Look who’s moved into our valley

Donkey at a gate

One of Francisco’s donkeys…no longer in the valley

When we first moved to rural Mallorca in 2004, there were more animals than people in our valley. These were mainly sheep, or sheeps – as our German neighbour calls them in the plural form. (English must be quite a complicated language for a foreigner to learn).

For quite a few years, several farmers owned small flocks that were regularly moved from one field to another, somewhere else in the valley. The sound of an increasingly loud symphony of sheep-bells was a warning that the lane would be temporarily blocked to traffic by woolly walkers, being guided by the farmer towards another of his patchy patches of land. Sadly, we rarely awaken to the sound of dongling sheep-bells nearby these days: the field opposite our casita is no longer the part-time home of frolicking lambs or their bell-toting mums.

These beasts are no burden

We also used to hear regular distant donkey-braying – another of my favourite rural sounds. Francisco – an animal-loving Mallorcan who did gardening jobs for some of our neighbours – owned a few donkeys in a field down in the valley. If we were going for a walk in that direction, we often took a few carrots or an apple for them. When Francisco sadly died suddenly, after being ill for a while, the donkeys disappeared shortly afterwards.

It’s safe to assume, then, that I was rather excited by some new four-legged arrivals we spotted last week in the valley. Two ponies, a donkey, and a mule (or is it an ass? We really couldn’t tell) were munching their way through a different field at the bottom of the lane.  The photos were taken with my smart phone. I’ll be tottering down the hill again soon – with my smarter Nikon and its zoom lens.

Pony in a field

The new boy in town? Could be a girl – hard to see through all that fur!

Animals in a field

Settling into their new abode

Grazing pony

Pony number two enjoying the buffet

We have no idea who owns either the field or the beasts, but were delighted to see these new neighbours. Looks as though we’ll be buying extra carrots and apples again…

©Jan Edwards 2018

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Visca Sant Antoni! Manacor’s favourite fiesta…

Dimoni Mallorca

A scary dimoni in the streets of Manacor

Hello! And a belated Happy New Year. Mine unfortunately started with bronchitis, which laid me low at a time when normally I’m itching to get started on the new year. Colds, flu, and other assorted viruses are rife on Mallorca at the moment and it’s hard to avoid them. Unusually, I haven’t felt up to writing much – although I did manage to write a short story for an international fiction competition. If I win, I’ll invite you all round for a glass of cava!

Celebrating Sant Antoni

Fortunately I was just about well enough for our usual visit to Manacor last week for the Sant Antoni fiestas. The good folks of Manacor love this fiesta, kitting themselves out in the latest Sant Antoni sweatshirt, t-shirt, or other assorted merchandise printed with the current year’s Sant Antoni logo.

Merchandise for Sant Antoni

The 2018 Sant Antoni must-have, as modelled in Hiper supermarket

A day or so before Sant Antoni, heaps of sand appear in the streets: these are the locations of the bonfires that will blaze on the evening of the 16th January. Some of them will just be piles of logs but others involve a degree of creativity and handicrafting; these are the ones that will be judged in the annual competition to find the best bonfire.

During the afternoon of the day before Sant Antoni’s day, it seems as though the entire population is on the streets – strolling (or cycling) all over the town to see these creations before they go up in smoke that evening.

Better the dimoni you know…

Come the evening, the bonfires are eventually lit and the fun begins. People take meat and bread to cook over the torradas; these are informal barbecues, very often made from old metal half-barrels full of logs. The dimonis (devils) dance in a wild fashion through the streets and everyone has a great time.

It’s a night the youngsters of the town particularly enjoy and many of them wander the streets in chattering groups, clutching large bottles of what appears to be lemon Fanta. More often than not, it’s a Menorcan drink called pomada: a mix of Menorcan Xoriguer gin and sparkling lemon that is especially popular as a Sant Antoni tipple. Another much-imbibed drink is the bright-green Mallorcan herb liqueur known as hierbas. Mine’s a pomada, if you’re asking…

Ooh, another public holiday

On the saint’s day (January 17th) itself, Manacor has a public holiday. The local priest, however, doesn’t get a day off: he’s in Ramon Llull square blessing the animal population of the town and surrounding countryside. This is one of my favourite fiestas, when many people dress in traditional costume to accompany their domestic and farm animals on their slow procession past the priest.

The festive season is now officially over in Manacor. Until February 10th…when it’s carnival. Mallorca sure knows how to party…

©Jan Edwards 2018

Merry Christmas from Mallorca!

Wine-bottle corks

Mallorca produces fantastic wines. Here’s what we make with some of the corks…

What’s Mallorca like at Christmas? It’s a question we’re sometimes asked by friends who live in the UK or elsewhere. Well, it’s not as warm here as many who visit the island only during the summer may think. In our first year, a friend wrote in his Christmas card to us that he would be picturing us wearing shorts and eating Christmas lunch on the beach. No. We’re living in Europe, not Australia! We’ll be fairly close to our Jotul wood-burning stove toasting our bits!

The festive season here though is lovely – less frenetic than we experienced back in the UK – and we often have sunny days over the winter.

