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Let’s brighten up the streets and apartment blocks this spring

By Dick Handscombe
Gardening author living in Spain for over 25 years

Unfortunately Spain does not in general have a reputation for pretty towns and villages. One main reason is that unfortunately there is no network of competitions for best kept towns and villages similar to those of France and England for instance.

Fortunately there are some residents of village houses and apartment blocks who take a pride in developing patios in the sky to live comfortably on their terraces , balconies and roof tops. But much more could be done especially along the coast to create a green urban environment attractive to residents and holiday makers. Fortunately our book ‘Apartment gardening – Mediterranean style’ has become the bible for enthusiasts for the design of attractive and productive outside living areas in the sky.



 The book is full of practical guidelines, examples and appetite wetting photographs as illustrated.

‘Decorated windowsill’

‘An attractive green balcony’

‘Small but cosy for dining in the sky’

‘A comfortable low maintenance rooftop’

 

None of these designs would be difficult or expensive to install, especially in relation to the terrace space cost of buying the space which is so often just used for drying clothes or as an untidy storage space. Some enthusiasts have not only used plants but also attractive artefacts and some are growing daily fresh herbs fruit and vegetables very productively in small spaces.

 

‘An interesting collection of artifacts’ 

 ‘A productive one square metre

So have a go or buy the book ‘Apartment gardening – Mediterranean’ gardening for friends, especially those who have had to down size from a villa to an apartment. The book is most easily obtained by mail order from the websites of Santana Books or Amazon Books. By the way the book includes descriptions and photographs of over a hundred plants suitable for growing in the sun, semi-shade and shade.

© Dick Handscombe www.gardenspain.com March 2014.
  

Ajo Blanco

Our mountains are covered in almond & Olive trees, and in the season you can hear knocking echoing throughout the valleys, as campesinos, knock their Almonds from the trees. The almonds are left to dry in the sun, and then they tough outer shell is removed. The almond then has a brown skin which can be left on or removed by blanching.

Everyone has heard about the traditional red gazpacho soup, and many have tasted it. However, this recipe for cold white garlic soup or sopa de ajo blanco is just as tasty and refreshing. In fact, garlic lovers would probably vote for this soup hands down. It is easy, quick
and healthy. We’ve never met a dinner guest who didn’t ask for seconds, so be sure to make a large batch.

AJO BLANCO

Prep Time: 15 minutes Servings 4
Ingredients:

• 4 oz (1/2 cup) blanched, peeled almonds*
• 3-4 slices stale baguette or white bread
• 3 cloves garlic
• 4 cups (32 oz) water
• 5 Tbsp extra virgin Spanish olive oil
• 3-4 Tbsp Spanish sherry vinegar
• 16-20 seedless green grapes (optional)
• salt to taste

Preparation:
Blanch by placing almonds into boling water for a few mins then slip off and peel skin from the Dry thoroughly with paper towel and set aside.

Peel garlic. Trim crust from bread slices if using French-style or rustic bread. Place bread in 1-2
cups cold water to soak.

While bread is soaking, place garlic and almonds into a food processor or blender. Blend on
pulse until smooth. Remove bread from water with slotted spatula and squeeze out excesswater.

Tear bread into quarters and add bread and 1 tsp salt to processor or blender. Blend on
pulse.

While blending, slowly drizzle olive oil, then vinegar, and finally the water into blender or
processor. Taste. Adjust salt, vinegar and oil to taste.

Serve in small cups or glasses, top with a frozen grape and a drizzle of vinegar.
 

The Catastral – the record of a Spanish property?

Anyone who either owns or is planning to buy property in Spain needs to know about the Catastral value of the property (or Cadastre to use the French term). Unlike the Land Registry, which records legal ownership and with which it is often confused, the Catastral is not a legal record of ownership, but is an estimate of the capital value of the property, which is used as a base figure for a number of property taxes. The easiest way to find the Catastral Value of a property is to check the amount listed on the IBI (local property tax) invoice or to visit the Catastral office in the town hall. However, note that the value should only be given to someone who can show a registered interest in the ownership of the property or their representative, which can make comparison with your neighbour’s difficult.

The value is drawn up by independent government employees using strict and complex valuation guidelines to ensure consistency. Initially, they depend upon a description of the property and its use, which is obtained by observation, licence applications and increasingly, studies of aerial photos. As the Catastral description lists the best estimates of the site's registered boundaries, obtained from historical records, title deeds, agricultural ‘parcelas’, planning applications and any other source where change has been detected, it can be one of the more reliable sources of information and help to settle boundary disputes and the like. However, it is by no means infallible as it will not catch all extensions and changes, ranging from integral garages to bedrooms, structural problems, and the many other alterations that can be made to a property and that affect its value.

