News From Cyprus – Gardening, Photography & Growing Vegetables

It is always a joy to receive an email from my friend David in Cyprus as I am learning lots about the produce that grows in the foothils of the Troodos Mountains and Cypriot life.

Here is David’s letter:

Hi Sara and all at Farming Friends

Well it has been a long while and I hope that you have not given up on me. I am still not back on line but I will be able to give you a regular report on the Cyprus scene( I can hear some saying  “Oh God  He’s back!!) as I have found out how to download my documents to a disc. Yes I know young people are fully conversant with computers but with us oldies it takes a bit of trial and error. Anyway Maria who lives in Kedares has said that I may use her computer so I hope to give you some news from time to time.

The year has not started well for me and reading about the awful weather that UK has experienced and the floods etc in Australia it does not bode too well. A good friend died of a heart attack just before Christmas. His wife who has been a friend of mine since childhood sent me the news and I am really sorry that he will no longer be about. He was about 10 months younger than me so it does make you think. I will be 64 at the end of the month and am now counting the days to my pension.I just hope that I make it. I would really grieve me to think of all that money going back into the Government coffers.

Anyway on to happier matters.I went down to Paphos to pay my rent to my landlord and was greeted with the usual cup of cypriot coffee biscuits and a large bag of avocados (10 at least) some oranges and 2 pomelos ( these are about the size of a small football taste like grapefruit but are much sweeter – we shall see). He had to leave to go to his land in Mamonia a small village on the way to Troodos to help with the picking of more fruit. I had a job to do in Tsada (my old village) but I offered to help him later. He said that he would be back at his land on saturday and would happily pay me if I wanted to pick oranges and lemons. My work in Tsada did not take as long as I thought so on my way home I called into his land. His wife Koula was straight out with food  Eat eat was the call!! No No I said I have to get back to Kedares to make some telephone calls. So then out comes Pampos with a crate of oranges. Take these he says but please bring me back the crate on saturday. Could you wish for a better landlord? Of course I knew that I would not be able to get through a crate of oranges before they started to rot and as I have a good stock of orange juice friends in Tsada were given copious amounts with the promise of more to come. On the following saturday I arrived at the orange grove to find Pampos there with a couple of Romanian lads called Flouris (I hope I have spelt that right) and Christo. They were pruning the almond olive and orange trees. Pruning here seems to consist of cutting off large boughs and branches to allow air and sunshine to get into the centre of the plant and to prevent rot.Now I have read somewhere that it is not possible to kill an olive tree by pruning no matter how hard. I am not particularly religious but I understand that Christ wept beneath an olive tree and it gave the tree perpetual life.Looking at some of the olive trees around Kedares where the trunks have virtually disappeared but the tree still bears new growth and copious fruits I cannot argue with the sentiment. I told Pampos that I had passed on some oranges to friends and he said “Of course that is what friends should do!”

My job at the “garden” as Pampos calls it was to take out the cut branches and rebuild the boundary fences. Not with any sort of layering but just to stack them along the roadside. Now to explain the Cypriot ethic of land use. Most of the land is served by unmade tracks which tend to get very rutted and muddy over the winter period.Everyone seems to drive a four wheel truck or L200 so no real problem but they tend to use all the space that is available and not worry too much about fences and verges. Hence there are times when branches are disturbed or dragged off by the trucks. No ill intent is meant and repair is really a matter of personal choice. As livestock is allowed to roam fairly freely in the valley keeping stock enclosed is not really done. I am sure that visitors to Troodos will have come across the goatherd with his dogs and goats and sheep wandering along the roadway.

The land is in the Diarizos river valley close to Mamonia village about 15km from where I live. It is a beautiful valley but sadly now the river flows infrequently and only really during the winter rains. This is largely due to the dam and reservoir at Arminou higher up the valley.Kleanthis told me that in his youth when his father used to herd sheep and goats in the valley it was quite possible for the river to be impassable. The government are considering re-vitalising the valley and allowing more water to flow in the river which  may provide more wildlife and flora.

The orange variety is Merlin similar to a Navel orange and very sweet. I think they picked about 60 crates that day and of course Pampos told me to help myself to any fruits that I wanted.I left with some oranges for his uncle Nicos who lives in Kedares. I will be back to work there later as Pampos has about 200 orange trees quite a number of Mandarin trees and several lemon avocado and pomelo.It has been a bumper crop this year but prices are not too good.

I have started a small gardening business and now look after 3 gardens where the owners live in UK.I am not a trained horticulturist but I do enjoy weeding and digging and here in Cyprus the weather is usually so pleasant that it is a delight to be in the garden.I have recently been pruning the fruit trees olives and citrus but we have had some very violent weather and heavy rain and hail so I am a bit behind with jobs. Of course as the weather warms up everything takes off at a hell of a rate and weeds are now prolific as are snails and other beasties.The flowers are beginning to show in the gardens and my crocuses and freesias will soon be in flower.The blossom is already breaking out on the almond trees and the citrus trees will follow soon.I just hope we do not get too much more heavy rain as this will knock the blossom off.

