2017 reflections

When a New Year begins and you glance back on the year that’s passed, its easy to feel like not much has been achieved! Its simple to feel like you’re sanding still or, looking at the big picture, that you didn’t achieve what you set out to.

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I’ve been doing a little reflecting and actually 2017 was a good year for us!

So, in an effort to feel good about the past year and head into this New Year with positivity, here’s a chronicle of what we HAVE achieved this year!

A big portion of time last year was spent planning a wedding! Yes, we got married! I feel this is a pretty big achievement. 22885816_10155969227335087_1607766196530696372_nWe planned a whole wedding, pretty much via WhatsApp and it was the most fantastic day! Friends and family all made a huge effort to come to Spain and celebrate with us and we couldn’t have felt more blessed. We are both lucky to have such amazing friends and family surrounding us, not only on our wedding day, but to feel their support in everything that we are doing with our choice to move out here. Most people came to visit the land and our project, and whether or not they think we are crazy, they all showed us a huge amount of love and enthusiasm for what we are doing. We had the most amazing time celebrating with everyone and although we were absolutely shattered by the end of it all, it was definitely the highlight of 2017!

Our second biggest highlight was just after the wedding. Our first olive harvest! SONY DSCBeing part of the process, learning how to harvest and process the olives, as well as being part of the hub and buzz of ‘olive talk’ in town was super exciting. And at the end of it all, we have litres of liquid gold to see us through for a long while! The olive oil we produced is truly out of this world; and yes, we could possibly be slightly biased, knowing the days of hard graft that went into producing the stuff, but it really is the best olive oil I have ever tasted!

Another big achievement this year has been a feeling of really being part of our community. We have been quite insular as we have so much to do on the land it can be so easy to go days without seeing or speaking to anyone else. But I have since joined a singing group in town, were I have been embraced wholeheartedly by the girls I sing with that I feel truly honoured to be part of their chorus! We sing four part harmony barbershop and its loads of fun! I’ve also joined a band where I sing backing vocals.

wazifaWith both groups we’ve been practising and gigging and it not only gets me off the land twice a week but I also have performances to attend (usually at fun things, like, Christmas markets, or in a Tea garden or an Art gallery). Its introduced me to two groups of bloody lovely people, a mix of people from all over the place and I have made friends for life this year in our little town! We get out and about much more to see friends nowadays which is great. The husband has also joined a Capoeira class and so he’s also been introduced to some lovely people while doing something he loves!

Overall a truly positive 2017 in terms of making friends, being social, going to parties, singing, dancing and generally enjoying life. Never underestimate the value of community. Or friendship. Or even just saying hello to people on the street. Yes, it makes popping in to town a much bigger mission, because you bump into several people every time you go in, but it’s so worth it. We love that we need to allocate at least an hour-and-a- half when we head into town just because we are bound to stop for coffee with someone….twice!

This year was also cause for celebration when we finally got our water rights! Huzzah!

Full Alberca
Full Alberca

Not only did we get them, but we also got into a good rhythm for flood irrigating, and then, in turn, had bumper vegetable crops as well as harvests from the trees (olives, figs, pomegranates, and almonds). We flooded the land every three weeks for an hour and a half. The white water comes down the ascequia so quickly that it was hard to initially control the flow (cue hysterical laughter through the fence from our Spanish neighbours) but by mid summer we’d cracked it and we got the biggest prize of all…..a big smile and a thumbs up from Antonio through the fence! Winning!

Our garden this year has been pretty epic! We had some successes and some failures, but overall, a very successful year. We grew a mountain of veg, enough to keep us going from May until October and we were hoping to get a good winter garden going to continue with our success! But…..getting married and then the olive harvest all happened one after the other after the summer garden finished producing and so we haven’t had any time to get anything in the ground. We are OK with this. It’s not like we weren’t occupied at the time (flat out more like it!!!!) We are still hoping to get some garlic in soon for next year though. Last years garlic harvest was great!

Garlic bed
Garlic bed

We had never grown garlic before and we are still reaping the rewards of this gorgeous pungent bulb! We also tried growing sweet potatoes for the first time, which we forgot about, and remembered to dig them up yesterday and they look great. They are sun-drying right now. Can’t wait to try them. I also sun-dried our constant flow of tomatoes. They worked really well, I’ll definitely be doing this again this summer.