I thought I’d share a few phone-photos taken in Mallorca’s capital, Palma, in this pre-Christmas post, along with warm seasonal greetings from The Boss and me. Wherever you live, and whatever your weather at this time of year, have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas in good company.

If you’re interested, check out my Instagram posts at mallorcajan.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Tackling plastics pollution in Mallorca

Plastic waste. Don’t you hate what it’s doing to our planet? On the recent guide4dogs beach walk from Colonia de Sant Pere to Son Serra de Marina, in the north of Mallorca, several of us commented on the amount of plastic we saw along the way. Last Sunday, the marine conservationists of the excellent local NGO Asociación Ondine had organised a Dos Manos (Spanish for ‘two hands’) beach clean at Son Serra – the last clean-up of 2017. The Boss and I decided we’d go along and ‘do our thing’ because this beach is not too far from us and is one we visit at all times of the year.

All hands to the sands

The weather wasn’t good on Sunday as we set off, with wind and rain battering the car. It would have been so easy to stay at home, but we had said we were going and going we were!

It was a relief to find that the rain had stopped when we arrived at the blustery meeting point. The virgin beach at Son Serra de Marina is popular with kite surfers because the sea along here can be pretty rough and it looked quite spectacular on Sunday, especially once the sun came out for a while.

We’d equipped ourselves with some new heavy-duty gardening gloves and a collection bag. We set off, heads down, searching for plastic waste – and it wasn’t hard to spot. Some of the volunteers were assigned to collecting microplastics – working on their knees with a grid and a sieve to sift through the sands for these tiny pieces (up to 5mm), which are a huge threat to the marine environment (and, ultimately, us as a race).

A festive reward afterwards

Because we’d been heads-down perusing for plastic, we were surprised at the end to see how many volunteers had come along to help out – in spite of the cold weather. More than 50 of us had turned up. We knew several of them and enjoyed chatting afterwards over hot chocolate, mulled wine, and home-made cookies – provided by volunteer Steph.

Of course, by now, more plastic will have washed up onto this beach. The point is that these beach-cleaning events raise awareness of the problems caused by single-use plastics, prompt change in everyday habits, and also provide data for scientific study. At the end of the collecting period, we returned to our starting point to tip our findings onto a growing pile. This was then sorted into different types of plastic so that numbers could be recorded and the haul was then removed from the beach.

The results

Asociación Ondine has released the findings of Sunday’s Dos Manos event, at which a total of 4,500 items were collected, weighing 82 kg. Amongst these, from a fairly short stretch of Son Serra de Marina beach, were:

  • 1,529 microplastics (818 of which were nurdles – the tiny pellets used in the plastics industry to make larger items)
  • 748 Q-tips
  • 681 bottle caps
  • 97 utensils (including drinking straws)

It’s a sobering thought…

Asociación Ondine

Find out more about this Balearic NGO on their Facebook page or on their website and read my article about its founder Brad Robertson here.

If you’re looking for a gift for a hard-to-buy-for someone, how about a year’s membership of the association? You’ll be helping to make 2018 a year of change for marine conservation.

©Jan Edwards 2017

Find your festive in Mallorca

Looking around our valley, you’d never guess that Christmas was less than three weeks away. No inflatable Santas climb plastic-rope ladders up the side of house chimneys. No country properties around us are adorned with twinkly-lit reindeer or other festive characters. All looks peaceful, normal, and…rural. Of course, it could be a different story behind closed doors!

We knew from visits to Mallorca before moving here that we were unlikely to find a Christmas tree for sale – real or fake. I had always had a real tree in the UK and the annual visit to the side entrance of Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, to select one of the numerous trees for sale, was guaranteed to make me feel more festive.

Faking it

Before we left the UK, we bought a high-quality artificial one from an Oxfordshire garden centre, ensuring that we wouldn’t be without a Christmas tree once here. In a week or so’s time, it’ll be released from its cardboard prison at the back of a little-used cupboard to be pressed into decorative service for its 14th Mallorcan Christmas. Fingers crossed it will still look perky – and won’t have lost all its artificial pine needles!

More than a decade later, Papá Noel’s sleigh GPS has located Mallorca: many lucky children now receive presents from the red-suited one as well as those traditionally brought by The Three Kings in early January. Must be an expensive business, being a parent on this island…

Baking it?!

And, you guessed it, you can now find Christmas trees – even real ones – just about everywhere in Mallorca. I thought the one below – made from the traditional Mallorcan pastries known as ensaïmadas (and spotted in a bakery window in the town of Artà) – was just a little bit different!

Ensaimada Christmas tree

An edible tree (but don’t count the calories!).

©Jan Edwards 2017

Mallorca for dogs (and their owners)

If you live on the island of Mallorca and own a dog – or are thinking about acquiring one – a website founded by Christina Kastin – should be of interest to you.

Christina is from Sweden and she loves dogs…and Mallorca. She’s spent the past decade lobbying local councils here to make the island more pet friendly. As a result: people can now take their dogs onto certain beaches during the winter season; six designated areas have been earmarked for dogs to swim at any time of the year, and seven bus routes in Palma will take your pooch as a passenger.

