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!

 

 

 

 

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!

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

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!

 

Looks like we’ve made it!

Orgiva
Orgiva

So we have finally arrived! We are in Spain, in Orgiva, and it feels soooo good to be back. We have driven through four countries to get here (Wales, England, France and Spain) and in my humble opinion, was well worth the drive rather than flying or getting the ferry.

Bryn all cosy in the van
Bryn all cosy in the van

We had quite a long drive UK side to even get to the Eurotunnel but tootling along in our van with the dog in the back was a great option. We had time to enjoy the countryside the whole way down, stop when we wanted to, and when Bryn needed to stretch his legs every hour or so, we could stop when it suited us!

I was a little apprehensive about the drive as I was doing all of the driving. This is why we decided to take five days over the journey. But as it turns out it has been absolutely fine (dare I say, enjoyable?!) We travelled about 4/5 hours a day (apart from the initial push on the first day which was 7 hours) and we stayed in some beautiful places along the way.

Here’s our route.

Day 1 – South Wales to Eurotunnel, Folkestone. Onwards to Rouen.

A two hour drive (through heavy rain) to Rouen where we booked the cheapest hotel we could stay with the dog. We stayed at Ibis budget hotel in Rouen and it was perfectly fine (clean and basic) for somewhere to rest our weary heads after a long day before getting up the following morning to go again.

Day 2 – Rouen to Dirac (about 8km from Angouleme).

The drive took about five hours, not including any stops. We arrived in our stunning hotel about 7pm. We stayed at Relais de Silence Domaine du Chatelard near Dirac, and what a bloody treat!

Relais du Silence - quite the treat!
Relais du Silence – quite the treat!

For the price of a basic B&B in the UK we had pure luxury! We couldnt quite believe they would allow the dog in but they were really excited to see us (well, mainly Bryn to be honest). As it turns out, the restaurant was absolutely fantastic and we had the most beautiful meal (and lovely bottle of red) with fantastic service. It wasnt what we are used to, but as a treat, was amazing!

Oh dear god!
Oh dear god!

The hotel is surrounded by a beautiful lake which we walked around the following morning (and where Bryn got to display his epic swamp monkey skills) before setting off again in our trusty van.

Day 3 – Dirac to Salinas de Ananas (Basque)

Another five hour drive to a wonderful Casa Rural near the salt plains in Basque country in the north of Spain. We stayed in Madera y Sal which is a recently renovated casa rural. I can highly recommend staying in this beautiful town and fantastic casa. Zuri and her husband have lovingly restored this old building over the last 14 years and it shows that its all been done with such care and love. We had the whole casa to ourselves and had a superb breakfast to set us up for our journey ahead (Spanish omelette, bread, fruit, fresh juice, salsa and of course some of the local salt). Again, we went for a walk in the morning around the salt plains which has much charm in its ugliness.

Only photo we have - shame!
Only photo we have – shame!

The beauty of the landscape is a huge contrast to the salt works, but the village is stunning and the mountains, breathtaking.

Day 4 – Salinas de Ananas to Toledo.

Up until now the drive had seemed a doddle, but today, although the drive was four instead of five hours, it seemed longer.

View from roof terrace in Toledo
View from roof terrace in Toledo

We arrived in Toledo while it was still light and the sun shone the whole way down. We checked into Apartamentos Alarife which was five minutes walk from the cathedral, smack bang centre of Toledo. We had fantastic views over the city which was great as we didnt actually have time to explore the city. Matt had a terrible nights sleep so we got up early and set off again on our final stretch.

Day 5 – Toledo to Orgiva.

Again, the drive seemed long today. It was four and a half hours long but seemed much much longer. Saying that, we were so excited to cross into Andalucia and drive through the snow peaked Sierra Nevada that we forgot how tired we were when we realised we were on the home stretch. After Granada, I knew the way, and took great pleasure on turning off the sat nav to enjoy the drive. Before arriving in Orgiva we stopped off at our new house to walk Bryn along the riverbed at the bottom of our land. He seems to approve (which is always good). We then drove into Orgiva and stopped for tea in our favourite cafe (Baraka) before getting our keys for the house we will be staying in for the next few weeks.

And that’s about it. I can highly recommend the route we took. If we had the time and the money we would have preferred to stay in each place for more than one night, just to be able to experience each area fully (or at least more fully than we had the chance to). The Eurotunnel was easy, although a bit weird driving onto a train.

Driving onto the Eurotunnel
Driving onto the Eurotunnel

Also, by by taking our time I didn’t feel completely exhausted after our trip.

