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We are Robert and Tanja, originally from Holland but after 15 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-tourism and permaculture project. There is a lot of work 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 fences, gardening, building stables (straw bale construction) and a lot of other small projects such as a climbing wall and a zip line!
Workawayers on the Finca, what we did in 2018
2018 has seen a huge increase of Workawayers coming to help on the Finca. Just two people assisted in 2017, but 16 helped in 2018, an increase of 800%. Without them we would not have been able to do all the projects. Doing those projects often required brute (wo-)manpower. We circumvented the problems with levers, by making railways, ziplines, slopes, in Kiswahili: ‘jua kali’ solutions, “made under a harsh sun”. By now, it is clear, that with such Workawayers, the pyramids could really have been built within a couple of months. The list of projects is extensive, not everything has been finished yet, but most of it is functional:
The plants, the hardest part is to water them. This was done with gusto by Dutch, Americans and Germans. The onions and garlic did not produce, but miraculously resurfaced again in November. The Pistacchio and Almond plants made it, new leaves are sprouting at this very moment, spring 2019.
The solar heater. This was attacked with the help of a couple of Argentinian workawayers. The basic outlay has been done, but implementing it requires a bit more plumbing and constructing a hottub. No pictures can be provided yet.
The chickencoop, Say the magic word, it rang through each morning’s conversation. What were we supposed to do? Watering plants and continuing with the chickencoop. That is now fully functional, with the help of Dutch, Argentinian, German workawayers. We lodge 5 hens, 1 rooster, and 6 ducks, Peacocks and Guineafowl expected. We have trouble getting rid of all the eggs. Ducks have been succesful in raising 20-plus pulli.
The Warwick Way, we needed a better access path to the spot where a water storage was to be constructed and two English gentlemen helped make it safe to walk up the hill over a path that was named after their University: The Warwick Way. It is a far more stable route than the previous one, which at one time caused a stone to drop on Tanja’s hand. We now know the most direct route to the Tortosa emergency hospital. No workawayers have been hospitalized so far. A couple of hornet stings were the worst damage done to one of them. A sorry accident.
The Zipline, walking up the Warwick Way with some building stones, probably weighing some 10 kg, and simultaneously lifting one’s body at between 50 and 70 kg as well seemed to be an inefficient way of working. So, we needed a cable car to get the materials to the building site, higher on the hillside. This was a six-person project. Basically, I underestimated the tension required to take the sagging out of the cable. But six people can exert a lot of force. And, later, with two people pulling, it was possible to get the tanks, bricks, building block, beams and concrete to the site. In December we were ordered by the forestal to take the cable down, as it was erroneously perceived to be a threat to birds. The Zipline requires, like all projects in Spain, more permits.
The Waterstorage, this houses three thousand liters of water, at some altitude to keep the system under pressure. Work by British, German and Dutch. The Zipline was used to lift everything up to the site, where there was only limited space to store blocks, bricks and tanks, but somehow we managed. As there was some extra space left in the structure, the option existed to make it into a giant nesting box for Tawny Owl. An opening with a breeding chamber behind it, allows for the birds to make use of a safe nesting site on the hill, in the forest. We are currently waiting for the first volunteer “Breedawayers”.
The Strawbale Stable, meant for pigs and goats, but likely the first occupants will be two ponies, maybe three, as the mare is pregnant. Concrete foundation, straw bales stacked as walls, still need to be plastered with clay. Work done by Workawayers from Slovenia and the UK. It is a stable structure, but the roof is awfully heavy. Besides that, the concrete stones to form the ceiling proved to be able to catastrophically deconstruct. The bruise on my leg lasted several weeks. A good warning.
The Pig-and-Goat-Pen, requiring 100 meters of fence, poles every two meters. We bought a power auger, thinking it would make light work. In normal soil (sand, clay or peat) it works like a breeze, but in riverine sediment, with assorted pebbles, stones and rocks it is hard work. When the turning bit suddenly gets stuck, you need to control the engine part quickly, because that reacts in a Newtonian way, with an equally strong, opposite movement. Hazard.
To all people who helped so far (In chronological order of arrival): Lolane, Mathilde, Leo, Fernando, Gonzalo, Joaquin, David, Tatiana, Monica, Loek, Stella, Katrin, Julia, Philine, Rob, Ayaz, Jože, Barney) , a big “Thankyou”.
Robert, Tanja, Sander and Jasper,
and on their behalf:
The late Shaggy (who died in July) and Bayley (dog from a shelter), Leendert, Eleonora, Luisa, Blanca and Morena (chickens),
Crispr Cas, (the rooster), Bram and Tanzi, (the ponies), Trotter (the hog) and his, so far nameless (suggestions?), partner pig.
Help with Eco project
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.
English, French, Dutch (fluently, German and Spanish at a lower level)
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.
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
More than two
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week
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