After the rain come sunshine & hard work

After the rain come sunshine & hard work

You might have heard it – we had quite a wet and foggy winter. Which meant that despite our best efforts, work wasn’t really progressing well… For every day we were out and about making things happen, there were at least two or three days when our (clay) soil was too compacted, the weather too rainy or just too plain cold to do what we had planned.

However, that all changed in the middle of February… Since almost ten days we have volunteers staying with us and neighbours helping us out, and things are going so fast that it makes my heart leap with joy. We have about two more weeks of work in front of us, and then it’s time to clean up and get everything ready for our first bed & breakfast guests to arrive; we’ve already got a few bookings between March and October and we’re very much looking forward to it.
In the mean time, I thought I’d share a few pictures of what’s going on here…

At the back of the house

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Last year, a lot of earth was dumped at the back of the house. Nothing much grows there at the moment and it gets muddy all the time – so we’re doing some landscaping…
First, we poured a 1m60 border of concrete along the back wall. Not only can this serve as a base for a recycling unit, a wood storage, gas storage, gardening / working station and chicken coop – it’s also much easier to walk on when the weather isn’t perfect.
The wood storage was built in one day by our volunteers Laura & Pietz – and the day after, they tackled the recycling tower (done in just a few hours!) and now they’re working on stone stairs towards the solar system shed.
Our friend Katrien is working at a brand new (and super fancy) chicken coop, with the help of our Belgian volunteer Brecht. It started out as a coop, then became a chicken house, the idea of building a castle came and went and now it looks like it’s going to be a chicken cathedral. Guess we’ll have to call our next rooster “Cardinal”.
In the next few weeks hopefully we’ll be able to continue on the chicken coop, finish the stone stairs and maybe start on preparing the back yard and setting up fencing for the chicken run. It’s going to be bigger than before!

Around the house

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You might have seen that we’ve been working on a terrace wall in front of / around the house since May (2016). I’m very proud to announce that it’s almost done now; it only needs some finishing touches, and it does need to be filled with a lot more soil. Which should happen on Wednesday, with the help of our friend George. Once the soil is in place, we’ll add on manure, planting soil and mulch – and we’ll be all ready to start sowing and planting! I’m very much looking forward to that part.

The side entrance to the guest rooms has been tiled (thank you Dan!), and Axel has been doing a few repairs and improvements to the guest balconies. As we speak, Axel and Brecht have started on the front yard; we’ve been discussing the design for weeks and hope it will be both convenient for me to work in, and beautiful to look at. We’re loosening the earth first, but we’re building raised beds on top of it anyway. The garden beds will be filled with herbs and edible flowers (or just vegetables with beautiful blossoms), and maybe some berry bushes.

The vegetable garden

The vegetable garden is a work in progress – but work is progressing, for once. After the last two seasons, we decided on building hexagonal raised beds – only time will tell if this is the right decision, but so far we think it’s going to look fabulous. The idea is to make a few raised beds every now and then, so in the end it will be all raised beds – and paths in between. So far the fig, kaki, plum and two apple trees have gotten their own raised beds – so we can plant a “guild” of other plants around them. We also bought all the accessories for a watering system… now only to install it before the heath of summer.

This year, we’ve sown the seeds for the vegetables inside… in the living room… Axel made me an extra big table that will hold four of those big polystyrene seed trays. I’ve got plenty of seedlings now: corn, tomato, kale, cabbage, onions, lettuce, more tomato and cauliflower… more to be sown next week. And soon we’ll have to plant out a few of them at least. So much to look forward to!

The chickens

Ah, the chickens… there’s highs and lows there.

First, there’s the incubating. I did a lot of that; I had an incubator with our own eggs + one of Kurkum Farm hatch in January, four little brown-layers-with-feathered-feet (chicks of Fatima & Ramon) and one little peeping Tom are now hopping around happily, they’re about four weeks old now.
After this, I borrowed our friends Dan & Mell’s big incubator and put in another batch – this time it contained our own eggs, Dan & Mell’s Brahma eggs, some eggs from Kurkum Farm and some eggs from Tierruca (the place we’re buying our alpacas at). There were 25 eggs in total… However, due to several different reasons, only 7 hatched. It’s a pretty diverse little group of Brahma, bantam and feathered-feet-layers though, and I hope they’ll be everything I’m hoping for.
At this moment, I’ve got seven Silver Brahma eggs in my small incubator (due around the 11th of March), and 15 more Brahma eggs + a few of our own in the big incubator (due about 5 days later). Fingers crossed for a bunch of healthy and happy chicks!