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Pumpkin
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Our avocado trees

 

We also harvested our almonds for the first time too! There is so much pleasure in growing your own food. Whether its annual vegetables or fruit and nut trees. Knowing everything is organic and grown with love is really something special. The almonds are harvested with a good whack of the tree (just like the olives) and we sun-dried them and then, in true cave-man style, bashed the almond between a big rock and a little rock! Bam! And out pops this little nugget of joy! Can’t beat it! Bryn has his own style of cracking almonds and even though he has huge paws, he manages to crack the almond with his teeth, then hold the nut in his paws while he nibbles the nut from its shell!

Bryn hiding his almonds
Bryn hiding his almonds

The almonds are really delicious, and Bryn is happy with the whole box of almonds that got scattered in the long grass due to a strong gust of wind! He doesnt have to walk as far to get his almond fix!

Another big deal this year has been us moving rapidly into the 21st century. It all happened so quickly. There I was, one week, hand washing our clothes in a bucket and then using that same bucket to heat water in our house on the hob and then lug it into the land and into the yurt to wash ourselves……to the the next week, standing under a glorious stream of (instant…ish) hot water coming out of a real shower that was coming out of a real wall! AND then sitting on the floor watching my new washing machine go round and round and round and loving the fact that my poor hands and back don’t need to hurt any more….well, not due to these tasks anyway! I am so over the moon with our hot water situation. It also means that the lugging involved with heating water and then bringing it into the land to wash dishes has suddenly become much easier too! It really doesn’t take long to get used to living very simply. In fact, I really enjoy it. But the genuine happiness I felt when we got the shower and the washing machine was pretty overwhelming. I guess that means that I’m happy living simply, to a point! It was never our plan to live extremely basic but only as a means to an end. But it has taught me to be grateful for the small things in life. Water, hot water, technology that enables you to get on with something else, electricity!!!!! We are not quite living in luxury yet! Not by a long shot, but the week we got hot water and a washing machine, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world, living in the lap of extreme luxury!

25532260_10159890134150089_6147655570927118987_oAfter the hustle and bustle of 2017, we ended the year in total tranquillity. Christmas was the quietest, most stress free Christmas ever, and New Year came and went without a party or fuss. Just me, the husband and the dog! What more could I ask for?

And so here I am, after reflecting on our year, only to feel a sense of major self accomplishment. We achieved a lot this year and we should be pretty damn proud of ourselves! So here’s to moving into 2018 with positivity, energy, motivation and a smile. And I’ll look forward to seeing what we can achieve this year!

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

Late summer garden memories!

Our garden looked fabulous this summer, and we got bumper crops of everything! We have, this last month or so started having to buy veg again for the first time since May. I’d definitely say we’d had success this year!

Dahlia decorativa
Dahlia decorativa

We’ve grown flowers as well as fruit and veg and we are hoping that this next spring lots of the perennials will come back and there’ll be less to do (wishful thinking I think, but we live in hope!)

Pomegranate
Pomegranate

 

We managed to get our irrigation water into a better rhythm this year so watering in 40 degree heat wasn’t as labour intensive as last year! We found that we could flood irrigate once every three weeks and then water in between using the water from the Alberca (our water storage). Some things could deal with only being watered once every three weeks but some plants, like the tomatoes and herbs, needed to be watered way more regularly. We hit the sweet spot from June til August where we had more veg than we could cope with. I sun dried lots of our tomatoes (which were super yum, but we’ve already eaten them all….so much for summer tomatoes all year round!) I also sun dried our figs, which didn’t turn out so well. About a week after I’d jared them up I went for one, only to find them full of maggots! Blergh! Ah well, you win some, you lose some! Another failure this year was the corn. We grew three varieties and all of them were rock hard. The ears looked ready, they had fully formed cobs but they were totally inedible!

Artichoke
Artichoke

A success though was our peppers and chillies. They grew really well and also an aubergine plant from last year came back quite late in the season and we’ve been eating beautiful white aubergines! Our artichokes grew really well, even after an initial aphid-farming ants disaster!

We grew Cosmos, and Dahlias, Pansies, Canna, Zinnias, Gypsophilia, Iris, Amarillys and a few others! My intention was to grow flowers for our wedding in October but that didn’t quite go to plan!

The garden really did look pretty special, and by the time our wedding rolled around there were still a few hangers on showing the remnants of a successful summer garden!

A few months off now, quiet garden time before jumping back into action for Spring. Can’t wait!

Never get tired of this view from the yurt!
Never get tired of this view from the yurt!

