On the last day in March we packed up the car, finished cleaning out our apartment and drove over to the new house. We left Richard and Suzanne with new workaway volunteer Pablo, having spent a few days with to show him around. He works hard in the mornings and then goes for long walks in the mountains in the afternoons, so we were confident that we’d left them with a pair of good helping hands. And it’s only a week or two until we go back and visit them.
Moving day was long but once we were on the motorway, we relaxed and everything seemed to go smoothly. We arrived and put the tent up with Tarje helping us to do it without arguing. It took a lot longer to put it up on a platform than grass because you have to peg out the guy lines with screws and wooden poles and things. But it was ready to sleep in on the first night, which was an exciting development, albeit bloody freezing.
We had a chilly, rainy few days but made the most of it with a whole day’s expedition to the city’s shops with a list a mile long. We got some things to make life easier and more comfortable, and it’s already starting to feel like home.
On one walk to the car, we met Alberto (who had previously given us three cherry trees to plant) and he offered us a mattress. It’s the smallest double I’ve ever seen at 180cm long by 120cm wide, but it fits perfectly in our tent! Of course Dave doesn’t fit perfectly in it, so we’ll have to fashion some sort of one-sided extension at some point, but it beats the camping mattress.
We found a bed frame in the house and Tarje and Signe gave us some legs for it, and we moved the big arm chairs from the house to the tent, so it’s pretty nice in there now. Just need some shelving to keep out piles of clothes off the floor and we’ll be set.
Dave built some steps up to our platform and I spent a day organising the downstairs of the house. Amongst the piles of dusty rubbish, I found a two-hob burner, a full gas bottle, a mirror, a full box of cutlery and some plates, which are all coming in handy. I put up some shelving and boxed up all our food in there and even though it’s 12 degrees and not as cold as a fridge, it keeps things pretty well.
Dave and Tarje spent several days hooking up three of the solar panels and four of the batteries that we got together (that’s only part of the system that we’ll have eventually, but the roof isn’t ready to have panels on it yet). So now, as if by magic, we have off-grid power! It’s brilliant – there’s a plug in our tent and you can power stuff from it! Signe and I are already dreaming about a washing machine. I find our small amount of hand laundry a pain, but they’ve got little Roar going through clothes and nappies every day.
Although I’m sure we will get our own wifi connection here, there is actually a public building in the next village that has great internet. Dave has been given a key to the place for 3€ a month, so he’s been working in there a few days whilst I’ve been organising the place, planting seeds and building a little plant nursery. The first three or four days we were here, I pretty much was busy from dawn till dusk, too excited about getting on with things to sit down. But that’s pretty tiring and my body is aching, so I’m resigned to taking it a bit easier, especially when it’s as hot as it has been! We’ve had three days in the high 20s and whilst it’s lovely to sit in the shade, it can get a bit hot working out in the sun. But at least in this weather, my tomatoes and chillies should be germinating!
The wildlife here is gloriously abundant. There are little lizards basking on the rocks, butterflies, bees and other insects buzzing all around and little birds chirping in the trees. You can’t put anything down without something going to live in it! I had left a bit of old carpet outside on a rock and when I picked it up, there were loads of earthworms underneath. The planting modules attract butterflies, and then the lizards that live in the wall hunt them. We put a tarp over a fence so that we could ‘shower’ in relative privacy and when I went to take it down there was a lizard basking in its folds. The songbirds dance around our tent in the mornings and sometimes you see a bird of prey or a vulture flying high overhead. There are patches of white and pink blossoms around and the broadleaf trees are starting to emerge from their dormant winter. The hillside we overlook that has been brown all winter is getting greener by the day as the ash and oak trees are first to emerge between the beeches. We have been taking walks over to those woods get down to the stream where we can cool down in the heat of the afternoon.
We’ve taken a few little exploratory strolls around the other buildings and ruins of our little hamlet. As well as our house and Tarje and Signe’s house, there’s quite a good barn between them then a small assortment of old houses, barns and ruins close by. The house that was most recently inhabited full-time did have on-grid electricity but has been stood disconnected and abandoned for about 40 years.
Everything that needs doing here is hard work to get started but it’s rewarding to see how quickly things change when you work at it. We are still showering with a hosepipe behind a gate, we do the washing up with the hosepipe on the grass and we still don’t have any light bulbs. But progress is being made! We have our tent and a place to cook and eat. We’re harvesting lettuce from the garden and my radishes are almost a good size. I can’t wait until we don’t have to buy veggies any more. Dave keeps saying ‘I thought we were going to work on the house first’, but we do need to make sure we can live comfortably whilst we’re working on it. So, as they keep telling us here poco a poco (little by little) is how things are supposed to be done – and that’s a low stress lifestyle I’m happy to adopt.