The adult chickens have been on rotating pastures since the beginning of the new year, with the help of an electric fence (which is super easy to move) and the chickshaw (moveable chicken coop). I love this setup, and am definitely going to write a review on the chickshaw soon… we’ve had it almost a year now. The chickens seem to love it as well; they’re safely inside the fence, and they get a new bit of land to scratch up and explore every few weeks. What’s not to like? They’re getting lots of kitchen scraps, 99% organic food and of course bugs and weeds from out there. Our eggs are now bright orange and very, very tasty.
On the bad news side, there’s something wrong with Tita. She’s been in quarantine for a week now, but we can’t seem to figure out what her problem is… she’s not really weak, but has trouble walking (or flying) straight and falls over at times. She’s getting some supplements and we still have some hope left… not much though, as she doesn’t seem to be getting better (not getting worse either, but she’s not fit enough to join the rest in the run). Fingers crossed for her!
Last but not least, we’ve said goodbye to our very beautiful but very useless Brahma rooster Ramon a few days ago now, I’m writing a separate post about this (and about the uses and uselessness of roosters). Tito is now head honcho but he’s not sure how to handle that – he’s always been a bit insecure and being left with two older hens (Fatima and Ramona) doesn’t do much for his self-esteem… as long as he behaves, he can stay though – or until one of the little chicks steps up and becomes big boss. We still have several months before that.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this small update – it’s so nice to get feedback and hear how so many of you are following our adventures here in Spain. There will be many more to follow!

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Mas del Encanto: Past, Present & Future.

Mas del Encanto: Past, Present & Future.

Thankfully, no scary ghosts visited us over the holidays. However, we’re in the middle of a winter break, and that is giving us ample time to think.

We’re on a break from the B&B, but that doesn’t mean we’re lazying about: we’ve got plenty of winter projects going on.

Making it pretty

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Jabba’s guests Tilly and Tuppence are helping him inspecting the progress on the terrace wall (november 2016)

First and foremost, we needed to make things prettier. Although the guest rooms have been finished since May 2016, the surroundings of the house still looked like a bulldozer went through (which it actually did, it was a construction site after all). In november and december we’ve had a group of volunteers over to help us build a terrace wall in front of the house; next month, we’ll be planting plants, herbs, flowers and shrubs on the new terrace so the view from the guest rooms will be even better than before.

Making it comfortable

Since this winter, we’ve got central heating. Currently it works on a gas boiler, which is a good back-up but we don’t want to depend on fossil fuels forever; in a few weeks, we’re having a wood burner installed which will not only heat the radiator water, but provide for hot showers in winter as well. Bye bye gas bills, hello heating our house with wood from olive & almond pruning!

Making it practical

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Foggy weather & a cold sun

In the first part of the winter, we had a good group of volunteers at the farm to help us work on the terrace wall – however, it rained for most of the time – which meant they spent a lot of time inside. Worse: they spent most of that time in the “cave”, digging it out until it started resembling a normal cellar, more or less… It just needs a bit of finishing and a floor, and then we’ll be able to use it for (wine?) storage.

We still have a few things to finish this winter – building wood storage, building storage for the gas bottles, tiling a few bits that get too muddy in the winter and too dusty in the summer… Hopefully by half March, it will all be perfect.

Expanding the chicken project

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Fatima, who is faithfully laying us one egg a day. She only stopped for two days around New Year’s, it was just too cold and dark and foggy. 

I’m really full of ideas for my chicken project!

First, the chickens already had a fixed run since last spring – they will get a fixed coop now as well. That way, they’ll be completely safe from predators and still have space to run around.
I will be separating the roosters from the laying hens; the roosters will be kept inside a moveable electric fence, and move around on the land while keeping the grass short, fertilising the ground and doing some bug control. It’s an experiment (some people say it’s possible to keep several roosters peacefully if there are no hens about – others have bad experiences with it), but we really need chickens to clean up the land and I would rather keep my best layers close to the house.

I am also doubling up on the incubating efforts; I now have the first (small) batch of eggs in, but in a few weeks our friends Dan & Mellissa are kindly lending me their (bigger) incubator and I will hopefully be hatching chicks until May or so. I will incubate my own eggs (of course), but will also order fertile eggs from other places for a bit of variation. I have plans to get some Barnevelders, Araucanas (which lay eggs with blue coloured shells), Marans (dark brown eggs) and of course more Brahmas. Some of these will be up for sale; as small chicks (4-6 weeks old, if you want to see your chickens grow up), pullets (4-6 months old, if you want egg-laying chickens) or for chicken dinner, if we end up having too many. Contact me if you’re interested!

