Tag Archives: farming

Fifty Shades of Gold #40

A field of sunflowers ready for harvest. August 22, 2013

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A field of sunflowers ready for harvest #countryside in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2bP

Fifty Shades of Gold #38

Autumn seedhead with ploughed fields in the background. October 12, 2013

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Autumn seedhead & ploughed fields #countryside in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-2bl

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

Winter jobs

This is the busiest time of year for the olive farmers around here. In December and January the olives are harvested. Pablo’s harvest is finished and taken to the cooperativa, he is now waiting to hear the price per kilo and the total value of his crop. Now the tidying begins. On a fine day, the air is full of wood smoke as the prunings from the olive trees are burned. Line by line, the farmers walk their olive groves, pruning their trees. It is a hard slog, olive farming is not a mechanized form of production. tractor in olive grove 9-2-15The next enemy is weeds, on the hillside opposite us, a tractor ploughed relentlessly up and down each line of olives, tearing up the weeds. The next job will be to fertilize each individual tree. In a month or so, the farmers will be spraying each tree against pests and disease. This is particularly important given the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa which is decimating olive groves in Italy, it causes the foliage to dry out, darkens the wood and eventually kills the trees.

For more on the disease which is affecting Italy’s olive trees, click here for a report in Olive Oil Timesfire burning 9-2-155 to remember
cada – each
la plaga – the pests
la enfermedad – the disease
la bacteria – the bacterium
el follaje – the foliage

Planting the olive grove

We bought the house from alpaca breeders who had divided the fields in the bottom of valley into paddocks. This is how the field looked in 2006 before they put in their fences [below].

[photo: Nigel & Ginny Cobb, Europa Alpacas]

[photo: Europa Alpacas]

We bought the house in 2008. Once the alpacas, barn and fences were removed, we decided to plant an olive grove. Measurements were taken, and olive saplings bought from a specialist nursery near Seville. The field was ploughed, and marked out into a grid using GPS to ensure the trees were planted in exact rows. In January 2009, 350 olive trees were planted [below]. olive field 15-11-09At first, the saplings were so thin that they were difficult to see in the distance [below]. All we could do then was wait, patiently, for them to grow. Pablo reckoned the trees would start cropping after five years: that seemed a long way off. before planting 17-2-10

the olive grove 17-2-10In May 2010 [below], after spring growth and ploughing to remove weeds, our olive grove started to look more like the real thing. view from the kitchen gate 28-5-10By January 2012 [below], they were recognisably olive trees… the olive grove 4-1-12… and by October 2013 they were looking impressive. Throughout all this time, the olives on our old trees continued to grow [below] and were harvested in December with Pablo’s olives. Our 30 trees yielded three 5 litre bottles of amazingly green first-pressing olive oil. Enough to last us 12 months. Last year we anticipated December 2013 with great excitement: our first harvest in the olive grove. Sadly this did not come to pass: the drought of 2013 yielded a poor crop of small fruit. Not worth harvesting. olives in August 17-8-13So now we anticipate the olive harvest in December 2014.

5 to remember
una alpaca – an alpaca
un criador – a breeder
el prado – the paddock
el establo – barn/stable
un árbol joven – a sapling

Can we pipe this spring?

Every spring, when rain falls on the high land around us, new springs pop out of the hillside and fall gently through the undergrowth. Every day is undertaken to the tinkling of dribbling water. It is a cheerful accompaniment. By summer, these have usually all dried up. This autumn, one of the spring newcomers is still with us and looks like being permanent.
It is ideally placed, beside the track up to the main road, where it could be piped and therefore used to water our huerta in the almond field beside the river. D and Pablo have discussed the project, so far no action. It is the sort of job that needs a cool winter day and metres of black irrigation goma. It is the sort of job they will discuss over many early-evening cervezas, as is the Spanish way. Finally action will take place. There is no hurry after all, the spring is not going anywhere, goma must be purchased from the ferretería, the local ironmonger, and the vegetables will not be planted until next year. Paso a paso, step-by-step, as Pablo said to us many times when we first moved here. There’s no hurry. He hasn’t said it for a while, so perhaps we are becoming more Spanish.

5 to remember
la maleza – undergrowth
un tintineo – a tinkling noise
un chorrito
– a dribble
el acompañamiento – accompaniment
alegre – cheerful

Death of a sunflower

Nature often presents us with beauty in death. The residue of the sunflower harvest in this field was dried and desiccated but no less beautiful for that. This field is bare now, waiting for its next crop.dried flowerhead1 12-10-13diagonal stalk 12-10-13dried flowerhead2 12-10-13dried stalks1 12-10-13dried flowerhead3 12-10-13dried stalks2 12-10-13dried flowerhead4 12-10-13upright stalk1 12-10-13dried flowerhead5 12-10-13upright stalk2 12-10-13dried flowerhead6 12-10-13
5 to remember
la muerte – death
el resto – residue
seco/a – dried
seco/a – desiccated
la cosecha – crop