Here in Kedares I have been growing garlic swiss chard lettuce radish spinach and broad beans all of which are thriving at present.They have done well over the winter and will be ready before the weather really gets hot. I have got to get some other vegetables into the ground in march and then the tomatoes aubergines chillies and peppers will be ready to plant up. I hope to have more success with squash this year.I think I will grow them on a plastic membrane so the fruits do not have to lie on the damp earth. I also hope to build a minature polytunnel to experiment with some crops and see how they do.

Our land in Lemithou is lying fallow at the moment and we are not really sure what to do with it.I know my mate is still keen to build up there but if he sails over to the States it will be some years before he is back and he may well think differently then.I suggested that we sell it as I would like to have some land in Kedares. Stavros the police officer who is married to Marina the gardener has put me in touch with a friend who will measure the land and market it for us so I must let Keith my mate know the latest score.

My ex wife who I am happy to say is still a great friend has been in touch and is now very keen on photography having been made redundant. I have long wanted to do a pictorial book on some of the parts of Cyprus that visitors may miss and suggested to her that we compile a book on the bridges of Cyprus.She is quite keen on the idea. Now I know that people will be saying that as there are no real rivers in Cyprus why should there be any interesting bridges.Most vistors know about the Venetian Bridges but I have found some that are also quite unique and I am researching the history of them to see if the project is worthwhile.

Well once again I have  prattled on but I hope that Farming Friends find my little jaunts and experiences fun to read as I do the many interesting articles that people post on the web site.

The sun is shining and it is getting warmer so time for a little glass or two of Nelion wine.

Best regards to you all

David

If you would like to read David’s other letters then click on the following links:

Letter 1

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4

Letter 5

Letter 6

Letter 7

Letter 8

Letter 9

Letter 10

Letter 11

Letter 12

Letter 13


A Note From Cyprus – Autumn News From Kedares

I love to receive news from my penpal David in Cyprus.

Hi Sara and all at Farming friends
I am still not connected to the internet as Cytanet seems to keep offering deals and I cannot make up my mind whether to have broadband or just plain diial up. Anyway Jane a great friend still living in Tsada kindly allows me to use her computer so here is a little of what is going on.
All the grapes are now picked and the wine is happily maturing in the vats ready for me soon. I do not know if it has been a bumper year but some of the sugar content readings at Nelion got everyone excited so their dessert wine should be good. I make a chicken liver pate with a generous helping of Commanderia but I intend to try some of Nelion new sweet wine to see what it is like.
Leo my friend in Kedares asked me if I would give a hand with the olive harvest which is now in full swing. This seemed a good opportunity to find out a bit more about village life so at 7 o/clock one morning I was in Leo’s coffee shop having a fortifying coffee before we set off to the olive grove. He has a delightful grove just by the church in the village shady and quiet. Having spread out the covers over the ground we proceeded to pull the olives off the branches with short handled rakes. It is hard work but not quite as back-breaking as picking grapes. After two hours we stopped for a snack of bread cheese and fruit – all most welcome. Two days later I went to another of their fields out in the valley with lovely views down toward the sea, More olives were picked and we were helped this time by a young Vietnamese girl who works for one of the elderly ladies in the village.
Altogether we had picked some 600 kilos of olives and Leo asked me if I would like to go to the olive extraction plant in Pissouri down by the coast. We arrived down there at 7 o/clock one morning and the place was alive with trucks and excited Cypriots. We found we were about sixth in line so went into the plant for a coffee and some toast. They spread newly pressed olive oil over the toast add a bit of salt and a squeeze of lemon. The taste is wonderful. The oil is so strong that it grabs the back of your throat. It is dark green in colour and very cloudy. I gather that it does settle out with time. The plant is able to run two operations at once. Olives are first tipped into a hopper which then passes them through a windtunnel to remove any leaves and twigs. They are then washed and pass into another hopper which weighs them at a kilo a time.From there they pass into the crushing point. There are some 18 bins each of which can handle one batch of olives.Probably up to 1000 kilos The crushing works on the Archemedies screw principle and takes about one hour to fully extract all the oil. Our load was channelled into bin no. 4 and you can lift the lid to see the process. The leaves and twigs are air hosed out into a spoil area beside the building and the crushed skins and stones also provide a waste item which I believe is used for animal feeds and the making of soap. The oil then passes to the outlet point where you can collect it to take home or leave it in store at the plant. Leo took out about 5 litres of oil and left the rest in store as he has more olives to bring down. He gave me 1 litre of the oil and I have to say that it is delicious and sadly nearly gone. He has however promised me some more from his better olives which are the next batch toi be pressed.
I was telling my landlord Pampos about the olive picking and he asked if I would do the same for him. He seems to own a lot of land in the valley and I know he has a large orange orchard in Mamonia about 10 miles away. The citrus fruits are all doing well at the moment so it looks like I will be busy for the next few months.
I have also started a gardening business for ex pats who leave their houses empty for long periods.Sadly we have had quite a number of break-ins and robberies mainly in Pafos so a visit from time to time will I hope deter the opportunist burglar. I love gardening and the rate of growth in Cyprus is quite staggering.It is time now to think about pruning and training the fruit trees and general weeding and tidying is necessary. Feeding of plants and trees will also be required so its back to work for me
In Kedares I am still picking tomatoes although green tomato chutney will soon be necessary. Also my french beans, winter lettuces, swiss chard and broad beans are all coming on well..Manure and compost and ploughing are the next items on the plot to the rear. Plenty of work to be getting on with and the weather is still warm and sunny. No rain yet which is beginning to worry the farmers but the gales are starting slowly and we have had a few drops here and there.
Well I think that has brought you up to date with the Cyprus life and I hope to be in touch again before Christmas.
Best regards to you all
David

