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Archive for January, 2011

Flash? Harry

Flash? Harry.

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When you think of a forest  you picture tall trees, sun dappled glades, leafy paths, bramble patches, carpets of bluebells, swaths of primroses dotted with wood anemones. Flat tracks wending their way through the forest, perhaps a house here and there nestling in the arms of the trees, birds, deer, rabbits, foxes, badgers and other wild animals.

What you do not think of is war. Death, fighting, guns with bullets flying around, men fighting and dying on the terraces amongst the trees. A bloody time in Spanish history, when men fought their own people, even their own families, fighting for freedom and their rights – Civil War. This is the story of such a forest the one I live in and love.

The Bombed Church at Garcia

From 1936 to 1938  the Spanish Civil War  centered around this area, the river, train line, and mountains.  The village of Garcia was bombed by the Germans who used the civil war to practice their skills for when they took on England and the rest of Europe.  There the church was badly damaged, it has been left untouched, a memorial, and a new one was built in the village.

The rail bridge that crossed the Ebro was also bombed and destroyed  in an attempt to cut off supplies to the Republicans. It was later re-built in its present form providing a service to Barcelona one way and Llieda the other. Although passenger trains still run it is mostly freight that uses it now.

Memorial at Mora de Ebre

Every year the town of  Mora de Ebro re-enacts the crossing of the river and street fighting between the Republicans and Franco’s troops.  The town has erected a steel boat in commemoration of the event and planted a shrub at each corner.  On Catalan Day, the various organisations the Petanca Club included, lay flowers there.

The Republicans fought Franco and forced him back as far as Corbera de Ebro. The Russians, who had been supplying the Republicans with arms, stopped the supply, and the last battle in this area was fought at Corbera de Ebro. The village being raised, has been left as it was, their memorial to those who died both soldiers and civilians. A new village has grown up around the ruins and a thriving wine industry has developed. Amongst the fighting men of the International Brigade was George Orwell whilst Ernest Hemingway wrote for the North America papers, keeping people informed of the struggle

Since we have lived here I have dug up bullets and machine gun ammunition, some of it still live. We took a batch to the  History museum at Gandessa, here they have a pictorial history of the war as well as artifacts. Here we found out the just what the fighting had meant and saw a photograph of the railway bridge at Garcia destroyed by the Germans.

At peace

But that was then.  Today the forest is a place of quiet, with a sense of peace and safety. The only disturbance is the odd vehicle or bicycle going up or down the valley.  The track that wanders towards our farm, twists and turns its way through it, crossing the baranca then upwards and onwards. It is rough and stony, kept as natural as possible allowing nature to repair and heal its scars.

Parts are in dappled shade others in full sunlight, tall pine trees line the way whilst the natural oak trees, more like bushes than trees, dotted here and there, fight for their place in the ecological way of things. Today that is the only type of battle here, takeing a walk along the track reveals birds and flowers of  various types, some already known others new and interesting.

           

At this time of year the forest comes alive. Grape hyacinths, minature daff0dils, asters, poppies and much more flora than I can name. These are followed by wild Jasmin and Honeysuckle their perfume filling the evening air. The one flower we look forward to seeing is the little Orchid that grows under one of the olive trees. It’s small but perfect blooms are the highlight of the season, small purple slippers on green stems.

On a logging trip

I forage for fallen trees to stock up the winter log pile, noting where the squirrel drays and the misletoe balls are.  There are all sorts of shrubs and trees to be seen if you look between the pines. We have the odd Carib tree, Witch Hazel its stems corkscrewing skywards. There is one bush which spreads and covers a wide area, green with a reddish tinge in winter, which in spring is covered with red berries a birds delight.

To one side of the house is a terraced hill from where the views are spectacular, the local hunters  hunt there during the season on Sunday mornings.  Sometimes they shoot a wild boar but more often than not they leave as they arrived empty-handed.

A Squirrels Dray

The squirrels here are dark red almost black in colour. Thin furry sticks of mischief with pointed ears and a thick bushy tail, they dart along the branches of the firs playing games of run and jump.  It is later in the year we notice them more, when they are hunting for their winter stores. There is a Dray near the small house which is refurbished from time to time.

I have tried not to disturb my surroundings in the years I have been here.  Because I do not use chemicals on the land, the birds and insects have gradually returned to their habitat.   The olive trees, some hundreds of years old are doing well and with selective pruning, provide enough oil for the year.

Considering what has happened here over the years we feel safe. It is as if the forest envelops us in a healing of souls, just us and nature. This then is my forest valley, my home.

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An Open Letter To Mr Clegg

An Open Letter To Mr Clegg.

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Surveying my domain

It is that time of year again, and yesterday when I was scanning the mesa I saw a billy goat with two nanny goats standing on the rocks looking out over the valley. Whilst the females fed and wandered along the cliff edge the billy stayed on guard looking out over the valley.  At this time of year they begin to gather their herds together and get ready for the rutting. They range over these hills and mountains sometimes venturing down into our valley, this is when we begin to see more of them.  The horns on this one are not as grand as I have seen so I think he must be a young goat, just starting out.  I have been told by the Forestalls that there are three different types of goat on the mesa, we usually see the Ibex.

