Tortoise Alert in Rural Mallorca

Signs of spring are springing up all over Mallorca and, in our neck of the woods, these include sightings of Mediterranean tortoises. We’ve seen quite a few in the past couple of weeks, either plodding across the lane or negotiating their way across our lumpy land.

Mediterranean tortoise, Mallorca

The spring o’clock alarm has raised this one.

These are dangerous times for the sleepy adults that have recently emerged bleary-eyed (I assume) from their winter hibernation. Life can be even more hazardous for the newly born tortoises as they are almost impossible to spot in the undergrowth.

Yesterday our part-time neighbours- and very dear friends – from Yorkshire told us they’d found three baby tortoises in their garden – each no more than the size of a British 50-pence coin. Sadly it’s all too easy not to spot these cute little creatures as they amble around the land; our neighbours fortunately saw their ‘foundlings’ before they came to any harm.

As a follow-up to my last post, if you’re planning to light a bonfire on Mallorca, please check the pile before setting it alight. In fact, if you’re lighting a bonfire anywhere this spring, it’s worth raking gently through the heap first: the heart of a large pile of vegetation makes a cosy winter refuge for hibernating creatures of all types.

©Jan Edwards 2017

A gap in the 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.

Sky-bound

Sky-bound

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.

The End

The End

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.

©Jan Edwards 2016

 

Shady experiences in rural Mallorca

If you have property on Mallorca with outdoor space –  a large expanse of (largely unusable) land like ours, a regular garden, or just a balcony or terrace – you’re going to need a means of seeking shelter from the sun. We love the sunshine, but it’s too darned hot (and risky) to sit in its glare for long.

Our rural finca has only one small covered terrace, in front of the annexe bedroom known as Ray’s Room (my Uncle Ray is one of the few people who stays in it, as it has only one single bed). This terrace is deliciously cool on summer afternoons as it’s swept by gentle breezes that come through the valley from the north. It’s the location of my trust hammock …

Parasols – para sol

Initially we used this small covered terrace as an al fresco dining area, but we had several other terraces at our disposal and relocated our dining area to a larger space. Fortunately the previous owners of our finca – who have become very dear friends and own an apartment in Palma – had left us a few old parasols to provide shade in these open areas.

Hombre, have we had some fun with these things. An early incident involved a rat that had climbed up to shelter inside a closed parasol (which we’d foolishly left outside for some time without a cover on it). Unsuspecting, The Boss opened said parasol, only for the rat to jump out, using his shoulder as a stepping stone to freedom. I still shudder thinking about it. Is it any wonder that The Boss warmly welcomed the various cats that have made our finca their home? Lots of cats = no rats.

Gone with the wind

We subsequently bought new parasols of what we believed were a better quality. They were certainly heavier to manoeuvre when we wanted to move them to maintain shade as the sun made its way across the sky; not too heavy to cope with a very strong wind though. On one occasion, an open parasol at the front of the house suddenly took off (à la Mary Poppins but without the attached saccharine-sweet woman), hit the roof as it blew right over our single-storey property, and landed in a crumpled heap behind the house. Another time, we came home from an outing with friends to find that a mini-tornado had cut a swathe through our property, uprooting furniture and, you guessed it, destroying another parasol.

Another broken parasol (photo by Duncan Matthews)

Another broken parasol (photo by Duncan Matthews)

We  had to find a sturdier alternative …

 

 

 

 

 

Five tips for home-in-the-sun owners hosting house guests

“Have you ever thought about running a little B&B?” It’s a question we’ve been asked several times since we moved to rural Mallorca. Our small finca really isn’t large enough for such an enterprise and, in any event, we have neither the inclination nor the energy to do so. So the answer is always an emphatic “no”.

That’s not to say we don’t have people staying with us for their holidays. These occasions are the closest we’ll ever get to running a bed and breakfast establishment, although our guests are always known to us – friends or family members – and we enjoy them being with us.