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Zinnia
Zinnia
Pumpkin
Pumpkin
Canna seed pods
Canna seed pods
Cosmos
Cosmos
Margarita
Margarita
Lemongrass
Lemongrass

Olive harvest numero uno!

We did it! Our very first olive harvest! And we’ve got some of the tastiest organic, cold pressed olive oil I’ve ever tasted!!!!!

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The process is pretty rewarding! A long week of hard graft, hand picking olives from our trees and at the end of it all, watching our own olives be weighed, cleaned, pressed and then bottling it ourselves is pretty special!

The olive harvest around these parts can be heard and smelt. The sounds of trees being beaten with sticks, pruned by chainsaws and braying donkeys moaning under the weight of olive sacks. The smell of burning olive prunings can become quite overpowering. The whole landscape is shrouded in cloudy smoke every morning while farmers burn their garden waste. The fresh olive leaves and the freshly cut olive wood has a lovely smell and the whole thing could be described with some heady romanticism. But it really is hard work!

There’s a sort of calm before the storm feeling. The olives are ready but ideally, you don’t pick your olives until five days before the milling. And until you have your appointment at the mill, there’s not much you can do apart from clear the land under the trees and cut out any new growth from their bases. Then you get your appointment and its all hands on deck, non stop olive picking until you’re done….or you run out of time!

In our case it was two pairs of hands on deck with an extra day of help from our lovely friend. Our technique developed over the week and by the end we had a good rhythm going, but initially it was pretty tough! We started with the tallest, oldest tree in the the most awkward place. It also hadn’t been pruned in about 20 years, so two days after we started the tree, we decided to move on. There are still a shed load of olives on that tree but the tree definitely beat us!

SONY DSCLaying out the nets properly is key! If you don’t have the nets flat and semi taut then your olives will roll everywhere, and its a waste of time…..or very time consuming trying to pick individual olives from the ground!

Once the nets are set you whack the trees with a stick, hard! Its pretty brutal but we’ve been reassured that olives are pretty tough and can cope with being bashed about a bit! Or you prune higher branches and then comb the olives out from the floor!
Our big old tree that we spent days on got the pruning treatment! Its was a long slow process that we got pretty fed up with! There were old dead branches preventing us from giving the tree a good ol’ whack and they also stopped us gaining access to prune! After the ordeal of pruning and then combing, you need to clean the olives of leaves and sticks as best you can! Our neighbours were harvesting their olives at the same time and would come and watch us doing it wrong and laugh at us for a while before finally he took pitty on us and lent us his olive cleaning machine. SONY DSCWow, what a revelation. Its a pretty simple device but oh my does it speed things up! We were away! We had a system! Lay the nets, whack the tree, prune the tree, comb the tree, gather the olives, clean the olives, bag the olives and…..repeat! This sounds pretty tedious, but we really enjoyed our week in the garden. Yes, maybe we enjoyed ourselves so much because it was our first year harvesting, but it really was lovely! We got to spend days in the garden in glorious winter sunshine. We chatted with our neighbours and each other and really revelled in the process.

Once all the olives were collected, we lumped them all to the mill where we then unloaded them into the giant jaws of the olive mill! We then got to enjoy watching the process of our beautiful organic olives being turned into glorious olive oil!

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After being cleared of twigs and leaves their bounced into the next part…..the smushing!
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Being mashed and ground.
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and in the end, beautiful olive oil!

After a full day at the mill (with a sneaky tostada from the local venta to fill our bellies while we waited) we finally had litres and litres of the most beautiful olive oil! We feel completely shattered but so so lucky and grateful that we are able to produce such a luxury product from our garden in the Alpujarras!

The garden, one year on!

19055657_1865513100435479_5471137978631549677_oSo we have prioritised making a garden before building a house to live in…..makes total sense right?

Last summer we managed to get some veg in the ground having not long arrived, but this year we have really gone to town! We have a mix of flowers, plants and vegetables as well as our established fruit trees.19093045_1865514447102011_5616438970873155913_o

Digging what seemed like a million veg beds in the hard, dry, stony Spanish soil seemed never ending! And the amount of seeds I had growing (as well as buying plug plants from the garden centre – oops!) didn’t help relieve the pressure of digging beds.

We have a variety of vegetables growing, and in different situations around the garden….a little experiment if you will…..

Herb garden
Herb garden

We have three different varieties of corn (glass gem, black and standard yellow maize) some planted in full sun as a wind break and some in a shadier more sheltered spot. As it turns out the more exposed corn is doing so much better than the protected corn and so as the black corn is now wanting to go into the ground, we are planting it in an exposed sunny spot.

