Category Archives: Nature

Whose nest is this?

Look what I found when I was deadheading the roses. A tiny nest, delicately balanced in the middle of a large rose bush. Beautifully woven. No owner in residence. No known eggs or chicks. Too small to belong to a blackbird, could it belong to one of the finch family?

5 to remember
mira lo que he encontrado – look what I found
muerto las rosas – deadheading the roses
delicadamente equilibrado – delicately balanced
bellamente tejido – beautifully woven
el propietario – the owner

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Who does this beautifully woven nest belong to? #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

July in the peaceful valley

July is a month of fiestas in Spain. The best known is the bull running of San Fermin in Pamplona, to which many Spaniards travel from across the country. In the houses of the villagers, the televisions will be turned on to show the events. Here in the secret valley, recently designated a zone of special protection due to its outstanding beauty, we have no bulls and life continues peacefully. The most exciting thing to happen recently is the sale of a nearby olive grove, from one villager to another – actually from one cousin to another – and the subsequent digging of new drainage channels in preparation for winter.

5 to remember
las fiestas – the fiestas
los más conocidos – the best known
designada – designated
una zona de protección especial – a zone of special protection
excepcional – outstanding

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Always peaceful: this is what July looks like in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

Asparagus field… gone to seed

Ever wondered what an asparagus field looks like when the crop is finished? This is it. Fronds of fern-like, feathery leaves, which look more at home in a florist’s vase than in a farmer’s field past its best.

Done right, a farmer should only have to plant an asparagus field once. Once planted, that is the only crop for that field. Which means yield is very important. At least one year must pass before the crop is harvested. The first thing you notice is the spears, poking out of the brown earth like green fingers. Once the crop is finished, the plants will continue growing, up to 3-4ft by summer.

5 to remember
la cosecha – the crop
las frondas – the fronds
plumoso/a – feathery
una floristería – a florist
un jarrón – a vase

Dazzling summer sun

When we first moved to Spain, my sensitive Northern eyes needed sunglasses during the hot summer months. Now, my eyes have adjusted and some days I forget to carry my sunglasses with me. Pablo, who has lived here for almost seventy years, has never worn sunglasses and seems bemused by mine. It is rare to see the villagers wearing sunglasses, perhaps it is the sign of a fashion-conscious incomer.

5 to remember
deslumbrante – dazzling
las gafas de sol – the sunglasses
casi setenta años – almost seventy years
un recién llegado – an incomer
consciente de la moda – fashion-conscious

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Dazzling summer sun in the #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

Bird song: Chaffinch

The male Chaffinch is a strong singer, especially when he is trying to attract a mate. Resident here, he is easily spotted with his blue/grey cap and dark rusty red breast. As is the way with nature the female is a duller brown, but both birds feature the same white wing patches. I am yet to spot a deep-cupped Chaffinch nest, which they build in the fork of a tree. More often we see them sitting in the acacia tree outside our kitchen window, and it is their song which draws us to look out.

[photo: John Haslam]

After the bird moults in autumn, the tips of the new feathers have a buff fringe which adds a brown tone to its plumage. Over the winter, the ends of the feathers wear away and by the spring breeding season the birds are looking their best again as the brighter colours beneath are now on display.

Listen to the Chaffinch’s song here at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
un amigo – a mate
gris – duller [colour]
la ala – the wing
más a menudo – more often
la ventana de la cocina – the kitchen window

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Green Woodpecker

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Chaffinch? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

Green shadows

In the height of summer, even the shadows here are green as the light seems to reflect the green of the hills and trees which surround us. The word sombra doesn’t just mean shadow, as in the dark area produced when an object comes between the rays of the sun and a surface. It also means the desired seat at a festival or concert, seats shaded from the full heat of the sun are always the most expensive. In the old bullrings, you will see signs for ‘Sol’ or ‘Sombra’. Here our gardening tasks are punctuated by frequent sojourns seated in the sombra of our big walnut tree, time to catch our breath and eat a slice of watermelon.

5 to remember
la sombra – the shadow/the shade
los rayos del sol – the rays of the sun
el más caro – the most expensive
una tarea – a task
una rebanada de – a slice of

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Green shadows: summer in the #hiddenvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

A field of sunflowers, growing

Who doesn’t smile at seeing a field of bobbing sunflower smiles turned towards the sun? Looking around the valleys here, it’s difficult to appreciate that the sunflower is not native. It originates in North America and was first cultivated domestically by native Americans in Arizona and New Mexico around 3000BC. They beat the kernels into meal for cakes and bread, and rubbed the oil into their hair. The sunflower plant didn’t come to Europe until 1550 and was originally used as an ornamental flower. Things changed in 1716 when the English patented a method of squeezing oil from the sunflower seeds. But it was Russia’s cultivation which transformed the plant into an agricultural crop, with early sunflower oil production starting in 1769.

The different Native Americans also used sunflowers for a variety of medical treatments. The Cherokees made an infusion of sunflower leaves as a treatment for kidney infections. The Dakota tribe used native sunflower infusions for chest pain and long problems, while the Navajo ate the seeds to stimulate appetite. The Paiutes used it for relief of rheumatism, while the Hopi believed it cured spider bites.

5 to remember
una infusión – an infusion
el dolor en el pecho – the chest pain
una infección renal – a kidney infection
estimular – to stimulate
el apetito – the appetite

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A field of sunflowers, growing #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley