A year on from my first blog

My first blog started just a few days before my 50th birthday – we had the house up for sale and were dreaming of moving to Spain.

A year on and what a lot has changed. This morning I had my breakfast coffee on the roof terrace in the sunshine looking at a gorgeous view, and haven’t got a care in the world – a far cry from the frantic life we were leading back in the UK – 100 miles an hour, up at stupid o,clock to drive all over the place, never seeing each other etc etc

As of yesterday, Roger is officially registered as a self employed farmer so we can pay our social security payments (called autonomo here) each month. This gives us both access to the public healthcare system and means we can go and register with the local co-operative to sell our oranges. We have our appointment at the foreign office to (hopefully!) get residency on the 2nd July. The gestoria says that with our setup here, we’re guaranteed to get our residency …

When we got here we both decided we wanted to do things by the book – we have met a lot of English people who, until the Brexit thing, had been living here for years but had never registered as being here, hadn’t got their residency etc. We decided to be completely open, honest and show we’ve nothing to hide, pay our taxes etc. I couldn’t bear to spend my life wondering if they would catch up with us one day! Their systems here are improving and people are getting caught out!

Employing the services of a gestoria was a no brainer for us – we’re not fluent in Spanish yet, and not understanding the processes and paperwork would’ve meant months of chasing our tails to get where we are now. It cost €300 to get Rog registered as self employed, and our residency bill is €450 – and worth every penny.

Since arriving here on the 8th January we’ve achieved so much, and are exactly where we dreamed we would be – you can make your dreams come true, you just have to take a deep breath and go for it!

What a year it’s been!

Pozo problems part 2!

So we thought we had solved the Pozo problem earlier this week … nope – water pooling on the top again. Nothing for it but to dig down to the actual Pozo to get to the bottom of the problem (excuse the pun!). Turns out the Pozo is the simplest form of pit, and definitely not big enough for two people living here full time. Pozo’s are actually illegal in Spain since 2002 but most people seem to ignore this and carry on regardless. But for us to dig a Pozo big enough would require a digger and we’d have to loose probably 2-3 mature orange trees. So weighing up the various options we have decided to invest in a composting toilet.

There are lots of different makes and models on the market, and having done an entire afternoons research, to the point where my head hurts, we’ve found the most suitable one for our set up – Nature’s Head Composting Toilet. It will easily cope with 4 people, so we won’t expect visitors to pee in a bucket! These loos have got really sophisticated over the last few years – they don’t smell, easy to maintain and have the added benefit of an end product that we can use on the garden. After digging the Pozo out today, I think we would prefer any other way to be honest!

The way we look at it, we got the house for a very good price, and well under what we had budgeted for, so investing in this loo (which is €1000 😳) and things like the solar means that we’ll end up with a sustainable home the way that we want it.

And nothing could ever smell as bad as that Pozo 😂🤢 …

A few pictures …

I’ve had some suggestions to upload a few pictures and even a video (which I will do another day!) of where we are – it’s wonderful watching the baby oranges form on the trees and the grapes getting bigger and bigger …

Pozo problems …

Over the last few days we’ve been noticing a few problems with the Pozo negro (bacteria hole in the ground to deal with poo) – mainly water pooling on the ground above it, which did have an unpleasant whiff.

Usually you’d go, no problem, we’ll get a man in with his truck to suck it all up and take it away. But, and it’s a big but, the closest the truck would be able to get to us is 1km away in the town. So calling someone in wasn’t an option.

Now in our house there are pink jobs and blue jobs – we’ll both muck in on everything when called for, but today I called this a blue job through and through, and busied myself as far away from the problem as possible!

We bought a bilge pump from a boating supplier and several meters of tube, and poor Rog had to stick one end of the tube down into the Pozo and pump it clear.

The lesson from this – in the past the initial reaction to a problem is ‘let’s get someone in to sort this’ but out here in the sticks, we have to be more resourceful and self reliant, and it’s no bad thing … ok we’ve had to pay for the pump and tubing, which was about the same as you’d pay someone to come and pump out the Pozo for you, but we’ve got the gear now for any future problems, so over time we’ll be quids in.

But some excellent news now … we have plug sockets that work!!! Our eldest is an engineer and he came over last week and spent a day working out what was going on with the solar and wiring in the house … and he managed to figure out a way. We do need more solar panels and batteries, but as long as the appliance isn’t more than about 350 watts we can actually use it in the house! We were starting to think we would have to start from scratch with the solar system, but thanks to Matty we can now simply add to what we have – he’s probably saved us about £3k! Even with new panels etc we will be limited to 2000 watts, but it does mean I’ll be able to get a little convection oven. We’re definitely getting there …

Aromatherapy in the garden

Most people think of a nice massage or oil diffuser to make the house smell nice when you mention essential oils, but I’m about to undertake a bit of an experiment using them in the garden as fungicides and pesticides.

I am a qualified aromatherapist, but only really ever learned how to use oils to treat people. Whilst unpacking my books I came across a book that I’ve owned for probably 20 years but never read – it’s called The Fragrant Pharmacy by Valerie Ann Worwood. As it was too hot to work outside yesterday afternoon I decided to make a start on this book. Lots of things that I had forgotten that I knew came rushing back and I’m so excited about starting to use oils for the plants and trees. A lot of my oils are very old so I’m off shopping tomorrow to pick up some fresh supplies.

Patchouli, tea tree, cinnamon and niaouli can all be used for mould and fungus by adding 10 drops of oil for every 4 litres of water.

Peppermint is extremely good as an insecticide, although I have a list of particular oils for different individual pests too.

It all makes perfect sense to try this route out, as we have been researching companion planting to reduce pests and diseases. Indoors I always add a few drops of lavender oil to the water for washing the floor – spiders and bugs hate the smell so it helps to reduce uninvited guests!

About to aromatherapy the s*!t out of the place!

The trees won’t behave!

Ok I’m the first to admit that we haven’t got a clue what we’re doing, but being fairly intelligent and resourceful we’re learning ‘on the hoof’- but I just wish I could get the trees to give us a chance – they’re like naughty kids…

Leaves going funny colours, leaves falling off, aphids with the accompanying ants, baby oranges, mildew on the vines – aargh! Can you just have 1 problem at a time please 😂

But we’re taking one thing at a time (a poco a poco) doing the relevant research and then tackling the problem. We want to get to the point where we have a self sustaining forest, but that’s not happening this year! It will probably take 3 or 4 years to get to that. All the trees have had some fertiliser this week, no small job even with two of us, the vines have been puffed with sulphate powder, trees have had a dose of insecticide and there are a couple of almond trees that need fungicide tomorrow – thank god for the Internet to help us diagnose some of these problems! We spend half the time looking like we’re from the film Ghostbusters, kitted up to apply the relevant medicine to the trees. We have found a supplier near us whose products are organic thank goodness! These trees really have become our new children!

A bit of a round up …

So we haven’t snared a wild pig yet, which I’m actually quite relieved about. I’m not sure my self sufficiency skills are ready to extend to butchering a pig yet! On a positive note though, the snares that Rog set together with the new fencing seem to have done the trick in keeping them away – a good result.

