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!

 

 

 

 

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!

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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