It’s been over a month now since we got back from our Christmas and New Year trip to England. After a few weeks of tidying and organising, de-mousing the house and making plans for the year, we’ve settled back and feel as at home as ever here in Asturias.
New windows and doors should be coming soon, which will be double glazed so we don’t have to close the shutters at night and wake up in the dark (at 11am). A few days ago we had a big gardening day and spaced, weeded, transplanted and added lots of compost to the beds. With the amount of rain there’s been in the last three weeks I’d almost forgotten we were actually growing anything.
The cabbages had started to look like a permanent feature of the garden, which in some ways they are – a local variety called col is perennial, but I’d forgotten that at some point we would actually harvest and eat them instead of buying food from elsewhere.
Here’s a romanesco cauliflower peeking through its big green leaves:
The aim eventually is to be semi self-sufficient: growing enough veg to last us all year round whilst having some leftover to sell and provide us income for the things we need that we can’t grow ourselves. As well as harvesting local wood for fire to cook and heat, perhaps installing solar power, and moving further away from the grid. Though that said, our average electricity bill is just €15/month: LED lights are the way forward.
A new cost we will have is a new van. I’ve been having some refresher driving lessons in Oviedo because the law might trust me to drive on a motorway, but I don’t. A van should open a lot of doors for us as it will enable us to travel independently, collect building materials, deliver produce to shops and host market stalls in various pueblos and cities.
Also, I can’t wait to drive to the beach and put a little mattress in the back.
We should be meeting the owner of a Renault Express 1990 tomorrow. We’ve had a few slightly worrying hiccups in that the van broke down last time he drove us to the station, after we came all the way to his town to find the notary was closed. However, we really like the style of the van and it is absolutely ideal for what we want to do.
It took us over a year to make this step for a number of reasons. The main one being that we didn’t want to consume unnecessary fossil fuel. Ethan Hughes, a permaculture inspiration of mine, has an absolutely staggering podcast interview that will change the way you see the world. He doesn’t drive, he only cycles, their smallholding runs on gift economy, and if he needs to go somewhere far away he stays the night at the person he’s visiting. This podcast definitely influenced my outlook and made me feel proud that we only took the bus or public transport, and indeed if we saw friends we would always stay over, which often made for closer, deeper, homelier connections with people.
I still feel uncomfortable about flying, and try to avoid it when possible. But sometimes life happens and the reality is that if we want to see relatives or friends in England we save over 200 pounds and 3 days by not getting the ferry. Ideally, we will have more people come to us in the future and spend long periods of time where we don’t use air travel.
The beauty of non-UK Europe is the ability to travel through many countries without crossing the ocean. So hopefully we will make some trips to France, Germany and Portugal for holidays. Even the South of Spain is totally different to where we live. Going through the tunnel to Leon is like entering another continent.
In other news, the Roundup group has been a great thing in enabling like-minded people in the valley to meet up and hang out, even if not permaculture related. It’s lovely to just sit around drinking coffee and eating food with people, chatting about life in general.
This photo is from when we went up to visit Marina and Rodrigo, a Spanish couple who’ve just had a baby and live in another house built by Valerio, our wonderful neighbour, the guy that did our house. We went with Anna, who also writes a blog about life in Asturias, which was a great chance to practice our conversational Spanish.
Another weekend we stayed a little closer to home and went to see our Belgian friends, Raf and Birgit, who have a lovely project up in a secluded mountainous space not far from our village.
We stayed the night in their caravan and talked about the psychology of faces: water, earth, fire and air. Apparently I have “a lot of water”. Which means I’m very emotional. I can believe that.
Every week, Jorge comes to deliver bread and whichever garden delights he’s harvested that week. We’ve been making a lot of fermented foods so have been ordering copious amounts of cabbage. Jorge is a twin and together he and his brother mill flour, make dough and bake many loaves in their wood fired oven, delivering them to the doors of many happy customers along the valley. He also does a mean bizcocho and challah bread.
Nik has been back to work, teaching English part-time in the city, as well as spending long nights by the fire making plans for a very exciting rocket mass heater bench. I have been teaching in the local school, writing an assignment for my social sciences course, doing some online ‘listening’ with 7cups and knitting a jumper! Which is now finished.
So, we’ll see what happens with our lovely Renault Express van mañana, and hopefully we’ll be able to rent some flat land soon to grow millions of cabbages upon.
‘Til next time,
Peace and Pollen x