Thursday, 26 July 2012

"The Way of food" an inspiring holiday this October

The Way of Food; an inspiring holiday

In these summer months there is a hustle and bustle of tourists, the beaches are alive with umbrellas and swimmers bracing the Atlantic waves. People taking tapas in the street side bars, the music of distant fiestas with their traditional gowns and folkloric activities.  The summer is now showing its course after various hot days the grass is slowly turning from green to gold. The hay is cut and stored waiting the wintery months. I can’t help but think of autumn and the courses that take place in the hotel.

 The kitchen comes alive and participants help

Experiencing and sharing knowledge on the holiday

It is a time to take a breath of fresh air fill your lungs in anticipation of the experiences and sharing of knowledge you can get from being part of such a wonderful course. The kitchen comes alive with the fresh produce from the garden, participants stroll to this haven and collect its rewards, learning about the plants, seeds and compost the essence of nurturing the soil. It’s wonderful to see those muddy fingers carrying the ingredients into the kitchen. 
Carrying ingredients to the kitchen!

Here we put on our thinking caps and decide what wonderful concoctions we are going to produce. I love the excitement of those busy hands sharing the various chores of making bread, chopping up vegetables for soups or salads, the mixing of herbs and spices. Whispers of cooking float through the air and hungry participants wait anxiously for meal time. This is a time to savour the flavours of our labour, a time to relax and enjoy the company of all. The chatter from the table is medicine for the ears, normally a laugh or two when remembering the day’s actives. I particularly remember someone struggling down from the garden with the most enormous pumpkin and smile, see what you can do with this? Was the question, but we made plate after plate of mouth watering dishes.

Participants about to enjoy another tasty meal

Usually there are apples to be picked or walnuts to gather, if we are lucky enough to have a little rain then we also have Parasol Mushrooms growing on the farm, these are small but enjoyable tasks done in the morning, a time to reflect in what nature has given us, the circle of food continues. Last year seed collecting, and labelling was done, we were all proud of our envelopes of future produce.

Collecting seed

Enjoying the countryside

Then we take to the countryside, Asturias is magnificent with her mountains scouring high, her fast flowing rivers, forests hiding the secrets of night, and long sandy beaches with meadows of cows grazing nearby. How could anyone not enjoy it in all its splendour, to me it doesn’t matter if it is raining, sun shinning gloriously, or misty, it is beautiful any way.

Sebastian talking about the earth Gaia

I love to hear Sebastian talk about the earth Gaia in all her glory. His tales remind me of the stopping of time, just a moment I am listening obvious to the world rushing by, I feel at peace. The people who come on these courses are interesting, friendly and wonderful companions, not intruding but embracing, with an exchange of knowledge and ideas. I can’t wait for the next course to begin and you?... wouldn’t you like to join us in this wonderful experience in October 2012. For more information on The Way of Food click here

The Way of Food

Blog entry written by Joe

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The path to the Santa Marina Chapel

The stream running by the path

A couple of years after buying the hotel and farm we realized there was an old stone track at the bottom of the farm running parallel to the “Rio Chico” or small river. At that stage it was totally overgrown but from the road on the other side of the river we could just about make out the course of the track along the edge of the rocky outcrop. After some exploration and a lot of fighting with gorse and brambles we realized this track was most probably the original track which led from the church beneath the hotel to the village of Bodes passing by the small isolated chapel of Santa Marina.

The isolated chapel of Santa Marina

Because of the importance of the track we asked the town hall if they would help clean it or if there was some type of grant to help us restore this track. The answer was no, so we decided to clean the track ourselves.  With the help of a neighbor “Tito” we set forth clearing the gorse and brambles, quite a mammoth job.  As the job progressed we were amazed to see just how well constructed this track was, particularly in the initial section where the track runs high above the river.  There are carefully placed cut stones providing a secure edge and with a width of about 3 meters it was obvious that this track used to be used by horses and carts. Along the route we also discovered three ruined water mills but these are now mostly lost in the undergrowth.

Cut stones on the edge of the track.

The track by the side of the stream

After a few hard weeks work we had cleaned the track all the way to the path which joins the hamlets of Andeyes and Bodes by the small chapel of Santa Marina.  

Canches one of our neighbours in front of her house in Andeyes

Views from the hamlet of Andeyes

It was a lot of work, but what a reward; a superb footpath starting from the hotel running through beautiful woodland scenery along the side of a very attractive stream. For much of the route you feel as though you are lost in a fairytale landscape. As well as being a nice easy circular walk from the hotel to Andeyes and the chapel, this path also allowed us to offer our guests a route to the Sueve Mountains and Mirador del Fito without having to go along any major road. 

The recently cleared track passing though a small wood

Sign back to the hotel along the walk

The track does require some maintenance as very few farm animals graze it, so once or twice a year we pass along the path with a pair of secateurs or the strimmer. Having said that, just recently a lone goat has decided to make the path her home. It’s also nice to see that as well as our guests a local occasionally enjoys the walk along the path.  

The goat who has decided to make the path her home

Here you can find more information on the circular walk from the hotel to the Santa Marina Chapel  including maps and  GPS tracks.  Happy walking.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Hay harvest 2012; 5 days of intense work

Stacking hay in the Hotel Wild Flower Meadow

Last week we cut, dried and bailed both of our hay meadows in 5 days of intense work. As you are dependent on good weather for drying the hay it is necessary to cut it when you think there is going to be a period of good weather for drying, with no risk of rain which may spoil the hay. This means there is often a lot of hay to be cut in a short period of time, or put another way a lot of hard work when it is normally very hot. We also have the added inconvenience that many parts of the farm are not accessible with machinery so we have to cut by hand and then rake this hay to areas which are accessible to machines. Cutting by hand takes longer so that’s even more work. There is a local saying ;“La hierba no sabe ni siesta o fiesta” which translates as hay doesn’t know parties or naps and means when its hay time you have just got to get on and do it

Cutting the lower part of the Castañarina meadow with an alum scythe

Cutting in between the rocks in the top part of the Castañarina meadow

The hotel meadow is the smaller meadow we manage for flora and here we cut the hay by hand and once the hay has dried we take the hay from this meadow to the Castañarina for bailing. The Castañarina is the largest part of the farm that we manage specifically for flora and fauna diversity. It is divided into two parts; the lower part which is accessible to machinery where we cut the hay with an alum scythe and the upper part which is rockier, where we have to cut the meadow by hand. Once the grass has been cut it is left to dry and turned a few times and then all the grass from the upper part is racked down to the lower part. 

Racking the grass into long strips

Baled hay

Next the dried grass is raked into long strips ready for the tractor to bale it. Nino from the next village bales our straw. He works about 18 hours a day when straw has to be baled as all the small farmers want their hay baled at the same time, that is when the hay is dry and before any chance of rain. After the hay has all been baled Juanra our neighbor came with his small tractor and helped take all the bales to our stable ready for the winter. It’s a lovely feeling when all the hay is in the stable and the hardest job on the farm has come to an end for another year. 

Bales of hay on their way to the stable and a sigh of relief for another year


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.