The ‘construido’, gross overwall external floor area is used, with allowance for open-sided covered areas being calculated at 50% and areas under 1.5m high being ignored. This can differ substantially from the ‘util’ or net internal floor area, which is an internal measurement used in construction and excludes external walls and certain other items.

Since the details used in the Nota Simple and the Catastral are obtained in different ways, it is not unusual for variations between these property descriptions to occur. The most frequent problem found here is that the Land Registry is compiled at the point of construction and it is a legal nicety that the sizes recorded are given by ‘declaration’ and are not guaranteed or checked by the Registrar or Notary or other independent body. Also, changes to the property thereafter are often not noted, which can also affect the Catastral records where there can also be discrepancies due to human error or failure to update information.

After the size and nature of the property are determined, a rate per square metre is applied to it. This rate is an estimate of the sale value of the property, calculated from actual registered sales and other property information. Naturally, this information has to be reviewed every few years in order to keep the comparative values of neighbouring properties relatively accurate. This is done on a municipality by municipality basis, so that all neighbouring properties are valued in a similar way. Unfortunately, this can mean that values of a few years ago can become the basis for a Catastral value that may not bear any real relationship to the current value of the land and property. This is certainly the case in Estepona where values have been based on sales in 2007, when prices could be up to twice what they are now. In the past, when sale values have been increasing over the years people have been less disturbed at the low Catastral values.

However, the main concern should not be the individual Catastral value, but its relationship to those of its neighbours. This is where consistency is essential so that everybody is treated in the same way. Equally, the level of value is really of little importance as it is the multiplier that is applied, by politicians and tax authorities, that decides how much actual monetary value it has. The Catastral value is used for calculating capital gain on a property when it is sold and also for the amount of IBI or local property tax that an owner has to pay each year.

It is possible to appeal the Catastral value of a property, but only at the time of revaluation. The timescale is short and the methodology is complex, so that unless there are gross errors it can often just add more expense without an effective result.

When purchasing a property it is important to have sight of both the Land Registry and the Catastral records to ensure that any errors are noted and corrected. If this is not done, it can be that the buyer will be responsible for obtaining licenses and/or paying fines for unauthorised works or even for changing the property back to its former legal state. Whilst conscientious solicitors may endeavour to assist the client in this way, a member of the Survey Spain Network of Chartered Surveyors will often be the only one to compare the size and use of the actual property to the recorded descriptions on the Nota Simple and Catastral records. Differences in these records to the actual building are often a means of identifying potential problems of ownership and/or legality. With this knowledge the potential buyer can then instruct his or her lawyer to ensure that corrections are made prior to purchase and at the cost of the seller.

Addendum: The Spanish tax authorities have announced that they intend to review 4.2 million Catastral values this year throughout Spain. That will almost certainly add to the value and increase to the likelihood of IBI and other property related taxes being raised.
 

Orange & Almond Tort

Almonds and oranges are abundant in Andalucia, we are often given a bag full of oranges by neighbours and we have to be fruitful in our recipes to make the most of the glut. Orange curd, orange marmalade, orange juice,to name a few. The orange is this recipe gives this torte style cake a rich moistness.

Ingredients

1 large orange
3 medium eggs
175g sugar
250g ground almonds
½ tsp baking powder
Icing Sugar to decorate

• Put the orange in a small pan, cover with water and bring ot the boil, simmer for at least an hour.
• Remove from heat, and leave to cool in water overnight.
• Line a spring from cake tin.
• Halve the orange, remove pips, and whizz to smooth paste including skin.
• Whisk together eggs and sugar until pale, fold in almonds and orange puree & baking powder.
• Pour into tin and bake for 40-50 mins at 170 c until skewer comes out clean.
• Let cool.

Serve with crème fraiche or natural greek yoghurt.
 

How about a long walk this summer, or if not an interesting armchair read about one.

By Dick Handscombe who has combined walking Spain with gardening Spain for over 25 years.

Spain is a very special country to walk in as there is a balance between level walking on the coastal and inland plains and in the many mountain ranges that surround the central plain and , most importantly, the weather is good for walking during most of the year. Even in the summer many parts of Spain are cooler than southern Andalucia.

Walks can obviously be an early morning hour or two, a full day, a weekend or a couple of months. We have combined all in walking Spain as the best way to experience it’s history, customs, cuisine, wines, gardens and natural flora and fauna in its’ wild areas.

