Monday, 18 July 2016

We're Renewable!

We just signed up to have our electricity supplied 100% by renewable sources - thanks to the lovely people at the Som Energia cooperative.

The process was easy, quick and cheap. Just €100 to join the cooperative as a member, and then a simple form to complete.

I had considered installing solar voltaic panels at the Croft, but the cost of the panels and the converter, with enough power to run a large house and our three water pumps (well, irrigation and recycled water), was prohibitive. Som Energia supplies certified renewable energy mainly from wind power.

One more step toward a lower-carbon footprint...

Friday, 3 June 2016

Fit on the Croft

Working on the Croft is the equivalent of paying an exorbitant fee to a fancy gym, except it is free. Last Saturday I shifted 60 bales of hay, using - at least this was how it felt - every muscle in my body.

Hay sweater
Shifting hay at the Croft means picking the bale up in the field, lifting it into the back of our trusty Nissan, piling in five more bales, driving over to the hay pile, and stacking them up. Not for lightweights...

Luckily, the Croft helps me recover. We have the beautiful Spiny Golden Star (Pallenis spinosa) in flower at the moment. 

Good for the spine

Our neighbour Dolors has shown me how to soak the flowers in alcohol and make a muscle-rub. It's an incredibly effective treatment for a back made sore by the hay-bales.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Runny Honey

My first honey harvest today!

Miquel had loaned me his centrifuge, and today started sunny and calm, so I set out the kitchen ready for the harvest:

Not ergonomic, but it works
I sealed the windows. Not to stop the bees coming in, but to stop them getting out. If they escape they head off to tell their mates, and in no time you have 10,000 bees trying to get in to rob your harvested honey.



Then up to the hives with all the necessary equipment...




..and back with one full upper and two sets of frames. It has been rainy, so the bees are not yet really ready with the honey.

In the kitchen I weighed the honey.
That honey is dense


Then removed the cappings from the frames, centrifuged them and filtered the  honey. 

Watch that knife, Crofter.
 

Result: 26.5kg of fresh honey!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Snail's Place


This, I think, is a Girdled snail, Hygromia cinctella, or possibly a Trochoidea elegans, elegantly climbing a dandelion leaf:


Sitting on breakfast

  My friends over at El Cargol del Montseny (appropriately, 'The Montseny Snail') suggest that it might be Helix aspersa or Helix pomatia, but this one had a flattened profile, not the fat round of the Roman snail.

Anyone out there an expert on snails?

Monday, 16 May 2016

Floral sex

There are lots of ways of reproducing in the animal kingdom, as the brilliant Olivia Judson has shown; her 'Dr Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation' is the funniest biology book I've ever read. Here are a couple of much more mundane examples from plants and fungi, gathered yesterday at the Croft. 

In the flowers camp I have picked two that illustrate another point - food and sex; the first is a Broomrape (Orobanche alba), a parasitic plant that has no chlorophyll and survives instead on the juices of, in this case, the thyme plant. The Thyme Broomrape has a sort of sweet smell of cloves and cinnamon. The second is an orchid, Orchis militaris. Both flower, and thus depend on pollinators to reproduce. The orchid may, like many orchids, have a specific pollinator species - which would mean that both it and the Broomrape depend on another species for survival.


Thyme for more juice
Military Orchid, in pacifist pink

 For spores, here is a splendid fungus; I am rubbish at identifying them, which is why I rarely collect them to eat them, but a friend of a friend suggests it might be the edible Leccinum Lepidum, or possibly but less likely a Suillus granulatus


Faeries be here








Monday, 9 May 2016

The Next Village Along

When a person dies people here in Catalonia say that she has 'gone to the other neigbourhood.' On Friday morning our lovely Hazel went to the other neighbourhood - I'd rather think of it as the next village - after a short illness.


A scent of a dog


She was a kind, empathetic dog - one of the crofters called her 'a sweet dog' - and had lived at the Croft for eight years after we brought her home from a rescue kennel nearby. She was highly adapted to live with humans, understanding our moods (flattening her ears while we had one of our debates), ready to walk anywhere, and loving of all of us. When one of the Crofters was away for a while he or she would be enthusiastically welcomed by Hazel on their return; this was especially true for our two children who grew up with Hazel around them. We are all missing her, our lovely Hazel.


Saturday, 30 April 2016

Crofting Gallimaufry

It has been a week of action here at the Croft.

First, Patrick (now a year old) has started halter training. He doesn't much like it, but the apples I feed him make it bearable.

Yeah OK but what about that apple you promised?


Then, for Sant Jordi, the poppies came out.

Just poppin' out


And yesterday, Dink the bantam hatched five lovely wee chicks.

Dinx chix pix


Life goes on going on.