Life at Casa Tyr

A day in the life ...

Article text
Milo and Fitz play a fun game of run and chase
With winter, comes the cold. Cold? In Southern Spain, you ask? Well, that surprised us, too. Even though we had visited the area at several different times in the year, even January, we simply were not prepared for how cold it gets on our mountain!

Well, you can be! Not only is the winter fairly long here (usually starts in November and goes through March), it also is very cold and windy at times. Of course, interspersed with the cold days are absolutely gloriously sunny, warm days, so your body can get very confused! For example, January is often a lovely month, with many sunny days and temps of 70 degrees.

Add to the weather, the fact that Spanish houses are built to keep out the heat, not keep out the cold - no insulation, and different construction techniques. And with no central heating, only a fireplace in the living room, it can be brisk indeed!

Anyway, all that description was just to explain that we spend a great deal of our autumn and winter days cutting firewood. We have an abundance of trees in the forest that need to be cleared, so we often winch those out from the forest with our Land Rover Defender. This year, one of our neighbours did a huge amount of pruning of his chestnut and almond trees, and he gave us the wood for free if we would clear it out for him. So we have spent over a week pulling wood out of his forest, cutting the wood into 5 foot lengths, then bringing the load up in the Agria (a small four-wheel drive tractor type vehicle that is very popular in Andalucia)

As usual, while we are working, the dogs do what they usually do - play!

Another one of our major tasks year round is taking care of our vegetable garden. We are very proud of the wonderful vegetables we grow here, and though we still sometimes get the growing season slightly wrong, we now manage to produce all the vegetables we can eat year round.

As much of the crop as is possible will be eaten fresh, but we also freeze or preserve a great deal - we have sauces, tomatoes, ketchup, vegetables, jams, etc that last us all year.

This is one of the best parts of having the time and land to grow our own food - we can now remember how fresh vegetables are SUPPOSED to taste, rather than how they taste after being flown in from Kenya or California. We control every aspect of the food, from picking varieties that we especially like to knowing how they are grown, i.e. not sprayed to death or irradiated to stay fresh.

This is a luxury that most of you cannot know - and one Kenton and I will never give up again. We consumers have been fooled into thinking it is a Good Thing to have fresh tomatoes in January, despite the fact they have been grown under plastic in some country far away, then flown in to our supermarkets. Why shouldn't we eat strawberries whenever we want? Or fresh peas? Or sweetcorn?

Well, let me tell you that fruit and veg flown thousands of miles do NOT taste like they are supposed to, no matter how perfect they may look. Do you remember your childhood when you looked forward to the fresh tomatoes of summer that your mother bought from the local farmer's market? And how wonderful and sweet the sweetcorn of August was? We didn't expect to eat those things all year round then, and I believe our health (and the environment) suffers for the modern way of importing fruit and veg from other continents. No wonder many children don't like vegetables - they taste of nothing!

One of the funniest cons I know about is used by the most successful supermarket chain in the UK. They sell produce (and other items) under the label 'Finest' - and charge a huge premium for them. They want you to infer from the label that other items are not 'finest' and that it is normal and natural to pay extra for proper quality. Yet they still sell 'Vine-ripened Finest' tomatoes that have been flown in from Spain, Italy and even California - how 'high quality' and 'fine' can they be after sitting in plastic for a week or more? And I especially like the 'vine ripened' part - you pay double or triple the price for tomatoes that have been ripened the way nature intended?! And the public buys this hook, line and sinker! It would be funny if it weren't so tragic.

Oops....sorry about the rant. This is something we are passionate about, but I will get off my soapbox. There aren't many people, though, who couldn't put a few tomatoes in a corner of the back yard, or shop at the local farmer's market instead of a giant supermarket chain. Go on...treat yourself to some really fresh, locally or home grown produce - you won't believe your taste buds!