It's good to be back with some time on my hands - enough time to sit and write a little once or twice a week - and it's strange to look at the images of last years' mushroom crop, when we are going through the same thing once more.
The weather pattern may have changed a little from 2013, with our relatively cool summer; but after September downpours and temperatures dropping, we once again have a scorching October.
It's been almost 30ºC once or twice this week, and although our pool has theoretically been "closed" since September ( we put the sun beds away), and we have had the fires lit, and put the eiderdowns back on the beds (all that three weeks ago, with torrents falling out of the sky, and thunder blasting our telephone to smithereens....no internet....no phone), we now have this second burst of gentle summer-like weather; guests swimming in the pool, evening drinks on the terrace until it gets too dark.
The quince trees are heavily laden this year with the branches straining and snapping with the weight of the fruit, so we went down and picked crates and crates of lemon yellow fruit and Jeannie has been making jars of quince jelly, bowls of carne de membrillo and we have been baking the fruit in sugar syrup and making compotes and 'quince snow'.
We were out mushrooming with Melanie Denny from La Casa Noble in Aracena yesterday, and in a moment of excitement when we were gathering some Caesar's Mushrooms I must have put down my blackthorn stick with the burr handle, and walked on without it. I see from the link that I could buy a new one, but it's not as beautiful as the old one with the real sharp thorns on it.
I have since walked up and down through the cork forest several times and have not been able to spot my stick. Maddening as it is not just a trusty clambering companion, but a thing of beauty and almost 100 years old.
Mushrooming is a wonderful occupation; almost like meditation. You wander slowly up and down the forested hill, and you observe nature. The bracken has turned to yellow and rust. The new autumn grass is bright green, and the coloured leaves are dropping. The splash and gurgle of the stream tells you that the aquifer is replenishing itself; the rain has washed away the plague of late summer flies, and through the crystalline silence of the forest you can hear the sudden sharp pecking of a woodpecker. Now and then the thud of a chestnut falling, or an acorn dropping from the cork trees reminds you that the pigs have to be out to wander in the woods; but not until the chestnuts have been harvested and taken to the cooperative.
The sheep have started lambing, so we have fenced them into the fallow orchard, where they have plenty of new autumn grass, and windfall apples and pears. We miss the tinkle and clank of their bells as they pass by below the house, crossing the steep forrested slope to get to a warmer hilltop resting place at night, when the temperatures cool down.