Today is “la fiesta del Pilar” (Pilar festival) in Matarraña. The Virgen del Pilar is the patron saint of Zaragoza, and for some reason that is celebrated here as well… Mainly by closing all the shops and going out to hunt.
Also today, we decided to close our bed & breakfast for the winter. From 30+ degrees yesterday, the weather suddenly turned to cold, grey and gloomy. Since the central heating isn’t working yet (waiting for radiator knobs, I’ve been led to understand) and there is no wood stove yet either, it’s getting a tiny bit too frisky. We will open up again when ElTiempo predicts a sunny and warm weekend… or when the central heating works like a charm, whichever comes first.
This summer, we had the perfect guests for a trial run of the B&B. Most were friends, family, ex-classmates or ex-coworkers; everybody was happy to help us out by giving tips on how to improve. The basics were all covered: a cosy bed with fluffy covers, a clean shower with good water pressure, a balcony with a view and chairs to sit on. A few things weren’t, like outside tables to put your drinks on or nightstands (Axel still plans on making those himself). A few things improved over the course of the summer, like the shampoo bottle holder in the shower or the chairs in the bedroom.
And of course, there was breakfast: freshly baked bread (almost) every morning, cakes and toast, hard boiled eggs, home made jam, honey, cheese, cereals, yoghurt, juice, coffee, tea, fruit, almonds; you name it, we thought we had it. Until our first Catalan guests pointed out that tomatoes, olive oil and garlic are an elemental part of breakfast as well 🙂
We learned that guests don’t always do what you’d expect them to. We expected our guests to go on trips to rivers and mountain trails (check), visit castles and museums (check), eat at local restaurants and bars (check), go to fiestas and ferias (check), go look for vultures and ibex (check) – we did not expect them to go on road trips to faraway places to find foodstuffs not available here (check), help out plucking chickens and building walls (check), or to use our remote and off-grid farm as a base for daily city trips (check as well). Good to know though that those are possibilities as well!
We already suspected it, but we got confirmation that this is a great place to have a party. We hosted over 100 people in May – too bad we had to put up tents as the weather wasn’t cooperating, but the result was stunning – and the food was excellent, the music wonderful, the atmosphere better than we could have hoped for. We hope to host more parties and events in the coming years; we still have to organise an official opening party and invite all the locals…
We’re closing for winter now, but this doesn’t mean we’ll be sitting still and waiting for spring. We’ve got so many things planned!
First of course, there’s plenty of things inside the house to finish. The heating and the upstairs bathroom (both of which to be done by the plumber); building and buying furniture so we can finally empty all the boxes in the back room; and decorating – we’ve got most things already, it’s just a matter of finding the right place for it (and a nail to hang it with).
Then there’s things around the house: in November and December, we’ll host a group of volunteers to help us build a terrace wall around the house. Collecting stones, building the wall using drywall, filling it up with earth and then planting things to make it pretty; it will make the guest area look so much more attractive. When the terrace wall is built, we’ll also be able to build the gas bottle storage and the fixed chicken coop.
There’s paperwork as well: in order to comply with all the legislation, we have to get our water supply, the plumbing and the electricity certified, get an official visit from the town council and probably much more – things have a tendency to pop up when you think you’ve done everything on the list. We’ve started the process a while ago, there’s no telling when it will be done.
And let’s not forget the garden; after a not very successful summer, we’ve invested in decent (organic / heirloom) seeds, and we’re also investing in better infrastructure; raised beds in a fenced vegetable garden with irrigation on the spot should really make a difference in production.
Last but not least, there’s animals. At this moment, we’ve got 8 chickens: Fatima was born in February 2016 (from the second batch I hatched with my incubator), and is faithfully laying an egg a day, hasn’t skipped a day since she started laying. Ramon & Ramona are 5-months-old Brahmas we got from our friends Dan & Mell as company for Fatima – but after their flock was decimated by a lost hunting dog, they might go back to live with them after all. Then there’s 5 chicks; 2 (a hen and a rooster) are almost 6 weeks old and descendants of our Sanchita’s, and 3 are from eggs I got at Kurkum Farm. These are almost 3 weeks old and definitely the cuddliest and funniest chicks I’ve ever had; I’m guessing they’re 2 hens and a rooster… but time will tell. However, 3 to 5 hens are definitely not enough to feed our guests throughout the summer, so we’ll definitely add more; we’re working towards 8 to 12 laying hens (and a rooster to protect them).
We’d love to add more animals to our little farm; we’re looking for animals to graze our lands so the grass doesn’t grow too long, and to produce manure (fertiliser) at the same time. We’ve been looking at Kune Kune pigs (far away & a lot of hassle to import), goats (a lot of work to herd and constantly keep an eye on), sheep (they like to get sick and drop dead), ponies (fun but they eat a lot, probably more than our finca has to offer) and I keep coming back to alpaca’s… They’re quite the investment, but they might totally be worth it. To be continued!
As you can see, we definitely won’t be sitting still while the B&B is closed. I’ve also got a few more small (paid) jobs lined up, and I’m now actively looking for writing jobs or assignments. As an exercise, I’ll be participating to NaNoWriMo in November. The aim of that month-long event is to write a book in just 30 days. Not sure yet if I’ll be trying fiction again this year, or maybe write a book about our adventures in Spain… In any case, I’ll need a lot of inspiration so fingers crossed!