Having visitors to stay is a popular summer topic of conversation among expats and I’ve heard some horror stories. One friend told me just last week that she would now accommodate only those to whom she’d given birth; one can only wonder what experience led to that decision …

We’re now in our 13th summer here – every one of which has been peppered with guest stays. I pass on the following tips in the hope they’ll be useful if you too open your home-in-the-sun to house guests:

  • Allow at least a week between one lot of visitors leaving and more arriving. You’ll need to shoehorn any neglected activities – work, domestic duties, social life, exercise etc – into the gap between visits and these things will always take longer than expected.
  • If budget permits, using a local laundry service for bedding and towels will save time and effort (summers are too hot for ironing board marathons).
  • Visitors from cooler and wetter climes are often so thrilled to see that big yellow thing in the sky that caution is cast to the breeze and they end up with a dose of sunburn. Make sure they keep the sunscreen topped up and wear a hat. And nag a bit, if necessary.
  • If your visitors are flying with cabin bags only, they will probably appreciate your offer to buy locally any toiletries they may need during their stay. This saves them luggage space and the effort of finding airline-size-compliant potions and lotions.
  • To save any tug-of-war-over-the-bill moments when eating or drinking out with friends, consider having a kitty to which all parties contribute equally at the start of the stay, and top up as necessary. It’s fairer, helps with budgeting, and does avoid those awkward whose-turn-is-it? moments when the bill arrives.
And here's a kitty of another variety. Pip loves having people come to stay ... more fuss for her!

And here’s a kitty of another variety. Pip loves having people come to stay … more fuss for her!

If you have any tips relating to having house guests, please feel free to share: it’s only another three weeks before we’ll be back in hosting mode …

 

Jan Edwards©June 2016

 

 

The fiesta of fire burns this weekend on Mallorca

The village of Son Macia, near Manacor, has added a topical touch to the design of their Sant Antoni event poster!

The village of Son Macia, near Manacor, has added a topical touch to the design of their Sant Antoni event poster!

Life is never dull on Mallorca. If Christmas, New Year, and Three Kings were not enough celebrations for this time of year, this weekend is the Sant Antoni fiestas. January 16th – the eve of the Saint’s day – is when Mallorcans traditionally light foguerons (bonfires) in the streets and make elaborate effigies of the Devil to set ablaze. Mallorca’s famous dimonis take to the streets with their manic dancing and scary costumes, and people have a jolly good time, cooking food on outdoor torrades (BBQs). And because it can be surprisingly cold at this time of the year (although not this winter, so far), a few libations are usually taken – very often the famous bright green Hierbas de Tunel.

In our local town, Manacor, the Sant Antoni fiestas almost seem more popular than Christmas. For the past couple of weeks, stalls set up in town on Saturdays have been selling this year’s design of Sant Antoni sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats – and all at affordable prices.

The excitement is building. This morning, doing a few chores in town, we had to drive around a pile of earth in the middle of several roads, on which the bonfires for this Saturday night will be built. These piles will be increasing in number over the coming days. And several shops have incorporated Sant Antoni into their window displays.

Local supermarket Hiper prepares for Sant Antoni.

Local supermarket Hiper prepares for Sant Antoni.

Hiper's stocks of wine and BBQ grills ready to tempt us.

Hiper’s stocks of wine and BBQ grills ready to tempt us.

Plenty of Hierbas de Tunel in stock . . .

Plenty of Hierbas de Tunel in stock . . .

If you don’t know (and I confess that I didn’t until we moved to Mallorca), Sant Antoni was an Egyptian monk who, in the desert, was tempted by the Devil – cunningly disguised as a woman. The iron-willed monk didn’t succumb to these womanly wiles, instead walking on hot coals to take his mind off anything else getting too heated!

All this happened a long way from Mallorca, but stay with me. On the island during the 10th and 11th centuries, many folk were affected by a horrible skin disease caused by a poisonous fungus attacking rye crops. No cure was known, but the Mallorcans followed Sant Antoni’s example of using fire to fight the Devil that they believed had caused the disease.

