I am now seriously contemplating developing a very basic mini-hydropower system in one of the disused water mills in the valley, employing the vortex principle to accelerate the water flow. One of the possible candidates is the mill on the boundary between two orchards on the opposite side of the stream from our house. This was abandoned between 40 and 50 years ago. It was, possibly still is, owned jointly by anything up to 26 families, each of whom had a specific day allocated to them to do their milling. No doubt many of those 26 families no longer live in the district! The mill, as you can see, is a ruin, but the roof area is small, so basic renovation would not be costly. The 'head' - the vertical distance the water falls from input to output, from leat to race, is close on four metres, so with plastic tubing spitalling round tightly inside the four walls (invisible from outside) a really good rate of flow should be possible at the entry to the turbine. And the main power line for the village runs nearby.
To round everything off, a couple of jaded views of 'the morning after the night before'.
On the seond day of the fiesta, after the processions with San Roque to and from the church, there is really nothing else apart from the dreaded and dreadful bands late in the evening. Once again the rain failed to turn up, and the racket went on until well after four in the morning on Monday.
Over and done with for another year . . . thank goodness!
Sunday morning. We prayed for a genial thunderstorm overnight, to drown the noiseome and loathsome bands, but to no avail. Tam and I went for an early morning constitutional, up to El Trechoriu and back. We timed our return so as to be able to pohotograph San Roque (and hungry hound) being transported from the cemetery to the church.
The best bit of the whole fiesta . . .
I might add at this juncture that Tam was then just under 14 months old, and teething (which can be painful). Throughout our wanderings together, which occuped a couple of hours on each day, and a good deal of waiting around for thngs to happen, she never once protested, took a lively interest in everything that went on, and obeyed my command to 'Hold still, please, Tam', every time I took a photo. Well done, young lady!
The focus of the action now moves to the field ear the church, where after a good deal of manoeuvring (and creating a fair bit of traffic congestion in the process), the eucalyptus is laid down, in readiness for the spectacular raising procedure.
But first, let us meet the Public Exploder!
On this page we take a long, long look at the felled eucalyptus as it passes AsturArcadia's house and heads for the field near the church on 15 August 2009 - one of the two hottest days of the summer (the other was a Monday in early September). Your local correspondent was seated comfortably at the bedroom window, with a good book and a pot of tea, while waiting. The good life . . .
This takes place on 15 and 16 August.
On the afternoon of the 15th one of the tallest eucalyptus trees in the district is cut down, and carried/dragged manually to the field adjacent to the church, where the fiesta is held. It is then raised, using several ladders and trestles, into vertical position. In the past a competition used to be held to scale the bare, branch-denuded trunk, to reach a 'prize' in a bag at the top (where the sole leafy tip remains). In recent years few if any folk have attempted the climb. No doubt one day such 'risky' activities will be banned by the Spanish Health and Safety Ministry, prompted by the litigation mania.
On the morning of the 16th the effigy of San Roque, a shepherd with his faithful dog, is moved from the chapel at the cemetery to the church (and returned later in the day).
Village fiestas are not what they were. Probably because villages are not what they were. In the past, the 'día grande' was anticipated as a day off work - a welcome break from the toil of animal husbandry and crop-tending, at the busiest time of the year - before or during harvesting. The rural population has dwindled - in many areas by as much as two-thirds over the past half-century. The village fiesta is no longer a truly local event, and it has lost a good deal of its significance through this. Village populations swell considerably during July and August, as relatives of the few permanent inhabitants come for their holidays (or for part of them, anyway). So, there are a lot of mainly urban strangers around. And a lot of cars. Usually big, powerful, swanky ones.
The type of entertainment provided has changed. In the past one would have enjoyed scything competitions, or the hilarious business of 'piesca l'gochu' - trying to catch a lively piglet liberally massaged with olive oil. The 'animal rights' activists (shame and pity on the poor creatures) banned that one about five years ago. To the frustration of the gochos, since pigs enjoy a bit of harmless fun.
Nowadays the focus is the bar marquee, and the band, hired at considerable cost, to pump out high levels of dBa at unsocial hours (from around 22.00 until 04.00 or later). Bands with corny names ('Tropical' comes to mind - yuk!), which belt their way insensitively through cover versions of popular hits and alien 'latino' dance music to the delight of a reduced number of boogying stalwarts who are usually complete outsiders, usually young, and doing the rounds of the local fiestas. But sir, do they REALLY boogie?
