Notes from the Alpujarras of Andalusia: Author and organic farmer Chris Stewart eases into the role…

EDITOR’S NOTE: This occasional column from Chris was supposed to start seven years ago, but events just got in the way. Perhaps it is just as well, as now we have something to look forward to. What better way to cheer us up in these anxious times than an occasional piece from Chris, who is safely hunkered down with his wife Annie on their organic farm, El Valero, hidden away in the wild and haunting Alpujarras hills of Andalusia, where social distancing can be counted in kilometers. If you’ve never read Driving Over Lemons, the best-selling book Chris wrote about his experience of buying and fixing up his farm, you are missing out on something. Chris writes with warmth and humour about property and life in Spain, and he sure knows a thing or two about how to fix up a rural property on a shoestring. I’m confident that anyone with an interest in Spain will enjoy his occasional articles. I promise the next column will come along quicker than this one. MARK STÜCKLIN.

El Valero Chris Stewart
El Valero in 1989, when Chris first clapped eyes on it and fell in love, only he knows why
chris stewart el valero andalusia alpujarras
Chris with one of his garden gnomes

So who is this character? you’re wondering, and what’s he doing cluttering up this otherwise rather useful website?

I should explain myself. Thirty one years ago I spent all our money (the wife’s and mine) on buying an abandoned farm in the mountains south of Granada (pictured above). It was abandoned because nobody wanted it anymore. Indeed, who would? 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. Little by little 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, 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.

Chris and Annie

Over the years we learned a thing or two about how to live cheaply and contentedly, and we evolved a philosophy that worked for us. So when Mark asked me if I would like to write an occasional piece for his website, I thought it might be fun to share with you some of the stuff we picked up along the way. That is not to say that you will see an original money saving tip, property renovation brainwave, or a tasty recipe every time; it will be much more flexible than that… by which I mean of course that I haven’t a clue what it will be about, but let’s just see what comes along. I hope you enjoy it.

EL VALERO

Chris Stewart's house at El Valero, in the Alpujarras, Andalusia
El Valero today

You can find out more about Chris Stewart at his website Driving Over Lemons. You can buy his books from Waterstones in the UK here, and listen to him reading extracts from Driving Over Lemons here.

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Thoughts on “Notes from the Alpujarras of Andalusia: Author and organic farmer Chris Stewart eases into the role…

  • Roy Wardle says:

    I greatly enjoyed reading and being entertained by Driving over Lemons and the sequels a few years ago. It introduced me to a part of Spain and a way of life I didn’t know existed. Looking forward to your column and whatever it may contain. Perhaps some of the real life characters featured in your books could reappear?

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