Sloe, Sloe, Dig, Dig, Sloe

A hedge-in-the-making: one of 20 blackthorn shrubs that now grace our back field

A hedge-in-the-making: one of 20 blackthorn shrubs that now grace our back field

The Boss has an aching back – but he’s convinced it will have been worth it: he’s just planted 20 blackthorn bushes in the back field of our finca in rural Mallorca. One day they’ll grow up to become a long hedge and bear a multitude of sloes (see how hopeful I am?) with which he’ll make sloe gin. The fact that we can look forward to our own crop of sloes is down to our fantastic friends from Oxfordshire, who kindly brought the young shrubs over to Mallorca in their cabin baggage!

Planting anything on our land calls for more than a spade and fork, because what looks like normal land is mainly rocks with a covering of soil. Rarely can we plant something where we’d ideally like it to be, because a few test probes with a fork usually reveal that there’s not enough earth, or a mammoth rock is lurking beneath. Where would we be without a pickaxe?

Dynamite Might Do It

A Mallorcan wine-maker who lives nearby once told us how, as a child, he remembered dynamite being used to blast away rocks in one of the family’s fields so that an orchard could be planted. It’s a large field, so we can only imagine how noisy that must have been!

Whilst dynamite would be a quick solution – and less back-breaking – it would surely frighten the sheep in the field across the lane . . . and probably sound the death knell for what’s left of the ruined neighbouring casita. And think of the dust!

So our fledgling hedge was planted with muscle power. And don’t those muscles know it.

Jan Edwards Copyright 2013


Earthly Matters

A soil-testing kit isn’t something many people whip out of their pockets when they go property-hunting but, if you have serious dreams of growing your own produce, it could be a useful item to have with you. Our lovely little finca was blessed with quite a few almond and fig trees, so I naively assumed that growing vegetables would be just a matter of hard work and time.

Dynamite as a Gardening Aid?

What isn’t obvious, when merely gazing at the Mediterranean garden we have created, is that the layer of earth is very shallow and beneath it is a bed of solid rock. In places, rocks rise above the soil, creating an attractive rockery effect. Several first-time visitors have complimented us on our strategic placing of the large stones and boulders, but we have to confess that nature did the hard work. The rocks are where they always were, and always will be – unless we employ the tactics of a local wine-producer, who blasted the rock on his land with dynamite, to create a better area for cultivation. The amount of dynamite we’d need would probably also flatten the house . . .

Going Potty

Using pots and garden centre compost, and a slightly less rocky corner of the garden, we had a little success last year growing potatoes (harvesting just enough for one meal), tomatoes, and salad leaves (which we had to share with an invisible but insatiable bug). The quantity and quality of what we grew didn’t seem to justify the effort – especially as we can buy excellent produce grown in the neighbouring valley in our local market.

Gifts on the Gate

Grapes for breakfast then today . . .

Sometimes we don’t even need to do that. We have some very generous neighbours – with more favourably located land – who regularly bring us surplus produce. Very often, we find a carrier bag bulging with promise, hanging over our gate. So far this summer, we’ve enjoyed tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, plums, and grapes – all grown locally.We have offered to pay something for these fruit and veggie gifts in the past, but the producers won’t hear of it. So, to thank them for their kindness, we buy them the occasional good bottle of wine – Mallorcan, of course.

 Jan Edwards Copyright 2012