres and plant shops on Mallorca. They’re not as popular as they are in the UK – where we used to queue in the grounds of Blenheim Palace to choose and buy our tree. But, for the record – if you are planning to move to Mallorca (or spend Christmas in a holiday home here), you’re sure to find a real tree to decorate.
Without a real or artificial tree, all it takes is some imagination (and a bit of time) to come up with an alternative. Yesterday, in the hilltop town of Artà, we spotted a clever Christmas-tree-shaped decoration made from wooden coat hangers, decorated with bright baubles, in the window of a boutique.
But my favourite Christmas-tree-that’s-not-a-tree was this one – seen in a baker’s shop window in the same town. I give you . . . the ensaïmada tree. The ensaïmada is the emblematic pastry of Mallorca – so what could be more appropriate?
A tree with a difference!
My next post will be in 2016, so The Boss and I take this opportunity now to wish you a Happy New Year. Thank you for reading Living in Rural Mallorca during 2015!
This coming weekend on Mallorca we shall be turning back the clocks, marking the official end of the summer. It’s been a long hot one and, although we are already two-thirds of the way through October, we are thankfully still having a few lovely warm days. When the sun shines, we open doors and windows during the day to let in the warm air. As things cool, we close everything up but, in the evenings, the living room of our home in rural Mallorca already feels a little chilly. Oh, for cavity wall insulation . . . if there were a cavity to fill.
Winter Drawers On? Not Quite Yet . . .
We’re at the time of year when the lightest of summer clothes (and certainly anything white) is consigned to storage bags and boxes under the beds. (Buy an old Mallorcan property and you’re unlikely to find many cupboards for storing stuff). But we’re not ready yet to shrug ourselves into sweaters and woolly socks during the day. My much-loved Menorcan sandals (highly recommended for comfort) and I won’t be prised apart until my feet lose all sensation because of the cold. I’ve even worn shorts in the past fortnight . . . but also seen locals wearing thick sweaters, scarves, and boots . . . in temperatures up to 25 degrees Celsius!
The house ‘wardrobe’ also changes. The light sheer curtains that blow gently in the breezes of the warmer months will be replaced by curtains with thermal linings. I’ve already retrieved one pair from storage, ironed them, and hung them. Another two pairs to go . . .
October is a month of contrasts outdoors too, with signs of winter, but also of new beginnings. No wonder the Mallorcans call this season winter/spring. We have a garden with plenty of new growth (a lot of it weeds, I should add), but our family of ‘adopted’ cats is eating heartily as though preparing for a prolonged trip to Siberia. On Sunday evening, despite the diminishing daylight, it was warm enough to eat a BBQ dinner outside, for the first time in a few weeks. But a visitor earlier that afternoon reminded us that there may not be too many more alfresco dinners: on our birdbath – sprucing himself up after a long flight south – was that feathered emblem of winter, the robin.
The photo of the robin was taken from inside the house, and the close-up was achieved by cropping the image.
No, not the Bob Marley sort of jammin’. I’m talking about the preserves I’ve been making in recent days on our finca in rural Mallorca. We have reached that time of the year when there’s an abundance of fruit and vegetables ready for eating. It’s wonderful to have so much fresh produce available: the market stalls in our nearest town Manacor (and elsewhere) are positively groaning under the weight of it all.
Our Not-so-productive Garden
Our own finca‘s production has so far been limited to some lemons. We have dreadful soil and, although we could import some, because we’re located on sloping terrain, it would probably be washed away in the next heavy downpour.
There are signs that we’ll have a crop of figs later in the year (we had none at all last year) and, of course, there’ll be almonds in the autumn. But non-tree crops just don’t do well. Ours is probably the world’s only garden where mint doesn’t go mad and take over everything else!
The Kindness of Neighbours
We do, however, have generous neighbours whose land produces more fruit and vegetables than they can use. So far, we’ve had gifts of oranges, cherries, mulberries (very messy, those), apricots, plums, courgettes, onions, and lettuces. We’ve juiced, frozen, made jams and chutneys, and eaten. From glut comes gluttony . . .
Jams and chutneys galore
All of the effort involved has made me realize one thing: Mallorcan country wives traditionally didn’t go out to work because they didn’t have time. They were too busy pickling, drying, bottling, preserving, and jammin’ …
The Boss and I went to visit a finca last week that some new English friends (made as a result of this blog) have bought for their future move to the Mallorcan countryside.
They have a lot of work to be done first: the property is a ‘doer-upper’ and as we walked through the house with them, they told us the plans for each room. It will be amazing when it’s finished. This couple has apparently done up several properties during their married life, and we could tell they really enjoy doing projects like this. Not everyone relishes such an undertaking – and you can probably put The Boss and me in that category.
