Friday, 18 July 2014

A time to enjoy our creative nature; Collagraph Printmaking.


One of the courses run at the hotel is on Collagraph Printmaking. This Art Work Shop is run by Lidia and this blog entry is written by her about one of the recent courses;

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When our guest Sandy sent me an email to book an art workshop, I had a mixture of feelings. 

First, I was very enthusiastic, as I always feel when it comes to sharing artistic techniques, and painting with others. I love that explosion of creativity, those "unspoken" conversations that take place, with our hands, our imagination. Then, I felt I had to compromise between the spontaneity I like to work with and the structured process of a lesson on a printmaking technique. 

Eventually I got carried away with my initial enthusiasm and started organizing the workshop full of energy; and the 3 hours workshop with Sandy was more than inspiring! it was full of patience, love for all beings and the Asturian land, and full of wonder. 

Do you know the "white paper" fear we all have somehow when we start to paint something, to create something?; 

and how about the fear, at least my fear, to attend an art class full of rules, with a teacher telling you what to do, what is a good result and a bad result?

Well, my most sincere intention in my workshops, is to change that!, to share some
"Magic" with

Collagraph Printmaking.
And that magic happened! and you will discover how..



..A challenge! Sandy was thinking a lot before the workshop, she had some clear ideas on what she wanted to do, and came with a challenge: let's recreate this photo! and I thought, wow!! this will be difficult!.

Collagraph Printmaking technique consists in gluing different materials, organic, recycled materials with different textures into a cardboard model. Materials and shapes will be revealed in a different way, they will absorb the ink and retain it differently, leaving a darker or clearer colour print.  

So with some observation on results everyone can make an idea about what is going to happen, how the print is going to emerge; but for the first time, it is quite a difficult task. 

Usually, we start printing some already made designs, and try creating a simple and purely experimental model. But this time it was different, we had a picture, so we had an expectation on the result,..a real challenge! A cow in the mountain! :)


In a 3 hours workshop, Sandy had time to carefully and slowly design her model with some help, but you know a "teacher" cannot say everything from the beginning, so some little mistakes and big realizations happened, moments to learn and discover the magic of this technique that is like a mirror, like a specular image. The result is always a joyful and creative surprise!

Magic happened! we used a few old pieces of cardboard, some oregano, a piece of old sandpaper (first time I've ever thought of using it!), glue and coffee.  

We created the 5 layers that the landscape of the photograph had, and added volume to the cow with an extra one!..



And after prinking 2 old designs of my own, to get familiar with the printing process, Sandy ended up with 3 beautiful and different versions of her cow in "El Sueve"! (the mountain range that rests behind the hotel)

More information on this Art Workshop can be found here

Monday, 14 July 2014

Recognition as an environmentally-friendly accommodations


English. (En español debajo)

Hotel Posada del Valle in Asturias proudly announces it has been accepted as a Gold level GreenLeader into the TripAdvisor®GreenLeaders™ program, which helps travelers plan greener trips by identifying environmentally-friendly accommodations.

TripAdvisor GreenLeaders have met a set of environmental standards developed for TripAdvisor by a leading environmental consulting firm, with input from expert partners. The more green practices a hotel has in place, the higher its GreenLeader level, which is shown on the property's listing on the TripAdvisor site.

Travelers can now search for accommodations that have a GreenLeaders status on the TripAdvisor site, and view a detailed list of environmentally-friendly practices that they can expect at each location.
 
“TripAdvisor GreenLeaders are leading the hospitality industry in making efforts to improve their environmental footprint," said Jenny Rushmore, director of responsible travel at TripAdvisor. "We greatly applaud these accommodations and are pleased to share their eco-friendly practices with our online audience of more than 260 million travelers who visit
the site each month."

The TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program was developed in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR® program, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the United Nations Environment Programme.
For more information, please visit www.tripadvisor.com/GreenLeaders

The Gold level GreenLeader award will join our certificate of excellence awarded by trip advisor for this year

Español 

El Hotel Posada del Valle en Asturias, se enorgullece de anunciar que ha sido elegido como "Gold level Green Leader" - "Líder Verde nivel de oro" por el programa de TripAdvisor®GreenLeaders™ , el cual ayuda a viajeros y turistas a planear sus viajes verdes y sostenibles, identificando alojamientos respetuosos con el medioambiente

Los alojamientos elegidos por TripAdvisor GreenLeaders ("Líderes verdes") cumplen con una serie de estándares medioambientales desarrollados por una consultoría ambiental líder para TripAdvisor, en colaboración con agentes externos independientes. De esta forma, el establecimiento es posicionado en un ranking de excelencia, con un nivel GreenLeader más alto, cuantas más buenas prácticas ambientales se estén implementando. Eta información está accesible para los usuarios y viajeros que pueden consultar el listado en la web de tripAdvisor.

Los viajeros pueden ahora buscar alojamientos con el certificado GreenLeaders en la web de TripAdvisor, así como consultar una lista detallada de sus prácticas medioambientales específicas.

"Los Green Leaders de TripAdvisor son pioneros en liderar la industria del alojamiento sostenible, haciendo un gran esfuerzo en mejorar y reducir su huella ecológica" cita Jenny Rushmore, director de turismo responsable en TripAdvisor. "Aplaudimos enormemente el esfuerzo de estos alojamientos y estamos encantados de compartir sus prácticas ecológicas

con nuestro público, de más de 260 millones de viajeros que visitan nuestra página web cada mes."

El programa GreenLeaders de TripAdvisor ha sido desarrollado en colaboración con el programa de la Agencia de Protección Medioambiental "ENERGY STAR®" y el Consejo de Edificación Sostenible de los EEUU, y con el Programa Medioambiental de Naciones Unidas. Para más información, visite  www.tripadvisor.com/GreenLeaders

Saturday, 28 June 2014

A short story about Karst Limestone Landscapes

The Hotel built on a limestone outcrop
Lime stone is the rock that predominates in Asturias and The Picos de Europa are a geological unit composed almost purely of limestone and are the largest single mass of mountain limestone in Europe. The hotel is actually built on a limestone outcrop and this limestone becomes very noticeable in the upper part of our farm; but have you thought about what limestone actually is?

Limestone in the Picos de Europa
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms (calcium carbonate minerals) such as coral or foraminifera shells. Yes that’s right; this means that the rock underneath the hotel and the soil on the hotel farm was made from shells of animals that once lived at the bottom of the ocean. A billion year history through the movement of tectonic plates brought these rocks high above the ocean, where we stand today.

Limestone rocks in the top part of the hotel farm

Limestone rocks in the Picos 
However the story of this mother rock doesn't stop here, it's the relationship of limestone with water that leads to these so called "karst landscapes", water eroding limestone over thousands to millions of years. The landscape at the top of the farm is very similar to the one in many parts Picos the Europa. Almost all of the rock in the Picos is limestone, and glacial action has contributed to create an impressive area of alpine karst. 

Flutes or pencil karst in The Picos
The mysterious stories of karst affect not only the rock that you can see, it also happens underneath the dark soil where we can't see. Above sink holes, flutes, runnels, vertical shafts, clints and grikes are some of the most visible features on the surface of the terrain.  Beneath the surface, complex underground drainage systems (such as karst aquifers) and extensive caves and cavern systems form a mysterious underground world.

Blow holes in the limestone at the coast near LLanes
Limestone eroded by the sea
As for all the inhabitants of this landscape, farmers in karst areas must take into account the lack of surface water. The soils may be fertile enough, and rainfall may be adequate, but rainwater quickly moves through the crevices into the ground, sometimes leaving the pastures parched brown between rains. 

Parched landscape near Vega Ario in the Picos
A delicate and precise management of the land makes this unique place a living museum. Here the most outstanding geological sculptures are married with a sustainable farming system that brings to life a cultural conservation of nature.

