Well, it has taken a while, but we are finally here and connected (albeit sporadically) to the Internet.
After a three-day drive we arrived at As Petas to be greeted by the welcome sight of smoke issuing from the shiny new flue of our log-burning stove. The ever-wonderful Billy had lit us a fire, which was just as well as at the time we had no other form of heating available. It has been a hard winter here - Jose, our roofer, called it "a mountain winter" - and keeping warm has been the biggest challenge so far. It is so cold that we have heard wolves in the night, driven down from the mountains. Luckily the cats have escaped unscathed so far.
The place is still in chaos but we have made progress on several fronts. Our fruit trees and bushes are all planted out, the roof has been patched up, a man has been booked to sort out our old and rather dodgy electrics, and best of all we have taken delivery of a load of firewood. In addition we have managed to get the ancient cocina economica up and running, which will give us an additional heat source and hopefully an extra option for cooking. So we are managing to sleep warm at nights, we are eating well, and the hot water is still working.
We have also acquired our first chickens, a little sooner than we intended. The other day we came home to find couple of chickens in the orchard (which we assumed belonged to next door) and a couple of gifts by the door: a pot of parsley and half a sack of chicken feed. The parsley led us to think (wrongly) that these had been left by our herb-growing Belgian friend Jan, we thought that the sack of feed was a gift towards our declared ambition of keeping chickens, and thought no more of it.
Later that evening there came a knocking at the door. It was our neighbour, an amiable man whose accent we find almost completely impenetrable (he is continually giving us what is doubtless excellent advice, if only we understood it). It seems there were some unauthorised chickens in his veg patch which he was convinced belonged to us. Despite all our protestations that we had no such creatures, he insisted on leading me to his veg patch where the miscreants were rounded up and handed over to us.
It turns out that once again we had Billy to thank. We are now the proud owners of Rocky the Rooster and his consort Mabel, enormous things that appear to be the result of the union between a Rhode Island Red and an ostrich. Apparently Mabel was also supposed to have been a cockerel (they have clearly been bred for meat) but was wrongly sexed. This doesn't appear to have left her with any kind of complex, however. They are happily installed in the pig-room and Mabel has so far produced three eggs, even though it is still January. We hope to add to our flock shortly.
The chickens are just one example of the wonderful generosity we have experienced on all sides. Our friends Dawn and Steve braved the low temperatures and general anarchy to visit us, bringing a store of wise advice and a delicious lemon cake which has boosted morale more than once. Asun at the local bakery pulled strings with a friend of her father-in-law to get us a stash of firewood (which is like gold dust at the moment). There is an awful lot to do, but it is good to feel we are not facing it alone. We hope to repay some of this generosity when we can.