The disease is long gone, but the fires burn on every eve of Sant Antoni, as the backdrop to much partying. And, on the Saint’s day itself, Mallorcans head for the streets again – to take their pets and other animals to be blessed by the local priest.

After the festivities of this weekend, things will quieten down . . . but not for long: Carnival this year falls on the first weekend of February!

 

Life behind bars in Mallorca!

No, The Boss and I are not currently residing at His Majesty’s pleasure in what some people dub ‘the Palma Hilton’. (That nickname for the island’s prison must really annoy Mallorca’s real Hilton hotel, Sa Torre Hilton near Llucmajor). Neither am I pouring foaming pints of beer for British holidaymakers in a lively Magaluf bar. I’m referring to the iron window bars, known in Spanish as rejas.

They’re a common sight at the windows of houses in Spain and something that made an impression on me when I  saw them, quite a long time ago, during my first visit to the country that is now my home. At the time I thought it would be horrible to live with bars at the windows, but I’ve now become so used to these things that I now couldn’t imagine not having them. Presumably many others feel the same as these traditional features are still incorporated into many new properties.

Keeping some out . . . others in

They are first and foremost a security feature, enabling windows to be left open for fresh air, with a degree of protection from anyone who may wish to enter the house without an invitation. They also help prevent unsupervised young children from falling out of a window (or teenagers from doing an unauthorised late-night exit through their bedroom window to meet friends!).

At one time, of course, many houses wouldn’t have had windows fitted with glass (which is still quite expensive on the island), so bars in the window space would have been essential as a security measure. We saw an example of this once when we stayed for a night in a townhouse in Pollensa: our bedroom window in this charming old property had shutters, but no glass! Thankfully it was a warm(ish) night . . .

Another maintenance job for the property owner

The downside of these things is that they do need to be painted from time to time to keep them looking good. And it’s a very fiddly job (and one that’s often bumped down the ‘to do’ list in our house as a result).  The upside – apart from the security benefits – is that property insurance companies may give a discount on premiums if bars are fitted.

For our cats too, there seems to be a feeling of safety sleeping behind the bars. Pip certainly seems to take advantage of a ‘protected’ place to snooze away the daylight hours. Her favourite window – the smallest in the house – is in our small guest suite. She’s actually the only one of our cats that can fit into it. No need for a ‘do not disturb’ sign here . . . unless I’m around with my Nikon.These bars are very good for resting one's feet on . . .

These bars are very good for resting one’s feet on . . .

How about living in rural Mallorca?

We’ve met a lot of interesting people since we moved to rural Mallorca – and some of them also own fincas; it’s always good to talk to others who have a similar lifestyle to our own. One such person is a lovely lady called Kay Newton. Work, life, and the distance between our respective homes on Mallorca has meant that I haven’t seen nearly as much of Kay as I’d like to have done.

We met first at a lunch organised by a women’s networking group known as LACE. I joined this group fairly soon after moving here – not because I needed the advantages of networking with businesswomen, but because the only females living in my immediate vicinity were sheep, and I needed some girl talk! (I have, of course, since got to know the women who live in the valley).

Unfortunately for her many friends (she is a very popular, warm-hearted, and generous person), Kay and her husband are about to leave Mallorca for rather exciting reasons.  Their departure raises the possibility for someone to enjoy a new life – and potential business – in a finca on this beautiful Spanish island.

Here’s Kay to explain . . .

“I’m a personal development coach, author, and mum to two boys aged 18 and 21. Now we have an empty nest. My husband and I are currently undergoing a lifestyle change. After 30 years on Mallorca, and 20 years in the same house, we are about to move to a beach hut in Zanzibar! So our ‘dream life’ here in Spain is up for sale.”

So you are in effect going from an ’empty nest’ to ‘no nest’?

“At the beginning of this year I had no idea we would be having this conversation. This opportunity arose at Easter, and we felt we just couldn’t say no. The kids have left home, we have downsized and de-cluttered, and our lives now fit into two 20-kilo bags.”

What have your boys said?

