October 2018

8th October - The Valley of the Lizards. Remember that scene from David Attenborough's  LIfe on Earth,with snakes chasing baby iguanas at high speed across rocks? Well today we went for a walk along a local barranco, keping an eye out for lizards basking in the sunshine, when to our amazement what seemed like dozens of them appeared from between the rocks and rushed towards us. Usually lizards go the other way, swiftly moving out of sight if disturbed, so this really was something unusual, and quite a sight

 

They were completely fearless, even coming right down onto the edge of the path, looking at us expectantly

They are Southern Wall Lizards, which are fairly common here in Tenerife. The males grow to about 30cm, and each has unique blue markings along their sides, whilst the females are smaller and prettily striped. There were lots of immature lizards too, and they all exhibited the same confident behaviour of moving rapidly towards us, rather than out of sight.... very unexpected

In fact, about 50m further along the barranca, lizards showed their usual shy behaviour, pretty difficult to photograph as they were so quick to hide

After reading up about these lizards, it turns out that in some areas they have become very tame because people feed them. They eat insects, but also fruit, and they are especially fond of ripe banana. I can only assume that as this area of the barranca was close to a public park, that a small colony of lizards has become accustomed to seeing people as a source of food.

When Abi stretched out his hand towards one of the males, it then ran forward very quickly, head outstretched, as though expecting food. I wish I'd waiting a few seconds before taking this photo, as it came even closer than this.

 

No prizes as to guessing what we shall be doing later in the week, as the chance to feed wild lizards like this doesn't come along very often.

It is quite amazing watching them swarm over the rocks towards you like this, so we are really looking forward to another encounter.

This is just a quick blog entry this week, to share the lizards photos: hope you like them! I shall be back next Monday, maybe with more lizard portraits, or perhaps some bird pictures. We'll have to see how things go

A VERY big "Thank you" to both Gary & Jane, and Clive & Theresa, for taking care of out plots while we are away... really appreciated

 

1st October - Such a lovely surprise!!! We were invited to the presentation evening to celebrate the awards for the RHS Reading in Bloom again this year, and once again I was unable to go as I was away with my brother, so our son accompanied Abi to the posh meal at a local hotel in my place. When the Allotments section came around, our joint entry was awarded the Gold in the Most Attractive Allotment category. We had laboured long and hard during the drought months to keep as much as possible alive and productive, and with over 520 sq m to work with, it took real graft every single day, and we were so glad to have our one borehole water and not be taking water from domestic sources.

 

Our son sent me a photo of the certificate and the cup, but then a second photo arrived, entitled "Oh, and this...." and it was the Banksian Medal, awarded for the most points awarded in any of the Reading in Bloom classes, not only in the Allotment categories. WOW! I never ever, ever, ever thought we would earn anything like that.  What an accolade!

I think we should move on to look at the real business of the plots: Harvest Monday. There are a surprising variety of crops still productive, although some of them were last harvests for the year. I had gone without any containers, so had to use a sieve lined with some old voile to carry our crops home

We had the final crops of: 

Calabrese: now blanched and frozen. We have had really good crops this year, and the planning for succession seems to have been a success

Cucumbers: This year we grew Zeina, which are slightly smaller than last year's Divas, and less prolific too. We have still had quite a lot, but had four plants rather than three as last year. I'll be sowing Diva in the Spring I think. One small Telegraph was lurking in the greenhouse at home, to join the Zeinas in the jar

Dill: Self sown plants have provided not only plenty of fragrant flower heads and foliage, but two jarsful of dried seeds too. Excellent crop

Courgettes: The outdoor plants have now been taken out, as they were on their last legs. However, this is not really a total "last crop" as that Parthenon in the polytunnel is still flowering its socks off. I had to cut off quite a lot of leaves which had developed mildew resulting from drier conditionsin my absence, but there are still several small fruits growing: looking good

Tomatoes: I thought we would have seen the end of the tomatoes, but the single Apero plant left in the polytunnel was covered in tiny ripe fruit, and there were some Crimson Crush remaining outside, which were ready to pick. As well as these, there were three trays of tomatoes picked a week ago whilst still green that had rapidly ripened while I was away. More roasted tomatoes are now in the freezer. This really will be the final lot this year! We have had an amazing crop this year, that will contiue to be appreciated through the cold months

Pears: Just a few still hanging on the trees, ripe enough to eat. How did we miss these before? They do taste luscious though.

Butternut Squash; Now that the night times are cold, verging on frosty, it is time to bring the whole squash crop home. There were some smaller ones still lurking amongst the fading leaves, including this perfect-looking one. 

