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.

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Weeds – survival of the fittest

Weeds are the bane of our lives, all year, but especially during our summer gardening time.

We have a routine. Every week, we go down to the garden to weed, feed, neem, water, and harvest. (Neem is a natural product that we use for pest control – it works miracles!) This process takes the two of us about 2 hours, but if you don’t stay on top of it, it only gets worse!

Lujos flower / borage plant

Borage – it’s gorgeous, but if it’s in the veg garden, it’s still a weed! (photo by Kenton @ imagenary.co.uk)

So in the middle of weeding, I always wonder

Why do weeds grow so much better than plants you actually want?

But they do, don’t they?? You don’t need to feed them, or water them, but there they are, crowding your lovely tomatoes, winding around the little pepper plants, choking out the onions. It is a daunting task to get out of the Defender and see the rows upon rows of weeds that you just know will give you a backache to pull!

It reminds me of when I was a child, and my mother sent me out to weed the back garden. Me, being the clever little sod that I was, thought it would be faster just to cut them off – who would ever know?

Well, somehow, just somehow, my mother figured out what I had done (even though I was oh-so-clever), and sent me out to pull them out properly! Do you know how hard it is to pull out weeds that have been cut off? I certainly did learn my lesson, which was

If you are going to do a task, do it right the first time, and you won’t have to do it again.

Except when it comes to weeds, of course, which is never-ending task!


No lions and tigers and bears, but weeds…oh my!

The coming of spring, as much as we welcome it, is a total nightmare in the gardener’s world. That is in the usual year, but this is anything but usual for us!

First, there is the planting. Is it time to put the courgettes out? Is it still too cold? Based on that decision, you start to prepare the garden. You strim. You rotovate. You make the furrows, then plant the baby plants. We have 4 large gardens, so multiply every task by 4.

Then imagine doing all that, but all by yourself. Add to that the making of Lujos, doing the laundry, the housework, the cooking, the driving, the shopping, the care of the dog, the going to the vet, the dealing with workmen. Add to that caring for a frustrated husband who would like to help, but has to recuperate ‘poco a poco’, mostly by sitting on the couch with his leg elevated.

It hasn’t been easy, and I’m hoping the worst is over.

iceberg lettuce

Home grown iceberg lettuce, full of flavour!

I can’t keep up with it all, not even close! I try to weed once a week, but with last weekend’s rain, and now some nice sun, the weeds have taken over. They are everywhere! Our large potato patch is…ok…it will last until I can get down to weed. The winter garden is, quite frankly, overrun with weeds. It embarrasses me, because it looks bad and is bad for the veggies. It frustrates me because I know I can’t get down there to weed for a few days.

The weeds in our soon-to-be summer garden, which needs to be prepared, are currently a metre high. I can’t really handle the big strimmer on my own, so we have asked a Spanish friend to help. The look on his face when he saw my weeds made me feel bad, but when there is only one of  you, what can you do?

Kenton said at the very beginning of this venture that I’d just have to let a few things go. I’m pretty energetic, but he is right, I can’t even pretend to myself that I can do the work of two! As it is, my poor arthritic knees and hands are suffering, so doing even more is out of the question.

Anyway, enough of my venting to my hopefully-understanding readers! I’m happy to report that our Spanish helper complemented me on the health of our potato plants, which really made my day!


Spring has sprung

Well, it must have ‘sprung’ somewhere, but certainly not here in southern Spain! As I write this, I’m sitting in my (unheated) office, my fingers stiff, my feet cold.

They're called sunflowers, so where is the sun?

They’re called sunflowers, so where is the sun?

Moan, moan, moan. I know, even I am getting tired of my moaning about the weather! I spoke to a friend in the village this morning, and we were both at it. Walls are damp and need repair, everything needs painting, and you can’t even think about doing these jobs until the walls dry out. When will that be, we ask. June? July? Just in time for the autumn rains? Right now, we can’t even imagine the weather being warm.

Of course, my brother in Minnesota tells me off for complaining about the cold, as their temps are well below zero! Hey, people with central heating, don’t talk to me about cold!

And don’t even talk to me about my potatoes! They sit calmly in the greenhouse, quietly chitting away, with the soil still too wet and cold to rotovate, much less plant. We are a month past our usual planting time, and it is seriously stressing me out! Growing potatoes, onions and garlic are the absolute essentials for any campo person worth their salt, and none of ours have been planted yet! Now that’s stress!

We long for the bright sunshine, to have the sun warm our backs while we’re working. We know that come July, we will be hiding from the powerful heat of the sun, but for now? Come on, sun, do your stuff.


The bounty continues

From Bread to Bread Crumbs

From Bread to Bread Crumbs (Photo credit: simoneladybug)

It’s a busy time right now for us, as I’m sure regular readers will know! We’ve been so busy all year, that for the first time in several years, we have decided we may even need a vacation!

Today the morning started out with…dogs getting us up in the middle of the night! They both have skin infections, and the drugs that they are on make them need to urinate more frequently. So first it was Fitz at 5am, then Milo at 6am. (Milo refuses to get out of bed just because Fitz is going out!) An interrupted night’s sleep doesn’t help the mood or energy level!

After breakfast, it was into to town to post and hand deliver Lujos. I had a nice chat with a fairly new customer from Norway, who is now a real Lujos fan. Nice to chat with you, Erika! 🙂

Home, then down to the garden. It was our ‘big’ garden day where we harvest, weed, neem and water, which takes us several hours. But man, what a reward we had today! 22 kilos of tomatoes picked, the most so far.

