A great delight of visiting Southern Spain for a couple of weeks, was spending six days off-grid at La Burra Verde near Orgiva. A group of us were keen to learn more about living with nature and wanted to learn about growing food and living off-grid. Arriving in the dark and walking down the dusty, windy path into the finca or farm, carrying our rucksacks as there is no vehicular access to the farm was a strange and startling introduction to what living off-grid includes. Of course, our lives in a French village are, just as in a town or city, dominated by street lighting and refuse collections. When you have to carry out all the things you want to dispose of, it does sharpen your understanding of sustainability, re-usability and the point of most packaging.
Waking up the next day in Casa Luna to nightingales singing, no automated noise at all, and the peace of these incredible views was sheer joy. Over the few days, we learnt about cooking with solar cookers, permaculture and non-dig methods of gardening and growing food, the everyday challenges of weather, heat, cold and living off the land. Kate Fairtlough, who rescued this piece of valley and its olive trees, works the farm with four young staff members, producing delicious organic olive oil, trading and swapping with neighbours to share out produce, and letting two Airbnb cottages, Casa Luna and Casa La Parra. I also spent two nights in the newly built straw bale house.
Kate’s passion and experiences through her life of restoring this earth to fertility, following traditions of harvesting are very powerful teaching tools. I have always thought of myself as thrifty and careful as taught by my mother, but Kate re-purposes and re-uses more than I could ever have imagined. I realise that there is far more ‘housewife’ in me than I would ever have imagined, and the cost of that cleanliness to the planet is sobering.
We were so lucky in the rain that had fallen this Spring in the Alpujarras. Wild flowers and lush vegetation are not a normal sight in late May and early June. The abundance of the flora was astonishing. One of our group, another Kate, introduced me to the delicate magic of wild flowers, that I had experienced as a child, but largely forgotten.
We spent some enchanted hours in the landscape with our cameras, identification books, and Kate’s meticulous lists. Kate is also a very keen birdwatcher, though we could hear fabulous lyrical birdsong, it was really hard to actually see the birds in amongst the dense bushes and trees.
You can follow the links to the 2 Airbnb houses. An inspiring, self-revelatory few days appreciating how closely tied I am to modernity and some measure of consumerism. Now that I realise this, I can try my best to absorb the learning from La Burra Verde.