Well okay, we’re not actually quite there yet, but a trip to sign for our house in northern Spain gave us the chance to spend a couple of nights there, getting a feel for our new home and – of course – making a start on the garden.
As gardening projects go, this one is possibly the most challenging we’ve ever embarked upon, not least because the land is so steep. We’ve gardened on windswept hillsides before but this takes things to even greater heights (no pun intended). There is no possibility of one large designated vegetable patch so we will have to use smaller parcels scattered around the house and, where flowers are concerned, any available spaces we can find. There are already a few beauties in residence . . .
We made a start in the patch closest to the house which, judging by the stalks of winter greens, forest of self-set mustard and small patch of leeks, has been a veg patch in former times. As we had limited time, we opted to dig a planting strip just in the middle of the jungle.
The soil is red, slightly sandy and reassuringly deep; unfortunately, the two inches of rain which had fallen overnight (this is Green Spain, after all) had turned it into something of a mudslide which made digging and planting interesting. Luckily, we hung on long enough to put in rows of potatoes – Charlotte and Desirée – and some broad beans, variety unknown. Apparently, the latter are known locally as faba de mayo (May bean) but don’t tend to be eaten (this is a climbing bean region par excellence); our French neighbours didn’t like them either so it looks like this was our first eccentric ‘foreign’ moment in the garden. The seeds will just have to take their chance for a few weeks now, we will go back at Easter to check on their progress and dig and plant lots more (mudslides permitting).
We are great believers of ‘When in Rome’ so the next year will be spent studying the weather and watching to see what and when the local gardeners plant and harvest; there are some truly immaculate gardens in the village below us. However, there are a couple of existing themes in this garden which we don’t intend to retain. The first of these is the Great Plastic Bottle Affair: old plastic bottles and oil cans, each tied with several pieces of baler twine to fences, gates, posts and trees – they are everywhere.
I’m sure they must have served a purpose, I assume in deterring some form of wildlife, but we’ll take a chance with the furry and/or feathered ones: the bottles really have to go. While Roger planted the Brit beans, I got stuck in with a penknife and removed all the bottles from one stretch of fence around the patch he was working in. The result? We’re going to need a skip before we’ve finished!
The second theme is fences and gates made from rusty metal bedsteads tied together with many metres of mesh and barbed wire. A neighbour tells us the scrap metal man calls once a year: well, I think he will have rich pickings this time.
It’s not all bad news, though. There is plenty of structure around the place including several fruit and nut trees, a huge kiwi draped around the barn (with a pile of fruit left in storage for us – they are delicious) and several little flower borders which just need a good weeding and pepping up. Best of all: several huge piles of well-rotted manure – perfect! We managed a conversation (surprisingly long, given how basic our Spanish is) with the young farmer whose cattle graze our pasture so hopefully we will have a future manure supply there, even if we do grow strange beans.
Unfortunately, work commitments will tie us to the UK until May so we will be champing at the bit to get settled and started. This is going to be such an interesting adventure, living and gardening in a truly beautiful area where lemon trees rub shoulders with hollies, primroses flower beneath calla lilies and robins sing to the chime of cow bells in the valley: so much that is familiar, so much that is new.