We are growing three different types of pepper; a standard large pepper, padron peppers and jalepeno (we also have some chillies on the go, chilli lombardo and another variety from the local seed bank). Although our neighbours told us ‘mucho sol’ for the peppers, we have found that they are doing much much better in a slightly shadier spot….bare in mind that nowhere is really that shady here!IMG_20170509_115631580_HDR

We have been harvesting tomatoes for a few weeks now, and they are super delicious! They are growing in full sun and are loving it (although our shady tomatoes aren’t doing too badly either). We are growing cherry tomatoes and corni de cabra, as well as some small yellow tomatoes but the name escapes me). We have grown tomatoes for quite a few years but they’ve always ended up in a jungle-type situation and we end up with bad tomatoes. This year, we have followed Antonio’s advice that’s been hollered over the fence and sure enough we have some awesome tomatoes growing and there’s plenty of air getting through, the tomatoes are sweet and juicy and we are revelling in the lack of  jungle this year!

Some other veg we are growing/have been growing this year are….IMG_20170607_184028971

We planted garlic in December and we harvested yesterday (planted it on the shortest day, and harvested on the longest day). We’ve never grown garlic before, the bulbs are a decent size and smell pretty stinky. A successful harvest!

Habas!
Habas!

Alongside the garlic we had planted spinach and broad beans. The broad beans were a roaring success but the spinach bolted soon into growing (lesson learnt, need a shadier spot) the leaves were tough too due to the amount of sun they had had.

Our lettuce and peas have come to an end now as we don’t have a shady enough spot for them, its just too damn hot! But they were yummy while they lasted. Next year we will know to plant them much earlier as they will have a longer season before it gets too hot.IMG_20170501_192235384

We have courgettes just coming in now, corn, sweet potatoes, artichoke, potatoes, celery, aubergine, strawberries, cucumber, onions, chard, watermelon, leeks and a bed full of herbs (chives, black basil, dwarf basil, rosemary, lemon balm, mint, and oregano) as well as our fig trees, pomegranate trees, nispero, grape vines, almonds and olives.Basically we have our hands full! But its so much fun! Everything just grows here like magic….just add water!

We are hoping to create a food forest eventually and I’m pretty excited to report that the citrus tress we planted last year (orange, lemon, mandarin) all have fruit on them this year, and our avocado trees tried really hard to flower this year but we heartbreakingly picked them off to concentrate on getting a good root system! Although I am pretty desperate for our own avocados.

And so this is our vegetable garden! Productive, satisfying and it keeps our bellies full.

I have also been growing flowers this year; my plan is to grow our wedding flowers for later in the year, but that’s another tale for another time!

Adios!

No poo? Eh!

So I’d like to say that I initially stopped using shampoo on my hair as I didnt want to use chemical products on my body, but it actually started because I am a total minger!

We have a great solar shower that is fantastic in the summer months but come winter, you’re just standing naked under a flow of freezing water outside and its really not too much fun! So we resorted to bucket washing (which actually gets you surprisingly clean, for you sceptics out there). But washing hair in a bucket, in a yurt was actually more hassle than it was worth and so I just started rinsing my hair with water. It seemed to do the job.

I started looking into not using shampoo online and it turns out there’s a whole bloody movement of people who dont use shampoo! Who knew? Not I!! You can rinse it with water only, use apple cider vinegar, baking soda and many other options but I stuck to plain old water (to avoid the whole rinsing in a bucket mess)!

Ten months poo-free!
Ten months poo-free!

I have been doing this now for nearly ten months and I am a total convert. Yes the transition period was a little oily, but it really didnt last that long. I got myself a boar bristle brush and did all the usual no-poo things to make the transition easier, I use a few drops of lavendar oil in a water spritzer to make my hair smell nicer and once my hair is dry after a wash, it looks great. In fact, its the healthiest its been in years! The curl has returned to my hair and its fabulous….as long as you dont touch it when wet! Do. not. touch. it!

I’ve hit a stumbling block though. And its a very girly stumbling block! We are getting married later this year and there is literally nothing that can be done with my hair. When its wet, its like straw and I cant even think of running my fingers through it….well, I just cant, its impossible!

Attempting 'wedding hair' Total fail!
Attempting ‘wedding hair’ Total fail!

