Thursday, 20 December 2012

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Another season comes to an end



It’s now been a month since the hotel shut for this year and during that time both Joe and I have been away on walking holidays. But now we’ve returned and have been looking back on this year and thought it would be nice to recap on some of the highlights of this season.

The hotel restaurant full of guests.

 It was very rewarding for us to see that this year more guests than ever have eaten in the hotel restaurant. No doubt this is partly because we introduced a special half board rate for 2012 but I think it is also because more and more people know and appreciate the type of food we serve. 

Imaginative home grown cuisine; red onion and apple delights

We call our cooking an “imaginative home grown cuisine” where we try to make the best use of fresh organic home grown and local produce. We also always serve a vegetarian option for which we are becoming well known particularly with our Spanish customers as vegetarian food in Spain is hard to find.

Anuska (on the right) who did her practical training with us this year

To this end, at the beginning of the season we had a mature Spanish student, Anuska helping in the kitchen for 3 months for her practical training. She wanted to work with us as she had a particular interest in vegetarian food. At the end of the season we also had another student, Tarmo doing his work experience with us.  He came from Finland and was studying the use of natural resources in tourism and this time was helping mostly helping on the farm. Then finally Juanita from Colombia was volunteering with us. She helped with apple picking amongst other jobs.  So a big thanks to Anuska, Tarmo and Juanita for all their help.

Tarmo (on the left) helping with the apple harvest

The apple harvest; many hands make light work, with Jaunita, Joe, Mari Carmen, Patricia and Samantha

We had a fairly good apple crop this year and started collecting the apples in the third week of October. This year with the help of our volunteers as well as the regular staff the harvest went very quickly. As always the apples are pressed and made into apple juice and we now have a good stock of juice ready for next season.

Our lambs gaining popularity

On the farm front we are also pleased to say that for the second year we have been selling our lambs to the “Corral del Indiano” one of our local Michelin Star Restaurant. The lamb has proved hugely popular at the restaurant and with the success of the dish they have ordered as many lambs as we can produce for next year!

The pastures around the hotel in August taking a golden hue due to the long dry summer

According to the locals 2012 has been the driest year in Asturias for over 50 years and by late August many of the surrounding pastures and fields had a distinctive golden hue. Luckily with the help of water from our borehole we were able to water and produce many different crops in the vegetable garden.  This year every 2 months we made a video of the vegetable garden so people could follow its progress. As a part of a longer term project to try and produce more visual information on what we do here at Hotel Posada del Valle we have produced videos on walking and the food we serve at the hotel.

Hot crops from a dry summer

The consumer group has now been going for almost 2 years. Once a week the growers bring their produce to the hotel and then volunteers from the group make up the vegetable boxes and then the members of the group come to collect their boxes. We are very pleased to be able to help with this local initiative and hope the consumer group carries on moving from strength to strength.

Finally when reviewing the hotel season the biggest thanks must go to all our guests for supporting us and coming to stay with us, many of whom who come year after year


Monday, 22 October 2012

Walking from the Mirador del Fito to the hotel

This is a short video of the very spectacular self guided walk from the Mirador del Fito back to the hotel with the possibility of climbing the Pico Pienzo. More information on the walks in Asturias can be found on our web page; www.walkingasturias.com

Monday, 17 September 2012

The organic vegetable garden mid September


A short video of the vegetable garden taken two days ago so to give you an idea of how the garden is looking and what we are cropping.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Vegetable growing when it’s hot and dry


The vegetable garden mid August

It’s a hot dry summer this year, the fields around us have turned to a golden hue and although we do get an occasional cloudy day there’s been no rain for a long time now. Growing vegetables under these conditions becomes a challenge particularly for us when we have a shallow soil which doesn’t retain the water. But we have had dry years before and as a consequence we have developed a very simple strategy for growing vegetables under these conditions. Firstly plant those vegetables which will need watering in the “best” part of your vegetable garden and find a water source so you can water them regularly in the hot weather. Secondly grow and trial different types of vegetables and varieties so as to find those which tolerate the drought and heat the best.
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The vegetable garden today showing the dry parts at the top

Our vegetable garden isn’t completely uniform, there are small differences; the lower southern part has more depth of soil, the top northern part is drier, the eastern part benefits from a cooler wind coming from the sea and the western side  is the hottest being sheltered by outcrops of limestone rock. We practise a 4 year rotation in our vegetable garden but within each rotation there are 4 different beds  so with careful planning we can normally plant the crop where the micro climate suites it best. For example with early potatoes we need to grow them where there is least chance of spring frost and where the ground warms up quickly, so we plant them in the most protected part of the vegetable plot. Similarly for tender moisture loving crops we try to have them growing in the coolest areas and where the soil is deepest in the hot summer. 

