Swallows And Artichokes


Soon the cloudless Andalucían sky was teeming with swallows. Their fork tailed silhouettes swooping and darting across the brilliant azure. Beneath their flight path, Primavera had been busy spreading her verdant cloak across the landscape; valleys and hills now shimmered in a haze of sap. Winter’s jaded tones replaced by the fresh, youthful complexion of spring.

almond-tree-and-olives

blossom-and-blue-sky

Hoopoes with their funny spiked headgear, called out from the groves ‘hoop, hoop, hoop, hoop’ and then the unmistakable sound of the first cuckoo. But not everyone was happy. A pair of swallows arrived two weeks later than the rest. They’d come back to the house to nest. For six years the place had lain empty and open doors and windows had provided them with carte blanche for nest building. Now we had moved in and their access was denied.

mr-and-mrs-swallow

mr-swallow

mrs-swallow

After a day of making clear to us their disgust, they finally decided to start building a new nest outside by the kitchen. I watched in fascination as little by little their nest made from small amounts of mud that they brought back from a nearby stream began to take shape. In just under two weeks they managed to construct a brand new home. Mr. and Mrs. Swallow then had a couple of days rest before Mrs Swallow got down to the serious business of egg laying.

cherry-trees

window-through-the-tree

broom-and-sun

Cherry blossom now covered the hillsides but the almond blossom had long gone. In its place sweet almonds, wrapped snuggly in velvet coats hung in clusters from the branches. Along the lanes clumps of artichokes grew and out in the groves I’d noticed people picking wild asparagus. Envious of the large bunches that they came back with, I decided to look for some myself. After over an hour of searching I managed to find only five stems. When Paco heard about my pathetic attempt, he took pity on me and the next day delivered round a huge bunch that he’d picked that morning.

lots-of-poppies

morning-poppies

poppies-and-olives

almondsredleaves

It was not just asparagus and artichokes that I discovered growing wild in the campo. There were many wild flowers that I’d not seen before. As I walked with Colin Snout along the paths, golden broom filled the air with its honeyed scent and poppies danced in the breeze by the wayside. Springtime in Andalucía is a sight to behold.

wild-asparagus

heartychokes

stocksbunch

In the village there was a lot of work going on. While the men were out in the olive groves pruning the trees and cutting up logs, the women were busy whitewashing their houses. I couldn’t understand why there was suddenly this great flurry of activity? ‘Fiesta, Lottie, Fiesta!’ Antonia explained. It was nearly the end of April and the first of the three May fiesta’s was a week away. Irishman and I realized that we needed to step up to the mark and show that we too had civic pride. We bought a large tub of white paint and spent two days painting the front of the house, the garage and the blue railings outside. I planted up some pots with flowers and swept the yard. Judging from the compliments on our hard work and the beaming smiles, we’d clearly done the right thing.

garden-pots

marigold

51 thoughts on “Swallows And Artichokes

    1. Thanks, Av. Very glad you lobed it 😀 😀 😀 I’d not seen almonds growing before I moved here so that makes two of us. I love the velvet coats that they are wearing. The cherries are about to be picked, I can’t wait!

      Like

      1. I’ve just been out on a walk with Colin. We climbed up the very steep hill side and looked down over the vast stretch of valley and mountains. We then wound our way through an ancient piece of woodland,and then down on to the back road where the cherry trees are, AV, they are stupendous! The most glorious colour, deep crimson red. I’m envious of your childhood cherry tree, we had lots of cooking apple trees and plums. I must go out with the camera tomorrow and take some photos 😀

        Like

  1. Lottie, the post is a true feast for my eyes. The trees, wild and domsticated flowers, the vegetables, and your descriptions of the birds and the hillsides gave me a sense of what life is about in and around your little village.

    I was thrilled to see the excellent photos of the swallows. It appears that they have accepted you and Pete as friendly and harmless. How marvelous to have swallows nesting on the side of the house.

    There are several species of swallows in Central Texas: barn swallows that prefer open countryside, cliff swallow that nest under bridges and the sides of cliffs, and the Purple Martin that uses made made bird houses. The martins and cliffs nest in colonies.

    I don’t have any on my property for the habitat is too wooded. In fact the martin nests in the city but must have open areas to their likening.

    All the photos are beautiful. I love the courtyard with the table and checkered tablecloth. I can imagine you and Pete enjoying meal times while watching the birds and listening to various songs in the morning and later in the evening before nightfall.

    Can you cook or roast in the outdoor recess of what appears to be some type of oven? And if not, a few pots of shade loving plants might be happy to grow there.

    Loved the post but it was way too short.

    Yvonne xxxx

    Like

    1. Thank you, Yvonne. I’m guessing that these swallows must be like the barn swallows that you mention. I love having them here, they are great company and the Mr Swallow bursts in to song every so often to entertain Mrs Swallow as she sits patiently on her eggs.

      We literally live outside now – breakfast, lunch and supper all eaten under the fig tree. The only time I’m inside is when I’m writing as it’s just too hot to sit out there and the laptop starts frying!