Pet-friendly places

Christina’s website guide4dogs has full details of the above, as well as information about pet-friendly hotels and restaurants. In addition, there seems to be just about everything you could need to know about matters canine on the island.

In the northeast of Mallorca, the town of Artà has been working to make their municipality a more pet-friendly place and, in collaboration with Artà town council, Christina organized a dog walk from the nearby small resort of Colònia de Sant Pere last Saturday. This is one of my favourite places on Mallorca at any time of the year; if you haven’t watched the sun setting behind the Tramuntana mountains across the Bay of Alcúdia on a summer night, you’ve missed one of Mallorca’s best sunset spots.

I was one of the invited journalists and, despite not owning a dog (what would the eight cats think!), joined a friendly group of people and pooches who met up at Restaurante Es Mollet (find it on Facebook). Participants had come from all over Mallorca for this walk and several admitted that they didn’t really know this area of the island.

We began the morning with a complimentary breakfast of coffee, juice, and croissant or pa amb oli (the popular bread and oil snack, accompanied by pickles and ham or cheese).  Meanwhile, we watched an interesting presentation via Skype by the Swedish animal communicator Mia Mattsson.

Two representatives from Artà town hall welcomed us and provided informative leaflets (in English) about walking and sightseeing in the area, as well as a DVD. (See notes below for useful web links).

Walkies!

From Es Mollet we set off for a long stretch of virgin beach, adjacent to the dog-friendly Naturplaya Hotel (which has an enviable beachfront location but had closed for the winter).

Once we’d hit the sands, leads were off and the dogs were free to enjoy themselves – bounding around, pouncing on the water as it lapped on the shore, and sniffing out new canine friends. Although we have cats at home, I also love dogs and it was heartwarming to see them having such fun.

Although the day was initially cloudy, the temperature was a pleasant 21°C and, by the time the group had stopped for refreshments, the sun was breaking through for our return walk to Colònia de Sant Pere.

The day was a great success and another beach walk for dogs and their owners may take place early in 2018. Don’t miss out: like and follow the Facebook page guide4dogs.com and you’ll keep up to date with what’s happening. And do check out the web links below to find out why the Artà municipality is one of Mallorca’s gems.

 

Useful websites

Artà Business Association (includes details of events happening)

Artà visitor information

DogsForU – mainly German Shepherds and other large breeds. DogsForU is just one of the many animal refuges and shelters on Mallorca, where you’ll find animals that need a good home and some loving care.

Text & photos ©Jan Edwards 2017

Pot luck in Manacor

Our mission – which we had no choice but to accept – was to find a new flowerpot to replace the one that was recently blown over and broken by a particularly fierce gust of wind. Usually this would entail a trip to one of the garden centres in the area. I’ve written before about garden centres in Mallorca: I have yet to find one to match the gorgeous Burford Garden Company – a place in the Cotswolds I used to love visiting.

The trouble with garden centres in general is that I find it hard to leave them with only the one thing I intended to buy. And I am not a shopaholic by nature. Go in for a bag of compost and I’m likely to emerge with a pot or two of herbs as well. One local garden centre was selling large nets full of home-grown oranges for juicing…well, I couldn’t resist those, could I?

In one of the better local garden centres, I once bought a large mirror for the guest bathroom as well as a new trowel. Clearly it would be more economical to go straight to a terracotta pot manufacturer, cutting out the middleman (and their range of tempting goodies).

Traditional Mallorcan terracotta

Black wood smoke often billows from a local factory on the outskirts of Manacor and it was time to check the place out. The kilns weren’t fired up the day we visited but the place was already well stocked with terracotta flowerpots and pretty much anything else you could want made from terracotta (Mallorcan ceiling and roof tiles included).

Inside the terracotta factory

Tejar Bandris’s terracotta factory near Manacor

Tejar Bandrís is a family business of master artisans and Toní told us he was the third generation in the firm. As we were the only customers, he spent some time telling us that people come from all over Mallorca and beyond to buy from him. If you buy an old finca on the island and want some authentic terracotta features, this is the place to come. Soooo many things…. Focus, Jan!

Terracotta products Mallorca

Potty about the choice!

Terracotta goods at Tejas Bandris

These look attractive over lights on exterior walls

It didn’t take long to choose the perfect pot – handmade on a potter’s wheel. Although we didn’t see the wheel in action while we were there, just the thought of it took me back to my school pottery classes. I never did master the art of throwing a pot that didn’t look like a cheap souvenir of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. (Demi Moore made it look so easy in Ghost).

English spoken here…

If you’re in the market for a well-made terracotta pot – or anything else fired in a kiln – it’s worth checking out Tejar Bandrís. Even though we’d be speaking Spanish, we’d only been there a few minutes when Toní asked if we were from England (why is it so obvious?) and, hearing that we were, said he’d like to practise his English for the rest of the conversation. Useful to know if you want to visit but don’t speak much or any Spanish.

At least we know where to go when the next gust of fierce wind wreaks havoc on our terrace…

©Jan Edwards 2017