Sunday, February 26, 2012

Solar Hot Water

 After much deliberation we have finally lashed out and had a Solar water heater installed, It is the evacuated tube type with a 150 litre tank that sits above it, and pressurised from the  cold water system, we had the system installed by Solardirecta of Caravaca, they arrived as promised at 10.00 on Tuesday, and the heater was completely installed by 18.00 that night.
Previously we were useing the gas boiler for hot water and the hot water pressure was not that great but now the pressure is brilliant, and the water piping hot, we have a valve fitted at the tank that mixes cold water into the outflow for a maximum temperature  of 60 degrees C, (adjustable) which is a safeguard against turning the hot tap on and getting scolded. Within 24 hours the digital water control was telling is we had 150 litres of water at 80 degrees C, and is building up as we are not useing all the hot water each day.
Should we have several days of cloudy weather, there is a heater built into the tank that can be turned on from the controller either manually or automatically.So after the initial expence, we now have plenty of hot water provided by the sun.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Its not who you know its where you live!

Recently we have seen lots of arguments on English language forums re the heating allowance given to British pensions in UK. In case you are unaware once you become a state pensioner, provided you live in UK, you get a winter payment to help with heating. To qualify you MUST be resident in UK when you reach pensionable age. Not quite sure how this rule was reached but that's how it is. As a pensioner myself  I do not qualify under these rules. Well you cannot win them all. I am just pleased to have a pension and to have lived long enough to collect it! Mind you it is a bit nippy at the moment and I am sure the many many forums used by British pensioners living here will have not a few threads running on this issue as heating bills start arriving.  Right now it is a bit nippy but lets face it we know we will get some right hot weather unlike the poor devils in UK. We lived in Scotland for quite a number of years and it was not so unusual to have the heating on at any time of the year. All in all keeping warm in UK is a far more expensive business. So despite the fact we saw market traders in Cieza today lighting fires in makeshift braziers, and a bunch of workman who had stoped for a break and lit a fire on the roadside to keep themselves warm, we will be counting our blessings not our goosebumps.  So chill out
man it will soon be summer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The rain in Spain

Although we have had some cold weather this winter what we have not had yet is rain. Its only rained 3 or 4 times since the beginning of last December. The ground is very dry and we are putting any available grey water onto the flower beds and trees in our garden. We are also glad we have not drained the swimming pool. Instead we have put a winter cover on it and run the pump about once a month. The water is clear and clean under the secondhand cover, what a bargain, heavy duty cover. If the winter rain really does fail to arrive at least we will not be worrying about all the water the pool needs. Our little domestic worries over the water situation must be amplified for the fruit and olive growers though. This area like so many in Spain is made to bloom and by the ancient irrigation system. The system was put in place by the desert dwelling Moors who looked at the one left by the Romans and set about improving the network. However no matter how good the system for moving water is you need the water to be there in the first place. The river is looking low the ground is dry and its up to all of us to be as careful as we can with water. There is real concern in cereal growing areas on the plains in Spain.
We think that now is a good time to look at your own household water footprint and if you can change your habits to reduce the amount all to the good. Now if you´ll excuse me I must go and greywater the garden.

footnote: It rained last night!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Marys Saint Clements pudding and almond blossom

When you are surrounded by citrus trees and love to cook you are always looking for ways to make use of a wonderful free resource. The lemons from the garden are in almost daily use, on fish salads, paella etc.
I do love a good pud though, so heres a recipe I put together the other day, it was yummy.

You will need.

3 lemons squeezed for juice, take off the zest first to use
2 oranges squeezed and zested too. ( free from our lovely neighbour Serafino)
200 grams of whipping cream
150 grams of yogurt ( I used a vanilla probiotic one from Lidl but a good Greek one would work)
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
3 sheets of gelatine
1/2 pkt of digestive biscuits crushed
100grams melted butter

first mix melted butter and crushed biscuit then press into a shallow container lined with kitchen foil, a flan dish is perfect. Put into fridge to set. mix lemon and orange juice
Put gelatine sheets on small plate cover in water, when it soft squeeze of the excess water then put in small bowl and cover with about half a cup of a the citrus juice set aside
put sugar in to remaining juice and warm until sugar melts, no need to boil. leave to cool
Whip the cream till very stiff fold in yogurt

warm gelatine in microwave, till it melts let it cool a little

mix the cream mixture, juice/sugar and gelatine and zest together

pour onto biscuit base and leave in fridge for 4 to 5 hours

try to kid yourself its really good for you because of all the fruit juice!

and as a foot note the almonds tree are in bloom now, a magical sight for sure.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A few Steps to heaven

                                     CARAVACA DE LA CRUZ
 If you do a google search on buying a property in Spain I have no doubt you will find a veritable avalanche of information. Quite aside from the commercial ones, by property agents and the like, there are hundreds upon hundreds of others. These will be news items in online papers, postings on expat forums and indeed blogs like ours.
Many of the non commercial type will be tales of doom, gloom and strife. Whoever said "Bad news sells best. Cause good news is no news." * was right. Over the years I have read and seen  many reports of what can go wrong when you buy in spain. Of course, as in any country, some of the reports showed genuine cause for grievance and my heart goes out to those concerned. However I have so often read tales of woe from people who seem to have left their rational thinking self back in UK.
I do not intend to go into the whys and wherefores of what can go wrong or what idiots people can be. All I want to point out is this, would you buy a place in UK without a solicitor, would you sign a paperwork you could not read, would you flout planning laws and plead ignorance, would you think a business person was a social service, would you expect their services to come free. Would you buy a property without thoroughly checking out the area? Then bearing in mind you are looking in another country, would you expect everything to be done as it is in UK? 

