Sunday, 24 May 2009

Shakin' All Over

If you've read other items in this blog, you might know that I suffer from severe osteoporosis. A few years ago I started hearing about Whole Body Vibration as a possible aid in the treatment of the problem. I did some research, reading the pros and cons: the pros usually coming from studies carried out at respected universities, and the cons from people who simply didn't believe in the technique. I spoke to my doctor and then started to look for a suitable WBV machine for home use.

Earlier this week my choice of machine was delivered, a Tecnovita YV16 Active Power.

It is, of course, too early to be able to be able to say anything about the therapeutic effects of the machine, but it is easy enough to use and very quiet in operation. The booklet that comes with the machine could, perhaps, go into more detail about the exercises, but they are adequately described and care is taken to separate them into different categories. Elise and I have started with the section headed "Exercises For Older People," which seems appropriate!

I hasten to add that the video does not show Elise. I can but hope. Should the machine miraculously transform Elise into something like this, I'll not only be shakin' all over, but I'll be All Shook Up, too!

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Cacti close up

I enjoy taking photographs. It's something I've done for many years, though I've never got seriously into the art or technique of photography. I used to have an Olympus OM1 with several lenses, but that was more because I admired the workmanship and quality of Olympus, rather than because I was a serious photographer. (I've always liked well made, good quality products, which is why I use Apple Macs and drive a Chrysler PT Cruiser, I suppose.) When I was no longer able to carry the heavy load of the OM1 and its lenses, I reluctantly sold the equipment and bought my first Olympus digital camera. That was in about 2002. In 2005 I upgraded to an Olympus C750 Zoom, which I still own and use.

The C750 is a relatively simple digital camera by today's standards, but it is adequate for almost everything I want to do, and it does it well. Lately I have been taking more closeups of the cacti I own. All photos are taken in natural light, with no special equipment or setups. (I rarely use anything than natural light, even at night -- almost never use a flash!)

You might like to view some of the close-ups in this Picasa Web Album or in this Flickr Set.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Romería de San Isidro

paella cookingThis past week has seen quite a bit of activity in El Campo de Guardamar (the hamlet where we live, just outside the town of Guardamar del Segura) in connection with the Romería de San Isidro.
A romería is the whole series of events surrounding a procession to display one or more statues of religious figures and includes all of the fiestas, dancing, eating, singing, etc. A romería can last several days. Here in El Campo, the procession of the statues was held on Wednesday evening (the 13th) and yesterday the festivities came to an end with a sort of paella pic-nic.
Groups come to prepare their paellas in the open air. The "teams" are made up of people with apparently specific activities: there's the fireman, the stirrer, the taster, the ingredient-adder (two people in the case of a large paella) and the others, who watch, pass comment, and eat and drink the offerings brought by everyone. So while the paella is being prepared, appetites are piqued with cheeses, serrano ham, gambas, almonds… It takes quite a time to prepare a paella, so the "tapas" come in very handy.
The photo above shows the pieces of rabbit being browned, together with a couple of heads of garlic. Below you can see the fireman, San José de la Leña, and the stirrer, San Antonio de la Cucharazo (wearing an apron from last September's paella championship!).

Once prepared (after about an hour), the paella is brought to a large table and served, to be eaten with salad, bread, and something to drink. Our paella was made with rabbit and snails as the main ingredients, together with red and green bell peppers and, of course, Valencian rice.

Not only was it the Romería de San Isidro, the occasion also lent itself to the celebration of two recent birthdays, those of Marimar, also known as Santa Maria de los 45 Años, and Pedro, or San Pedro de la Escoba. ¡Felizes cumpleaños!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Magnificent Seven

Cacti produce surprisingly beautiful flowers. What is even more amazing, perhaps, is the size that the flowers can attain in relation to the body of the plant. I have a Lobivia famatimensis that is no more than 3 cm. tall and has about the same diameter, yet its flowers are 3.5 cm in diameter. Seven of these flowers are currently in bloom, a wonderful golden yellow, hiding the plant itself, and there are 14 buds altogether! How on earth can such a little plant support so many flowers?
The stem of the Lobivia is quite a sight, too: it is more purple than anything else, and has the tiniest spines, arranged neatly around the areole at the tip of each tubercle, which is no more than a couple of millimetres across. Here's an extreme closeup of the stem of the cactus.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

What a Whoppa!

Elise and I went to a garden centre today to buy a couple of cheap succulent crawlers. Well, that was the plan. We came out with not only the two crawlers, but with seven cacti, too. One of the cacti was this magnificent specimen, bought for a very reasonable price. Obviously an old example, this Gymnocalycium measures 15cm. tall (not including the flowers), about 10cm. diameter, with a girth of no less than 35cm. It has an offshoot growing at its base and no less than 18 flower buds on its crown, with two more on the offshoot. I have no idea how old the plant is, but it is clearly no youngster, and its shows signs of its age at the base, but this only helps to add to its character. Easily recognized as a Gymnocalycium because of its flower structure, I hazard a guess at Gymnocalycium baldianum.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Return to Sender

Some weeks ago I ordered A selection of Conophytum plants from Conos Paradise in Germany. For the next three weeks I visited the post-office in Guardamar three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. No sign of a package. Then Uwe of Conos Paradise emailed me to say that the package had been returned, with no explanation as to why this had been done. Anyway, I arranged with Uwe to send the plants to me again, this time using the address of a Spanish friend in Guardamar. Today, just six five days later, the package was delivered. The little plants were not in the best of shape: their roots looks extremely dry and some individual plants were as good as dessicated. Nevertheless, most of the plants showed at least some sign of life, so I made up a mixture of coarse sand, a little vermiculita and a little potting soil, and potted up the 22 plantlets in 6 pots, giving them a good misting to boot.

Wish them luck.

Conophytums, like Lithops, belong to the family of Mesembryanthemums, a group of unusual plants generally originating from South Africa.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Blooming cacti

Still no success with the lithops seeds, but at least the cacti are starting to put on a good show. A few have already bloomed, many are in full bud and some are currently in flower. The pink flowers above belong to the Echinopsis eyriesii. Normally they come out at night and last no longer than until about noon; this year, however, we have been able to enjoy them for almost two whole days. The large yellow flowers at the back also belong to an Echinopsis, a hybrid variety, but I do not know which. Behind these, you can just see a low Mammillaria elongata, with tiny yellow flowers The short-stemmed flowers in the middle right of the photo belong to what I believe is a Notocactus, perhaps a Notocactus macambarensis. The cactus in the foreground, again with yellow flowers, might also be a Notocactus.

Friday, 1 May 2009

And then there were none

The 1000 lithops seeds that I put into forty pots some ten days ago (see And some fell on stony ground) are showing remarkably little signs of growing. Well, let's be honest, nothing at all is happening! I don't think there's much hope now of them germinating, but I shall keep looking after them for a while yet, before finally giving up hope.

I don't seem to have too much luck with Mesembryanthemums (the group of plants to which Lithops belong), as an order I made recently for some young Conophytums has also failed to materialise. After a few weeks, the seller informed me that he had received the unopened package back in Germany, with no explanation for its return.