The Green Season

Chinese cabbage and avocado...picked this morning from the garden
Chinese cabbage and avocado…picked this morning from the garden
The Green Season is what hoteliers and others in the tourist trade in Costa Rica call the rainy season – a phrase which does not have quite the same allure, conjuring up as it does the reality of life between May and November when the sunshine of morning is replaced with alarming swiftness by a lightning bolt, a peal of thunder fit for the worst excesses of Wagner and rain fit to soak you in seconds.

I have to admit to liking the rainy season….coming from the U.K. rain has no terrors for me and an afternoon on a balcony in the clouds is an ideal time to settle down to read the books I have ordered from Better World Books U.K. who not only supply used books in good condition at sensible prices but also devote the income to promoting literacy. You could do worse than give them a try.

Still it does mean I have to bustle about a little to make the most of the morning….the washing has to go out early and the veg has to come up in good time unless I fancy seeking out the watercress for the evening’s beef with a black plastic sack over the head and shoulders while Gotterdamerung plays out in the skies above.

I’m particularly pleased with this morning’s veg haul….not just the Chinese cabbage which defeated every attempt to grow it in France, but with the avocados.

Before we moved permanently to Costa Rica we used to come over to avoid the worst of a European winter and on our first visit my husband planted the stones from the avocados we were enjoying.
The fruit on the table are from the tree which sprang from one of those stones…so very much our own avocados.
They are a bit scabby….but they are ours. Untouched by chemicals. Unknown to Monsanto.

The table they are sitting on was made by my husband over forty years ago from an old wreck found in a house he was renovating, using Italian tiles left over from laying new floors.
It has traveled with him where other – ostensibly more valuable – furniture has been jettisoned and it is still in daily use for everything from butchering meat for the freezer to drinks at sundown.
It’s a bit bashed about..not in the first style of elegance…but it’s ours and it serves its purpose.

It’s a quiet life now that the courts have thrown out the proposed development further down the valley….except for collecting and collating the deeds we will need prior to the inspection of the water systems disrupted by the would-be developer’s henchman.

The said henchman has quietened down….still a would-be bully, but now cowed by the courts and by loss of face following a failed machete attack on a sturdy but unarmed gentleman which ended in loss of henchman’s machete and a rock through the windscreen of his van as he reversed from the scene of his humiliation.

Not that initiative does not rear its head….a chap appeared at the door last week trying to interest us in a contribution to laying hardcore on the road from the bridge down to his property (bought from the would-be developer) to benefit his new business.

What might be the nature of his business?

Massage parlours installed in log cabins. He was sure it would attract foreign tourists but no American would travel down the road in the state it was in at present…so, as it would benefit everyone on the road, would we like to contribute?

How would it benefit the neighbours?

We could set up a restaurant.

We declined with thanks.

Life, though pleasant, is not without its inconveniences…

For example, I would be delighted if we could sell the house in France and be free from the taxes and maintenance associated with it.

Much though I love France and the friends we have there, I dread to think what new schemes this or successive governments will dream up to extract blood from already squeezed stones.
I see today there are proposals to tax the use of computers, laptops and tablets the justification being that they access public broadcasting channels….
They might better spend their energies mending the finance ministry’s computer which blew a fuse last week and is not yet up and running again.

Until recently when you bought a television set in France the shop asked for your details and forwarded them to the appropriate official body who would put you on their list.
Therefore anyone with half a brain paid in cash and gave a false name and address.
Some shops winked at this…others demanded ID.

To counter this act of civil disobedience, measures provided that every house would be deemed to have a television set unless it could prove otherwise…
And the standard of proof is high.

If you have never declared ownership, you might get away with it but if you used to have one and then threw it in the bin in disgust at the moronic level of programming you are in trouble.
You can’t just dump a television. France being France you will need proof of disposal.

Burglary? Certificate from the gendarmerie.

Dumped? Certificate from the guardian of the dump.

Put it on the bonfire? Fine for pollution.

No such problem here. You put it out and it promptly disappears. No questions asked.

I know which system I prefer.

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48 thoughts on “The Green Season”

  1. I am so envious of the fact that you can grow avocados where you are…and from your own stone….well done. I tried many many times to do this but here in Ireland it never grows bigger that the 1st leaves.

