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The Clotxa

This is breakfast at the Olive Fair in Mora La Nova – the Clotxa.  Every year the fair is held to celebrate the olive oil harvest, we missed it last year first time since we have been here, but I went to the Ajuntament and bought our tickets and for 3euros this is what we have.  Half a cob loaf with the centre hollowed out a large sardine, tomatoes, garlic and onion plus wine, olives and of course olive oil.  So here’s the routine:-  you que up hand over your ticket and take your breakfast and bib (oh yes you need it), then wander along and find a table to stand at and eat.

This is a community thing and standing at the tables you meet other people. Families, friends and faces you see when out and about who’s names you get to know so you can place them when you wave to each other, really nice.  As you can see from the picture it is served in a plastic bowl.  This year it came in a covered foil container. When we arrived just after 10am it was in full swing and as you can see not many breakfasts were left.

We collected our and found a table. There were a few other people at the table so it was a pleasant morning not cold like some we have been to which makes a difference because believe me it takes a while to eat this and you really do need that bib.

                               

After breakfast we headed for the hall to see the olive oil stands and who had done well in the competition and a coffee.  As we were passing the tables I took these photos:-

People were still arriving and as you can see there was not a lot left, but is that a coffee stall I spy by the door?? It was but very busy so we decided to find another one.

Inside the hall the layout had changed.  Normally it is crowded with stands and the competition section (this photo) where people make moli d oli a sort of olive oil butter very tasty and good for you.  Next to this in the centre of the hall was an olive tree with the various things you need for picking. In the first photograph you can see the ladders which were used simple but practical. in the second jars for storing the oil and in the last one you will see an old-fashioned olive chute something which would help us enormously.

                    

It was by the tree that we found the coffee stand and coffee in hand wandered round the stands. This one has won first place before, the trophies are the FIO’s on top of the stand.  You could eat your way round the hall tasting all the different oils on toasted bread. There is believe it or not a different taste to each oil just like there is with wine, took me some time to work this out but once we began pressing our own oil it became clear.

Further round on the other side of the hall I found AiBar, a little Celler I found with some very nice wines. As usual the cellers also produce olive oil which is very good.

All in all it was a lovely morning and we totally enjoyed ourselves. But the strange thing was we did not see another English person – no one we knew by sight that is – who had been there before.  It is such a sad thing when people do not join in with the local festivities they miss so much.   If you would like to know more about AiBar’s wines then follow this link. https://wp.me/pVcwA-1i3

 

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc & Jason D’ebre – Authors

 

 

 

 

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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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In the Beginning

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As you can see from this photograph this was how the back-garden looked a few years ago.  We were just getting sorted out and when it rained the earth would wash up against the wall making it damp. So we laid a path and patio and stood the water cubes there to catch the rain water.  It worked well for a while but when the drought set in and the forest nearly caught fire I decided that we needed a larger cisterna.  Now we couldn’t go up so we went down to bedrock and started from there.  The poles you see here determined the construction as one windy day the whole lot blew down falling on Carol’s roses and taking the ‘false apple’ vine with it.  So after tidying things up and replanting the roses – unfortunately we lost one or two – I got busy.

Got a digger to dig out the hole then had steel delivered along with gravel/sand and cement and off we went. I laid the floor first then started on the sides.  I did the mixing and the wife was down the hole building up the walls.  It took us a few weeks to do as we had to go slow but eventually we were at the top and ready for the beagers and pots.  Once delivered and in place a last few mixes of concrete and job done.  To get someone to do exactly the same thing would have been around 10,000 Euros.

Washing Line and Garden

 

When I started this blog it was into winter and neither of us were fit enough to finish it. HOWEVER, it’s now March sun’s out forest and garden are looking good and we are feeling very get up and go up here.  So after looking at the damage the winter had done to certain plants Carol went plant shopping.  We now have two new lavenders and the lavender patch is beginning to look as it should.  The weeds took over during the winter when we could not get out, so the past few days have been weeding and tidying up days.  The feel of the sun on our backs is doing us the world of good.  I have taken some photographs of before and after, not all the beds have been finished but we are in no rush.