If you would like to read David’s other letters then click on the following links:

Letter 1

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4

Letter 5

Letter 6

Letter 7

Letter 8

Letter 9

Letter 10

Letter 11

Letter 12


Sandy Get’s Some Hens Who Do A Good Job Of Insect Control

It’s always good to hear from my farmingfriends and Sandy who lives in the US has been in touch about her guinea fowl and naked neck turkens!

Sandy's Hens

Sandy's Hens

Hello Sara,
Well it’s been some time since I’ve checked in with you. We have since removed our guineas to a farm. They had decided to roost on the roof of our house (during ice storms and when hubby caught them and put them in a pen for shelter, they almost killed themselves trying to get out) and on the gutter of our back porch. Oh my the mess they made and the noise. We ended up with 4 our of the original 10. 2 boys 2 girls. One of the boys was quite ruthless to the other. A couple times I thought he was going to kill him. They were interesting to have for a while, but did not do the job on scorpion control that we’d hoped for.

My daughter was renting a house so could not keep her hens, we have them and in the photo is the naked neck, Marie. The rooster has since be carried off by a coyote.

The hens do a great job of insect control. (And snake control too, if you want I’ll send a photo of Marie with the snake she caught and killed and ate.) We have a lot fewer scorpions this year, the hens are constantly scratching an searching. A friend gave me two of the prettiest little BB Red roosters. They decided to roost away from the hens, who we lock up every night. Lost one probably from raccoon. The same friend gave me two little BB Red hens. We get such a kick out them.

Someone dumped dogs out where we live and one chased my little rooster down and killed him. So sad that folks only think of themselves by dumping dogs.

Well Sara, so sorry not to be in touch with you. Life has been well, life. I had started a note to you so long ago and ran across it which prompted me to write this. Hope all is well on your farm. Would love to hear from you. Have a great day.
Shalom Y’all
Sandy


A Note From Cyprus – Life In Kedares

My penpal David lives in Cyprus and I do look forward to his emails and letter. David has beenwithout the internet for some time now but has managed to get to a computer to let us know what he is up to.

Hi Sara
I have borrowed a friends computer with broadband (fast isnt it) so have the chance to send you a little message regarding my latest happenings.
The move to Kedares went well and the cats and I are now happily settled in our new house. Not as big as the house in Tsada but still with two bedrooms and a large yard where I can park the car off the road. I have two flower beds where I have planted tomatoes which have already given me at least 25 kilos of fruit and they are still cropping! My chillies peppers melons and aubergines are all doing well and I hope to have produce well into the autumn.
Kedares is a small village with a coffee shop and restaurant but little else. No shop so I have to go over the hill to Arsos if I need milk or water etc. Various traders come through the village on various days. The vegetable man comes on Wednesday and the cheese man is here on Fridays.
I have no real address so any letters sent to me tend to arrive eventually usually to Leo who runs the coffee shop.
I am off to pick the Shiraz grapes for Nelion winery next week which will be interesting and I hope informative.
I need to get some manure for the land and I am hoping that Neofitys will come with his tractor and do some ploughing for me in the autumn.
I have decided to sell the land in the Troodos. I do not think it will be possible to build houses there and in any event I am being offered land near Kedares which is more fertile and will produce more crops.
The weather here has been very hot with some record temperatues being achieved. Are we being told the full story about global warming!! I rather doubt it. With major fires in Russia and drastic floods in Parkistan it seems that the world is telling us something but are we listening? Any way enough of that.
Well I do hope to get the internet connected very soon so I should be able to ramble on to you all again. I keep up with the happenings on the web site and all the news.
Best regards to you and all farming friends
David

Having visited this part of Cyprus myself a few years ago it is always interesting to hear about village life. David always gives us a sense of the real Cyprus and I almost feel I’m there!