This little straw-like scene doesnt really fit in with what I want my hair to be doing on my wedding day (not that Im massively bothered), but I really dont want to put shampoo in my hair. I have spent nearly a year without it and I dont want to go back. So Ive been looking at alternatives and I think I have found a possible solution.  I found a recipe online here for aloe and honey hair wash….well we have an abundance of aloe and we do like honey, so thats what Im testing out today! Will the aloe and honey mix actually make my hair more manageable?…..we will have to see!

And if all else fails, I’ll stick a hat on my head!

Although it started by complete accident (this no-poo thing) it actually has so many benefits. I dont get a flakey dry scalp any more, my hair is totally balanced oil/grease-wise and I only need to ‘wash’ my hair once a week.  The curl has come back into my hair and the skin on my face is less dry. It also has the added benefit of being much quicker to shower, and I dont have to stress about chemicals going onto our land and olive trees from the shower as our greywater is released onto the land. Fingers crossed my hair will be a little easier to manage with an aloe/honey wash. Wish me luck and I’ll keep you posted.

The big wind!

So, it’s been a tad windy! Just some light 120 km/h winds, you know, to keep me on my toes!

 

It’s been a rough few days! The wind has been so strong that I have been on ‘wind patrol’ every twenty minutes for the past two days, day and night putting my house back together. The sombrero (canvas covering the dome of the yurt) kept flying off, the canvas unwrapping itself from the entire yurt, and the door, frankly, being a pain in my bum.

By the time I finished repairs, I’d have to start all over again. Like a really fun game that lasts FOREVER!

By 5am on the first night, after a laughing fit outside in the ridiculous wind holding onto a bit of snapped rope to keep the lid on the yurt (it was either laugh or cry, so I opted for hysterics!!) I think I managed to ‘solve’ the problem. Big bulky cement blocks! Blocks to hold the ropes. Blocks to weigh down the brick holding down the rope. Bricks holding the bricks holding the bricks….you get the idea. So my brick solution is so far working! Even though it took me about ten attempts to get to that point.

Problem number two….Since putting up the yurt we haven’t quite been able to work out how to close the end of the canvas (the overlap) it hasn’t been a problem up until now, but alas, the wind likes to whip it into a frenzy and try and tear the whole shebang off the yurt! On the second night of half-hourly checks and repairs I decided enough was enough…..where are those magical cement blocks? Yes, my solution was to heave a block (in an attempted controlled way) onto the roof of the yurt to hold the canvas together. Hoping and praying it wouldn’t smash through the roof I heave-ho’d the brick! It didn’t smash through the ceiling, and my trusty cement blocks are still my friend.

This is all really fun stuff, when its pitch black outside and the batteries are dying in your head torch, the wind is howling, the old olive trees are creaking, and you’re trying to keep everything crossed that the trees don’t fall down. Then you get whipped in the face by a rope, cut your hands on the bricks, throw your hands in the air and sit on the floor in the dark, in the wind and have a little cry!

I am all about being an independent woman. Girl power! I can do anything a man can do. And I can. But that night, sat on the floor outside having a cry, I really really wished my big strong man was here! I soon had a word with myself and got back to it! Problems number one and two were sorted for now. Lets now deal with problem number three. The door. We have an internal door that opens inward and a solid wooden outer door that opens outwards. The outer door has warped in the sun and doesn’t quite close. Enter big wind. Catches the door, it swings open violently, bangs against the side of the yurt knocking roof poles out before the wind blows open the inner doors, they slam and knock more roof poles out. Cue the dog freaking out, he escapes and runs around outside….by this point I don’t need this S*@t, so decide to just barricade the door from the inside with the shoe rack after chasing the dog back inside.

I considered taking myself and the dog to sleep in the car….but then I got the fear! Real big fear! What if the doors swing open? wind gets inside? creates uplift and suddenly the yurt is swirling in the air and we are definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto! I decided to stare at the ceiling jumping around for the next few hours instead.  On the plus side, when the sombrero flies off, you get a really good view of the stars! …for two seconds before hurling yourself outdoors again to catch the damned piece of ridiculously heavy canvas before it blows away.

This started a few days ago…it’s still happening! The weather warnings have been upgraded to hurricane gusts and I for one can’t wait for the winds to get worse! To add to my woes, the gas bottles for the heater AND the stove ran out today so I had to drag big calor gas bottles to the car, in the wind, replace them then bring the heavier filled bottles back and reconnect them. I seriously feel like super woman. I am pretty impressed with myself. But I know my smug face will disappear when another rope snaps, more bricks keep getting moved and lifted, the doors slam open and the roof poles fall out. Hmph!

