Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking forward to 2015

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It has been an eventful year for Luis and I here at La Pasera and in the UK. Luis continues to develop his artistry and knowledge in mosaic art and following a visit to an exhibition and meeting of mosaicists in France he has booked a mosaic course in Belgium for summer 2015.  He continues to restore both cane and rush chairs but increasingly finds his energies and thoughts moving towards mosaics.

I have continued writing, taking photographs and making music and have one or two interesting projects in the pipeline for 2015.

La Pasera still offers us our little bit of paradise, we continue to grow the majority of our vegetable and salad crops and no doubt that will continue for the foreseeable future. Plans for 2015 include the addition of hens for fresh eggs and finishing off the final bit of hard-landscaping.

We would like to thank all of you who read and/or visit our blog and wish you all a happy, prosperous but most of all healthy 2015.

Don't forget you can visit our other blogs as well, the links can be found at the top of this page.

Best wishes
Ian and Luis x    

Monday, December 29, 2014

On the 5th day of Christmas... unexpected guests

On the 5th day of Christmas we received unexpected guests at twenty minutes past four in the morning...

Five Wild Boar

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A walk through time: on the edge of Ribadesella town

We frequently walk around Ribadesella and never tire of the narrow, quiet streets and interesting buildings even though it is a very small town. It doesn't take much to see how the town has developed over the years and how the once, small cluster of sea-front fishermen and merchant houses has expanded as more land has been reclaimed from the sea and the estuary. The town has ancient roots and has been a settlement of sorts for at least the past 35,000 years, possibly much longer.

One walk we regularly take is on the edge of town along a narrow road that leads up to La Guia: a once important defensive position where cannon were  positioned ready to repel any unfriendly visitors. There is a small church and fortress dating back to the 1700s  that was built to provide spiritual and physical protection to the defenders. Today, the small chapel and remnants of defences remain. The chapel is now dedicated to Our Lady of La Guia, the patron Saint of fishermen and houses a small but wonderful collection of models of sea-going vessels.

Sociedad Etnográfica de Ribadesella SER

The vantage point of La Guia enables you to see the mouth of the River Sella as it winds its way through the lush landscape down to the estuary and into the Bay of Biscay. From here you can see the grand Indianos-style houses that were built on re-claimed land that borders the Santa Marina beach. The houses date mainly from the early 20th century when rich emigrant traders returned from the South Americas and built grand houses and estates. Many are now hotels but a few remain private residences.

Looking further up the Estuary there is a large expanse of rock which houses probably one of Ribadesella's greatest treasures: the caves of Tito Bustillo. Discovered in the 1960s, the network of caves and paleolithic cave art dates back at least 29,000 years. It is easy to imagine how small groups of humans occupied this estuary, with the caves offering protection and the sea and the rich flood plains offering up food in abundance. As an aside, in the next village to us about 5km from Ribadesella, they have recently discovered a bone pit containing fine examples of Woolly Rhinoceros, Hyena, Deer and Bison. The pit has undergone preliminary investigation and has now been sealed until finances can be secured to undertake a full archaeological investigation.

At the far end of Santa Marina beach along the promenade, there are some fine examples of dinosaur footprints in the sedimentary rocks that have been displaced by time and seismic land movement. Over 100 million years have passed since a small family group of dinosaurs passed over mud flats and left impressions for time to seal and eventually reveal.

 I often wonder what else lies undiscovered?

Scanning the landscape and pondering times gone by makes me wonder what footprints we might leave and how the archaeologists of future times might interpret our impact, presence our legacy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas has started...

Christmas doesn't really happen here in Asturias until this week, that is, the hype and madness that is associated with the run up to Christmas doesn't start until a few days before Christmas day. The street decorations, nativity sets, shop displays and Christmas tunes have been around for a couple of weeks but until this week, it wasn't really happening. It is a very different experience to Christmas in the UK, so quiet and very little of the frenzied must have mindset...thank goodness.

We drove to Oviedo this week to buy in supplies that we can't get here. Oviedo is about 50 minutes away by motorway. The roads were busier than usual and we must have seen... oh, at least 40 or 50 cars and vehicles....

The shops were well stocked with traditional Christmas foods and prices of key items such as seafood had risen sharply. The market was busier than normal with customers waiting patiently to be served their joints of meat, fruit and vegetables, fish and shellfish.

There was the usual display of Nativity sets outside Oviedo's wonderful Cathedral. Many shops in the area are dedicated to selling figures, miniature buildings, scenery and electrically operated effects that are built into nativity scenes in every church, many homes and numerous shop windows around town. One piece particularly amused us, it was a woman wiping a babies bottom - animated of course, with her arm moving up and down in a wiping bum sort of way...only in Spain.

There were a couple of Christmas markets and fairs open which we visited. There were sited near the central park. One was the usual bought in jewelry, leather goods, clothes and gifts which wasn't really up to much but the other was an Artesan Fair where craft workers display their creations with a few offering live demonstrations. There were some lovely items including pottery, jewelry, treen, games and puppets.

There was a demonstration in the city by Bomberos (fire-fighters) who were rallying support to prevent cuts in services, all was calm and many people were signing their petition.

