Monday, 8 December 2014

Inntravel Discovery Day 2014

All ready with the stand prepared and ready for the people to enter
I got back from the UK yesterday where Sam, Andres, Joe and I had been to exhibit at the Inntravel Discovery day. Inntravel is the major travel agent with whom we work and they specialise in independent holidays, with a bias towards people who are interested in walking, good food and authentic accommodation.

At the end of the day once it was quieter
Every three years they organise a travel fair where all their suppliers (destinations and hotels) are invited to exhibit their products. This year they celebrated it at the Harrogate International Centre on Saturday the 6th.

Our own apple juice and Cabrales cheese for the people to sample
In total there were about 70 stands (including ourselves) and it was attended by over 1,400 people, not bad considering entrance is by invitation only. The hotels supply information about what they have to offer; the accommodation, destination, activities etc. and normally have some products for the people to sample. This year we took our own apple juice and some local blue Cabrales cheese and homemade apple jelly for people to try.

The gala dinner in the evening
All in all I think it was a very successful event, with lots of interest being shown by people about Asturias and what we are doing. In the evening there was a gala dinner with music by the excellent New York Brass Band (from York) and all in all we had an enjoyable, if not tiring, time.

The New York Brass Band

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The 3 Senses Gathering

Satish and Ignacio talk for the guests and the radio at the 3 Senses Gathering
Last week we celebrated a most amazing event at the hotel; the 3 Senses Gathering with Satish Kumar. This multi-lingual and intercultural gathering was organized by our son; Sebastian and his partner; Lidia and inspired by Satish Kumar’s life journey and his grand new book; “Soil, Soul and Society.”

Relaxing and talking around the hotel

Relaxing and talking around the hotel

There were various activities for the participants including walks through some of the beautiful Asturian Landscape, creating art, helping with the cooking and in the vegetable garden, as well as meditation and yoga and not to forget, enjoying lots of lovely food.

Eating and talking over the evening meal

Open circle under an ancient yew tree a short walk from the hotel

The major message from Satish is that we are members of a one earth society and caring for the earth and the soul is interrelated.

Ignacio Abella leading an inspiring walk in a beech forest

Ignacio Abella a local author whose works embrace many books on trees including “The Magic Life of trees” accompanied us some of the time and also led an inspiring walk in a local beech forest.

Playing "games" in the forest

At the train station ready to start the pilgrimage to La Ventuca

The culmination of the gathering was on the Saturday with a full day event for all the public at La Ventuca in Coya and included talks by Satish Kumar, Ignacio Abella and Gustavo Duch a writer on food sovereignty. There was also an eco espicha where everyone brought along some food and shared it at lunch time.

Satish talking at the gathering at La Ventuca

Pouring cider at the eco espicha

With over 170 people attending the event on Saturday it was a great success and everyone appeared to enjoy the gathering.

Enjoying the eco espicha 

The National radio programme El Bosque Habitado (The Inhabited Forest) was covering most of the events with different bilingual interviews and talks.

Time to enjoy the coast

We hope to be able to repeat the event, may be next year and bring together again so many wonderful people to share their love and care for the earth.

The participants of the 3 Senses Gathering outside the hotel
For more information on our son's company Gaia Y Sofia which specialises in non formal education click here.

Monday, 29 September 2014

A few High Peaks

La  Torezuela  2322m one of the many peaks in the Western Massif of the Picos de Europa
September is normally one of the best months for summiting some of the higher peaks here in the Picos de Europa. So here are a few photos showing some of the peaks in the Western Massif.

Pasture land  just above the lakes
The normal starting point is the lakes of Covadonga which are at about 1,100m. The slopes just above the lakes are gentel  with some pastures  but get steeper and rockier the higher you go.

This is the view from Cotalba 2026m where you can see the grassier lower slopes and the more rocky higher land.

For many of the peaks there is the danger of falling stones from fellow climbers (particularly when climbing up gulleys) so it is best to wear a helmet if you want to climb these high peaks.

The stoney landscape in the higher peaks

Getting up and down can be quite challenging! On the way down from Torre Santa Maria de Enol 2480m (the second highest peak in the Western Massiff)

Looking at Torre Santa Maria de Enol from the summit of the Canal Parda 2350m

Mountaineers post boxes are often found on the summits where mountaineers leave cards stating the route they have climbed, the date and the weather conditions

Peña Santa 2596m the highest of the Peaks in the western massiff, as seen from Vega Huerta

People often do strange things when the reach the summit, like here on the summit of Piedrasllenguas 2295m

The view towards the central massiff from the summit of Piedrasllenguas

Chamois are very often present at these higher altitudes, carefully watching what you do.

To reach the summit of some peaks involves scrambling along an aerial crest like on this one; La Roblliza 2227m 

The aerial crest up to the summit of La Robliza, not for everybody!!

