In about 10 days I will return to Spain. How I have missed my beloved masia! I think I have said this before, how many times? Here in Liverpool I am trying to organise the too many photos I have taken last year. Processing, dumping, filing down to a tighter core. Of course looking at the vivid colours and the blue blue skies makes me yearn for Spain all the more, especially as it is still bucketing down here, both outside and inside the house!
In particular I have a lot of butterfly photos. I love pretty insects. I think almost everybody does. And ugly ones such as black cockroach types fill me with panic! Imagine if they were buzzing around our beautiful flowers and butterflies crawling under our kitchen cupboards instead?
I read that flies and mosquitos do not like lavender and I absolutely love lavender and this is how Masia Lavanda came to be known as such. That is Spanish of course – no Casa Tony or Trevor for me although I had quite a fight with a few locals who were convinced that Mas Stephanie was the ideal name.
In the spring of 2012 Spanish neighbours passed by to visit when building got to the point where people could. Why is it called Masia Lavanda? They were perplexed. You have no lavanda here!
But I am going to plant some, lots, loads, I protested, because the flies and mosquitos do not like it. With that, I batted a few of the said away.
They don’t, they asked, clearly surprised. Well, we all plant albahaca outside our doors because they don’t like that.
Well, I cook with basil. I love basil.
The idea was clearly horrifying.
Yes, and so do the Italians. You know pizza? They put it on that.
I did not believe I was having this conversation. Indeed, thinking about it, there was a lot of albahaca around about but none in the local cuisine. Not much rosemary either which funnily enough my masia and all the mountains are heaving with.
Rosemary is another mosquito repelling plant but sadly it attracts loads of flies. You will read the contrary but I can assure you this is not true. Just come and visit and tell me otherwise. In fact if there is one thing people moan most about around here, it is the damn flies.
Felix, my immediate neighbour, advisor and cherished stone man, raised his eyebrows when I told him my plans. You know lavanda is not native to these parts he said. There is some, but not much. And it is different, not like the stuff you see in books. It doesn’t really flower.
But I ignored him and went on a search. Finally, down near Benicàssim I found a nursery with 10 small over-priced plants. They looked healthy enough, but did not take to the red mountain soil and were dead within one month. Not to be deterred, on my next visit to France, I stuffed the car with scores of healthy looking lavenders for 50 centimes each. The only thing that is cheaper in France I think.
When I returned over the Pyrenees to Spain, I was stopped by border patrols and they sent in sniffear dogs. They were a bit thrown by the lavender. Not the kind of herb that figured in their training.
Back at Masia Lavanda, the plants have thrived and I am happy to say that in 2013 my casa was surrounded by beautiful lavenders and loads of butterflies and bees. For the first time ever we spent a practically fly free year, at least around the masia…