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

Human encounters in rural Mallorca

Since we moved to our rural home on Mallorca, we’ve seen quite a few changes in terms of the people who live or visit the valley on a regular basis. We often reflect on times or conversations with those who have touched our lives here, but no longer do so.

The Naked Gardener

Wolf was one of the first to leave the valley during our time here. A friendly German opera singer (and singing teacher), he used to attend to the garden of his rented finca in the nude – good reason to keep well away from using  hedge-clippers! We dubbed him The Naked Gardener. A few years ago his landlady decided to sell the property, so Wolf and his elderly dog had to find a new home. Last seen, he was renting a place on the coast – but without a garden.

The naked truth

Margarita was the wife of Pedro, an elderly farmer with a rustic home in the valley and their main home in nearby Manacor. Margarita had inherited various small plots of land dotted around the valley and the couple used to move their flock of sheep around to take advantage of the several (and fairly scrubby) grazing options. We used to love the sound of the sheep bells clunking as the flock scuttled along the lane to their next meal.

In their happier and healthier days ...

In their happier and healthier days …

Pedro drove his tractor and Margarita perched behind him. In winter the slender lady seemingly wore every item of clothing she possessed to keep warm. They would occasionally stop at our gates for a chat, which always began in castellano but would, somewhere along the way, lapse into barely comprehensible mallorquín.

My favourite Margarita moment happened one day during one of these encounters. “You’re becoming more like a Mallorcan every day,” she said to me in Spanish, smiling. For a moment or two I thought she was complimenting me on my improving language skills but, oh no, she was referring to my increase in weight – and said it in a way that sounded like approval! Sadly, Margarita developed dementia and passed away last year, and Pedro is a rare sight these days.

Treats for Francisco’s donkeys

More recently we have missed some entertaining conversations at our gates with Francisco. Born nearby, he now lives in the north of the island with his partner, but kept his local connections by doing gardening and similar work for the owners of holiday homes in the valley. Francisco has been ill and unable to work for some months and we’ve missed his wicked sense of humour.

"I know this woman has carrots ...."

“I know this woman has carrots ….”

An animal lover, Francisco still owns donkeys in the valley and, in his absence, a German neighbour is feeding them. If we go for a walk down that way we take some carrots for the donkeys as an extra treat. No doubt these beautiful creatures are also missing Francisco too …

 

Our New Neighbour in Rural Mallorca

We have a new neighbour – and a noisy one at that. We first met him while taking a bottle of wine down to our German neighbour Hans, who had recently brought us a large bag of oranges from his land. He often brings us produce but, as we have little in the way of fruit and veg to give him in return – because our soil is so poor – we return the favour by giving him and his wife Inga a bottle of wine. It seems to be a good arrangement.

On the day we took this latest bottle of wine down the lane, we could see Hans walking his dogs down to the field at the bottom where two donkeys are kept. The donkeys’ owner no longer lives in the valley – although he visits frequently – and Hans has taken on the duties of donkey-feeder and carer. He turned around and waved to us to follow him down. And there we met the valley’s newest resident: a gorgeous five-day old donkey foal.

Camera-shy

I didn’t have my camera with me at the time so couldn’t take a photo, but resolved to return soon to do so. And, it’s just typical, but every time we went near the large field, the foal was out of sight, close to the trees or sheltering amid the bamboo that grows alongside the stream running through the valley.

However, the youngster obliged us with a sighting a few days ago – and this time I had my camera at the ready. We had our best friends staying from the UK and we all walked down the lane, bearing a few carrot snacks for the proud parents, in the hope that we’d see the youngster. And this time we were lucky: I present to you Salami (yes, I’m afraid that is his name, but thankfully it’s not his destiny), at the tender age of 46 days old.

Salami, sticking close to his mum. And with a name like that, can you blame him?

Salami, sticking close to his mum. And with a name like that, can you blame him?

Cute, eh?

©Jan Edwards 2014