Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category



February 26, 2012

Things rarely happen quickly in Cyprus.  Things need to be considered, discussed over coffee with friends, debated, get tied up in bureaucracy and then be dunked back in coffee again.  Usually.

Then occasionally that whole process gets thrown out and instead speed is of the essence. It doesn’t happen often, just often enough to catch us out, which it did yesterday.

Next to our little cottage is an abandoned single story house.  Beyond that is a field containing fruit trees, including the lovely fruit cocktail tree that produces both oranges and lemons.  In that same field, close to the abandoned house, is an old and tall tree.  When we first bought this house the tall tree was half dead; the side nearest to us was clearly dead, the side away from us was still growing.  Over the last two years whatever disease it has took hold and the entire tree died.

The dead tree, as seen from upstairs

During this winter, which has been longer and colder and wetter and windier than most, we’ve looked at the tree a little more often.  As strong winds have raced up and down the valley the tree has been creaking a little more and frankly we’ve been concerned.  Our best estimate was that the tree was about 100 feet tall but it was nothing more than a guess.  From time to time we’d sit outside with a cup of coffee and look at the tree, and the distance to the house and speculate: if the winds were very bad and the tree came down, which way would it fall?  And, if it came our way would it reach the house?  Would the lovely new roof of two summers ago break the tree or would the tree break the new roof?

A few weeks ago we had a run of poor weather and gale-force winds through the night.  3am is a stinky time to be trying to calculate the likelihood of a tree crashing through your roof, it makes for a poor night’s rest.

A day or two after the weather calmed down we wandered round to the field to take another look at the tree and bumped into the mukhtar.  ‘Are you concerned about the tree?‘ he asked.  When said we were and he nodded and said he would see what could be done.  Which takes us back to the start: in Cyprus things rarely happen quickly so we assumed that it would take months for anything to happen.

Which is why we were surprised when a cherry picker turned up yesterday morning followed by a truck full of men with chainsaws.  Don’t be deceived by the sky below: yes, it is beautiful and blue but the day was fresh with a cold wind blowing.

A handy cherry-picker

It took most of the morning (and much discussion, debating, coffee and cigarettes) but the tree came down.  Taking the top off was particularly fraught but it fell away from the houses and hurt nothing other than an inconveniently placed prickly pear.  The front door of the abandoned house didn’t fare so well: one of the wheels of the cherry-picker needed to be where the door stood so it was knocked down and then nailed back into place later.

In the midst of the tree

Which one next?

Almost done

After a leisurely lunch the chainsaw boys reappeared and it became clear why this job had been done so promptly.  This long cold and wet winter has meant that all of us in the mountain villages have had to burn significantly more firewood than normal.  There’s still no sign of the weather improving, in fact it’s due to take a turn for the worse next week with more strong winds and temperatures colder than the north of England.

Fueled by copious amounts of coffee the chainsaw boys got to work breaking down the tree into usable lengths.  Truck after truck pulled up outside to be loaded with as much wood as they could carry.


The fires will be burning well in this part of the hills tonight and we can sleep easy once more.


It’s raining, again

January 27, 2012

This has been the wettest winter that we’ve seen in Cyprus.  After a relatively mild December the heavens opened and it feels like it hasn’t stopped raining since.  It’s possible that we, living in a house with no internal stairs, feel this a little more than others.

It’s certainly true that our move from the municipality of Aradippou on the coastal plain up to our tiny village in the Troodos foothills has made a huge difference to our local weather.  Summers are cooler and the air is fresher but winters are colder, occasionally seeing snow, and there is significantly more rain.  The only heating in the house is from the open fire in the living room and this winter we’ve been working our way through a significant amount of logs.  Even with the fire burning each evening the temperature in the living room rarely gets about 14° degrees (mid 50sF) and the upstairs which has no heating at all has been below 10° degrees (high 40s F) some evenings.

The rain (and thunderstorms and gale force winds) have been much talked about amongst the expat community.  With each severe weather warning and subsequent torrential rainstorm questions have been raised about how full the dams might be and if it was possible that this year they might overflow again.

Today Asprokremmos dam, the second largest on the island, did for the first time in seven years.

