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Part of our garden, rocks, shrubs, herbs and olive trees not to mention the pines – some of which grow mistletoe or have squirrels drays in them.  It is in this environment that my wife insisted she had a garden of sorts. Lack of water decreed that it should be mostly bulbs and drought loving plants so here’s how we go along.

Lots of weeds, an angle of the forest  and a couple of sculptures..

As most of you who follow me know we live on a small olive in the middle of a forest with wild boar, wild goats and other animals. This is not a great problem for me but for my wife and her small flower beds it’s a bit like painting the Fourth Bridge you get to one end and have to start again at the other.

The garden is only one part of life up here the olive trees and the odd almond tree not only keep me busy but tending the olive trees is a full-time job.  I have plenty scattered through my bit of forest but around 30 on fairly flat terraced land which I can easily reach and look after.  Being in my 70’s plus not having agricultural water I have no intention of farming on a grand scale – it does not pay – but I look after enough trees to produce our own olive oil for the table for about 6/8 months of the coming year.  So I thought I’d talk about them properly from our perspective no quoting statistics or things like that, just observations on my own trees plus a bit of history. Thus forgetting about the commercial growing of olives this is how we grow and make our own Olive Oil.

On my little tractor to collect wood

The trees on the finca are very old, some are around 1,000 years old with bases that have, over the years and with encouraging new growth, been in the ground for centuries. It is well documented that the romans grew olives in this part of the country the fact that terraces were built along the side of the now long departed river that once used to sprout from the side of the masa and run down to the river Ebro. It also shows the ingenuity of their engineers and that they had slave labour as the terrace walls are not only still standing centuries later  but are deep and well-built.  Every now and then the boar will disturb one trying to reach grubs and the result is a collapse that offers an insight into history.

It was the same with the trees. Olive trees are an interesting subject, before we owned the farm I did not realise that they flowered. Every year the trees turn from a deep green to a creamy green as the flowers open.  There is no perfume but the bees are very busy, as the flowers die off you begin to see the olives forming.

Before trimming and Sam’s garden built round it this tree in all its glory

Today they have machines which can grasp the trunk of the tree and shake it collecting the olives in a large bag which then passes them into a truck a bit like you see the combine harvester doing.  Our trees however are to wide and solid for this plus the terraces are only big enough for a man and donkey.  The other point is years ago to get more olives from each tree and make picking easier they would do several things. First they would split the trunk into three so eventually they ended up with three trees instead of one.  Secondly they kept the middle of the tree open so light could get in there.  Thirdly the trees were kept to a certain height for ease of picking.  As time went on people let the trees grow a bit taller and made A-shaped ladders to reach the olives on the upright branches.

 

You can see here how large and tall they can grow if not farmed.  When we arrived here this tree was like a huge Oak tall with growth around the base so much so that we didn’t realise there were actually three trunks.  So I set to and lopped them halfway up then let the branches sprout leaving a few branches to produce olives.  I have to say that it still needs to be pruned again climbing a ladder to cut the branches so we can get at the olives is a risky business at our ages.

But olive trees are a hardy bunch, they have to be up here.  They put down long roots to find water  80 mts down is an underground river and I know that some trees put roots down a lot further than that.  So they have over the centuries found the water,  but they also have to fight the bugs that live in the ground some of which attack a tree from the middle eating it away they then turn into large black beetles which lays eggs in the ground near a tree and so it goes.  The result is that the olive tree will repair itself even when the centre is hollow and this can be a little daunting when hit by lightning, however  the roots may be burnt but the tree still goes on.

And this is just the start, so here

the introduction.

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc  –  Author

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Remember me? I’m still here – just!!!

Its been a long time since I wrote and this picture just about sums things up.  For a start I shall be pleased when this year is over we do not need another one like it.  Around three months ago we were broken into and robbed, that was bad enough but the wanton damage they did was evil.  So we have spent the past months securing the house and making as sure as we can that its safe.  The Cameras that we used for wildlife are now employed in other parts and a security system linked to somewhere safe is installed (cost a lot but peace of mind at our ages is important).  So the scumbags who did this actually did us a favour.  14 years we have been hidden away up here and nothing like this has ever happened, if we were going away we told certain people and the hunters kept an eye on here.  So here I am with the security people who fitted doors to the house and little house (here when the civil war went past) plus windows and other stuff.  At our ages it humans we are afraid of not the animals whom we share this forest with.

We have also taken the opportunity to repair and re-new the ffz, which is nearly finished.  Having this to do has made us more determined to stay put, but I had to draw the line at my wifes suggestion of putting ABIM’s (anti bastard individual mines) down… but the machine gun nests are ok.

 

My writing

In between all this I have been busy catching up on my writing.

                      

These are three of the books under my pen name Jason D’ebre written for young people and those who love adventure, history sand ghost stories.  They are on Kindle in both e-book and paperback, and can also be found on Kobo and iTunes plus other sites.  The adult books are also on iTunes and Amazon.    If you want a book then Create a Space is there.

And others

The wild boar are still here this is their watering hole and as you can see they make good use of it.  These are the last pictures we took with that camera it was stolen because they thought it had them on it.

