Monday, 27 November 2017

Wet and Wonderful

I love my friend Mihalis, the farmer. Well, maybe not quite a farmer, but he does grow a lot of vegetables and keeps a menagerie at his house, so it would be difficult to find another way of describing him, I suppose.

It's raining hard today, plus there is thunder and lighting a crashing and a banging around in the heavy leaden sky above us. When the windows rattle, you know it's pretty close. It's one of those 'pull the antenna cable out of the back of the TV' days, sure enough. Over here it's fairly commonplace for TV antennae to be struck by lightning and, should that happen, a pretty gigantic surge of volts shoots down that cable, looking for earth of course, and can if connected, use your TV to get to ground. Result? One melted TV. Thus, when the lightning is overhead we pull out that coaxial PDQ. 

Such days always put a huge smile on Mihali's face, though. The past two winters have been much too dry and that's had all kinds of negative effects on the island. For one, the water supply has been severely hit (as you'll know if you've been reading my stuff for a while. I should get some therapy if I were you) and lots of local people have had their water cut off for hours at a time, while others have had what amounts to salt water coming out of their taps. The effect of that salty water on the plants in the garden has meant that many vegetables died and quite a lot of fruit trees and decorative plants too have either almost succumbed, or stopped producing anything. 

Then of course there has been the problem with the olive harvests. The rains are meant to start in October, thus enabling the olives to fatten up a little before harvest time begins in November. This past couple of years have seen unusually dry Octobers and thus the olives haven't fattened up as they should. This year we hear is not a good one for olives and no doubt the drought has been a major contributory factor to the situation. 

Compared to last year though, in fact to the last two years, this November is proving to be much more 'normal'. Most days are bright, sunny, clear and warm, but then we get (about once a week) a storm, accompanied by some heavy rain which the ground seems genuinely to welcome as it soaks in. The olives, although it's a little late, benefit too and the prospects of having nice potable water coming out of one's kitchen tap next year are significantly brighter. The fruit trees look happier and the vegetables in the garden are fattening up nicely.

Plus, our friend Mihalis has a broad grin on his face. As he's told me many times during November, "Gianni, it can rain every day until next April as far as I'm concerned." There speaks a true Rhodean. He doesn't hate the summer, far from it, but he does want a 'normal' winter to compensate for the months of clear, blue skies and relentless sunshine that we endure (OK, OK, substitute 'enjoy' for 'endure' if you want to) each year. Mihalis zips around the area on his battered old Vespa, head exposed to the elements, but at least his body is clad in a thick three-quarter length coat. But the rain on his face? He laps it up. Probably drinks as he drives, if you see what I mean.

He dispenses advice about our vegetables, usually (as I've said many times) involving lots of 'tutting' about where we've planted some particular vegetable and what date we put the seeds, or seedlings in. I've yet to get anything right in is eyes, but nevertheless we do end up eating something, even if it is a bit pathetic by comparison to what he grows. This year I've got some curly lettuce in, some broccolli and we still have our one and only aubergine plant supplying us with a few fruit each week. 

We bought some chicken manure in big sacks a while back and thought we'd score a few points by telling him about it. After all, we'd heard that chicken manure was a nice, organic way to 'feed' the fruit trees and vegetables. Oh dear.

After I'd enthusiastically told him about this, his response was the regulation frown, followed by a 'tch' and that slight nodding of the head backwards (which equates to a British shake from side to side, of course) and the comment:

"Oh, Gianni. Don't buy that stuff. You don't know where it's come from. Could be battery chickens, fed on antibiotics and all that stuff. Haven't I told you? Get a few chickens of your own. They don't cost much and you can soon knock together a coup and a chicken run. Plus you'll have your own eggs." For someone like Mihalis, to have the size of garden that we have around us makes it a serious oversight not to have it populated with chickens, ducks and maybe the odd piglet or two. Such a waste.

Never mind, eating a little humble pie always works. He'll turn up with a bag of oranges and a few fresh eggs imminently, I've no doubt. Plus, as long as we keep getting the rains for a day or two every week, he'll be wearing that rare smile, the one we haven't seen so much of for the past couple of winters.


  1. Have to agree with Mihalis, why don't you have any livestock? You've plenty of space! It's okay, I think I know the answer

  2. Too darned busy for all that. Plus, when we go away - what then? Is that what you deduced?