A highland fling

our wee adventure on the Black Isle

Casa Tyr style detox

Every year after the Christmas season is over, Kenton and I try our best to have a bit of a detox, Casa Tyr style. We’re not big on diets, or starvation diets, or feeling hungry and cranky – but we do like to aim to be a bit healthier.

This year is no exception. So as January has already begun, so has the healthy living! It’s nothing too serious, just less wine, more fruit and veg, more exercise and no sweets. That’s not too hard for us, especially as it is the exercise season here on the farm! Sure, the olive harvest is over, but now it’s time to cut wood, rotovate the garden, plant the potato crop and the spring veg, weed, cut down trees, prune the olive trees, and so on.

It’s easy to eat lots of fruit and veg in our area. What we don’t grow ourselves, is cheap to buy. I know we’re lucky in that regard, as we don’t need to buy from supermarkets – we buy very fresh fruit and veg from the wholesaler, who buys direct from the farmers in the area. But we have to actually make the effort to shop at 2 different places to buy  supplies – not an onerous chore, but it often is enough to make shoppers lazy.

So today’s haul from the wholesaler included:

  • 14 kilos grapefruit
  • 1 pineapple
  • 1 kilo mushrooms
  • 1/2 kilo cucumbers
  • 1 kilo lettuce
  • 1/2 kilo broccoli
  • 1 1/2 kilo tomatoes on the vine
  • 1 1/2 kilos onions
  • 1 kilo alles
  • 1 cabbage
  • 1 kilo peppers
  • 16 kilos oranges
  • 1 kilo carrots

How much was this feast? €25, which for you not in the eurozone, is $32 or £20. Not bad for a month’s worth of fresh produce. When was the last time you bought from a local produce store rather than the supermarket chain? Try it, fruit and veg just might be worth eating again!


Fresh from the garden


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.


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!

In which Ann gets a green thumb

I was ‘green thumbing’ it most of last week, one of my very favourite chores.

Broad beans, shelled and steamed

Image via Wikipedia

It’s the time of year for the first of the big planting in the vegetable garden, so after Kenton rotovated and dug the rows, I planted the seeds. Carrots, green beans (2 types), peas and broad beans (aka fava beans) were planted in our big garden by our big well.

The next day, I planted the first of the herbs, wild rocket and coriander. These were planted on our front terrace in pots, easier for watering and use in the kitchen. I also weeded the front herb garden and cleared out the front flower beds, as I lost all my geraniums in the hard freeze this winter.

I love these tasks. Yes, it’s hard work to weed and plant – by the end of the day, my back is killing me, and my fingers are sore from plucking out weeds. My brothers and sisters will laugh at the thought of me weeding – as a child, my method of weeding was to cut off the tops so my mother couldn’t see them! (She did, of course, and made me go out again and dig out the stubby weeds! A lesson learned – it’s easier to do it right the first time!)

It is such a fulfilling thing to plant vegetables. As long as you tend them properly, you can rest easy in the knowledge that, no matter how hard a year it might be (you never really can know), you can still eat healthily and well on your fresh produce. You can help friends in need by sharing the bounty with them.

These are thoughts that never would have occurred to me during the years of working in an office, and flying hither and yon on business.


Winter garden time

We finally, finally managed to find time to plant our winter vegetables today!

Those that tirelessly follow my blog blather realize that I talk way too often about our vast array of vegetables, right? And you know that we had already planted potatoes, garlic and onions, hmmmm?

Well, today was the day to plant all the rest. You may notice a bit of imbalance in our planting – we planted 47 cabbages, for example. Yes, you heard it right, FORTY-SEVEN cabbages! We planted both red and green, and way too many of each!

And there are only 2 of us. The thought of 2 people eating 47 cabbages is down right scary.

I hate to point a finger here, but I have to blame my husband. In the excitement of seeing such a nice selection of baby plants, he went seriously overboard!

But the garden now looks very nice, I must say. In addition to the d*&n cabbages, we have caulis, broccoli, swede, carrots, red onions, yellow onions, lettuce (3 kinds), spinach and carrots (3 kinds). It will be a veggie-full winter!