    Thank you for sharing
    Eve

    1. We tried so many times in the U.K. and in France without success. I began to wonder whether the fruit had been treated in some way.
      That’s a lovely blog you have.

  2. Why do I get the impression that people in authority and the rule of civic law are very low on your list of preferences?

    I love avocados and have ‘planted’ stones many times.
    All I’ve managed to produce were some measly leaves on a thin little stem.

    1. Because they are.
      As someone who was, when younger, a rural district councillor I take local government very seriously…in that time we had skeleton staffs, people who could act on their own initiative knowing they would be backed, and we were very conscious of the auditor over our shoulders for anything that could be classed as ultra vires.
      What do I see now?
      People obliged to work for systems rather than systems which work for people.

      As i said to Yvonne I couldn’t get them to take off either…so you as a gardener can imagine the delight of seeing a tree full of fruit!

  3. This brings to mind a funny incident…
    I received a letter months ago informing me that a neighbour had complained that my television was too loud late at night.

    To this I responded that as a light sleeper, I had little appreciation for such noise myself at such an hour and that while I felt sorry for this individual’s plight, I was not the culprit. I had not owned a television in five years and had no intention of acquiring another…

    Enjoy the green season. It was my favourite time of year growing up.

  4. I love that photo, Helen. I sure do wish it would rain here, in draughty, California, with everything so dry. And, to live in the land of TV ownership freedom, how could life possibly get better, lol. Always good to see you pop up over cyber horizon. Paulette

    1. I like a bit of responsible anarchy….though what else is true anarchy if not responsible.
      You’ve been passing on some great posts recently…much appreciated.

  5. I believe it is the perfect table for a balcony in the sky. We have some bells like those; my daughter and sister strung them into a kind of wind chime. It promptly was named hell’s bells. I am the only person who successfully can give it a bath; the others tangle it into a helluva mess to undo.

    1. Hell’s bells it is…lovely!
      These are from Masaya in Nicaragua…lots of gaudily painted things but I preferred these.

      I was wondering about using a line of them as a sort of wild bird excluder in the house in San Jose where the kitchen is open to the elements…but it may need you to come and give it a bath if I do!

  6. You have watercress!!! I LOVE watercress and haven’t seen it anywhere. Lucky you, and luck actually has nothing to do with it, right? You’ve worked hard for those avacados and cabbage… not to mention what it took to retain the table! Yes, this rainy season is dramatic and love your references regarding the thunder… marvelous season, indeed!

    1. You can buy watercress at the feria when in season…just put the stems in water…fresh and running…and you’ll have watercress bed in no time.

      When I was at school, there was a village producing watercress a few miles away and I really got the taste for it.

    1. It’s great to have stuff straight from the garden…and I know it hasn’t been treated with chemicals.
      Though to be fair, a lot of the veg I see at the ferias is insect eaten and the local market gardener doesn’t use chemicals…too expensive.

  7. The avocadoes look fantastic! What a treat to be able to grow them, and from a seed grown tree!

    Have you seen the latest for the auto-entrepreneur review? Our income is to be restricted to 19K (down from 32K). If you exceed that for 2 years consecutively then you must go up a regime. Fine you might think, as the scheme is ostensibly for those testing a start-up idea, however, the devil is yet to come. The cotisations are to be reviewed in the autumn, and the word is (coming from Pinel’s office) that the aim is to increase them to the same level as the artisans, so they will double, thus making it impossible for anyone who wishes to stay an auto-entrepreneur and make a living to do so as their prices will have to go up to cover the cotisations, and then they will go over the limit.

    I wish Ayrault hadn’t stuck his oar in and announced the reforms would only affect the building trade. Pinel immediately responded by contradicting him and seems to feel that he publicly humiliated her. (Actually I think she is right, but it means she has dug her heels in to save face, and is determined to destroy the auto-entrepreneur scheme for those who just want to earn enough to pay the bills and not go on the dole in their 50s.) I was also bemused by the response by the leader of the auto-entrepreneur group to the initial reforms — ‘well, what’s the point of that — it only affects 5-10% of auto-entrepreneurs and you said you wanted real reform!’ Ermm, under the circumstances, wouldn’t a discreet silence, or even a ‘This is good news, only 5-10% of us will be affected’ sort of response might have been more supportive of the side he’s actually on?