Between May and October you can’t have bonfires here for obvious reasons. The problem that gives us is how do we get rid of all the weeds etc – yes we have a compost corner, but the volume of stuff we cut down is ridiculous. So thinking caps on – a wood chipper is the answer – this will allow us to make mulch to use around the trees and plants – a bit step forwards towards creating a permaculture. So it arrived yesterday – it was supposed to be delivered on a truck with a tail life as it weighs 125kg – no, ordinary transit van turns up in the village. He drives to within 100m of the house, and our plan was to wheel it the rest of the way. So Rog and the driver get this out of the side of the van, no easy task. The box is totally bashed in and the pallet it’s on is broken – not great. On closer inspection the chipper is broken – the actual engine has been snapped off, amongst other damage. We tried to refuse delivery but the driver wouldn’t take it back, so now we’re stuck in the middle of the road with a totalled wood chipper with no wheels fixed on … along comes Luis and his mechanical mule – saved! So now we have this back at the house and the emails are flying backwards and forwards trying to sort a replacement. Just a tad hacked off as this was a big investment …

Ants! I’m starting to really dislike them, crawling all over our orange trees and turning them into aphid farms. In order to conquer them I’ve been watching them and doing lots of research into organic ways to get rid of them. So this morning I have mixed up copious amounts of icing sugar and bicarbonate of soda and placed this around the base of all the trees. The theory is that the icing sugar attracts the little blighters and the bicarbonate makes them explode when they digest it. I’m still an advocate of kettles of boiling water on the nests, so hopefully by employing these methods we’ll get rid of them.

Lots of seeds have now arrived to grow around the trees to provide the nutrients the trees need in a natural way, and we’ve started rotivating where the veg will go, but we really need to get what we’ve already got under control before we throw more into the mix!

One thing is for sure, we experience a new sort of tired now – not that stressy brain hurting tired, proper physical tiredness gained through honest hard graft! And as the weather is hotting up we have started getting up early and cracking in with the jobs so that we can either rest or do the ‘pottering’ jobs in the afternoon.

Every day I look across what we own outright and I’m so grateful …

Working terraced land

Our land here is over three terraces, some of which are suffering quite badly with soil slip.

When we were buying the place we knew it needed new fencing, and we’ve been working our way around the front boundary over the last couple of weeks – it seems obvious now, but I never realised what an acrobatic job this would end up being when the fence needs to go on top of a very steep bank! We’re getting there though, and this groundwork is important to finish before we start planting. As the vines are getting pretty big now it’s made the job harder, but the vines will love having the new fencing to grow on.

We have ordered a huge batch of different seeds – chickweed, comfrey, feverfew, buckthorn and alfalfa to name just a few. We do have camomile growing wild here which is great, but these seeds will provide the ground with nutrients and also ‘hide’ some of our fruit crops that we will grow in amongst these. Having medicinal herbs in the garden will also be great – as a herbalist I’ve always wanted to be able to grow my own organic herbs.

We have visited our local garden centre which is very different to the garden centres in the uk – it sells plants, pots, compost and associated weed killers etc. Quite refreshing not to have a food hall and gift hall and clothes in amongst the plants! We have a list of fruit bushes we want so will take that in to them when we’re ready to start planting, now that we know what they stock. We’re planning to put blackberries, red currants, blackcurrants, kiwifruit vines and blueberries dotted in between the existing trees – which is going to be a lot of fruit bushes!

We did a plan of our land with an inventory of the trees and we were quite staggered to realise we have 88 trees and 97 grape vines!

One thing at a time though … finish the fencing first then the exciting stuff can start!

Water, wild pigs and soap nuts!

Well we can’t complain about daily drudgery here – there’s definitely never two days the same.

The massively high water pressure is causing problems – you fix the pipes and joints and it’s all good for a week until the next leak… poor Rog seems to spend half his time on his knees fixing water leaks – we should buy shares in PTFE (known as Teflon here in case you ever need to buy some!).

Something had been digging around the trees over the last couple of weeks – and I mean really digging! We had our suspicions but called our neighbour in to get his advice – and it’s wild pigs. We need to take urgent action or we’re going to start losing trees. Paco has recommended setting traps and getting a gun and said that we will have a party with a big BBQ when we get it /them. Apparently when the river dries up they start wandering around in search of water so potentially is a summer long problem. A trip to the ferriteria this morning and we have some galvanised steel and special clips to make traps. We need to look up the laws on owning an air gun here, but in the meantime we do have a crossbow.

But the big success has been the organic shampoo – ditches all the recipes, bought soap nuts, boiled them up and use the water to wash my hair – a complete revelation, I will never buy shampoo again! Definitely goes to show how easy it is to over complicate these things.

We’ve also planned out the veg garden now and made sure we’ve planned to put plants that like each other together (companion planting). I’ve also been doing some research on forest gardens and permaculture as in the long term that looks like the right option for us. We would rather take our time and plan it properly as we’re starting from scratch – easier in the long term rather than trying to change it in the future.

Alchemy ain’t that easy …

After my success with the pine disinfectant spray I went gung-ho into making shampoo!

Not such great results on the first attempt though, but I’m not giving up!

The first attempt was a recipe off the internet using aloe vera, which we have growing here and is one of my favourite ingredients – great, I thought.

Put the aloe in a blender … mmm I have a blender but no electricity to run it. I know, I’ll whisk it to death – 15 minutes later it was clear that wasn’t going to work too well. I know, the garlic crusher! So there I was, up to my elbows in sticky aloe gel, now more of it on me than in the bowl. Rog came in and stopped dead at the mess – I just shouted ‘It’s alchemy!!!’

Not to be deterred, I cracked on with the rest of the recipe – a cup of Castile soap, check; quarter of a cup of sweet almond oil (seemed rather a lot but hey), check; tablespoon of honey (more oily stuff??), check, and a tablespoon of lavender oil. Mix it all together and away you go.

Two days of extraordinarily greasy hair later, I’ve binned it.

So, I haven’t given up though, just not in my nature. I searched for more recipes and found one on the good housekeeping site. Half a cup of Castile soap, half a cup of water (which can be a herbal tea so I used rosemary from the garden) and the merest drizzle of oil – sounds more like it. So I’m ready to give that a go tomorrow …

I did also make lemon shower gel though – pretty much the same as that first shampoo recipe without the aloe and replaced the lavender oil with 50 drops of lemon essential oil and it’s lovely!

In telling this tale to my sister she did comment on the fact we have ‘a bacteria hole outside for sewage and that I’m now washing using garden plants – had I read Stig of the Dump?’ That’s big sisters for you!

Our first fiesta …

Well I’m exhausted from speaking all that Spanish! We couldn’t quite work out why there was a fiesta today, but it didn’t really seem to matter. Apparently from now there’s pretty much something going on in the village every weekend.

It was a complete display of something that has sadly been lost in the UK – community. There was a band, and everyone went to the village hall for food and drink, and the band only stopped long enough for a quick bite to eat, so the whole occasion was very loud and joyful.

It gave us an opportunity to meet new neighbours, and I simply can’t believe how friendly and happy everyone is here – they all put it down to the immense amount of sunshine!

El agua, es gratis!!

So we met our other neighbour, Paco, yesterday. He owns the terraces above ours. After a quick chat and introductions he said there is a fiesta in town on Sunday and that we should come along – a good way to get to know some of the people in the village.

Now there are two different types of irrigation used around here – the drip irrigation, which we have, is an intricate network of pipes around the property with valves that sprinkle water gently around each tree. Every 2-3 days we turn the water on for a couple of hours. It takes some maintenance to stop the valves blowing, but we can carry on with our normal living while the water is on.

The other method is flooding. We have lots of channels and pipes around the property that used to be used to carry the flood water around the farm, but we were told these are no longer used because the previous owner has installed the drip irrigation.

Paco uses the flooding method … on the terraces above us …

What he did tell us is that the water for this method of irrigation is free in the winter for farmers as it comes straight from the river, and he would show us how to use this and where to turn the water on in the lane. He also explained he was going to do his terraces that day.

He helped Rog scramble up to his terrace and pulled a screen up in a channel shouting ‘El agua, es gratis!!!’ (The water is free). And that’s when it all started to go horribly wrong … Rog watched in horror as the water shot down across our terraces. Our channels and pipes are clearly clogged up in places and so the water went straight into the shed instead of under it in the water channel. And with this method of irrigation theres no off switch – so the water just kept coming!

