This is the first in a series of occasional articles about life in the backwoods of Spain, by Chris Stewart, the best-selling author of ‘Driving Over Lemons’ and ‘Three Ways to Capsize a Boat’, written at his organic farm in the Alpujarras of Andalusia (the foothills of Spain’s Sierra Nevada Mountain) where he lives with his wife Annie, and lots of animals.
Decades ago I spent all our money (the wife’s and mine) on buying an abandoned farm in the Alpujarras mountains of Andalucia, south of Granada. It was abandoned because nobody wanted it any more. Indeed, why would they? You can’t make a living out of a small, remote mountain farm today. But we were youngish then, with heads full of dreams and hope. Gradually we set about making a new life for ourselves. We grew our own fruit and vegetables, built our own house, bought some chickens and sheep, and took whatever work came along.
We were poor… not hungry poor, but there was no money for luxuries. We were also very happy in our remote corner of Andalucia, perhaps the consequence of a lack of imagination… or maybe we were just simpletons. We had a lot of luck on our side, too; the farm had everything you could want: Good neighbours, copious spring water, oranges and lemons, olives and apricots, and surroundings of great beauty.
Ten years after moving in I was persuaded – very much against my better judgement – to write about our experiences. The book, “Driving over Lemons”, was an unexpected success, and the sales enabled us to live a little more easily – we drank a better wine, we ate a better fish. People wonder if we have moved to a mansion in Marbella with the proceeds from the book… but no, not bloody likely; we like it so much that we’re still here, and here we’re going to stay until we have to leave in a box.