The Boys are fine we have them in the little casa whilst we are busy safely tucked away from nasties and they can see out and shout at the other birds. Once the ffz is finished they can come back over and fly around.

Well without getting angry and ranting that’s about all I can say.   Age changes you a little and sometimes brings the hooligan in you to the fore which is no bad thing me thinks.  Now I’m back I shall be here more often so see you all soon.

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc/Jason D’ebre   author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My New Book 

This is my new book Drifting. It’s a cowboy short story which ventures into the unknown. Often things come to me when I am researching or reading other things this was such a time. It is not my normal style or subject, plus ghost stories are quite difficult to write and this was no exception.  As usual you start with an idea then build on it only now you have to remember the ghost, how it came to be and in some cases not reveal this until later in the book, whilst all the time including it in there.  Write and re-write came into this, as I would sometimes forget this rule, but I got there in the end and it has had some good responses – albeit the cover I first put out was the wrong one. As usual it’s on Kindle and Create Space as well as Books2Read.

The Wallow Hole

 

Remember these jokers? They who dug up my bulbs and ate all my saffron bulbs in the process. Well they have decided to make a wallow hole on the lower terrace.  Finding a good place for the camera was a little difficult as the tree has been pruned and the good branches for positioning the cameras have gone.  So I called Spurs into action but the position of the dish was wrong however the pump is just right and providing they don’t come poking around the photos are not bad.

After a windy night I have had to find another position for the camera but at least I have these shots of the little so and so’s. First is the wallow hole in daylight to give you an idea of its position. They have made this originally it was a small – very small – little trench which provided run-off water for two fig trees. We should have known better as the boar decided to use they as rubbing sticks and eventually killed them off.  Then this appeared.

 

So to the pictures of  the little gits having a bath and generally enjoying themselves.

 

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc – Author

 

 

 

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There are some things that you come across something surprising and creative.  Well that’s what happened last year when we went for coffee and a drive along the coast.

We had stopped off at the little restaurant we like for coffee, and sat watching the rain falling and being blown around by the wind.  It was nice to be in the warm, so we ordered cheesecake and relaxed whilst keeping an eye on the weather.  By the time we had finished the rain had stopped so we decided to take a walk along the beach – to walk off the cheesecake…. On our way back to the car we passed these sand sculptures and could not resist taking a look.

Well this year they had some more on display these were a mix of sheep and ‘modern’ sculptures which to me looked more machine than animal or human.

But the effect was the same the little area was full of people looking and taking photographs.  So when we went for a drive and passed the sculptures we just had to stop and take a look.  It took some time to find a parking spot but finally we found a place further along the beach parked and walked back to take a look.  By this time it was getting dusk so the flood lights were on and people were almost queuing to get a look. So here are the sculptures:

These are a find we now look for something to brighten a dull, windy day in winter.  Hope you have a good 2018 of course you could try this yourselves.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc  – Author

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Our Home Made Olive Oil

The How and The Why of It

So about the oil why do we do it?. Well  up here our trees are so old that the olives are ready before the commercial presses are.  We were getting a little depressed seeing all the olives on the floor that two years ago we decided to make our own.   But being pensioners we did not have any spare cash and the machines that we would need were very very expensive.  So being an engineer I had a good think, ran some ideas by my wife and the result was what follows:-

     

 

First thing was the crusher (or Wesley as my wife named it):  We had an old cement mixer that was just lying around which my wife was going to convert into a flower container, but we decided that with a bit of tweaking it could be converted into the crusher by removing the beaters inside and filling the holes to make it leak proof.   A day later and job done, now I needed some large stones these were easy to find cleaned up and along with some old petanca balls I had the perfect crushing machine.

 

        

Second Item was the press:  Now this was a little more difficult as we don’t have a donkey or two very large stones so we opted for a small grape press cheapest we could find and we were all set.

 

  

​Filtering Department:  ​This is done on the kitchen counter and works well.   We save empty water bottles and large containers  plus Pepsi bottles and small olive oil ones, once cleaned they stand ready to be filled. Then we place the funnels with the filter paper in the bottle neck and scoop oil into the first one. Once this is full we repeat the process into the final bottle and the result is clear virgin olive oil.  The large container you can see is a 6ltr water container which the top has been cut off. This goes under the press to catch the oil and is then brought into the kitchen to have the oil skimmed off and filtered.

How we do it: 

​After picking the olives we empty the buckets into the crusher turn on the small generator and away it goes.  We wait until the olives are pulped into a ‘mash’ then I empty them into a bowl a bit at a time and take them to the press.

Here I line the press with an old pillowcase or other clean material making a hole in the bottom so that it will fit over the screw.  Once this is in place I put a layer of pulped olives in then cover this layer with some very fine netting and so on until all the olive pulp is in the press. I then add any oil that was in Wesley crusher fold down the pillowcase over the top layer then place the  wooden top of the press then come the blocks and finally the heavy metal screw.  By now gravity is working and the oil is flowing and I haven’t even turned the screw yet.