Poor Rog had spent the last few days organising the shed and now everything was floating in 12 inches of water … two hours of sloshing around in wellies and we think we’ve saved it all. The shed wall has an interesting ‘lean’ (definitely wouldn’t pass building regs!) and now we know why! Lord knows how long the shed has been flooding every time Paco irrigates!

So today’s job is to unclog the water channels before Paco decides to irrigate again!

We eventually came in to eat and sat looking at each other across the table, covered in mud … before bursting into hysterical laughter. Well, what else can you do!

And at least we know if we sort the channels out we can have free irrigation water in the winter, although I don’t know if my nerve would hold to try the flooding method again!

Learning Spanish

When we decided to embark on this adventure, we started to learn Spanish – after all its just rude to live in a country and not speak the language. We’re using various apps like Duo Lingo, which I have to say is very good and it’s free. Michel Thomas is another good method, and Rog watched a few lessons on You Tube – we would like to buy the cd’s but we don’t have electricity to run a CD player at the moment – maybe in the future.

Just over a year in and we do still get stuck (thank heavens for translation apps!) but for general day to day stuff we’re pretty fluent now, and when the phone rings I don’t panic as much! Talking on the phone is definitely the hardest as body language, facial expressions and hand gestures really do help you to understand!

I think the key is to speak it at every opportunity – when I go to the post office to collect our mail or parcels, I always have a chat to the lady in there – she knows our Spanish can be a bit iffy so let’s me practise – asks what we’ve been ordering etc. Managed to have a conversation today about using eco products. Even when the other person speaks English I keep going in Spanish!

The hardest thing is that the apps teach you stuff like ‘I like that green skirt’ when actually we need to discuss irrigation, fertilisers, insecticides etc but we take the ‘grammar lesson’ and apply the different words we need – and it seems to be working for both of us. I even suddenly found myself in the position yesterday where I knew the Spanish word for something and actually had to stop and think what the English word was! You know it’s all coming together when you think in Spanish – but it does take time and a poco a poco every day!

If you’re thinking of living inland, learning Spanish is a must – on the coast you’ll find English speakers, but the Spanish will love you for giving Spanish a go …

Using Eco Friendly Products

I was as guilty as everyone else back in the UK – big fan of bleach for cleaning, lots of harsh chemicals in all of my cleaning cupboards, and not a second thought as they went down the loo / sink / drains.

Now we have no drainage systems – any water from the sink or shower goes out under the tree next to the buried septic tank and off into the soakaway. So anything we send out will affect the land, and our plants and trees.

I have bought eco washing detergent and washing up liquid, but long term I want to make my own cleaning products. So I made a start yesterday with a spray cleaner.

Rog lopped one of the pine trees yesterday so I cut off the pine needles, covered them in a bowl with boiling water and covered the bowl. I left that to steep for about 6 hours and then strained and bottled the liquid. Added 10 drops of lavender essential oil to the bottle and hey presto, an effective and eco friendly spray cleaner. Pine is a natural disinfectant and the lavender deters our eight legged friends and other creepy crawlies, and it smells great too. Total cost for one litre, about 50p for the lavender oil!

Next on the list I need to look at shampoo and shower gel …

The Spanish Siesta

Temperatures are starting to ramp up here now, and we’re learning the true value of the siesta. I’ve been painting the outside light this morning and the paint is drying before I can get it on the light! So a nice lunch indoors will be followed by a little lie down and then work can recommence at about 5.

In the UK we’re so used to getting up, working straight through and then relaxing in the evening – I think it will take some time to get used to this new way of getting things done! We are finding that we’re getting less tied to time – most of the day I actually haven’t a clue what the time is – which was a really important part of the plan. We tend to eat when we’re hungry and sleep when we’re tired. And I feel great on this approach. We don’t work once it gets dark outside – for me that’s mainly due to the wildlife I have to say!

But we are making headway outside … we have just about finished the first round of weeding and it looks a million times better. Then will come the spraying of the trees – we’re a few weeks late doing that but I don’t think that will hurt. Once the trees are happy again we can start planning out the vegetable garden.

We’re thinking … peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, beans, carrots, corn, cabbage and broccoli to start, and we’re looking at ways that we can maximise the space. We’ll probably do some vertical planting in a pallet as well as using some of the pipes we have lying around, raised up off the ground – both of these methods will be suitable for the stuff that doesn’t need deep soil to grow, like the tomatoes. And we’ll need to extend the drip irrigation for the veg.

We’ve identified the best place for the chickens, but unfortunately we have to find a way to move 8 IBC’s which are each full with 1000 litres of stagnant water first. 🤔 And they’re on a very narrow part of the top terrace so you can’t actually walk around them! Thinking caps on …

Mother in law

We picked up mother in law yesterday and brought her back here to stay for a few days. It’s made me realise how special this place is – the change in her in just a couple of hours was amazing – to say she came alive is an understatement. And after a great nights sleep, Ethel’s first words this morning were ‘I’m in heaven’

Visitor ready!

24 hours till our first visitors, it’s been a bit like an episode of DIY SOS but we’ve made it. Rog has turned into Gepetto in his shed making stuff for the house from things lying around – I think his masterpiece is the pot hanger – made from a pallet and some fencing. There’s other things we would like to do to the house in time, but having it clean, fresh and cockroach free (😱) means we can now crack on and concentrate on the land. I think I’m most proud of the last two pictures – the spare room, which 2 weeks ago was horrific – I’ve never plastered before, and while it has a ‘rustic’ finish, I think it looks alright!

Thank you Dave…

This is Dave, and he’s a bit of a legend in this house now:

Not only did he get his van with all our stuff within 100m of the house, he stayed to help us get it all up the lane to the house as well. He charged us less than half what the big removal firms were quoting, and knowing our stuff was with the one chap all the way was very reassuring. And not a single thing was broken! If you need to move stuff to or from Spain, he’s your man – his contact details are:

Dave Keymer – 00 44 7874 638330

Thank you Dave!

My bed is nearly here!

The van with our stuff is now in Spain, and will be here tomorrow – after nearly 4 months on the air bed I can hear my bed calling to me 😂 ‘Just a bit longer, one more night and I’ll be there!’

How we get it all to the house is another thing. We are 1km down a lane out of the village but think the van could get most of the way, which would leave us about 100 meters to walk it to the house, and we have two alternatives for the driver to turn around and get back – I just hope he’s willing to go the extra mile (or kilometre) to help us, otherwise it’s going to be a very very long day tomorrow – what a way to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary!

Our first visitors are due this weekend, so we’ve been transforming the spare room for mother in law – it just needs painting now. I ordered Sandtex from the UK which worked really well in the rest of the house, but ran out so ordered some more. The paint you buy over here seems to flake really badly so we paid the extra to do the job right. Picked it up today and the tub has split, so we have a plastic bag of 10 litres of paint rather than a tub – typical! Thanks FedEx! It takes two weeks to get here from the UK so no time to order more and have it ready for this weekend – think I’ll just have to do the best with what I’ve got!

Weather is still awful, but it does make it easier to pull the weeds out! There’s always a silver lining!

So much to learn …

Work is progressing well inside and out, despite the weather! Rog has now collected up the various piles of tiles that were scattered around the land – we have enough tiles to open a shop! But they will come in handy as the steps at the side of the house up to the terrace are just blocks, so we plan to mosaic them at some stage (not really a top priority at the moment).

The rubbish is almost cleared – 5 weeks of filling the back of the car almost every day for the bin run and we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Both sheds have been emptied, and we have made some amazing discoveries – balustrades for the roof terrace that have never been added – like the stairs these are not a priority, but at least we know we haven’t got that expense later down the road. A really old front door that will be beautiful with a little work. Deckchairs a plenty, including three rocking chairs! Two are currently being given a new lease of life to use in the house, as we got rid of our UK sofa, knowing it would be too big for wherever we ended up buying.