      The tablecloth is some batik that I bought back from Indonesia. I love the mustard yellow and bright flowers on it. I buy my plants from a guy who comes round once a week with a van full of them, They are very inexpensive and he has a great selection. What you thought looked like an oven is actually a well. It was dry when we got here but its filled up over the winter. I’m still oven-less but hopefully in a month or so we will have funds to buy one. It would be fun to cook in the garden too, maybe Pete can rig something up.

      The birdsong here is marvellous. The Hoopoes have stopped calling now, they must be nesting but all day we can hear the chitter chatter of different birds and at night time we have a nightingale that sings all through the dark hours, it is absolutely enchanting.

      Very happy that you enjoyed the post. Thanks again, Lottie xxxxxxx

      Like

    1. Amazingly this pair are very clean and tidy. Minimal shit to clear up and they really are very sweet. The male is so tame now that I can touch him. He sits on the washing line by the kitchen and doesn’t bat an eye lid when I walk under him and give his tail a little tap 🙂 They only get really pee’d off when the house sparrows that are nesting in the roof come looking for crumbs. Lots of squawking and dramatic in-flight chases!

      Like

  2. Oh Lottie, Lottie, Lottie! What an amazing, beautiful world you live in! Wild asparagus sounds delightful. How does it taste? Artichokes and almonds are some of my favorites. Lots of A’s going around…hmmm. Is it “A” season?

    How are Mrs. & Mrs. Swallow doing? Your words are enchanting and your photos brilliant as always. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness, I hadn’t thought about the ‘A’s’ but you are right! Wild asparagus is yum, it’s got a stronger flavour than commercially grown stuff and the stems are much narrower. It grows in the olive groves and in the wild places. To find it you have to look out for a funny spiky plant, when you find the funny spiky plant you can be sure that there is asparagus growing near by. How much you find depends purely on luck!! I’d make a rotten hunter/gatherer that’s for sure 😀 xoxox

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh how I would love to visit you one day, your place and neighbours sound amazing. We had a pair of doves nest above our gate one year, it drove us crazy. Every time we opened or closed the gate we were attacked by Mr. Dove, thankfully they did not nest there a second time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are very welcome to visit! 😀
      The swallows were very cross with us to begin with, you should have heard their scolding and bad language but once they’d settled down and decided that making a nest by the kitchen wasn’t so bad after all, they’ve been fine. I just replied to an earlier comment and said that Mr Swallow is now so tame that I can touch him!
      Mr Dove sounds like a violent type, I’m very glad they didn’t bother to come back and menace you again 😀

      Like

      1. Mr. Swallow actually let you touch, that is amazing. Thank you for letting me visit; you are added to me bucket list, of one day visiting all my blogging pals.

        Like

  4. Gorgeous indeed. And I hope you’ll tell us about the fiesta soon. My memories of asparagus is that they are quite tricky to find unless you know where they are. The plants look like nothing much and the season isn’t very long. In Catalonia going in search for some mushrooms is a bit like that. Experts can bring kilos back and other people might spend hours and have nothing to show for their efforts…I’m pleased you made friends with the swallows…:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve hit the nail on the head, Olga. I think you need to be ‘in the know’ to find it but as I mentioned in an earlier comment, you look out for a spiky plant and wherever that grows, the asparagus is close by. I remember when ‘in a previous life’ I used to go down to our house close to Pau that in the autumn I’d see the villagers coming back from the woods and fields with HUGE baskets full of mushrooms. I’m clearly not such a country girl as I thought I was, I’d be hopeless if I had to live on what I could find to eat. Thank goodness for Mercadona!

      Like

  5. What a fun post, Lottie! I sensed the excitement of the village and all that is happening so quickly as Spring approaches Summer. Such poetic descriptions. I envy the thrill of all these new experiences and the warmth and camaraderie of your new home. I really am enjoying your photography too.

    Sometimes I take such a big bite that Mary Beth tells me if I swallow that I artichoke. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary Beth is spot on, we don’t want you artichoking! The flurry of whitewashing was a sight to behold, you’ve never seen so many pots of white paint and ladies in aprons up ladders. and then the sweeping, I forgot to mention the sweeping and the pots of geraniums bought out from their winter lodgings and hanging baskets. One of the things that I’m noticing more and more is the rhythm of the place. Each month/season has a set of tasks that gets done. There is a certain order to everything. For example the ladies in the village have asked if Pete and I can do an art class for them and we said that we’d be delighted and we could start next month ‘Oh no!’ they said ‘we can’t start until September. we’ve got cherry picking, then ……’ and gave us a whole list of things that they have to do before the are free to do art classes! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that’s pretty nice that there are some set traditions that are followed through the seasons. We have a few here, but usually i am more seat of the pants. 🙂

        Like

  6. Hi Lottie 😀

    I find wild asparagus too bitter for my taste. My Spanish neighbour, Toni, who cooks for me tried twice to tempt me to no avail. She hates it too.

