As I walk around through the orchard collecting almonds, the smell of wild rocket rises from beneath my feet. The sun is warm on my neck and shoulders and I can hear the hoopoe somewhere in the valley. Day three and I still cannot believe that we have bought this house and 25,000 sq m of land complete with almond orchard and olive grove as well as a walnut tree, fig tree and pomegranate, not to mention grapes in two different colours.
There is much work to do in the house and on the land. The house has not been lived in for over a year and is beyond dusty and the trees have been neglected badly so that the crops that should be ready to harvest are smaller than they should be. We will be lucky to get a year’s supply of oil from the olives this year and many of the almond trees are not bearing nuts at all.
The garden too is neglected and weedy with the drives, terraces and flower beds choked with lots of straggly plants. I had thought that a couple of afternoon’s work would sort it out but hadn’t reckoned with Agaves. It has taken me a whole afternoon to remove six small plants and their roots and clear an area about a metre square. This will be an ongoing project as there at least another 25 plants in the bed and whilst one or two look good, they are choking everything else and even breaking the wall in one place. It is no hardship though to spend the afternoon digging in the warm sunshine knowing that a glass of wine awaits at the end of the day.
Box by box we are settling into the house, each in our own way. I feel that the kitchen has the right rhythm for cooking and Steve has got his stereo connected, and the spaces organised ready for painting and decorating. We have satellite TV and the internet and have managed to make contact with most of the family except my mother who is on a Mediterranean cruise and is probably quite close by! The removal men managed to get most of the furniture in the right place but couldn’t get a bed base or a large chest of drawers up the spiral staircase. Steve and I tried too but whilst the bed base defeated us, we managed to get the chest of drawers up over the terrace roof and the balcony reja and into the bedroom. I say “we” but we had help from the plumber who helped Steve manhandle the chest up the ladders and over the roof. I caught the rope and encouraged them.
We have decided to do a little work in the apartment before we rent it out. We are going to install a basic kitchen so that we can rent it out as a self contained apartment as well as use it for B&B. It has two good sized rooms and a bathroom and access to the front terrace and the pool which can be private if required – nothing worse than trying to relax with the owners constantly passing by making conversation. Fortunately we have good contacts with a plumber and builder who can do the work for us, we have already had the boiler and the oil tank moved. We will also need someone to look at the roof as, returning home on a rare, rainy evening we went to bed only for Steve to get dripped on as he lay in bed. We moved the bed, got a bucket and hoped it wouldn’t get worse which it didn’t and had stopped by the morning.
Our Spanish is improving “poco a poco”, we were dismayed at the claim of an ex pat who has lived here for seventeen years that he still couldn’t speak a word of Spanish and resolved to get to grips with learning. Amazingly in this small country town, many people have a few words of English which they are keen to share. Make a faltering start in Spanish and we often get some English back which is very helpful but no good for our Spanish. I keep asking “en Espagnol por favor” and get my pronunciation corrected. Between our few words of Spanish and their often more words in English we have been able to deal with the bank, post office, bars and a couple of gypsies who are picking the almonds. This year we decided to let them have the almonds, we have so much to do that harvesting 200 trees seemed too much but next year we will buy nets and get organised.
We already have some customers who are just waiting for the word that we are ready to open for business to book their flights. It shouldn’t take long to get the work done and to be able to welcome guests to Finca Los Gatos.