  

Once the flow stops I start turning the screw and pressing for real.   When the container is half full it is taken to the filtering department (wifes job). Here two bottles at a time are filled with the un filtered oil by placing a funnel lined with good quality kitchen paper as the filter.  Next the oil is scooped off the top of the ‘sludge’ and poured into the filters where it drips through as clear golden olive oil.

The ‘sludge’ that is left is mainly water and residue  so the water gets siphoned off and any oil that’s left is added to the filtering system. The resulting sludge is then taken to the garden and emptied.

So that’s how we do it up here Bosc style:

​Back to the picking

We have picked the tree next to the house but I am afraid one of the trunks will have to be cut as you can see it is leaning over and although its been like this for years it does not look like it can last much longer… so cutting back part of the trunk will stop it from eventually coming down.

  

        

Now these photos show the tree at the top of the drive which has not been touched for years as you can see. We picked it yes but Carol would not allow me up there with a chainsaw (wonder why???) So whilst she was out the other day I got ladders and hand saw and began. Didnt stop me being told off for not waiting till she got back (it’s a long drop to the next terrace) but I was fine so whilst she picked the lopped branches (guess who’s chair this is!!) I tackled the other side of the tree. With the result that only those branches you can see are left but until the wind drops off (as fronts go through it gets windy here) they can wait. We have 2ltrs of oil so far from these two trees with another pressing in progress and we are starting on the field today – yes ladders, saws and stuff will be used. We tend to prune as we go for obvious reasons and it works for us.

Now it may not seem very productive (lots of oil) but we normally get at least 6 months oil, this year we are hoping for a bit more plus it keeps us fit and the end result is our own oil made with our own hands and a little Heath Robinson thrown in.  Oh and as you can see from this picture oil does freeze, yep it gets that cold up here. But I siphoned the water which was underneath this and the oil was nice and clean so there was not much waste after the two filtering.  We ended up with 5.5 ltrs enough table oil for the year.

So from two happy old pickers its good by till next year.

 

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc  – Author

 

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Wishing all my fellow writers, followers and friends a Merry Christmas and  Happy and Peaceful New year.  May it be filled with cheer and good writing.

Well the first part of Christmas here has passed, now comes New Year then the Three Kings. All of which means the Christmas decorations are still up and the festivities continue.  So I thought you might like to see the lights in town.

The Lights in Town

The effect is a very pretty display, but as always there was a sting in the tail. When I arrived to take the photos it was late at night which was what I wanted as I thought there would be less traffic.  Wrong!! the moment I got the camera out the world and its mother turned up headlights blazing so these are the best ones I hope you enjoy.

The Car Light ones….

                                                         

And here comes the rest:-

These are the lights that wander round our local town. All over there are villages and towns decked out and they stay like this until the 8th of January, then as if by magic, they are gone, not to be seen until next Christmas.  Catalunia may be having problems but the spirit of Christmas is kept going strong.

BON NADAL i FELIC NOU ANY     Soc Michael Douglas Bosc – Author

 

 

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Asco

Coat of arms of Ascó

Asco is up river from us and home to the Nuclear Station for which it is well known.  We always know when coffee or meal times are as we can see the ‘smoke signals’ rising over the mountain behind us.  Today as we drove in it was puffing away and the river was ‘smoking’ (where the hot water enters the river from the plant).  Asco is a small town nestled at the feet of the  Serra de la Fatarella mountain range. This is the same range our valley is in only on the other side of the mountains. But it can be crossed as we found out one day a few years ago when a very tired man trotted into the garden asking for water.  This is normal for those running, cycling or walking in the forest, water is never refused to them. There is also excellent fishing to be had here as the warm waters around the power station is a good breeding ground for fish. A lot of our friends live and work here and during term time Michael helps them with their English in the linguistics class at the college in Mora d’Ebro.  Most of the employment here is based on agriculture with the power station providing a lot of work.  Here they grow almonds, grapes (the wine is very good) and of course, olives.

There is a good deal of history attached to Asco, it  was one of the castled points along the Ebro during the Templars time.  They controlled trade, collected taxes and got rich.  Today the castle is slowly being rebuilt/restored as the towns now realises that being part of their heritage it is important to preserve it.

Petanca

We have been coming here to play in competitions since we began playing Petanca.  Our friends used to come and play in Mora when we had a club there but age, time and other things have seen the club disintegrate  to basically three or four people.  We like others either joined Tivissa or Asco to play, but we still see our old friends around town and at the competitions like today. At the time of writing they have just started playing so it will be a while before I go to take the photos. I do this because I like to, it is nice to see the faces of our friends when they get their ‘winners’ photo something so small means so much, I get pleasure doing it and they get pleasure from the photos.

So here we go – PETANCA! This is the ‘family photograph’ winners and losers alike. We had a great day met up with friends and generally enjoyed ourselves.

          

Relaxing waiting for the last game to finish

Here are the winners, first prize large ham, second prize smaller ham, and so on from there. Michael, Maria & Gill won wine and a dried sausage (sausage didn’t last long yumm) and he is in another competition next weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So as you can see here is proof that like golfers, mad dogs & Englishmen, Petanca players go out in the midday sun…..

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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