Making a water slide

Making a water slide

To make a water slide you need  a slope with enough gradient to make you slide easilly but not enough gradient to reach dangerous speeds and have problems stopping. Here we use two colums of straw on either side of the run. On top of this we placed a lot of cardboard from IKEA furniture onto the straw to protect the sliders from stones. The cardboard was then wetted.

Finished water slideWe found some bubble wrap and some black plastic which is normally used for planting crops through. We had continuous supply of water running down the slide and washing up liquid was added to further reduce the friction.

The water slide in action

The water slide in action

There are many different techniques for using the water slide.  The best method was using a piece of plastic under the body because the contact of clothing on plastic generates friction. The best speeds were attained by going on the back and then leaning back. It also helps if your friends give you a push at the start.

Emily on the water slide

It would be better to have a steeper slope for the forward diving position.

Making and using a water slide can provide endless hours of fun and hilarity.

Horses in the snow

Horses in the Snow

We went up to the cortijo for the day to see what was happening. The neighbour has put his horses on our land. We gave them some corn, wheat and oats. It was very cold, the temperature of the bedroom was 0C. The front wheels of the van were skidding and we had to dig through the ice to the road.

Self-seeding Godetias

Godetias in a Pot

Godetias in a Pot

The other day I found a flower pot full of self seeded Godetia seedlings. I planted them about 6 years ago and they have survived in the pot on their own. The temperature in winter  gets well below 0C and in the summer it is very dry and well over 40C. The flowerpot has formed a tiny ecosystem and by an evolutionary process they have managed to survive.


Godetia Transplants

I have transplanted 18 of them into plastic modules and also planted the seeds which were in the dried seed pods into a pot.

I would like to make a self seeding area of Godetia plants which will come up every year. As they have survived for 6 years in very hostile conditions they should be able to cope with the harsh conditions at the Cortijo.

Notes: There are very precise instructions in Spanish for growing Godetia on this page
They germinate best at 21C, sowing in January will produce flowers in May/June.

I learned today that plastic modules in Spanish are called charolas

Godetias are actually called  Clarkias.



The Godetias looked very nice on the table for a long time.

The modules that I planted died after forgetting to water them during a weekend.
However the little seedlings that I planted in other pots were lovely. The Godetias flowered for about 4 weeks and were really lovely.

Creating a Vineyard from Scratch

Vine CuttingsIt is my plan to create a vineyard. We have a large price of land which has good soil and gets lots of light.

There are a lot of vineyards between our Cortijo and the next large town and the wine they sell is a pleasant Cabernet Sauvignon.

Rather than buy vines I have decided to plant cuttings. In December there were a lot of vine cuttings at the side of the road on the way to the nearest town and I threw a load of them into the back of the van. There was nobody around to ask so I don’t know exactly what sort of grapes they are.  It looks like they are being grown commercially so I just hope they will make good wine.

I looked at several websites to see how to make the cuttings. In the end I cut about 90 of the  vines into 30cm long pieces, dipped them in cutting hormones and then pushed them into pots of soil.  This happened on the 12th Jan 2012. Some of the pots have deeper soil than others. If they take I will transplant them into individual pots or plant them into the ground.  Most other websites say that you have to put them into a trench but I am using pots because we are down on the coast until March and they will be much warmer.

To be continued…….

Minnie dies of Leukaemia


Minnie Jumping

It is  incredibly sad but I have to announce that Minnie the cat has died. I can now just about write this without flooding the keyboard with tears. She died on the 30th of December 2011.

Minnie was about 15 months old which is about 21 years old in human terms. She died of Feline Leukaemia which caused her thoracic cavity to fill up with fluid.  We had the fluid drained which gave her a brief respite. When the laboured breathing started to get bad again, we decided to have her put down. I had never heard of this disease before the vet did an ELISA test which is a very quick way of diagnosing the disease using a blood sample.

She had probably had the disease from before we had her and it may have even been transmitted from her mother.

I realise now that it is a good idea to have a blood test done before getting any new cat. If the test is negative, then the cat should have an anti-leukaemia jab followed by a booster one month later and then a booster each year. Nobody tells you this at the time.

Information about Feline Leukaemia

30 December – Seed Planting

Seed Pots

Seed Pots

This may seem a strange time to plant seeds. The reason why I can start seeds off now is because we have a place on the coast and one up in the mountains. The average temperature on the coast is about 14C and in the mountains it is 5C .The idea is to get the plants going and then transfer them to the mountains after March.

All the seeds here are plants that could cope with some low temperatures at the start.

I have planted several pots. If any of them germinate I will transplant them into pots or modules. Very tiny seeds are just sprinkled onto the surface. Bigger seeds are mixed into the soil with the ends of my fingers according to size. The soil is normal potting compost and at the top of the pots there is some finer seed compost which was bought at a garden centre.

Petunias (fire chief) wiki
Petunias are great flowers. They cope well with the hot sun and the don’t get too upset by an occasional lack of water and also they flower for ages.  Petunias normally only cost about 1.20 euros each for a potted one but it will be good if we can get loads of them to use in the summer. Petunia seeds are very small so they are just spread on the surface of the flowerpot.

Snapdragons - Antirrhinum

Snapdragons Antirrhinum wiki
These are the sort of hard as nails plants we like at the cortijo. There are some snap dragons alive and flowering  at the moment in the cortijo and the temperature has been down to -5C. A good quality about snaps is that they self-seed themselves and once there are a few growing they will establish a colony.



