September marks a return to life, it seems, in these parts. Trading life, I mean. With the onset of cooler weather, I guess this isn’t surprising. It can be debilitating to undertake really serious labour at high temperatures. I’m now beginning to see a pattern to the flow of local commercial activity. Throughout August I’d tried in vain to order topsoil of sufficient quantity, as I wanted to have everything in readiness for planting.
Autumn is when I prefer to sow winter-hardy seeds and plant deciduous trees. With cooler weather, it is much more pleasant being outside in the garden, and there is still sufficient warmth during the day to trigger seeds into germination. As well there are some crops that prefer cooler temperatures – such as the cabbage family (Brassicaceae) for instance, and I’ve got other seeds waiting to be sown for winter veggies — rainbow chard, wild arugula. There are also flowering plants, like sweet peas, that may not show much aboveground growth when sown now, but they will develop strong root systems over winter, so that when they finally come into bloom, they are far more floriferous and productive much longer than their counterparts sown in spring. Besides, in the Mediterranean, spring is rather brief, and summer is all too quickly upon us, such that plants from seeds sown in spring will not have a chance to develop as well as they should, due to summer heat.
Two Alicante suppliers who’d advertised on Mil Anuncios.com quoted a ridiculous price due to the “distance” they’d have to travel. As if Villalonga were on the other side of the moon! We are right on the provincial border between Valencia and Alicante – in fact just a few hundred meters from the house it’s already Alicante. Not knowing another supplier, I agreed, but I never heard from them again.
I asked Enrique at the nearest nursery, Vivers Agave near Ador, for a reliable source of topsoil, and he said there was plenty of topsoil free for the taking, if one had a lorry and driver plus a backhoe. Well, I asked, did he know someone with such equipment? No, he said, unfortunately, due to the crísis (the traumatic economic downturn) all the companies that he’d used in the past had closed down. Sanfelix, who used to supply him, had closed down as well, he said.
So it was with great surprise that I was given the Sanfelix number when I inquired at the farmers’ supply shop in Real de Gandia. Worth a try, I thought. Wonder of wonders, they were still (or again) in operation, but the secretary said because of the summer holidays, they didn’t have transport, and to call again in September. And so as soon as the new month began, I called first thing in the morning, and the secretary promised she’d call me back that afternoon. This went on for weeks—I would call, and she would promise… but eventually nada. It was already mid-September. If I didn’t get topsoil now, planting would be seriously delayed. I wanted our new plants to be in the ground before winter set in.
I just had to be persistent, even to the point of making myself a nuisance. One afternoon I called and surprisingly, instead of the same secretary, a man answered. Was I a regular client? No. He asked how many cubic meters I wanted and the address, and said he would ask the jefe (the boss) to call me back. Five minutes later, the jefe did indeed call and three days later I got my 8 cubic meters of topsoil. Talk about efficiency and customer service after being given the run-around for weeks! I wonder what happened to the secretary whom I’d been speaking to.
The driver who’d delivered the soil, when he learned we were new in the area, got all chatty and invited us to drop in to his classic motorcycle club — the Penya Vespa La Safor. They meet every Sunday in Gandia, near the beach, and one of their members is an Italian lady in her 70s, he said. On the 9th of October is their annual bash together with the classic car enthusiasts. He hoped we would go, and gave us a card with the club contact details (including its Facebook page!). I digress as usual, but I wanted to give you an idea of the kind of extraordinary interactions we have with tradespeople as we try to get things done. Meeting such a gregarious lorry driver was totally unexpected.
A similar delay as with the topsoil happened with a quotation we’d been expecting from the plumber. Due to summer holidays, he said, he couldn’t send it earlier (it was over a month late). It is clear now that I shouldn’t schedule any house or garden work to be done in August. Everyone goes off on holiday then, awaiting the coolth of September to begin their working year anew.
It’s not only tradespeople who are waking up now. Here’s a self-sown lavender, preparing to bloom. Actually there are three of them in that cavity.
The rain god seems to have woken up as well. We’ve had our first thunderstorm and more rain is predicted – welcome blessings for the garden!