A September visitor

This, I think is a grasshopper, not a cicada. Why? Because he has short antennae. grasshopperHe lives on the ground and avoids his foes by leaping using his powerful hind legs. He is a plant-eater and generally stays out of harm’s way because of his camouflage colouration. This one, though, did not blend in with the terrace tiles.

5 to remember
creo – I think
una antenna – an antennae
poderoso/a – powerful
el camuflaje – the camouflage
la coloración – the colouration

Bird song: Swallow

The Swallow is a bird so familiar that we stop looking at it, and if we do that we cease to see its beauty.

[photo: ar15.com]

[photo: ar15.com]

It is a brilliantly-coloured bird – a deep red chin, dark blue/black glossy backs – and long streamers leading from its tail. If it stays still long enough, you can admire the iridescence of its feathers. But this is a Swallow we are talking about and, in our valley, they are the most joyful birds in summer, swooping over the swimming pool to catch a drink. They absolutely love flying, they fly around the terrace, performing aerial manoeuvres fit for an air display, and all the time they are chirruping and twittering away. One of my favourite birds, and here in Andalucia they are resident all year.

Listen to the song of the Swallow and read more about it at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
una golondrina – a Swallow
tan familiar – so familiar
la barbilla – the chin
jubiloso/a – joyful
una maniobra aérea – an aerial manoeuvre

Pollen happy

The terrace is alive to the bee-buzz. We’re watching these bees happily foraging around flowers, searching for food and unknowingly carrying pollen around and germinating plants. They pass on the male gametes, the sperm cells, onto the waiting stamens and eso es, it is as simple as that. Fertilization. No dating, or courting, as my mother would have said. Just a bit of buzzing around, sometimes it happens on the same flower, which seems a bit incestuous.

5 to remember
el polen – the pollen
la polinización – the pollination
sin saberlo – unknowingly
eso es– that’s it
incestuoso/a – incestuous

Aliens… lichen

Is it just me or do lichens look like something dropped, or dripped, down from outer space?

They look like plants, but aren’t plants. A lichen is a composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria, or both, living among filaments of a fungus in a symbiotic relationship. Some have tiny leafless branches or flat leaf-like structures, others look like flaking paint. Just to confuse things, they often grow through moss but lichens are not related to any moss or plant. They grow on almost any surface, most often on bark, leaves, mosses or other lichens, even hanging from branches. Some lichens grow on bare rock, gravestones, roofs, exposed soil surfaces and walls, but they are not parasites.

It is estimated that 6% of the world’s surface is covered by lichen. And I thought there was a lot in the valley. It is beautiful.

Oh, and just in case you didn’t know how to pronounce it… we English say lichen rhyming with ‘kitchen’. The American pronunciation is ‘liken’.

5 to remember
caído – dropped
goteado – dripped
el espacio sidereal – the outer space
el liquen – the lichen
el musgo – the moss

September in the valley

What does September mean to me? A crisp bite of apple, blue sky every day, golden weeds blowing in the warm breeze, more tomatoes than we know what to do with, hot sun and deep shadows, new growth sprouting from the most improbable places. In England, September brings the first breath of autumn. Here in the valley, September is my favourite month… still green, still verdant, sunshine warm on my skin, and tomato salad.

5 to remember
¿qué? – what?
aquí – here
improbable – improbable/unlikely
todavía – still/yet/as yet
verdeante – verdant

Berry heavy

The berries are food for birds and insects… the flowers attract bees and butterflies. For blackbirds and thrushes, the berries of the Cotoneaster are favourite. I am used to the red and orange-berried Cotoneasters, I didn’t know that the berries also come as pink, maroon and even black. Depending on the hunger and eagerness of the local bird population, some berries can stay on the branch until the following year. We have plenty to go around.

5 to remember
las bayas – the berries
estoy acostumbrada a – I am used to
granate – maroon
aún even/yet/still
el afán de – the eagerness of

A sweet creamy frittata

I know the thought of sweet potato in a frittata sounds a bit strange, but this combination of sweet [the potato] plus goat cheese [creamy] is rather lovely. This amount makes a filling lunch for two people.
We changed two things from the original recipe. First, we toasted the seeds in advance, quickly in a dry frying pan over a medium heat. Second, we added the sage leaves to the frying pan before it went into the oven. Next time we will try the butter method. platefulseeds, toasting2 small/medium sweet potatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion
4 eggs
125g soft goat cheese
70g parmesan, grated
50g butter
fresh sage leaves
3 tbsp mixed seeds, toasted eg. linseed, pumpkin, sunflower

Heat the oven to 200°C/220°C non-fan.
Peel the sweet potato and slice into discs of no more than 1cm thick. Arrange on a baking sheet and drizzle over 2 tbsp olive oil, and toss so each piece is covered in oil. Season well. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. red onions, fryingFinely slice the onion. In a frying pan or skillet which can go into the oven, heat the other 2 tbsp of oil and cook the onion gently over a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the cooked sweet potato and mix.
Crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk so the yolk and white are fully combined. eggs, added to panPour the egg mixture over the onion mixture in the pan. Turn the heat down to its lowest. Cook for 5 minutes until the edges start to set. goats cheese, slicedparmesan, added to panBreak up the goat cheese and dot it across the top. Sprinkle with parmesan. ready to go into the ovenTurn the oven down to 150°C/170°C non-fan. Bake the frittata for 12-15 minutes or until just set.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan on high heat, heat the butter until hot, then add the sage leaves. It may spit, so take care. Cook until the leaves are crisp.
Remove the frittata from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes. just out of the ovenDecorate with sage leaves and seeds. We ate this with a simple lettuce and tomato salad.

5 to remember
una patata dulce – a sweet potato
una hoja de salvia – a sage leaf
así que eso – so that
totalmente combinado – fully combined
tener cuidado – to take care