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Galicia - first steps

Finally, here came the day, mwaaahaha, after all the movements associated with life in SW England and short-term stopover in Poland we landed up in Spain. On the 4th day of April and after a not-too-bad, nearly 3-days journey across Europe we got to Ourense, Galicia, where a new chapter of our lives was to come. One may ask, why there? I lived in Ourense city for ¾ of the year 2014 participating in the project subsidized by EU, working for the local group of Friends of the Earth (here: Amigos da Terra). It was the year we set off to India too.

For me, Galicia, as the second place in Spain I lived in for a while, appeared to be something I didn’t know about Spain. Green, lush and very Nordic-like region, full of mystery and rich in remnants of the Celtic culture charmed me entirely. The land of rivers, valleys and canyons, roman castros, beautiful estuaries and around 1600 km of coasts. There is a commonly known phenomenon called “morriña” which means not more not less than a longing for going back, getting homesick, after leaving Galicia. Perhaps that’s what brought me here back again? Who knows ;) 
Less moving story is that this so-called morriña is an effect of being affected by radon, which is released from the granitic bedrock here in great quantities and that’s its side, adverse effect. Touching, isn’t it? :D

Either way, going back to our moving in...

We got a tip-off from our friends, while still in the UK, that there was a house near the Portuguese border that has been unused for over 30 years and the family that owns it wanted to make use of it somehow, different than moving there themselves. They know about little villages and even towns getting abandoned these days, at a great, observable rate, which does not stay unnoticed and harmless to local communities, landscapes and general region’s characteristics. There is a whole movement of bringing people back to these places, to let them cultivate the land  that'd been left fallow, renovate houses and live there on their own account, sometimes even for free. This, of course, doesn’t really mean ‘for free’, but in return one should offer something, i.e. time, energy and effort of bringing life and dash of new air, revitalizing the land, enriching the soils, building a community anew in sometimes totally depopulated places etc., so generally rehabilitating, repopulating and bringing back a relevant, irredundant value for creating new social-hub and reviving local region. 
I was interested in this repopulating abandoned towns movement for some time now, even some years I’d say, but never got my head around any real opportunity of getting to know someone offering it or knowing someone who does. So far only online adverts or 'cry wolf' from some distinct, aloof places forgotten to the world, therefore, hard to even spot them on a map, let alone get contact details. Still, the news were spread throughout the word of mouth and here it reached us – what a great surprise it was! I was already thinking of us moving elsewhere, purposefully choosing a place where we could cultivate the land and experiment aiming for, as much as possible, sustainable and self-sufficient life. I almost even flew over for a land auction, also in Galicia, I had got a tip-off about from the same friend who told us about the house near Portugal. That didn’t work out due to random arrangements of the prospect contract, but shortly after we were asked whether an option with not owning it but renting a house for a symbolic price would be something we’d be interested in. Well, yes, it was interesting, fairly enough! Especially that the ‘offer’ was staggering and amounted to 1 EUR per month! That includes 4-room house and the land spanning around 200 m2. Plus all the expenses we would have to cover bringing this place to life again, all the renovation costs as well as bills, of course. 
(+) Advantages, the water in Galician villages is for free and there is plenty around the garden too (rivulets and frequent rains). 
(-) Disadvantages, there is no heating system apart from the chimney in the living room, like in most of the standard houses outside of the cities (and not rarely there, as well). Electricity is fairly expensive if one uses electric heaters often.
The result is that during colder months it is freezing inside the house, excluding the area where the chimney is up and running, so in places like the one we moved to you can then spot the ‘foggy breath’ due to high humidity as well. That’s why one of the first appliances we bought was a dehumidifier…
On the other hand, during the warm months, it is very pleasant inside, a great relief to the scorching weather outside.
Nonetheless, I believe that this design is only beneficial in the latter case, but the former one is not as short as one would think. Therefore, I can’t stop pondering why somewhere where rainy and cold months may last up to 4-5 months there is so little emphasis put on isolating the housing spaces better to increase the living standards altogether. Not sure whether I am going to ever find out.

Galicia - arrival & first weeks
It was hectic indeed. Lot of arrangements to make, lot of applying for different things, i.e. NIE (~ tax identification number in Spain, equally important to personal number - ID), phone and Internet, increasing the electricity power in the house (with a hellish company that has a monopoly in the country…), buying necessary stuff to start house renovation, so paints, tools, buckets, pvc’s, isolating foams etc. as well as food and other daily use appliances and utensils. We did quite well in terms of organizing it in a very short time, but also the owners of the house, fabulous and extraordinarily kind people, disburdened us from a great amount of hassle associated with furnishing it a bit (as it was nearly completely empty) and provided us with some chairs and a table, blankets, electric heater, carpet, chest of drawers etc. We’ve been all set up then! We’ve been slowly giving the house a fresh touch of vividness by now, but also getting familiarized with on-place life and habits: baker’s car coming over every day at certain times of a day bringing fresh baked goods, another one coming once a week with all kinds of food products and another one with gas bottles for exchange. Apart from that, there is very little going on here, as in the village itself, there is nothing except for houses (mostly uninhabited now) and a church + cemetery. 
Altogether in our “borough” (there are 3 in the village) and at the same time the one that’s got the highest population, there are around 15-20 people living on a daily basis. From which we saw and had contact with maybe 10, at most… I do not have to add that life here is very tranquil and goes at its own pace. 
So far, after barely a month, I can say that we find it amazing and purifying in a way. We started off with the garden as well and had some failures already too (one day, lately, unexpectedly came the frost and ravaged our tomatoes and peppers’ grown-up seedlings, right after transplanting them..). I guess it all goes by trial and error, but we are happy to learn!
early days, no furniture or barely anything at all..;)

first walk to the lake that's seen out of our living room's window

in later period of the year water level is much lower

The village and its roman's heritage hikking trail that goes through :)

early in the morning behind the field next to our house (no, they're not wild as we were to find out later on ;))

I thought I had to rush up wth seedlings...
Porch. First sunny days!
in front of the house


Starts getting cosier little by little:

Views out of the living room window:

We thought about the forthcoming months and came up with some principal goals we would like to strive for achieving:

→ develop garden space to a level of having different kinds of cultivation methods (biodynamics,  principles of permaculture, bio-intensive farming etc.) introduced and implemented as much as possible;
→ implement different sorts of vegetables and grow them according to companion planting rules and hopefully, later on, to crops rotation too (it takes a lot of thorough planning but it’s worth it as for the results and yield one can get);
→ we’d like to learn about the plants and growing our own food to an extent that we feel confident about what we do, at least for some veggies, and to have a general overview of what our food-production needs are;
→ cut down on disposable waste we produce;
→ both of us working and earning via Internet (for now it’s just me);
→ estimate what our living conditions expectations are (whether the ones we have here, rather rough ones, live up to them) and what they actually are, so that we can, perhaps, start thinking about establishing a live-in project on a land we’d own.

That’s to start with quite a lot to think about, but how exciting this year will be! 

Stay tuned as there're more pics to come :)


  1. Awesome Post. It was a pleasure reading your article. Thanks for sharing.

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