Uncorked . . .

corky 7MANY interesting things grow on the ridge of the Sierra de la Contraviesa, the fold of hills that separates the Sierra Nevada mountain range from the Mediterranean sea. One of those things is cork. And – let’s acknowledge an obvious truth – things do not come more interesting than cork. Here are ten significant facts . . .

  1. Andalucia is the world’s largest producer of cork – which is harvested from the cork oak, quercus suber. Portugal was the largest producer prior to wildfires destroying vast areas of forest in 2003
  2. A cork harvester has to undergo two years’ training before he or she is allowed to strip cork from a tree
  3. Cork is harvested between the dates of June 15 and August 15
  4. The material is used for aeroplane insulation as well as obvious things such as wine-bottle stoppers
  5. Early man and early woman used cork for firewood in Africa as far back as 6,000 BC, and traces have been found of its use in southern Spain as early as 4,000 BC. Raquel Welch used burnt cork as an eye-liner in One Million Years BC, and I have to admit I actually went to the pictures to see that film
  6. It is thought that corks were first used as stoppers by Greeks and Phoenicians to seal their little urns
  7. Corks have been used to seal glass bottles since the 17th Century. Their sealant qualities are said to have been first utilised in this fashion by a French Benedictine monk called Dom Pérignon
  8. A wine bottle cork is not one single piece of bark. It comprises several layers of cork compressed together, with the highest-quality cork being at the ends
  9. The world’s annual production of cork is about 200,000 tonnes. When you consider how light the material is, that’s an awful lot of cork. In fact, it would cover Wales to a depth of half a metre (I made that last bit up)
  10. Some other uses for cork: badminton shuttlecocks; floor tiles (the type that turn up at the corners after a couple of years but still keep your feet warm); bulletin boards; fishing floats and fishing rod handles; acoustic and thermal insulation; model railway scenery. See, I told you it was interesting

corky 3corky 2corky 4 corky 5corky 6So we drive into a cork oak forest on the crown of the Sierra de la Contraviesa. And to tell you the truth it looks and feels a bit sinister. All these half-stripped trees, robbed of their skin and dignity. Or is that just me bestowing human values on lumps of wood?

Because we haven’t seen cork trees before, we rummage about in the undergrowth to see what we can find. We find cork. Not surprising, perhaps, but if we hadn’t found any we’d have been pretty disappointed.

FOOTNOTE:
FOR more interesting stuff about cork, take a look at this fantastic website, Andalucia.com

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31 thoughts on “Uncorked . . .

    1. Ah, nothing happens to cork on that date, Martin. Apparently, the trees are so delicate that the stripping season has to be limited to a two-month period, so the dates are set to protect the trees rather than improve the bark. Corking good question though.
      Cheers, Alen

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  1. I’m still waiting for the opportunity to say to someone ‘go easy with that cork, it doesn’t grow on trees you know.’ Until that happens I’ll quote some of your facts instead, including the one about Wales except I won’t tell them that one’s false.

    And I’ll also let you in on a shameful secret: I’m a landscape architect and I didn’t know cork came from an oak tree! Time for a career change I think. You don’t happen to know where mahogany comes from, do you?

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    1. I expect being a landscape architect is a good laugh with all those ha-has about, or it that a well-worn joke? Is it a joke at all?
      I don’t know where mahogony comes from, but I’ve see bits of it in B&Q. I can keep an eye open for some but I can’t promise anything. It doesn’t come from Wales, does it?
      Cheers, Alen

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  2. I didn’t know all this, Alen, although I think I half-knew some of it! Those poor trees certainly do look naked. What a load of uses for cork! That guy Dom Perignon certainly started something. I remember seeing cork oaks when we were in Portugal once – long time ago now.

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    1. Hi Jo. Dom Perignon did a great deal for the wine industry, in particular sparkling wines. I get the impression he was more interested in alcohol than religion, though he was not alone in that respect in the monastic world. I’ve never been to Portugal. Must pay a visit now it’s only next door.
      Cheers, Alen

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    1. Hi Carol. Cork is one of those everyday things that people take for granted but has a fascinating story behind it. There must be some good walks up there through the forest, so I shall look into it.
      Cheers, Alen

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  3. Where did you put Ferdinand The Bull?

    I had to make sure it was a cork tree Ferdinand sat under and I found a story in the story.
    The book was published in 1936 and was banned in Francoist Spain. Hitler burned the book, but he did with many books. You should have a look at wiki where I found the info 🙂
    The pictures and all the info are great stuff !!!
    All the best,
    Hanna

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    1. The Wikipedia account is very interesting and illustrates just how touchy those fascists were. Mind you, I think Stalin was a bit over the top too by venerating the book to such a high degree.
      Alen

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  4. Hi Alen. The Washington Post brings this interview with Margaret Leaf in 1986 as a result of ‘Ferdinand the Bull”s 50th Birthday:

    “…As Margaret Leaf remembers, her husband was “accused of being a pacifist, accused of being a pansy, accused of being everything.”

    “. . . People have taken [Ferdinand] so seriously. What my husband wanted to do was write a story for Robert Lawson to illustrate. He thought he’d write a story about an animal that nobody had written about . . . and the only Spanish names he knew were Ferdinand and Isabella — because of Columbus.”

    What did he say about the controversy — written about in the New York Times, The New Yorker and other publications — generated over the argument that his story was a thinly disguised but powerful argument against aggression? “He thought it was silly,” Margaret Leaf said.

    Silly or not, the attention made Ferdinand a star.

    Life magazine recounted how bracelets, necklaces and dolls, crafted in the image of Ferdinand, flooded both children and adult markets. In 1937, the book knocked “Gone With the Wind” from the No. 1 best-seller spot. Walt Disney soon was charmed and a seven-minute cartoon of the gentle animal hit the silver screen…”

    It’s funny how humour and naive stories can make the world insecure 🙂

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    1. Strange how, then and now, being a pacifist is somehow dangerous, immoral and naive. There is a similar parallel at the moment in British politics, particularly in Labour Party. Those calling themselves “moderates” voted to bomb Syria, while those branded “far left” voted not to. Again, in the argument over whether or not to renew the Trident nuclear submarine fleet – and the nuclear warheads that go with it – the “moderates” are for and the “far left” against. Guess which ones are being made out to be the villains in the British press. Not the so-called “moderates”. And there’s nothing moderate about dropping bombs on people and ramping up the arms race.
      Anyhow, Ferdinand seems to have caused quite a stir. A few years ago I caught the end of a film about the Spanish Civil War, and that involved a bull caught between the two front lines. I have searched for it since but I don’t recall its name. Don’t suppose your research could throw any light on that, could it?

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              1. Yes, I thought so 🙂
                If I were you I would go searching in youtube with selected words in Spanish. I did that myself and loads of films popped up. That’s great but I haven’t seen the end of the film and lack knowledge to choose between them. You know set ups faces moods and style…
                Did you see the towel? 🙂

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    1. Hi you two. Next time we go I’ll look at the road map first and then we’ll know where we are. Good day out, nevertheless. See you again soon.
      Cheers, Alen
      PS The drains are working perfectly.

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