Fabulous lettuce but only possible to grow this time of year with lots of watering

With a prolonged drought like this year we still have to water some crops preferably late in the evening. Some crops soon die when they don’t have enough water others just don’t grow and some even thrive with the heat and drought. Crops which we would water would include; lettuce and peas, and to a lesser extent cabbages, French beans, beetroot, leeks and carrots. Other crops we water very occasionally depending on water availability would be courgettes, peppers, aubergines and raspberries.

We had a well bored 4 years ago and this is what we use to water the vegetable garden. It’s about 180 m deep and the water is pumped into a deposit which then feeds a rudimentary irrigation system in the vegetable garden. It’s a life safe at this time of year.

We also carry out trials to look at which crops and varieties with stand the hot dry conditions. In these trials we don’t water the crops at all or only for the establishment of the crop.  As a result of these trials we are slowly coming up with an interesting list of crops and varieties for hot dry conditions some of which are more useful than others.

Our wild tomatoes performing brilliantly in the hot dry weather

The wild or currant tomato “Solanum pimpinellifolium” is proving to be brilliant producing a massive crop of tiny very flavourful tomatoes. If the ground is too wet it can prove to be excessively vigorous but when the conditions get hot and dry it’s just outstanding. Cape gooseberries or Physalis are another drought tolerant plant which under wet conditions can be too vigorous but under dry conditions is a very manageable plant producing lots of lovely fruits. Leaf beet or Swiss chard also resist drought surprisingly well.  Our Cayenne peppers have been productive and all ripened where as the plants of the jalapeño peppers in the same conditions are dying for lack of water before the peppers have ripened. 

Cape gooseberries thriving in the drought

 The attractive fruits of the Cape Gooseberries ready for eating

Finally two crops which have grown well and the fruits ripened this year has been lentils and chickpeas, the only problem is I think we would have to plant the whole vegetable garden with lentils before we could harvest sufficient to serve our guests with one evening a meal.

Lentils ready for harvest

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The information we provide for walkers.

Asturias is fabulous for walking!

For anyone who enjoys walking Asturias has so much to offer, yet information on walking and particularly in English is very limited. It’s easy enough to find something about the Carres gorge and one or two of the popular walks but there are so many other spectacular walks which are more difficult to find reliable information on. We have lived in Asturias for seventeen years now and as keen walkers that’s given us lots of time to walk and discover the huge possibilities Asturias has to offer to walkers and over the years the way we present this information to guests has changed.

Less well known routes like the Canal de Urdon

In the first years of the hotel I used to lead walking holidays based at our hotels for a couple of UK companies. Then about 10 years ago we started producing self guided walking notes for our guests and these have proved to be extremely popular. In October 2008 we produced our first “self guided walking” book with 35 self guided walks in the Picos de Europa and Asturias and in April 2010 we produced the second edition with 42 walks and more information on the walks which can be done with out using a car; 19 walks in total!

Walking in Ponga with the help of our self guided notes

Well we’ve just produced the 3rd edition of our self guided walking book and even more effort, time (and enjoyment) has gone into producing this latest guide. With the help of a GPS all the walking data; distance, ascents etc. has been checked and corrected where necessary. There is also a copy of a map for each walk with the route marked out on it. We call it a book but it’s not been published as such so I am afraid you can’t buy it, the print edition is only here at the hotel though most of it is available on line. 

Walking the along the coast


The satisfaction of reaching a summit with the help of our notes

We continually check and update our self guided walking notes, either from our own observations whilst walking or from guests’ comments. We still have a full collection of maps so we can lend the appropriate maps to guests to accompany the self guided notes for those who want them.  

Walking in less well known areas between Caso and Ponga with the help of a GPS track

For those guests who have a GPS we also have the tracks for the self guided walking notes available to down load. Although we have self guided walking notes for about 40 walks we have information (including GPS tracks) at the hotel for many more walks (probably over 100!) so those guest who come to visit us year after year still have something new.

Gentle river walks

Challenging mountain routes; there is something for everyone

Most of the information about the self guided walks is available on line either under the self guided walking section of the hotel web page or in our new walking blog www.walkingasturias.com On this web page there is information about the walks a personal description of each walk as well as the map with the walk marked on it and the GPS track.

But not all the walks are for everybody!!

I am afraid the actual notes for each self guided walk aren’t on line they are only available for guest along with the appropriate map at the hotel. Probably more important at the hotel we can help advice guests on the best and most suitable walks according to their walking abilities and the weather conditions, as well as provide information on any recent occurrences which may affect the walk

Enjoy the walk, and a rest!
Happy Walking!!

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. 
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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.


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.