The longest walk we have done was a 52 day, mid June to early August’, walk from the Bay of Biscay to the Beaches of the Med along the Pyrenean mountain range that separates Spain from France. Overall we walked 950 kilometres and the weather was amazingly kind. We only got wet three times, but on those days we were proverbably drowned. Stimulated by friends and family we have now written up the trek as ‘ Our 52 day retirement adventure along the Spanish Pyrenees’. The book is available from Amazon books as a soft covered book and as a Kindle version. The latter is proving to be a popular way of reading the book as it is less expensive than a traditional book.

We chose this route rather than doing the one at right angles to Santiago de Compostella as it would be quieter, more of a wilderness experience and a real adventure. In the event we met only one other long distance walker during the seven weeksas opposed to several hundred a day on the more populated walk. If you are searching for a life time odyssey consider our route. Take out two months of your early years of your retirement or if young fit into a University summer break or gap year.

We are told that the book is an interesting armchair read for the non-walker, retired walker, local stroller and serious walker alike. We hope you enjoy it.

© Dick Handscombe www.gardenspain.com March 2014.
 

SPANISH GARDENS IN SPAIN

By Dick Handscombe, Author and gardener living in Spain for 25 years.

TYPICAL PROBLEM GARDENS.

Unfortunately many families purchasing properties in Spain do one of three things each not very appropriate for an enjoyable relaxed outdoor life in Spain –which is the main reason given by people for coming to Spain.

• Develop a replica of an urban English garden characterised by a central lawn, straight paths and edges to flower beds and age drive/car standing area. The overall design driven by wanting to look out on an attractive urban landscape from panoramic windows on dull and rainy days, or when escaping inside to escape from the evening midges rather than on designing a garden to live in.

• Develop a pool resort which is a replica of the hotel gardens that they used to stay in for a week or two a year characterised by the most visible part of the garden taken up by the largest pool and surrounding terrace possible with shade provided by large umbrellas, and generally no trees except for one or two in the boundary hedge to hide the house next door..
Many find that’s great for a couple of short holidays in the sun each year but it can become a monotonous never changing view from windows, sheltered covered terraces and from under the umbrellas.

And of course even in Spain the pool will probably be only used from May to October, unless it’s heated and covered with a three metre high sliding cover. And then one has a view of a large greenhouse 365 days a year!

• Attempt to develop a tropical garden like the ones they saw in Asia characterised by dramatic jungle type gardens of tropical flowering and fruiting bushes trees, climbing plants and orchids. This is possible in situations very sheltered from the scorching hot summer winds from Africa and the cold northerly winds from the north and which have a reliable water supply throughout the year.

Unfortunately such gardens can many plants if winter frosts occur in your location.

MORE USEABLE LIVESTYLE GARDENS.

A better alternative is to develop a garden that becomes the main room of the house for most months of the year, a garden designed for living in rather than only looking at. A garden that tempts one to wander through it, to sit in the shade of mature trees in the summer and relax and eat out in sheltered sunny nooks during the cooler winter months and with the views and night time perfumes that prompts one to eat out in it on most nights of the year.

Such a garden is likely to be driven by your vision of an open air lifestyle. A vision based on a detailed analysis of what your dream life in Spain will be and the ways in which your garden design needs to make that dream come true. The alternative is to install and use daily air conditioning and central heating and again live indoors looking out on an inappropriate hostile garden!

A satisfying garden is likely to be characterised by a balance of shady and sunny spots, mature trees within the garden as well as integral with the boundary hedge , internal as well as boundary windbreaks, the pool incorporated into one of a number of smaller connected gardens, attractive internal vistas as one wanders through the garden as well as the preservation of the best distant vistas beyond the boundary walls or hedge, plants appropriate to your summer and winter microclimates, space for some seasonal organically grown fruit and vegetables – it doesn’t require much space to be able to make daily harvests 365 days a year - and perhaps a corner run for one or two hens.

The above concept can be developed in very small gardens as well as in a larger space. We only have a 800 square metre garden around the house but our integrated holistic approach to it’s development enabled us to soon acclimatise to the Spanish climate in a natural way.

Our book ‘Your garden in Spain’ includes a simple lifestyle questionnaire as the first step in designing or redesigning a Spanish garden. The rest of the book and the two sister books ‘Growing healthy fruit in Spain’s and ‘ Growing healthy vegetables in Spain – From sprouting seeds to watermelons’ are designed to take the headaches out of the design, construction, planting and seasonal maintenance of your garden. Over the past twenty five years we have learned much the hard way – there is no need for you to make the same mistakes. Happy lifestyle gardening!

p.s. For convenience the books mentioned and ‘Living well from our garden – Mediterranean Style’ can all be obtained via Amazon Books for convenience. They would all make good Christmas presents.

