Since my arrival in Vitoria, I’ve been frequenting the farmers market, getting up the courage to email ecological food organizations and asking everyone I know, if they know farmers and food makers in the area. One of my many goals this year is to be involved someway, somehow with food.
When I learned my students have exams this week, Thurday- Tuesday, and I had 6 consecutive days without work, my brain rapidly fired off possiblities of where I could go. Granada to visit friends? A trip somewhere in the North? Where can I go? Where do I want to go? I asked myself. Truth is, I don’t want to go anywhere! Imagine that. This traveler wants a break. This traveler wants to create some roots, make connections and learn about my new town, my new region. This year it’s all about learning new things and building upon what I already know. The thought of packing a bag and showing up to a new city or small town doesn’t intrique me right now. Yes, I want to know the North just as well as I got to know Andalucia but I need to regain my momentum and energy to fully enjoy the travel experience.
Acknowledging my goals for this scholastic year in Euskadi and wanting to put them into action, I inquired about food organizations and how to get involved at the tail end of an ecological fair my 2nd weekend here. A guy at the information booth encouraged me to stop by their office but when I went to look up the address, I couldn’t find any information. How can that be? I wondered. After a few weeks of scratching my head, I finally mustered up the courage to write an email in Spanish to the organization, who wrote me immediately telling me about their partner organization. Go figure. No wonder I couldn’t find their address online- it wasn’t the right organization. Pero no pasa nada. With the new information, one morning before work, I went looking for the office within a food market and after asking many folks where their office was, I discovered it hidden on the 3rd floor. I would have never found this place if I hadn’t asked the man at the ecological fair. Thank goodness I asked. And there I asked a friendly and helpful woman, if there were any farms in the area who may be interested in having a volunteer for a week, or a WWOOF’ers, “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” and she eagerly gave me the names of two farms located near Vitoria, both of which use donkeys to cultivate the land. The only issue is my lack of car. Buses are infrequent. The first farm I called, they invited me to visit for the day rather than volunteer for a week since winter is approaching and there is less to do.
When my alarm sounded this morning, I jumped out of bed, throw on my finest (ha) farming clothes and eagerly walked to the bus station at 7:45 am since there are only 2 buses a day to this neighboring pueblo of Gopegi, excited to meet farmers in the area. I stared out the window admiring the colors of the leaves, endless hills and tiny pueblos as the fog engulfed the land. Twenty minutes later, I hoped off the bus and called Peggy to let her knew of my arrival only for my phone to die twice after she answered my call.
And then a voice called out to me. “Lauren.”Thank goodness.
I could smell cow dung in the air. “I’m in the countryside. How nice it is,” I thought as we walked a minute’s distance to their cobblestone house. Peggy invited me into her home briefly and a comforting feeling immediately engulfed me- a feeling I’m suppose to be here, suppose to be meeting this family. She was about to teach an English class so she sent me off on a bike with directions to the padura; to the land where her husband and friends were working. I felt so good- eager to meet new people, eager to be amongst caregivers of the land, eager to watch nature in action; to be part of the process. In our hectic world, it’s so easy to detach and forget where our basic necesities come from. Being on a farm sends me right back to my roots, and reminds me what is really important in life.
Thoughts swirled in my head about my own farm dreams as I dodged mud puddles on the bike. Miguel, Peggy’s husband, Ari and Mickey greeted me and I felt comfortable amongst them. Before I knew it, I had a bag of cover crop seeds over my shoulder and was tossing them over a new cultivated plot with new friends.
Then it was time for Tula to do her work of covering the seeds and then turning the soil, Burro; donkey style.
Then Ari and Mickey grabbed hoes to uncover any hidden potatoes lurking in the ground as I pulled them from the ground. The soil smelled nice and it perforated the air. Good soil. I commented to Mickey as only gardeners/farmers can appreciate the smell of Good Earth, good soil.
Unfortunately, the potato crop this year isn’t so plentiful because with all the rain earlier in the year, potatoes were planted late, then the rain stopped and the potatoes got a late start and didn’t grow as well as they have in past years. The life of a farmer- working in harmony with mother nature, aka, doing your best with what you’re given.
Though I wasn’t doing much of the physical work, I was quickly reminded just how much work cultivating the land takes. A lot.
Reviving a Dream:
As I stared out at the neighboring pueblos in the distance, I could envision myself, happy as a clam, or as they say in Spanish, estoy en mi salsa (happy in my element) having my own piece of land, with space to grow vegetables and fruit, raise chickens and maybe even own a few goats to make cheese.
This dream has been a long time in the making but now as I begin my 2nd year as an expat, I realize this may be my last stop before focusing and allowing a new dream to come to fruition; owning my own piece of land. Coming back to Spain, or rather Basque Country, was a difficult decision. I wasn’t sure what came next for me, but I wasn’t quite ready for expat life to be over. With only 2 months into my second expat year, I’ve noticed a lot of changes within myself. New perspective and a reminder of my first realization that the countryside is where I’ll settle one day. Flashback to my study abroad days in London- I was on a bus back to London after a day trip in Cambridge when the feeling engulfed me that one day – when I had my fill of city living, I’d have a piece of property somewhere in the countryside. Ten years later, the idea couldn’t be closer to the truth.
After spending the morning digging and collecting potatoes, it was time for a snack and the sun was finally waking up. My skin was being kissed by the sun and I wondered if I needed sunscreen. Peggy laid out a delicious spread of Home-made bread, arugula pesto, and tuna and then she caught my attention- “I walked for 2.5 years across the states.” Say what? She’s only the second person I’ve met whose walked as their main means of transport and occasionally hitch-hiked. Remember the Couchsurfer I hosted whose walking to Egypt? Then she says, “You know, I never planned this trip. It just happened. I’ve never been much of a planner…. I believe people come into your lives just when you need them, when you ask for something,” as she recounted a story on her walk. “Some people say that’s what happens when you pray for something.” This is my type of woman. Indeed. It’s all about manifesting.
I’m fascinated by Miguel and Peggy’s story- Peggy,, German born, was intitially intimidated to venture to Mexico after everyone she met persuaded her not to go because “it’s too dangerous.” But when she spontaneously went, she fell in love with Mexico and still found herself there 13 years later. Miguel, Basque born, went to study in Mexico with a one-way ticket and stayed for nine years. They met while performing theater. They spent some time in the USA before returning to Miguel’s home town where they now live and cultivate the land. You just never know where the road of life will lead…
We collected more potatoes and they prepared a few baskets for customers, the equivalent of CSA boxes and then they invited me into their home for lunch. A delicious salad, beet soup, and chicken and rice, joy overcame me. Delicious food from the garden, hand-picked that morning.
This is what I want for myself. A piece of land I can nurture and sustain myself, my well-being, my mind, my body, my soul. I’m not sure how this piece of land will come to fruition but with most dreams, it’s about having the vision and manifesting. The rest will fall into place.
As I walked out the door, Miguel reminded me, “you’re welcome anytime. Just let us know…”
They’re preparing baskets on Monday. You may just find me spending my day-off on a farm. I can’t think of many better possibilities!