Category Archives: Nature

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 http://wp.me/p3dYp6-22x

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 http://wp.me/p3dYp6-22q

Our summer garden

We don’t have a garden here, not in terms of a ‘front’ garden and ‘back’ garden as we were used to in England. No lawn to mow, no bulbs to plant or perennials to divide in spring. Instead, the valley is our garden. The trees are our framework – walnut, poplar, plum, acacia, almond. So our garden is an easy-care space, with a few nuggets of space which we fill with favourite plants. Lavender, roses, rosemary, oleanders and callistemon all love the heat. And now, everything is approaching its best as spring turns into summer and the thermometer heads for +30°C.

5 to remember
no tenemos – we don’t have
el césped – the lawn
las plantas perennes – the perennial plants
una pepita – a nugget
el termómetro – the thermometer

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Our #garden in summer #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-22e

Clouds gathering

Is there rain up there in those clouds? Will it be the last rainfall until November?

Coming from the UK where in an average year 133 days of the 365 are rainy or snowy and we get a measly 1200-1600 hours of annual sunshine, I longed to move to Spain for the warmth and the sun. Here, where we get a staggering 2500-3000 hours of sunshine a year [see table below] I don’t mind the occasional downpour, the day or two of rain. And the earth, the sponge that it is, soaks it all up.

[Metro Maps]

5 to remember
¿hay? – is there?
viniendo del Reino Unido – coming from the UK
mezquino/a – measly/paltry
ocasional – occasional
un aguacero – a downpour

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Clouds gathering, but I don’t care #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-226

May in the valley

Early morning: chilly, pull on a pair of jeans and t-shirt.
Mid-morning: jeans off, shorts on.
Early-afternoon: too hot, into pool, out of pool in 30 seconds. The thermometer [which says the water is 23° must be lying].
Late-afternoon: skin pink.
Early evening: forget bug spray, get bitten.
Evening: jeans on.

Blackbirds nesting.
Pair of cuckoos fly in formation, cuckoo-ing to each other.
Three bee-eaters choose a branch of the big walnut tree in front of our terrace as their summer roosting spot.
All the artichokes explode at once, overnight they go from the size of a golf ball to a child’s football.
The wild asparagus has gone to seed.

5 to remember
frío – chilly
un par de vaqueros – a pair of jeans
el termómetro – the thermometer
en linea – in formation
el uno al otro – to each other

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Jeans on, jeans off, shorts on: welcome to May in the #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Pl

Harvesting in May

Barley and wheat are major grain crops in Spain and the latter crop is grown all around us here, principally because it is favoured by our warm dry climate. In wetter parts of the country, or where irrigation is used, wheat is crowded out by corn/maize. According to the ‘Grain Market Report’ from the International Grains Council [IGC], 6.2m tonnes of Spain’s 18.5 million tonnes total grain production in 2015 was wheat. Maize accounted for 4m tonnes, barley 6.7m tonnes. If the prayers of farmers in spring are answered, there will be abundant quantities of both rain and sunshine. Around us, some farmers have started the wheat harvest. After showers at the weekend, now we see full sun forecast for every day ahead.

5 to remember
el trigo – the wheat
el campo de trigo – the wheatfield
la cebada – the barley
una tonelada – a tonne
principalmente – principally

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Harvesting in May #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-21U

Bird song: Green Woodpecker

If you don’t like bugs, Green Woodpeckers are your best friend as they eat all types of insects and love ants. You probably hear a Green Woodpecker every day, we do, but don’t particularly recognize its call. It doesn’t ‘drum’ like other woodpeckers, and spends most of its time on the ground. Its green [on top] and yellow [beneath] colouring means it is often mistaken in flight for a female Golden Oriole. Its loud call is called ‘yaffling’ and gave its name to the wooden bookend Professor Yaffle in the children’s television series Bagpuss.

Listen to the Green Woodpecker’s song here at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
se confunde a menudo con – is often mistaken for
el colorante – the colouring
el profesor – the professor
en vuelo – in flight
el pupitre – the bookend

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Hoopoe
Mistle Thrush
Wren

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Green Woodpecker? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1ZE