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We are Robert and Tanja, originally from Holland but after 17 years living and working in Africa and South East Asia we feel rather cosmopolitan. Tanja works in International Development, Robert is a guide to Birdwatchers. In 2004 we bought a Finca (farm) in Arens de Lledo, in the beautiful Matarranya region of Spain. Ever since, we have been slowly developing the property as a eco-friendly homestead and permaculture project. There are many tasks to do as the property is 24 hectares of pine forest, old terraces, riverbank and fields where we want to practice straw bale gardening. We need help in building raised beds, fences, gardening, building stables (straw bale construction) and a lot of other small projects such as a climbing wall and a zip line!
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2020
This was a strange year with a lockdown starting in Spain on 14 March 2020. We still had 5 WAWs and managed to complete the fencing of two fields for the goats and pony. Gardening was quite succesful with a good tomato harvest and we dried, figs and tomatoes in the solar drier.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2019
In and before 2018 we had seen 18 Workawayers (WAW’s) coming to help on the Finca. Just two people assisted in 2017 and 16 helped in 2018
During this year we also had additional help, not via WAW: Mari, as a WAW, asked if Ida, her sister, could come as well. They were good company to Luisa, who was a WAW. Eric, Robert’s brother helped in the construction of ‘De Beer van Eric’, The Dutch word ‘beer’ means ‘support structure’, ‘Bear’ or ‘Hog’, choose yourself. Jessica came over for some time, she volunteers at the nearby Boodaville permaculture project, but found time to teach about hoof maintenance, the ponies maybe did not like it at first, but they are benefitting. And some friends from the Netherlands, Fer and Tineke a.k.a. Tina, helped to keep things going forward. Water and electricity on the finca restored. In all 24 people volunteered.
So, the list of projects is extensive, not everything has been finished yet, but most of it is functional:
The plants; the hardest part is, still, to water them. The Pistacchio and Almond plants were joined by mulberry and Pauwlonia trees. That meant a lesson in replanting these from their pots. Taking of all soils, untangling the curled roots and dipping them in a clay slurry went like a breeze, even though the plants are not even hip-high, we kind of expect forest giants within the foreseeable future. Are we remaining over-optimistic…?
More about the animals
We now have 17 ducks 5 chickens and 2 roosters, 6 goats and a Shetland pony
The ducks needing water, now also have an extra pond. Thanks to two Taiwan WAW’s. This pond is constantly refilled using a small pump, creating a current to improve the water quality.
Unfortunately we lost the mare and her foal as well as the small pig to Gloria the terrible storm that hit our Finca on 21 January 2020. the strawbale stable was inondated and collapsed.
The Strawbale Stable, this early spring two experienced Dutchies, Roos-Anne and Martijn, did the plastering of the strawbale walls. (Incidentally, the Hog has made an opening into the wall, going for the straw center, and we had to temporarily close the stable). Two other clog-wearers, Koos and Mary, made sure that the roof is really a green roof, many plants are growing there. The latter also lived on the finca for more than a month. Like Maria and Neomar from Greece/Sweden and Venezuela, they were looking for opportunities to buy a finca, and all used their time in Arens de Lledo to scout for possibilities. In the process, Maria even found a new species of bird for the finca: Pied Flycatcher.
Lennard, Tristan, Hannes, Sarah and Vadim kept plants and animals going, because construction was less prominent during their time. In fact, we have now to register the new buildings before the village council is happy again.
At one time, both the finca and the house were run completely by volunteers, as we had to travel to the Netherlands for a funeral and a gall-bladder operation. It was a great feeling to have everything running smoothly upon returning. Thanks to Yu-ze and Li, Mari, Koos and Mary, we could later harvest many eggplants, peppers, some pumpkin, beets and tomatoes.
Stairways (to heaven?), Two stairs have been constructed. One takes you to the second floor of the mas, the cottage. An outside stairway existed, but that was too steep and rickety. Steven, a Canadian put in the effort to create the 12 steps up, it is a royal staircase now, strong, sturdy, safe. Another one, equally useful and safe has been built by a German woman volunteer, Johanna. We use it many times each day.
Almacen numero dos, quite simultaneously we built another storage, next to the chickencoop. This is very strong, concrete floor and roof, brick walls, steel door and minute window. It holds the food for the animals. Lifting the beams was an small thing for the guy from Barcelo, putting them in place was a group effort in Egyptian style, using levers, ropes and a lot of thinking ahead to keep things safe. The roof is designed to become green as well. The measurements were a bit off, so we needed an extension to one part of a wall, the ‘Beer van Eric’ as mentioned before.
To all people who helped so far (In chronological order of arrival):
2017: Lolane, Mathilde,
2018: Leo, Fernando and Monica, Gonzalo, Joaquin, David, Tatiana, Loek and Stella, Katrin, Julia, Philine, Rob, Ayaz, Jože, Barney,
2019: Martijn and Roos-Anne, Ben and Mary, Johanna, Eric, Maria and Neomar, Koos and Mary, Lennard, Tristan, Steven, Yu-ze and Li, Luisa, Mari and her sister Ida, Hannes, Sarah and Vadim, Jessica, Fer and Tineke (friends that worked as hard as workawayers); 2020 Carla and Jordi and Maya and Apoline and Beatriz.
To all of you another big “Thankyou”.
Robert and Tanja
Help with Eco Projects
DIY and building projects
This project could involve children. For more information see our guidelines and tips here.
We have had workawayers from many different countries which provides for cultural exchange, you can learn about birdwatching, enjoy the historical villages of Horta de Sant Joan (Picasso), Gandesa, Valdesrobles, Cretas visit the archeological sites nearby, but also have practical experience of building, ecological gardening and animal care.
We would like to get help for 4 to 5 hours a day during the week. We want to construct four emplacements for luxury tenting, and develop an acre of terracces for e.g. strawbale gardening and fruiting trees.
The accommodation will be in a comfortable double room in our village house or a bit more basic and off grid in the Maset on the Finca, you can also camp out in your own tent, and we are developing the luxury safari tents later on.
As to staying with us, we work on a first come, first served basis and assume that, once you have said that you will come, you will actually show up as well. Depending on your mode of transport (car, public, bus or plane (best via Barcelona)) we have to set up an appointment on where to meet. The village doesn´t have public transport, but we can collect you from Tortosa, Horta de San Juan, Gandesa, Alcañiz or Calaceite. Tortosa also has a train station, the other towns can only be reached by bus.
Free time and weekends can be spent exploring the Els Ports mountains, the Ebro Delta, the coast and many of the nearby villages like Horta de San Joan or Valderrobres.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
We have wifi in the house and several places where people can work. Not a real office space, but people can work alone or while with others
The finca (farm-part) is available, but that doesn't have internet. Nearest place to empty septic liquids is some 30 km away. Toilet however, on the finca.
Dogs, but with some restrictions.
More than two
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week
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