If all goes well, we hope to have eggs for sale by summertime. They will be organic and free range.

Preparing for Spring season in the garden

The most fun part at the moment, is preparing the garden for spring. Thankfully after a few foggy and rainy months, the sun is back (and it looks like it’s here to stay… at least for the next few days). Axel has built me a few raised beds (he’ll make more!) and I’ve been filling them up with compost, manure and organic material. I’ll be sowing ground cover in them first, and plant out seedlings as soon as I can… Hopefully resulting in an abundant harvest this spring.

The trees have been well taken care of too; most almonds have been pruned, and many of the trees got a protective circle around them, clearing the grass and making a small trench that will catch some extra water. A layer of mulch will be applied around them (next week!), for fertilising and protection.

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Ramon crowing his lungs out

Preparing for Spring season at the B&B

We’ve learned so much from last year’s trial season – and now we’re taking these lessons and planning for next year’s first real bed & breakfast season. Getting the paperwork done (soon! I hope), installing a small kitchen in the breakfast room, buying little things our guests missed in their rooms last season, and deciding on pricing. Unfortunately we had to slightly raise the rates for next season, to account for the share agents like booking.com or airbnb.com are getting; however we’re doing an “early bird” promotion before we go public, so people can book at lower prices if they book in time.
More on that later this week!

Splitting up the blog…

Splitting up the blog…

This little blog has taught me so many things. It has taught me that it’s ok to open up: I can write about our mistakes and our bad days, and it’s ok to share our successes and our good days with the world as well. It has taught me that although most people think we’re crazy for moving to Spain and starting a new life here, they also think it’s bold and courageous and they like following our adventures here. But most of all, it has taught me that I love to write about those adventures – and that I love to share everything I’m learning here.

The adventure started years ago, when we first started dreaming about an Earthship somewhere on grassy meadows in the south of France – and it took a leap when we bought our land in Matarraña (Spain turned out to be quite a bit sunnier and just as pretty as France). There were other milestones – the day I got my (online) Permaculture Design Certificate with Geoff Lawton, the day we moved to Spain, the day we moved to our little maset (the little donkey shed Axel rebuilt for us), and finally the day we moved into our new house.

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Our “maset” – the converted stable we lived in before the big house was finished.

I now felt like it was time for another milestone… this week, I split up my blog. I will continue to post personal updates, news on the bed & breakfast, the adventures of our volunteers and some chicken stories on this blog – but I’ve also started a new blog. I’m looking forward to using that blog as my big outlet: I can’t wait to share information about permaculture, homesteading, small scale farming and keeping animals. I will post my favourite recipes, share tips on how to go back to basics (even if it’s just a tiny bit) – and as a sociologist I would love to write about the social aspects of permaculture, gender roles on a homestead or the importance of an utopia in the modern world (fans of Jurgen Habermas, hold on to your hats). Of course there will be chickens as well, and volunteers, and everyday observations about life in Spain.

I would like to invite you all to take a look at my new blog on www.simplelivingspain.com (yes, it’s basically about Simple Living in Spain). And maybe you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, and get a weekly overview of cool things I’ve read, interesting videos I’ve watched and news from the farm? If you have any suggestions on what you’d like to read there, please go ahead and contact me – in the comments, on my (new!) Facebook page, on Twitter, Instagram or good old-fashioned e-mail. My (digital) door is always open, and I’m always looking for more inspiration – or interesting subjects to stick my nose in.

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Stuff I’m going to be writing about on my SimpleLivingSpain.com blog: chickens, living off the grid, growing our own food and cooking / baking it, gardening, living in Spain and much much more… 

Closed for business, and ready for some real work!

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.

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This morning’s sunrise… cloudy but stunning. Goes well with my favourite Turner painting…

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…

This week's visit to Jordi's pottery workshop - he made us beautiful custom light covers.

This week’s visit to Jordi’s pottery workshop – he made us beautiful custom light covers.

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.

The twins (currently called Tito & Tita) currently live in what someday is going to be our bathroom... they don't mind when we do a bit of work there.

The twins (currently called Tito & Tita) currently live in what someday is going to be our bathroom… they don’t mind when we do a bit of work there. 

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!

They don't sit still long enough to take a decent picture, but believe me when I say they are the cutest

They don’t sit still long enough to take a decent picture, but believe me when I say those 3 are the cutest.

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!

2 years in Spain, and we’re not going home yet!

Today, it has been 2 years since we arrived here with our animals and things. True, in the beginning we still spent a lot of time in the North; only in the last few months have we truly been able to say that we live here. Our business (the bed & breakfast) is now up and running which means we’re paying taxes, we’re in the process of applying for residency, we’ll need a Spanish driver’s license, and then there’s the registration of the house (like everything here, it’s a process, not just a form to fill in).

