A highland fling

our wee adventure on the Black Isle


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It’s tater time!

They’re here, sitting in my greenhouse, gently sprouting. But they know something up, because I go in there every day, to check on progress!

Their big day is coming up soon, the day they (along with lettuces, onions, garlic and most brassicas) are planted in the garden. But not yet, little fellows, first the ground must be prepared for you, so you will have a nice home for a few months.

potatoes 2014

last June’s harvest

Then, come June, it will be time for me to get really excited, as it will be time to dig the harvest, ready for winter!

Friends, if you like to grow vegetables, but think growing prosaic items such as potatoes just isn’t worth it, think again. Once you’ve tasted the depth of flavour in home-grown, you’ll never go back.


Changing times

It’s harvest time in Yunquera! The sound of tree shakers reverberates throughout the campo, and you see men setting the nets, or preparing a campo lunch, everywhere. As you drive by the cooperative, you see canastas full of olives, ready to be pressed. It’s a comforting sight – money in the pocket in time for Christmas (if you sell your olives), and your family’s olive oil barrel full of delicious golden oil for the coming year.

When we first moved here in 2003, the mills wouldn’t even be open yet. Why? Well, it was customary here to pick olives when they were all black, which sometimes would be as late as February. This made for olive oil that was golden yellow, and very smooth and soft tasting – the taste that was preferred in Yunquera.

olives

Harvest 2015

We were thought odd, as we would pick the first half of our crop in mid-December, then the second half after the New Year. We preferred an oil that was fresher and slightly greener in taste, so picked when our olives were half green/half black.

This year we have noticed a huge change. Our olives are picked and pressed already – the entire crop picked in November, the earliest ever! I’ve seen loads of farmers doing the same, and the canastas at the mill are full of (mostly green) olives.

Why the change, we wonder? Is the price for olives better this year, so farmers are picking early to get the best price? Is it that farmers here have finally recognised that those buying their oil now prefer a ‘grassier’, greener oil? Is it that local tastes have changed in line with this global preference?

I don’t know, but to me, it shows that even in a remote village like Yunquera tastes and customs regularly change !


Autumn’s upon us

It always shocks me how quickly a year can pass. When I was a child, time seemed to drag – it took so long for it to get to my birthday, Christmas morning, the end of school…whatever! But now? Blink and it’s the end of September, another year three-quarters of the year through. My mother used to say

the older you get, the faster time passes

…and at the time, I thought she was crazy, but now I know she was absolutely right! (how often that seems to happen!)

Of course, much of this year has been taken up by cancer treatment, and that time seemed to pass in a haze.

With autumn comes our autumnal chores. We pick the last of our summer veg, and are already nostalgic at the upcoming loss of that fresh tomato on our morning toast. We start winterising the house, making sure the summer furniture is put away, the water proofing is done, potential leaky points scrutinised. We start thinking about cutting firewood, even!

Loading the truck

We’ll be collecting firewood soon!

We will soon be ‘cleaning the feet’ of the olive trees, in preparation for the olive harvest. This is a two-day job for us, cutting away the suckers at the base of the tree so that the nets can be laid. (My wrists and hands have been ravaged by the effects of letrozole (aka Femara), but I’m hoping I’m up to wielding a hatchet)

Then comes the olive harvest! We have been inspecting trees this week, to see what the harvest will be like, given a bit of luck and no wind storms!

Ah, autumn, such a bittersweet time…