July 2010 Summer Arrives

July 2010 Summer Arrives

Over the past month, work has focused on the small gite. We now have solar power, with two solar panels located discretely behind the house charging a 24v battery bank, inverted to 230v. With only low power lighting and few electrical devices, this is more than adequate for our needs. Life is a little easier when working, without the generator running. We also have a composting toilet in the latrine block, using peat moss to convert waste into compost. There is no smell, as the process is aerobic. The toilet itself has an amazing view of the coast and sea (see photo).
Inside, the kitchen has been installed and there is only the bathroom to complete. Solar powered fridge, porcelain sink, gas cooker and the wood burning stove to cook on too. As always with these projects it is the final touches, worktop edging, minor decorations etc that seem to take up so much time.
WILDLIFE
There seems to be something new every day. A pair of kestrels is nesting nearby, with regular flying displays in front of the house. One of them appeared at full tilt the other day hotly pursued by a peregrine falcon. A red legged partridge tries to keep control of a group of 5, and later 10, chicks, who ignore her calls and insist in scampering along the track in front of the car. Wheatears and black eared wheatears flick between the rocks on the mountainside. Some of the birds which were common in the winter are absent now, probably moving onto higher ground for the summer (crag martin, raven, buzzard).
Migration is over until the return starts in August. A late straggly flock of 70 white storks came by in late May. Nightingales continued to sing into early July. Smaller birds include cirl bunting, stonechat, rock bunting, crested lark, black redstart, martins and swifts and many goldfinches that move among the thistles in groups of 5-10. We were entertained this week by a male cuckoo among the rocks and heather. Still no sign of the Eagle Owl reputed to live in the area.
In early July the cicadas started calling in earnest in the ash trees in front of the house. At times there are a dozen or more, and the volume can be amazing considering their size. They coordinate their calls, all starting and stopping together, with passages of complete silence before they begin again. Luckily they end when the sun disappears. The butterflies on the hill include swallowtails, scarce swallowtail, great banded grayling, cardinal, camberwell beauty , possible festoon and a huge number of smaller fritillaries and blues.
Many of the flowers have died back as the weather warms up (regularly over 30 degrees and no appreciable rain for a month). The main danger now is fire, and we have cleared dead grasses and wood from the paths leading to the house.