I’m living on the edge guys, but this is all part of the adventure right? Pass me the valium!

Hot water you say?

By the power of the sun….we have hot water!

Hot water that comes out with excellent pressure to wash ones manky, dusty self! Oh it is wonderful. It´s not posh.
It´s not stylish. But it sure is the best shower I have ever had.  IMG_20160528_150342594_HDR[1]

We bought 100M of black water tubing and coiled the tube on the roof of our outhouse. The water tube then drops down to our lower terrace and is connected to a tap and a shower head. There is an old shower tray at the bottom with green tarp around four posts for a little modesty.
The water heats up in the sun and gives you a great pressure, hot water shower for about 7 minutes.
While showering amongst the olive and almond trees (and adjacent rubble pile) you can see the hill opposite, the Sierra Nevada and the Sierra Lujar. I´d exchange our little solar shower over the poshest bathroom any day! Apart from maybe in winter when I won´t be so enthusiastic and the water, not so hot.
For now, this is a more than adequate way of keeping clean. It’s luxurious in fact. And the best part is that the water heats up again in about twenty minutes.
Winner!IMG_20160528_150410210[1]

Compost toilet

I’ve explained the mechanics behind the toilet in a previous post. But just wanted to show IMG_20160528_150418359[1]you our makeshift toilet. Its pretty sweet. In you pop. Do your business. Cover with sawdust. close the lid and off you go.

Bucket full? No problem. We have a four bucket system. One bucket is full. Place the lid and clips on. Place a new bucket with sawdust in the bottom. And away to go.
Once all four buckets are full, we follow the steps to compost our humanure. Click here for full post.

Yurt life

Finally: after three months, five house moves, an extra dog and lots and lots of hard work, we are living on our own land in Spain!!!! Huzzah!IMG_20160810_211658586_HDR[1]

We are loving yurt life!

Waking up to the views of the Sierra Lujar, constant blue skies  and the sound of the birds singing their morning chorus, is pretty special. We are mostly loving sleeping on our own king-size memory-foam mattress with a view of the stars through the ceiling dome of the yurt! Pure luxury!
It all sounds so idyllic, and in most parts, it is! We feel pretty smug most days to be honest. But it hasn’t been all fun
and games! Everything is hard work. Everything. Even the simplest of tasks takes us much longer here. Cooking food, having a shower, and going to the toilet are all quite the mission, but life is good folks! Its really good.

We constructed our yurt in parts. Firstly we had to decide on a base for the yurt. IMG_20160515_171302412[1]

We went back and forth for a long while between a wooden floor and an earthen floor, but in the end decided on a wooden floor.

We built a concrete block round base and filled with tons of sand. We laid a waterproof membrane before topping up with sand so that the whole circular base was level (ish). We then laid a framework for the floor which wasn’t as straight forward as we had hoped. Trying to lay the wooden floor which was bowing at a speed unknown to man, in the heat of the Spanish sun was pretty tough, or hilarious, depending on your point of view.

We had bought bare pine tongue-and-groove hoping for easy-peasiness. Oh how wrong we were. After three days (yes, three days) of floor laying, we had to stain the wood. Ah, but the paint was drying in the sun and turning to a tar-like substance so we decided early morning or evening would be best to paint.

We set an alarm. Got to the land just before 7am and got going. By the time the first layer of paint was done, the sun was too hot. Cue tarry stain. So we returned in the evening when it had cooled down a little to paint a second coat. Ah…so then the sun goes down, as it does! I will say that this is a complete novelty compared with back home. You’re waiting for it to stop raining, and it never stops raining!
After finishing the floor, which I will say, moves like a ship under foot (so much effort…so much time…so not worth it!) it was time to construct our yurt. IMG_20160520_145049894[1]

Easy right? Yeah! Me and Math had watched many many videos on youtube on
how to construct a yurt. It looked pretty straight forward. Door, walls, insulation, canvas, Done! Yes we had instructions. Yes we should have read them. But we didn´t.

So, full of the joys of spring and enough enthusiasm to sink a ship we get the yurt out. Lay it all out (well, not ALL of the yurt. That would have been sensible and had we known, is what the instructions were instructing us to do….silently…from inside the bag.) So we lay the wooden parts of the yurt out and attempt to get going. Ah. Problemo numero uno. The door has been damaged in transit. Like snapped. Bugger!
After searching the house for a tiny pot of glue, we glued the door (again, without reading the instructions….what is wrong wth us?) and eventually after two hours, its pretty solid again.
OK! Let´s build a yurt!!!!! By this time, its over 30 degrees and we are just getting started. The door sits in place.

