Category Archives: Nature

Old walls

Parcelas, parcels of land or fields, are generally marked here in this rough stony country by a line of stones. The stones will have been cleared over the centuries, thrown along the boundary as impromptu dividing lines.

Parcelas can be square but are most often around here irregularly-shaped given that they follow the countours of the land and skirt around huge boulders. In some places there are old walls, dry stone walls, where perhaps a richer farmer wanted to make a statement of wealth. Many of these old walls remain, standing firm, or tumbled around larger fincas.

5 to remember
la antigua muralla – the old wall
una parcela – a parcel
en general – generally/in general
impromptu – impromtu
una línea divisoria – a dividing line

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
This is rough stony land & the farmers put the stones to good use #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1Pg

Fifty Shades of Blue #24

Blue sky & orange sunset. March 19, 2016

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Blue sky & orange sunset in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2b0

October in the valley

From the palest Lemon Yellow through creamy Transparent Gold Ochre to the bright Cadmium Scarlet and Cadmium Orange, the look of the valley is changing daily and looks like something out of my watercolour paintbox. Some trees remain defiantly green – the evergreen Holm Oaks and Pinus – and deciduous Poplars. But for other deciduous trees, autumn is here. Green leaves change colour in the autumn when trees have taken all the food, the chlorophyll, from the leaves. Chlorophyll is the biomolecule which absorbs energy from sunlight and gives leaves their green colour. So at this time of year when sunlight weakens, the leaves stop making food and this green pigment is broken down into colourless compounds. It is then that the yellow pigments are revealed, and other chemical changes can cause red colouration. Today the #secretvalley is a #yellowvalley.

5 to remember
mi acuarela paintbox – my watercolour paintbox
la clorofila – the chlorophyll
la biomolécula – the biomolecule
absorbe la energía de la luz solar – it absorbs energy from sunlight
debilita – it weakens

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Going yellow: October in the #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-28J

Caqui, on and off the tree

The calix is the most distinctive part of the caqui/persimmon/sharon fruit, staying attached to the fruit after harvesting and remaining on the ground after the rest of the fruit has been eaten or decayed. In botanical terms, the fruit is actually a berry [as is the tomato] and has a high glucose content. Some fruits are more astringent than others, containing a high level of tannins, but it is these fruits, unpalatable when under-ripe, which are the sweetest when fully-ripe. If you can lift the calix away easily, the fruit is ready for eating. If you want to speed up the ripening process, try wrapping the fruit in paper and putting in the sun for several days.

5 to remember
el calix – the calix
adjunto/a – attached
más distintivo/a – most distinctive
un alto contenido de glucosa – a high glucose content
astringente – astringent

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Caqui, on & off the tree: persimmon #trees in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-1R3

Bird song: Griffon Vulture

Spain has the biggest colony of Griffon Vultures in the whole of Europe, in 2008 there were 25,000 birds. We are lucky enough to see them soar over our valley, often so high they are pinpricks which disappear from sight and then reappear. They are scavengers, tidying up the campo of dead animals, mostly circling in pairs or larger groups. They can reach heights of 10,000m or higher. It is exceedingly rare to see a solitary Griffon.

The longest-lived Griffon survived in captivity to the age of 55. So the Griffons which circle above our house could have been doing so since the early Sixties… the Beatles, the Stones, the first Apollo flights to the moon.

I have been a bit cheeky to feature the Griffon in my ‘Bird Song’ series, because the bird is mostly silent apart from the odd bit of hissing when it is eating. Which I didn’t know until I started researching, and thought you might not know too.

5 to remember
la colonia – the colony
el buitre leonado – the Griffon vulture
la totalidad de – the whole of
tenemos suerte – we are lucky enough
un carroñero – a scavenger

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

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you know what sound the Griffon Vulture makes? #Birds in #Spain http://wp.me/p3dYp6-28C via @Spanish_Valley

Walnuts, almost ready

The walnuts are almost ready, the husks are splitting and the nut is visible inside. They haven’t fallen from the trees yet though, so perhaps there is another week to wait.

Harvesting is simple: just pick them from the ground where they have fallen. To check for ripeness, open a nut: if the tissue between the kernel and the shell is brown, they’re ripe. If a good few have fallen, the rest may fall too if you give the tree a shake [do it the Spanish way and spread an old blanket or sheet on the ground first].

The next step is to remove the husks. Wear gloves to do this, as the tannins will stain your hands brown. Once the husks are removed, wash the shells with a high-pressure hose. Inspect the nuts and discard any with discoloured or cracked shells. Lay them in the sunshine to dry. Before storing, open a few to test for dryness. If you can open the shell easily with a nutcracker, and the nut inside can be broken in two, they are ready to eat.

Walnuts will keep in their shells for several months. If storing the shelled nuts, keep them in an airtight container.

For recipes including walnuts, try:-
Lighter Brownies
Walnut Teabread
Roasted Cauliflower Salad

5 to remember
las cáscaras – the husks
visible – visible
la madurez de – the ripeness of
el núcleo – the kernel
los taninos – the tannins

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The #walnuts are almost ready to harvest #nature http://wp.me/p3dYp6-256 via @Spanish_Valley

Fifty Shades of Gold #36

Yellow lichen on walnut tree. March 10, 2014

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Yellow lichen on walnut tree in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2aW