Thursday, October 29, 2009

Splendour and Squalor

Marcus Scriven is here, recovering from the final polishing of his brilliantly narrated book, Splendour and Squalor, which is to be launched in late November, early December.

We're all a bit worried about Mrs. Slocumbe on the cover, who seems to be disporting herself with the village butcher....but then tits do sell.

Marcus needs a new image. (We've had frayed shirts, sole-flapping shoes and starved author wardrobe for 7 years now - Come on Marcus! It's time to invest in a lightweight Prince of Wales check for your visits to the sun!)

Please click on the link above to order the book from Amazon and subsidise a new wardrobe.

A visit from Pri and Rhea

This is Jeannie and I with Pri, scrubbed-up for the city, and rid of the mud from potato-lifting!

It already feels like a different world to the one in which, in lashing rain, we waded across the street to meet the bus in Aracena, to collect our two delightful volunteers from India; Priyanka Shewakramani and Rhea Batliboi.

The girls have made a radical change from office life in New York and did a fantastic job for us in the orchards, gathering the last of the tomatoes, the peppers and the aubergines, and digging up the last rows of potatoes in thick mud on the first few mornings after the rain. Now they've left us to continue their travels through Spain and South America, and we sorely miss them and evening laughter over the mosto bottle.

We've put the sheep in to finish clearing the ground and in a couple of weeks we hope to sow our winter crops; broad beans, brassica and leaks. Then winter salads in the greenhouse.

I got into a serious veggie session, making hot green tomato and chilli chutney, imam bayeldi, roasted pepper salads, and tomatoes roasted in yoghourt and crême fraiche. Yum, no wonder we eat too much here.

A Never Ending Summer!

Joanna Saville joined us
for a week of cooking,
swimming walking,
sightseeing....and eating.

Kirsty Pilcher came with Jean Arnot and Janie to join the first day's hands-on session.

Autumn has been extraordinary this year. After a long blazing summer we have started to benefit from the soft warm golden days which come after the first rainfall. It's just heaven for walking now, with the leaves changing colour, chestnuts falling to the ground, and the smell of quinces ripening in the orchards.

There have been fewer mushrooms than usual, since it has not rained much, but we have found Caesar's mushrooms (Oronge fr. Ovoli it. Kaiserpilz ger.) and Penny Buns (Ceps fr. Porcini it. Tentullo local.) and some delicious shaggy ink-caps/lawer's wigs which went into a risotto.

We escaped for a couple of nights to Ronda, then back for a cookery week with Jo Brown in which Jeannie taught breadmaking, salmorejo, romesco, rabbit with cream and mustard, mussels in saffron cream with spinach, zarzuela de pescado, solomillo of Iberian pork with peppers, and of course rosemary and chocolate cream with fino sherry, and lavender panna cotta.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Polly and Jesus's Wedding

In mid July we had 80 guests for the Anglo-Spanish wedding of Polly Wibberley and Jesus Revaliente.

Jago and Trent built a gazebo of poplar poles and then lined it with ruched voile supplied by the bride. Their stints at Greenfield Marquees stood them in good stead, and it looked rustic but professional!

The bride wanted a country look, and tables were decorated with small zinc buckets and cans of lavender and herbs and white roses. As it was a nighttime wedding feast, the tables were lit with old fashioned paraffin lamps.

The marriage took place at sundown on the lower field (I shan't say lawn; there are too many moleholes and summers are too hot for perfection!)

Afterwards, guests came up for Cava, rebujitos or manzanilla, and miniature hamburgers of iberian pork, home cured jamón, fried quail's eggs, hot feta and pastry puffs, sea bream pancakes, quail drumsticks, and foie gras mousse.

Dinner was served well after 11 pm and we sat down to purple figs and jamón with a honey vinaigrette and fresh mint, roast lamb with gratiné potatoes and green haricots. The puddings were ginger roulade, chocolate profiteroles, berry fruits in syrup, and there was a selection of cheese both British and Spanish. We served a soft and fruity mencia varietal red, from the Bierzo, from the Agribergidum Bodega, and our white was a magnificent sauvignon blance from Victoria Pariente's bodega which is named for her father Jose Pariente.