This is the side walled garden before and after. It was full of weeds and dead plants that the frost had damaged, so Carol weeded then planted some violets at this end where the dead plant was, but before that she covered and dug in some of the olive mush and ash mixture to give the ground some goodness.

The next one was end bed in front of the shed facing the house. As you can see it was really bad but after some diligent weeding and another good dose of the mix the red-hot pokers and lavender now have space to grow.

 

This small walled bed forms the other wall of the rose garden and is just waiting for its ‘mix’ to be added.  This is the first year the Hyacinth’ s have been in their own bed although small they all flowered and for a few days the perfume was wonderful. This is the sight I look at from my desk, and the washing line of course.

 

Next was the small patio in front of the bedroom  as you can see it was a bit of a mess but after a good sweep and re positioning of the stones replacing some gravel all is back to normal  –  except that the wind blew just as this photo was being taken  can’t tell you what a certain lady said…..

So this is  just a few photos of where we are with the garden.  However Carol has told me about your photos this spring and how it is difficult to explain the variety of wild ones we have so in ‘Part Two’ of this blog I am posting just photos of them.

 

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

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Being Good For Big Sis

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This is our big sister she brings us presses

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These are the presses: palm balls to chew and a wooden rope ladder to play on

So earlier this year we had a visit from Michelle (Big Sis) to us. She spent most of her time here relaxing in the FFZ (Fly Free Zone) with us either reading or on her computer, either way we had a great time.  She would talk to us and tell mum when she thought we wanted more seed or another piece of millet or a honey stick – we put on quite a bit of weight hehehe.  But it was the afternoons when mum and dad went to petanca or school we had most fun.

img_20160623_090606You can see from this picture that we were in the sunshine with a table placed in front of our cage (dads idea) to stop us being blown from one side of the ffz to the other, think it was our cries of wheeeee that did it. Anyway when they weren’t around and the wind was blowing she would remove the table drag us across to the other side and laugh as we rolled by even joining in with the wheeeee’s.  Never told mum and dad though, mind you, we nearly got caught we were having so much fun one day we nearly didn’t hear the car coming up the track…

 When I Upset The Wife

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Then I went and upset the wife. She had been busy making a nice warm nest for her and the eggs I know I was watching her.  But I thought well she’s going to be in there for a while I know I’ll get some clean bedding, so whilst she was busy eating I threw out some of the old stuff and put some clean fresh stuff in there, thought she would be pleased. Boy you should have heard her, she squawked on and on for ages we weren’t speaking at one time sat back to back but hey we soon made up.

Dads Hand and Cricket

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Then dad had something called an operation on his hand. Came back one morning with this thick material stuff on it, showed it to us but can’t understand why he wouldn’t let us out we could have saved him all those visits to that hospital we would have removed that and things called stitches for him there and then.  Still he used to sit in the ffz with us and listen to something called cricket on his lap top. That was really cool especially when a man he called Tuffers was on, we liked him we talked to him all the time.

Sticks and Palm Trees

img_0637-640x480 img_0669-640x480 img_0668-640x480 img_0670-640x480 img_0671-640x480One day dad decided that we needed a nice clean bit of wood to chew so he found this long piece that we couldn’t pull through the bars and said “there you go try chewing through that”.  Well a challenge is a challenge so we did only in the middle and one day it broke in half, can’t think why. Dad then moved the two bits around so we wouldn’t hurt ourselves and left us to our chewing, no fun any more. Then last week we had a nice surprise, it rained..  Not that we were in any danger of getting wet but those two decided to go to the SEASIDE I ask you in the RAIN????  but when they returned they had a piece of a palm tree with them wow.  So mum got some wire took the two palm ball links (including the bells) cut two pieces of the palm threaded the wife through them plus a bell joined it all up and hung it up for us.  You should have heard the wife when she saw it, talk about squawking she turned out some old bedding and I have been busy getting new stuff.

So that was our summer. We enjoyed it looking forward to next year, but first comes the lights on the Walnut tree – that’s mums idea.  Tweety Christmas Everyone.