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The house as it is now – still a lot of work on the front garden.

Yesterday, I re-read the blog post I wrote last year, when we had been here 1 year. That first year, we learned so many practical skills! And boy, did we love living in that tiny maset… Since then, we’ve lived in our friends’ John & Roz’ house for winter (Mas del Caballero – it’s a lovely, big and comfortable house, and available for rent all summer); after that we spent some time in the maset again, waiting for the big house to be finished. Then we moved into that big house way before it was finished… and we’ve still got a long way to go.

Yesterday, I wrote a first version of this “2 year anniversary” blog post – and I didn’t like it one bit. It read like a terribly bad review: the lack of rain, the veggie garden not producing much and the olive trees without a single olive (both due to the lack of rain), the financial circus and paperwork processes we’re going through at the moment, the chicken massacres, our craving for some alone time, and for quality time with friends at the same time – and did I mention the lack of rain?

Truth is, we’ve got so much to be thankful for.

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One of my new favourite places around here: Mas de Buñol, the vulture observatory in Valderrobres. 

We’ve got great friends around here, a few people we can really count on. And as we’re getting to know more people around here, I feel more comfortable “moving around”: when we arrive at some village fiesta we’re no longer being stared at while we awkwardly stand by ourselves until we catch some familiar face – as soon as we get somewhere there’s kisses and hugs, beer changing hands and news being relayed.

Our big-ass house was built in no time, and is almost exactly like we thought it would be – big, beautiful and not-quite-finished-yet 🙂 Although the ground floor is all ready (just lacking a few details, we’ll get those sorted this winter), so we’re able to offer guests everything they need: a comfortable bed and a cosy lounge / breakfast area; a tour of the finca and some  stories if our guests seem interested; a fresh and tasty meal (my bread-making experiments haven’t all turned out great, but thankfully there’s always some backup); and our advice on where to go for the day – sometimes we book an activity for our guests, or even go with them to translate. In short, we’re enjoying having a bed & breakfast and we’re even getting into some kind of routine. The season is now as good as over, which will give us the chance to make some changes and additions that will make the next season go even smoother. That, and of course tackling the paperwork and regulations stuff.

Somehow we managed to keep our far-away friends as well. The friendships are different; to start with, there’s no regular birthday parties and poker nights anymore, and we’re often the last ones to hear what’s going on in their lives. But then again, when we see them we get to stay over (or they come here for a holiday) and we’ve got all the time in the world to catch up. And sometimes, I get an out-of-the-blue phone call from the lowlands or a bunch of pictures from my nieces and nephews growing up, and those just make my day!

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Axels friends from Amsterdam came over for a weekend of poker, good food, lots of wine and general merriment

A friend asked me last week if we were ever homesick… no, not ever. We do miss some events and big things – my nephews Remy and Amaury being born, big (birthday) parties, weekends away with friends, people moving house, Queens day in Amsterdam – but never for a moment have we regretted making the move here. Whatever happens, I believe we’re living in one of the most beautiful places we could possible live, we’ve got each other and the future is looking bright. What more could we wish for?

Reset and try again

In most ways, I consider our lives here a big success. We couldn’t be happier, we’re “living the dream”, and I’m not going to bother you (again) with how beautiful it is here and how much the sunshines makes each day more glorious.

However, it’s not like everything is going perfectly. At times, it seems like we’re building failure upon failure. Examples? We have plenty of those. When your zucchini fail to appear, and your neighbour just laughs at your attempts to grow organic tomatoes. When you can literally can not find a single olive hanging off your olive trees. When you have other priorities in spring, and just don’t get enough things planted to feed you and your housemates as planned. When you just can’t handle the heat for days and days in a row. When the tiles just fall off the stairs. When there are no bees around to fertilise your garden. When you do your best living and working with a couple of volunteers who hardly speak any English (or other common languages), and they just end up hating you. When you keep spraining your ankle (and don’t really get to give it a rest). When your self made “almond milk” turns out to be this white watery liquid with a lot of must at the bottom. When you make a (very very stupid) mistake and the chickens all get killed.

Of course, my first reaction is to blame myself  (in many cases, it is my fault and nobody else’s) and feel bad about the whole thing. Turns out that doesn’t really help.