After dinner, coffee and petits fours, the soul band struck up with a very small singer belting out Aretha Franklin numbers and keeping us going until 8 in the morning!!

Carin King's Cookery Club

We had a fun weekend with Carin King's group, who came to cook and sunbathe by the pool! We did get some cooking done, including this delicious shellfish paella; but we also made breads, learned how to carve jamón, and how to make panna cotta infused with cardamom.

Tim Clinch's visit

In the last week of June, photographer Tim Clinch came to take pictures of the house and the pool at dawn. He also photographed the redecorated bedrooms, and took some images of the countryside, orchards and self-catering cottages. To view the whole thing go to, and then click on Finca Buenvino.

Emily Fortune was our intrepid early morning model. Thanks Ems!

Martin Randall Travel walking group.

It's rather late to be catching up with the year, but now that autumn is here, there is a chance to sit down and struggle with the internet, which in these remote parts is very slow at times, and drives me to distraction!

Gaby McPhedran and Adam Hopkins brought a group of walkers and seekers of Spanish knowledge to the finca for lunch on Easter day. They had been visiting the processions of Holy Week in Carmona, a more intimate affair than that in Seville, and they were on their way to the Extremadura, to stay in Zafra for a couple of nights.

Finca Buenvino is almost midway between the two, and proved a perfect place to explore villages, walk the trails, attend Easter Mass, or visit the caves of Aracena.

We gave them tapas; Our home-cured jamón, fried quails' eggs, pimientos del padrón, blanched almonds fried in olive oil, and olives, then everyone sat down to a lunch of grilled goat's cheese, with salads from our greenhouse, and roast Sierra de Aracena lamb, followed by lavender panna cotta and fruit coulis.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Fiestas, Romerias and Other Dates for 2009

Here is a list of some of the most accessible and fun Fairs, Pilgrimages, Fiestas and processions in the Sierra de Aracena.
Times mentioned are driving times from Finca Buenvino.

March 6th-9th FICAR (International hunting and shooting fair) Rosal de la Frontera (40 mins)

March 20th&21st Fiestas de la Encarnación, Carboneras (15 mins)

March 22nd Romeria de Nuestra Señora del Prado Higuera de la Sierra (25 mins)

April 1st-5th April Iberian Pig and Hunting/Shooting fair Santa Olalla del Cala (40 mins)

April 3rd Good Friday

April 5th Palm Sunday The Borriqita procession 6pm Aracena (10 mins)

April 3rd - April 5th The horse and mule fair Puerto Moral (25 Mins)

April 5th- 12th Holy Week. There are processions most days/nights in Aracena (10 mins) The most beautiful and moving are on the night and early morning of Thursday to Friday.

12th April-19th The Virgen de las Flores is carried from her chapel and returns 19th. All week is fiesta (Encinasola - 50 mins)

30th April-3rd May Fiesta de la Virgen de la Tortola in Hinojales (45 mins) Here, on the 1st May you will see the men of the town assemble to dance the extraordinary Danza de la Lanza

May 2nd & 3rd Fiesta de Las Cruzes Almonaster la Real (35 mins)

May 6th-8th VIth International Congress on Jamón Aracena (10 Mins)

May 10th Romeria de Nuestra Señora de la Coronada Cortelazor (20 Mins) If the weather is fine, this is a beautiful romeria in spectacular scenery.

May 15th-17th Spring Livestock Fair Aracena (10Mins)

May 23rd-24th Romeria de San Mamés Aroche (30 Mins) very fine route through dehesa. A day and a night of roistering.

May 31st Our own Romeria de la Virgen de Gracia Los Marines (2 Mins) the best(see former blogs)

June 7th Romeria de Nuestra Señora del Prado Higuera de la Sierra (25 Mins) the chapel is set amidst beautiful countryside.

June 13th Fiesta del Chopo Los Marines (2 Mins) the young men of our village go out to the countryside, fell a huge poplar tree and carry it back to the main square of the village, where it is erected with some difficulty. Much drink taken.

June 13th Fiesta del Carro Fuenteheridos (4 Mins) only for the young and well-oiled.

June 19th-20th Velá del Cercado de Reyes Aracena (10 mins) Night time street party.