(c) Bluebottle and Eccles The Boys

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Hospital and Me

20140516_121451An Update (via my assistant) lol.

Well as I think I told you two weeks ago I had a phone call from the hospital informing me that the operation on my hand was scheduled for 8th of August (yesterday).  Having my instructions and tablets for the night before I was well prepared.  The only thing was our daughter has been staying with us and yep you guessed it, that was the day she was going back. But like her old dad she had a cunning plan, up to Barcelona Sunday stop in hotel by the station and catch the train in morning relaxed no hassle.  So Sunday found us driving up to Barca on a hot sunny morning, chatting about all sorts of things (well cricket actually). We have been listening to the test match on line best sports/comedy show going, anyway I digress.  We arrived saw her into the hotel said our goodbyes and headed home to find England had won the match.

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We stopped at Club Nautique for a drink and something to eat. I do like this club it’s a place where people who sail go, they are friendly and the atmosphere is happy. Here as you enjoy your drink and meal you look out over the river, see the various birds swooping and diving after insects. All against a summers evening of colour and tranquility whilst you watch the boys and girls training for the regattas. Lots of hard work goes into all this but also laughter plus their families are there to support them, a true sailing club. One last Coca-Cola then we headed home to my medication and preparation for the next day.

I Can’t Play the Piano…Or Caught in The Act!!!

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Well Monday dawned early and we arrived at the hospital in plenty of time. As it was a ‘day surgery’ I didn’t need a hospital bed just a reclining ‘trolly chair’ wonderful. The other thing that really impressed me was how the family is included in everything, mind you it really freaked my wife out when the surgon spoke to her after my op, but I’ll get to that in a moment.  So there I am ready for theater, in comes the trolly and off we go. When I get there my surgon asks if I wanted to go to sleep or stay awake – stupid question to ask a writer – stay awake I said, the writer in me wanted to see what was going on. So a torneque was placed round my arm and I was wired up to a couple of machines, then an anethsetic was injected under my arm and a few minutes later we were off.  I won’t go into detail but I really found it facinating and the surgical team were very good. I had two lots of liquid pain killers and a saline drip and when it was over I actually nodded off and it was then that my wife got her fright.

In the UK if the surgeon personally calls you into a room it’s usually bad news, so imagine her reaction when mine did just this. All the poor woman could say was “whats wrong? where’s my Michael?” confused the hell out of my surgeon for  few minutes. When she explained why he assured her all was well then went into great detail of what he had done. He was totally amazed that the families were not included in things in the UK, then told her I would be going back to the room in a few minutes and they would call her, AND THAT GIRLS AND BOYS IS HOW HOSPITALS ROLL IN CATALUNIA! I was a little wobbly but after a wander round, speaking to friends and doing a bit of shopping, I was driven home tired but happy. Tablets for pain, to help me sleep, and antibiotics along with instructions and a chart of when to take them are all sitting on the kitchen table, simple really.

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The Boys were shouting as our daughter used to sit in my wife’s office and talk to them so I showed them my bandaged arm they were not amused, didn’t like that but they are now taking to me through the sitting-room window where I am sat at my desk reading through my latest book.

Well that’s my adventure over for a while – I hope – will hand you back to my ‘blogger’ for updates on our Forest Life.

 

(c) M.D.Bosc – Author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Strawberries – In The Beginning

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This is our Boris

Once upon a time in the forest a farmer and his wife made a small strawberry garden. It was small because he did not like them much but his wife loved them, so they grew just enough for her.  Before the ground had been prepared they grew the strawberries in an old toilet but so many young plants began to grow that he had to make a proper bed.  His wife gathered stones and built a low wall so that they would not be tempted to cut across the bed and crush the plants, then he planted the runners and waited.  The plants took hold and grew providing some tasty fruit in their first year.

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Now because the summer is very dry and Bobbin Robin asked very nicely they made a Water bar for the birds so they had somewhere to drink. Mind you Elsie Blue Tit also bathed in it – there’s always one!

