A highland fling

our wee adventure on the Black Isle

The fruits of our labour

It is getting to be that wonderful time of year for us.


Cherries picked at Casa Tyr

We’ve worked hard for months, clearing out the gardens and rotovating in well-rotted manure. Then comes the planting of seeds in the greenhouse, nurturing them, hardening them off, and planting them out. I worry about my little seedlings – in the dark hours of the night, if the wind picks up, I worry that they will be damaged, or eaten by mice, owls, foxes, wild boar, or some other wild creature.

Then, they blossom and start to produce fruit and vegetables, and a whole host of other worries arrive! The fruit can be eaten by mice or those huge squishy green cricket-type insects you see in the garden – they are voracious. Or, the plants can be attacked by the dreaded “hongo” (generic Yunquerano for any fungus !) Then there is the risk from other insects and worms. You just cannot protect them from everything, even with weekly use of neem oil (a great natural pesticide).

But now, I’m feeling slightly more optimistic. Although we must remain vigilant, the plants are starting to produce their yummy goodies. This week, we’ve harvested fresh raspberries, yet  more cherries, lettuce, green beans, crookneck squash and cucumbers. The tomatoes are looking healthy and well on their way to producing tons of tomatoes – Black Russian, plum, Raf, and Italian beef varieties. They will combine to produce the best puree, salsa, ketchup and jarred tomatoes you’d ever eat.

Daughter Peggy

Darling daughter Peggy looking happy after eating fresh cherries! (and yes, she’s pregnant, not just stuffed full of cherries!)


More vegetable speak

It’s the time of year that I talk about vegetables a lot. I plant them, I talk to them, I weed them, I worry about them. And hopefully, eventually – I eat them!

I have a whole group of new Facebook friends that I’ve never met, and we all talk about our vegetables. They mostly live a couple of hours from me in Spain, and we talk about things like: where to buy seeds and seedlings, where to buy natural fertiliser and pesticides, when and where to plant. It’s a nice group of people.

Oddly enough, this morning we were discussing acelga, which is the Spanish word for Swiss Chard. A lady in her group had lost her young acelga plants to her chickens, who marauded around her veggie garden after escaping from the hen house. (it brought to mind the year we lost all our sweetcorn to a herd of wild boar that tore down our fence). That sort of thing is very upsetting to the vegetable grower.


Chard (Photo credit: Garden Club2011)

After commiserating with the lady, we started talking about acelga in general. When we first moved to Yunquera, we rented a flat in town. Our Spanish landlord showed us his large vegetable garden. He pointed to the Swiss Chard and said

This is acelga. Everyone grows it here, and it’s vitally important that you do, too.

Unfortunately, said I, we really don’t like acelga.

Neither do I,

said Pedro.

We both had a good laugh at that. Our landlord and good friend Pedro is no longer with us, but the joke and memory remain, and I still laugh every time anyone talks about acelga!

Annie weeding

Oh, my aching back!

It’s that time of year! We turn the calendar to yet another month, and the weather finally cooperates by showing a bit of springtime warmth. We’ve waited for it, and have had several false starts, but now it is finally here – spring!

With spring comes a multitude of chores here at Casa Tyr. Planting. Weeding (omg, the weeding!). Strimming, trimming. All to start off the warm weather in time to tidy up the gardens before we start our bout of entertaining! (we only entertain in the summer up on our mountain, because it’s much more pleasant here than in town during the hot weather!)

Fresh asparagus

Casa Tyr asparagus (photo Kent@imagenary.co.uk)

Let’s go back to that weeding thing. It’s the bane of my existence! I know, I know – the price we pay for lovely fertilized gardens is also…lovel, fertilized weeds! I’ve already spent 2 different days weeding the brassicas and seedlings. 2 days weeding the potatoes. 3 times weeding the asparagus bed.

And yesterday? We spent all afternoon weeding and clearing out the back veggie and herb garden. The lavender is in a sad state. Two of my big lavenders were badly hit by our hard frost, so I had to cut them back to within an inch of their lives. Hopefully with some sun and tlc, they will be back to their full glory come summertime.

For some reason, this garden was absolutely full of stinging nettles. I first encountered these in England, but the little blighters are even worse here – the sting in the nettle lasts for ages, and your skin feels like it’s on fire! You only have to do that once before you wear long sleeves to weed! (and yes, I know you can collect the nettles for soup etc, but no thank you!)

I also close weeded around the various cacti and aloe vera plants in the back.This is tricky work, to be done only with gloves, or you soon end up with your hands full of cactus spikes!

Today I could look out at the garden and enjoy all our hard work. The lavenders, mint, borage and so on thank me, but my back certainly does not!

Annie weeding

Weeding around the lavender, borage and tarragon (photo by Kenton@imagenary.co.uk)

Winter veg garden


A day in the life of…

…our vegetable garden!

There it was, sitting undisturbed. The bees buzz gently about. The sun shines. All is well with its world until…chaos hits in the form of the residents of Casa Tyr!

That’s right, I’m a bit giddy after standing for hours bent in half, weeding the garden. It’s not good to have all the blood rushing to your head, that’s for sure!

We knew the garden would be bad – we had had a week of showery weather, followed by 2 days of warm sunshine. And oh man, were we right! Looking at the brassicas, onions, garlic and seedlings, you could hardly see the plants for the weeds. There was nothing for it but to dig in (geddit? har har)

So dig in we did. I started weeding the tender seedlings by hand, while Kenton tackled the brassicas with his hoe. Then I followed behind him weeding close to the plants. And after that? We weeded around the fruit trees (plum, cherry, peach, pear) and the soft fruit (blackberries and raspberries). It took several hours of literally back-breaking work, but now our garden is back to its usual stunning self.

The dogs helped by usually staying out of the way, except for the occasional run across the rows of vegetables, always good for a chase and a yell from us!

Winter veg garden

Winter vegetables at Casa Tyr

At the end of our morning, we felt it was a job well done. In a few week’s time, we’ll be handsomely rewarded with caulis, broccoli, cabbage and  more.


The lazy days of summer?

When I think of summer, I tend to think of long, slow, lazy days. Days spent lounging around the pool, with very little to do but sip from a glass of chilled white wine. Paint my nails. Read. That sort of thing.

Well, I’d better come swiftly down to earth with a bump, because that’s just not the way life is! In fact, with every passing year the summers seem to get busier and busier!

OK, so it starts with our huge gardens. The top garden, near the house, is full of a variety of squash plants. Butternut, crookneck, delicata, potimarron. Plus a couple of melon plants.

The bottom garden? Okra, 4 kinds of peppers, lettuce, sweet corn, 10 different types of tomatoes. And it’s all going great guns. And they all need weeding, feeding, neeming, watering. Whew!

Add Lujos to the mix, and the odd spot of photography and video, and it makes for a pretty busy summer. Oh yeah, and now pop in some visits from family, just in case we are in danger of getting bored!

Top veggie garden, Casa Tyr

Squash !! (photo by Kenton@imagenary.co.uk)