Winter in El Parral



The blog needs to catch up with a few weeks of news, now that we are up and running again.  It was the beginning of November when we lost our access to the blog.  Rubí had her poppy hat on for Remembrance Sunday, but she forgot what she was supposed to be remembering and Morris had to remind her.

It is 100 years ago that the men were settling into their first Christmas on the Somme in 1916.  In 2004, I spent Christmas in a tent in the Somme, near the remaining trench where the Accrington Pals battalion went over the top in July 1916 (and are mostly buried in the cemetery fifty yards from the trench where they set out.)  It was a formative experience and I learned much from being in that place in the snow one Christmas, eating tinned sardines and trying to understand – through the poetry of Wilfred Owen – why humanity seems to exist in constant crisis.  “Lions led by donkeys” is the way the tragedy is sometimes characterised.  Unfair to donkeys, I think.



In mid-November I opened up Level 3 of the terraces, but only with temporary electric fence, so the donkeys only go down there while I am supervising them.  The above portrait photos of Aitana and Morris were taken down there.  I love these two photos of the five year olds who I still regard as my “foals”.  They are really dignified, healthy looking donkeys, both with really well established characters; and I am really proud of them.  I set out to create a space that would be ideal for donkeys to live in, and they have really responded beautifully to everything I have done for them.  They show interest in every new feature I introduce and, sometimes, like the day we opened Level 2, they display genuine excitement.


The main innovation in November was the new manger between the pine trees.  I made it using an old plastic sunbed with metal stakes hammered into the ground to stop the donkeys moving it; then wooden sides wired onto the metal stakes.  That was the big mistake.  Once the donkeys have finished eating their straw and alfalfa, they continue with a wooden dessert and eat the manger.  (At this point, just before Christmas, most of the wooden component has been completely chewed up.)


Leroy-Merlin, the French bricolage chain, opened their new superstore in the La Marina commercial centre (Finestrat’s way of drawing all the Benidorm shoppers to spend money in Finestrat…) and they had a 15% discount offer on everything for opening day.  I bought a new wheelbarrow.  Luckily it has no wooden parts, so the donkeys’ fascination for everything new did not extend to eating it.


The December rains caught everyone by surprise.  Normally the rainy months are September and October but in recent years even that has been minimal because Alicante is in its periodic drought cycle. I’m developing a whole teaching unit on this for Year 9 on my Geography blog: (which incidentally has now had 27,000 hits on the study of tourism in Benidorm for GCSE and A-level students.)


Matilde is a big donkey to be confined in a small stable with three other donks during the rains, but she did very well.  Every time I looked out of the house at the stable Matilde was staring at me from inside the gloomy space under the dripping eaves, as if to say, “When are you going to make it stop?”


Another donkey selfie with Morris.  He always looks directly at the camera.  What a star!

Today I went down to the valley to get sight of the stream, for there is a new sound now in El Parral: the sound of gushing water in the valley.  The aquifers have been revived.  A whole year’s rainfall in three days.  But for how long will the stream flow?

As they say, “To be continued…”


4 thoughts on “Winter in El Parral

  1. Congratulations on your beautiful fruit trees, they look stunning.

    You didn’t finish the story about the pump and the pump house you found down the ravine. Would love to know if there was a follow up.

    Happy Christmas to you and the donks.

    Ann in Ireland.


  2. Hi Jim! The arrival of the heavy rains and the confinement of the donkeys to the stable coincided with a gift of two bales of straw (from a primary school nativity play!) so I used both of them to provide deep bedding straw for the stable. The donkeys simply regarded that as a gift of extra food and they spent three days and nights gorging themselves on it. Luckily, they do usually go out of the stable to drop the resultant product: I am always impressed that they tend to use the edge of the field and keep a distance from their food to their toilet.

    Santa hats photo will be put up shortly.

    Happy Christmas!


  3. Hi Annie, and happy Christmaa to you! The fruit trees are looking good. Lots of pruning and watering in the summer paid off. I managed to save three or four trees that were nearly dead from years without watering. It may be two seasons before they fruit again.

    The pump in the valley turns out to be an old fishing boat engine from Vila Joiosa that the former owner of the property rigged up to a water pump. It was a complete waste of effort apparently, as the water in that source dried up shortly afterwards.

    As it happens, he dropped in this morning to see how things are going and I invited hom to bring the family here for a Christmas drink and to see for themselves the work I have done on the house and the terraces.

    Santa hats on donks coming shortly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s truly marvellous how everything has worked out for you, the donks and the property ever since your move. The Lord is with you.


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