Thursday, March 23, 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Happy St. Patrick´s Day

I did get some early red potatoes in by St. Patrick´s Day.  But the forecast is for rain and frost next week, so I´m not too worried about the main crop yet.

Sowed parsnips, carrots, spinach, red lettuce and peas.  Planted some baby rhubarb that miraculously survived the winter in their little pots.  And transplanted some thriving parsley that was in the way of the new raised rose beds. The good news is the veg beds are really easy to turn over after all that digging last year.

Someone please send me an email next January telling me I don´t need more bare root roses.  Not that it will do any good, I suppose.  The beds are double dug, a layer of horse manure and leaves, topped with the original soil and amended with bagged manure and worm castings.  Using the many, many rocks for drainage channels, to keep the plants from having wet feet.

Ghislaine de Feligonde is in a big pot on the northeast side of the house where she gets sun from about 9 in the morning until about 2 in the afternoon, in March.  She should get to about 10 feet.

The beds from last year are coming to life.  Including a mushroom that hitched a ride on the leaves I picked up last year.

Hyacinths are still blooming.

And the azaleas are starting up.  Hope the chilly weather doesn´t do them in.

And now I´m going to have a Guiness or three.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Barn

We had the builder come out and use the bulldozer to move the stones from inside the barn to the pile out in the lot.  It would have taken me weeks to move them with a wheelbarrow, and they were infested with nettles.

The building is basically two, unconnected spaces built on the slope.  One about twice the size of the other.  The good news is that the stone looks very good and the walls quite straight.  There is a very ramshackle extension off the corner, with a window and two large stones that remind me of Stonehenge.  Who knows what it was for - pigs?  Chickens?  That won´t be included in the covered space, perhaps it would make a good potting area.

There is a large opening that has been bricked in.  We want to open that again.  We still have a bunch of windows we bought for the house that we can use.  The rest of the openings were filled in by slats to allow ventilation.  On the larger space, we may do the same for the time being.  Other options might be insulated panels clad in boards.  I don´t think we´ll have enough stone to fill in them all.

The builder has determined that the existing chestnut beams have rotten ends where they´re supported by the walls.  Of course, what else would he say.  On the other hand, no point spending the money for a new roof if the support is questionable, and our budget is, as always, minimal.

We saved a bunch of old beams and beam-ends that I intend for use on raised beds, arbors, etc., that will have to be moved somewhere out of the way.

We have to take measurements and make decisions about uses for the spaces.  I´m wondering about things like skylights, water lines, drains, insulation in general.  I actually think it´s an ideal candidate for a rocket mass heater, but doubt we´re capable of making that happen ourselves.  Plans are to put on a roof and cement slab in Phase I, probably maintaining the two different levels with separate entrances.

So let me ask, what are the most useful aspects of your barns or garages?

Saturday, March 4, 2017

In like a Lion

It´s been one rainy day after another.  Yesterday, hail.  Predictions are for better weather starting next week, so fingers crossed.

We got the old pear and apple trees that have been struggling along pruned, taking out a lot of dead wood.  I hope they make it.  We need to kill the ivy on the pear this year.

In the meantime, I planted 2 sour cherries I got from a big box store.  The rose forum calls these ¨body bags¨ for the simple reason that in order to fit in the packaging, they cut all the roots off the plant.  And that turned out to be exactly the case, so we´ll see.  Also planted the blueberries in the veg patch, underplanting with strawberries so I can net the whole thing.  Still have 2 hazels and 2 almond trees to plant.

I got started on moving some existing roses away from the wall, as the neighbor has mentioned he wants to work on it this year.  Can´t really do much more until it dries out a little.  And yes, I ordered more bare root roses.  It´s a sickness.

Hoping that by St. Patrick´s day, I´ll be able to plant potatos and onions. Unfortunately, the leaves don´t seem to be breaking down in the potato bed.  Hoping that won´t affect the potatoes.  Need to sow the parsnips, carrots and peas, too.

Monday, February 6, 2017

After the Storm

We had a nor´wester blow through.  Or two.  Right after the Siberian blast.  So much for the warm, dry winter.

Electricity went on and off again all weekend.  Must find a better lighting solution than candles, of which we have quite a few, but not enough light to read by.  Fortunately, we didn´t lose anything in the freezer or anything.  We remember a 4 day blackout in Chicago, with V recently arrived, during a record heat wave.  A hundred year old transformer blew.  V remarked after the second day that governments would fall in Spain if such a thing happened.  He was impressed that people managed to cross intersections with non-functioning traffic lights in such a civilized fashion.

