The Alberca: 03 May 2004

Now that the last of the winter clients has departed attention has turned back to the land. The age-old problem of keeping the weeds at bay has returned, and we have to somehow cope with thick undergrowth some 2ft high on some terraces. The two horses, Gimly and Jack, have helped, and we rotate them on different terraces each day. They are selective eaters however and although undoubtedly helping they miss the worst bits near the edges. Both strimmer machines are now out of action, so today I have had to invest (heavily, I might add) in a new one. Never was any good with motors was I?

The other main problem here is having enough water for the land during the dry summers. As the “well project” has hardly been an outstanding success (with a puny 10 minutes of water every 5 hours) alternatives have been sought. The Spanish and the Moors before them have had over 2,000 years experience of dealing with dry summers and water storage. I, on the other hand have had a mere 18 months! With summer on its way we decided to utilise a large depression in the land and form a water storage area (or “Alberca” in Spanish). After 2 days preparation in clearing the ground of any sharp objects that might puncture the plastic base, yesterday 3 of us managed to get a large sheet of plastic (some 20 metres by 15 metres) in and around the alberca. The top edges of the plastic were weighed down by stones and old bricks to keep the plastic in place. We then laid two pipes from the water irrigation channel higher up the valley and the water began to flow into our alberca. It was a nice sight and a really satisfying feeling to see the efforts of one’s labours and ideas coming to fruition. I don’t know how many gallons it will hold but with a size of 15 metres by 10 metres and 6ft deep it should help greatly towards the water supply problems. Soon a small pump will be put in that will spread water from the alberca to the trees.

We intend to let the old couple who have a small “casita” (cottage) on the land have water rights to the alberca. They use the casita as an allotment area for growing lemons, oranges, vines etc. At the moment they struggle up from town with 2 buckets of water each day. As we’ve built an illegal (ie no planning permission) house , 2 storeys high, right in front of their casita I think its the only fair thing to do. They are a really nice couple who readily exchange fruit and vegetables with us for olive oil and horse muck!

Anyway, the alberca filled nicely, although a couple of tears in the plastic might yet prove our undoing! Of course nothing here ever runs smoothly and last night Andalucia was subject to the most horrendous storms and gale force winds. This would normally happen every so often between January and March but never in May ………….. unless of course Richard has just put some plastic sheeting into a big hole in the ground. Fearing the worst I woke up this morning to find some fences ripped, trees down and expected to see the alberca disappearing into the south east towards Morrocco. Not so, however, as it surprisingly survived. There is a God after all!

Written by:
Richard Hartley

Richard is an avid blogger and the founder of Spanish Highs Sierra Nevada. He is author of the Cicerone Guidebook Walking and Trekking in the Sierra Nevada