The Cyprus Mail reported:

CONTINUING rainfall caused the Asprokremmos dam, the second largest on the island, to overflow yesterday.  With a capacity of 52.4 million cubic meters, Asprokremmos last filled back in 2004.  Reports said local residents were preparing to fire up their barbeques in celebration.

A Paphos expat was on hand to record the occasion; his video is available here.


Festival of the Flood

June 14, 2011

This past weekend saw the celebration of Kataklysmos, the Festival of the Flood.

The weather saw fit to contribute which, considering it’s almost half way through June, was fairly unusual.

Photo courtesy of the Cyprus Mail

The Cyprus Mail reported:

TORRENTIAL rain and flooding in Nicosia and Larnaca districts yesterday trapped people in their cars and brought traffic to a standstill as thousands returned home at the end of the three-day, and aptly named, Kataklysmos (Festival of the Flood) weekend.

Some of the worst hit areas were many of the villages between Larnaca and Nicosia, including Lympia, Kornos, Pera Horio, Latsia, Alambra, Ayia Varvara, the GSZ area in Larnaca and Aradippou with some of them also experiencing heavy hail storms.

Drivers on the Larnaca-Nicosia highway crawled along at 30km per hour due to heavy traffic jams and visibility problems, with huge amounts of water gathering in some areas such as the Dekhelia road up to the Rizoelia roundabout.

As well as flooding some flights were diverted as the conditions at Larnaca airport were unsafe.

The weather this year continues to be unsettled: winter was long and wet, spring was late coming and saw severe hailstorms and then suddenly the temperatures went into overdrive.  Instead of being unseasonably cool it switched to being unseasonably hot.  That all ended with the storms of yesterday which, according to forecasts, are due to continue for several days to come.

Meanwhile we left home, where it was warm and sunny, to drive towards Larnaca not realising all this was going on.  It would be fair to say that we were ill-prepared for the weather we encountered and got absolutely soaked to the skin.  Such are the microclimates of Cyprus.


Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilisation

September 30, 2010

A new eight month long exhibition opened yesterday at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington.  The exhibition is designed to showcase 11,000 years of history of the island.

From the Cyprus Mail:

The exhibition includes gold jewelry and sphinx sculptures from the Cypro-Archaic period (750 to 480 B.C.), vases, bowls and sculptures, including an Aphrodite marble, from the Hellenistic period (325 to 50 B.C.) and Roman (50 B.C. to A.D. 330) periods, bronze and copper items, including lamps and jugs, from the Byzantine period (330 to 1191) and religious icons, paintings and vases from the medieval period (13th to 16th centuries)

Full details can be found on the Smithsonian’s website here.


Distance to the horizon

September 13, 2010

A while ago we posted a short video taken on board MSY Wind Surf in the middle of the Atlantic.  Actually, not really the middle, we were about 300 miles from the Azores, but not that far off.  We were part way through a 14 day Transatlantic crossing which started in Barbados and ended up in Lisbon.

The footage was taken outside the Compass Rose bar late morning.

One of the unusual things about the Windstar ships is that they operate an open bridge policy.  When not in port the bridge is open and guests are welcome to visit and ask questions.  On this day that proved useful.  Our conversation went something like this;

How far away is the horizon?  Umm, not sure.  A few miles … or so … maybe more … or perhaps less?

Thinking someone on the bridge should know the answer Ian wandered up there to ask.  As luck would have it the Chief Engineer was present and happy to help.  Such is the beauty of sailing with Windstar: have a question, well ask the Chief Engineer and he may just have half an hour spare.

Anyway, the answer was this: With normal visibility the distance to the horizon, in nautical miles, is 2.1 times the square root of the height, in meters, above sea level.

Distance to horizon = 2.1 * √(height, in meters, above sea level)

In that time we were about 12m above sea level so about 7¼ miles to the horizon.

Taking the maths one step further, if the distance to the horizon was just over 7 nm then the circle of sea that was visible to us was about 165 nm² … and not another ship in sight.  Actually, we hardly saw another ship the entire crossing.


