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Rain, Goats and Gardens

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Like everything in our lives nothing is separate. One thing is connected to another in some way take yesterday for instance.  Wednesday is one of my physio days plus it’s also market day.  So just after 8am we were going along the river road when my wife cries stop Goats!!!!  there in the road were three small goats who had just been for a drink.  Although time was pressing we watched whilst they clambered up the steep bank into the cover of scrub and pine trees.  Once again we were given an insight into our neighbours.  However, my wife was not so thrilled this morning when I showed her what the ‘little dears’ had done to her saffron bed, obviously hungry they had nibbled the shoots as they were appearing and dug the bulbs up they could reach.  So once the ones that are left have flowered they are being moved to the back of the house amongst the daffs and planted deeply.

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Friday IT RAINED!! not hard flash rain, but long soak it in rain, the stuff we need so badly. This is the misty photo the trees as the rain subsided.  It started  Thursday evening and was still going most of Friday all the plant pots were put outside even threatened to put the boys out for a bath. Anyway, my wife had to go to the Doctors for her BP tabs & I wanted to go to the engineers, so there we were going along the river road when suddenly a small herd of goats were crossing the road from the river – never a camera around – they were so quick, but at least we know they were not the Ibex we see on the masa these were small with curved horns not the straight.  So we now have an idea of who’s been digging in the garden….and yes one of the cameras is pointed at the bulb beds.

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The result of the rain is that the Lilly bulbs are starting to shoot.  Now it may be early in other parts of the world but these lilies shoot and carry on growing through the winter before blooming in early spring.

Agricultural Fair or ‘What Day Is It?’

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What else did you expect from an agricol fira? fun, wine and food? hehe they come later. But seriously folks, every year we go there simply because we like it.  Now normally it occurs on the last weekend in October, this year however it falls next weekend on our birthdays.  Our weekend will be a round of dinners, the fira and petanca with good friends, which night I don’t know we are still sorting that out. Anyway, when we were there on Friday we saw the stalls being erected, bars set up but no sign of the rides so we were a bit perplexed had we got the dates wrong?? Well not wanting to miss the fira we decided to wander down only to find that what we saw was actually what was happening they were setting things up for NEXT weekend – drrrr are we getting old????

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We always make for the horses first then wander round watching the people enjoying themselves.  My wife visits the Church tombola and buys tickets the proceeds of which goes towards helping others.  Then we go to look at the machinery, wines and any other displays on that side of the fair.  Our last stop is the café where we enjoy a glass or two plus some jamon and or cheese.  Another wander around then we head for home.  As most of the rides and stuff are the same these pictures give you an idea.  The last picture is to me a gently reminder that Christmas is not far away.

And So To Books and Radio Devon:

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I was listening on-line to radio 5 live the other day – cricket of course – after which I decided to wander around the radio stations and came across Radio Devon. Now as those of you who have read A Plymouth Story know I have a love of all things naval, and Devon is so full of naval history, pirates and the likes that I have a fondness for that part of the world.  On one of our visits to our daughter in Torquay we went one wet grey day to Dartmouth.  Crossed the Dart on a ferry and wandered round a town that looked like it was still in the 1700/1800’s, quaint but very picturesque, which is why I could see James Blackstock walking down streets like this in Plymouth.  So now we are linked into Radio Devon with good music, chat and a general community feeling, for those of you who are interested and like on-line radio give it a try.

(c) M.D. Bosc  – Author

 

 

 

 

 

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 It is strange how things change in life. One minuet I am being eyed up by Farmer John for the cooking pot the next I have an agent and a life in films seems on the cards. Then I get a publicist and coach then BANG! I find Farmer John has been nattering to his pals about me wanting to be in a Bond film only to find out that one of them is a ‘Government Man’. Next thing I know I am taken to a ‘Special Unit’ place where I have been training and working ever since, boy am I pooped.

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Mind you I life is not too bad. I mean every secret agent has girls, and as you can see I have two. The next thing I know Farmer John is my ‘contact’ and passes messages between Duck E (the boss of the agency) and myself.  However, there was one condition I had to marry the girls. MARRY THE GIRLS!!!!! why? James Bond didn’t marry… oops yes he did. So I got married and it was after that I actually met  Duck E. nice bloke really, bit quackers but nice. Mind you I am not sure things are strictly above board, one of my girls called Duck E daddy, well I think she did, she said no, but I could have sworn…..

There are some very strange goings on out there in the spy world. Last week I was hooked up with this flighty piece, couldn’t speak a word of Peasant, but she was plump in all the right places, really tasty if you know what I mean. Now it seems some Frenchies were smuggling pheasants across the channel and she was the inside bird.