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So one day after a bit of thought, the farmer began to clear away round the olive tree and tidy things up. His wife again went looking for stones and finding some nice white big ones came and got the wheelbarrow and together they collected them.  Then she built a wall to make a nice bulb garden with the water bar on the end under the tree. The farmer found a bucket which was painted green to make a water tank added a hose with a small tap and job done. However, it was also next to the strawberry patch – you can see where this is going.

 

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Now all that happened a few years ago and since then my wife has been tweaking, adding and generally evolving the garden. So this year I was a little surprised to hear here telling the boys that someone was nibbling at her strawberries.  I knew it wasn’t any of the ‘gang’ after all they had not touched any since the bed was formed and with the Water Bar right next to it the only two I could think of  were Izzy and the Green Dragon, but they don’t eat strawberries do they?

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So yesterday when I caught Izzy sunning himself in the back garden I asked him.  ‘No we don’t but I know who does.’ however, he would not tell me just said keep an eye out early in the morning.  So this morning I was up early sitting at my desk writing when the boys shouted ‘he’s in the strawberry patch dad he’ in the strawberry patch.’ Not being able to see it from my window I strolled outside and sure enough in the middle of the patch was BORIS Blackbird.  ‘Oi they’re her strawberries, she’ll cut your beak off if she catches you’ I shouted  ‘No she wont she loves me’ was the reply but I did notice he said this when he was in the tree.  So mystery solved. Strange though when I told my wife her reaction was ‘little sod I knew someone was eating them’ and this was said as she made for the kitchen to put the kettle on, no going outside to stand and shout at him or moan to the boys.  So now I know Boris was right and ‘Birds Rule’ up here hey ho, now why are the boys laughing at me???

(c) M.D. Bosc – Author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In the Beginning – (more…)

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Bringing in the Olive Oil

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This picture taken in the height of summer shows the workable part of our olive trees.  The rest which we are gradually bringing into line are tucked away in the forest, but we still have around 30 trees here.  Because we have not been pruning some are like large Oak trees this year they have fruit on them so they are being pruned as we go.

 

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As most farmers will tell you here the olives are not pressed commercially until this time of the year ie., November, but up here they have been turning black since late September.  Not wanting to lose any oil I decided that instead of loosing them we would do it ourselves.  So I bought a small press and we started picking.

However, we found that because we had not been able to keep the trees on-line for the past two years there were not as many olives as we had first thought, oh yes there were there but they were very small,  but we continued pruning, picking and pressing and so far we have 4 ltrs of oil.  With a few more trees to go we will probably end up with 6 ltrs not much you may think but for us that is a lot and will take us through most of next year plus any I win at petanca. My wife also buys oil from the annual Olive and Honey fair in Perello so we do quite well.

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc

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Then It Rained!!!!

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Right now most of you who read the blogs will know, we have been bemoaning the fact that there has been very little rain this year, in fact as a local pointed out if the river wasn’t there this part of Cataluña would be a desert.   Well Monday it rained, yes it did  and how. It began in the morning with the sort of thing we have got used to, a sort of drizzle that can’t decide whether to go full on or bog off somewhere else.

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We had been into town to get the shopping when it  began to get wet and windy, very windy. The drive home was interesting loads of twigs, leaves, rocks and stones on the road plus the odd tree by the river blown down.  When we got back we unloaded the car then parked it and we just had time to grab a few logs and get the generator going before it hit.  First the rain came down sideways as the wind was so strong, this led to a puddle on the bedroom floor under the closed (I might add) window it was that fierce.  Next it began to come in under the front door so the mop was in action, then Michael looked out the back. We are glad he did but at the time I wished he hadn’t, it was just like a river  flowing. It was so strong that it was literally flowing over the sumps of the cisterna, all that water gushing away then the generator began to splutter.  So with umbrellas up jackets on we were out as action was needed and quickly.

