Thursday, 25 December 2014
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
Friday, 12 December 2014
I've named her Ovelia Modiale in honour of my brother-out-of-law, Jonathan Jarrett whose paper* on the use of cows, sheep and possibly pigs as monetary units in 10th century Catalonia is a must read. Our tiny new lamb (3.8kg at birth, so small) probably is not yet worth a modius of grain, but I'll love her all the same.
Unfortunately when I explained to the residents at the Croft that we were calling her "Ovelia Modiale" they all, er, laughed. So she's to be called "Oli" for short.
Difficult to imagine this animal currency really working. Here's an early manuscript from Catalonia, cerca 975 AD:
Shopkeeper: Thank you ma'am. That will be three Bovo soldare and half an Ovelia modiale.
Customer: Half an Ovelia modiale? Not sure I've got the change. Just a moment while I fetch an axe...
Bloody business, shopping.
*Bovo Soldare: A Sacred Cow of Spanish Economic History Re-evaluated, in Naismith, Rory, Martin Allen, and Elina Screen, eds. Early Medieval Monetary History: Studies in Memory of Mark Blackburn. Studies in Early Medieval Britain and Ireland. Farnham, Surrey, UK ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2014.
Monday, 8 December 2014
|Turning over a new leaf|
The forest here grows very thick, so we've put the donkeys to work reducing the woods to, er, manure.
|The woods go dung|
Donkeys are efficient, but ruthless. They will strip the bark off anything small enough, and chew their way through almost everything else.
Arran loves it.
Sunday, 30 November 2014
Friday, 28 November 2014
|Baby, I'm on fire|
I love the colours but also the signals that they give - of impending cold and of a healthy ecosystem; they won't live in areas that are polluted or unclean.
Wednesday, 29 October 2014
|A new leaf|
It is an evergreen, and efficient at using the tough, dry moraine soil to extract nutrients. I know this because we just renewed an old cutting here at the Croft, and uncovered part of the root system of one tree. Here it is, three metres deep:
|Roots to success|
These trees will be here long after we have gone
Sunday, 26 October 2014
Luckily, she left evidence:
|Dark and deadly|
This looks like American Mink (Neovison vison), according to Animal Tracks and Signs, the wonderful book by Preben Bang and Preben Dahlstrom.
So on Friday the lovely Agents Rurals Quico and Oriol came up and helped us lay a live trap.
|This way, please|
Tuesday, 12 August 2014
What is going on?
How Do I Know It's Not Butter?
Is this stuff everywhere?
Are you feeling emotional?
Is someone trying to make me do something?
Look the other way, at the stuff they are not saying
Think it through, for yourself
And This, Too?
Sunday, 13 July 2014
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Today I achieved a milestone, getting Laialuing our 7-month donkey to accept a halter:
|Halter? There's no stopping us now.|
|Turquoise Flying Thing|
This first one might be related to Cetonia aurata, but frankly I have very little idea. Any suggestions, welcome.
But together, they show that we are not having a Silent Spring; no-one is spraying chemicals anywhere near here, and the bugs thrive.
Monday, 30 June 2014
|Glasgow Necropolis - Wikimedia Commons|
Friday, 27 June 2014
The people who live here.
It's the phrase used to define who will vote in September's referendum in Scotland. And it signals how different the independence debate is in Scotland than in, say, Kurdistan.
In most "nationalist" debates the heart of the debate is ethnic, defining your nation by virtue of your parentage. JK Rowling got this wrong, in her £1m No statement in which she says that people might judge her 'insufficiently Scottish' http://www.jkrowling.com/en_GB/#/news-events/latest (to which the National Collective's Mairi McFadyen wrote such a brilliant reply http://nationalcollective.com/2014/06/11/an-open-letter-to-j-k-rowling/ ).
In Scotland it's not about being Scottish, or not being Scottish enough. It's about a group of people, living in a nation, choosing how they should be governed.
I am Scottish. But like millions of Scots I don't live there, an emigrant looking for opportunities and a lifestyle that Scotland did not appear, in 1975, to provide. I'm ethnically and culturally Scottish, but it's right that I should not have the vote in a country that I chose to leave 39 years ago.
