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Campo Life (The land of Goats and Eagles)

All rural life here is based around water and the seasons. Earlier in the year the local farmers are out tilling the land around their almond and olive trees, from before dawn and until after dusk.

Water is scarce unless you have water rights and these tend to be near the dried up river beds (ramblas), and not so much on higher grounds.

The choices are quite stark. Anything that is not Olive or Almond is dug up and the land furrowed. This is to ensure that all water is saved for the trees. Some areas of Andalusia use old car tyres around the base of the tree to retain water, some dig a shallow basin around each tree. One local farmer tried old mattresses for a while .. It didn’t work and was unsightly.

Water Rights come with the property and in your deeds it lays out which days of the week and for how long you can basically flood your land. The water systems are in the main a legacy of the Moors, and along with the history comes the Water Chiefs who polices the use of the water.

Local fuentes are accessible to all but only for home use, and not for agricultural use. If you’re off-grid then water is delivered by truck, some from privately owned springs, or from late night or early morning visits by water trucks to deserted fuentes. Water can be bought from water companies at agricultural prices for your land but only if you’re connected to the water supply.

My neighbour has offered to till my land but I like it covered in scrub bush to provide haven for the three large rabbit warrens we have, plus all the wild ground birds that nest in them. I can see his cortijo about 600 metres away and all the land is tilled and very tidy. The view of my land from his is the opposite. Occasionally a local goat herder will brings his herd through and the sound of their bells can be heard tinkling in the distance.

The farmers are the most skilful tractor drivers around. It’s scary just to watch them working on slopes that I would have difficulty in walking safely on. Parts of the land are terraced to allow water to stay and sloped in parts to feed lower levels.

The level of tilling all adds to the amount of dust in the air. While parts of Almeria, and mainly Tabernas is considered a desert, due to the lack of precipitation, it has certainly got a lot wetter in the winter and a lot drier in the summer, in recent years due to the number of trees being planted, with grants.

More and more land is being turned over to large scale cultivation. It won’t belong before the plastic tents in Almeria reaches where we are. Already I can see the sea of plastic from where we are, glistening in the distance.Until then we continue to enjoy the early morning walks with the sea and ground mist in the valleys and along the coast, bringing with it the first signs that we’ve moved into Autumn and that Winter can’t be far behind.

Soon the farmers will be collecting what Olive crop remains and the sunsets will calm down as the dust settle.When the sun finally goes down at the end of each day behind the mountain, darkness descends on us without any lights to guide us home.

One of the highlights of most days is when the lone Eagle (Aguilas) come to soar overhead. At 2800 above sea level, she’s never more than about 40 ft above us. Her story is a tragic one as her partner died when he ran into power lines in Rambla de Oria.

They mate for life, and though last year she was courted by a younger male she soon drove him off.

Another pair has recently turned up and their visits are more infrequent, but hopefully we will see their offsprings next year.

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