 

Firstly Michael had to sort out the flow channels to get rid of the huge puddle that had formed in front of the house and was in the process of washing the sand away and had made its way into the generator shed where water was steadily rising.   I held the umbrella whilst he pulled the weeds up that had grown in the  channel and also blocked the runoff drain. Once this was done a deluge of water began to either rush down the slope towards the track where it continued its down hill run towards the river.  The water that came out of the pipe onto the lower level would not have disgraced the effect of a water pump had we used one.

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Next we tackled the shed. This was simple knock a hole in the back wall and the water came out with a little help from me and a broom.  Whilst I was getting the generator shed sorted Michael went and sorted out the sumps to the large cisterna.  Now this went on for around an hour and a half during which time the water from the roofs, gullies etc.,  filled the 5000ltr small cisterna, one of the 1000ltr cubes and 3/4’s of the large cisterna not to mention the wheelbarrow, buckets and sundry that were outside.  There aren’t any pictures as we were to busy getting rid of the water, but this morning the first saffron crocus appeared in the saffron patch in the garden, the ones in the field have also begun to arrive, says everything really.

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This is not how the track looks now, it’s full of gullies where the water dug it out rocks and stones everywhere, what was once a fairly smooth track now exists.  The road into town was strewn with rocks and mini slides which had come down but these were the usual suspects,  the really worrying bit is on a bend where there are two trees with roots exposed and they are leaning a bit. We have no idea what the top end of the track is like but the town hall has been out having a look at things so must be bad.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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Well the gardening is going strong this is one of the bulb gardens my wife built, the stones are there to hopefully deter Puddytat from using it as a toilet.   He is still here little devil woke me the other morning chasing breakfast in the wood shed which is behind the bedroom.  I could hear this noise and wondered what was going on so took a look and there he was along with a smaller version which, I presume, is his mate.  No kittens here matey!!!!

 

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Its been a long time since we ventured west to Terra Alta, so this afternoon being fine and warm we decided to visit the wine celler at Corbera d’Ebre.  This time of year is a busy one the grape harvest is in full swing. It’s now that you see the tractors pulling trailers loaded  with grapes along the roads to the various cellers to be pressed.  We arrived at Corbera late so having around 2 hours to wait we decided to take a trip up into the mountains.  We drove along winding roads through passes then down from Terra Alta to the valley turned west again and headed back up into the mountains along more winding roads and another pass.

Along the way we followed a mechanical grape picker on its way to harvest yet another field, saw tractors with trailers parked in vine fields ready to start work after lunch.  Most of the grapes are grown on short stubby vines which have to be picked by hand, hard but rewarding work.  We stopped off in Gandesa for a drink and as we sat by the road, the Moto GP 2 support lorries drove past on their way to Aragon.  Back at the Celler which was now open we bought some wine and nuts then headed back to town.

 

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During the week I was over our other terraces and noticed this tree growing with strange fruit, so I asked my wife if she knew what it was.  Having posted it on FB she was informed it was a Strawberry Tree, neither of us had heard of it before so when we went to petanca we took two of the fruit with us.  It turned out it is a local tree and you can eat the fruit as long as its red.  The fruit has a nobly outside which made me wonder if it was a type of Lychee, but it has pips inside so I wont be the one eating it not saying who will though…  so guess who’s been lined up to dig up the two young ones we found and plant them on the lower level????  ooooh me back doctor…..

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Now if anything says anything about how things go up here this plant does.  It is supposed to stand erect and the flowers hang down like bells.  It self seeds so we can expect a few plants from it.  But I digress, as you can see from the photos it has decided that it prefers laying down and spreading to standing upright.  The flowers are doing fine, however, the large white bell shapes stand up instead  of hanging down but it does not seem to mind.  When it was planted it seemed to struggle a little so my wife put it next to a lemon Geranium and it took off, seems it likes company.  So when its finished flowering and the leaves have gone she is going to trim the geranium then put a support under the plant in the hope that next year it will get it right – yeh???

 

So it has been a fairly quiet week really, I went into Reus to collect my driving licence, then shopping and finally school. Two hours of learning Spanish and as of next week its twice a week, next term its 3 hrs a day……. anyway I do enjoy it.

 

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

 

 

 

 

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