What are we all about?

The focus of this blog is simple - and that's the goal too. A more simple way of life. A life in tune with the rhythms of nature and of human nature. Where everything has its time and place and purpose, including us.

We have left the rat race behind and taken on new challenges. We aim to tread as lightly as we can upon the planet, to reconnect with nature, to eat good food, drink excellent wine, enjoy the best of company.... even if that is sometimes just our own! Please feel free to eavesdrop from time to time on our lives and see how we are doing and if you are ever in Extremadura... drop us an email and we'll give you directions.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The End of an Era

Well it came. The phone call I was dreading followed by the rush to the airport, the long journey home to Scotland while a lifetime of memories played and replayed themselves in my mind. The spring planting was left to Steve, the dog and the cats, so central to my life, forgotten, relegated to the sidelines. All thoughts focussed on only one thing, getting home in time.

In the end I had plenty of time. My dad lived for another week before pneumonia (what was once called the old man's friend) stole him away from us.  He had said everything, we had said everything, there was nothing left to say. We began repeating ourselves. I watched as various family members arrived still hoping and then struggled to accept what we already knew was to be the only inevitable outcome.

Alexander Carson 1923 - 2017
My stepmother, stepsister and I became sisters in the true sense as we sat with him through those long hours holding his hand, cooling his brow with a cold damp cloth and moistening his lips with ice cubes on sticks. Finally, at 11:30pm on the 12th March he took his final breath and was released from the physical. For us mere mortals, left behind, It was alarming, profound, a whole gamut of emotions, too strange a feeling to articulate at the time or even now. Hard to believe that someone who occupied so large a part of my life was no longer in it.

We deliberately planned a wee while before the funeral in order to accommodate our diverse family scattered across the globe to gather themselves together for, probably, one last time. There are not many of the old ones left, of his generation he was the last.

There are memories of my childhood, tattie soup with the boiled beef eaten later for tea with bread and butter.

There are people who know me, people I have forgotten. There are family stories, some we all know and still we laugh as if this is the first time we had heard them. There are revelations that are new and old questions find answers. It's mentally and emotionally exhausting.

I am sat here watching a bleak and cold Scottish spring come to bloom while my finca throws up its annual show to temperatures in the 20'sC without me.  Steve sends me photos of the Broom in blossom, I have only to close my eyes to smell it's coconutty scent. Of the vegetable garden newly planted with this year's choices.  Our alfresco lunches in embryo set in neat rows and I ache to be home.

Next week this will pass into our family history and we will pick up the pieces of our lives and move on. Right now I can't imagine where I would rather be than in Spain on my finca with the flowers and the insects and the animals and where all will be well.

Friday, 24 February 2017

The Lazy Gardener

I'm not a really good gardener. More of a fair weather gardener. If it's even a little bit cold I will stay in and do something else. So you see even though we did a lot of work in the veggie patch last year spring has brought up the weeds - big time.  Apart from the few broad bean plants in the foreground the rest of the greenery is weeds!

This has been heartening in one sense because previously the soil was so poor that we had very few weeds. Now they are tall and lush. And thankfully fairly easy to pull out.

I've done quite a big patch already. And last month I spread out the strawberries and planted all the runners. Can't wait for them to start fruiting.

While Steve is burning the last of the prunings (all pruned wood of a decent size is kept for the house fire next winter) I have been working hard on weed removal as I want him to install the irrigation system before I do the main spring planting. We still have a few Brussels left from winter but we are fed up of them now and they are probably past their best.

To make things a little more interesting while the bonfires are going we made toasted cheese sandwiches for 11's and a pot of potato soup for lunch.

This is the pie iron. You load it up with your bread and cheese just like a sandwich maker. Clip it shut and pop it into the still hot ashes. 7 minutes and....

Yum! The filling is pumpkin jam and Gruyère cheese.

The soup was made in the Dutch oven and took about an hour in the ashes of the bonfire.

Meanwhile the promised high temperatures never quite made it because of the Sahara dust in the atmosphere. This is sun rise this morning. Looking very sci fi!

You may notice in the previous photos that the sky looks grey. It is very grey and until all the dust either settles or blows away, we shall have to do without our beloved blue sky. And once the dust has finished settling, we shall have to wash the car!

Other things I have done this week include sewing a skirt, spinning some more yarn, knitting continues on a jumper for me and an experiment in felting a bag using local wool. It makes me feel good to list my achievements, but what I haven't done is any housework or any laundry - you see, you can't do it all,  I don't even try!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Money Matters

I guess many of our readers will think we have it made. Living the dream and all that. Well yes, we do think we are living the dream, but it comes at a price and for us it is only just affordable. Let me explain.  We live on my husband's military pension. It's not huge, and if we lived in the UK we/he would have to work as well as it is not enough to live on there.

Here the cost of living is much less and so we can manage fairly well. In seven years time I should start receiving my state pension - unless they change the goal posts again! It won't be very much, I gave up work to look after my children at a time when the cost of childcare exceeded the wages I could earn. When my children reached school age I went back to work. Later due to illness I worked part time and then I became self employed so my contributions towards my pension were never consistent. I will be grateful for whatever the government gives me when the time comes. Steve is younger than me so his state pension will be even longer in coming.

For now, we budget. Last year I wrote down all my expenditure on food, both for us and the animals. After three months of taking careful notes I worked out the average. 450 euros a month. This includes entertaining friends, dinner and wine, but not restaurant eating out which happens less regularly and usually only when we have visitors.

On top of the food bill we pay for internet and we run a car and we have an electricity bill every two months. The electricity expense is difficult to calculate as the price fluctuates and the standing charge rises almost on a monthly basis. Electricity and corruption is a hot topic here in Spain at the moment.  We also pay life insurance.

The one cost that has increased dramatically (electricity aside) is the cost of keeping pets. We now have five cats, two of whom are elderly and an aging dog who seems to require some kind of veterinary treatment on a monthly basis.

There is no doubt that it is cheaper to keep a pet here than in the UK but as I said, we are on a fixed budget. Fergus has only recently recovered from a bladder stones operation, followed by an infected lump removal and now he has a gum desease that has resulted in the loss of teeth. It's also the start of the parasite treatments which will continue until next winter. Monthly anti-parasitic treatments for five cats is 54 euros a month. The dog is on top of that. You can't skimp on this stuff.

The animals are part of our family and we do not begrudge the money in any way. The returns we get in love and affection and the enjoyment of pet ownership is just huge by comparison to the amount of money we spend, however, as I said, our budget is fixed, and not substantial.

So. Long story short - we are economising. The first step is recording what we spend by writing it down in a book and consulting each other before making a purchase of any kind. The mere act of writing stuff down is often enough to highlight where savings can be made. Now, we could severely cut back, this is an option but for the moment we are just going to be careful. We are going to focus on stuff that costs nothing or almost nothing. Working on the finca, making stuff out of old stuff and finding creative solutions to problems. This kind of thing can be fun and it's very rewarding to devise solutions to issues that don't cost money. And long-term I believe this is how things will have to be. Nothing ever seems to get any cheaper - certainly not the vets bills!