Mountains and Valley's

 

At this time of the year they also venture down into the valley in search of food. In England you might find deer antlers in the parks and forests where they roam. Here, if you are very lucky, you will find goat horns. We found one on the track last year, so I took it home, cleaned it up and it is now on the end of my walking staff, just like Moses.

At night we hear noises in the forest, may be some wild boar rooting around  or perhaps a marauding goat or two, but because they are so shy we do not see them.  However the summer is coming and we have been told it will be a dry one, the last dry one brought lots of animals down looking for water so perhaps we will have another magical evening. 

In the meantime I am taking care with my apple trees as last year the goats were eating the apples whilst they were on the trees. The trees by the way are young and about 5ft high, but as we have seen, goats can not only climb but stand on their hind legs.

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Any One Got A Fag?

Any One Got A Fag?.

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I'm In Charge - Bobbin Robin

I have been living here for some while, well, perhaps a year or two, but the one thing everyone knows, including the humans, is I am in charge here.  I might not sing as well as Mr `Last Word’ Blackbird Boris, but I rule!  My name is Bobbin Robin by the by.

I'm Boris

This is Boris. As usual he is playing hide go seek, what he does not realise is he’s not very good at it.  Sometimes I have  trouble with Boris. You see his job is to wake everyone up at first light, no problems there,  singing his head off letting us know it’s daylight. The Humans think he is wonderful, its his night-time song, he insists on having the last tweet.  But even I have to admit that his singing as he calls everyone to bed is soothing.

However, once he is awake he sometimes squabbles with the other Blackbirds in the area round the ‘big house’.  So I have to remind him who is boss here, I might be small but I can hold my own. A few short shouts and a peck or two and peace is restored.

My Names McGrew

My assistant is a Crested Tit called McGrew, Dangerous Dan we call him.  He’s not really dangerous, but with that hairdo well, he has something to live up to, I mean with a quiff like that you wouldn’t call him ‘Big Mave’ would you.  Anyway he’s my number one, because he stood up to me one day but cried like a hen when I pecked him. 

But I like McGrew, he’s ok, he won’t tell when I go raiding or sort out the others, in fact he defends me. Well sort of,  actually he keeps me informed on where the best food is, I mean, you only have to look at him to know he’s got it sussed. 

In His `Crafty' Tree Seat

We have found some fun here lately. The humans have been trying to take a picture of me and Boris,  but we know when they are up and about so we dive from one place to another it really upsets her, she’s the first one out with the camera, he’s more sneaky though, sits in his tree chair pretending he’s not interested then click he’s got us. 

Mind you we may have over done it.  He was digging in the ground planting things, which was great for us all as we could get at the grubs and other insects; but he stopped yesterday, so I think we should let him get his picture then he might just do some more digging.

So I had a few words with the others and the results are these:

Who's A Pretty Boy Then?

Can I Go Now?

                                                                

Things I Do For That Robin

                                                                             
                                                                                
 
 
 
 

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The macer and forest

Writing is a consuming occupation. I have been so tied up in other events that I almost lost sight of where I live, and why I live here. We chose this place, our little bit of heaven, from one photograph on a sales blurb.  What makes you choose where you live? well apart from the reason you are looking to move it’s the feel of the house when you walk in the door; it will either say welcome home or I’m not for you.  Very seldom is it the surroundings, but in our case that was exactly what grabbed us.  

We looked at the photograph of a small Spanish house with a cisterna at its side and a large olive tree to the right and fell in love.  We came here knowing that we would have to be very green and inventive in our life style. The family thought we were mad but I am not sure they still think it now.  We have everything everyone else has electricity via solar and batteries, with generator backup for the winter months and to run the washing machine.  Hot water system, cooking and fridge/freezer are run by bottled gas, whilst the fire is fueled by wood.  We are not allowed to cut trees down without permission but being in the valley the wind can sometimes be very strong and trees are often blown down so there is never a shortage.

 Our main problem is water. We do not have a well and the cost of drilling one would be prohibitive, so we have stayed with the cisterna plus a header tank which provides the pressure for showers and washing machine. As I said before we have decided to add a few more tanks so that if the family come to visit there is plenty of water. The one thing we have learnt is how to conserve it, such as the washing is done once a week not every day. We shower quickly not take ages in there, the washing up is the only exception, all in all we have it sussed.

So how do we cope in the winter? quite well actually. The strange thing is last year it snowed and we were very warm and cosy. This year it has been so cold, that we have had to have the portable gas fire on in the bathroom during the evening and bedroom during the day as well as the fire going.  It is unusual in the fact that neither the house nor outside temperature have warmed up, so we have been cutting extra wood, it is surprising how many fallen trees you can find when you look.  Who said can’t see the trees for the wood? it can be very true.

I am pleased to think that when I get cross with the things I see happening in the world I can step outside and get a better prospective on life, its a true place of sanctuary.

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Capitalism OR Corruption?

Capitalism OR Corruption?.

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Your Independent Financial Medical Consultant

Your Independent Financial Medical Consultant.

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new horizons

new horizons.

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