    The swallows are also here. I love to watch them swoop below me as I live on the top floor. Sparrows are a real problem for me. They block the gutters and down pipes with their nests. I have a long pole with a folded coat hanger at the end and twice a day I remove as much grass as a Wimbledon groundsman mows in one day from the gutters. They have all stopped nesting in the gutters except for one persistent little rascal. I have fencing with 1cm square holes around the chimneys, on top of the gutters and any other vent holes etc. around the house. Sparrows are so fast and make huge grass nests and hopefully next year they’ll move up your way 😉 lol

    Have a lovely Sunday. Ralph xox ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve got lots of sparrows nesting under the roof tiles – no guttering here as it’s such an old house. I love their constant chatter, I’m listening to them now as I write to you. I’ve sneaked back in to bed with some coffee and the windows are open and the sun is blazing in already. It rained last night and yesterday was a bit overcast but it looks like it’s going to be another beautiful day today.
      you are welcome to send all the sparrows up here and the swallows – just call me St Lottie of Assisi! :Dxox

      Like

      1. Don’t get me wrong Lottie I love the birds and there is so much variety here and I love to watch and hear them. The sparrows do nest under the tiles with the wasps. It’s just the one now that’s a nuisance. 😀 ❤

        Like

  7. Paradise Found? This is my dream lifestyle, Lottie although it is all too easy to forget the hardships of winter. I am so happy for you both. The photos are wonderful. Shirley will be so envious of your swallows. Long may fiesta time continue. But me, I’m more of a siesta chap nowadays!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Andrew, you and me both. I’m more siesta than fiesta. I’m sure peeps are going to be very disappointed when I write about fiesta time here! Talk about being a party pooper.

      I wonder if your ears were burning on Wednesday? Pete and I went down to the coast, a place called Cabo de Gata where there is a nature reserve. You would have been in 7th heaven. Bird paradise …Flamingoes, Avocets and lots of other waders and other birds. The first thing I said on arrival was ‘Mr Hardacre would love it here!’ the flamingoes were too far out in the salt pans for me to photograph but I’d seen a man with a huge lens earlier (not a metaphor) i bet he got some great shots.

      I’ve got to confess, living here suits us well. The weather is perfect (apart from winter) the countryside is beautiful, the people are very friendly and we are just a hop, skip and a jump away from some of the most stunning cities in Spain should we require culture.

      Off to take some cherry photos today but first there’s a certain C. Snout that needs walking 😀

      Like

      1. Oh lucky you. A mere 460km west of there is Donana (near Seville), one of the best sites in Europe for birds. But Tarifa is excellent for watching migration. It is about the closest point to Africa so the clever birds choose to cross here. You must go. If you find the nest of a Spanish Imperial Eagle near your house I’ll book my ticket 🙂

        Like

  8. That court yard photo!
    It could only be Spain. It seems to have made the winter hardship worthwhile. That’s of course why the swallows are dancing. They survived as well and love is in the air everywhere.
    Thanks Lottie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Gerard. Love is definitely in the air, I’ve never seen so many birds making nests!

      I’m thrilled to bits with my pots and the plants. This is the start of the idea I have for creating my own ‘Cordoba courtyard/patio’ – there is a wall across the courtyard that is going to be pulled down so that we have a much larger area. My idea is to have pots all over the walls and huge pots with jasmine growing up the back walls. We live out in the yard now that the weather is so lovely. The winter is just a distant memory……! 😀

      Like

  9. Looks and reads like bliss Lottie. The swallows are amazing-they chose you and Pete, it’s a blessing 🙂 Thanks for sharing, have a great day x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m definitely a warm weather girl. I’ve always preferred being outside than in so this lifestyle suits me. Maybe I can join the swallows and fly to warmer climes during the winter months, that would be good. Thanks, George. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Have a good Sunday xxx 😀

      Like

  10. Goodness me, photo opportunities in abundance and signs of new life wherever you turn. Love love love poppies – wish they grew here. And soonish you’ll be grandparents to baby swallows. Hope all is going well with fiesta season!

    Like

    1. It’s pretty special here, I’ve got to admit. I live on the artichokes, they are so good. Cherries are being picked as we speak….In fact I went to take some photographs of the laden trees this morning and already half of them were bare…can’t wait to get stuck in to bowls and bowls of them. I love almonds too! 😀

      Like

  11. Lovely photos! Life sounds a lot more idyllic now than with the bucket and the cold weather. I hope we’re going to hear all about the fiesta. I’m looking forward to it. Hello Mr and Mrs Swallow ( waves).

    Like

  12. Nice to see the poppies, I missed them this year. I’ll invite you down when the swallows train up for the flight south, they use the area outside my house.

    Like

    1. I’m sorry to report that there is some grizzly news on the swallow front 😦 ……

      Mrs Swallow hatched her first egg a week ago and was clearly very happy about it as there was a lot of loving chatter coming from the nest. We went away for a couple of days and when we got back ALL the babies had fallen out of the nest (5) and a sixth was a few feet away in the courtyard. I have no idea what happened. It couldn’t have been a cat as their nest is in a safe place.

      Mr & Mrs S are still here so I assume that she’s laying again but I must confess to shedding a tear. They’d both worked so hard to make their little family home and hatch the babies.

      Thanks for the invite! 😀

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s