 

 

Here are the other squashes, ready to load into the car this morning They are now sitting on a cloth on the kitchen floor, so they can dry thoroughly and let their skins cure, before they are stored away to allow their flavours to fully develop: then we shall start eating them. Really pleased with our crop this year. Our neighbour cooked some pumpkin & courgette parathas yesterday, and they were really tasty: must remember this idea when we come to start using ours

 I picked 2.5kg of Sloes last week, from the bushes alongside our chalet, to use for Sloe GIn. Usually at the time in the year they are very firm, but unusually this year they are very ripe, ripe enough in fact to be falling from the bushes. Most of the leaves have turned yellow and are falling too... a sign of stress after such a dry Summer I think. I have put the bagful of sloes in the freezer, as then the skins will rupture, enabling the flavour of the flesh to be better absorbed by the gin when they are soaking.  

Picking sloes always reminds me that it time to strain last year's batch, so once we return from holiday I shall be on it. I am looking forward to  the first taste of the new "brew"

Some of the crops are still ongoing, especially the Sweet Peppers: Long Red Marconi have cropped heavily and are thick walled and juicy. Another one to grow again next year. The ones I picked yesterday have been salted, and joined the cucumbers in a mixed pickle, similar to the style they use in Bulgaria, a recipe given to me by Sarah, a departed friend.

There are still plenty of fruits just short of ripening, so I hope that the polytunnel gives enough protection to keep them from being frosted while we are away

 A new crop, a one-off, are some Quinces. We don't have a tree ourselves, but a plot-friend always has a far larger crop than she can use herself, and generously shares it with us. Thank you Margaret! They are not quite ripe yet, but I have laid them out in a tray in the garage, alongside our apples, to keep them cool until we are back home. They add a wonderful perfume to apple pie, as well as making an awesome jelly, so they are worth the effort of storing them until properly ripe

There is where our harvest this week ends.

 

In the couple of days between coming home and going off on holiday with Abi, we have both put in long hours at the plot: Garlic is now planted .... saved cloves from our last crop, as it was so successful. Planting them deeply seemed to help, so these are down with about 5cm above the top of the clove. Thye are in the bed cleared of courgette plants, with  5cm of home made compost  tickled into the surface, along with some Blood, Fish & Bone, so they are well set up.

The Autumn Onion sets are also planted: Shakespeare, a round, brown-skinned variety which we have grown before, and Red Dawn. Red onions seem more prone to bolt in the Spring, so I am hoping that is variety bucks that trend. The soil had Blood, Fish & Bone added, to support root growth so they can get going before the soil gets cold.

The onion seeds I sowed in the polytunnel...Hi-Keeper... have now germinated and have a single leaf each, standing up straight. Onion seedlings usually take some time to begin to grow further leaves, I shall be interested to see how these get on. I weeded around them today, as onions don't like sharing their bed with other plants, which I hope encourages them along

We've also done a lot of weeding, especially in the brassica beds. Remember those feeble-looking little red cabbage seedlings? I was doubtful they would survive the mole tunnellings, let alone the drought, but here they are, looking really healthy. Not sure if they will heart up in time for using during the Winter, but at the very least we can use loose leaves which will be better than nothing

 

The cold nights bring a touch of frost now, and so I have moved the Yacon plants inside the polytunnel, to keep them going a little longer. The pots are quite heavy, so I hope they are full of big, fat tubers when we come to tip them out in another few weeks.

The potted chilli plants that were outside are now in the greenhouse too, along with the tender succulents we had in pots along our back wall. They look really healthy after their Summer outdoors, and the leaf that broke off one of them is already developing a new plant

I have also taken the pots of cutting of half-hardy plants home to the frost-free greenhouse for the Winter: pelargoniums & agyranthemums mainly. The hardy cuttings: variegated eleagnus, salvias, white buddleia, choisya and lilac, are in a sheltered spot at the plot. Hopefull they will sit out the Winter without freezing solid. If the weather turns really cold, they can go into the polytunnel

Some of the flowers on the plot are beginning to look very tired now,  so on our return I can see there will be lots of material for the compost bins needing to be chopped up, and a good tidy round will be needed, before we start covered empty beds for the Winter. The dahlias are still flowering, but in another couple of weeks they may well be too cold

Last year, we bought some Autumn flowering bulbs called Nerines,, which I have always known as Guernsey lilies. Their sugar-mouse pink flowers always look so lovely, but I'd had no success with getting them to flower before, mainly because I planted them too deep and fed them too well I thi

These new ones were planted in our alpine sinks in gritty compost, and not fed at all.Then, lo and behold, one has flowered!! Such a beautiful colour, with petals that almost look crystalline. I know there is just the one, but maybe next year the others may feel inspired too.

That is where I shall end for this week. I shall be back with an update as soon as we get back home. Our neigbour who has a plot on the same site as us is going to water the plants in the polytunnel and greenhouse while we are away, and anything else that migth need it is the weather is very dry. Thank you, Clive .... please help yourself to courgettes. No really, please!!!!

 

If you'd like to read more about Harvest Monday, have a look here at Dave's hosted pages

http://www.ourhappyacres.com/

and if you would like to contact me, you're very welcome, on:

info@alitttlebitofsunshine.co.uk

and I'll get back to you as soon as I can