These illegals were causing havoc with the shooting set, they were teaching the other pheasants to duck and dive when they flew, not supposed to do that. So off we went on a train thingy under the water to France where we were turned loose and told to ‘sort ‘em out’. We spent a few days posing as illegal pheasants trying to get into Britain saying we had plenty of corn and were finally contacted by a greasy looking turkey called Mon sure Gobbledygook. He said that to get us into Britain it would cost us a sack of corn, we tried to haggle but it was either a sack or no trip. So we paid the sack of corn and the next we knew we were inside a big lorry which was then packed off to a place called Dover. When we arrived and were far enough from the port not to be seen by the police, the lorry stopped and the back was opened so we were able to get out. As soon as I could I called Duck E, said we had the case cracked. When the assignment was over I took my partner to meet Farmer John he did not like her, said all she was fit for was the cooking pot, never saw her after that.

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Anyway, I had plenty of things to keep me busy for a while. Then one morning I was having breakfast when my old friend Bruce Gull of the flying services came to see me. It seems someone was trying to put the R.S.F.S. out of service.  He was not sure if it was Puffin Billy or Petrel Head but someone had infiltrated the base and tried to steal some equipment. It had him really worried if either of those two got their hands on the spares they could be dive bombing people all round the coast, and he already had enough trouble with Chip Butty and the Gull Gang.  Well what could I do? Bruce had been helpful to me before so I went to see Farmer John – he knows about these things – and asked his advice. But he just wanted to shoot them but I did not want any bodies around, to messy.

I kept on at him after all his wages – 1 bottle of Famous Grouse and some fish eggs a week – very strange wages I thought, he would have been better off with corn like me. Anyway, we hatched a plot. The H.Q. of the R.S.F.S. is at Tangmere so Farmer John and I decided to keep watch and when the robbers turned up we would nab them. Not wanting to give the game away, he would be on his tractor and plough the field in the middle of the old runways whilst I went to the hanger where the stores were, find a large box and hide myself behind it.

So one afternoon after we had a tip from Bob Ferret, we put the plan into action. Farmer John got his tractor going and I slipped into the hanger and hid. I had not been in there long before I heard a noise and peeking round the corner of the box, I saw the hangar door open and a puffin waddle in followed by two hard looking rats riding in a small cart pulled by a scrawny looking fox. They headed towards the far side of the hanger where the kestrel bombs were stored and started to load their cart.

Now we had agreed that Farmer John would wait for my signal then drive his tractor up and catch the baddies in the act. I had to sound a horn by jumping on it. I had managed to sneak past the baddies and get outside then I jumped up and down on the horn. I forgot the first rule of 001’ship ‘keep your eye on the enemy’. I was so busy watching Farmer John heading my way with his tractor that I was taken by surprise when the hanger door opened and out dashed the fox cart with the puffin and rats onboard I had to jump out of the way, a near miss and no mistake.

Well, I have never seen Farmer John drive so fast, with a great shout of ‘Tally Ho’ he was off after those rouges and the last I saw of him was a cloud of dust as he disappeared out of the airfield in full pursuit of the villains. When he returned a little later with the bombs and the cart – he’s given that to me for my personal transport – he looked flushed and happy. He took the bombs back into the hanger and I stayed on guard until Bruce Gull came back.

Later that afternoon Farmer John returned to collect me, he had to lift me on to the tractor as Bruce and I had been celebrating our successful foiling of Puffin Billy’s raid. So it was late on that summers evening when we headed home, me dreaming of the events and Farmer John softly singing to himself. But I am not sure his helping me was a good thing, you see he went off one morning and we have not seen him since. I think he has got a little taste for my line of work and Mrs Farmer John is very worried, but I will look after her, well as long as she feeds me……

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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“The two tractors pulled up side by side, two elderly farmers discussing the harvest, and the effect of the weather on the grapes.  Their trailers, one full, one empty, who’s grapes were already being crushed and filtered finished their conversation and departed on their John Deer tractors.  Now is the important time of year, grapes picked by hand under a relentless sun, the pickers sweat flowing into the dry soil, this is harvest Catalan style, this is what makes such excellent wine.”

We arrived at El Masroig Celler to be greeted by Eulalia, a cheerful young lady who is in charge of the marketing for the Celler and a daughter of one of the growers. She told us she had been helping her father with the harvest on her day off, something she has been doing for a long time.

We started our tour with a visit to farmer Josep Tost and his son Marc who were busy picking Syrah grapes in the traditional method – by hand.  When we arrived the sun was beating down, but these cheery hardworking farmers along side their pickers were working away.  Their grapes were also suffering from the lack of water, it has not rained since the middle of July, normally we have a few storms in late August early September  but this year nothing.  But the grapes were sweet and yes the wine will be of good but short on moisture. The people here are very aware of their heritage and traditions and the land dictates that these will survive.