Bryn dealt with everything so well. He was comfortable in the back of the van (we took the window from the bulkhead so he could poke his head through) but we did worry about him as he didn’t eat for the first three days. He usually goes on hunger strike when we are away and we made sure he was drinking plenty of water but after three days, we weren’t happy. He was refusing his food so we bought him some meat and of course, he gobbled that straight up. This must’ve got his appetite going because he ate from that point on. We didnt take his bed into any of the hotels (Relais du Silence and Madera y Sal supplied a dog bed for Bryn) so that when we arrived at our final destination he would know, because we brought his bed in. This sounds so silly, but it did seem to work. He settled straight away in the house in Orgiva, whereas it took him a little while all of the way down.

So now all there is to do is enjoy Dia del Andalucia on Sunday/Monday and get stuck into our new community by enjoying shared paella and flamenco dancing before getting stuck in end of next week to clearing the land and visiting the local seed bank, starting off our summer veg and welcoming our first volunteers.

The endless move!

I always knew that moving house was super fun! I’ve moved more times than I’d like to remember. But this move…..

…This move has been epic!

Not only has it taken us longer than most moves as it had to happen in stages, but we also managed to turn it into some kind of weird comedy sketch show with me throwing out my back yesterday and having to drag Matt out of bed shivering and sweating with the flu to sort everything out with his dad and brother.

So this move started, really, back at the beginning of the year when we had to have major sorting times, decluttering times and massive downsizing times! These were the fun times (who knew at the time that this was the easy part!!!!? Not us…No-Sir-ee). So we shipped our relatively small amount of stuff to storage to be sent out to us in Spain at a later date! We were releaved to get this over with, now all we had to do was live like squatters with a matress as our bed, sofa and dining table, while sorting out the rest of the crap we had left behind! Easy-peasy! Pfft!

Where did all of this stuff come from?

I am very aware that most of the stuff is mine, not Matts. I had a huge room filled with teaching resources, arts and crafts things, teddies, puppets, laminating pouches, laminating machines, books, masks, Happy Birthday singing hats (yes, more than one??), reams and reams of velcro…and that’s just my teaching stuff! I had also managed to bring with me a huge bag of documents to be shredded from THREE houses ago (does it even need shredding anymore when the address doesnt match up to the name….good god!!!!) And so much other crap that there’s nothing to do but vow to change my ways!!!!! And I must change my ways!

On Saturday we hired a big van (as the doors on the back of my small van had miraculously decided to not open!) Cue sequence of events to turn our escapade into comedy nightmare! We moved LOADS! Two massive van loads to the recycling centre, a load to the charity shop, some stuff to my parents and other stuff to Matt’s dads. We moved all of this stuff while dealing with the most horrific flu we have ever experienced. Trying to lift heavy stuff when you feel too weak to lift your knife and fork is never a good thing! So we moved endless stuff while sweating and shivering, looking ghostly white and feeling like death but we did it! We HAD to do it!

By Sunday the house looked pretty empty…but its a big house. A big, deceiving, mean house that actually wasn’t empty at all! There are fitted cupboards everywhere and these were, yep, full of stuff! Stuff, stuff STUFF! So gradually, while Matt was left to sweat it out in bed, and me recovering from the evil flu, the house got emptied over the next few days and Wednesday was the day to clean and remove any last stuff that was hanging about, lurking!

Think Spain, think Spain, think Spain!!!
Think Spain, think Spain, think Spain!!!

By this point we were completely knackered, drained and pretty clammy! Our mantra has been ‘Think Spain, think Spain, think Spain’ it’s been keeping us going throughout the whole process. That and watching Permaculture documentaries, and humanure and greywater recycling videos on youtube (hey, whatever floats your boat right?)

We made an excellent start, upstairs the boys removing the endless stuff, me in the kitchen cleaning. We had music on, cracking on doing our duties and we decide we’ve earned a break! It was a nice day so we sat in the garden musing over our current predicament of the house not being as sorted as we’d hoped, when I get up to get back to it and BOOM! Holy fudge I’ve knackered my back!

 

Oh God! I had to lay down….I was out of the game! GAME OVER!

There was nothing I could do but be driven away to our temporary bed and to stay there stewing while the boys got on with it! And get on with it they did! What champions! I am so grateful to them and my friends who rallied together to help at the last minute!

So we are now out of the house. Our stuff has been stored ready for shipping and we have a few weeks of the nomadic lifestyle before we leave for Spain! It has been quite the adventure so far and we havent even left the country yet!

I am never, ever, ever moving again! Or at least if we do, then it wont be such an epic move as in our new house we are going to live an organised, minimalist, no-crap-laying-around, tidy kinda lifestyle that’ll be easy to pack up and move! Ha, yeah right, we can all but try! As my mother will probably say, “I’ll have to see it to believe it”, and I’d be inclined to agree!

