Volunteering in building a cob home in Spain

Fariza de Sayago at the border of Portugal (near Santiago)

Albergue de La Rueca July 2nd 2014

I write this journal in the middle of my holiday in Spain. Because I had a precognition of England, being in dreary weather-conditions, around the month of June, also for having left England in August 2012 amidst constant rain, I chose the dry warmth and visit Spain, for a change.                 In Cantabria, on a large piece of land with a derelict house, a vineyard and vegetable gardens, I have volunteered in a cob-building project, which is connected to the cob house called Abrazo House on 3 km. distance.

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The small cobhouse built for the family, while the large strawbale home (see below) was under construction. That home is magnificent, amazingly well built and comforting as well.

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I worked and camped with another volunteer, in a field with trees that offered welcome shadow on searing hot middays. Water was available for showers and cooking, a camping gas and light was present, a compost toilet and a big tent completed our bodily needs. We had a huge living space….including a view on a herd of horned cows with boy-calves. How these calves were frolicking and pushing their heads against each other! Never seen such agile playfulness!

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Spain 12-06 to 11-07 2014 (19).jpg The camping area for volunteers and playground for the cobhome-builder’s children.

All our food, including special favors, was delivered by the wife of the cobhome-builder, or their children, who jumped on the trampoline in that same field, after school. After one week, I was happy to find solid bread, big enough to cut slices, after a visit to a city called Zamora.

Zamora, a town where figures, cloaked as visible in the statues, roamed the streets with booming drums and trumpets, raising the hairs on resident’s necks. Medieval times!

Oh my, the bread that is sold here…. people can hit each other on the head, knocking someone unconscious, with these long sticks of bread,  I think. At least they’re better suitable for that then for eating them. I’m a consumer of organic solid bread, but not that hard and that void of nutritious substance. Those long sticks of bread never fills, really.

The first days in Spain I was alarmed by the fierceness showing up in people’s discussions.             It felt like they were very near hitting each other, in the fire of making a conversations.               Also in busses it went sparkling and thundering, at times. Spanish temperament, olé!

What is the time now? I have to think about what day it is today….. such a different rhythm in rural Spain, without any obligation to be on time or check the clock, that is for me as a free and happy holiday “hay-maker”.

Spain 12-06 to 11-07 2014 (34).jpg An abandoned home of a village, in that clear light of midday, almost unbearable to Dutch eyes, without sunglasses.

And now, I’m in the second destination where I am enjoying my holiday now, in a small village called Fariza de Sayago, on the border of Portugal. It’s on the route Santagio de Compostella. Dry heat, with a sea-breeze to accompany it, thank Life! Here are only sounds of nature present:          a wheez of a breeze, the bells of the sheep clanging, storks clicking their beaks, frogs croaking, birds singing and now and then…. quiet footsteps of villagers on their way to the vegetable garden, after siesta. Once, on a late hour, around midnight, I walked through the village and noticed vague silhouets of elderly women-villagers, sitting on their doorsteps in their black clothes, softly talking. Mysterious.

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In the early morning and at twilight, the sound of red copper bells is clanging, on sheep necks. The herds leave the stable at dawn and enter the fields, stretching wide to the horizon around Fariza. In the evening they return to the stable, sometimes with only a dog as guardian. Most are accompanied by a shepherd and some dogs. There’s a herd of 30 bulls and calves, walking through the fields each day, with a man in shabby green clothes, walking completely at ease and in total merging with the energy and pace of those beasts. It’s a sight to behold!

Plantation is loosely spread and closely gathered around fields with dry-stone walls and giant trees with weathered rock formations interrupt the flatness of the planes.

Spain 12-06 to 11-07 2014 (176).jpg A vast plane near Fariza de Sayago, how I’ve explored it for hours on end! To be in such a wide open space makes me feel very happy.

In earlier times there must have been a denser population in that area, the derelict houses and stables near those fields are witnesses of such a past. Menhirs and stone constructions of ancient use, but  with yet incomprehensible meaning and purpose, in my now, are also present. Drinking places for cattle are present everywhere, despite the overall impression of dryness and the heat.