Depending on the year even in late summer there can still be some snow on the sides of the higher peaks (Photo of Torre Santa Maria de Enol taken mid august)

The same peak (Torre Santa Maria de Enol) taken in mid feburary

But if reaching the high peaks in late summer is challenging, reaching them in winter is even more so!

Enjoy the mountains, but take care!!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Caiguas grow in Asturias and they taste lovely.

The Caigua plants growing in the hotel vegetable garden
Although we give preference to growing local varieties and local crops we also like to try new varieties and new crops to help increase the range of home grown fruit and vegetables that we provide for our guests. Any new crop or variety  we plant has to be evauated to see how it grows under our specific conditions and to see if the fruit or vegetable has good eating qualities.

Fruits ready for picking
With this in mind we tried growing caiguas this year, from some seed which I brought back from Nepal where it is grown and greatly appreciated. This vegetable has many different names including achojcha, slipper gourd, stuffing cucumber, korilla, olochoto and kichipoktho  but the most common name is caigua which comes from South America where it is grown the most.

Fruits ready for eating raw, juicing or cooking.
From the information I could find I knew it was a vigorous creeping vine which likes a lot of warmth and water and needs between 90 and 100 days before it starts fruiting.

The young growth full of tendrils
The plant is certainly very vigorous but this last week, two months after we planted it in our vegetable patch, it is starting to produce an abundance of fruit. The fruit are lovely to eat raw but also absolutely delicious sautéed tasting something like a cross between a pepper and a cucumber. There are also many recipes from South America for stuffed caiguas which we have yet to try. And apart from tasting good according to all the literature caiguas are a miracle health food helping to regulate cholesterol levels and they even have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. 

The plant has both male and female flowers these are the clusters of male flowers

The female flowers are born singularly or in pairs in the leaf axle
The plant is hardy and disease free and unlike other cucurbits we grow such as cucumbers or courgettes the caigua doesn’t suffer from mildews.  This is where I see the interest in this crop for our vegetable plot; to start producing lots of fruit in late summer when our courgettes are starting to suffer and produce less.

It’s the first year we try the caiguas but we will definitely try them again next year and what is sure caiguas grow in Asturias and the guests love them.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Magnificent in their glory, trees on the farm.

False Acacia trees on the farm in winter
It was a stormy summer’s day and the farm was in her best clothes, magnificent giants guiding the way. I suddenly looked up and saw these beautiful specimens paving the way.
It made me think about the farm, Asturias and how local people have cared for these trees which in return reward them with their ware.

Walnut tree outside the dinig room window
Take the noble walnut tree, not only a delicious fruit in the autumn, but in years past the timber was used for fine furniture. We have the most magnificent tree outside the dining room window. One of the local pastries here is Casadiellas, filled with walnuts and anis.

Walnuts from our farm

Ash trees providing shade for stone stables in the mountain
The Ash trees grow quickly and abundantly, spreading their branches offering shade from the midday sun for the animals and then in the autumn coppiced for extra winter fodder. If you travel in the Pico’s you will see the stone stables surrounded by the ash trees.

Hazelnuts from the farm
Around the hedges are found the Hazel trees with many stems, these in the past were trained to produce fences. The nuts are collected in September, if the boars and badgers don’t get there first... Many a beautiful basket here is made from the hazelnut tree.

Traditional cart made from hazel twigs
As traditions go there is a local Hazelnut fiesta in Infiesto the first weekend of October, then in Arriondas there is the Chestnut fiesta in November.

Catkins on the chesnut trees
We have many chestnut trees on the farm; I was amazed by the beautiful catkins’ on the male trees.
The village people here talk about the famine during the civil war and chestnuts were boiled and eaten as a meal. In some areas, La Molina, you can see the remains of stone like igloos Quires’ made for storing chestnuts in the winter.

Thorns on the Acacia
It is strange to think that nearly all the trees had their uses, even the intrusive Acacia was originally grown for its timber to make the fences around the farm, not one of the friendliest trees with its huge thorns, and if it wasn’t for the animals who trim the young shoots it would take over the farm. I believe this was originally brought in by the people who emigrated to South America and returned to Asturias.

Laurel leaves and flowers
For culinary purposes we have the Laurel tree, the leaves used in many stocks and sauces, the animals will eat a mouthful, and then move on. On Palm Sunday local people take a sprig of laurel to church to be blessed by the priest; this is then given to the godparents, who in return nowadays buy a special cake for the godson or daughter.

Lime tree and fruits
There is a large Lime Tree at one end of the farm, the people here used to collect the flowers to make an infusion; it was supposed to help you relax. We have many cherry trees with sweet and sour cherries, the sour ones called guinda are used here for a liquor, made with anis. A very popular drink in Asturias.

Sweet cherries waiting to be eaten; mmmm!
Blog entry written by Joe

Welcome

Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.