If you would like to read David’s other letters then click on the following links:

Letter 1

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4

Letter 5

Letter 6

Letter 7

Letter 8

Letter 9

Letter 10

Letter 11


A Quick Letter From Cyprus – Settling Into New Cypriot Village Community

My penpal David lives in cyprus and I do look forward to his emails and letter. David has been very busy moving house recently so he has just sent a quick update on the move and settling into the new village community.

Hi Sara and all at Farming Friends
Just a rather quick note to say sorry that I have not sent a newsletter for some time but I am currently offline and waiting on Cyta to reconnect me in Kedares. The move has gone extremely well and I and the cats are now living happily in our new village community. I have planted various squash courgettes beans aubergines lettuces and onions as well as mint rosemary chervil and coriander. All are coming up with great vigour so it should be a good salad year.I am trying to stagger planting but the Cyprus climate does not seem to take account of this and once watered all the seeds seem to go wild with mad growth. The village is sparsely populated but many cypriots come from Lefkosia and Lemesos during holidays. Leo is my great new friend at the local coffee shop and already I have a supplier of oranges eggs bread and other fruits.Andreas Kostas and Xirios are also new friends and I cannot go into the bar without someone buying me a drink. This can be a bit embarassing as I drink beer and they tend to drink the local coffee so my return rounds are nowhere near as costly. Leo says not to worry and I suppose they would not do it if they were not happy. They all seem to be retired police and drive around in L200 Toyotas with various tractors and agricultural implements on the back. Any help or advice I need is freely given. As an ex Townie who loves the countryside this is the real joy of village life and I am glad that I made the move.
Well the weather is now getting hotter and I am building a covered pergola to give me and the plants some protection. I recently went to Famagusta and Salamis in the north part and will tell you all about it in my next letter. Anyone thinking of going there will be amazed at the ruins and buildings and the friendliness of the people most of whom speak english. My greek is not brilliant but my turkish is non existant so looks like more learning over the winter.
Best wishes to you all
David

If you would like to read David’s other letters then click on the following links:

Letter 1

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4

Letter 5

Letter 6

Letter 7

Letter 8

Letter 9

Letter 10


Life In Cyprus – David’s Tenth Letter

I was pleased to receive my tenth email from my friend David who lives in Cyprus

Hi Sara and and all at Farming Friends

At  last the weather is improving but with the wind coming from the south and Egypt we now have rather high dust and sand in the atmosphere and the other day I saw the first locust of the year no doubt blown here on the wind. Today the sun is out and I have opened up my cold frame and put out my seed pots to help things along. The broad beans are coming up but as yet no courgettes, squash, tomatoes or herbs. I am really experimenting with the rather clayey soil of my area of the Troodos to see what will thrive best. In Kedares I will have quite a good portion of land to utilise for vegetables so I hope to get at least two bites at the cherry! Of course I need to cultivate the ground and prepare it as I believe it has lain fallow for a number of years so I am still after goat manure. My own compost heap is doing quite well in Lemithou and I will be filling up another raised bed next week ready for some seedlings.