The spare room has been plastered – pretty pleased with how it looks, but it does need some touching up and finishing before we can paint – but as it’s pouring with rain again today it’s not really the right day to be painting! The plaster has taken days to dry because of the recent weather.

And weeding – oh so much weeding! Just a couple of hours outside produces enough to make a huge bonfire! We have started a compost heap, but if we added all the weeds to it it would be like Mount Everest! The good news is that since freeing the vines of weeds they have completely sprung into life.

Talking of vines, we do have our own bodega at the back of the house – apparently the vines produce about 2,000 kg of grapes for wine making – we have a manual and a motorised press, the big vat thing and the oak boots – the only problem is we have absolutely no idea how to use all this to make wine! Need to do some homework!

We’re starting to identify the trees that are healthy and the ones that need a lot of attention – we have five nisperos, all of which look almost dead. Four pear trees that look great. The almonds and olives are fine, as are about half the orange and mandarin trees. I think we might have to lose a few and re plant – I don’t know how many years they’ve been unattended, but even our green fingers can’t bring back the dead! And as for the banana tree – I’m beginning to wonder if it’s worth having – the amount of potassium you have to add costs 10 times more than just buying some bananas.

Onwards and upwards, learning more and more with every day!

Thoughts on not ‘adulting’ any more

My son commented tonight that he was doing fully fledged adulting at the moment, which got me thinking about how much I’m not adulting any more.

I’ve always been very sensible really – we’ve managed to bring up three children who are all grown up now and whom we are very proud of. I have held down responsible jobs, and always tried to be a helping hand to anyone in need. Sensible shoes, sensible clothes, sensible life.

Compare that picture of sensibility to now – I set fire to the house yesterday (not on purpose!) and reacted by going ‘ooh Rog, fire’ whilst laughing maniacally – Rog was on the shed roof at the time but got to the house in seconds to find me pouring water over the fire – still laughing (I have no idea why). Lesson here – don’t spray insect killing stuff on the floor next to a fridge that runs off bottled gas 😳

Rog has also taken to throwing oranges at the dog next door – they have 3 dogs but their property isn’t fully fenced, and one of the dogs keeps coming over to our land and eating the cat food (they’re not particularly well looked after in my opinion). Last night we heard the dog by the house so Rog went running out in his dressing gown and slippers, wearing a head torch and throwing oranges from the crates by the door – funnily enough the dog hasn’t been over today! Oh how I wish I’d had time to get a picture!

We are becoming very well known in the village now – for being the mad English in the really old car who wave and shout buenas to everyone as we go by – the funny thing is that they’ve started waving back – and one chap actually put down what he was carrying yesterday to wave both arms at us and shout buenas before we’d done anything – I think happiness is infectious! My son reckons all the locals think we’re on acid or something!

And condensed milk in coffee … all the time 🤗

Living cheaply

When you suddenly stop receiving a salary after 30 odd years, it feels a bit scary. You find yourself looking at stuff and trying to figure out ways of getting the job done using what you already have around you. There are some costs you can’t avoid, but with some canny planning it is possible to keep these to a minimum. Sometimes a one off investment in something is a good way of saving money long term.

We still have some money in the bank, but are trying not to go through that where possible. Our stuff doesn’t arrive from England until the middle of next week, so we’re living in the house with what we had in the tent and what is around the place. As we planned to be on solar over here, there’s not much coming from the UK that needs electricity.

Our one run of kitchen cupboards was made up of 3 different kitchens, so instead of replacing it, I’ve hand sewed some curtains to replace the odd doors – for the princely sun if €10! Last year in our old house we replaced the kitchen and spent £14k! And I like my €10 cupboards just as much to be fair!

We were delighted to see the previous owner had left us a weed wacker, chain saw and rotivator, but as they have been left standing for years none of them worked. There’s a workshop in town that could repair them for us, but Rog set about doing it himself today – total cost was €4 for s new spark plug, some fresh petrol and half a day – excellent result in my book, as we now have what will eventually be our vegetable garden all ploughed. Rog has also found a myriad of old tools including a massive grim reaper style scythe! With a bit of attention they can be serviceable again soon.

We have a very basic solar system at the moment – we had one 100 watt solar panel and a small 150 watt inverter. We have added one 165 watt panel and upgraded the inverter, but we have much more to do to the system. So at the moment we have light and the ability to charge phones and a battery drill, and that’s pretty much it. We want to wait until we have our residency before we invest in the solar system, so what we have is it for a few months. When we upgrade we want to include a hot water system so the gas boiler will be an emergency back up only, cutting more costs. The fridge currently runs on gas, costing €12 per month, so we need to include the fridge when we plan the new system. Cooking is also gas but I’m not sure I’ll change this. I use a countertop camping type hob which isn’t expensive on the gas, so I think we’ll stick to this and add in a small convection oven to run off the solar, or invest in a gas oven and accept that there will be a monthly gas cost for cooking. I have considered cooking in the open fire, but who wants a roaring fire when it’s 30 degrees outside! The solar system will undoubtedly be our biggest investment, so we need to plan it carefully and shop around – not to be hurried!

And I have been washing the clothes by hand … washing, rinsing and wringing – it took almost a full day each week. So I did splash out €90 on a washing machine – a non electric one with a crank handle – it’s a revelation! I can do the washing now in an hour (quicker than my spaceship modern washing machine back in England) with minimum effort and fab results:

I can wash and rinse in this but still have to wring everything out by hand, so I’ll be adding a salad spinner to the mix to get this done more efficiently – after all, being off grid doesn’t mean living in the dark ages!

This week’s mission

The main bedroom is all painted – wasn’t in too bad a state, and the bathroom is done. Tomorrow the main room, which is prepared, but the big challenge is to make this room habitable in 10 days, ready for our first visitor – the mother-in-law!

Legal stuff

When you buy or rent a house in Spain, you pop along to the local Town Hall to get a Certificado de Empadriamento – basically says you live there. This is different to residency. The Town Hall receives their budget based on the number of citizens in their town, so are keen for people to register. You also need this certificate to apply for residency.

Usually, you pop along and either get a certificate straight away or within a couple of days. We finally got ours this week – took just over 3 weeks! This is because we bought a house that was previously not registered on a road with no name. The Mayor wanted to include us in the town, so first they had to register our lane as a road with a name – which is now Praje Mogaire and funnily enough we are number 1! This also meant we were given the choice to name our finca – and we chose Finca del Cielo (farm of heaven) – we thought it had a nice ring to it!

Now we also needed this certificate to register the car in our name, which we bought the day after we completed on the house – we were given a cover authorisation for 30 days – and within this timeframe we had to complete the registration process – so it was all getting very tight – as the 30 days ran out over the weekend we had just 3 days to register the car – not a problem we thought. Oh my god – if you buy a car in Spain either go to a dealer who will do the registration for you or buy a pushbike. Two days we spent in Almeria, and that was even with the help of a gestoria who we ended up paying €160 to get the right forms done. Still, we got there in the end and all the forms have gone off and the transfer tax has been paid – phew!

A quick word on gestorias – they are basically administrators who are supposed to know their way around the Spanish system – they can help with all sorts of things like getting your NIE, residency, registering a car or tax returns – they’re not solicitors or accountants, but they will help you complete the right forms and get them to the right place for a fee. We are planning to use a gestoria for our residency applications, as we’ve heard you can end up running all over the place completing and re-doing forms time and again. A lot of gestorias have ‘runners’ who will take the forms to the right buildings, and they don’t usually have to make appointments or queue, saving valuable time. The gestoria we used for the car didn’t speak English, and didn’t have runners (we had to do that bit) but we were pushed for time and didn’t have much choice – but for our residency we will definitely find an English speaking gestoria! Our Spanish is improving but we’re not quite up with all the legal stuff!