Geological sculptures in the hotel farm
This blog entry is based on text for a farm poster written by Sebastian Burch co founder and worker at Gaia y Sofia

Saturday, 31 May 2014

New Cookery workshops


We have been running cookery workshops at the hotel for over 5 years, and with the experience we have gained plus the feedback from participants we are now going to be offering three different one day workshops;
  • Asturian cuisine
  • Farm to fork
  • Posada del Valle's Food Specials

All the courses are informal and hands on, and each course will be led by a different chef from the hotel. There are three special chefs at Hotel Posada del Valle, each one with a different interest and experience in cooking

Andrés preparing "tortas"
Asturian cuisine; Chef Andrés Caso. 
Andres is from Cangas de Onis and comes from a family of farmers who also used to make the local blue Gamonedo cheese. He studied cooking in Asturias and has been working in the hotel for 5 years. In this food experience Andrés will take you on a tour of a local food market (or around some local shops if there is no market that day) and explain a little about the Asturian food culture. 

The sunday food market at Cangas de Onis
Then you will be cooking such typical dishes as Fabada Asturiana (bean stew,) tortas (maize pancakes) and a tortilla de patata (Spanish omelet.) You will then have time to sit down and enjoy all you have cooked with a glass of local cider.


Samantha examining some of the farm produce
Farm to fork; Chef Samantha Burch 
Samantha was born in Alicante but has lived in Asturias for the last 18 years. She is an excellent self taught chef specializing in vegetarian food. Her particular interest is in vegetarian and vegan food and the creative use of local and home grown produce. In this work shop you will have a guided visit of the hotel vegetable garden, help pick some of the produce and then subsequently use it in different imaginative ways. 

Participants with their freshly picked produce

Imaginative recipes making the most of the home grown produce
The particular recipes will depend on the time of year and what’s growing on the farm and of course there will be time to sit down and enjoy the food you have prepared with a drink.

Joann in the kitchen talking about food
Posada del Valle's Food SpecialsChef JoAnn Burch 
JoAnn studied cooking and worked as a chef in many different countries before starting the restaurant at the hotel. Due to her experience, talent and work the restaurant has gained the fame it is now renowned for. She has also trained other chefs who have come to work and learn about the local and organic food we produce at the hotel. 


Joann demonstrating how to make a roulade
In this workshop you will learn how to prepare some of the most popular dishes served at Hotel Posada del Valle as well as some different techniques which can be used to create a variety of recipes. At the end of the morning there will be the chance to sample the food you have prepared with a glass of wine.

Fun time learning
Join us on one of these courses and discover "what is behind the scenes" when cooking local, organic and wholesome meals at Hotel Posada del Valle. We have a special marked date for each experience; if you are interested in other dates please contact us. For all courses there will be a minimum of two participants and a maximum of six. 

Beneath is a resume of these three cookery workshops with prices and dates and on our web you will find information about the other courses we are offering.




Asturian cuisine; Chef Andres Caso. 
Enjoy learning about Asturian local food.

Program of activities
09.30 -11.30 guided visit to local market or shops
11.30 – 14.30 preparing local dishes; fabada, Spanish omelet, maize pancakes
14.30 – 15.30 enjoying the food you’ve prepared.

Price 45,00 Euros / person Fixed date 30th of August; for other dates please consult us


Farm to fork; Chef Samantha Burch 
Learn about home grown vegetables and how to use them in imaginative cooking
Program of activities
09.30 – 11.00 guided tour of the hotel vegetable garden and harvesting of ingredients for cooking
11.00 – 14.00 preparing a variety of vegetarian dishes from the freshly harvested produce
14.00 – 15.30 enjoying the food you’ve prepared

Price 40,00 Euros / person Fixed date 21st of September; for other dates please consult us


Posada del Valle's Food SpecialsChef Joann Burch 
Learn how to prepare some of the most popular dishes served at Hotel Posada del Valle
Program of Activities
10.30 – 14.00 Preparing a variety of dishes and learning different cooking techniques 
14.00 – 15.30 enjoying the food you’ve prepared

Price 40,00 Euros / person Fixed date 27th of September; for other dates please consult us



Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Guess what fruit tree this flower is from?