The main event for many families will be Christmas Eve when a family meal is cooked. Some people will give presents on Christmas day but for the majority, presents will be given on the Epiphany on the 6th of January when the three Kings bring their gifts to baby Jesus. There will be grand parades in most towns and cities on the evening of the 5th January.

We take this opportunity to wish all of you who take the time to visit our blog, a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2015. We aim to keep telling tales from Asturias next year and hope you continue to pay us a visit from time to time either here on the blog or if you're passing....

Best wishes

Ian and Luis  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Photo walk in Gijon

We decided to visit Gijon, about 40 minutes away along the coast from us. On a Sunday there is a large outdoor market and it was also an opportunity to visit any Christmas markets and see the decorations. A very different experience to what we would have seen in the UK. Here are a few photographs with captions...

A velveteen mannequin of a boy on the second-hand market

The glorious red squirrels in Parque Isabel la Catolica

The promenade

Winter - ah, the smell of mothballs

Traditional marzipan crocodiles and monsters - the price tag for the small one read €78

A Morrocan style walkway through a water feature in Begonia Square

A rather subdued Christmas market

A revolving Christmas tree made from Cider bottles...

Surfers waiting for the next big wave in the bay

A swimmer preparing to battle the cold, cold water.

Having fun on the winter beach, dogs are not allowed on the beach in Summer

A Rhea in the parque we called him Chris

Chris' dinosaur-like feet

Friday, December 12, 2014

The winter pantry

With winter just around the corner it is always comforting to know that the pantry is full, that there are fresh vegetables in the garden and that the freezers are packed with this year's crops. Despite the long drought of summer we have had a good year for growing crops and where possible we have feasted on fresh from the plot produce, shared excess with friends and preserved or composted the remainder.

The vegetable plots are still producing well and we are currently harvesting large white bulbs of Florence fennel, swede, carrots, ruby chard, winter lettuce, leeks, the last of the beetroot and bundles of fresh herbs. Still to come anytime soon is celeriac (one of our favourite vegetables), flower sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli.

Luis has just returned from his sister's (Rita) where twice a year they slaughter the pigs and process the meat into joints, cured ham, chorizo, salami and black pudding. In Spain this is known as the matanza. We have written about this in the past and you can read about it here if you want to know more and see pictures of some of the work. We are always offered goodies to bring home but being vegetarian we of course decline apart from a couple of packs of chorizo we keep in stock for visitors. Rita always sends loads of food for us as she produces enough to feed half of Castilla y Leon. This time we have 4 dozen eggs, 20 butternut squash, 30 jars of tomato pisto, sack of red peppers, 15 kilos of quince, cabbages, pears.... (we won't be going hungry).

We also have a wonderful rich Christmas cake baked by my Aunt in the UK which we will continue to nourish with a tot of brandy from time to time and coffee and walnut cakes and a box of delicious chocolate biscuits my Mum sent...I doubt they will last long.

Whilst in Castilla, Luis bought locally produced honey (30 Kilos) which we use mainly in place of refined sugar. At 5€ a kilo it is such good value and we know for certain it has not been adulterated with glucose syrup. He also bough quite a few kilos of chickpeas, lentils and beans which are grown in that region and that we know to be of good quality and freshly dried. Ruben, Luis' younger brother brought us 10 kilos of sweet unwaxed and undyed oranges and 5 kilos of manderine oranges he sources direct from growers in Murcia, the oranges are so sweet and what we don't eat will be made into jam.

All in all our winter pantry is at full capacity and our gifts of food, what we grow and what we forage will sustain us, our visitors and our friends over the coming winter months. We have a lot to be thankful for and an awful lot to look forward.

And finally, a photograph of Luis and his new niece, Ruben and Veronica's daughter, Sara (8 weeks). So cute...

Monday, December 08, 2014

Caqui, Hachiya, Sharon Fruit, Persimmon...

We really look forward to this time of year when the local Caqui trees offer up their bright orange, plump fruit. There are one or two trees growing locally yet not many people eat the fruit. This means that we are often gifted a basket full in various stages of ripeness.

The Caqui (as it's known in Spain) is full of vitamins, minerals and tannins and is considered as the divine fruit. There are two types, the astringent and non-astringent varieties. The ones that grow in Spain are mainly the astringent variety which need to be picked when unripe and left to ripen slowly. Eat them before they are fully ripe and you'll probably never eat another, indulge when they are at their best and you'll never get enough of their soft, sweet and delicate perfumed taste. The secret is to eat them when the outer skin becomes easily pitted and the flesh inside is very, very soft and jelly-like - a stage known as bletted. Scoop out spoonfuls of divine fruit.

Many people we know have seen them on the supermarket shelves, or in a basket at the green grocers but few have taken the opportunity to buy and try. It's the same with many fruits and vegetables that are unfamiliar. I suppose it's because we don't know how to prepare them or how to use them in cooking or when they are ready to eat? We were the same with the caqui. We ow know that not only are they delicious when ripe but they are also very versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes including sweet tarts, chutney, jams, cakes, biscuits... and so on. More ideas can be found here: Recipes

If you do see them around please try one but remember, you have to leave it to blet for it to be loved...

Further information about varieties and health benefits can be found here: Health Benefits