Friday, January 29, 2010

84 ~ Brightest Moon of the Year

moon Manual...f/4.5...1/160...ISO 50...focal length 84.2mm

Tonight, January 29th is apparently the night when we have the brightest moon of the whole year 2010.
Here is a news clip about it.

So after reading that I ran outdoors to see that we have a beautiful clear night sky and overhead this enormous full moon. What luck! So often when there is a meteorite shower or other celestial event we have heavy drifting clouds from the northeast trade winds. But not tonight.

As I don't yet have a telephoto lens for my main camera, I took my little point & shoot Olympus SP560UZ with the 18x zoom and my tripod. After some adjustments I caught a few good shots which are probably my best attempts at photographing the moon. So I'm very pleased.

Here are the details: Camera set to Manual (M), f/4.5, 1/160, ISO 50.
I used the tripod and the self-timer.

More details on How to Photograph the Moon on my photography blog.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

83 ~ Bread Delivery

bread on door close Photo taken in La Vera, Tenerife

When I was small and living in Canada, the bread man came to the door to deliver fresh bread about once a week. We had a little wooden box nailed to the outside wall near the back door of the house. My mom would buy coloured bread tickets from the bread man; purple was for brown bread and green was for white. There were only two kinds of bread to choose from. When, for example, she wanted two loaves of brown bread, she would leave two purple tickets inside the little box and when the bread man came he would open the door, remove the tickets and replace them with two loaves of brown bread. From time to time she would buy more tickets and the system worked well as bread was always delivered and paid for even when she wasn't home. There was no sliced bread then. The loaves were whole and wrapped in brown paper.

Milk was another item that was delivered to the front door in glass bottles. Before milk was homogenized, a quart of milk came with a precious head of full cream on top and one was supposed to shake the bottle well to distribute the cream before opening. But we loved that cream on our morning cereal so there was a rush to see who could reach the front door first to steal a little of it before mom rescued the bottle. At first money, and later green plastic tokens were left inside the empty glass bottles on the doorstep for the milkman to take away and replace with full bottles.

Other things that came to the door: the eggs, delivered by Mr. Chase, a chicken farmer who wore what looked like a beige bowler hat; the groceries, which were ordered by telephone and delivered by Jock McKay, son of the Scottish grocer; the meat was also ordered by phone from the butcher, the dry cleaning and dad's white shirts from the laundry as well as the daily newspaper.

And there was the Watkins man who came from time to time selling tinned spices and cleaning products. We did rely a lot on home delivery then even though we lived in a town and not out in the countryside. However there were no supermarkets and so small enterprises made their business by delivering to homes.

Bread rolls are still delivered and attached to a wall or doorknob here in Tenerife. I've never heard of anyone stealing someone's bread. Here you can see this bread roll has been left on the door handle of a house on a narrow sidewalk bordering a main road in what is a busy shopping area.

street La Vera
Another bread roll hung on the protruding nail of a No Parking sign on a busy Tenerife street.

no parking bread
I used to have bread delivery but now prefer to buy it as needed from one of the German bakeries here who produce healthy whole grain loaves and rolls made from an assortment of flours.

bread rolls
While out walking I came upon a long wall covered in flame vine (Pyrostegia Venusta) in full bloom.
I never cease to be impressed by this beautiful climber.

Thanks for the visit and ¡Hasta La Vista!


Saturday, January 9, 2010

82 ~ The Blackbirds are Back

blackbird 1Blackbird at my window

Well I don't know that they ever left the islands, but they are back in our garden again and looking for some free dinner. Called mirlos in Spanish, their favourite feast seems to be dry cat food and they have a race with the doves (palomas ) to see who can clean out the cats' dishes first.

When there's no food to be seen, they come and sit at my computer room window and look in at me, seemingly wondering when I'm going to fill the food tray, or scatter some food right on the windowsill.


paloma Dove waiting for dinner

So I partially filled my two-tiered cake tray outside that I had only temporarily set out in the tree, thinking I would find or make a better bird feeder. But so far it is still there, my little Moroccan enameled metal cake stand bought in a trendy shop which I imagined I'd be piling high with fluffy cakes and cookies. But instead I've given up the cakes and cookies for myself and have turned it over to the birds, although just temporarily!

cake tray
He said thanks, it's about time!

blackbird 2
So what else is new? We are one of the two areas of Spain that doesn't have snow and ice at the moment! Canary Islands and Extremadura are the only regions that have escaped the extreme cold weather.

Yesterday we had some rain. But it is always welcome here because we have so many plants to water and the lawn is green year round. Everything grows continuously.

rain 1 Here is the back garden with a sunny shower of rain yesterday morning.

back garden rain
And this morning when there was sun without rain.

back lawnI wanted to start pruning the roses on January 7th, with the waning moon, but the ground was too wet to be slogging around so I'll wait a few more days....(or weeks.)
The roses are so beautiful at this moment, it's like spring is already here. Although we find it chilly with a temperature today of only 19°Celsius (66°F) as we're spoiled with our year round mild weather!

Roses from yesterday: Heinzelmännchen and Queen Elizabeth

Q. Eliz
Have a good weekend, and ¡Hasta la Vista!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

81 ~ The Three Kings

melchior Arrival of the Kings

Last night saw the arrival in Spain of the Three Kings, Los Reyes Magos, also know as The Three Wise Men or Magi, bearing gifts for the children who would have woken this morning to find them under their Christmas tree. January 6th, Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, is here known as El Dia de Reyes and is a national holiday.

king camel 1In Tenerife on Camels

The three kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar arrived in Tenerife from the orient on camels burdened with packages and as they passed through the streets, these royal gentlemen threw candies, caramelos in Spanish, to crowds of waiting children.

king on camel
In Madrid the parade, called the Cabalgata de Reyes, was a lavish affair with many floats, giant balloons and spectacular illuminated coaches, one for each of the three kings, escorted by an entourage of beautifully costumed attendants. The parade ended in Madrid's Plaza de Cibeles, famous for the fountain with the statue of the goddess Cibeles.