So I guess I know what tomorrow holds – canning tomatoes and making homemade ketchup! Yum.

Kenton’s Chicken Fried Steak

It was a cooler day today, so Kenton is treating me to one of my favourite meals! Today we are having this with fresh-made tabbouleh salad and fresh sweetcorn!

Sirloin steak, pounded thin (4-5mm thick)
spiced breadcrumb mix (breadcrumbs mixed with parsley, dried onion, dried garlic, chilli powder, pepper, cumin, coriander to taste)
greek yogurt or cream
bacon drippings
white wine or chicken stock
1 chicken stock cube
chilli flakes

Pound the steaks thin, then dredge in flour, then beaten egg, then the breadcrumb mix. Chill for 30 minutes.

Shallow fry a few at a time in 50-50 olive oil/butter mix until breadcrumbs are crisp. If necessary, wipe out pan between each fry. When all the meat is cooked, keep warm on a plate, and make the sauce.

Melt the bacon drippings in the pan. Add stock or wine, stock cube, and yogurt or cream, and chili flakes. Scrape up up meat residue to mix into sauce. Stirring constantly, reduce until thick but do not boil.

Serve each person a slice each, with a spoon or two of sauce on the top.

History, nutrition and ‘5 a day’


The time of huge glut during the summer harvest season is here, as I’m sure I’ve told you already! It prompted an interesting discussion between my husband and me, about the whole nutrition thing.

I took several courses in nutrition at university, just because I found the subject so interesting. And I read with interest the ‘5 a day’ articles that we’ve been seeing in the English press over the last couple of years. (They are trying, belatedly, to address the hideous diet of the average British family). The NHS website claims that you can get these ‘5 a day’ from frozen, dried, fresh or any other type of fruit and veg. (are they really saying these sources are equally nutritious?)

‘5 a day’ is an interesting concept. This campaign is trying to encourage families to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Good, in theory, right? Who can argue with that?

Well, I’m not arguing against eating fruit and veg, but let’s just pause to think about Man as a species. Have we always had access to fruit and vegetables, every day, year round? I think it’s unlikely. Man of old would have some times of the year where there was a glut of fresh food, and other times where there was not. Preserving food was not always an option. Feast and famine was common, most likely, at least in many parts of the earth at that time.

I think about this now, because of our own glut. Since we started growing our own fruit and veg, we eat much like Man of old. During the summer, we eat fruit and vegetables, a veritable feast of them. Morning, noon and night. We eat very little meat, because who needs meat when you have fresh veg!?

Tomato, onion and basil salad

Tomato, onion and basil salad

During the winter, we eat the fruit and vegetables that we have preserved, or that need no preservation. Canned tomatoes, frozen veg, squash, potatoes, onions. We can’t force ourselves into buying other fresh veg from the supermarket, because, quite frankly, they have no taste (and probably very little nutrition). And they are expensive to boot!

What I’m trying to say is, that I think this is a pretty normal way to live. I think it’s more important to overall eat a nutritious diet, but micro-managing your life to make sure you get exactly what you need, every day, is not usually practical.

In my opinion, it is far better to eat highly nutritious food when it’s available. In other words, I think it’s possible to eat a good variety of nutritious food year-round, but (for example) don’t expect your winter strawberries to be as tasty and nutritious as they are when harvested (locally) at their natural harvest time. Makes sense, right?

Tomato, basil and onion salad

1/2 kilo cherry tomatoes, halved
1 onion, diced
12 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Yunquera Gold olive oil

Mix the first three ingredients in a shallow bowl; toss lightly. Just before serving, drizzle olive oil over the top, and serve.



American visitors

It’s our privilege at Lujos to be in regular contact with almost all our customers. This is one of the reasons we will try to keep Lujos personal, and approachable – it’s the way we like to do business!

Through Lujos, we have made many new friends. And some of our friends and customers even come to see us! For example, we have a few groups of Dutch enthusiasts who come to see us a couple of times a year. They love to tour the land, look for wild flowers, and enjoy a bit of conversation with us. They are wonderful supporters of Lujos and natural products in general – the Dutch really “get it” when it comes to natural products!

Yesterday, we had visitors from my corner of the world. (one even attended university in North Dakota!) One of our customers lives in a town near the coast, and asked if she could come visit the farm one day. “Of course,” we said, “we love visitors!”

Our customer’s husband works in Kurdistan, and was here for his regular leave, so he came with the group. And incredibly, two of their friends from the US were also keen to visit! They had taken a cruise across the Atlantic, then flown to Spain for a few days. And one of those days, they visited our very own Casa Tyr.

We took them on our usual tour of the land. They were interested in absolutely everything– the olive trees, the garden, the forest, the wild flowers and herbs, the house. They wanted to talk about the Spanish economy, what we thought of living here, making soap, how we decided to start Lujos. The time flew by!

It’s great for us to occasionally see Casa Tyr through others’ eyes – it gives us a new appreciation for the beauty around us. Our visitors’ unbridled enthusiasm also renewed our own passion for what we are trying to do here. And they confirmed for us that we are spot on in our efforts to convert people to a more natural life.


Wildflower at Casa Tyr (photo by Kenton@imagenary.co.uk)

And you know what? They were very much like us, and thought like us. Americans are sometimes ridiculed for their often insular attitude towards the rest of the world. But these new friends confirmed what I had long thought. Every country in the world has those who are insular in their attitudes, that care nothing of the rest of the world. But those who travel, and see how others live, and who engage with those around them, soon come to realize that we are all pretty much the same, with the same hopes and desires. It helps to make the world a less scary place.