The current joke is after complaining about the price gouging on electrical rates during the cold snap, people are now doing without, whether they want to or not.

Anyway, no notable damage.  A tree in the woods alongside our lot fell.  A couple of branches also came down.  Some yard stuff blown around.  A road sign at the corner blew into the ditch.

I´d planted two baby bare root oak trees just before, which are certainly watered in at this point.  They are in memory of my parents who are both gone now, but one has a split down by the base that I didn´t notice when purchasing, so I have my doubts about it´s future.  Still, at €3.50 at the farmer´s market, not difficult to replace.  Bought some more blueberries, an almond tree, and the only hazelnut they had, along with an impulse Lingonberry, which I´m not sure will thrive in this zone.  I miss cranberries.

Breo´s been ordered to ¨rest¨ after pulling something in a back leg.  Conveniently, he doesn´t like going out in the rain.  We think it´s from his stint at the shelter. But even without walks, when he ¨sees¨ something in the garden he takes off like a rocket and then hobbles the rest of the day. 

The rain guage blew over twice so I can´t be sure how much actually fell.  Now waiting for the water to drain to get back to the garden and planting.  It´s starting to smell like spring.  And the plucky little japanese quince is blooming!

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Projects

Lots of Projects for 2017 big and small, which will be expounded upon in further posts:

1.  Barn renovation

So we have this 1917 barn, or what´s left of it.  The roof had a gaping hole when we bought the place, and based on the builder´s recommendation, had the roof taken off and the rotten elements removed.  In retrospect, it might have been wiser to patch the roof, though the builder insists that the weight wasn´t good for the structure.  In any event, as a first phase we´d like to get it covered, install a floor, and fill in the openings so we´d have a dry place for storage.  Eventually, I want a studio workshop and a dry, secure place for storing feed/bedding/firewood/tools.  V wants a mancave.

2.  Garden

The veg area will be expanded, but is limited by tree roots and the zone around the barn which will be churned up by workers and vehicles.  Closer to the house, I´ll creating an area for flowers, culinary and medicinal herbs and dye plants. 

3. Assorted Interior projects:  backsplash, range hood, laundry sink

While livable, there are a few elements still missing from the house.  This year we´d like to get those finished, along with buying the last furniture items.  We´re still sitting on patio chairs at the kitchen table.  The laundry room needs a complete makeover, but depends on what kind of laundry sink we get.  A bigger, longer term project still pending is solar thermal hot water.  I wasn´t really convinced that Galicia had a climate for solar anything, but with summers getting hotter and drier, it´s probably time to investigate this more thoroughly.  We simply can´t afford a solar electricity set up, and the government is now taxing those who do, even if they´re off grid.

4.  Experimenting with natural dyes/cheesemaking/brewing

I miss doing creative stuff, even though I don´t seem to have time to do what I should on any given day.  Lately, I´ve been really intrigued by eco-printing and botanical dying, which uses plant material and found objects to print patterns and colors on fabric.  I got a copy of India Flint´s Eco Colour, who´s an Australian fibre artist and does very interesting work, and have a couple of books on dye plants and dyeing to put to use.  I got some cheesemaking supplies while I was in the States and will have to look into finding a supply of raw milk and maybe a local mentor to show me the ropes on producing cheese.  Another goal is to renew our brewing hobby, now that our bottle collection is out of basement storage in Madrid and here in Galicia.  Another reason to organize the laundry room space - storage for bulky brewing stuff. 

5.  Water

This winter is shaping up to be very dry.  I´ve been busily building raised beds since historically Galicia is quite wet.  But this winter the weather is wierdly dry, warm and sunny and we´ll be needing to take advantage of all new roof surfaces to store water, especially at higher elevations.  I´d also like to refurbish the defunct well by the barn for watering the garden, and there needs to be some form of irrigation put into place.  We´ll see.

6.  Chickens

Still need to decide on a place to put a coop.  Disruption from work on the barn could be an issue here, also.  I´d just like to get started with a half dozen hens and start producing some fertilizer for the gardens.  Always good to have the ingredients for a tortilla española around the place.