    1. I have indeed been following it.
      A friend’s son is AE having been made redundant in his fifties and he reckons he will have to stop. It looks like the cotisations will equal those of the artisans…but the ban on VAT will stay…a total disaster.
      I hope the blasted builders are happy now….

  8. I would love an avocado tree. We’ve tried to plant them but not had any success. Probably the clue is in your post – the trees don’t like months without rain.

    1. Apparently we are on the limit for avocados….just as we are for coconuts….there are so many microclimates here that I’m glad that by chance we picked the right place!

  9. I’m salivating at the thought and look of those avocados. I became used to them in California and indeed one of our homes there had a Haas avocado tree which provided generous fruit. In the UK, purchased ones are usually rock hard and I have a devil of a job ripening them (inside a brown paper bag usually). So I’m jealous that you can harvest your own.
    The view of what looks to be a rain forest is lovely. I’d love to see more of it. And Mr. VB can make me a table any day of the year.

    1. I know what you mean about trying to ripen avocados in the U.K. – and the same went for mangos which are also in season at the moment.

      There’s a patch of rain forest up on the mountain behind us, but most of this valley and the one behind it were cleared for coffee in the boom of the seventies – the boom, predictably, fizzling out just as production got going.
      The environment ministry is trying to encourage reforestation, but as there’s more money in cattle – and perhaps massage parlours – it’s an uphill struggle.

      As to the table maker, his hands have been partially paralysed for years now, which is very frustrating for him – but should butterflies. moths or humming birds venture into the house he can always catch them without injuring them and release them outside.

  10. “Untouched by chemicals. Unknown to Monsanto.” How small and personal the world’s only remaining natural paradises are becoming…

    1. And if the EU has its way those paradises will be wiped out in Europe as a result of their wish to prohibit the sale of any seed not authorised by themselves.

    1. We were delighted to see the avocado tree in flower…and then actually to get fruit was a real bonus.
      I’ll put up some photographs of the views around the house another time.

  11. I do like the Mr.’s table, Helen. I also once grew an avocado tree from stone – in England – but it never had any fruit.
    We bought a television today….but we have two to get rid of. Should have thought about that bit first, though I suspect Andalucia is nearer to your system than to that of France!
    Ax

    1. I’m very fond of that table…it exemplifies his determination to use and reuse stuff.

      As to taxes, it makes you wonder what the French state will think up when it finally admits there is a crisis….

    1. Well, you’ve had the conditions for it….even the San Jose house has small gardens back and front and for the moment we have leeks, celery, tomatoes and chayote there.

  12. I love avocados. How did you start it off? Did you just plant straight into the ground? We don’t get them much here, but I wonder if I could grow one…hmm maybe the weather isn’t suitable. I love watercress and cabbage too. Lucky you. At the moment I am over-run with tomatoes…I wish they didn’t all ripen at once.

    I love that table…home-made furniture is priceless x

    1. We knew we wouldn’t be there to nurture it so we turned over a patch of ground, added some of the black earth from a deposit on the finca and planted the stone inside a roll of cardboard box…these days I’d follow the tip from Mark in Mayenne’s blog and use loo roll centres.

  13. Unusually, I have succeeded in growing something. Three somethings, actually. Out of 4 avocado stones I started, three have succeeded. I know they’ll never produce fruit, but just seeing something with leaves has boosted my morale, now that the weather and various predatory creatures have destroyed my entire vegetable garden. If only they could have left the coriander untouched I wouldn’t feel quite so bitter.

    I can’t help thinking that you could profit from having a massage parlour on your doorstep. Imagine the joy after a long hard day of gardening, to lie down on a comfy table and have somebody massage your shoulders. 😉

    Love the table.

    1. I would hate someone massaging my shoulders….I really cannot bear close contact if it’s not from someone close to me.

      How rotten about the garden this year…I can see why your avocados cheered you up so much.
      Here we can we wiped out in a night by leaf cutter ants which then have to be hunted down and their nests destroyed…they can travel long distances, the little beasts.

