Of the Spanish phrases we have learnt so far, poco a poco is my favourite. It means ‘little by little’ or ‘gently does it’ and we have heard it a lot from our neighbours since arriving here. In many ways it sums up what seems to be the prevailing attitude of local people: don’t rush, don’t try to do everything at once, take your time, don’t worry (if there’s a lot to do, snails are eating your greens, you don’t speak fluent Spanish . . . ), remember to enjoy life, too!
We certainly have a lot of work to do here: several years’ worth, in fact. However, a return to the simple life has meant time to do simple things with enjoyment again. I always start my day with a large mug of strong Assam tea; I’ll happily drink other things for the rest of the day, but that one is non-negotiable! I love the Zen idea of a tea meditation, those few moments of calm, focus and gratitude to kick off the day. I’m giving it my own little twist here: as the tea brews, I stand on the top step and breathe in the morning. The mountain air is crisp and clear, spiced with the scent of eucalyptus from the woods and perfumed with roses, philadelphus and jasmine from the garden. The view is stunning and changes constantly with the shifting light and changing weather: it is different every morning, sometimes bright and clear, sometimes moody and atmospheric – but always beautiful, never dull. It’s worth a few moments of reflection before that all-important brew . . .
Another simple pleasure I love is making bread and it’s so good to have the time to do that regularly (well, almost daily) again. Sarah and Vicky are very talented sourdough bakers , keeping a jar of starter in their kitchen and making the most delicious bread for their families. I’m so envious! My attempts at sourdough so far have been middling to disastrous – the last loaf was worse than a brick and totally inedible – but, once we’ve got the kitchen a bit more organised, and with some expert daughterly advice, I’m planning to have another go. In the meantime, our favourite loaf at the moment is made with half white/half wholemeal flour, a splash of olive oil for flavour and a variety of milled and whole seeds mixed through. Reading the back of a flour packet (any opportunity to practise Spanish) I found a recipe for ‘Mountain Bread’ – similar to the one we’re making but with the addition of walnuts. Walnuts are very much a popular local food, readily available loose in all the local markets and food shops, and I suddenly remembered that there is a sack of them stored in the horreo. Shelling nuts for a few minutes in the sunshine? Go on, twist my arm. They are delicious – and so was the bread.
I hardly dare whisper it but little by little we seem to be winning the Great Snail War. There are still plenty of them about, but a few hot dry days have helped our cause tremendously and the plants stand more of a chance. Some of them are even growing. Shhhh!
Walking up and down our lane or in a loop through the woods and down to the village, I find myself constantly stopping to enjoy the wild flowers. They are beautiful, a mix of the familiar with new things scattered through.
There doesn’t appear to be any council scheme for verge cutting here: everyone takes responsibility for their own bits, many people cutting with scythes then feeding to their animals. Patches of wild flowers are left everywhere and the cows are literally knee-deep in clover. No wonder they seem so contented!
Here was a pleasant surprise: in each of the pots of asparagus we brought with us, a Welsh poppy has appeared.
We really need to make a proper start on the house renovation: the problem is, it’s far too tempting to be outside and after all, there’s plenty to be done there, too. Gardening tasks aside, our first focus this week was on clearing the kiwi pergola patch. With the prison camp fence finally removed, the posts had to come out; seeing as some of them were very seriously concreted in, it was time for Grandad’s Blue Tractor, as Ben calls it . . .
. . . and in no time at all, they had been converted into logs for next winter.
At this point, of course we should have turned our attention back to the house – BUT, that horrible grey wall had really started to annoy us, especially sitting out in the evening, so it was sledgehammer time at long last. The only problem was that we needed a sensible place to stack the rubble, the obvious one being an old chicken run nearby which needed demolishing itself first. Take a look at it.
Yes, that is a car bonnet over the doorway (one of a pair, actually), not to mention several thousand more staples and six-inch nails in everything.
Roger set to with the sledgehammer and . . . nothing. There was so much wire upon wire upon wood that nothing would shift.
Time to call in GBT yet again . . . and still, nothing!
The thing is indestructible.
Some painfully slow snipping with fencing pliers allowed us at least to pull the door right back so we could dump the rubble, but complete removal will have to wait for another day (and possibly several sticks of dynamite).
The wall took some shifting, too, but we are getting there.
It needs a lot of tidying up of course, but already looks so much better.
Now we can sit back and really enjoy the view.
House renovation? Ah well, poco a poco. 🙂