I take full responsibility. Having described the winter as mild in the previous post we had the most amazing snow storm at the end of last month. Not faint fluttering flakes but real big blizzardy blobs of the stuff, it was quite exciting! We hadn’t seen snow since living in Jordan, perhaps 10 years ago now. The dogs were still demanding their morning walk but by the time I had donned hat, gloves, scarf, wellies and waterproofs the sun had come out. It didn’t settle at all near us but on the hill behind our house, and further in the distance, it did – at least until the afternoon. Friends living towards the mountains had more dramatic scenery. So a fun climax to the end of winter.
Now spring is here and we walk around the garden realising there’s a million and one things to do, and so our first reaction is to sit outside and have a cup of tea and a piece of cake. But progress has been made. We bought some more ‘roasties’ and they’ve had their first taste of green grass and fresh air.
We’ve moved the hens again to a new meadow and coop, it’s amazing how much damage they do to the ground with their long sharp toenails, and we like them to have as much grass as possible. If only they ate the weeds too. We have had one mishap. One of the hens became egg bound and despite warm baths, massaging and olive oil (applied both ends) she didn’t recover. It’s the second time this has happened. One of our first lot of hens also suffered but she did get to lay and make a full recovery. So just the three layers for the moment.
Meanwhile, Richard has been strimming and attacking the bramble bushes and ivy while I’ve been pruning so the garden looks quite neat and tidy for a change. We have the beginnings of blossom on the fruit trees and the hint of buds on the irises and forsythia. All the cuttings taken last year of various shrubs seem to have survived the winter and making new growth.
The countryside too is slowly changing, many of the trees have a faint green glow as the buds begin to open. There are birds everywhere. And in the fields the orchids are returning, we now have the early purple (Orchis mascula) and sawfly orchids (Ophrys tenthredinifera) as the giant orchids begin to fade.
And the daisies! This is Jussi’s favourite time of the year: plenty of puddles still (and therefore towel rubs too), and not too hot. It’s probably best not to mention Betty and what she did when she met the little wildboar piglet…
It’s also the time of year to rummage through the seed box and decide what’s needed, but perhaps a cup of tea and a slice of cake first…
Although the fields round here are still crammed with spring flowers, summer is just around the corner. We had a downpour in the first week of May but since then it has been unrelenting sun with most days peaking at over 30 degrees. But never mind summer we also have half an eye on Autumn and the coming harvest.
The cherries are the first to arrive and have in fact already done so. We bought a young cherry tree a few years ago and it has always been a bit odd and remained very small but it has produced its first cherry. And second cherry. But that was it! Meanwhile our old tree is full of little gems which should be ready very soon. Around the time we bought the cherry tree we also got an apricot tree. Unlike the cherry, this tree is magnificent. Last year it produced its first fruit but none stayed the distance. This year we have two. Lets hope they will hang on and grow to maturity. Our garden is full of plum trees and fingers crossed it will be another good year for these fruit of many hues. Also it looks like a good year for the walnuts and the apples but we will not have a single pear. We also have a number of peach trees. They start off with loads of fruit but they either fall off too soon or if they ripen they are full of worms and/or are inedible. It’s strange how these things work out. The first of the soft fruit, the raspberries, are also ready but I’ll leave Jackie to fill you in on veg patch news next time.
At the moment, whenever we walk through the garden or indeed wander the village, with the gentlest of breezes we are engulfed in snowdrifts of confetti. The olive trees are now in flower and after last year’s disaster we are hoping for a good crop this time around.
On to another type of harvest. I can’t believe two years after we killed the pigs they keep on giving. Last week I found a liver at the bottom of the chest freezer and that means pâté. According to supermarket practice the liver may have been well beyond its sell-by-date but I can assure you the pâté was delicious. I’ve also killed this year’s first crop of roasties and so made some more pâté out of the chicken livers. Much smoother than the pig liver pâté but just as delicious.
Soon we will be getting to the end of the spring flowers but the orchids keep on coming. Here are a few more found within metres of our house.
The orchid on the left is a hypochromatic form of the woodcock orchid (normal one seen on the right). This is a genetic abnormality and there is much discussion in the orchid world about why it happens!
More controversy! The flower on the right is a Mirror Orchid. We thought the one on the left was also a Mirror Orchid but recently it has been identified as a species in its own right – the Iberian Ophrys. It is quite rare and only found in Portugal and some parts of Spain.
And our final orchid is Ophrys Lutea. Very pretty.
And finally a photo of Jussi – sporting her socks in an attempt to stop her licking her paws!
It’s my favourite month of the year here. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too wet, not too dry. And the flowers, oh the flowers. Some of you will remember my lament a year ago when the old boy who has the olive grove at the end of our garden sprayed it with some horrid stuff. Well, it was a poor year for the olives and we haven’t seen him since and, remarkably, the flowers have made a wonderful recovery and thanks to equal measures of rain and sun have literally blossomed.
In fact since taking this photo I’ve had to go out and cut a swathe through it, the path had all but disappeared. I’m not sure the dogs, however, appreciate the pastoral beauty…
Spring is the time for rejuvenation. The trees are full of blossom, bushes are sprouting and the grass just grows, grows and grows. It’s also the time for some man-made rejuvenation and now is the turn of the polytunnel.
Here it is just finished in January 2011
Although we have replaced the plastic once before, four years have taken their toll:
So time for repairs
and now, good as new
To continue the thread of our local orchids, the Early Purples and the Giant Orchids have all but disappeared to be replaced by the Naked Man Orchid and more recently quite a few Sword-Leaved Helleborines have appeared.
It’s orchid time again and on a recent walk three more were discovered near us, making a total of thirteen orchids round and about. Along with the Man orchid we have spotted this beauty, the Sombre bee orchid. There were quite a few of them in a small clearing just up above the path we take most days with the dogs, it makes me wonder how many other orchids are just out of sight. They have a lovely rich, dark velvety lip. The Bee orchid itself remains elusive.
And this lovely white one caught my eye. I spent ages trying to find out what it was and now it seems to be an albino of the Early-purple. For those of you interested we have added an orchid section to our wild flowers page.
We’ve had friends of mine staying these last few days. It’s been lovely showing them around – everything is green and of course loads of wild flowers are beginning to appear. It was great to discover the wild orchids nearby, and to find we have a naked man orchid Orchis italica in the garden. There are fields of these in other places and so hope that Richard’s strimming hasn’t seen them off. It’s also been lovely to discover the nightingales. They’ve begun to sing and sing all night, and most of the day too – when they sleep I have no idea. Despite their song being loud and clear they’re quite difficult to spot, and quickly disappear into the bushes if you go anywhere near them. I was rather pleased with this photo then. So two new, and somewhat exotic, firsts for me this week.