This is a beautiful time of year in Cyprus. Much of the land is still green from the rains and many flowers are now coming into bloom.My lemon tree here in Tsada is flowering and the scent is very exotic. The mandarin tree is also flowering and in the citrus orchards the scent will be wonderful. If you go north from Tsada towards Polis there are acres of orange trees alongside the road and at this time of year the blossom is very picturesque.The first mimosa trees will be in bloom soon as well. Sorry if I am waxing lyrical but now is the time to visit Cyprus if you do not wish to lie on the beach all day. Of course that supposes you can get a flight at a reasonable price which sadly is not easy just now. The tourism is well down but just recently there have been many visitors in Kato Pafos by the harbour.I suspect many have come to escape the cold weather further north. It is still unsettled in Greece and Turkey so I do not think we are right out of the worst yet. Although the temperature is about 21 degrees today I still wear jeans and a pullover.This causes some looks from the visitors who go around in shorts and t shirts.Good luck to them but I still think the temperature needs to rise a bit before I put away the long trousers.
I ordered another book from Low Impact Living Initative on dry stone walling which has arrived very quickly. Maybe the post office is improving here. I intend to build some walls in the Troodos but I think I will need to source rock from other areas as most of the rock is igneous in Lemithou and although abundant I suspect it is difficult to work. If I am wrong I do hope that someone will give advice.
The article in “Grapevine” one of the english free papers here on buying in North Cyprus is most interesting but does not really help anyone thinking of purchasing there other than to say be very careful.Although the thought is that North Cyprus will not pay any attention to the European Court ruling at some stage the matter will raise its head if the two sides are ever reconciled. If you have found a property in the North it may be an idea to put an advert in one of the South Cyprus newspapers asking if anyone has a claim on the land. Not ideal but it may make everyone more aware of the problem and may encourage others to demand better advice from both sides.
I am off to Kedares again this afternoon with Kleanthis to take up some clothes and books ready for my move at the end of the month.
I went up with Kleanthis last tuesday 16th and I now have the keys to the house but of course I will not move in until the end of March.It does mean however that I can move bits and pieces now which is a great help. Kleanthis is keen on hunting and as we had his grandson Andreas with us he took us off road and we saw our first snake of the year. It was a black whip snake quite long about a metre and did it move fast. Then we followed the Diarizos river with Kleanthis pointing out wild garlic wild asparagus and various other greens kown here as “Xorta” (pronounced horta) and ended up in the back end of Kedares. I have noted the route down as a good walk but I fear my car will not cope with the really rough areas.
We stopped for coffee in Kedares and I met several of the villagers who all speak good english and are a wild bunch of retired gents like myself. Several are retired police officers but they have a great sense of humour and I look forward to sitting there in the summer evenings with a glass of beer and hearing their tales. I thought my greek would improve in the village but maybe not although one has promised not to talk to me in english.
On the way back down to Pafos Kleanthis again went off road in Mamonia and we ended up in an orange orchard where he procceded to pick two large bags of oranges giving one to me and saying that the best oranges in Cyprus come from Mamonia. I asked if the owner of the land minded him picking the oranges and he laughed and said the land belonged to his brother in law Bambos who is my new landlord. I think I will be ok for oranges and other fruits in the future.
I am pleased to say that most of my seeds are coming up and on the site the raised beds are now full of seedlings so I hope this year will produce some veg. Kleanthis says he will bring his JCB up to the Troodos so I may be able to repair some of the slippage and at last find the water sump.
I have a good friend here called Mary who is an established mosaic artist and also paints wonderful icons. I believe even the Bishop of Pafos has expressed interest in her work. Anyway she is kindly going to paint an icon of St George for me as he is the patron saint of the valley where the land is situated it being called Mouttis tis Drakonta or Dragon Mountain. There is a little shrine just down the road dedicated to St George so I think it is all rather fitting. I will send you a photo once it is done.
Mary is one of those people that you meet and like immediately. She is doing battle with a whip snake at the moment to see who is entitled to the sunny spot by the pool in her garden and also has a black chicken that has decided to take up residence in her studio which makes working there a battle of wits. I am currently looking at building a chicken coop to give the chicken an alternative living space. Are we all mad!!
Well once again I have rattled on about living here and the general pace of life but I really believe it is the people and friends that you make in living in a community who make a difference to  your life and I will keep trying to speak greek and learn more of their lifestyles here.
Best wishes to you all and wish me luck with the move (although most is now done).
Abbo

I enjoyed reading about the places and people David knows and look forward to hearing about whether the veg grows in the Cyprus heat and am intrigued to see the photo of the wonderful mosaic picture that Mary is creating.

If you would like to read David’s other letters then click on the following links:

Letter 1

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4

Letter 5

Letter 6

Letter 7

Letter 8

Letter 9


The Weather & Life In Cyprus – 9th Letter From David

I am pleased to receive the latest letter from David in Cyprus, we have been writing to each other now for over a year.

Hi Sara and all Farming Friends,

Well no matter what the tourist brochures tell you it can be cold and pretty wild in Cyprus in january and february. As I write we have a jolly thunderstorm going on and even the cats have retreated under the kitchen table. One lightning strike close by shook the house and I suspect that the power will go off any minute. Add to that a severe hailstorm a few minutes ago and I suspect many tourists will be wondering why they came out to the so called sunny island. There is fairly thick snow in Troodos village where I understand about 15 cm of snow fell in a couple of hours and most of the mountain is now capped with a good covering. I have not ventured up to the land as I suspect the police will prevent me from going into the mountains without snow chains but I did have the presents of mind to cover my winter lettuces with glazing units last week so I hope they will survive. Last week we had hurricane type winds and one gust took both water tanks and solar panels from my roof and deposited them in next door’s garden where they remain as I am still waiting for the insurance assessors to call. The tank arrangements are very common in Cyprus but for some reason they do not seem to anchor the supports to the roof. Of course when they work they are most efficient and during the summer I have very hot water with a back up immersion if required. Cyprus was recently criticised in the press for not being green enough which I find rather odd with all the solar panels about. Anyway it is back to rather primitive washing facilities at the moment and showers are taken in friends houses as necessary. All good experience for the mountain site!!

Two days later and what a difference. A warm and sunny spring day with blue skies and the almond blossom bursting out all over the place. Today I went up to the mountain as the snow has receeded with sunshine all the way. From Tsada I usually go down into Pafos and then take the Limassol motorway past Geriskipou to the second exit for the airport. Then I turn inland past the Asprokremmos dam and up to Nikokleia where there is a supermarket. I think the young lady who works there is russian and as I always buy a local type of peanut brittle she thinks that the english have very strange breakfast tastes. There are two routes to Troodos from Nikokleia one going up the Diarizos valley and the other going up the Ezousa valley. I tend to go up the Diarizos valley as you pass along the riverbed with high rolling hills on either side. Of course the Avidimou dam higher up has reduced the river to a stream but it is a very fertile area and citrus trees potatoes melons squash and all sorts of vegetables are grown.There are sections of the road that are only a single car width and when you meet a lorry it is really a question of going onto the unmade verge to get past. All quite fun but it does seem to worry some hire cars.

