Halloween in Riba-roja

Grapes. leeks, pomegranates, peppers and a watermelon destined to replace the Halloween pumpkin

Multi-purpose harvest

My pumpkins succumbed to the drought so I used this last watermelon from the finca

A pretty watermelon for Halloween

In the evening a group of trick or treaters came to visit.

An aggressive pair of pirates, two witches and a pretty little princess

the kids would not keep still and I dropped my camera – but you can’t win them all


Trick or treat? What do you think ?
They were rewarded with this lovely, juicy plate of fresh eyeballs.
not very appetising to my mind

But the kids loved them

Of course, despite the best efforts of a nearby supermarket, Halloween has not really caught on amongst the locals, so it is mainly the ex-patriots, English, North and South American, German, Dutch (we are a polyglot community in this tiny village), who take part. The Spanish have their fiesta tomorrow for All Souls night when they traditionally visit their cemetaries and light candles for their dead.

Sangria with added protein.

Oh, dear, Oh dear ! I shall never live this down.

Yesterday I spent the morning preparing pomegranates and strawberries to make a sangria with my own home-made wine. Admittedly, the pomegranates were a little over-ripe and I had to discard some that were going soft.  But the remaining fruit looked good, bright ruby in colour, shiny and firm, so I soaked them confidently in sugar and wine. When my friends arrived for lunch I poured out the sangria.

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One friend looked at it very dubiously and asked, “What are these white things floating on the surface ?” Another remarked, interestedly, “I have them too and one of them seems to be moving !” I looked and concluded with horror that they looked like maggots. My polite friends now permitted themselves to admit that they thought so too.

So I strained the drink and added some more dry wine. It tasted fine to me, but then so did the original version which I had already drunk quite happily. My vision is, admittedly, not good.

Surprisingly, my friends declined to have any more and settled for tonic water instead.

Looking back and forward

It is four years since I began to develop a smallholding by the river Ebro in Catalunya in Spain.  It has not been easy, but it is amazing to realise that many of my goals have been reached and I am almost completely self-sufficient, at least in vegetables and fruit. It has always been my intention to share the adventure day by day – just as soon as I learned how to blog.  So here goes… with retrospective pictures of some of this year’s produce, such as these tomatoes, plums, strawberries and peaches in July.Image

Hello world!

Your very good health.

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.

My name is Sylvie.

I have just become a full-time resident of Spain, after several years of commuting from the Isle of Wight to camp on and develop a riverside small-holding or finca in the Monty Python district of Catalonia.  Last year I bought and repaired a tiny bungalow in the nearby village of Riba-roja d’Ebre as a permanent home, with the luxuries of a freezer, hot water, and internet access.  Now I intend to stay here for the rest of my life. The  finca  is at last sufficiently manageable to give me time to record the highlights of the good life in my golden years.  I  have achieved a dream that has been mine from early teenage years – that of living as close as I can to a childlike enjoyment of the joys of the simple life.  Someone once said that if you haven’t grown up by 50, you don’t have to.  As I approach my 70th birthday, I am happier than I have ever been,  dirt poor, shamelessly scruffy,  pottering happily at all kinds of new projects, as green as they possibly can be: growing all kinds of unusual crops as well as learning how to use them;  drying, pickling, bottling and preserving my crops, using natural herbs for medicine and making wine and vinegar. In fact, my standard of living is, by some measures, far better than I could afford to maintain had I stayed in the U.K.   I don’t have TV, nor many mod cons.  The walls are single brick, the roof leaks, the gas is bottled, the water and electric are both a bit iffy,  and the rural ambience does not include much in the way of culture, but I  sleep soundly, eat exceptionally well, have vastly improved health, peace of mind and contentment.  The people here are wonderful,  proud, helpful, happy and friendly and they seem to live to surprisingly healthy old age.  I am learning  both the new languages they speak here.  Catalan is their local tongue, a difficult mixture of French, Arabic and Spanish, but Castillian Spanish is also spoken by most younger people and is much easier to learn.  I am thoroughly enjoying a whole new way of life: a new climate demanding new ways of living,  gardening and cooking, and a close and challenging contact with nature; especially with snails, wild boar, snakes, biting river fly and mosquitoes.  My pets are feral cats and my neighbours are hundreds of noisy cormorants, storks, herons, eagles, moorhens and kingfishers.  With neither mains water nor electricity on the finca, there is endless opportunity to invent Heath-Robinson energy and irrigation solutions.  For some people it would be a nightmare.  For me it is satisfying, fascinating and fantastically great fun.