 

When we returned to the Celler we were introduced to the Wine Maker Carles, who was a mine of information on both the wine and history of the Co-operativa.

Masroig is in some ways a microcosm of Spain, during the Civil War there were two Co-operativa’s, some were supporters of the Republicans others of the Nationalists.  Nothing is ever clear-cut always a mixture, then the two Co-operativa’s joined together, a small village re-uniting, coming together again. They decided to use one of the Cellers for production and the other for storing the barrels whilst the wine was maturing and ageing. Working together they have invested and grown, no grand Cathedral of Wine here, but every few years, as they have grown so they have built another section.

This year 2011 they will open the latest, a large bulk storage and bottling plant. It is a new modern building which looks rather strange beside the original ones, but inside there are concrete vats beneath the ground, traditional techniques are still being used. As well as modern stainless steel vats, are French Oak Barrels,   seeing the creamy coloured barrels in this setting looks somehow comforting even though they are brand new.

So it is the 14th of September, 11.00am and we are now going to take you on a journey as we see exactly how the grapes are processed.

We started the tour where the tractors bring in the grapes. First they drive their trailers to a small platform. Here a young man took a long metal pole with a juice sampler on the end, and plunged it into the grapes.  He turned it then took it out, then plunged it in again, this was done several times. He then took the liquid to a table where it was analysed, showing the sugar content and likely alcohol level.

Next the tractor and trailer are driven onto the ‘weigh bridge’ where the weight is noted, the farmer has to stay on the tractor whilst this is done, he then drives the trailer to one of the hoppers.  There are three of these: one for the Carbonic Maceration process, the other two are for the traditional method where the stalks are separated and taken for fertilizer.

There were two trailers waiting to unload their grapes. One was at the hopper on its way to the traditional processing the other was at the hopper for Carbonic Maceration, so I will start there.

First Carbonic Maceration:

At the hopper the grapes, complete with stalks, are emptied onto a conveyor belt which takes them to the large rocker tanks. When these are half full they are sealed and CO2 is pumped in removing all the oxygen.


These vats lie on their side with a motorised chain attached which rocks them back and forth while the alcohol ferments inside the grapes.  When they start to burst the vats are emptied into a conveyor which carries grapes and juice to the press.  Here the skins are removed, and the juice pumped into the underground concrete vats to mature, whilst the skins are conveyed to a large container which once full is loaded onto a lorry and sent for recycling into alcohol.


The traditional method:

Here the hopper was full of the Grenache grape with another trailer waiting to unload.  The hopper is started and two screws push the grapes into the crushing chamber where the stalks and grapes part company.  From here the Wine Maker sends the grapes down long plastic tubes to either the large cooled vats for fermentation, or to the open top vats.

Open top method:

This is something new to the Celler, but it is also a traditional way of fermentation, those familiar with the Australian way of wine making will recognise it.  The grapes once crushed, are placed in an open topped vat which is kept cold by a water jacket and left to ferment. The skins float to the top and forms a ‘crust or lid’ which keeps out bacteria preventing them from going off.  Every so often they are sprayed so that the grapes on top are dampened down preventing bacteria from breaking through. This process takes around 10 days, then the juice is transferred to barrels for maturing and ageing.

The main grape here is the Carignan then comes Grenache and Syrah with small amounts of others. The fields we visited were growing Syrah.

The red wine is aged for between 12 to 15 months depending on the type of wine being made. The white wine made from the Grenache grape is matured in French Oak barrels for around 6 months.  Personally I prefer what we refer to as Vino Tinto which is a red wine slightly lighter than a Negre which has a deeper colour and more body. I have two favourites from the Celler:

Tinto Joven: This is a pleasant young red, smooth with a cherry colour with a hint of soft fruits. It is made from carignan, grenache and tempranillo grapes, and the process used is 80% traditional fermentation and 20% carbonic maceration.

Tinto de Crianza: This wine has a deeper colour, and I find this a full flavoured wine to drink, with for me, a smoothness that I am sure comes from maturing in oak barrels.  It is made from carignan and red grenache grapes, and the process used is 100% traditional.

My wife likes the white wine made from the grenache grape which spends 6months maturing in the barrels.

There are a lot more wines from this Celler as I mentioned in my last article ‘An Age of Wine’, if, like me, you would like to try some, and I  can recommend their Cava, you can contact Eulalia on celler@cellermasroig.com you will not be disappointed.

I would like to say thank you Eulalia, Carles and the staff of El Masroig for taking the time to show how their wine is made and to Josep for letting us interrupt his harvest.  I hope you have enjoyed the tour as much as we did, and gained a small insight into the fascinating world of wine making.

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