It is now two weeks later and the tanks have been renewed and I have nice hot water again. One benefit is that the old galvanised cold tank is only slightly bent and does not appear to leak so I will salvage it and take it to the Troodos site where it will be a very useful water store. Despite my digging I have still not found the water sump but as the soil is now very heavy due to rain I will wait until it dries out a bit. I have planted various vegetables in Tsada in a cold frame and hope to plant these out in raised beds on site in the next week or so. I have planned the site for the polytunnel and have found a good builders merchant in Platres where I will be able to get the plastic pipe. There is a large plastics factory in Geriskipou where I can get the plastic sheeting so this will be the next project.

The blossom is everywhere at the moment and this is really the best time to see Cyprus. There is a rather cool wind today and they are forecasting another storm on thursday but with the wild garlic coming out together with other wild plants and flowers it will soon be summer again. My sister who lives in London tells me that there has been more snow but I hope it will be short lived for all you farmers and growers in UK. Marina the gardener has tried to grow ginger but without success so if anyone has any tips I would love to hear them. Likewise another friend is hoping to grow some sweet potatoes and I am getting ready to put in the next crop of ordinary cyprus potatoes.

We have a petrol strike at the moment. Apparently the government fix the price of fuel and they have said that the public are paying too much at the pumps. Many of the petrol stations are privately owned and they say that the goverment price is unrealistic and does not allow them to make a fair profit. It will run and run I fear so I have stopped all trips to the Troodos. Aristos needs some wine from Nelion but he will have to get it himself this time as my tank is on empty.

We had the carnival a few weeks back and now most of the cypriots are fasting on the run up to Easter.This means that you can get to the meat counters in the supermarkets without the usual queue. Most of the dishes for Lent are quite delicious and Joanna,  Aristo’s wife, always gives me food to try when I go in for a drink. The beans cooked in stock with carrots, celery and various wild herbs are excellent.

Snow is forecast tomorrow in the Troodos but generally the weather is warm. I think we are due one or two more Coptic storms then it should warm up quickly.There is a lot of dust in the air at the moment so a change in pressure and wind direction will be useful.

By the next time I write I should be in Kedares.I asked the address of the house and was told “It is the house opposite the Old School” I will be amazed if the telephone company will be able to connect the phone on that information and any letters may or may not get to me. All very Cypriot but quite good fun.

Anyway Best wishes to you all and lets hope the weather improves soon.

David

Thanks David for another wonderful letter, I do so enjoy reading about life in the Troodos Mountains. It is interesting to learn about the weather conditions in Cyprus throughout the year and hearing about the places you visit and the people you meet or are friends with gives us a great insight into life in the Troodos Mountains.

I will ask on the farmingfriends forum and growing ginger and sweet potatoes in a warm climate.

If you would like to read David’s other leters then click on the following links:

Letter 1

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4

Letter 5

Letter 6

Letter 7

Letter 8


A New Year In The Troodos Mountains – 8th Letter From Cyprus

Another year has started and it’s great to hear from David who lives in the Troodos Mountains and who has been sharing snipets of his life with us.

Hi Sara and all at Farming Friends

Well here we are into the New Year and quite a lot is going on all of a sudden. Well nothing monumental but I see this year as a year of change for me at least. Last week I went to view the house in Kedares with Kleanthis (not sure if that is the right spelling) and met his sister and her husband who own the house. Kedares is a quiet little village almost in the Troodos mountains with a fairly elderly population so I will fit in well! Kleanthis tells me that Kedaros is a type of tree that grows in the Troodos. The nearest I can find in greek is a cedar and as the plural would virtually be Kedares I think this is what he means.  The village has two coffee shops and a taverna (which I have never seen open) but on my last visit I had a wander around and several people wished me “good morning” in english so my greek may not improve as much I hope. There is a lovely old church not pretty but solid and imposing and the views down the Diarizhos valley are beautiful.I understand from Marina the neice of the owner that there are “meals on wheels” delivered to the village so as I get an older git than I now am I should be OK. Indeed Kleanthis says that this is true. The people who run it with government aid work from the old village school which is opposite the house. Apparently they deliver both lunch and dinner for the sum of 40 euros a week. Both are cooked meals and I understand they are hot and delicious so if I get fed up with cooking that could be the answer.

