When almonds are ready to pick some of them have a green casing or husk attached to the almond. Some of the husks are brown and easy to remove and some are more firmly attached. The best way of removing them is with an electric dehusker. The Almonds are poured in the top and the clean almonds come out of the chute into a container. After dehusking the almonds are left in the sun for a final drying. The husks can be used as a mulch or even as animal fodder for goats or horses etc. A dehusking machine costs about 800 euros and uses about 750 watts. We usually manage to dehusk the almonds using solar power.
The dehusking machine is quite noisy and the people working closest use ear plugs. The big thing to remember with a dehusking machine is not to switch it off when there are still nuts inside. You have to wait until you can hear that the nuts have all passed through before switching off. If the machine stops with nuts inside it is difficult to restart. You have to switch the machine off and then turn the flywheel backwards manually. Then the machine is switched back on again and the flywheel is give an extra push with a foot. This can be quite tricky.
After picking the grapes we have to crush the grapes to allow the liquid to escape from the skins and also to separate the stems from the grapes. Many years ago the whole process was done by hand or by foot. The grapes were put into a big container and they were crushed underfoot. This would be a lot of work for even a small vineyard like ours. For this reason we use a detemming and crushing machine. Our machine uses about 600 watts so as long as the sun is shining we can use the solar panels of the house to power it.
It is at this moment that we have to measure the sugar content of the must. This is the best way of knowing what the final alcohol percentage will be. We use a refractometer to do the measurement. It works a bit like a prism which reacts differently to light (by giving a reading on a scale) depending upon the amount of sugar that is available in the sample.
When the must (grape juice) comes out of the machine it drops into buckets. We then carry the must to the 200 litre plastic drums. After a couple of days the yeast from the skins of the grapes will start to ferment the sugars. This is called initial fermentation which lasts a few weeks depending on temperature and other factors. It is in the initial fermentation that the wine gets the color from the skins. In the wine made in the video below we allowed the wine to stay with the skins for about 4 weeks. This is probably a little too long and the wine picked up a bit too much tannin from the skins. This year we will press the wine (separate the skins from the liquid) sooner.
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.
We 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.