If the answer is yes to all the above what can I say. Hands up, cannot say I have not been guilty of making some mistakes but hey I am a grown up and take responsibility for my own foolish actions!

So, headline grabbing horror stories aside, IMHO you need to: Have a good solicitor who knows about the type of property you are buying. Some have never dealt with country properties for example. This can be a complicated area and requires specialist knowledge much the same as some places in the Highlands of Scotland. Choose an agent who has been around for long time and is well established in the area you want to buy in. Remember big is not always better, the first place we bought was through a huge company that had just gone public,  they disappeared overnight. Better someone who lives in the area and may well become  a neighbour. Then of course ask loads of questions and it may be advisable to stay in the area for a fews weeks to get a feel for the place.
Right now there are some fabulous bargains to be had on the Spanish property market theres no doubting that. That aside always always proceed with caution, then there is much more chance you will get just what you want.

*  think it was from the film "Ace in the hole"

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bird life

The days are really drawing out know and the local bird life is bursting with life. The noise from small birds in the cypress tree out front is unbelievably loud. We saw a lone magpie today and believe we spotted some house martins down in Blanca. One bird however has been a familiar sight right through the winter as it flys back and forth along the course of the river from Blanca  to Cieza. The bird in point is a cormorant, well I guess there is more than one though we cannot be sure. Its to be seen early in the morning,  and late afternoon  regular as clock work. We do see cormorants at other times but there is always a lone bird around theses times along the same course. It seems to go towards Abaran then come back to Blanca hours later.
Years ago we thought you only saw cormorants on the coast but having seen them in many places in the world we now know they are common inland where there is water. I love the silhouette they make as they stand drying there wings, its so prehistoric looking  rather like a mini pterodactyl.
The Great Cormorant to give it its full name, is a large black bird, but there is a wide variation in size in the species . They can weigh in at anything from  1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) to 5.3 kg (11.7 lbs). Length can vary from 70 to 102 cm (28–40 in) with wingspan being  from 121 to 160 cm (48–63 in). It has a longish tail and yellow throat-patch. Adults have white thigh patches in the breeding season. have to admit we are not totally sure which species the cormorants are here, there are about 40 types, one thing is for sure though its not a pigmy one! We have seen some white breasted ones but we think they are immature ones not the ones indigenous to Africa.
It seems that cormorants are prey to hunters here and in many other parts of the Europe. Many fishermen try to erradicate them. In China and Japan however they use cormorants to fish with, though its not so widespread as it used to be, a snare is tied near the base of the bird's throat, which allows the bird only to swallow small fish. When the bird captures and tries to swallow a large fish, the fish is caught in the bird's throat. When the bird returns to the fisherman's raft, the fisherman helps the bird to remove the fish from its throat. In fact cormorants are eaten by some people. Cannot say I fancy one myself. I have seen warnings about eating them because of pollution. All cormorants are fish eaters, they go for small eels, and would you believe water snakes.

Well, will not be seeing Scottish Cormorant hotpot or roast breast of cormorant on the Middleton family menu anytime soon, think we will stick with rabbit casserole when it comes to game dishes thank you very much.
We will however continue to enjoy the sight of our lone bird on its daily journey along the valley floor and hey its nearly spring maybe some day soon it wont be alone but will bring its mate alone for the commute.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

A Flight Down Memory Lane

There is something about a chilly afternoon that makes me nostalgic. Roaring fire in the log burner, afternoon tea on the go mmmm , reminds me of? Well lots of things really. Depths of winter in the Highlands, fire going , tea on the go of course! One big difference though between then and now, apart from the much much lower degrees of cold in the depths of a Scottish Glen of course, and that's the content of my day dreams. Here I can take a wander outside if I can drag myself away from the fire side, it may be a chilly wind but the suns still shining. A quick look at the ever progressing garden with spring bulbs just peeping through, the sun catches the lemons on our tree by the pool, a whiff of fragrance from the blossom on the same tree. Wonderful, the pool may have its winter cover on but I can still picture us swimming up and down at some late hour of the night under a  balmy starry sky.

No such day dreams back in the old Glen Urquhart dark winter afternoons. Back then we would spend many an evening looking for last minute deals that would whisk us away to a sunnier clime. Having worked 7 days a week in our little restaurant, what we really needed were some holiday deals that would give us, well exactly what we have now for the greater part of the year. Mind you back then we did find some real bargains, and I am sure given the current weather over in UK many people will be doing what we used to do, and once it warms up here no doubt our phone will start to ring as friends and family decide to visit sunny Blanca.