Lifestyle goals

To live well, while respecting our ethical and environmental convictions, we have a "big" project: to adapt our life in order to be able to:
  • satisfy ourselves to a maximum of our needs (mainly those of energy and food);
  • minimise our impact on the environment;
  • have time to evolve in a responsible way and help others to evolve.
(We said it was "ambitious"...)

To reach our goal, we plan to live simply, dividing our time in agricultural and technical activities (to have healthy food, depend more on our work than on the economic system), social activities (good-quality social relations, have time for the others), and intellectual activities (continuous learning and exchange of knowledge).

Story of the stages
We defined three stages for our project. We are currently in the third stage.

1) To find a place to settle and to live
2) To build our house (ourselves)
3) To arrange the land, in order to have a garden, diversify the vegetation and raise animals

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1) The search of a place to live

July - November 2010

Our criteria were:
    - mild climate (not too wet);
    - not too high standards of living  and an affordable price for the land;
    - a certain geographical proximity to our relatives and friends.

The south of Spain seemed full of promise to us. We left Belgium in July 2010, at the wheel of a splendid van, strongly built in spite of its 10 years, in which we also slept during this phase of our project. After the discovery of a region we particularly liked, we focused our search in the Valley of the Alpujarras.

We actually were searching for a land of a surface of 5 ha or more, including a constructible part, and located in medium altitude (neither in the bottom of a valley nor too high in the mountains).
With our desire to be as autonomous as possible in terms of consumption of resources, we neither needed nor wanted to be connected to the networks of water, gas or electricity.

The land in Andalusia
We didn't have to search in other southern European countries (we also had thought to Greece or Albania) : after four months of research, our hearts were set on a property in Andalusia, at the bottom of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Some of the Gerald Brenan’s fans might envy us, as the land is next to the historical Rock "el fuerte", at the east of the small village of Yegen that counts more or less 200 inhabitants.
We had initially dreamt of a 100-hectare parcel. In the end, it is “only” 3 hectares, but not negligible: the land is planted with about a hundred olive trees on more than twenty terraces, edged by a small river, with a spring thrown in as well.
Located at 900 meters of altitude, our new "home ", although being in quite a remote region, is only 15 minutes from the village, walking on a picturesque mule path. With a vehicle, you can reach the land on a track of around 3 kilometres.


2) Building our house

May – October 2011 : from the foundations till the finishes
January – June 2012 : main interior fixtures and fittings

After having focused on the constitution of an administrative file ("proyecto"), obtained a building licence, and learned building techniques with the most ecological materials available in the region, we built a first small house of 50 square meters.

Its main characteristic is probably the insulation made of straw bales for the floor and the walls. For further information about the technical aspects and to discover the fruit of our research and the steps of the building, you are invited to read our files concerning the different stages of the work and to see our pictures.

The building, the main interior fixtures and fittings are finished now, even if some maintenance and improvement is planned.


3) The arrangement of the land

In order to have a garden, diversify the vegetation and raise animals July 2012 – in progress.

Our land is currently convalescent after years of monoculture (or rather biculture : almond trees and olive trees) according to the local style: weeded by glyphosate and a tractor, and watered by flooding in drills dug by the plough.

This problem with this technique is that not only does the soil die (with nearly zero biological activity), but also its degree of permeability is very weak.

In short, we have a large property, yes indeed, but it is fallow, with argillaceous and compact soil of which a part is washed away each time we water or there is a heavy rain.

In order to obtain a large variety of good-quality food and useful products, we need to work the soil so that shade is created, moisture accumulated and the reconstitution of a humus layer promoted. Our first priorities are to arrange a network of watering channels (« acequias ») and to plant different levels of vegetation. Our aim being to restore the agri-sylvi-pastoral equilibrium.

In particular, in the area of the kitchen garden, we are focusing our efforts on:
  • Building fences to protect the future crops from the numerous ibexes
  • Restarting the life of the soil: watering it, sowing green fertilizers (Lucerne, clover, consoude), mulching (compost, straw, cardboard, etc.), and arranging paths to avoid walking on the seedbed.
Since our arrival, we’ve been using compost toilets that allow to accelerate the constitution of a stock of much needed organic fertilizers!

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