“My eldest is following his passion in food and is currently a crew chef on board a private superyacht. My youngest is about to start three years at a UK university. The whole family enjoys adventures. It was a bit of a shock at first, yet I think they like the idea now.”

What do you love about Mallorca?

“I love the Mediterranean lifestyle and the weather of course. The Sunday Times recently voted it the world’s first choice as a destination to live. The close proximity to Europe makes it a wonderful holiday destination too. I love the fact that you can still find quiet beaches in August, and in the autumn and spring the mountain walks are spectacular. We have fabulous restaurants, great international schools, a large expat community – and, of course, living here at Can Jaume!”

Tell us about Can Jaume

“Can Jaume is situated in the centre of the island away from the tourist areas. It is in a rural setting yet has easy access to the city of Inca and the island in general. The 11,000sqm plot is all organic and the accommodation split in two. A fully restored farmhouse with four bedrooms, and the old milking shed is now a two-bedroom guest house. I am able to work from home as a personal development coach and Tai Chi instructor, and use the guest house for workshops and retreats when it is not rented out.”

So you are selling your dream?

“Yes, in effect, we are selling the dream lifestyle we lead here, not just a house. We have put together a package for the right person. Someone who wants to act quickly, get away from grey skies, perhaps, and someone who is excited about taking on a project with a proven track record. The package include the house, furniture, website, holiday listings, and coaching to help you through the setting up period. All you really need is to pack a suitcase!”

House for sale Inca

Living the dream at Can Jaume, near Inca, Mallorca. Photo courtesy of Kay.

More information can be found at:

http://www.NewtonProjectManagement.com

http://www.MallorcaLet.com

The Boss and I wish Kay and James every success in their new life. Now, read the press release about the latest book written jointly by Kay and Pat Duckworth, available on Amazon Kindle  . . .

Five Quick Fixes For Empty Nest Syndrome: What every parent needs to know

Now that the excitement around the A-Level results are over, job vacancies being filled and university places being sorted out, it’s time to think about whether you and your young person are ready for the next stage – independent living and the empty nest.

There may be no statistical evidence to prove that empty nest syndrome exists, yet those experiencing it will vouch that it is real, emotional and often overpowering. Today, when we are in pain, we look for a quick fix, a magical pill to cure our ills.

In reality, we know there is no such thing as a quick fix, yet there are simple steps you can put into place immediately. Local writer and therapist, Pat Duckworth, has co-written a short book with coach, Kay Newton to provide parents with strategies to help readers successfully navigate this stage of life.

“Empty Nest is a time of transition for the relationship between you and your child as they develop into an adult. That parent/child relationship may be ending, but a new adult relationship is just beginning,” says Pat

Here are five of their tips:

  1. Is everything prepared? Does your young adult have all the skills they need to live alone?

Have you begun to think what you will do with your spare time? Have you all discussed and agreed ground rules for visits home in the future?

2.  Let go

We learn better by making our own mistakes. Now is not the time for ‘helicopter parenting’, for doing everything for your young adult. Let them go it alone. Let them fall. They will learn to pick themselves up again, just as they did as toddlers.

3.  Talk about money

Money plays an important role at this stage, yet it is often ignored and not talked about. Do you know your financial situation? Have you let them know what financial help you can give, and for how long it will last?

4.  Have a ritual

We celebrate all other stages of our lives, yet often fail to celebrate midlife and the next step in our family dynamics. Plan a celebration that will mean something to you all at this defining point in your lives, helping you all to focus on the future.

5.  Seek professional help

If you still cannot cope with day-to-day tasks two weeks after your nest is empty, seek professional help.

https://quickfixfor.wordpress.com/

 

About the Authors:

Pat Duckworth

Cognitive hypnotherapist, author, speaker, workshop and retreat facilitator.

After a successful career in the Civil Service Pat took early retirement and re-trained as a cognitive hypnotherapist. Pat specialises in helping women find solutions to their menopause symptoms. As a professional and positive role- model Pat inspires 50+ women to make effective changes in their life, without necessarily using treatments that involve side-effects or contraindications.