We have a mechanic, and his name is Jesus!

And yes, he has performed a miracle on the car today! Driving to Alhama this morning there was an awful crunching noise and we ground to a halt – thankfully our insurance includes recovery! We picked a name of a garage randomly in nearby Alhama de Almeria and had the car towed there. After much gesticulating and pointing, he said he would look at it today or tomorrow – and tonight he has just texted to say it will be ready at 10am tomorrow – he managed to find a replacement gear in a breakers yard, so the price is fantastic too.

You often hear of difficulties that people have getting things done in Spain – we are experiencing the exact opposite – last week we called Emilio (our now forever gas man) on Monday and had a new boiler up and running by Tuesday evening. Now today with the car too – sorted efficiently and cheaply – maybe it’s because we’re inland away from the coast – maybe it’s because we try to only speak in Spanish and smile a lot, I don’t know 🤔

Dragons and lizards

A word on the wildlife – flippin ‘eck there’s a lot of it! We’ve been clearing out areas that have been untouched for years today and the different wildlife certainly makes it ‘interesting’ – I’m trying not to do girly shrieks every five minutes but I do wear jeans and wellies and a hat (like they’ll protect me 😂).

It’s very satisfying to stand back and see the difference you’ve made. You then realise that anything is possible if you do it a bit at a time.

And the really fabulous news is that we have hot water! Emilio is now our gas man forever – worked until late to get us sorted with a new boiler the other night – I will never take that hot shower for granted again!

A few days in …

Rain yesterday … all day like it does in the UK, and then just as we started to dry out today, more rain! Thankfully I found a pair of wellies that fit well enough. The enormity of the work that’s needed here has revealed itself, so we’re taking everyone’s advice – a poco a poco – we’ll get there but it’s going to take time. Freed the vines up today of weeds strangling them – we need to have one hell of a bonfire tomorrow!

But I think my biggest success today came on the telephone – we asked the lovely man in the hardware shop if he knew of a gas engineer for our boiler – and sure enough he produced a name and number. When you’re learning a new language the hardest thing is to have a conversation on the phone – but I did it! He’s coming tomorrow at about 7pm and we’re going to pick him up from the town hall in the village – I even managed to tell him he couldn’t drive his van to the house – feel pretty chuffed with myself. I am looking forward to a hot shower at some point in the near future! And maybe he’ll fix the gas fridge too, which currently freezes everything in it 😳

In my old life I was constantly prioritising, and that hasn’t changed here – with so much work to do we’ve got to fathom out what’s most urgent. Some of that is obvious even to novices like us, but we’re also watching the farmers around us to see what they’re doing and when.

But would I swap my wellies back for high heels? Never! I’m muddy, wet, and look like I’ve been dragged through a bush backwards … and I don’t care a jot!

Life is good …

First night in our new home – it’s so quiet, just the odd barking dog in the distance, the clicking of a few insects and the last bird songs before they go to bed, and of course, the crackling if the fire

When we sat down in January 2018 and decided things needed to change, this very moment was what I dreamed of. Feeling truly blessed and a little emotional this evening.

Moving Day

So after 80 nights in the tent, we’re finally moving into the house today. We’ll find out this morning when we get there whether the loo is now working, having left the silicone to set over night. We definitely don’t have hot water – despite futile attempts to light the ancient boiler it wouldn’t play ball – but hey, we’ve got a kettle and a sink in the meantime while we get that sorted!

The tent has been a real experience – we did pay a little extra for a big one:

It’s been very comfortable and there’s been very little I’ve missed from home. It’s the first air tent we’ve had, and I must say, it has stood up to the recent very windy weather really well – better than any pole tent would have.

So my next post will be in a few days once we’ve settled in hopefully!!

Introducing Carlos the Santana

We sold the Saab and bought this 34 year old Santana – simply had to be named Carlos according to the other half! Having new brakes fitted today before we move – fairly important to have decent brakes at the house! Hoping to get moved in in the next few days, but we lost 2 days this week getting the car sorted – which was a priority!

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink!

When we bought the cortijo the agent said it had drinking water – and to be fair, we took this with a pinch of salt as we knew it was rustic or irrigation water. When we discovered the shower was leaking we found that part of the problem was the amount of sediment in the water. We had already planned to put in a 5 stage reverse osmosis filter in the house, but that wouldn’t cope with this amount of sediment, so we set to work.

So we’ve replaced the filter where the water comes in on the land and inserted a second, 50 micron filter on the pipe which brings the water into the house – sorting it that side should then allow the reverse osmosis filter to work properly and give us safe, clean water.

Now throw in the problem of the water pressure – it hits us at 10 bar! There’s a pressure measure where the water comes onto our land, and another on the pipe into the house. Thankfully we have an amazing ferretería just outside Alhama. One pressure regulating valve later, and we can now control the pressure of the water into the house, limiting it to 3 bar. The guys in there were brilliant – I think they realised the mad English people will be regular customers!

Our network of pipes cross crossing the land is hysterical – we’re starting to look like the spaceship enterprise!

Not everything went quite as smoothly as we would’ve liked though! The first test of turning the water on in the house has blown a valve on the filter system inside, so we need to get a replacement before we test again – fingers crossed we’ll have clean safe water any day now!

However, now the fridge has a problem – it runs on gas or electric and has a problem with the thermostat knob – every day we return to the house and have milk in there that’s frozen solid 😳. Life with no bra is one thing … but life without tea – unthinkable! We need to try and fix this as a replacement fridge freezer is over €700

Take one problem at a time, solve it then move on to the next one – a poco a poco!

Tomorrow is another day, and we’re still smiling!

a poco a poco a poco …

This is the answer to everything here! Little by little … and it’s not bad advice (except when you’re trying to get a mountain of things done)!

Me: ‘I need to learn more about fruit trees’

Pepe: ‘a poco a poco …’

In the Town Hall, registering ourselves at the house

Me: ‘I need to learn more Spanish’ (in Spanish I hasten to add)

Town Hall lady: ‘a poco a poco ..tu hablas español muy bien’ (which produced a big grin from me!

In the Town Hall asking how we get rid of the mountain of rubbish from the house

Me: ‘We have lots of rubbish from the house, how do we get rid of it?’

Town Hall man: yep, ‘a poco a poco …’

So because the house is just outside the village, the Mayor has agreed to register our house on the records in Illar so that we will officially be residents of Illar and not just those crazy English living in the campo. This means we were able to give our house a name … and we have chosen Finca del Cielo (Farm of heaven). Has a nice ring to it we think! The welcome we have had in the village so far has been amazing.

Aside from all that we have had to do man shopping – taps, new shower, inverter for the solar system, tools etc – in the ‘olden days back in England’ I would’ve chosen swanky expensive stuff, but all that had changed. Why spend €500 on a shower when a €50 one will do exactly the same job and get you clean! I like this new attitude, it feels good.

Big couple of days coming up getting ready to move in now – we need hot and cold running water in the house which means 2 water filters need fitting, 2 taps and the shower. The water has loads of sediment in it, so we thought it better to fit a filter outside, and then have a second one in the kitchen to remove everything and make the water safe. Then we need to fit the inverter so we have light and one socket, and despite the house being tiny, I’m still cleaning!

Oh, and we have the dangerous caterpillars nesting in the pine trees at the front of the house – procession caterpillars – asked the Town Hall about them but apparently we have to cut them down and set fire to the nests without getting anywhere near them – most definitely a ‘blue job’ methinks!

All good fun en el campo!

Two days in …

We don’t have 1 cat – we have 2!

