As a family, we decided in late 2013, to move from Stockholm, Sweden (where we lived for about 15 years) to Aragon, Spain, to an area called “Matarraña”, just outside Catalonia. We look at ourselves as regenerative homesteaders — trying to realise a sustainable, offing-the-grid, tranquil-in-nature life.
We have two lovely, friendly dogs; three lurking, playful cats; white and brown rabbits (who often have adorable baby bunnies to cuddle); a rooster and his flock of hens, who provide us with our daily intake of fresh eggs. More animals will most likely join our farm in the near future.
Our farmhouse is about seven kilometres (approximately a 15-minutes drive) up a winding mountain road from a small village called Valderrobres. If you’d like some exercise, the walk up to us from Valderrobres will take you about 1 ½ hours, leading you through pristine forest, as well as our Aragonese olive and almond orchards.
In caring for our land and gardens, we employ a combined permaculture and biodynamic gardening model, which facilitates our passion and desire to rebuild the soil and work in harmony with nature to essentially produce food for ourselves, as well as limit any damage to the earth.
Our family live and work full time on the farm — we care for our approximately 1,250 olive trees and our nearly 700 almond trees, as well as our 4 hectares of vineyards. Throughout the year, our work differs according to the seasons: In September, for instance, we harvest almonds and grapes, and plant winter vegetables and garlic; in December/January, we gather our olives and begin planting peas, beans, and onions, and through the spring to autumn, we plant and plant, prune the vineyards, and prune again, and then finally harvest our grapes in early autumn, completing the circle.
Our olive oil is cold-pressed virgin olive oil, and we store it in our root cellar for our family to consume throughout the year. We store our almonds in our farm shed and shell them as we go through them, sometimes soaking and dehydrating them for a crunchier, more digestible, tastier nut. And finally, we make our own wine with the help and guidance of a seasoned wine-expert friend, who takes us through the pruning, collecting and pressing, which our friend leads in an underground bodega — and then we share the wine among us.
Our vineyards mostly consist of a few varieties of Garnacha, a spicy, berry-flavoured grape that supposedly originated right here in Aragon — Garnacha is now one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. In addition to Garnacha, we also have some White Muscat grapevines which make a delicious sweet dessert wine, as well as some Cabernet Sauvignon grape vines, which we mix with the Garnacha to create a dryer, less sweet red wine.
Next to our orchards, we also have a growing food forest — full of young fruit trees that will eventually be accompanied by a soil-nourishing ground cover and perennial vegetables, as well as low-level bushes, shrubs, and plants — all in an effort to grow food and nurture the earth. Dotted around our farm, we also have small groupings of nut and other fruit trees: hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios figs and wild strawberry trees (madroños).
My passion, in addition to all of the above that I’ve mentioned, are the vegetable gardens. We have three gardens, although, they keep expanding, to my utter delight. We grow food year round, and we have a small but incredibly useful greenhouse that facilitates our growing capacity by keeping all those darling seedlings warm through our coldest winter months. We try to grow most of our veggies from seed, and many start out in the greenhouse, and some directly into our garden beds, which at this point we’re transforming more and more to no-dig beds.
We live about seven kilometres outside of Matarraña’s most populated village, Valderrobres, with its approximately 2,500 inhabitants. Valderrobres has been declared one of Spain’s most beautiful villages, with its 7th-century intact castle and its old city’s picturesque narrow cobblestone streets. Matarraña is a local administrative region (know as a comarca) that is part of the province of Teruel, which is then part of Aragon — one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities. Valderrobes is about a three-hour drive from either Barcelona or Valencia, and about a 4 ½-hour drive east of Madrid.
Our farmhouse is situated up a winding paved and well-laid dirt road that twists around olive and almond orchards. We like to think of ourselves as “hidden” because we really are quite far from any other property, and our farmhouse is set low and almost hidden from sight by an enormous, fantastically beautiful serpentine-like pine tree.
It’s grey and chilly outside. I don’t know what the temperature is. After moving between Fahrenheit and Celsius, I often no longer look at the temperature, but rather, according to the season, I have an idea of what it might be like out, then I...
In the modern world today, in most populated places, there’s an absence of silence. In Chicago, you can go to Lake Michigan, a great expanse of water that almost resembles an ocean (for those landlocked folk), and it’s an ocean inasmuch as you can’t see...