What a delight to travel in the company of Kleanthis who is so interesting about the region. He grew up in Kedares and has many friends still all the way down the river valley. Many of the villages are old turkish villages and although there are still a few turkish cypriots living in them many houses are now derelict. The Cyprus goverment has devised a scheme to allow the houses to be rented for minimal sums so that they do not fall in worse repair but with the strict proviso that no demolition can take place and when an agreement is reached between the two cypriot factions any houses required by their turkish cypriot owners must be vacated and returned to them in good condition.

Indeed he is looking after a house for a turkish cypriot friend in Kidasi the next village down the valley.Much of Kidasi is deserted but the houses are in adequate repair and there is a local coffee shop run by Nitsa a friend of his. I dont know if I mentioned it but she is the lady who should be able to procure some goat manure for me. I assume that this will rot down like horse maure but if anyone knows differently I hope they will let me know via the website. Just as you come into Kedares there is a small church on a sharp bend. The church is dedicated to St Anthony and Kleanthis showed  me a hole in the end wall where people used to be able to put money into a collection plate. The story is that a villager from Gerovasa  a nearby village used to drink in Kedares and as he went home he would stop and reach in to take money from the church. The priest got a bit fed up with this so he hid in the church for several nights and sure enough one night in came the arm which he grabbed and pulled hard saying “I am St Anthony and you are stealing from me” The frightened villager promised to pay back all the money he had taken and also made a substantial donation to the church. True or not I dont know but as a bit of cypriot folklore I love it.

There is also a wonderful character in the valley who is obviously a goatherd. I think he is Indian as he wears a turban and invariably around 4 o’ clock in the summer you will meet him walking along in the middle of the road with his dogs.This is a sign to slow down as usually around the next bend there will be several hundred goats and sheep all over the road. Nobody minds and even the cypriots slow down and take care.

I am proposing to erect a polytunnel on the site. Although the weather here is hot in summer I do think this will extend the growing season. Indeed there are many polytunnels in the agricultural land around Paphos so it is a recognized practice. I recently obtained a good book The Polytunnel Handbook by Andy McKee and Mark Gatter and hope to obtain good plastic from a firm in Geriskipou. If any “farming friend” has advice on this subject I would be delighted to get it. Also does anyone have knowledge regarding the best plants to use as sacrificial plants to combat pests. Aphids seem to be the main problem here as are snails and slugs. I am not totally organic yet but I would like to avoid pesticides if possible. I will not really be growing commercially but there are one or two outlets that may welcome organic type vegetables and I would hope to tap into them.

The weather here is chilly at night but the evenings are drawing out and they tell me that spring is not far off. The sun has returned but I believe that february is likely to be  cold month. There is snow on Mt Olympos on the Troodos which I can see from the roof of my house in Tsada so we are not in the clear just yet. My cats are usually in at night and even the feral cats are using the spare bedroom to sleep. By the way as I will be taking my two cats with me has anyone got tips as to helping them adjust to their new environment. I know that I cannot take the feral cats as they will not stay. In any event they seem to be doing well in the village and are obviously getting food from several sources.

My potatoes are quite sucessful but I need to make a finer tilt for them to grow well. They are rather mis-shapen due to the gravelly type of soil. More are to be harvested soon so they may be a bit better. The lettuces are doing well but nothing has happened with the beans as yet. And I still have not found the water sump but I know I am very close!!

I loved the rabbit casserole on the website and also the article about your foxes. There are some foxes here in Cyprus but they are not prolific as far as I can tell. Tim Daniels’ article on chickens was most interesting and helpful and I hope to be getting some hens this year once I move.

Well its time for some wine now so I send my best wishes to you Sara and your family and all  Farming Friends throughout the world.

David

Thanks David for another wonderful letter, I do so enjoy reading about life in the Troodos Mountains. I imagine the Troodos mountains look beautiful with snow on them. DAvid write’s in such a way that you feel like you are there with him walking around and meeting the locals too.
I think that Topveg would be a great website to get advice about erecting a polytunnel and growing vegetables.

If you would like to read David’s other leters then click on the following links:

Letter 1

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4

Letter 5

Letter 6

Letter 7


Olive Picking – Seventh Letter From Cyprus

It is always great to get word from my farmingfriend‘s friend David who has a smallholding in Cyprus.

Hi Sara and all farming friends

Well we are now into November and I am happy to say that the sun is still shining although rain is forecast tomorrow. After the very wild weather and thunderstorms that we had through October the weather returned to warm sunshine last week and the temperature is still pleasant.

Our trip to Kyrenia was a great day out. We arrived at the border in Lefkosia where we welcomed our turkish cypriot guide. He said that his home town was Polis and that he knew Tsada well. He now lives in Lefkosia but I believe that he misses his home town and would like to return. In fact the turkish cypriots that I met were charming and very friendly. They were interested to know that I owned land in the Troodos and was starting a smallholding and many I believe had old family roots on the south “side” of the island. Without getting too political I can only say how sad the whole affair is. But it is for the cypriots both greek and turkish to sort out the problem. Left to their own without all the politics I believe that there would rapidly be an accord.