IMG_20160520_152024212[1]Check. (After all it is just a door being held on a platform by our wonderful workaway volunteer Pip.) Next we need to attach the walls. Now. If we would have read the instructions, this would have taken us about an hour I reckon. But as we DIDN¨T read the instructions, this took us about four. Hmph! The walls aren’t just walls. There are different shaped walls that slot into place. I mean, we worked this out eventually but still, this didnt prompt us to get out the translator and translate those pesky instructions.

Next, we get the crown up (pretty straightforward) and then we need to insert the roof poles. Again, had we read the instructions, we would have known to tie ropes from the crown to the walls, giving them strength and holding them together until the outer ropes are attached later.  As we didnt read the instructions, we placed several poles in the roof and then ended up chasing them around the yurt as they were falling out faster than we could put them in. IMG_20160520_201719157[1]

After a few nasty konks to the head, we got them all in! Oh….the sun is setting. How pretty. Right. Best continue this tomorrow.

After I’d slept soundly in bed I woke up next to a frazzled man in bed with me. He´d been up all night worrying and…and…translating the instructions. What a man! This translation made clear to us several things we had done wrong or missed out completely. When we got to the land we checked that things were safe and explained to Lilah and Pip that we were pretty stupid and should’ve read the instructions. Surprislingly, the second day went swimmingly!!! With instructions in hand we were winners! It still took us all day but we were definitely winners! Just a couple of easy steps.

IMG_20160521_143156906_HDR[1]White muslin over the top as a base layer.

IMG_20160521_154801144_HDR[1]Sheeps´wool felt as insulation (trying to keep Bolo, the foster dog from peeing all over this was a job in itself), then the waterproof membrane, then the canvas, then the ropes.

IMG_20160521_161251447_HDR[1]Then the glass needed to be put in. Then the skirt and hat.IMG_20160521_172735557[1]

We were all ready to collapse! A good hearty meal out, a couple of cervezas and vinos were definitely called for. Hooray, we have a home!

IMG_20160522_192156762_HDR[1]

We have now been in the yurt for over a few months and it feels like home. We love it. And we really couldn’t have done it without all of the help we had. The dogs helped the most of course. Bryn using the yurt as a running track for being a mentalist, and Bolo peeing on anything that smelled of, well, anything!

We now have one less dog, a vegetable garden and an extremely comfortable home.IMG_20160627_201715188[1]

Humanure compost toilet

You do WHAT with your poo?

We made the decision to have humanure compost toilets inside and out! We like them; it means we are dealing with our own waste, you get compost out of it at the end (returning veggie scraps and food waste back to the earth). We´re also not wasting gallons of drinking water every time we flush and also we haven´t got to worry about plumbing for black water. Sounds like a winning decision if you ask me!!!!

We already have an outside toilet (well, a bucket with a toilet seat on top). We just needed to create our compost bays, gather the materials, and set ourselves up to be able to begin composting our humanure.

We used wombled pallets (x3) to create the bay structure. We placed these on top of a ´bowl´we created in the earth and screwed them together in a u-shape.IMG_20160310_134126268

We filled the bay with a bale of straw (loose).IMG_20160310_141541472_HDR

As an aside, we were massively proud of ourselves for getting the straw. Someone told us there was a man named Paco on the road out of town that sells hay and straw. They were our only directions. Well, we only bloody went and found Paco on his tractor in a field and managed to buy some straw from him! I don´t think I´ve been that proud of myself in some time!

Ahem, anyway, after filling the bay with straw and supporting the front with planks, the bay is ready to receive some caca! Although, of course, this being us, we hadn´t really thought through the position of the compost bay (we thought we had. We were wrong) and decided to move it to a shadier spot before filling!

The compost toilet itself is really simple. There´s a wooden box with a toilet seat on it. Inside there is a bucket. You do your business; toilet paper, urine and solid waste into the bucket and you cover your ´doings´with a good amount of sawdust. When the bucket is full. Put the lid on it and take it to the compost. You also need a good amount of kitchen scraps (veggie peels, egg shells, dinner leftovers etc) as well as green material (weeds pulled from the garden) when adding to the bay.