English.

Over the years we have planted lots of different fruit trees on the farm so as to provide a range of home grown fruits for our restaurant. For the first person who can guess what fruit tree this flower is from and let us know writing their answer on the Hotel Face book page we will give a bottle of organic Ribera Del Duero red wine from our carefully selected wine list.
The winner of the wine can come and collect it from the hotel.

Español

A lo largo de los años hemos plantado mucho arboles distintos en la finca con la intención de ofrecer a nuestros huéspedes la mejor variedad de fruta casera. La primera persona en adivinar de que fruta es esta flor y nos lo hace saber con un comentario en el Face book del hotel le obsequiaremos con una botella de vino de Ribera del Duero ecológico de nuestra cuidad carta de vinos.
El ganador puede venir al hotel a recoger su premio.


Friday, 25 April 2014

A Great Year for Orchids on the Farm.

A rare Man Orchid growing amongst the rocks in our wild flower meadow.

Our wild flower meadows are array with wild orchids this year and there are six different types in flower at the moment. To see so many of these rare and beautiful flowers is very rewarding and gives us encouragament for the management program we implemented in our wild flower meadows many years ago.

A Woodcock Ophry Orchid growing just 5 meters from the hotel

Close up of an Early Purple Orchid 

Early Purple Orchids next to the farm trail

It’s not as though we do anything extra special on these meadows other than follow traditional farming practices. We cut the meadows for hay in late June and then have the sheep grazing the meadows in November. We’ve been following this system for over 10 years and the continuity of our practices along with the weather is really showing the benefits this year; lots of orchids and a great biodiversity in general..

Close up of a  Provence Orchid

Lots of Provence Orchids in the meadow

One of the first Heart Flowered Serapia blooming in the meadow

Tongue Serapias  growing in abundance in the meadows.

One of the major problem we have with maintaining the population of orchids on these meadows is wild boars. These large animals, which run wild here, love to dig up the orchid rhizomes and eat them like they were a delicacy grown especially for them.  As a consequence a lot of the orchids in our meadows are found growing in the rocks where it’s more difficult for the boars to dig them out.

Signs of wild boar rooting in the meadows

Woodcock  Ophry growing in the rocks

So for guests lucky enough to be walking round the farm trail this time of the year there are orchids galore to be seen! There will also be plenty of other wild flowers in our meadows over the next two months and with them an amazing array of butterflies.


An unusual all-yellow Man Orchid in our meadow

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Pigs and more; the story of our free range pork.

Free range pigs rooting around in the wild
Ponga is a very little known mountain range directly west of The Picos de Europa. It’s a beautiful rugged area which was declared a Natural Park a few years ago, and is home to the most important beech forest in the Iberian Peninsular. It’s probably one of the areas we most enjoy walking in and have gone there many times with guests and the family

Ponga; an amazing mixture of mountains, woodlands and traditional farming.
Many years ago I had a really lovely experience in this area when I discovered a group of ten large pigs lying in the shade of the beech trees close to a small mountain stream. They were cautious of us, but not frightened and we could see someone had been feeding them old pieces of bread. They got up, checked we had nothing for them to eat and then started rooting around in the ground and slowly trotted away. To see pigs in such a natural environment is a really lovely sight and since then we have spotted groups of pigs on various occasions in this area. I often wondered who looked after them and whose they were.

The first group of pigs we saw in Ponga 
One day back in 2004 when we first started sourcing organic produce for the hotel I found myself in a large supermarket in Oviedo looking at long rows of pork chops in polystyrene packs. There were also a few odd packs of organic pork from Soria which is about 500 kms away. This made me decide to investigate what were the minimum conditions necessary for a pig to be certified organic. Obviously organic pigs have better conditions than their poor factory farmed counterparts but I was still surprised on some of the practices permitted and I didn’t really know what was going on at this farm 500kms away. I suddenly remembered the wonderful site of the pigs roaming freely in the forests and decided I would try and find out who owned them and if he ever sold them.