Photo: Dragonfly

September 9, 2010

We had a tiny visitor to the garden recently, a bright red dragonfly.  He (she?) was kind enough to stay still long enough for Ian to get a photo or two.


Exploding cucumbers

August 8, 2010

We’ve recently spent a couple of weeks dog-sitting which has had some unexpected benefits. During morning and evening walks we’ve been exploring parts of the village that we hadn’t seen before. Having Fido on a lead seems to give some legitimacy to wandering down unmarked lanes, peak around hidden corners and the like.

One of the other amusements has been finding patch after patch of ripe exploding cucumbers.  At this time of year the plant produces seed pods which are the size and shape of a very small cucumber.  Once ripe the pods explode when gently tapped, releasing both seeds and a liquid.  The force within the seed pod is so great that the seeds can be propelled 15 feet or more as they explode.

Time after time the intention was to take a camera and grab a photo or two to add to a blog piece about these extraordinary, and highly entertaining, plants.

Today it seems that Nigel from Tales from the Marshes has beaten us to it, complete with photo.


Exploding cucumbers Here’s one of the things we’ll miss from Cyprus, and we only encountered it during its fruiting season just before we left the island. Exploding cucumbers do what it says on the packet – as they ripen they build up a high pressure inside and, when lightly touched, the small, hairy cucumber-fruit bit pops violently. Clearly a great strategy for dist … Read More

via Nigel’s tales from the Marshes


Mouse vs Man

August 7, 2010

There is a battle afoot, and, frankly it isn’t a pleasant one.

We have mice: in the kitchen, in the scullery, in the study.  Each morning we walk through the downstairs looking for evidence of Mickey activity.  It isn’t particularly pleasant, and somewhat galling to discover that the old wives’ tale of rats and mice not co-existing isn’t true.  We have rats in the pomegranate tree, we have mice under the sink.

We had a similar problem in the previous house so we already had a handy stash of regular mouse traps.  For the last five days Ian has been baiting three of them each day and placing them in strategic positions.  Each morning he has found, on checking the traps, that Mickey and his friends are exceedingly well fed mice.  This week alone they’ve feasted on peanut butter, chocolate, mozzarella cheese and chocolate coffee muffins.  Feasted, but failed to trigger a single trap.

Mouse 1, humans 0

Or if we’re being entirely accurate and working on the number of days and traps: Mouse 15, humans 0

Today we made a run into town and popped into Carrefour.  A quick review of the pests aisle showed that we had three options: standard (and non-effective it appears) traps, glue traps (that we’re not prepared to use.  They’re effective but far, far from humane) and finally some exotic and expensive traps designed by the Swiss.  In desperation we picked up a pack of the Swiss traps: almost 10€ for two traps.

Tonight, less than one hour after the first Swiss trap was laid, we had our first catch.  We think that there’s only a small number of mice involved, perhaps two or three.

It seems that the Swiss make effective mouse traps as well as watches.  Who knew?


Heat wave

August 2, 2010

We’ve been having a small heat wave here in Cyprus.  July and August are always the hottest of months but this has been exceptional weather, so much so that the Meteorological Service were forced to issue a severe weather warning.  At one point humidity was predicted to reach 98%.

Here, up in the hills, the temperatures are usually a little cooler and the air a little fresher.  Still we were forced to reach for the camera to document our highest ever temperature.  The upper section shows the outside temperature in full shade, the lower section shows the temperature inside the house.  Thank goodness for half meter thick walls!

Internal & external temperatures

Our neighbours have dealt with the problem in true pragmatic Cypriot style.  Note the positioning of the truck below the only shade and the decision to leave the doors open to keep the car cool!

Temperature management

The weather is due to change today, which will be very welcome, but as of 9am the thermometer in the study was showing 33.5C.  No respite just yet then.


The colours of summer

July 23, 2010

Sometimes life here is just so pretty!  On a wander through the village we came across a bougainvillea growing over the wall of a courtyard garden.  The contrast of the vibrant pink of the plant against the blue of the wall, which almost matched the colour of the cloudless sky, was just gorgeous.

Happily we’d had the foresight to take the camera with us.

Bougainvillea over a blue wall