The evolution in the nationalist debate has not apparently registered with the No campaign. The No discourse is still shouting about nationalists closing the borders and hating the English. This is childish. The people who live in Scotland could define themselves as Scottish, English, Catalan, Pakistani, Brazilian, Kurdish or any one of the hundreds of homes, or ethnicities, that make up Scotland's diverse populace. All of these people can vote.
The policies promoted by the Yes campaign underline this. Yes to immigration (what a difference from Westminster's xenophobia,) Yes to continuing in the EU (UKIP England says No), and Yes to a Nordic alliance, linking Scotland to its historic kin in Scandinavia. The movement to independence is the opposite of isolationist; anyone who thinks for a moment about how a new small country will organize itself will realise that it must make international alliances. The independence White Paper http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/11/9348) emphasises this, saying that Scotland wants to join and work with international institutions; "Scotland will be an active member of global institutions and will be party to fair and reciprocal agreements which respect human rights..."
The debate in Scotland is not ethnic, and it is not isolationist. It's geographic, placing a brilliant new country into a world map. A new country, where the people who live here - wherever they may call home - are sovereign.
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Friday, 23 May 2014
Monday, 19 May 2014
All eight of our bird box eggs have hatched, and both parents are now in full feeding mode.
UPDATE: 23 May 2014: All eight have flown the nest - a really successful clutch!
Here's one on his way to the bird box with a load of lunch.
[Photo of Parus major, Great Tit, courtesy of the lovely Henri Zomer, a student at the University of Groningen who stayed with us recently]
Saturday, 3 May 2014
Monday, 21 April 2014
|I'm a heavy smoker|
...and made all of this...
|The busy baker|
...as well as a pizza and a coca de vidre (flat very thin bread with sugar and aniseed, cooked very fast in the hottest oven possible).
The piped biscuits (they look like they've been plopped rather than piped - I'm not a qualified piper) are gluten free. The recipe, adapted from my Good Housekeeping Cookery Book, 1985 edition, is:
50g icing sugar
65g rice flour
65g oatmeal flour
A quarter level teaspoon of baking powder
1 tablespoon of milk, to soften the dough.
Heat the bread oven. In my case this means starting 3-4 hours earlier, burning oak logs in the oven to get it up to temperature. Aim for 190ºC. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment (greaseproof paper.)
Beat butter until smooth and creamy, sift in sugar and beat lots until pale and airy.
Sift in flour and baking powder, add nutmeg and beat. Add a little milk to soften the mixture. Put into piping bag and, er, make a splodge onto the baking parchment. And then lots more splodges until you've used it up. Bake for 20 mins approx.
Saturday, 19 April 2014
Here she is, with her mum Margarita, tucking into a load of fresh hay after walking down here from Can Peu Alt. Jordi and his sons brought the two donkeys over here this morning.
|Hay, I've arrived|
|I nose it's a new donkey...but two?|
Monday, 7 April 2014
This, I think, is Volucella zonaria, a wasp-mimicking hoverfly. H/she was drying her wings in a sunny spot above a miniature wetland we've created using an old water tank. He's big!
|Big, bug and beautiful|
|Half a dozen here, half a dozen there|
Sunday, 30 March 2014
Here in Catalonia things are different. It's a good day when it rains. Especially if, as now, we have had a very dry start to the year (91mm against the average 161mm in the first three months of 2014).
|It's blooming raining|
The rain in Spain seems to be falling mainly on the plane...and not in Catalonia.
I grew the trees from seeds, taken from a bitter orange tree near here that was subsequently felled. So I'd really like to help these trees to grow. But some of the trees are under assault from a bug. The bugs are orange and mobile when young, becoming white and powdery and immobile as adults. They produce an orange liquid - but not red like Cochineal - when you squish them.
|Mealybug? or Scale?|
Which bug is it?
Is it Planococcus citri, a citric Mealybug?
Or is it Icerya purchasi, the Cottony Cushion Scale?