The year started off well. Light steady rains. None of the torrential rain and storms we had in the first couple of years here. Though not enough rain to soak in and encorage wild flowers. But then the virus and the lockdown happened. Fortunately for us our daily routine hardly changed: walking the dogs, and doing odd jobs around the finca. Only that there was no one around and no traffic passing on the road. Not that we see many people here but it was almost like we were alone on the planet. With Armageddon seemingly on the horizon my thoughts turned to growing vegetables and keeping chickens.
Looks like Armageddon, actually a duststorm or ´calima´.
The difficulties with growing vegetables here range from poorly germinating seed to pests, diseases, wind, the heat, and the need to water frequently.. It is so important to check the date on the seed packet. Even then there is no guarantee of good germination. I have often had my newly germinating seed eaten by mice. My tomatoes always suffer from phytopthera blight, making it vital to remove affected leaves and water at the base of the plants to avoid spreading the fungal spores. I have tried dusting the plants with sulphur fungicide and it seems to help.
The maize has grown well despite newly emerging shoots being eaten by chipmunks. Beans, cherry tomatoes, peppers (pimiento padron) , rocket, carrots, mint, pennyroyal and beetroot are all growing here.
Just two of many beetroots that went into pickling jars. Quite a good size!
I have waged war against the chipmunks with the asistance of two traps baited with tomatoes. It was the tomatoes that attracted them in the first place. I wouldn´t mind if they just picked a whole tomato and went on their way but no, they climb up the plant nibbling at several and destroying so many at once. The question was what to do with them when caught. They are quite cute to look at so ducking them in the pond wasn´t a realistic option. They were instead given a sentence of transportation. Here is one waiting to be transported to form a new colony.
Then into the back of the truck and off to pastures anew.
Ever since we gave up on the idea of a wood burning stove the old woodstore has been redundant and this suggested itself as the starting point for building a chicken coop. So I set to work.
Then we had to find some chickens. From asking around we found a farm in Casillas del Angel with battery hens.They were on the point of clearing out their 18 month old hens. We took four and saved them from the compost heap. Rescue chickens to add to our rescue dogs. Unfortunately they were in a terrible state. Not many feathers, red bottoms and completely stressed out.
But within a week they had settled down and are already becoming quite tame. By removing their feeder at night and returning it in the morning they have associated me with food. So now I am being attacked in the morning when I return with their re-filled feeder. To keep the feed area clean it is advisable to suspend the feeder off the ground. But this means that the feeder starts to rotate when the chickens get stuck in and it hilarious to see them racing around and around in circles trying to grab some food.
Just two weeks after our ladies arrived we were presented with the first egg. It felt like it was their way of saying thank you!
So, not content with dogs and chickens we thought we should add to the fish population. We hadn´t seen any fish for weeks and thought the heron had taken them, so I bought 15 goldfish from the petshop. Then three large ones appeared from nowhere and so we had 18. Then we saw some tiny babies - another six so we are up to 24 - and counting.
For some time now we have noticed that the plants near the water tank have been growing luxuriantly and at the same time we noticed water pooling in the pump house. The conclusion being that we had a leak. A local firm offered to fit a rubber (EPDM) lining at a reasonable price. They had previously supplied our pool liner. It was arranged for them to fit a liner inside our water tank, but first I had to empty it and clean it out.
This was Wendy`s opportunity to put the lid back on and keep me out of the way for a while!
We, or maybe just I, were tempted to add to our collection of livestock when this little fellow appeared.
Very cute little kid but we decided to find his owner who turned out to be a farmer living up on the hill about a mile away. So we took him for a ride in the truck and he (the kid) thanked us by giving us some of his fleas!
As I write this we are gearing up to fly back to Britain for a few weeks leaving our finca in the hands of house sitters. We are so looking forward to seeing our grandchildren. Wendy has been busy making masks for the journey......