Some things are going well – we have added an extra solar panel so now up to 8 amps – 1 more panel should do it. The kitchen is no longer a health hazard – honestly there was more penicillin in the fridge than the NHS have in their stores, and let’s not even talk about the rat poison sprinkled inside the cupboards! We managed to make the all important first cuppa there today!

As we have a pozo negra we can’t use any chemicals in the house, so copious amounts of vinegar, bicarb and lemon juice are my new cleaning cupboard, and very effective! The lingering smell of vinegar on both me and the house may take some time to dissipate! For the uninitiated, a pozo negra is a septic tank system where the tank is buried in the ground and (unless it goes wrong) never needs emptying- the bacteria in the tank eat the mucky stuff and the grey water left over soaks away. This is a very popular system in the campo as the lorries can’t get to most of the cortijos to empty the normal type of septic tank. So this is why chemicals can’t be used in the house – they would kill the bacteria and stop the septic tank from working. Very clever.

We have managed to get most of the drip irrigation working now, and have more oranges than we know what to do with (we’re getting the contact details this week of who the previous owner sold his fruit to), but it may be too late for this years harvest, which is dropping to the ground faster than we can cope with – we thought we would have to write off this bunch of oranges but will be ready for the next harvest.

All the previous owners belongings together with the beds and mattresses etc are piled outside the house now. It really is as if one day the owner said ‘let’s not live here anymore’ and they walked out and locked the door! We’ll be asking the town hall tomorrow how we get rid of it all, as there are no tips / recycling centres around here like there are in the UK. We know the council do free rubbish collections, but the waste lorry won’t be able to get to the house. We don’t want to just take it into town and dump it all by the communal bins and upset all the locals in our first week there.

Some things are proving a little more challenging – we turned the shower on to test it and the shower head literally burst into pieces and the water now flows down behind the shower cubicle, so we’ve started dismantling that to try and fix the problem – this means we’ve had to turn off all the water to the house, so I’m cleaning with water out of the irrigation raft down the road! And we have a lot of hornets (or wasps, we can’t decide), nesting in the bricks of the house …

We’re still grinning and still in complete awe of the scenery …

We’re there!

Well what a day! Buying a house here is so different to the impersonal process in the UK. Everyone attended the Notary’s office this morning, the meeting started late as everyone was drinking coffee in the cafe next to the office 😂

The notary reads out the details of the sale, various discussions happen until all the info is agreed, money exchanges hands (we had to take a mixture of bankers drafts and cash) and everyone is happy – sounds simple – took over an hour with much laughing. But the moment that will stay with me forever went like this:

Pepe (old owner) ‘don’t forget to feed the cat’

Notary ‘a cat?’

Us ‘what cat’

Pepe ‘your cat’

We got more than we bargained for today!

So off we went to the house. We still have the Saab at the moment – too big to get to the house, but we had stuff in the car we needed to get there today. So pedal power it was, backwards and forwards from the car to the house. Then came the big toolbox … wheelbarrowed it to the house – the locals think we’re nuts now! But we did meet and feed the cat!

A few days of clearing out and cleaning to follow before we can move in … ready for the challenge!

Excited isn’t the word!

Ups and downs, a few tantrums and some arm waving, but we are actually completing on the house tomorrow, I can’t quite believe it. Living in a tent for the past couple of months has been an experience, and a great lesson to teach you what you NEED vs what you WANT!

We’re not moving in straight away – we need to add a few more solar panels on as the house currently has just one, and it needs a damned good clean, as it hasn’t been lived in for some time – I did notice on the viewing there were a fair few eight legged residents – they will be evicted immediately! We hope to be in sometime next week though, and it’s only half an hour from the campsite, so we can go up and work in the day and then come back to camp for hot showers, hot food and a clean bed. It should only take a few days (the house is only 56m2 after all!!).

The rest of our stuff (which we whittled down to 13 cubic meters) will arrive just before Easter so that gives us time to do a bit of decorating while there’s hardly anything in the house. We also need to crack on with the work on the land – lots to do!

While we’ve been camping we have become avid YouTube watchers, learning about looking after fruit trees, drip irrigation and all sorts of things that we’ll need to know – it’s going to be a big learning curve!

Once we have the house we can buy a car – in Spain you cannot buy a car as a non resident unless you can produce title deeds for a property or a 12 month rental agreement. We’re seeing a car on Friday that will actually be able to fit down the road to the house (the old Saab is too big!). We’ve even managed to sell the Saab to a couple on the campsite, which makes life easier. The cost of transferring it to Spanish plates is uneconomical, and as it won’t get to the house, it needs to go – for a £700 car it’s been amazing – we’ve driven thousands of miles since leaving the UK and it hasn’t missed a beat.

Then next week we need to complete the paperwork for residency (for which you also need title deeds or a rental agreement!). I think we’ll find a Gestor to help with that – they seem to be invaluable administrators who, for a reasonable fee, help you through the Spanish minefield of systems!

A few pictures of our new home! We’re calling it Finca Del Cielo (farm of heaven):

Hurrah we have exchanged contracts!

Not on that second house – turned out to be registered but as a shed, so we wouldn’t be able to live in it, but the first house we viewed in Almeria. It wasn’t legal at the time but the owner has now sorted all the paperwork – should complete in about a week. The dream is becoming a reality!

Another day, another house …

We have given up on the first house – they said they would have the paperwork sorted by the 20th Feb and they haven’t – time to walk away. We viewed one last week very close to the first one – better house but just a bit less land. Went back today for a second viewing, made an offer, which after a bit of negotiating, was accepted. We have been promised this is legal … we’ll see! Paperwork should be with our solicitor today – really hope he manages to look at it otherwise we’re back to waiting again!

Meantime we are making the most of the beautiful campsite (La Garrofa) with the private beach and the glorious sunshine – it’s a hard life 🌞

A little ray of sunshine

So we’ve heard today that the meeting this week at the town hall wasn’t the date set for us to complete – it’s actually the date that the current owner should get the planning permission. This should mean that we know by the end of the week whether we can buy the house or not. We did view another house last week as s back up, so we have that as an option if this one doesn’t happen at least.

We’ve made the tent a little more comfortable by buying a small fridge – it’s definitely warmer in Almeria than in Torrox, and we’re not within walking distance of a food shop now, so it was getting difficult not to poison ourselves! Shopping every day tends to end up costing more, so at least now we can buy enough food for 4-5 days at a time.

The new campsite, La Garrofa, is fabulous, we love it here.

Excited now for what news this week brings …

The inevitable snag!

The house doesn’t have planning permission, estate agent says can be sorted before the date we’re due to complete (2 weeks tomorrow) – really? We’re moving to a new campsite in Almeria this coming Saturday so at least we’ll be in the right area to continue our search in case this one doesn’t happen. We had read that this was a common problem with the types of houses we’re looking at in Spain, so we’ll just have to play the waiting game and see what happens. We have lined up some similar alternatives around the same area to look at, but the worry now of course is that they won’t have planning permission either …

We’ve bought a small fruit farm!

Done it! Back to our favourite this morning and successfully negotiated a price that everyone is happy with. The appointment is booked at the Town Hall for the 20th February to sign everything which gives our solicitor time to check it all out. Two bits of advice I would give anyone looking to do this – learn Spanish and get a good bi lingual solicitor – we did both and I’m so glad we did. We’ve done the two viewings and all the negotiation ourselves only in Spanish, which I’m actually really proud of, and it gives me great comfort to know I don’t have to learn all the legal jargon now in Spanish!

We’re moving to a new campsite on the 9th Feb over in Almeria so we can get things organised and be around in the right area – started making lists already!

Somos muy emonionada! (We’re very excited!)

We’ve found the one!