Tudela Lettuce (cogollos de Tudela in Spanish) wiki
Cogollos de Tudela are a really good Spanish lettuce that form very compact hearts. If you go to a Spanish restaurant you can order “cogollos” which is normally lettuce hearts drizzled with a sort of garlic oil. They are very healthy to eat and you can make a very quick almost 0 calorie snack by slicing  a cogollo lettuce heart into 4 laterally and drizzling on some extra virgin olive.

Capers (capparis Spinosa) (alcaparras in Spanish)  wiki
This is probably a waste of time because caper seeds are very difficult to germinate and require stratifying. They probably won’t germinate but you never know.

Parsnip (Pastinaca) (chirivía in Spanish)  wiki
These were some seeds that I has in an old packet. Let’s hope they germinate.

seed traysI have also planted lots of plants into seed trays. The trays cost about 2 euros. It is the best way of raising lots of small plants for later transplanting.

I normally buy my plants form a shop called Bolivar in Granada. (they cost about 8 cents each) This year I am going to try to grow some of them myself.

I have the following plants in the seed trays.
Cauliflowers  (coliflor in Spanish)  wiki
Cauliflowers do very well at the cortijo.

Spring onion  (cebolleta in Spanish)  wiki
The was a packet of White Lisbon which came free with Grow Your Own  magazine.

Kale (Black tuscany)  (col rizada in Spanish)  wiki
There were some seeds in the bottom of a packet. It is a type of Curly Kale with purple leaves.

Leek  (puero in Spanish)  wiki
I bought these seeds from Al Campo supermarket.

Brunswick Cabbage  (Col Repollo)  wiki


Propagating Geraniums

Every year I have to buy more Geraniums because at some point the temperature gets down to about -10C and kills them.

This year I have decided to propagate some geraniums by planting  cuttings at the house on the coast which has a mild climate.

I simply cut off the main stems from the parent plants and then protected the originals with garden fleece so that they might survive the winter.  I made cuttings about 15cm long, making the cut just below a node.  I left one healthy leaf on each cutting. I didn’t use any cutting hormones. (because I had forgotten to buy any). I used a plastic tray module.I did  this on the 28th December 2011. They were left in the open air. The climate is mild and rarely goes below 10C.

Blog post continued on 6th March 2013.

The picture below shows the overwintering geraniums from last year and new ones being propagated. Last year’s ones were a big success.
Propagating geraniums is easy.  The most important thing to do is spray them every 3 weeks to stop the stem boring caterpillars.


Easy way to prepare olives

Olives in Salt

I have had many attempts at preserving and preparing olives but none of them worked very well until I found this simple technique.

When olives are prepared by any method we are basically doing two things. 1. Stopping the olives rotting. 2. Getting rid of some of the bitterness from the olives.

My technique is very easy. Just pick some black olives (the later you pick them the more oil content they have) then put them in a container with sea salt. It is best if the container is totally open at the top and it is good if the sun shines on them to evaporate some of the liquid. Mix them around every few days with a stick or with your hands. At first a lot of liquid collects at the bottom of the container. You can pour this off.

The salt draws the liquid and most of the bitterness from the olives. Eventually after about 6 weeks the olives become totally dry.

Separate them from the salt with a garden riddle or any other type of sieve. After this you have dessicated olives which you can store for as long as you like.

Every couple of days put a handful of olives in a glass jar of water in the kitchen. It takes anything between 8 and 48 hours for them to re-hydrate.  Put a handful of the re-hydrated olives on salads, pizzas or anything you want. If you put them in a bowl and them put a few drops of olive oil over them they taste and look  like the Greek olives I used to buy when I lived in Finsbury Park London.


Solar Drier made from chimney tube

I had spend a lot of time looking at very complex home-made solar food driers on internet. Most of them consist of a black area which heats up the air. The hot air dry then flows over the food to extract the moisture.

I realised that a very quick free version can be achieved just using a back tube and a metal colander. The air heats up in the tube and then passes through the holes in the colander.

This drier  can dry out a couple of apples in about 6 hours. It is a bit unstable and can easilly be knocked over. A good variation would be to use several black tubes taped together with a big cardboard box on top.

Dried Pears

Winter Pears

We have a large winter pear tree below the vegetable garden and every year there is a big crop of pears. (we probably have such a big crop because the pear tree is below the garden and the tree’s roots take in a lot of the nutrients that have seeped through from the garden) .

Every year until this year we have not eaten many of the Winter pears because at the end of the Autumn they are still very hard and they don’t seem to store well. This year the whole crop was lying on the ground below the tree  in mid December and they were starting to go ripen. Many of them were already rotten. In order to make some use of them I decided to dry them using our drying machine.

Slced Pears in the drying machine

A few months ago I bought a 250 watt Arizona food dehydrator on the internet. There are 5 layers of plastic with many holes in and the food is loaded on each layer until it is full.

It would be possible to slice the pears by hand but I put them through the slicing attachment on Sarah’s Magimix Food processor to save time.  The picture on the left shows the fully loaded drying machine ready for use.

Dried pears in the drying machne

The foto on the left shows the dehydrated pears after about 8 hour in the machine. They are not totally dessicated and they are leathery rather than brittle. The idea is to add them to our mueseli.

They are really tasty and they could be eaten as a heathy snack. I imagine that they would be perfect for children.

To find out the cost of the electricty consumed I used a consumption calculator here According to the calculator the drying cost me 38 euro cents. (I was at the coastal house where we use Iberdrola who charge 19 cents per Kwh)

Dried Pears after they have been dried.

The pear drying experiment was a big success. The dried pears are delicious and this year will be the first year that we have been able to use many of the winter pears.

I had previously tried storing the pears but they tend to go brown which makes them emit ethylene gas which makes all of them go off very quickly.