No Hard-hat Home for Us
When we came out to look at properties on Mallorca – which we did in a 4-day breathless, whirlwind tour of the island with various estate agents – we were quite specific about our requirements. We didn’t want to live on a construction site, but were prepared to do some cosmetic stuff to our new home (although it turned out to be a bit more than that).
Despite having emphasised that we didn’t want to have to do a lot of renovation work, several estate agents took us to see quite a few properties that were in need of serious labour. One German real estate agent came accompanied by a builder and a finance-arranger (travelling in a separate beefy 4-wheel drive vehicle), just in case we suddenly succumbed to one of these long-neglected properties they were clearly having trouble selling. No chance – despite what turned out to be intimidation tactics.
I’ve digressed slightly. Our friends’ new home-to-be is blessed with a garden full of trees – one of which neither they nor we could identify.
This time last year I was on a mission: I wanted a water feature for our finca’s dining terrace. And I wanted it to be solar-powered, like our electricity supply. Surely that wouldn’t be hard to find?
The Boss and I scoured Mallorca to find one: we really like to buy local if we can. We were amazed that, on an island where the sun shows its face on some 300 days a year, it appeared that we were as likely to find a solar-powered water feature for sale as we were an igloo. After failing to find a supplier in Spain, via the Internet, we gave up.
A few weeks ago I was searching the Internet for something else for the garden that we couldn’t find locally. Lo and behold, I found a site for a company on the Spanish mainland offering a choice of solar-powered water features. Result!
From the Mainland to Mallorca
We wasted no time choosing and ordering something to add that sound of trickling water that should make us feel cooler during the balmy summer evenings – most of which are spent on the terrace. The fountain arrived pretty quickly and was easily assembled. I say easily, because The Boss did it. Putting together something like a solar-powered water feature comes under the heading of ‘technical’ in my book. And I don’t do technical. At least, not if I have The Boss handy at the time.
We love it. And so do our cats, who consider it yet another source of water for them around the finca . . .
Last Friday we fell a tiny bit in love with a small village called Costitx, in the centre of Mallorca. Relatively few visitors to the island will have heard of it, let alone visited, but many will have flown over it – the village being under one of the flight paths across Mallorca. An impressive number of visitors – mainly Mallorcans – flooded into the village on May 1st for ‘Costitx en Flor’.
Beautiful views across Mallorca’s Pla to the mountains.
We reached Costitx via a (usually) quiet country lane off the main Manacor to Inca road (between Sineu and Inca) in an area of the island known as the Pla. There’s lovely surrounding countryside and views of the UNESCO World Heritage Serra de Tramuntana. The village itself has some interesting old architecture and several beautifully restored stone townhouses. If we had to live in a village, rather than open countryside, Costitx does have its attractions . . .
The village also has a few claims to fame – and not the sort of fame associated with the likes of Magaluf, or the more genteel mountain village of Deià.
Here are a few facts you could drop into a conversation about this lesser-known part of Mallorca:
Eyes to the Skies
Costitx is home to the Observatori Astronòmic de Mallorca, opened in 1991. Even after we’d bought our finca – but before we moved to Mallorca – we weren’t aware of its existence. I found out about it only during a BBC radio interview I did with an astronomy expert in north Oxfordshire, who told me the observatory was “very important”. The Observatory is also home to the Mallorca Planetarium.
Costitx is home to three prehistoric bronze bulls’ heads found on common land in 1894. Well preserved, and part of the Balearics’ remarkable Talayotic remains, they have their 21st-century home in the Son Corró Sanctuary. One of the streets in the village is named after these Caps de Bou de Costitx.
In 1987, Costitx elected a mayor who became both famous and infamous. Every Mallorcan – and many non-Mallorcan island residents – will know of Maria Antònia Munar …
Saying it with flowers: a welcome to ‘Costitx en Flor’
But it was last Friday’s ‘Costitx en Flor’ that wowed us. This annual flower festival sees the whole village decorated with flowers, with each street having its own themed display.
The creativity of the villagers, and hard work involved in putting this event together, are evidence of a real community spirit. We loved it and, if you’re on Mallorca next May 1st, it’s worth a visit if you appreciate flowers, handicrafts, and creativity.
The street with the recycled jeans
The street with the bicycle and flower displays . . .
Old tyres given a new lease of life
Streets closed to traffic – and open to floral displays
Take a seat … and add flowers
Once a tyre … now a chicken
In the doorway of an old townhouse in Costitx
Old well outside a Costitx house – complete with flowers in a recycled tyre
Embroidery on a big scale!
Archway to ‘cup and saucer alley’ in Costitx
Anyone for a cuppa?
Costitx church goes floral
Plants for sale – for those inspired by their visit to ‘Costitx en Flor’