In just two weeks we’ve managed to sort our NIE, open a bank account, view loads of houses and have now found the one we want to buy. We’ve settled on Almeria, which surprised us both because we were put off on the drive in by the sea of plastic greenhouses that line the coast over that way. We drove towards Almería and turned north just before the city and drove up past Alhama de Almeria to a tiny village.

We’re going back next Tuesday for the second viewing and to negotiate face to face with the owner and estate agent, which apparently is the way it’s often done here. If we agree the price, the actual purchase should go through quite quickly we hope. The house is tiny at just 52m2 and there’s half an acre of land stuffed full of fruit trees. We came away from the viewing with a massive bag of oranges, which are delicious! The view is spectacular with not a soul in sight, yet it’s just a ten minute walk to the village. Alhama is a 10 minute drive away and has all the shops we would need day to day, and the airport is 30 minutes away. And, it’s under budget … roll on next Tuesday!

Viewing houses in Spain

We’ve seen 4 houses so far, and the experience has been a bit different to viewing houses in the UK! Because our budget is small at just £50k / €55k and we want at least 1000m2 of land with a preference for well water and solar, the places we’re seeing are off the beaten track! The first place we saw we up in Comares so we met the estate agent at their office in Colmenar, a few miles away. Follow us, they said, as they got into their 4×4 Mitsubishi 😂 So we did! Wasn’t terribly easy mind – shale and rock tracks which had had rock falls and a small river crossing later we reached the most gorgeous little cottage. Unfortunately the land wasn’t really suitable and what they said came with the house was about a third of the amount of land advertised. We’ve asked for copies of the escritorio (deeds) to see exactly what comes with the house. Water is from a community well and there’s a cesspit instead of a septic tank. But at €43k there would be money in the pot to put things right. It’s just the access that’s the biggest hurdle.

Then we saw two houses up in Jaen province – one of which is perfect. We would’ve preferred to have stayed further south for the climate, but we accept there will always be a compromise. Two wells, flat land, solar already installed and even a little swimming pool! And the house comes with a dog, Champion – a German shepherd cross with one blue eye and one wonky brown eye. The current owners can’t have him at their new house, and so if the person who buys the house doesn’t want Champion then he’ll be put to sleep 😱. We couldn’t let that happen.

This mornings house was beautiful – tiny but workable, but all the land is mountainside so we’d be like mountain goats living there 😂 We met the elderly owner and his son outside a restaurant – neither spoke English but I have to say I’m so pleased with how we managed with our limited Spanish – it’s really coming on now. I would say it’s essential to learn Spanish if you’re coming here. I prepared some questions last night in Spanish so we didn’t have to rely on Google translate during the viewing – this was a good move! Follow me, he said (in Spanish) so we jumped in the car and followed up and down a twisty mountain single track road (better than the Comares house!) for about 25 minutes until we arrived on top of a mountain – the views were gobsmacking!

We have 3 more viewings this week – two of which could be real contenders for the one up in Jaen. Hopefully we’ll be in a position to make a decision by next weekend … very exciting!

Camping and stuff …

Camping in January is a bit chilly at night – I’m glad we chose to camp down on the coast where it’s a few degrees warmer! But during the day – lovely sunshine for the most part and warm – loving it!

We’ve applied for our NIE numbers – you can’t do anything here without an NIE – our solicitor in Baza did the paperwork for us and took us to the bank and the police station – well worth the €50 charge – it was done in minutes and are expecting our numbers to come through next week.

We’ve opened a bank account with Sabadell initially – English speaking which is useful while we’re still learning Spanish, but we’ll open a local bank account once we know where we’re buying a house.

We’ve seen three houses so far – that idealistic idea of living up a mountain – we understand the reality of that now and so have ruled those out!! When the seller takes you up a mountain track in a 4×4 and struggles, with wheels hanging off the side you suddenly realise what remote means!

We saw a house though yesterday that could be perfect – it has all the solar panels in place, two wells and a nice piece of flat land for growing veg. There’s a host of fruit trees and the house itself is plenty big enough for us to have visitors. It’s just 6km from a decent size town and an hour to Granada airport. Think this might be the one, but we’re holding off until we’ve seen the other houses we’ve got booked in over the next week or so.

Moving from a fairly big house to a tent has presented us with some challenges – cooking on the floor, no fridge etc, but it’s a means to an end so I’m just trying to enjoy the experience 😊

And for the first time in over a year the pleurisy pain has completely gone – that tells me we’ve done the right thing.

We’re here!

3 days by ferry and road – arrived yesterday. Decided to break the journey up – if you’re travelling through Spain there are loads of services on the main E5 route that have hotels – we stopped at Hotel Manzanares – an opportunity to try out our Spanish as no one spoke English which was great practice!

We arrived at El Pino campsite in Torrox Costa yesterday – you can’t book in advance but we managed to get a pitch with electric hook up for €315 for a month – and we can extend as we need to. It does get chilly at night in the tent (well it is January!) so we bought a fan heater today and an electric stove – no point buying gas when we’ve already paid for the electric! We thought it would be better to stay on the coast where it’s a bit warmer as were here in winter – Granada is -6 at night at the moment!

We’ve arranged to meet our solicitor next week to get our NIE’s organised – he charges €50 fir doing all the paperwork – I think it’s worth it as we know it will be done right. Until we have that number we can’t buy a car or open a bank account so the quicker it’s done the better. Time to relax now for a couple of days while we sort out some viewings …

Hard goodbyes

We’re on the ferry. Saying goodbye to our parents yesterday was heartbreaking – even though we know we’ll be back to visit, it’s harder than I ever thought possible to see my parents so upset. When you start making these plans, you know these bits will be tough, but it’s been worse than I imagined. As Rog said though, once we’ve done a trip back to see everyone they’ll believe that we’ll be back regularly.

We’re due to arrive in Bilbao Tuesday morning and will hit the road down to the south coast – if we need to stop overnight on the way we will. Anyone that knows me will be shocked that it hasn’t all been planned like a military operation – this is an important lesson for me – let go a bit, live in the present and deal with stuff as it happens! 🤗

It’s all very exciting 😁

We’re on our way

So the house is sold and we’ve been staying with Mother in Law for the last couple of weeks while I work my notice – thankfully my employer has let me off some of my full 3 months notice, and so with some holidays I’m owed I actually finish next Wednesday.  From here we’ll be off to stay with my parents for a couple of weeks before we sail on the 6th January.

We looked at different options for getting our stuff to Spain – we’ve managed to cut all of our belongings down to about half a garage, and that’s in storage now ready to come over once we’ve bought a house.  That in itself was a bit of a minefield, and we ended up with a shipping container in a secure unit – this was by far the cheapest way to store our stuff.  Removals firms were quoting us over £3k to store and move our stuff, but we have found a chap in Spain through our estate agent who goes back and forth with a large van and a trailer, and charges £100 per cubic square meter!  Bargain!  Halved the cost in one fail swoop!

We bought an old Saab Estate and that’s packed with our camping gear and some clothes – trying to whittle down what we might need over the next few months was a bit tough.

Saying goodbye has been hard – I went over to see the grandchildren – I will always hear the eldest, who’s 6, saying ‘I love you so very much Granny’ for the rest of my life.  The other two are a bit younger and I don’t think they really understood that we are leaving.  Then came the goodbye to my son, and I sobbed, I don’t mind admitting it.  Then goodbye to friends – more tears.  Finally, the next morning it was time to leave the house that’s been our family home for the last 15 years – where we bought our kids up since their teenage years.  Yep, more tears.  So we went for breakfast at the local cafe as I’d packed everything – even had a cry there too.  I think that part of it was the relief too – after we exchanged contracts on the house, going through systematically cancelling all of the direct debits, and feeling completely free (although homeless!) was amazing!  We’ve gone from over £1800 per month in direct debits down to £20 just for our phones.

