Although the final stronghold of the Moors, Granada, fell in 1492, Spain was not safe from hostile threats from North Africa. Indeed, in the next century, raids on the Murcian coastline by Berber pirates seeking goods, animals and slaves, became a constant threat and trouble. One countermeasure taken was the building of watchtowers along the coast to give advance warning of the pirates' approach. Today, some of these towers still remain. There are four within a very short distance around Mazarrón which are well worth going to see.
December 8th - The Christmas season begins with a weeklong observance of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Spanish families often travel to the south of the country where the weather is warmer and there may even be flowers in bloom. In many paces such as Seville the Spanish have their own way of celebrating Christmas. In Seville's great cathedral, they watch ten costumed boys perform an ancient dance called Los Seises to honour the Virgin Mary. In northern Spain, families decorate their balconies with colourful carpets, flags, and flowers and they burn candles all night in the windows.
If you think about the letter Y in English, it actually has a dual function. Sometimes it is a vowel, as in the word "pretty", and sometimes it is a consonant, as in the word "yellow". If you think about it even more and listen carefully to how your mouth forms the sounds, you may even notice that the Y vowel and consonant in English are actually very similar. For example, if you were to say "iellow" instead of "yellow", the sound would come out the same. A very similar relationship exists between the two uses of Y in Spanish. It can be a consonant, in which case it sounds like the English consonant Y, as in the word "ya" (now) or "yo" (I). In other instances the Y acts like a vowel, substituting the letter "I" as in the word for 'and', which consists of the single letter Y.
Many of the houses here in Spain are not built for the cold weather and for ease and money, portable gas fires seem to be the answer, but there are various things that you must be aware of if you are using these appliances.
Accidents most frequently occur as a result of gas leaking when people are assembling appliances or changing cylinders or cartridges. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is butane or propane stored as a liquid under pressure. A small leak can produce a large volume of highly flammable gas. The gas is heavier than air so that it collects near the floor or ground and can be ignited at a considerable distance from the source of the leak. If escaping gas is ignited in a room or other space there may be a fire and an explosion.
By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe, practical holistic gardeners and authors living and writing in Spain for 25 years
If so here are some practical ideas for the gardening members of the family or friends:
- A new pair of sharp easy to use pruners are always welcome, ready for the winter cutback in the New Year. For our money Fiskars are worth the extra price.
- Wearing out old shoes or walking boots is not really the best thing for one's feet, ankles and knees, so how about a pair of comfortable shoes or boots with reinforced toes?
- Thinking about knees, how about a new pair of knee pads for all those kneeling jobs?
- Gardening gloves are welcome, especially waterproof ones at this time of year.
- In some households, gardening is not a shared activity, so a promise to help out next year, especially in getting a vegetable plot going, may go down well.
- How about a miniature gardening kit for young children to get them involved young? Perhaps give them a few square metres of soil or a collection of containers for their own garden.
- Sorry for including them, but our six gardening books are good Christmas presents, especially as they are designed to be used throughout the year and not just a few hours read in front of the Boxing Day log fire. As a reminder, the large ones are: 'Your Garden In Spain – From Planning to Planting and Maintenance', 'Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain' and 'Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style'. We had a great early Christmas present the other day. We walked past a five storey apartment building where only one apartment terrace had plants. Today, all ten had fantastic gardens in the sky which together now created an attractive vertical garden.
- We have two smaller books, or booklets that make good stocking fillers. They are: 'Living Well From Our Mediterranean Garden' which is most easily available from www.gardeninginspain.com and a new one 'Making Waterless Gardens a Practical Reality World Wide' which is available from the website and is also published on an Amazon Kindle ebook.
- If the intended recipient is new to gardening on Spanish soils, how about a set of three sizes of mattocks that are easier to use than a British fork and spade?
- Every ten years a new wheel barrow might be an idea, but do buy one with a wide bouncy solid or blow up tyre.