Down at the bay you make a hole or bowl in your hay (carbon material),  empty your kitchen scraps (broad range of nutrients and micro organisms), then layer your weeds (nitrogen material, plus broader range of nutrients) and on top, empty your humanure from the bucket. Cover the ´bowl´with plenty of hay and water and leave it do its thing. We keep a compost thermometer in the mound to check that the compost is reaching the correct temperatures.

And there you have it, pretty simple.

You collect into this bay for one year or until it is full. And then you simply begin a new bay. I recommend reading the Humanure handbook by Joe Jenkins for the ins and outs of creating a humanure compost system (it´s well written, funny and has all the information you need. you can also read it chapter by chapter online). Recommendations are that you leave your humanure for two years before using it. You can get a sample checked in a lab (there is a place in town here with us) to check for any remaining pathogens. We have decided to work on a three year cycle just to be sure, and to cover ourselves in case anyone is ill during the year that those extra nasty bugs are properly gone.

We currently just have an outside toilet, but eventually we will have additional ones in our indoor bathroom as well as just off the bedroom.

We were a little worried about smell. But we have been surprised by the total lack of smell. Nothing from the toilet, and nothing from the bay. And it has been hot. We are in the south of Spain with very little rain and so we were expecting at least a little whiff. But nope! Nada. Zilch!

Doing my business with a view like this, while recycling waste and not wasting water has made me feel rather smug!IMG_20160310_162905840

Living in Spain

We absolutely love living in Spain!

OK, so it hasn´t been a massive amount of time but we are loving it all the same!

It´s all very real now! I get up and go to work down on the coast and Matt goes to the land to work for the day! We meet at home, make dinner, repeat! Its all very normal, except the sun shines, the food is organic and fresh, people are happy and we are on our massive adventure!

Bryn´s nemesis!
Bryn´s nemesis!

Bryn is loving life! He hates the rain and would refuse to go out at home. Here, there hasn´t been many rainy days so he is in his element. He gets walked miles every day and has made lots of friends. He likes our land the best. He has an excellent view of the cabra (goats!) from the top terrace  and keeps his beady eye on them, warning off any that attempt to stray too close to his land! I think he thinks he is a goat, making daring climbs up ridiculously steep banks on our walks!

The scenery here is just amazing! Just walking out of the front door we have the Sierra Lujar on the left and the Sierra Nevada on the right. The constant chatter of birds is sometimes deafening, the music of the goat bells is magical and the mating frogs nearby are…well…loud! Owls hoot at night, the mules have a shouting match and there are only clear skies where more nights than not, you can see the milky way!

What can I say?
What can I say?

Yep, I think it´s safe to say that we are happy! We have met many lovely people! Some we´ve only spoken to once and others we see regularly. We have met people from all over. Who do all kinds of things. Everyone says hello in the street! We have had offers of help, and the lending of tools and time as well as lunch, coffee, cake and broken Spanish chats that have been truly enjoyable. We have loved struggling with the language. Gesticulating wildly in the street with the handful of words we know. We have branched out from individual words, to sentences and even full blown conversations! At least we think we have! Granted our vocabulary strictly contains words about gardens and tools, piping and plumbing but we are getting there.

We haven´t had much time to stop and miss everyone back home yet! We have had volunteers come and help us, an old friend come and stay, my parents come to visit, I´ve started a job teaching, met lots of new people, matt has been busy on the land and meeting new contacts, friends and like minded people, two of our best friends are coming to visit in May then more friends in June. We are so lucky to have support coming at us from all angles.

It hasn´t all been a bed of roses I will admit! The first house we stayed in was, let´s say, lacking in the cleanliness department, had been wired by god-knows-who! For a week I was getting static electricity shocks from everything, and couldn´t work it out! Turns out the house wasn´t earthed (which is just great for me with a pacemaker), the sewers backed up and all was looking a little dim (especially with the eventual lack of any electricity)! But then we moved to another place short term until our yurt arrived. Our yurt then didn´t arrive so we had to rent somewhere else….and then the yurt turned up! But, where we are staying is just beautiful, and if the yurt had turned up then we wouldn´t have had the opportunity to experience another part of town or countryside! We are living next door to a lovely Spanish couple with their young daughter, three dogs and two chickens!IMG_20160420_192614020_HDR

So this is our adventure story so far! I will update about individual projects we´ve been tackling when I get a chance. Life is getting in the way at the moment, and I don´t feel bad about that at all!

Hasta luego!