Pat’s three books and work can be found at: http://www.HotWomenCoolSolutions.com

Kay Newton

Personal Development Coach, author, speaker, workshop, retreat and event facilitator,

Uniting and inspiring midlife women is Kay’s passion. For the past thirty years Kay has lived her dream life in Mallorca Spain. In September 2015 Kay is moving to Zanzibar Tanzania with her husband and a 20 kg suitcase, leaving both nest and adult children behind.

You can find Kay’s work at: http://www.SensiblySelfish.com

 

Another job for our Mallorcan plumber

If you’re going to live on Mallorca, it pays to have a good relationship with a plumber. Over the years we have been here we have spent a lot of money at our local plumbers. During our early time here it seemed that almost every problem we had with the house was water-related.

Cito and his team have come to our rescue many times. He’s had a few good plumbers (and electricians – as his company Ca’n Pedro does both) working for him over that time: Miquel Angel – who once found The Boss prone on the dining room floor with blood pouring from his head after his accident with the low lintel over the front door; Pep – who accidentally put a pickaxe through the cold-water pipe while trying to locate a burst hot-water pipe under our tiled shower room floor, and Rubens (also an electrician), who rescued us when a burst of my KitchenAid blender (I was making soup at the time) caused the whole electricity system to go phut.

Cito seems to be winding down his business a bit – perhaps with an eye to his future retirement – and today it’s Cito himself who’s working at the house, aided by his son-in-law. Yes, another water-related problem at the finca!

Who needs hot water?

Our house has two gas-powered acumuladores (water heater/storage units): one serving our shower room and annexe guest room; the other for the kitchen and our main guest bathroom. Naturally, the latter gets the most use; we had to replace it with a new one quite a few years ago.

The other one has quietly done its job over the years but, a week or two ago, after The Boss had attached a new gas bottle, the thing wouldn’t re-light. As it happens, the lack of hot water isn’t a problem at this time of year. Our water supply comes to the house from our water storage tank in overground pipes and the cold water has been arriving hot in our taps for several weeks, as a result of the summer heat. What should have been hot water in the heater unit was cold. Problem temporarily solved: we’d use the cold tap for hot water, and the hot, for cold!

Gas water heater and storage unit

Our acumulador had lost its looks as well as its functionality!

Cito to the rescue

Cito came out to inspect the water heater, and removed a sorry-looking part. He came back to us later with the news that a replacement part would cost a couple of hundred euros. As that water heater is at least 13 years old – we’ve never replaced it since we bought the place in 2002 – it made more economic sense to buy a new water heater.

Today it’s been fitted in the small cubby hole housing the water unit.  There was a slightly worrying moment when Cito announced that the door wasn’t wide enough to remove the old unit (The Boss had modified the entrance to the room and hand-built a new wooden door and frame a while ago).  For a horrible few minutes we imagined having to undo The Boss’s painstaking work, but Cito somehow found a non-destructive solution, and the job has just been completed.

Now we have hot water from the hot taps again. And, while the summer continues, also from the cold taps . . .

It’s a dog’s life on Mallorca

"All I want is a forever home . . . "

“All I want is a forever home . . . “

If you live in rural Mallorca, as we do, chances are you’ll end up owning a dog. The Boss grew up with dogs and, although he’d never owned one as an adult, I fully expected that we’d soon have a dog after we moved to the island from the UK.

It so nearly happened. During our early time living here, we went out one Sunday morning for a coffee and returned later to find an enormous black dog stretched out in the shade under our bank of solar panels in the back field. And I mean enormous. It looked like a small black horse. But where had it come from?

It had been abandoned. Someone who can’t or doesn’t want to look after an animal any longer takes said dog or cat for a one-way car trip into the country. It’s so cruel, but it happens. Some English neighbours acquired their own little Mallorcan terrier that way.

But we weren’t in a position to adopt this large dog, as we owned two cats we’d brought from England. And this fierce pooch didn’t seem like a potential pussycat pal or pet. When a neighbour strolled down the lane past the field, the creature went ballistic, as though it had been instructed to guard the field.