- Winter days are often sunny, but they can be windy and cold, so a snug gardener's green sweater or padded waistcoat could be appreciated.
- It not too late to plant deciduous fruit trees and bushes, so add to the existing collection of fruits for healthy living.
- To ensure a chemical-free garden next year, a present of bottles of neem oil insecticide and propolis fungicide. If you can't find them, order from www.trabe.net
- Cutting hedges gets no easier as one grows older, so perhaps arrange for someone to come and cut the hedges and prune tall trees in January.
- A small grape press could help the family press next year's grape harvest rather than using the bath and feet!
- If the garage is getting cluttered with garden tools and products, how about a garden shed?
- If you enjoy, or would like to try growing sprouting seeds, buy yourself an automatic sprouting machine.
- Several times during the year we have mentioned drying fruit, herbs and seeds on our tray drier. They are very handy. We use ours several times a week. We are currently using it for drying slices of tangerines for dipping in chocolate to eat after dinner, or when needing a boost on winter walks. Raisins and sultanas were dried for the Christmas cake!
- Gardening socks wear out every few years. Perhaps this is the year for a couple of new pairs.
- If you see a stylish straw hat in the local agricultural cooperative, buy one ready for the first hot sunny days next year.
- To attract wild birds, how about bird boxes, feeders and a bird bath. We notice that the Wiggly Wigglers catalogue includes a bird box with a built-in internal video camera to connect at the end of a 30 metre lead to the television.
- What about a good bottle of Spanish brandy to warm up after a long cold winter day in the garden?
It is true that everyday, we find animals with diseases typical during old age that may be in terminal states or completely unbalanced, that could have been detected before (cataracts, diabetes, arthritis, heart, hepatic or renal disorders).
There are some metabolic and physiopathologic effects associated to ageing:
- Decrease of the metabolic rate with less activity and a decrease of 30% or 40% of the caloric needs.
- Immunodeficiency, in spite of the normal number of lymphocytes.
- Presentation of self-immune diseases.
- Increase of the muscular, bone and joint mass with the development of arthritis.
- Hyper-pigmentation, increase and lost of elasticity of the skin.
- Tartar, periodontitis, gum or hyperplasy atrophy or lost of teeth.
- Atrophy and fibrosis of the gastric mucus.
- Development of hepatic fibrosis.
- Decrease of the secretion of pancreatic enzymes.
- Decrease of the respiratory capacity.
- Atrophy of the renal area.
- Development of urinary incontinency.
- In males, increase of the prostate, testicular atrophy and pendulous foreskin.
- In females, increase of the ovaries, fibro cysts, and mammary tumours.
- Decrease of the cardiac effort and development of valve fibrosis.
- Accumulation of fat and hypoplasia of bone marrow and development of non-regenerative anaemia.
- Decrease of the number of cells of the nerves system and lost of training.
As we can see, all the organic systems get affected with the passing of time and the only thing we can do against this is to adopt measures based on nutrition, hygiene, medicines or surgical treatments that help the animal to have a good quality of life. It is a fundamental aspect that is often forgotten and it is often preventative veterinary medicine that is required. This is why we recommend all the small sized dogs older than 8, and big sized ones older than 6 have geriatric checkups at least once a year.
These checkups will include an exhaustive analysis about diet, life habits, previous diseases, etc, a complete physical exploration of the skin, eyes, ears, mouth, muscles, and bones, neurological examinations, auscultation, electrocardiogram, analysis of the cells of the blood and biochemistry, analysis of urine and thorax x-rays. These tests could be extended to hormones tests, heart and abdomen ecographies, serologies and biopsies of any tissue depending on the history of the dog. All these tests could help us to make an early diagnosis of some of the diseases that caught in time and properly treated, can give a good quality of life to our pet.