So the only option left, is “reset and try again”… Failure is everything those mushy quotes say it is – we’ve made mistakes (we’re making them all the time!), and those would really be failures if we didn’t learn from it, or if we didn’t try again. Now it’s time to kick out a few of the original plans, and instead… We sit down. Take a deep breath. Give ourselves some credit for we’ve realised already in such a small time – and tackle what really needs to be done in the weeks to come. And after that, we’ll think some more: make new plans, decide on other projects, do what we think we should do at that time. Live life by the moment, instead of letting our dreams be broken by unrealistic expectations. Cut ourselves some slack, take some time off. Maybe try and get some more sleep.

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And most of all, think about all the things that are not going wrong. This summer, we’ve had some great guests already – old and new friends, long lost (or never lost) family members. We’ve had super volunteers as well – always ready to pitch in and really help out whenever necessary. We’re finally making stuff: hummus with our own chickpeas, mustard from our own seeds, our olives are tasting amazingly good, marzipan from our left over almonds getting made as we speak, made amaretto last week, planning to make fresh “tinto de verano” tonight. More and more things are getting finished: the last step of the outside stairs is finally there, our current workaway-volunteers are grouting the last bit of inside tiles that still needed to be done, we’re getting help on Friday to finish the wall around the water deposit,… And then there’s the shooting stars in this amazing black night sky… they really make you forget everything else.

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Bruno Duran / GeoPixel organise stargazing nights in a few different places, now the Perseids are coming through again.

Calm before the storm

We’ve now been working on this project for about 3,5 years. First there was the period of looking-for-land; then (a little over 3 years ago) we came here, fell in love and bought our land. Since then, there has been a lot of travelling to and fro; at first we lived in Amsterdam and came here on “vacation” to talk to the architect, get to know the area and arrange for things to happen on our land. After a while, we travelled back and forth so much we started feeling a bit homeless; we would rent something in Spain, have a base in Belgium and a few people who always had our backs (and a bed to sleep in) in Amsterdam – but there was no place we could really call “home”. Until 3 weeks ago, when we decided to spend the first night in our new house; it wasn’t finished yet, but it immediately felt like home.

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Your weekly rainbow (although this one is very, very faint)

Two weeks ago, we celebrated our marriage and our new lives here with friends and family (mostly friends from abroad, and a few people from over here who have been sharing our lives intensively for the past few months). After the last guest was gone, we took a deep breath, and took a bit of time off to unpack, get to know our new house, get a few smaller things done and generally relax. Today is officially the last day of this “calm before the storm”; tomorrow there will be a meeting and a workshop, and the arrival of new workawayers.

We’ve got quite a planning for the next few weeks. The first week will be all about landscaping: getting rid of all the stones that somehow got dumped around our house, preparing (and maybe building?) the wall that will form a terrace in front of the house, setting up slightly raised beds so I can start planting tons of stuff in them for the summer, and building a low wall around the planter in the gallery.

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We even surprised ourselves and volunteered to host a Kurkum EcoVida gathering on Sunday 29th. In the morning, everyone and anyone is free to come to our place and help us out for a few hours; we will set up garden beds in front of the house (clean out small construction leftovers first), gather stones to build terrace walls with, and de-assemble pallets so we can use the wood to make furniture with. After the work, everybody brings something so we can have a big lunch together; there’s some amazing vegetarian / vegan cooks in that group – and I’m excited about being able to bake something again. If you happen to find yourself in the area that morning, feel free to come and drop by to see the new house, get a tour of the finca, meet some great people and maybe lend us a hand in the process. In the afternoon (after lunch), we’re all invited to go to the Boodaville Festival in Caseres which looks amazing with loads of interesting workshops.

June will be all about getting ready for summer: we have the guest rooms to finish – they need bathroom sinks, a few accessories (night stands, lamps, bathroom stuff) and a last layer of paint before the first guests can come in July. We’ll need to work (more!) in the veggie garden, so we will hopefully get a decent yield from it again – I’m hoping for at least zucchini, tomatoes and pumpkin, like last year. We’ll also set up the garden in front of the house; the design I have in my head has a mix of herbs, flowers and vegetables, an automatic watering system and winding footpaths that allow us to easily care for the garden, but also to get from A to B fast. Needless to say, I’m still working on that design.

A lemon tree, the first one to add some colour to our gallery.

A lemon tree, the first one to add some colour to our gallery.

In between all that, and as it’s getting too hot to work outside already in the afternoon (26 degrees as we speak!) I plan to do a fair lot of writing – or rather, a fair lot of research and a bit of writing. As I’m a sociologist by education, I’m fascinated by the big picture of what’s happening here – groups of people moving elsewhere and congregating in certain places to start a different kind of life; I also want to get more into the sociology of permaculture, and rest assured that you will hear all about that in one or more blog posts over the next few months.