Tag Archives: nature

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

September in the valley

The dead tree looks no different, really, in September than it does in June or July. Except for the lack of something: it is the favourite resting post of bee-eaters. But they have left now for Africa and we miss their swooping presence, the flash of blue and bronze, their song.  Although the bee-eaters may have sensed the approach of autumn, for us September is summer. At the beginning of the month, daytime temperatures rise to around 32°C, falling overnight to 18°C. As October approaches, the daytime heat is more likely to be 26°C. Nine hours of sunshine a day. No rain. Skies are clear, though towards the end of the month we may start to see a few clouds. September is my favourite month.

5 to remember
la falta de algo – the lack of something
el poste de descanso – the resting post
abalanzando – swooping
la presencia – the presence
el flash de – the flash of

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
The tree without the bee-eaters: September in the #secretvalley #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-28f

A lacy butterfly

This delicate butterfly was tiny, half the size of my toenail, and beautifully patterned like hand-sewn lace. White and brown, not startling shots of red or orange as some cream butterflies have.

I am unsure what type of butterfly it is, but based on its distinctive ruffled shape and colouring, and using my basic butterfly books, I have identified two options:-

Oberthur’s Grizzled Skipper [below], the underside of the male is similar to my pale specimen. This butterfly is attracted to thyme, and this herb grows everywhere around us.

[photo: ukbutterflies.co.uk]

Or it may be a Geranium Bronze [below], accidentally introduced to Spain from its native South Africa through the importation of pelargoniums.

[photo rawbirds.com]

Or it may be something completely different. If you know what it is, please let me know.

5 to remember
mi uña de los pies – my toenail
la parte inferior – the underside
entrecano – grizzled
bronce – bronze
si sabes lo que es – if you know what it is

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A lacy butterfly, but what is it? #Butterflies in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-26C

The feather of …?

Found on our terrace. One feather.

The feather is 22cm long, barred, cream and brown. My current guess is that it belongs to a male buzzard, although the white at the base of the feather could suggest a sparrowhawk. I used Raptors: a field guide for surveys and monitoring at Eurapmon, the body which researches and monitors raptors in Europe. I was surprised by the wealth of feather identification guides online, it is not something I have researched before.

Do you know which bird this feather belongs to?

Read about the song of the Sparrowhawks, here in our valley.

5 to remember
una pluma – a feather
listado/a – barred/striped
mi conjetura actual – my current guess
me sorprendió – I was surprised by
conectado/on-line – online

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
What type of bird does this feather belong to? #Birds in #Spain http://wp.me/p3dYp6-24U via @Spanish_Valley

A big fellow, or not

I think this is the biggest grasshopper I have seen. He quickly assumed the name ‘a big fellow’ but after some gentle research I think he is a) definitely a grasshopper, not a cricket, because his legs are held lower, and b) he is a she, given the presence of an ovipositor [the organ at the end of the abdomen which is used for laying eggs]. I would be hopeless as a biologist, at first glance I thought the ovipositor was a broken leg.Read about some of the other grasshoppers and crickets in the hidden valley:-
Black grasshopper
The three grasshoppers
Grasshoppers and butterflies
A September visitor
Now that’s what I call green

5 to remember
creo que ésto es – I think this is
el abdomen – the abdomen
un biólogo – a biologist
a primera vista – at first glance
una pierna rota – a broken leg

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A big, gentle fellow #Insects in the #secretvalley in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-24C

Bird song: Black Redstart

The black and red of this bird’s name refer to its tail colouring. Similar in size and weight to the Common Redstart, to which it is not closely related. It likes stony ground which is probably why we see so many here, the rough rocky outcrops around the valley and the surrounding countryside are a perfect habitat. Some of its behaviour is similar to the Robin – it ducks its head and body – and flicks its tail, though it catches passing insects in flight which the Robin does not. The male has a rattling song and a tick call.

Listen to the Black Redstart’s song here at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
el colorante – the colouring
similar en tamaño y peso – similar in size and weight
estrechamente relacionada – closely related
el comportamiento – the behaviour
el sitio web – the website

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-
Blackbird
Golden Oriole
Chaffinch

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Do you recognize the song of the Black Redstart? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley http://wp.me/p3dYp6-24H