  14. I planted an avocado tree on our farm in Rhodesia (as it was known then) from a pip in about 1971. I just wonder if it is still there, or if as many trees seem to have been since the farms were taken over, chopped down for firewood!! We also had a huge tree in the garden in S.Africa and how I miss it. The avos you buy here are rubbish!!

    We also had our rainy season in Africa from October to about March with some massive lightning strikes. The storms used to build up generally late afternoon and could be quite scary. I have though experienced a couple of very nasty storms here in France, one very big hail storm which left me with 15 broken tiles I could have done well without!!

    Hope you are both well. Diane

    1. I have to say I wonder about the fate of trees we planted in previous gardens….mostly people move in and start razing everything to the ground in the name of easy maintenance…and yes, the fruit we used to rather despairingly buy in Europe were to say the least…dull.

      Leo remembers storms in Africa…tremendous lightning strikes, the skies alight….and friends have told me about the recent freak hailstorms in France…pics of hailstones like golf balls! So I’m not missing anything!

  15. Yip. The pettifoggers rule. I often wonder what type of person drafts the minute details of our bye-laws – the rules by which we tie folk up in knots. One side-effect of our UK Austerity however is that re-cycling has been re-invigorated. I put out 2 old washing machines (too expensive to repair – cheaper, sadly to replace) and they disappeared. Probably going for scrap.

    I always thought I wanted to live in France, Helen. But you’ve managed to disabuse me of that rash desire. Anyway I think I’m more of a Spaniard at heart. So R and I are currently dream-planning our half and half retirement – 6 months here in Scotland; 6 months in Spain… With a little bit of luck our modest public pensions will survive our current government’s attempts to wipe them out – and we’ll be able to split this big house into two modest properties.

    1. Had it not been for the fact that his mother was still living Leo would have plumped for Spain, not France. But that was back in the days before low cost airlines and driving back from Spain would have been too much.

      Go for your retirement plan….you won’t regret it.

    1. Danilo, who works here, calls them ‘criollo’ but I’ve seen them labelled ‘nacional’ when on sale.

      Our Turkish builder in France referred to all taxes as fines…he had the right mindset I think.

  16. Mm, I like that kind of neighbourhood recycling too. I hadn’t realised France had become so bureaucratic. How wonderful to grow your own avocados. I think I shall start applying your criterion of “is it really “mine”?” to the stuff I don’t seem to want to get rid of. Most of it is not really “Mine”. I discover that I am really coming to its rescue, so it doesn’t have to go to a charity shop. Must reorganise my brain.

    1. France has become a real pain in the proverbial….control freaks on speed.

      We had the ‘is it mine’ process when deciding what to bring over from France…and it was quite surprising how it turned out.

  17. I love living in France but I do wonder for how much longer it’ll be feasible to live here. I feel sure the gov is out to ruin us all but can’t really understand why apart from excessive megalomania, greed and carrying out orders from ‘above’…

    You seem to have found a lovely spot, relatively isolated, but which can feed you so you’re not totally dependent on farming policies.

    1. We’ve always kept a veg garden…but this year we’ve tried growing upland rice…I’d never heard of this but it doesn’t need paddy fields. If it works we’ll put down more ground to it next year….I worry about cartels pushing up food prices.

      I wouldn’t want to be in France if things get desperate…the government will do nothing to help on current form.

  18. Coming very late to this, Helen. I love the photo – very atmospheric and the table is gorgeous. I may be in a minority of one here in not being fond of avocados, but I love Chinese cabbage and watercress. 🙂

    We’re one of those who regularly have to fill in and return the form to testify we don’t have TV in France, but I’d still rather that than the dratted TV Licensing Agency in the UK who hound you unmercifully if you say you don’t have TV. Grrr!

    1. The Chinese cabbage is holding up well..not yet bolting…and I’ve found a number of recipes for it…including a pickle which has turned out well.
      We’ve had to put netting over the watercress as the ducks have found it…and have just tasted the fruits of seeds given us by a neighbour….which I can only describe as being a monster runner bean. Having no broad beans – they flower but do not set seed – I put the shelled and skinned seeds in a paella and they were fine.

      It sounds as though the TV Licensing Agency in the U.K. is the spawn of the devil….

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