I must have a rather warped sense of humour but I always find signs forbidding any photography amusing. At the border in Lefkosia there are signs in the buffer zone similar to those around the Sovereign base area at Epsikopi. Now my brother in New Zealand can zoom in on my site in the Troodos via satellite without any problem so what are they thinking that no one must know about. Beats me!!

The scenery as you approach Kyrenia (or Girne in turkish) is very dramatic as you pass through the Pentadaktalos (Five fingered) mountains and the town and sea is spread out below you. We stopped at St Hillarion Castle which is somewhat reminiscent of a film set. It has I understand featured in a number of films.How those knights got up and down the hillside in full armour and in the Cyprus heat I do not know. Made of sterner stuff than me!!.Next we went to Bellapais where Lawrence Durrell lived and wrote his book Bitter Lemons of Cyprus
Most went off to visit the Abbey but I went for a wander round the village and ended in a pleasant bar with a bottle of Efes beer a turkish brew and really very good.The lady in the bar had family in New Zealand so we had a pleasant chat about trips there and my land in the Troodos. Finally we ended up in Kyrenia with a quick visit to the castle and then lunch on the waterfront. I must say that the northern part of Cyprus has some dramatic scenery and is well worth a visit but the area has a rather sad and downtrodden feel about it.

We are now into the olive picking season and my friends Maggie and Maurice have allowed me to gather the olives from their three trees.Some will be pickled in brine for eating but most will be sent to be crushed and made into olive oil. Marina their gardener has offered to make up the olives to a reasonable quantity for pressing.Apparantly the cost is 10 euros up to 100 kilos then reduces on a sliding scale. Marina told me that she and her family sent some 2424 kilos to the crushing plant so that should keep them in oil for the next year.

Once again the days have fled past and we are now well into December with Christmas looming. I am afraid that the olives this year were not worth crushing as there were not really enough to be worth while. I still have them and they will become a mulch up in the Troodos. I did pick some olives for eating and these are currently pickling in brine.The next stage is to soak them in a vinegar/water mix and then they can be bottled up with a light olive oil mixture.I hope they will be good .Marina has kindly offered me five litres of the family olive oil for which she will accept no money so I think some chocolates for her two children may be appropriate.

My potatoes are doing really well. Some I have planted in old car tyres and others are in a raised bed. It will be time to dig some up soon so I hope to have some nice new potatoes for Christmas. I will let you know the results.

I have decided that I may have to leave Tsada to move closer to my land if I am to really make a go of it as a smallholding. I have been offered a house for rental in a village called Kedares just near Nelion winery by Kleanthis who is our village secretary. It belongs to his sister who is an aunt of Marina so I will be in good company if I do move and my greek should improve. Neofytos and Nitsa at Nelion are already talking about replacing the vines that did not take so I think I will be rather busy in the New Year. More trees need to be planted and then it will be some livestock- chickens or guinea fowl. Some almond trees need replacing and I think I will try some walnut trees as well. I will let you know what happens.

Well once again I have prattled on so it is time to stop and end by wishing you and your family and all farming friends throughout the world a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. (And if that is politically incorrect I make no apology as the sentiment remains the same).

David

I enjoyed hearing about David’s visit to Kyrenia, about pickling olives and potatoes planted in old car tyres – we have lots of old tractor tyres so may have a go at this myself next year, so thanks for the tip! I look forward to hearing whether David has moved  to Kedares in the new year and being able to offer advice about keeping chickens and guinea fowl.

If you would like to read David’s other leters then click on the following links:

Letter 1

Letter 2

Letter 3

Letter 4

Letter 5

Letter 6


Katie’s Kunekune Piglets

Katie is a member of the farmingfriends forum and a reader of the farmingfriends website.

Katie contacted me back in August and introduced me to her Kunekune pigs, Coleen, Wayne and Mable. Katie was unsure if Coleen was pregnant and it later turned out that she hadn’t been but she did finally get served by Wayne and on Saturday she finally farrowed and gave birth to nine healthy piglets. 4 brown 5 white with black spots. She farrowed in the early hours of the morning and delivered the piglets and cleaned them up all by herself.

Katie is delighted and very proud. She has sent me these photos of the beautiful piglets.

Nine Kunekune Piglets

Nine Kunekune Piglets

Kunekune Piglets Sleeping

Kunekune Piglets Sleeping

Kunekune Piglets

Kunekune Piglets

Kunekune Piglets

Kunekune Piglets

Kunekune Piglet

Kunekune Piglet

Thanks Katie for sharing these photos with us. Your piglets are beautiful and as a pig keeper and enthusiast myself it is very interesting to see how the kunekune piglets differ to my saddleback piglets.

A useful book for a new pig keeper and breeder is the book Starting With Pigs by Andy Case.

If you keep pigs or are thinking of keeping pigs then join the free farmingfriends pig forum for the latest chat, advice and questions about pigs and pig related issues.