Posts on Restaurant Kursaal in San Sebastian and our quick stop in Granada are still in the works. In the meantime I thought I'd share a half-time report on our WWOOFing stint in Orgvia, Spain.
Early high points:
- Orange juice from the oranges we picked just before lunch
- Watching 1,000 yr old aquaducts built by the Moors water 400-yr-old olive trees
- Plowing through our hosts' bookshelves during siesta
Early low points:
- Breathing so hard while working in the heat that you inhale a midge, and spend the rest of the day gagging on it, long after probably swallowing it
- Weeds that beat you at tug-of-war
What on Earth is WWOOFing?
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. In summary you volunteer on an (often small) organic farm for an agreed number of hours a day and days a week, in exchange for food and accomodation. Along the way, you learn about different organic farming methods and sustainable living, as well as get an insider and rural view of the country you're WWOOFing in. Your WWOOF host gets some sweat and muscle (and sometimes creativity and complementary knowledge) on the cheap. No money is exchanged, so no nasty work visa paperwork is needed. You pay a nominal WWOOF network membership fee to keep the network up and running.
This sounded like a genius proposition to Babs and me. We'd get to learn a little more about the food chain, AND stretch our travel budget. We decided Spain was a good place to start, and after writing to 12 hosts in various bits of the country, providence led us to a 3-week stint with Anthony and Catherine and their 3 acres of olive and orange trees in Orgiva.
Anthony and Catherine moved to Orgiva 2.5 years ago and have since built their house and the infrastructure around their homestead bit by bit, with plenty of patience and good humour. Before moving to Spain they spent the last 2 decades teaching children with special needs. I noted this with some optimism - perhaps they'll have some patience for the occasional daftness of a lifetime city girl!
Above: This is an optical illusion of the idyllic farming life. Swaths of land planting just 1 type of crop creates chemical imbalances in the soil over time. The wide brown paths between the olive trees ease the way for the harvesting machine, but the exposed topsoil (where the nutrients are) is vulnerable to wind and flood erosion
Orgiva is in Andalucia, about an hour south of Granada in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It's also the administrative capital and market town of the Las Alpujarras area, the setting of Driving Over Lemons by ex-Genesis drummer Chris Stewart, the first of his autobiographical Lemons Trilogy about uprooting from the UK and building a new life among peasant Spanish farmers.
Two decades worth of Dutch, German and Brits -- blackberry-beeping businessmen and barefoot-as-a-lifestyle-choice-hippies alike -- decided the same, making the neighbourhood a strange little agricultural cosmopolis. It's not entirely hard to see why. Below is the view from our breakfast table on the front porch, and a few peeks around our hosts' garden.
Where Do We Fit In?
Specifically, in a 34-yr-old caravan in the back terrace of olive and orange trees, right next to a large patch of mint. So during the sweltering Spanish siesta, our caravan smells like Moroccan lemonade.
In addition to our hosts, we have dos chien Andalus, Zumbar (the cream-coloured one) and his mother Oliva for regular company and entertainment. Hilarious when they're horsing around, half as hilarious when Zumbar bounds off with our solar torch in his mouth, usually at dusk.
For our 3-week stint, we have 2 major projects: 1) Build an outdoor oven, and 2) Build a compost toilet. Both are partly a lead up to Catherine's birthday weekend bash on July 18.
There are also the more day-to-day tasks of upkeeping the farm: Pruning trees, ripping out monster weeds choking up irrigation channels, and replacing knackered recycled wine and beer bottles around the vegetable beds.
Our day starts at 7.30am and we try and get in the heaviest tasks done before breakfast, before the sun really goes into overdrive. The shift between breakfast and lunch goes about 5 times as slowly and we've since learnt the art of tracking the path of the sun and planning our course for hopping between tree shadows to get as much done as comfortably as we can manage. We wrap up at about 1.30pm (it's too hot to work after), have lunch, shower and pootle about for the rest of the day.
Above: Babs checking out our hosts's alberca, part river-&-rainwater storage pond, part swimming pool.
So far, so good! Stay tuned!
Related Posts:Part 2: First Go at Building an Outdoor Oven