7.  Integrate into the community

We´re really, really bad at socializing.  V has the excuse that he´s gone a lot, but I´m just anti-social.  We know our immediate neighbors and have met a few locals, but haven´t done a lot to participate in local functions or anything.  However, just before Christmas, we started hosting a lovely young woman for an English conversation practice once a week, and are planning to meet her family soon.  Turns out, she plays the gaita/pipes and is a member of the local folk band, so we hope to be more informed as to local festivities this year.

So those are the plans.  We´ll revisit to see how well we´ve done at the end of the year.  And now I must go get in another couple of loads of firewood as they´re predicting a siberian cold wave for the end of this week.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 in Review

Despite the appalling loss of celebrities in 2016, on the positive side we did get quite a lot done this year.

5.  Guest Bedroom

Although this didn´t make it on the blog, probably because it´s practically impossible to photograph, we cleared out the many, many boxes of stuff, bought a sofa bed and an armoire, put down a rug and now have a perfectly serviceable guest bedroom/office. Honestly, where did people buy furniture before Ikea?  We looked locally, asked all our contacts in Madrid and La Coruña and ended up back at the Swedish behemoth anyway. The room has received the approval of several family members so far this year.   I had toyed with the idea that the space might serve as a sewing/craft room for me, but once the furniture was in, that´s really not practical.  I toy with the idea of earning a small part time income doing something online, and there is Wifi reception in that room, so we´ll see as 2017 develops.

4.  Main bath finished

Finally painted, added sconces, and finished installing the lav sink in it´s antique cabinet.  Ongoing challenges in this room are the cold (it´s the northeast corner of the house) and the shower doors which have a 1/4 inch gap in the gasket corner at the hinge that flood the floor with water every time someone showers.  We´re thinking a heated towel rack might help with the heating issue, and I suppose we´ll have to look for replacement gaskets to fix the other.

3.  Garden started

The veg patch produced well for a first timer.  I pulled out bags and bags of trash, rocks and weeds and the veg seemed to appreciate it.  The experiment to leave the carrots in the ground has produced split carrots.  The kale and beet greens are still thriving, despite several frosts.  The peas are still growing, but I expect them to succumb this month.  They´ll get plowed in in the spring.  Hoping an earlier start will help with bigger harvests this year. 

2.  Patio area

One of The Best ideas of 2016.  This patio got used practically every day once it was done.  A truly lovely spot.  We finally just moved the table and chairs over along side and hung out in this shady little corner.  Put up some solar lanterns and had many enjoyable hours chatting and relaxing.  I encourage everyone to have an agreeable little corner like this to retire to.

 1.  Breo

The best idea of 2016!  After a couple of months of adapting, Breo has taken to the place and settled into being a delightful dog, though he can be a handful.  Ongoing challenges are due to our own lack of training skills and consistent discipline.  He´s a very willing collaborator around the place and caught 2 rabbits, much to V´s distress.

He gets walked, er ¨goes on patrol¨, twice a day and, weather permitting, gets an hour or so of ball time, er ¨prey practice¨.  There is a complicated, and highly secret, buried bone rotation in place.  He likes to help dig holes and absolutely loves it when the garden requires an application of manure.

He´s diligent about warning off passersby, whether on foot or in enormous farm machinery.  He completely charmed all friends and family who came to visit and behaved quite well with other dogs, both family and strays who´ve happened by, all while maintaining the property absolutely cat-free.

We´ve switched from feeding raw to one raw and one kibble meal a day.  Mostly because, should we have to drop everything and go to Madrid for a family emergency, a dog residence will have an easier time feeding kibble, and also because the Vet is always warning us to watch his weight.  So he´s on Acana Light and Fit and he seems to enjoy it. 

On the other hand, the hair!  The ongoing, constant, unstoppable shedding.  Clouds of hair.  Tumbleweeds of hair moving through the patio.  Also, I cannot in all conscience recommend a blonde dog with black cabinets.  But here we are.

We´re delighted with him, and he seems to be with us, especially lately he´s been more and more cuddly.  It will be a year now, since we brought him home, and yes, the Reyes Magos will be bringing presents.

And in honor of the love and joy and life he´s brought to the place, we´ve named the house ¨Fogar de Breogán¨, or Breogan´s Home, which figures prominently in the Galician anthem.  Some purist Galleguistas will no doubt be offended, but that´s OK.

So that´s 2016.  Many thanks for reading and following our story.  Projects for 2017 will be forthcoming.  We wish you all the best for a happy, healthy 2017!