So next week we’re off to London, and one step closer to getting to Spain.  We managed to exchange our money into Euros (another minefield) and that’s sitting securely with the exchange company (TorFX, would highly recommend them from our experience so far) ready for when we have opened an account in Spain.  I do wish our timing had been a bit better – trying to second guess what the exchange rate was going to do last week with all the Brexit stuff was a nightmare, but we jumped at a decent rate, and whatever happens now, we know exactly what we have to spend in Spain on a property.

And our first viewing is booked in – a house that we saw almost a year ago that we fell in love with got sold, but has come back on the market due to a problem with the title deeds – this is being fixed with the local Town Hall, and we’re just praying that the people that tried to buy it have found somewhere else and won’t be considering it again!  It’s been empty now for 4 years so needs some TLC, and there’s one rather worrying crack, so I think we’ll need a survey.  It’s got just under 4 acres, loads of fruit trees, 200 olive trees and a two bedroom house with solar panels and its own well, so all set up already for living off grid.

We’ve got loads of other houses to visit too, having done loads of research on Idealista, Kyero, ThinkSpain, Rusticom, Inland Andalucia and Andalucia Property Sales to name just a few – these are the ones we’ve found the best so far though.  We’ll make inquiries on these other properties when we get there.

We’ve decided to camp down at Torrox Costa rather than inland – it’s a few degrees warmer on the coast, and we’ve found a site that charges E200 per month if you’re staying for 2 months, a third of what other campsites are charging!

I can’t stress enough how important research is – we’ve saved a small fortune just by spending a bit of time on the internet.


The dream is almost there

So we finally to an offer on the house at the end of August, and I’m sitting here today waiting for the valuer to arrive – bit nervous as you always are when someone else is coming to inspect your home.

While we’ve been selling the house we haven’t been sitting on our laurels though.  We have found a solicitor in Baza to use when we go out there – usually a minor and simple thing in the UK, but really important when looking to move to another country.  They are a firm that specialise in rural properties in Andalucia and are bi-lingual.  Yes, we’ve been learning Spanish since the start of the year, but as you get older these things take longer to learn, so although we’ve done pretty well, I don’t think we’re quite at the stage where we can do something as important as buying a house with our level of vocab!  We’ve found the bank we want to open an account with, been in touch with several companies to look at the best rates for moving our money to Spain (and the difference in rates is pretty amazing!), and planned out different ways that we could earn money.

We search property sites weekly looking for possible properties, although we said from the start that we’re not going to try and buy a house from here – we need to be there.  So, where to live once we move there while we’re looking for a house to buy?  The offer we had on the house was a little on the low side, so there’s not much money to play with, and we may need to be able to move around different regions of Spain while we’re looking for a house.  That pointed to just one solution – buy a tent to live in, which we’ve done.  It’s a good one mind, as we might be in it for a few months!

Looking at properties, it’s really important to decide what you want, and look at them with your head not your heart.  We made a list of things it must have – 2 bedrooms, a legal well, preferably solar already installed, and at least 1 acre of fertile land.  Anything else we had saved outside of those parameters had to be removed from our list of favourites, even if there were cute houses.  In a lot of ways, the search is being driven by the land – after all, the whole idea is to live off the land for the best part.

You Tube has also been a good source of info about organic farming, building chicken coops etc etc, so we’ve used the time we’ve been waiting to sell the house to learn as much as possible.  We’ve never kept animals before (except pets) so didn’t know anything about keeping chickens – birthday presents have been books on faming and animal husbandry this year!

And we’ve been selling our stuff!  Ebay, gumtree, open house sales etc.  And we’ve given quite a lot of stuff to the kids – you get to the point where £100 isn’t actually going to make that much of a difference, so rather than giving stuff away really cheaply to just get rid of it to strangers, we decided we would rather help the family out.  The house is looking a bit empty!

So that plan is to put the few things we do need in Spain into storage, and we’ve found a chap to bring it out to us in his van once we’ve got a house.  We looked at professional removal companies, and for just the few bits we need out there, we were getting quotes for £3500!  Sod that!  ‘Dave’ lives in Murcia – has a van and a trailer, and charges £100 per cubic meter – perfect.  He will collect it from storage and bring it to our door, which I feel much happier with than these road trains that the big companies utilise.

I have to give 3 months notice in my job, and Rog works on the agency for driving.  I’m hoping that my employers let me off early, but we have a plan to move in with mother in law while I’m working my notice, so we can live cheaply and save those last few crucial pennies from earnings.  So if the valuation goes ok today, we should be out of this house by the end of November, and on the boat to Spain in January.

I wouldn’t say our parents are happy about it, more resigned to it now, which I find quite sad, but it is what it is.  Everyone else thinks what we’re doing is fabulous (if a bit mad!).

Hopefully my next blog will be at the point where we have no ties – no mortgage, no jobs and the ferry booked!

The Journey Begins

Hello and welcome!

So I’ve started a blog just a few weeks before my 50th birthday!  Am I bothered about turning 50?  Nah!  It’s just a number.  But it is time to make some changes in life; shove myself out of my comfort zone – mainly because it’s not too comfortable!

When you’re small, anything is possible – and we truly believe that with every fibre of our being – then we get ‘realistic’ and are encouraged by society to grow up, have a family, get a big house, get a bigger house, burden ourselves with debt so you outwardly look successful – we all know how it is!

Well, we’ve done all that – and the result – tired … really really tired.

I’m so grateful for all of my family – fabulous husband, three children and 4 grandchildren between us, wonderful parents and siblings – we are truly blessed and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  But now it’s time to do something, dare I say it, that’s a bit selfish.

Some of us suddenly have a defining moment in life that makes us look closely at where we are in life – mine happened last December on the way back from a business trip when I collapsed in A&E with pleurisy – and I’d been working with that for over 2 months – yep, time to take stock.

So in January this year, me and Rog sat down and asked ourselves ‘what do we want to do with our lives’?  See more of each other was an easy one; live a simpler life with less stuff; get rid of the need to earn £x every month to pay the enormous household bills; be kinder to the planet; grow our own fruit and veg and have more time to develop spiritually.

You see, we’re kind of spiritual people – our outward facing life doesn’t always show that side of us, but scratch away the facade, and there we are – a couple of proper old hippies who want to be kinder to the planet and kinder to ourselves.  Some of the meditation practice we have done in the past taught us that ‘stuff’ doesn’t make you happy – go around any shopping centre on a Saturday and you’ll see people cramming their lives with ‘stuff’, trying to be happy, but looking pretty miserable.  So we can cast off the need for the big house full of ‘stuff’.  Start thinking about what we ‘need’.

The answer was simple – sell everything, move to Spain and buy a farm – be mortgage free, live off grid and provide as much of our own food as possible.  That wasn’t a 10 minute conversation by the way!!

So our questions that we’ve been working on ever since:

  • What about the family?
  • Can we afford it – what’s our house worth, can we get enough equity out of it to buy somewhere, how much will a house in Spain with land cost?
  • What do we need to do what paperwork and organising is needed
  • What about the family (again)?
  • How will we live – we’ll still need some money, although a much smaller amount?
  • What problems will we encounter – you hear nightmare stories about buying property in Spain?
  • What would we take from the house – what can we sell – how much would removals cost?
  • Where in Spain should we look at?
  • What will our living costs be in Spain?
  • Will we be able to find work, or find a way to make money?

We’re just about there with the answers now, which I’ll go through in my next blog, and I hope that what we’ve found out so far might help anyone else thinking of making this type of move.

So the house is on the market, and we’re hoping we’ll sell sooner rather than later, but in the meantime we’ve pretty much stopped buying anything that’s not essential and are busy squirrelling away every penny towards our new life.

Can’t wait … whether it works or not, at least we’re trying to follow our dream!