Sunday, 27 January 2013


Obviously hardship is relative but one definition is conditions of life difficult to endureLife in Galicia has fewer luxuries than I had in the UK but is infinitely more rewarding in other ways. Due to the leaking roof I used until recently, to have frequent power outages for weeks at a time. This meant living without running water so animals were watered with rain water and I went to the village spring for drinking water. Washes took place in the kitchen using a bowl and kettles of hot water. Toilets were flushed with waste water once a day. My windows still have plastic bags taped over the missing panes and a lump of concrete fell out of the stone frame in my bedroom leaving a hole open to the elements. The firewood usually held up so one room was warm at night but last winter I often had to cut it for an hour a day. The rest of the house is unheated and damp, it is normal to see my breath in the house all winter.

Having said the above I don't consider them hardships as such. My father was one of 12 and he slept 3 to a bed in a 3 bedroom house, unheated except for the coal fire and with an outside toilet. He and his brothers went barefoot in summer and shared a decent pair of boots between them, whichever boy had a job interview would get the boots. As a child we had an outside toilet, no central heating etc.  but this was fairly normal for the time. It is what you get used to. Nowadays people expect certain comforts but when you do without them, assuming you are in good health there is almost a sense of freedom, suddenly you can cope without what previously was considered essential. I think in the future society will need to reconsider all of those comforts it had previously considered essential such as the latest electronics, heating every room in the house to T shirt conditions, new cars and takeaway food to name a few.

For me my only hardship is living without my husband Tim.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

More Snow

There was more snow falling yesterday. The goats had never seen it before and took a long time to venture out onto the strange stuff. A jug of their favourite food eventually made them take the plunge.

The chickens and cats were similarly afflicted by reluctance.

As ever the bomb proof ducks, who still insist on spending the nights perched on the rooftops seemed completely impervious to the weather.

I haven't tried to get into town since the snow hit. Our drive is very steep and rural gritting does not happen here so I shall remain at home and sit in front of the fire. If desperate I can always eat the cats.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


Last night I was woken by thunder, lightning and torrential rain at 1am. This morning I have woken up to snow.

Snow showers continue to fall, we usually have one snowy episode here each winter but it looks very beautiful. More attractive than the constant rain that preceded this for days. This also means that the goats will have another day indoors. They were outside yesterday but there is a cold wind and they complain loudly at everything.

I shall wait to see whether the calendulas recover from this frosting of snow. Yesterday my hot water boiler decided to give up on me again. I shall fiddle with it when I feel up to the task. Until then it is kettle boiling time again. I shall light the wood burner early today.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Joys of Winter

One of the joys I particularly look forward to is planting trees. This Winter I have been lucky enough to have had cash for my birthday and Wintermas. Alongside the wonderful bulb collection Catherine and my family bought from the UK for me, I have been able to plant 10 shrubs and 13 fruiting trees on top of what we already had. The trees include 3 cherries, 3 plums, 1 Galician Apple tree called Sangre de Torro (Bulls Blood), a flat peach, 2 Persimmons, 2 Walnuts and another Apricot. I can't wait to see them sprout in Spring. We get frosts here and so there is no guarantee that they will all fruit but I can only try them. Even if they struggle now, I hope that the windbreaks I am planting now will mature and give better shelter as time passes. Our long term plan is to create a forest garden and annual vegetable bed. We hope that perennial vegetables and crops will work alongside the more usual annuals. Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust has been our inspiration. Tim and I did one of his weekend courses and came away determined to make it happen for us.
My next job is to organise my seeds so I know what I should sow on a month by month basis, no easy task when you collect as many as I do.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Early Spring

An advantage of living in Galicia as opposed to the UK is the milder winter weather. Today I noticed some early signs of Spring. The first of my camellia flowers has opened.
Also the Calendulas have continued to flower throughout the winter and look very beautiful.
I also noticed a large bumblebee working the flowering deadnettles which had disappeared by the time I got my camera. We do get overnight frosts here and the ponds ice up overnight but thaw within an hour of the sun hitting them.

At the moment I have my neighbours Billy Goat visiting my girls. There is a lot of chasing and grumbling but not very much 'action'. The girls do not seem as keen as he is on the idea of procreation.
Perhaps they are waiting for warmer weather.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


In Galicia we get a lot of rain mostly in winter. It can come in very heavy bursts but over the centuries, in rural areas the farmers have maintained the drainage systems. Pictures here show the results of the most recent heavy rain.

Here the culvert under our drive is draining the ridge away from the house onto one of our fields.
This is the ridge and resulting small waterfall which feeds the culvert.
Flowing water on our fields, this usually clears within a few hours of the rain stopping.

With the UK climate changing more attention will have to be paid to managing flood water. Of course there will always be instances of flash flooding, Spain has had plenty of those but building high density housing in traditional flood plains is madness. Sustainable urban drainage systems already exist but they cost money and need to be allocated space within housing developments. Perhaps constructors need to build less 'battery' housing squeezing as many houses as possible onto the land and consider long term water management as a higher priority than previously.

Luckily we are currently experiencing a few days of clear skies, cold nights and brilliant warm sunshine which is allowing me to get out into the garden. Bulbs are emerging, birds are singing and my goat is experiencing the delights provided by the neighbour's Billy.