(c)Dick Handscombe www.gardeninginspain.com November 2013.

(c)Dic w

October in the garden

By Dick Handscombe
Holistic gardener and author living in Spain for 25 years.

With cooler but generally sunny weather so far and the softer soil after late September and early October rains the month will be a busy garden month for me. Busy for four main reasons.
Firstly I did little gardening during September as it remained hot and I had planned three weeks of other activity.

• A restful week of carp fishing for on the Ebro. No personal best this time but a 45lb carp matched my second best and my guiding friend Nick Shattock caught a personal best of 56 pounds. Bigger fish were hooked but lost on the many invisible old tree trunk snags in midstream where the original bank of the river was before the reservoir we fished had been flooded. The amazing night skies reminded one of how local agriculturalists used to study, prior to home and street lighting and television, the patterns and movement of the moon planets and stars to determine the best days for sowings, plantings, prunings, cutting canes, mating animals etc.. When we check the dates in our purchased lunar calendar with those of the older villagers there’s are uncannily similarity.

• A six day tour of Cantabria with a village pensioners coach party. Not only was it historically and scenically interesting for it provided a useful check on the extent of ecological fruit and vegetable growing. Although much of the traditional coastal horticulture of the warm coastal strip, which rarely goes below 4 or 5 degrees in the winter, had ceased as the land was now under new hotels and holiday home urbanisations remaining smallholders and city hobby growers were growing ecological vegetables for sale in weekly markets. But at a price – tomatoes for instance were 4 euros a kilo! But there was a great initiative in the Isla peninsula as this area has been turned into a regional park to control new buildings and to encourage the return of traditional rural activities to help the jobless situation. Red pepper growing was noiw doing well and the weekend before we arrived there had been a red pepper fiesta with markets, visits to growers and a common menu del dia with red peppers in all starters and main courses.

• A week spent polishing a long overdue book about our 52 day trek through the Spanish Pyrenees. This should now be available next month from Amazon Books.

Secondly the recent humid subtropical jungle conditions stimulated lantanas bougainvilleas bignonias and tall salvias into exceptional growth during my absence and they needed an urgent trimming to have paths clear before holding a paella party in the garden last Sunday.


Thirdly with temperatures still reaching the mid-twenties centigrade it’s a great time for entertaining in the garden for plants are full of their autumn flush of flowers and greens are brightly coloured having had the summer dust washed off. Naturally having published my book ‘Your personal guide to making Authentic Valencian Paellas’ a few months ago the first festive day was a paella party with ten friends of seven nationalities. It went down well and another is planned in ten days’ time.


‘Now available from Amazon Books’

Naturally we followed our own advice and most of the ingredients were from the garden. These included the butter lima, runner beans, some of the azafran from our early autumn crocuses, globe artichokes to give a special taste and colour, the chicken and rabbit meat, te fresh egg to bind the meat balls, the red pepper to adorn the top and split the paella into ten helpings plus the rosemary thyme and garlic herbs.

Then back to work. Yesterday the October sowings of autumn/overwintering vegetables began with the sowing of broad bean seeds on an appropriate lunar date, 8 October, from our lunar calendar. Other sowings and plantings of plantlets during the month will be on the following dates.

Root vegetables: 21/23 October, 1” November
Leaf vegetables: 17/18 October , 26/27October
Flower vegetables: 15/16 October, 24/26 October
Fruit vegetables: 15/16 October, 11/12 November

Tomorrow the olive grove needs a strim to tidy it up and make it easier to get round the trees to harvest a few olives for bottling now and the main harvest for oil in a few weeks’ time.
Then the poultry runs need a clean out to top up the compost heap and put down a new layer of rice husk litter.

Before the week is out we will also do a light pruning of untidy branches on the olive trees and citrus trees to feed the rabbits. They love them for the taste and essential vitamins and minerals. Thinking about it the remainder of the fallen carob beans also need harvesting drying to store as a winter feed.

If time will plant up some cuttings of shrubs not often seen in local garden centres to produce presents for friends.

