Sunday, September 26, 2010

Walking in Asturias 6 - Vizcares Peak

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As you all know, walking is one of our pastimes and while in Asturias we have had the opportunity to do some fabulous walks along the coastal plains, across the valleys and up the mountains. The series of blogs entitled "Walking in Asturias" will continue presenting you some of the walks that we enjoy in Asturias, both within the impressive mountains of the Picos National Park and other mountain areas as well as on the beautiful coastline and the green valleys .

The Vizcares is one of the many peaks you can do within the Ponga mountain area in the municipal district of PiloƱa about 35 minutes drive from home.

To walk up toVizcares peak (1420 m high) with La Pasera as your base, we need to drive to the town of Infiesto where we take  a small road running along the river that shares its name with the pretty small village of Espinaredo where you can enjoy several good examples of Asturian architecture including houses, farms, stables and "horreos"- wooden granaries on four or more stone or wooden pillars. Once you have crossed the village, the road takes you up to the picnic area of La Pesanca, a good spot for a picnic by the river where you will be shaded by the numerous sweet chestnut trees and be able to appreciate some of the local flora and fauna. There are four types of Asturian wild daffodil and the photo shows one of them.

After you leave the car at La Pesanca, a concrete path soon leads up into the hills and through wooded areas. You soon start gaining altitude and after a while you reach some mountain meadows where the flora can be spectacular in early Spring with lots of alpine plants. The views of the surrounding limestone mountain are spectacular.

On the way up to the peak a small woodland, mainly wild holly, provides you with some shade where you can take a rest before you start the last stretch of the climb. As you start climbing the peak itself, you can appreciate the beautiful rock formations carved by the elements and carpeted by wonderful mosses, lichens and alpine plants. I recall the intensity of the different tones of green present in the moss and lichen. I can easily get distracted by such natural display and beauty!

Once you have crowned the Vizcares, you can enjoy the magnificent views across the impressive Ponga mountains and the majestic Picos mountains.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Harvest Moon

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The Harvest Moon was a special event this year. It is the first time since 1991 that the full moon and the autumn equinox have come together. On Thursday evening these two events coincided in the small hours of the morning. We spent Wednesday and Thursday evening looking at a spectacular full moon in clear sky accompanied by Jupiter and its moons. Through a scope or binoculars Jupiter's moons (4 that we could see) formed a prismatic ring around it. It is times like this when you wish for two things: to have a really top notch telescope and to have answers to questions such as "just how big is the cosmos and how many other planets have life forms?" Oh and "Just how long a lens do I need for the camera"?

Anyway, Back down to earth. We thought it would be good time to celebrate our harvests. Our fully stocked freezer, shelves straining with jars of pisto, and pasatta, pickles and jams, tables laden with squash, fruit, tomatoes, marrow and carrots, crates filled with potatoes, one year's supply of honey, good wine, containers full of organic flour, vegetable plots still producing copious amounts of beans, squash, beetroot, brassicas, leeks, aubergine, swede, celery, celariac, fennel, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes - we celebrate the bounty and take stock of how lucky we are to produce a lot of our own food, to have found local suppliers of good quality products and to be able to provide others with small offerings and to exchange goods with neighbours, friends and family. The harvest means so much more than food on the table.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ain't it always the way.....deer

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Whilst in the UK our friends stayed at the house to feed the cats and to generally take care of things. We have many deer around our area but they are difficult to photograph as they are easily spooked. John  had a lucky break whilst on the PC in the study - a family group appeared at the bottom of the garden and he was able to take these shots thought his telephoto lens....not bad I suppose.

I need to have a chat with him about 'depth of field'...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Flavouring with fresh and dried herbs

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Our use of fresh and dried herbs is something we have increased since growing our own food. Compared with those that can be bought pre-packed, fresh or home-dried wins every time. It is important to harvest the herbs at the right time to maximise the essential oils that are present - usually first thing in the morning after the initial dew has dried is the best time. Fresh herbs can be picked as and when but to get the best out of them, we have found that harvesting before the heat of the day draws out their oils, works well.

Fresh Basil
We currently grow a range of herbs, mostly traditional and well known such as Basil, Sage, Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, Parsley (curly and flat leaf) Thyme, Coriander, Mint (several types) Chives (plain and garlic) and Fennel. We dry few of the herbs we grow as we are fortunate enough to live in a climate that is conducive to growing  throughout the year. One of our main crops that we do collect and dry is the Cretian Oregano - a pungent and aromatic variety that we use regularly in cooking. We harvest several large bunches each year about a third of which we will use and the rest gets used by Luis' family for making chorizo and salami.

Oregano drying on the lazy Susan in the workshop
Mints, lemon Verbena and Rosemary are also grown to use fresh for infusions instead of tea and coffee. We also occasionally make tinctures to add to home made hand cream.
There are too many taste combinations to list but favourites include the classic fresh home grown tomatoes and basil, pumpkin and sage, carrot and coriander, minted cous cous, parsley and garlic pasta, rosemary and roasted vegetables, oregano and just about anything... I could go on but I am beginning to feel rather hungry.

Sage amongst other plants
Whilst we do have a dedicated herb bed we often cultivate herbs in amongst other plants and shrubs.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

El Paraiso del Burro - The Donkey Paradise

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It has been a while since we posted about the Donkey Sanctuary here in Asturias. Luis and I help out on a small scale by running the blogs: Donkey Paradise and El Paraiso del Burro. I have been collecting information for the new website and Luis is now a member of the newly established Association. We have had a few events over summer to try and raise the profile and increase funding for the Sanctuary but it is hard here in Spain as animals are perceived very differently to what I am used to in the UK.

Marleen who owns and runs the sanctuary get lots of practical help from a range of volunteers both local, English and Spanish and visitors from other parts of the world that are either connected to Marleen or come through Help Ex or WWOOF programmes. 

I hope that we can continue to help where we can for the foreseeable future. I don't have a particular affinity with Donkeys however it seems that the people connected to such projects are just great people to be around and in small ways we enrich the lives of each other and of the animals that live in El Paraiso del Burro.

Why not take a look at the blogs and join our Facebook group/page.