Our neighbour Victor 
I spoke about these pigs to our neighbour Old man Victor, who at that time was 73 years old and had been a farmer all his life. He knew there were farmers who still let the pigs run wild and fatten up on the beach nuts and chestnuts in the Ponga Mountains. It had been quite some years since he had been in that area and decided he would like to come with me to try and find the pig’s owner. We set of early one misty morning, he threw his small cigar away before he got in my car knowing I didn’t like cigarette smoke. We drove up the Beyos gorge and after talking to 3 or 4 local farmers in the area realised there were 2 farmers who raised these free range pigs. After a few more coffees in some rather pokey local bars we discovered who was one of these pig farmers and where he lived. Amador Crespo from San Jaun de Beleño.

Beech nuts on the forest floor in Ponga
We met him at his house at lunch time, he had just come down from the high mountain pastures where he had his cows grazing, he was quite a small person and very open. He told us he had up to 30 pigs grazing in the forests from late spring to autumn. Most of them were already pre-ordered by local people, being fattened up ready for “San Martin” the sacred dates when sausages would be made. He had a few extra pigs and so I said I would be interested in 2 of them and arranged to speak with him 3 months latter in October to arrange the best time to get them.

Autumn colours of the beech trees in Ponga
October came and the pigs were ready. Amador’s son has a lorry and so transported them to the slaughter house in Mieres where we went to supervise the jointing of them. No money was paid to Amador till after we had the pigs delivered from the slaughter house to the hotel and we knew their weight. We told Amador the weight of the pigs and then paid the agreed price per kilo for the whole pig. It all worked on trust.

Cows enjoying the magical mountain pastures in Ponga
Over the years I visited Amador various times and got to know how he operated. He often talked to me about some of the farming problems; wolves being the major problem with his animals which were running free in the mountains. I learnt that if the snow line came down in the autumn the pigs would come down from the mountain forests to the town where they would run around in the streets or shelter in some of his old stone stables. When they couldn’t graze and feed in the wild (because of the snow) he would feed them on a mixture of cereals, mostly barley and maize. He didn’t use organic cereal and certainly wouldn’t be bothered with all the bureaucracy that would be necessary to certify his pork organic, but for me he worked so well with nature he certainly had my vote of confidence.

 Abandoned village in Ponga
Very sadly he died in the spring of 2008 and at first no one in his family wanted to carry on his work. It seemed like it would be the loss of another traditional hill farmer. Then his son Marcos decided to give up his factory job and return to the family home to carry on farming like his father had always done. Each year we still get a couple of pigs from Marcos and although they are not certified organic we are more than happy with the way they are produced. We consider ourselves very lucky being able to spend the time needed to discover and get to know our suppliers. This first hand knowledge about our suppliers is very importante to us. Obviously you can’t visit all the suppliers of the products you consume so that’s when we rely on other forms of guarantee or certification normally an organic certification.

Beech forest in spring
Sausage the lesson for the global trade.

Buying whole pigs direct from the farmer has made us realise other things. There was a time when the hotel first opened (17 years ago) when we always served pork tenderloins in the restaurant normally with a prune and Malaga wine sauce. However when we started buying the pigs direct from the farmer out of the 200kgs of pork meat from the 2 pigs we brought there were only 4 x 1 kg tenderloins! So what about the rest of the meat.

Our pork sausages made from the free range pork
One of the most popular dishes Joe developed was sausages based on a Danish recipe for “frikadelas” By mincing some of the poorer cuts she produces this lovely dish served with a mild mustard sauce. Cooking for a slower life also means learning how to use all the different cuts of meat of an animal, so as to reduce the global movement of specific meat cuts, from one country to another.

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.