Let's imagine a 9-year-old Alsatian is brought into the consulting room because it can hardly walk, drinks a lot and has loss of urine. After doing some tests, we could see that it had very serious arthritis in the hips and the last lumbar vertebras. The dog is obese, has a hyper-adronocorticism and a handball-ball-sized prostate tumour. It will be expensive for the owner to treat the animal, and the prediction and the hope of a good quality of life for the animal is dark. Possibly, if it had had a geriatric check up some time before, the vet would have recommended a diet and some medicines to control the hormonal diseases and arthritis, and if the tumour had been detected, it could have been operated on.
Cases like this are common and it is just one of so many that makes us think carefully about the need to have geriatric checkups more often.
Spain does not celebrate the English tradition of Bonfire night in November, but they do have 1st November as All Saints' Day or Day of the Dead. On this day all the family get together and celebrate any member who has passed on. Often they take food to the cemeteries and spend the day there, but it made me think about what do they take? It turns out a lot of pies or pastries, so I decide to make this the theme for my recipes this month. Below are some English and some Spanish, but basically once you have made the pastry, you really can put anything in it. I have started off the recipes with my easy basic Pastry recipe.
Lovage is very distinctive with its yellow umbrella shaped flowers and large shiny greeny yellow leaves and because it grows quite tall it is usually found at the back of herb or flower gardens. It is grown throughout Europe and Asia and is known as the 'Maggi' plant due to its spicy flavour. Lovage prefers deep rich moist soil and can grow in full sun or partial shade. Apply well rotted compost before planting and in the spring when required and water regularly during the dry summer months. Lovage is used extensively in cooking in southern Europe. The leaves are used as a herb in salads or soup, the roots as a vegetable or grated into salads and the seeds are similar to Fennel and can be used as a spice.
The name Lovage comes from 'love-ache' – ache is a medieval name for parsley. Most of the European names for this plant are derivatives of the name, but most revolve round the word 'love', although it really has nothing to do with love!
Lovage smells similar to celery and the stalks can be eaten if cut and prepared before they get old and tough. Make sure that the stalks are blanched before eating them. Lovage Tea, made from the dried leaves can be applied to wounds as it has antiseptic properties. The leaves should be cut when young and fresh and if cut back during the summer, more leaves will continue to grow. This tea can also be drunk to help digestive complaints and Lovage can also help get rid of flatulence and water retention. It is also reported to be good for migraine headaches. Alcoholic Lovage Cordial can be mixed with brandy to produce a warming winter drink, helping poor blood circulation. Recipes using Lovage are often listed in modern herbal books, but Lovage should not be taken during pregnancy or if suffering from kidney disease. Fresh Lovage leaves in a bath will produce a lovely aroma and can be used for relaxation and soothing sore feet.
Cough Potion With Lovage
Place the herbs in the wine and let them steep for 1 or 2 days, until the wine has absorbed their taste. Strain the wine and heat a small glassful to drink after meals. If your cough is mild, you need not heat the wine.
Always consult a qualified medical herbalist before using it for medicinal purposes.
As epidemic specialists well know, the rise of diseases thought to be extinguished or with low prevalence rates depends, among other things, on the population movements. Some outbreaks of human diseases, that were almost non-existent, are starting to arise in some first world countries receiving massive influxes of immigrants coming from Africa and Asia.
With the usual heat waves hitting Spain this summer, many expat residents will have chosen to return to the UK during July and August to escape the high temperatures. Now that autumn is here, many are beginning to return to Spain to enjoy the milder weather.
Some expats may be intending to spend the entire winter here, others just a few weeks or months, but however long your stay, it is important that if you receive a UK benefit and are going abroad, even for just a short time, you notify the office that pays your benefit before you leave for Spain.
Pliego is a small, vibrant and colourful small town, within the Mula administrative area. It has a truly fascinating past and offers a veritable trip through history, much of which can be seen in the small area of the old town itself. When you have had enough of the history, there are extremely pleasant walks on the lower slopes of the Sierra Espuña just above the castle which dominates the town, and viewpoints from which you can look down into and across the valley in which Mula is situated. What, however, has particularly struck us, is the friendliness of the place and its inhabitants.