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How curious, in this time of economic struggle in Europe, that the young ones leave for the city and look for  jobs….. and money to spend in entertainment and other affairs. The smog, the crowd, the loudness and the hard impact on Spain’s economy, lately, are also part of  this search for “happiness”, which seems to be a “fata morgana” to me, in the present situation. I’ve seen many homeless people behind bus-stops and on blankets, with their few belongings, laying down or sitting, on the pavement of broad boulevards, though often in possession of a mobile phone.

Many shops in cities are closed or empty, many articles are amazingly cheap and a caffee latte costs 1 euro. Roma gypsies are famous in Spain, for their visits to crowded places, like stations with often as many luggage as people. I’ve been witness to their stealing of a trunk out of the storage space below our seats in the bus, when passengers left and collected their luggage. I’ve seen them use their mesmerizing charms, with good looking features, it’s fascinating.

I’m not judging this behavior, with my fondness of living in wildness and a streak of the maverick in my nature. Living with the realization that Western society is still breathtakingly enriching itself at the cost of many people’s living standards, in many remaining parts of the world. But don’t expect me to sit in passivity, watching Roma people steal my stuff! I’m a Western woman, without a worry in the world regarding food and shelter, sharing a rather unfair shine of holiness in my opinion…. as far as the fondness of some of my belongings is concerned 😉

What are the visible memories that I bring back from Fariza? These are, apart from pictures, 2 stork-feathers, a copper sheepbell, a couple of stones and a skull of a sheep. Huhhh?  Yes, I like pieces of animal skeletons. They tell an endearing story to me of an innocent life, given, a beauty and refinement that is unparalelled, compared to many modern geometric designs.

The skin over my flesh and skeleton is pretty much tanned by now, in the Spanish sun and it’s on rare occasions that I don’t wear a hat here, with this stable hot and dry weather. In England people have to endure unstable weather-conditions in about 15 degrees Celsius, I’m so pleased 😉

An area with gorges (rifts in the rock) at the border with Portugal near Fariza de Sayago, where also the pilgrim-trail of Santiago de Compostella flows. There’s a river visible.

Spain 12-06 to 11-07 2014 (145).jpgThis picture was taken while I waited for the early morning fog to clear. A whitish rainbow like appearance shows in the center of it, quite mysterious. That’s also the area where the gorges are.

Around the village of Fariza, which has only 16 permanent residents in winter, at the little water-streams and holes of ancient stones around deep waterwells, where the cattle goes for drinks, I see thumbnail size bright green froggies jumping around. Each dawn and twilight is filled with croaks of frogs and above that concert is a bright starry sky, with the Milky Way visibly present. Since my siesta naps, I often awake at 3.00 am and enjoy gazing at that amazingly beautiful sky, with all those bright pinholes, sipping a hot drink. (I’m always able to sleep on cafein). Imagine how magical it is with a full moon!

Spain 12-06 to 11-07 2014 (151) An early morning walk

Spain 12-06 to 11-07 2014 (167).jpg My friend donkey, whom I visited every morning, with something for him to eat. He was alone.

Every day, the hostel kitchen-princesses Begonja and Marie Angelou prepare a warm meal for me. This early morning I bumped almost into another guest, that stayed for the night in La Rueca. He wasn’t prepared for my presence in the hall and it frightened him. I was informed about his arrival and I comforted him by showing him my real/humanness in a warm greeting.      I imagine that fright woke him up properly!

Spain 12-06 to 11-07 2014 (59).jpg The area with stork families. Also colonies of black storks are present, but I haven’t found them.

The whole village knows by now, that I am a Dutchess…. ahem. In the pub we watched the WK football match Holland-Mexico and when the Dutch scored, the farmers and shepherds came to me, for congratulations and handshakes with large hands in firm grips that made mine….ouch!… almost. On an early morning walk, I met a herd of sheep with their shepherd, the man wore a handkerchief, on his bald head, with 4 knots tied in its corners to keep it in place.

A couple of days before he had raised his thumb to me and yelled “Holanda…. Beatrix!” to which I replied “No Beatrix… el rey Alexander!” Now he came walking quickly towards me, in his hand a page from a Spanish tabloid, with a report and pictures of the crowning event of Alexander. With such sparkly eyes, under that handker-mischief!

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Goodbye to a lovely spot in Spain and an enjoyable holiday.


Copyright @2012 tHEARTofCARE