Archive for June, 2009

Beasts of Burden

timber mule

Coming back up the mountain again it’s nice to see the lumberjacks working with mules. It was a group of three Moroccans doing this work, and it’s a great sight to see man and beast mutually benefiting from each other’s labour. The mules were in excellent condition as the men need to keep them healthy in order to pursue their tasks and for them to reap the financial rewards of such hard and hot toil.

But don’t let me mislead you, the Junta de Andalucia uses every modern piece of equipment available to thin the forest. This work reduces the risk of forest fire and most of the wood is now going off to be pelleted for bio-mass heating systems which is all very laudable. However no matter how much technology you have available if the slopes are too steep or treacherous there is only one machine capable of doing the work. A mule.



Accidental Hidden Faces in the Natural World…

close up

is the name of a Flickr group I joined months ago because the idea made me laugh. And being one of those people who see chimera in most things, leaf fold veneer in wardrobe doors, shadows, the fold of bed sheets etc. since joining the group I have seen none. It’s been a situation so frustrating I’ve even considered taking indiscriminate shots and claiming ‘can you see it?’

However at the weekend Soli (the way he likes to write his name not me) came to the rescue. ‘Look dada there’s a giant’s head trying to escape the rock on the end over there’. And so there is, it’s head tilted back, mouth open to shout, a strong chin above the waterline. ‘Can you see it?’


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Get your kicks on route A7/E-15


Now I know Land Rovers are not the most environmentally sensitive vehicles in the world but there are circumstances where they are necessary. We have one because year round no other vehicle will ford a flowing rambla or cut a swathe through winter snow drifts, and no other vehicle will double up as a farm tractor quite so easily. We will convert ours to bio-diesel when we can guarantee the efficacy of the product (see ‘Splash and Dash’ under category ‘environment’ in an earlier post).

Having just had a trip down to the ‘Cabo de Gata’ camping for three days, at the beginning of the school holidays, I must confess to my delight at seeing a convoy of other Land Rovers, all flashing their lights in filial delight at seeing another Land Rover, off on safari. Living in Andalucia you can get the feeling of being at some great crossroads between Europe and  Africa and seeing these desert bound folks just makes us want to follow.

This super equipped beast belongs to John and Claudia and is bound for the west African coast where it’s owners are deeply involved in turtle conservation, we wish them every success.



Mr Watt, Monsieur Ampere, Count Volta and the Wind

LG wind turbineCortijada Los Gazquez is the proud owner of a Bornay Inclin 3000 wind turbine. It is one of the ways we make electricity to run the house here. It stands at a lofty 12 meters above ground level and has a rotor blade dimension of 3.7 meters. It is designed to work in tandem with other systems such as a photo voltaic panel, broadening the options to produce electricity whatever the weather.

We like it, we like the way it harnesses energy from the sun (the sun creates the thermal winds which power the turbine) and makes power. Power without emissions, carbon or radioactive.



Lizard in Chains

lizard on fly chainOcellated lizards, amongst other things, love to predate the eggs of birds. This youth, unable to discern the hollowness of the material fabric upon which he climbed, spotted my breakfast. Fried eggs, toast and Marmite. (!)

Oblivious to closer inspection it was I that gained the birds eye view of this little nest robber and scaly opportunist.

baby ocillated lizard



Corto Fuego

limpiar el corto fuegoThe Spanish are fantastically conscious to the risk of fire here in summer. And like most places in the world they cut fire breaks like Roman roads in straight lines across the landscape regardless of all obstacles. This one is on Las Almohallas at the back of Los Gazquez. Obviously for fire breaks to work they need to be free of plant life, be it trees or scrub, otherwise a fire will quickly breech the gap.

What you can’t easily see in this picture are the three guys about half way down the break cutting back the undergrowth with large petrol strimmers. You may make out that the top half of the break is paler in colour to the bottom half. This is the area they have already cut.

Now, in a world of tough jobs this is one of the toughest in my book. What the picture doesn’t tell you is that these guys are going down a rocky slope of about one in eight, they are trussed up like turkeys in security wear carrying very heavy equipment and the temperature on this day was about 36 degrees (96 degrees fahrenheit). No wonder they start at 6 am and finish by 2 pm.



Iyengar Yoga @ Los Gazquez

Yoga @LG

Cortijada Los Gazquez is delighted to announce that we are running a short Iyengar yoga week at our retreat. What is more, if you like, it will give you an opportunity to brush up on your Castellano as your teacher is from Burgos, Elena Tarrago Nunez.

Iyengar style deals primarily with the alignment of the body in a search to achieve a physical, spiritual and mental symbiosis. Iyengar also offers breathing exercises which allow for deep relaxation of the body and mind. And Los Gazquez is the perfect backdrop for such activities unadulterated by noise or distraction occupying it’s place on earth ecologically.

Alongside these yoga activities here, I (Simon) would be delighted to take people on guided walks through the Parque Natural and introduce you to this special place and all the ecological systems we have built to live sustainably here. Donna has prepared a vegetarian menu for the week and we have made a special price for the holiday to initiate this new activity.

Dates are from 27th of June to 4th of July and charged on a day by day basis allowing greater flexibility to those coming from abroad. For further details and prices contact Simon at this blog or web site.



Summer Afternoons / Summer Evenings

grass seed

summer sunset



Young Americans 2 - Beer Can Chicken

beer can chicken 1

Sadly we are about to say goodbye to two very nice volunteers here at Los Gazquez. Aaris and Chris from Mission Viejo, Orange County, Southern California. Now whereas a couple of my brothers went to catering college, Chris went to the ‘Institute of Creative Culinary’ back in Orange County. And in such an institute he learned such culinary beauties as beef burgers stuffed with blue cheese (fantastic) and my favourite ‘Beer Can Chicken’. (Awesome).

Take one chicken, massage with olive oil, salt, black pepper and rosemary. Take one can of beer, pour a drop out, add a bay leaf and some pepper corns. Next carefully introduce the chicken carcass to the beer can in the manner demonstrated above…

chris and beer can chicken

Next sit the chicken(s) on the BBQ in the manner demonstrated above (chef Chris poses in front of his creation) put the lid on and leave for 40 mins.

Whilst waiting for the cooking process to take place, a good way to occupy your time is to play Polish ping-pong. It’s like conventional ping-pong but if you drop a point you must lift your t-shirt over your head while your opponent hits the ball at your naked skin as hard as he can. If he makes contact he creates a blistering welt on your skin that looks like ring-worm and I have no doubt stings. (epic)

roasted beer can chicken

The results (chicken not ping-pong) were two beautifully cooked chickens. Poached in beer on the inside and roasted on the outside. Not beer tasting at all really, just delicious.

Chris and Aaris are off tomorrow to a music festival in Morocco, tell me I’m not a little jealous. They will be missed by us all, it was a pleasure having them here. (Righteous) (Tubular)!!!


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One Day I’m Going To Be a Beautiful Butterfly!




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