Archive for January, 2009

Los Gazquez Sows Oats


Cortijada Los Gazquez is a farm, though not a very big one. One of our streams of income comes from land which is best suited to arable farming. Every other year we plant oats, which on the main go to animal feed. We have just under 20 hectares but that includes olive, pine and almonds too.


Jose Tomas is our contract farmer from Maria and here he is filling the ‘drill’ with the oat seed. It’s a small gamble as you never know how much rainfall or, more crucially, when you will have rainfall here. Last year crops did so badly most farmers ploughed them  back into the ground.

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Thankfully we have had enough snow to deeply saturate the earth which always helps. But will spring bring more rain? Probably a little but we don’t want any more frost as the almond is about to blossom. Frost damages the blossom = no almonds.



Roadside Toadflax



I photographed this little gem last summer up here at ‘Los Gazquez’ and kind of filed it away to look up another day. Well yesterday that day came and where better to find it’s identity than at the ‘Iberia Nature Forum’.

Thanks again to Sue who directed me here and to ‘Indalo’ who directed me here.  So now I know, Roadside Toadflax. Family Scrophulariaceae (skrof-yoo-larr-ee-AY-see-ee), genus Linaria, species aeruginea.

It can come in a multiple of colours and that is why I was struggling to identify it. Interestingly it’s family name Scrophlariaceae originates from the belief that it could cure Scrofula which is a variety of skin disease related to tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes.

Now I have two choices should I develop a chronic, painless swelling in the side of my neck. Ingest this flower in some way or get  ‘King Juan Carlos I’ to touch it for me as ‘the king’s evil’, as it was known, could be cured in this fashion.



Carnaval de los Niños

It’s carnival time in Velez Blanco with all the children making a loud and raucous procession through the pueblo.


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Armonia Fractal de Donana y las Marismas


This weekend I came across this fantastic image on the internet. It’s a birds eye view (!) of the National Park of Donana (sorry no enyas on my keyboard) and comes from a website to support an exhibition of the author, one Hector Garrido in Seville.

Take a look at some more of his fantastic images here.



Quercus Ilex


One of my favourite trees is the holm oak, holm being an obsolete name for holly. This one is high up in the Sierra Maria, it’s crown carved by the wind and it’s lower boughs trimmed straight along the grazing line.

And who grazes? Wild boar, and the best serrano ham comes from those pigs who are fed the acorns of this tree.

Encina in Castellano it is one of the top three trees used to establish a truffle orchard, or truffieres. The truffles have an ectomycorrhizal relationship with the tree’s roots.

The acorns are edible for us too making flour in these parts, or they are roasted like a chestnut.


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Out with the old boilers and in with the new!


Now I know this looks like something being delivered to the Hubble space telescope but it’s not. It is actually one of two new wood burning central heating/hot water boilers being delivered to Los Gazquez. Weighing in at just over half a ton each my friend Placido, (who’s wife Isi was in the lorry cabin suffering from morning sickness) skilfully delivered the items past my satellite broadband dish without touching it and into the doorway of the boiler room.


And here they are ready to be connected tomorrow. 50,000 kcal each and they will be working in tandem with the Aga in the kitchen. I say Aga because I know everyone in the English speaking world and beyond will know what I mean. However ours is a Spanish Aga made by Hergom in Santander. It looks like a Spanish Aga too.

Anyway I’m just off to chop some wood, cheerio.


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Umbria de la Virgen


This is the view of La Sagra from the Jardin Botanico - Umbria de la Virgen in Maria which is the fourth pueblo in the ‘Comarca de Los Velez’. And the weather? The forecast was very cloudy, rainfall probability nil, snow level nil, maximum temperature 13 degree, minimum 2. Winds from the west, a light 7 km per hour, UV index 2.

In reality it was sunny and warm and packed with ‘Murcianos’ enjoying the snow. With great enthusiasm they created traffic chaos with their giant picnics and over crowded cars and their inability to drive in the snow. We like these people very much, their vigor and their desire to meet such miracles as snow and ice.

And one entrepreneur was selling plastic sledges at 20 euros a time, or you could rent them for 10. Easy money!



And Now For Something All Together More Summery


Dianthus broteri (Clavellina) or Dianthus hyssopifolius (Clavel de Pastor in Catalan, Shepherd’s carnation). Now as a rule I’m not a fan of carnations. I always associate them with the supermarket or petrol station check-out emergency ‘I love you’ mini florists for the desperate.

However this one I shall make an exception. Last August this was growing in minor abundence on Pena Cassenova (the mountain in front of Los Gazquez).

I can’t claim responsibility for the identification however. For that I must thank the wonderful ‘Iberian Nature Forum’.



Save The Cape Of Cats!


The Algarrobico Hotel has been a political and environmental farce for years now, but apparently the order for demolition is in sight. I won’t bother with the history of the legal wranglings over this edifice other than to say it is illegal. It was built within the national park of the Cabo de Gata and it is hideous, environmentally calamatous and a sin. You can read more about the dire course of events here.

When will people wake up to the fact that the future of tourism and it’s economy is reliant on preserving the natural environment, not building this kind of rubbish? If this was to continue what would they have in twenty years time? It is time for a more creative approach to tourism, something sustainable something adventurous and unique. I just wish I could have the opportunity to push the detonator and consign this monster to the abyss.


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Snowman Competition




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