Part 2 a) - The beginning: Autumn and Winter
(I have split the story due to photo posting limits)
We arrived in early Autumn to Spain, I was picked up by mi amigo from the airport. Tim had come the day before, as he had to fly over his dog and only a few airlines cater to that. He had spent a night alone in the woods at our new house and I was anxious to see the place we would be calling home in the flesh.
We had packed all of our important grow gear, a hefty seed collection and all our precious cuttings, to be able to hit the ground running and get to work quick time. This was shipped out 4-5 days before our arrival date, We got to my friends apartment (hallway completely obscured with boxes) , bought some snacks for the road, loaded up the car, and we were on our way.
As we left the city, I looked out of the window and had a flashback to geography lessons when I was 16, seeing the CBD (no, not Cannabidiol
) disappearing in the mirror, followed by some industrial areas, then passing by tower blocks on the city limits I'm told are mostly occupied by immigrants, and I realised I was saying good bye to city life for awhile, In Spain, as well as back in England.
We pulled off the motorway, and eventually found our way to a track, with crazy undulations, lumps and bumps, I don't think I have ever been on a dirt road that wasn't part of a farm. I kept asking, like an impatient kid on a journey, 'are we there yet...?'.. answered with 'not just yet..'
We finally arrived, on what felt like a never ending journey, and wow the place was insane, I remember now, walking around laughing, thinking this is the maddest thing ever.
I was greeted by the animals, Tim, and a massive fig tree loaded with fruit and the strangest thing, no noise whatsoever.
The first few days were pretty bizarre, sleeping on the sofa, Tim spent the first night underneath an old curtain, that when he shook it a family of moths flew out. Me personally being eaten alive by mosquitos, and not tiny bites, but there was a point where one or several had a feast on my face. The bites swelled, conjoined and I felt pretty elephantman-ish.
The house was pretty sparsely equipped, no utensils, bedding, a small box of rations to eat.
There was no gas for the cooker, so I believe or first nights meal together was an ad-lib barbecue, on which we only had a huge paella dish to try and cook pasta, one person stirring the other person blowing on the fire to stoke it. I might add much to my friends amusement... but with a lot of perseverance we had full tummies. At the end of the first night we set about germinating seeds and rescuing some clones that had a rough time of it in the shipping process.
I also thought to myself, I should have watched Ray Mears bush-craft and extreme survival episodes in full before starting this adventure.
The weather was very pleasant indeed for several weeks, we even cleaned and took several days to fill our pool. It was short-lived though, we only braved one 5 minute dip in 2013. Bit by bit we gathered the essentials to live day to day more comfortably.
The house is several decades old, had been lived in for most of those, but was never fully completed. Now, I don't want to slate our Spanish amigos here, but building practices are very different over here in comparison to the U.K..., much of it is very nonsensical to us at least.
The property, was a minefield and maze to figure out, so many problems to think on and rectify bit by bit. There is no mains water, no postal service, or phone-line, no working central heating, no internet. To bring everything in just to get set has been a herculean task in itself.
Electrical gremlins took some head scratching to solve, at one point early on we had to wait until the lights off period to begin cooking our evening meal, just to avoid power outages.
There is a Spanish word 'chapuza' which basically means a botched job, so gradually we have been un-botching what we can, making things function to suit our purpose.
A couple of examples of this are:
As I mentioned earlier, we have no mains water, but draw our water from around 100 metres away at the end of our track. I must say though, the water is amazing.
We have a high capacity pump, and pipework to fill a large water storage tank. When full, at that point in time, a near full tank, lasted several months for us and plants to drink.
We had filled it once completely, and then topped it up twice without problems. It seemed like a good system, flick a switch, wait for water, job done.
However we noticed it was running pretty low, flicked the switch. Nothing, nada.., we set about investigating, and pulled the pump out to test it, brought it back to the house, pump works. Through a process of elimination we had tested the socket at our end, the socket at the well end, the pump itself. All working. Some head-scratching, and I said mate, we need to trace the wire to see if theres a break along the way. Tim said, noo, it'll be encased (the first section is encased and runs underground) I said let's see. Well the casing only lasts to the edge of our property. And the other 100+ metres, is just a cable strewn through the woods, sections joined by electrical tape only. #chapuza! So wire stripped, connected with chocolate boxes, and connections routed into insulated plastic boxes, problem solved.
SMOKE STORY ( not the good type of smoke) :
During an average evening for us, sat by the fire, something on the telly to watch, a little r&r time, a few drinks. I got up to go to the little boys room. On returning back to the lounge, I said 'Is it me, or is it pretty smokey in here...' Tim agreed, but well with windows shut, and an open fire, a little smoke isn't uncommon. So we looked around and saw smoke billowing down the stairs. The entire upstairs was filled with smoke. Where the flue draws the smoke from the fire up, unknowingly, there *was* fire proof plasterboard (drywall) with a cut out for the chimney and smoke to be exhausted through. Due to our hardcore use of the fire, It had disintegrated and now, smoke was only partly being drawn up and out, the remaining smoke had been going up into the wall cavity, and finding its way out of an upstairs bedroom wall (luckily unoccupied).
The fire was extinguished, every window possible opened. The next day Tim fabricated a metal blockade, and the edges were sealed with a high temp mastic.
We were also without transport for the first 6 weeks, and without giving away our location, although by car it's relatively close to a major metropolitan area, on foot it's very very remote, and the terrain is not hospitable for a leisurely walk to the shops.
I'd liken it to camping out, when you're here you stay here with rations. We were walking maybe 30 km a week, a 4 hour round trip to get a back pack's worth of food. Not a situation that lends itself to growing simultaneously.
We had the use of our friends vehicle off and on for awhile, he was meant to be spending several months in South America with Jorge, but the trip fell through and with our friend no longer local to us, I had to fly back to England to buy a rugged vehicle to drive back so we could be self sufficient. You may ask yourself, why not just buy a vehicle in Spain, it's a good question.. Two words.. red tape. To fly home, buy a car, drive, ferry, drive for hundreds of miles is in fact easier. It also meant I could bring back a hoard of supplies and grow equipment, without having to fanny around and find a place for them to be delivered in Spain.
I got a phone call from Tim whilst at home, saying 'mate, winter has come..it's super cold', I thought he may be being a bit of a pussy (no offence dude) , but it was warm when I left. So with a smirk I put together a winter survival package, just managing to inch it in to our new, super packed full car.
He was right, and in hindsight we weren't at all prepared for winter, naively thinking 'winter in Spain will still be nice, it's Spain'. We were very wrong, we hadn't packed coats even. Whilst day time temperatures were very fair, 17/18 degrees some days, we could have an ice cream on the balcony, the difference between day and night time temperature was well, like night and day. Getting below freezing at times.
We were sleeping fully clothed, with two duvets and a hot water bottle each. We had no central heating, so were devoting much of the day to collecting and chopping firewood and as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon that was the working day pretty much done outside and all that was left to do was eat and sit 6 inches away from an open fire, or manage tents inside the house at this time. The sofa did originally sit several feet away from the fire, but over the course of winter inched itself ever closer.
Some tent work - Pollination for fem seeds by hand
We were very surprised one morning to wake up and see this, It hadn't crossed my mind at all.
We went out that day, 4 wheel drive engaged, to buy some electrical supplies. The mountain was like pandemonium.., with people, police, kids, it was crazy. I did feel sorry for those Spanish kiddies though, as in just a couple of hours, it had all melted.
Part B to follow soon!