Madrid Plaza de Cibeles
float in parade
float parade
king waving
Balthazar Balthazar

rey 2
And proof that the children of Madrid are no fools when it comes to catching sweets thrown down to them from the passing floats, there was a sea of upturned umbrellas lining the edge of the parade. Upturned of course to catch more of the shower of candies. Clever aren't they!

Credits with thanks for images taken from the TV broadcasts of El Dia TV in Tenerife and TVE Television Española Channel 1 in Madrid.

Thanks for dropping by and ¡Hasta la Vista!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

80 ~ The Lizard and I

lagarto in shower In the Shower

Here on these islands we have many little lizards or lagartos in Spanish, populating our garden, stone walls and warm pathways. Some are endemic to their island, such as the Giant Lizard of Salmor, from the island of El Hierro, which reaches 70 cms (27.5 inches) in length and which is nearly extinct.

But the one I found in the shower recently was a little smaller, although not by much and was of the species
Gallotia galloti, or Tenerife Lizard, Lagarto Tizon. These are plentiful on Tenerife. Their diet consists mainly of plants, flowers, seeds, insects and larva.

Bananas are a favourite food of these little creatures, and one can be almost assured of a good photo moment by offering a little piece of overripe banana to them and waiting with a little patience. I used to feed the largartos in my garden every day at 12 noon, when I'd put out a saucer of milk and some pieces of ripe banana.

If I were late, they would line up along the tiled roof of the garden shed, looking over towards the door and waiting for me to appear with their lunch. When they saw me, they would scamper down a vine that touched the roof and come for their food, arranging themselves around the saucer like spokes on a wheel.

But getting back to our new visitor in the shower, my concern when I found him was how best to remove him and put him back outside where he should have been hibernating. At this time of the year they are usually sleeping until the spring, although winters here are very mild and weather most days is springlike.

I found a ripe banana and made a trail of pieces leading to an exterior door. Later I saw that he had gone so I figured he'd found his way outside, although the banana was still on the floor.

However imagine my surprise a couple of days later when I picked up the kettle on the stove to prepare morning coffee. Here is what I found curled around the burner.

lagarto on stove Lizard on the Stove

Well it gave me a shock and when I rattled the stove grate it jumped down to the floor and disappeared under the fridge. I consulted some wise heads on a local forum where I asked for advice on how best to remove this fellow (at the time I wasn't sure if he was a male) but before I could put their advice into practice I found him a couple of days later up on a curtain rail in the living room. I understood that this little creature would be searching for warmth and so I guess he found it up near the ceiling, as we had turned on the heat the night before.

To be brief, my cleaning lady Teresa managed to carefully dislodge him using a feather duster and catch him in a wastebasket. We took him outside where he crawled to a window and looked in, scratching at the glass as though trying to get back inside.

lagarto at window Lizard at Window

Here you see the blue spots on him which indicate that he's a male. His colour looks quite different from the photos I took indoors.

But my cat soon found him there and became overly interested, thinking he might make a good plaything. So Teresa scooped him up again and I suggested we drop him on the tiles of the garden shed, where there are many crannies where a lizard could crawl in for a good long sleep, with the warmth of the sun above.

garden shed
And so we did, and after a few shakes of the basket, our lizard dropped out and disappeared.
And so the story ended happily with no harm done.

Thanks for visiting... ¡Hasta la Vista!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

79 ~ Pruning With the Moon

pruned tree New Shoots on our Grapefruit Tree

Here in Canary Islands it is customary to prune with the menguante, or waning phase of the moon. And adhering to this custom is my garden helper Antonio as well as other local Canary people I have known. I used to follow that rule myself with my rose bushes. I was never sure if it really made a difference.

Last month we gave a drastic pruning to our grapefruit tree because the leaves were suffering from a blight which has extended to most citrus trees of these islands. So this is what we did:

tree pruned And now with just a month behind us, we see the first new green shoots. I wonder how long it will take before the insect settles on the new leaves. We don't use any pesticides in the garden now, although years ago I used to use pyrethrum, a natural insecticide from a flower of the chrysanthemum family. But as that is also very toxic to bees and somewhat toxic to humans and birds, we stopped all spraying, other than plain hose water out of respect for the environment.

But of course now we have to hope that the tree can survive and overcome the insect that mottles and curls the leaves. This year we had no grapefruit from our little tree which normally produces more than we can eat or give away. Here is an old photo of the tree in 2001:

grapefruit tree 2001
Our little lime tree is faring somewhat better although it also has the blight. It's currently full of blossoms and fruit.
You can see the misshapen leaves in the background.

lime 1 Lime Blossom

lime blossom 2

lime fruit Bearss lime on our tree

Also know as Persian Lime, it was named after John T. Bearss, who developed this seedless variety around 1895 in his nursery at Porterville, California. (Quoted from Wikipedia.) It always surprises me that both lemons and limes will produce both fruit and flowers at the same time! And the perfume....ahhh...the scent of citrus blossoms is unforgettable. I notice a heavy scent in the air around 6 pm when we sit outside for our late afternoon coffee, watching the sun go down.

So now it seems we should start pruning the roses in four days, just when they are all in full bloom! We'll see if I have the courage to cut them all down. Here's what some of them looked like yesterday:

Gruss an Aachen Grüss an Aachen

Heinzelmännchen Heinzelmännchen

Queen Elizabeth Queen Elizabeth

I'll leave you with the scent of imaginary citrus blossoms hanging in the air!

¡Hasta la Vista!


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