Suspect you have a similar list of October tasks but if you are not really sure of the full range of seasonal tasks lists are included in each of our quartet of books ‘Your Garden in Spain’, ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style’, ‘Growing healthy fruit in Spain’ and ‘Growing healthy vegetables in Spain’. With many English bookshops and book distributors now closed down due to the economic situation the most convenient ways of buying these books are the websites of Amazon Books , The London Book Depository or Santana Books. The latter are based at the entry to Mijas Pueblo so a call to 952 485838 between 10.00 and 12.00 am enable one to call in to buy books or arrange for mail order if you don’t have a computer in Spain.

© Dick Handscombe www.gardenspain.com October 2013.


 

The Nota Simple Explained

 

A Nota Simple is an official extract report that contains a full property description and can be obtained from the local property title registry office or, by subscribers, over the Internet. This is a very important document in Spain, as it contains information about the legal status of a property. If you intend to buy a property of any kind, it is very important to know who is the registered owner, what is the registered description and what legal charges or restrictions are registered against the property.

The information contained in the Nota Simple includes:

*The current owner(s), their relationships and when they bought it;

*Any debts secured on it that must be paid before its ownership can be transferred e.g. mortgages, unpaid taxes, community debts, private debts, etc.;

*The boundaries of the property, though these are often hazily described as just the land owned by their neighbour;

*The total square metres of the land and the gross overwall area of all built structures;

*The use of the property (whether residential, agricultural, etc);

*The rights that others may have on the property e.g. public paths and rights of way, roads, water, sewage, etc.;

*The share of the costs of the community of owners in which it lies;

*And if you are really fortunate, the Catastral reference. (Described in another article)


Before you request a Nota Simple, you will need to provide the following information:

*The full name of the individual owner or owning company. Ideally, but not essentially, you should also have the NIE, CIF or passport number.

Or

*The Property Registry data, which can be either the Finca number or the unique identification number: IDUFIR.

With either of these sets of information you can carry out a search of the whole of Spain and obtain details on all the property owned by an individual or company. As there can be many owners with similar names, it's best if you can restrict the search ideally to the minimum of which registry office the property is registered in.

You can obtain a Nota Simple in Spanish, from the land registry and this can be requested in person at any registry office. Alternatively, go online where requests are usually obtained within 24-48 hours. In both methods there is a small charge. Alternatively, ask somebody with a subscription to obtain information for you.

As stated above, the Nota Simple will contain information as to whether there are debts associated with the property. It is possible for debts of an individual to be attached to the property he owns although they may have no other link to the property itself. Be aware that if there are debts attached to the property, then it is essential that they are cleared before the ownership is passed over to the buyer, otherwise they will remain and become the responsibility of the new owner.

Inaccuracies

You may find, on receipt of the Nota Simple that its description is not the same as the actual property. An error in the description of either accommodation or the floor area is important and should be rectified by the seller prior to the sale. It may be that improvements have been carried out on the property and their absence on the document is sometimes an indication that work has been carried out without permission.

Inaccuracies may also mean that a mortgage valuer working for a Spanish lender or insurer could have to value on a reduced basis, as they are obliged by law to use the lesser of the actual area and that recorded in the title, whenever there is a difference between the two. Outbuildings such as garages, stores and even swimming pools should be recorded too, as this all affects the value of a property. However, unless you have an excellent grip of Spanish or are adept at dealing with Spanish bureaucracy, it is recommended that the Nota Simple is discussed with a legal expert or property professional, to make sure that all is in order and the property meets your requirements.

Assistance

If you would like more information about the Nota Simple and how it could affect you, the team at Survey Spain Network is available to offer informed help and advice. We have the advantage of carrying out Acquisition Surveys of the building and being able to compare the actual property with the Nota Simple and the Catastral description (see other article) and thus make sure that differences are caught prior to purchase, so that correcting them remains the responsibility of the seller and is not transferred to the buyer, at his or her future cost.

Article courtesy of Campbell D. Ferguson, Survey Spain Network – www.surveyspain.com

Help and Advice for Moving to Spain

By Helen Cox

Relocating to an overseas country involves a lot or determination and focus as well as a lot of drive in order to get all of the planning involved in the move taken care of as well as going through with the actual move. Everything needs to be considered and thought through to ensure that the move goes according to plan.

Have you considered your residency in Spain? Where you will work? As well as where your bank account will be and how you will pay for aspects such as tax and insurance? It is highly important that you don't leave things to the last minute and that you plan through every part of your move to make sure that everything goes according to plan.

Below is a list of examples of some of the things that you should ensure that you do before your move to Spain:

• Take a basic Spanish course; learning the national language is essential if you are going to be living in the country, you can't just rely on English

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