Most of the locals have far better things to do by then, such as trying to snatch a few hours' undisturbed sleep before embarking upon the duties of the next day - milking the cows, commuting to work, proofing magazines and suchlike. And trying to clear up the mess of broken bottles and glasses, and sloppy piles of puke.
The August 2009 edition of San Roque in Buriñes saw a drunken driver ártly demolish the drystone wall of the fiesta field (still not repaired six months on), and a gang of lads (not local) demonstrating the pyrotechnic skills with piles of rubbish in the loggia on the south side of the church.
Nevertheless, in the sets of photos on this and subsequent pages, let us focus upon the more wholesome aspects of the Fiestas de San Roque. Tam and I had a great couple of days recording the event for posterity.
Starting with . . . the preparations (Saturday morning).
I have no idea what their biological name is, in Spanish, English or Latin. All I know is that the first of them flower around 15 August, and they continue for a brief three weeks. Some of my neighbours have given me bulbs, so hopefully in summer 2010 I will be able to photograph my own!
They grow wild, and in gardens.
'Azken Iarrosa' ('The Last Rose of San Martín') is a lovely Basque ballad lamenting the relentless passage of time and the nostalgia of hopeless love.
This page is dedicated to Montse, Mari-José and Núria, three precious roses.
The primrose must be one of the most emblematic and common flowers in northwest Spain in springtime. The first usually flower in mid-December, the climax comes in February and Match, and they finally disappear in late April and early May. During the summer months it is really quite difficult to tell where they have been - the leaves seem to change shape and texture, and the whole plant sinks back into the soil and is obscured by other vegetation.
In the garden (I adore primulas) I usually manage to keep some (both wild and cultivated) going, in flower, throughout the year, especially if the summer months tend to be overcast and humid.
Now restored as an Asturian arts and crafts workshop and shop, the former village school (for girls), built in 1892, is situated about 200 m up the valley beyond Bar Santi, and about 400 m below the mineral water factory, on the right of the road as you head towards the Alto de la Llama.
The boys' school was situated on the lane accessing the cemetery.
If bees were to disappear from this planet, humanity would only survive for four years longer. Bee-keepers worldwide are concerned about the way their swarms (and harvests) are diminishing in size.
The same is true here in Buriñes, where at present only two families - as far as I am aware - struggle on in spite of the low remuneration and the dwindling size of their buzzing workforces.
One day in autumn 2009, on our morning ramble, Tam and I were lucky to be able to see, and photograph (at a distance) hive fumigation in progress.
Autumn 2009 was also remarkable for its berries. Some edible, others not. The blackberry harvest in late August and early September was lousy compared with outher years - not enough rain. Tamara made the best of it, though, insatiable as always for food picked fresh off te bush or tree. But then came the other berries . . .
The wealth of funghi, both edible and lethal. is amazing. To such an extent that photographic competitions are held, and visitors come from abroad to discover at first hand what is growing here.
As with other natural phenomena, timing and scope vary from year to year. The 2008 season was brief but rich, finishing in mid-November. In 2009/10 the funghi lasted, on and off, until almost into the New Year.
No further comments from me - I am not a fungus expert. I simply think that they are pretty, and photogenic!
A three-month autumn blends into a five-month spring, with doses of winter in between.
The quality of the autumn tints depends a good deal on the quantity of rainfall during the previous winter and spring, and hence on the amount of vegetation produced. timing is impossible to predict. A dry summer usually results in leaf-fall beginning alarmingly early. And there are winters when the old leaves hang on until early spring. Fortunately the winters of 2008/9 and 2009/10 have been 'proper' ones, with frosts and snowfall, as well as plenty of rain.
That is how Tamara still describes what happened on that fateful afternoon in October 2009 when a mini-bulldozer put an end to over 150 years of history in Borines. The stables, carriage shed and saddle room which belonged to the former health spa (the oldest in Asturies), battered the previous winter by the Sword of Gideon (or Damocles) in the guise of a dead tree, were razed mercilessly to road level.
Tam and I were on hand, with camera, to record for posterity this tragedy.
There are few things that are dead and dangerous.
A tree can be.
Lethal, in fact.