Pre-move musings

I’m sitting here gazing out at Swansea bay. removal menInternational removal men been and gone! House is empty (ish) and Im looking out at our magnificent view wondering why I haven’t done more of this; just sitting and watching the tide go in and out! Our views in Orgiva are spectacular but I will really miss our views of Swansea. Within a thirty minute drive we can visit amazing beaches on the Gower, fantastic mountain walks, resevoirs, rivers, canals, and waterfalls. National Botanical Gardens of Wales and a shed load of castles!

Why are we moving again?

Ah yes, be able to live the life we really want (and be able to afford it), to be able to live off grid and become self sufficient! And the weather helps too! Plus we are exchanging good views with a-ma-zing views!

Wales is my home and always will be! I love it! I am Welsh through and through! And so are all my family! I speak Welsh and speak it every single day! I want our (currently non existent) children to be able to speak Welsh.  I will miss my friends and family so much but we really won’t be that far away! Plus, everyone wants free accommodation in the sun right?! So I’m sure we will get plenty of visitors!

Bryn house empty
It’s OK Bryn!

We will be sad to leave our house too! It’s been a happy three years living here! It’s been a really chaotic three years, but we have overcome so much here that we are also happy to be moving on. It’s bitter-sweet! It looks so empty at the moment that I now can’t wait to get moving!

As much as I’ll be sad to leave Wales, I am so excited to be diving head first into a new culture, country and language! I love that this is an adventure all of our own; just me, Matt and the dog! Its all ours! And so, if it all goes wrong then we only have ourselves to blame. Ha! On the other hand, we can claim major glory points WHEN it all goes well! I’m a glass-half-full kinda girl so I’m going with the latter option and all the glory points!

We have so much to do between now and getting to Spain, that our new home in Spain seems so far away (sigh!) I suppose I’d best get back to packing! It seems the story of my life at the moment. I think I’ll just finish my cuppa before getting up from this view though! I will miss this view!

 

Driving to Spain with the dog in tow!

Happy New Year!

After some major procrastinating over Christmas and Newbryn driving dog to spain Year, plans are finally rushing ahead and time seems to be running away too!Eek!

Luckily we thought to visit the vet with Bryn in November to sort out all of his travelling needs (where this inspiration came from I don’t know…we are not the most organised of folk). We were a little worried about snowballing costs but as it turns out, it hasn’t been as expensive as we had first thought (still a few hundred pounds though). He is so worth every penny. Look at that face…..

At his first vet visit, he had his puppy vaccination (we bloody forgot about his booster in May so we’ve had to start again…sigh!) He’s already had another visit for his second injection. He was feeling a little under the weather (not quite as mental) after his jabs, but is now back to his normal foolish self.

What he needs for Spain is a Rabies injection (due next week) and we are also vaccinating him agaisnt Kennel cough (not a requirement); Bryn is likely to be in contact with other dogs around our home in Spain so we thought ‘better to be safe than sorry’. We have ordered him a Leishmaniasis collar to protect him from sand and biting flies. The collar lasts six months, it is an expensive collar (£38 – gulp!) but the side effects of this disease are horrific; we are quite worried about this. But what are we to do? He’s coming with us…He’s our baby (and plus we’ve already told him he can come now….God, we’re sad).

Once his Rabies jab is done the vet can write up his passport. Then, 1-5 days before we trbryn swimming driving dog to spainavel, he has to have treatment for Tapeworm.

And that’s it! Bryn will be ready for international travel!

It has been pretty straightforward sorting Bryn out for the journey (shame we can’t say the same for ourselves). It has ended up costing us around £260 including his puppy jabs, three months worth of flea treatment, kennel cough jab, rabies jab, medicated collar and his passport! The whole process will have taken about 12 weeks in total! Not too bad! That’s one member of the family sorted!

How are we getting Bryn to Spain?

We have decided to drive down through France and Spain in the car using the Eurotunnel. We researched taking the Ferry to North Spain (Bilbao/Santander) but the cost was quite staggering (especially as you have to book a dog friendly cabin on top of our tickets and a ticket for Bbryn beach driving dog to spainryn). The drive is considerably shorter using the ferry but we decided it wasn’t for us after weighing up our options.

We are going to take five days to drive down to Orgiva and use it as an excuse for a holiday, taking our time over the drive, stopping in pet friendly hotels all of the way down. I don’t really want to be driving more than four/five hours a day so the plan is to make stops at Rouen, Bordeaux, Miranda del Ebro, Toledo and then Orgiva!
Bryn is pretty good in the car so we’re hoping he will be OK. We are happy with our decsion to drive the whole way as he will get to be toileted, fed, watered and run when he needs!

Fingers crossed we can get ourselves sorted for the journey too!

Have you done this journey before? If you have any hints and tips, that would be great! Places to check out, places or routes to avoid! Please leave a comment.