Seeking refuge

It was a hot day and we were concerned the dog would dehydrate, so we gingerly walked down the field with some water for it. Luckily we also had a few dog biscuits, as we’d taken to supplementing the diet of a dog in the valley that spent its life chained up on a farm and seemed to survive on leftovers from the owners’ meals.

At that early time of living here we had no idea who to call about this, so we started with the local police – who referred us to an animal refuge. Quite a few phone calls later we finally found a refuge that was prepared to take this big boy (yes, his gender became obvious when he stood up). The refuge van eventually turned up, we gave the man from the refuge a cash donation (feeling a tad guilty that we weren’t able to keep the animal), and the large black dog hopped into the back of the van to begin the next chapter of his life story. Heartbreaking.

Dogs For U

I remembered this occasion recently when I visited Dogs For U – a charity based in the countryside near the Mallorcan town of Inca, and founded by a caring and hardworking German woman called Cornelia Kudszus. Cornelia and her small band of volunteers rescue German Shepherds and other large hard-to-home breeds and look after them until they can rehome them.

I visited Dogs For U last month in connection with an article I’d been invited to write for an off-island magazine. I’ll post the weblink here when it’s published.

In the meantime, if you live on Mallorca – or are moving to the island – and you’d like a dog to share your life, please consider visiting Dogs For U to see if they have a dog that would suit you. Or, if you have spare time and live in the area, perhaps give them a little of your time as a volunteer helper. They always welcome people who are happy to walk dogs, or able to foster a dog for a short period to help ease the workload at the refuge.

There were 18 beautiful dogs there on the day I visited and I’d love to have brought a few home with me, but I don’t think our colony of finca cats would have approved . . .

If you don’t live on the island but love dogs and would like to help Dogs For U financially – feeding and vet’s bills are just some of the ongoing costs – please consider donating just one euro a month (less than the cost of a cup of coffee) to the charity through their microfunding teaming.net page https://www.teaming.net/dogsforumallorca

 

 

 

 

 

Cats keeping cool in Mallorca’s heatwave

It’s 37 degrees Celsius in the shade on the terrace of our finca in rural Mallorca. During the current heatwave (back-to-back with the previous one) our ‘family’ of adopted cats is taking life very easy. They appear each morning for their breakfast, but eat less than usual, then disappear for the day to hide from the sun, until hunger – or habit – draws them back for dinner.

At this time of the year they tend to seek shelter closer to the house, so that their various sources of water for drinking aren’t too far away. Occasionally we spot them in their hiding places. Dusty likes to sit under the turntable (which hasn’t turned for years) that supports our solar panels. It’s a spot that gets no sun at all, and he’s made it his own. Beamer heads for the dependencia, snoozing next to the stock of winter logs. When it’s hot like it is now, it seems unbelievable that we need log fires in the winters . . .

Cooling his ‘bits’

Our newest cat – little Pip – favours the corner of our dining terrace, settling in a sun-free spot near a large pot plant. And one of her best friends – Nibbles – often joins her. Nibbles (who does occasionally live up to his name) has an amusing habit: in the evenings, when we dine on the terrace, he sits nearby on the wall, with his legs dangling down on either side of the wall. We assume this is to cool as much of his lower body as possible.

Cats sleeping

Pip (left) and Nibbles have found a cool spot on the terrace.

Cat lying on a wall

Nibbles chilling out on the wall.

All the cats are enjoying the new solar-powered water feature I bought earlier this year. It has become yet another source of water for them. This one has an additional benefit: the fountain seems to give off a fine mist when it’s in operation and when any of the cats comes over to greet us in the evenings, they usually have a light dampness to their fur. They’re clearly enjoying this way of cooling themselves.

Cats need water.

Nibbles drinks from the fountain.

And us? We’re spending the heat of the day indoors, with our Birman Minstral, enjoying the benefits of airconditioning. Come the (slightly) cooler evenings, we’re outside – topping up the water in the places where the cats like to drink . . .