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