June 26th - 28th Fiestas de San Juan Bautista Linares de la Sierra (Bullfight on 27th) (20 Mins)

June 26th-28th Velá de San Pedro Aracena (10 mins) night time street party on thr saturday. exhibitions of art and handicrafts..

June 27th Velá de Poesia Erótica Galaroza (15 mins) Readings and discussions of Erotic Poetry.

June 28th - 30th Fiestas de San Pedro Castaño del Robledo (15 mins)

July 10th- 12th Cultural and Environmental Days "Amigos del Castillo" Cortegana (25 mins)

July 20th - 26th IIIrd Music Week Zufre (30 mins)

July 24th-26th Velá de Santa Lucia Aracena (10 mins)

August 1st-3rd Fiestas de Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza Castañuelo (20 mins)

August 1st National open-air painting competition and meeting Cortelazor (20 mins)

August 6th-9th Mediaeval fair Cortegana (30 mins)

15th August Romeria de Nuestra Señora de Esperanza Castañuelo and Corterangel. (20 mins)

15th August- 18th August Fiestas e la Virgen de la Fuente Fuenteheridos (3 mins)

15th - 17th August Fiestas de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios Cortelazor (20 mins) "el toro de fuego" runs about on saturday night....a man with horns and covered in fireworks.

20th August-24th August Feria de Agosto Aracena (10 mins)

22nd August-23rd August Romeria de San Bartolomé Alajar (10 mins)

6th September Los Jarritos Galaroza (15 mins) water is thrown about all morning so wear bathers and bring a bucket.

8th September Romeria de la Reina de los Angeles Alajar (10 mins) Spectacular romeria to a mountainside hermitage. (Fireworks the night before the romeria)

18th September Fiestas y Feria de la Virgen de Gracia Los Marines (2 mins) Fireworks on the Saturday.

18th- 20th September FEGAR Livestock fair Aroche (30 mins)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Preparing for the 2009 season

This week in spite of being officially closed until April, we ran our first newlyweds cookery course, which was huge fun, Andrew and Kelly Benitz of Titan Properties came up from El Rompido, along with Sarah and Robert Barclay from Seville, and Polly Wibberly and Jesus Revaliente, who are planning to get married at Finca Buenvino in July.

We baked wholemeal bread, and sundried tomato bread, and pumpkin seed loaf; then cooked a three-course lunch of grilled aubergine, goat's cheese and tomato pesto followed by chicken, saffron, lemon and olive tajine then we prepared a bitter orange marmalade soufflé and almond praline to go on top.

When the weekend is over we will return to our noisy hammering and thumping as the builders get back to work: this year we have closed for three months, which gives us time to make some improvements.

Our old hot water cylinders and solar panels were removed, and an entirely new system of high temperature vacuum tube solar panels was our second day of operation and the water cylinder showed 50ºC at 7pm, which is one in the eye for the electricity board. New shower and steam cabinets are going into some of the bathrooms. Now we have two rooms with tubs and two with steam showers in the main house. and the pool room also has a steam shower unit.

Bedrooms have better reading lights, and new 90% goose-down pillows, 398 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, both from Mitre Hall and Letts.

With econonomic gloom forecast for the year ahead, we decided to drop our prices back to our 2002-2006 level, and keep our fingers crossed that some guests will come and stay. Come on, you out there! It is only 70 Euros per night per person for bed and a delicious breakfast. If you stay three nights or more, then it drops to 60 euros per person per night. VAT is a mere 7%

A bulldozer and a roller have been spreading stones and gravel on the drive, so now the cottages are accessed down a kilometre and a half of smooth track. Let's hope this lasts, as we cannot lay tarmac in the nature reserve.

The cottages will each be getting solar panels next week, as well as new mini Hifi centres with i-pod docks, MP3 connection and cd players. Pepe has built a wonderful high stone wall along the edge of the walking trail, and he will be putting in permanent stone-built barbecues for each cottage. These will make it safe to barbecue even in high summer, as they are on brick floored terraces where sparks should not escape into dry undergrowth (as long as holidaymakers are careful).
In order to be even more eco-friendly, cottages will be supplied with composters, so that all vegetable waste will be returned as fertiliser to the organic orchards and veggie patch. Summer tenants are welcome to pick their own tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines, peppers and beans.

We open again on the first of April.