Dry gardening has been the norm

Without trying one has had to dry garden during the past two years, at least in Spain, as there have been exceptionally long periods without more than a few drops of rain and then few good showers before the next long run of dry weather. There has been one benefit – it has been easier to nurse/coach plants to put down deeper roots; and there has been one negative – plants have grown at an amazing pace after a good shower so this years winter cutback is starting today. Yes we normally start just after the New Year but a week ago our local town hall announced that due to the financial crisis the weekly collection of garden rubbish is stopping and no containers are to be provided top take plastic sacks of prunings and shreddings to when one garden compost heaps are full. The suggestion is that each garden has it’s own bonfire! Not a great idea in one of the most picturesque coastal mountain valleys along the Med.

So we wish all Mediterranean gardeners another year of delightful and productive holistic style gardens blooming under clear blue herb oil enriched and smoke free air.

Our gardening writing began in the Spanish Pyrenees

Although I, Dick, had written several management books and articles before retiring early to Spain to live healthily, garden self-sufficiently, learn to cook Mediterranean style , walk, paint and fish it was not until I wrote an article in a local paper about my 52 day 950 kilometre largely wilderness walk across Spain with a new walking partner, Clodagh later my wife, that I wrote in Spain. But then that walk article  led to us being asked to write other travel articles take over the weekly gardening column. This we did and since we have written over a thousand gardening articles and published a dozen gardening and related lifestyle books.

‘Adventure along the Spanish Pyrenees’ – an interesting travelogue type of  book for winter reading in front of the fire.

Our most recently published book is ‘Adventure along the Spanish Pyrenees’. It was published earlier this month published via Create Space and is available on Amazon Books as a soft covered book as well as a Kindle book.

The style of the book is a travelogue describing our daily progress from the Cap Hiquer lighthouse on the rocky shores of the Bay of Biscay to the sandy tourist beach of  on the Mediterranean coast 52 days later with strong but tired legs having walked 950 kilometres. Throughout the the book the paths and tracks we used, the wonderful scenery, the friendly mountain folk, the often abandoned villages, the mountain and valley fauna, cultural events we happened to come across and the food we ate when wild camping or cleaning up and resting in a village are all discussed. Three important  things happened that we did not expect when we set out. Firstly we ate wild strawberries on 43 of the 52 days, secondly it only rained during five days of the walk and we only met one other long distance walker and he was going in the opposite direction to us. The latter led us to add a subtitle to the book cover  ‘Coast to coast from the Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean sea. Natures alternative to the busy Santiago de Compostella walk.

The book ‘Making waterless gardening a practical reality worldwid’ – it has become popular and is about to be updated.

Many thanks to readers who responded to our request in part 7.3 of the above book for any personal ideas for inclusion in future updates of the book. In January the ones we have will be included in the first update which will also include a little re-formatting.

If readers have other ideas please send them to us via

Vaughan Town garden getaways 

At the end of November I took a week off from gardening and writing and volunteered to  took part in a Vaughan Town accelerated English speaking learning experience for Spaniards. Those Spaniards participating were motivated to improve fast to build on their prior intermediate level of English theory and speaking ability. I and 23 other English Speakers stimulated and coached 24 Spaniards to  improve their confidence to use English verbally and the quality of their English speaking  This was largely on a one to one and small group basis for 84 hours during the week. Volunteers were not paid a salary but their full expenses in a four star hotel in the Gredos mountains were paid. Discussions about living and gardening in various parts of Spain with Spaniards and other English Volunteers was an interesting side benefit of the week. The main benefit was to be able to give some thing back to Spain for the great life we have had here over 25 years. If you would like to join a similar Vaughan  Town experience  look it up on the internet and make an internet application. There are openings during most months of the year as Vaughan Town weeks are popular and are run in a number of different locations.

Preparing  your own Authentic Valencian Paellas

Thinking about five star eating our English and Spanish books about preparing authentic meat (rabbit and chicken) and vegetable based Valencian paellas have been very popular in recent months. With the difficulty of obtaining ecologically grown ingredients in many areas of Spain many expats are now growing their own as we do, including the rice at times.

The titles of the books are ‘ Authentic Valencian Paellas’ and ‘Autentica Paella Valenciana’, again available from Amazon Books.

(C) Dick Handscombe December 2013.