In December 2009, I locked the door of my Dublin house one last time, and left the place where I’d spent the most marvelous semester of parties, multilingual conversations and occasional studying. Next time I met two of my former housemates, was in Barcelona about two years later. Contrary to what we had in Dublin, their life in Barcelona seemed a bit more loaded with work routine and post-travel adaptation to normal reality. I never got to visit them again until summer 2014. ‘By the way, we live in a cave house. Hope you’ll like it,’ Maider said as she was picking me up from the Alicante airport in summer 2014. I threw my backpack into the van full of gardening tools and carton boxes. I could only imagine that you’d call your house a ‘cave’ metaphorically, when the walls are not fully painted yet, the furniture is not in its place and everything is utter chaos. As it turns out, in southern Spain, ‘cave’ means just that: ‘cave’. It is amusing and wonderful to see how much someone’s life can change in just a few years, and my Dublin housemates seem to have found their passion and purpose for the nearest future in digging their garden and ploughing their field, excavating ponds and planting trees. In Dublin, we lived surrounded by the wall of pissing rain, maze of bright narrow streets and endless pubs. Now, Mai and Javi lived in one of the driest places in Spain, encircled by yellow mountains, filled with olive trees and wild foxes. I saw one of those foxes one night – that is, I saw two eyes glowing in the dark. Javi had been complaining about some beast eating all of their earthworms. ‘This is brilliant!’ I exhaled as I walked into the house. One might call it a cave, others say – ‘underground chambers’. Around 500 euro and 5 months of digging – that’s what it takes to get yourself a habitable cave these days. Add to this extra weeks and some additional cash for furnishing solutions that do not involve IKEA. ‘We have made all the furniture from scrap materials,’ Maider invited me to join her on a daily routine of cutting and polishing some wooden planks that would be used to make tables, shelves, beds an other bits of the house. ‘We are halfway there.’ ‘Later on, we are going to install solar panels and harvest the natural energy to power everything in the house and the farm,’ Javi explains. It has always been a dream for them: to start a permaculture farm and use the natural resources to live sustainably and independently. ‘The soil here is too dry and the rainfall is scarce most of the year, while occasional torrential rains erode the terrain even more rapidly. With our project, we are planning to change it and breathe new life into the landscape’.
With degrees in industrial engineering and graphic design, Javi and Maider managed to create a whole plan of how to make this land greener – literally and ecologically. Their crowdfunding campaign promptly gathered enough and even more to build a windmill that will pump the water from the well down below up to the farm, distributing it evenly through the soil. They are also creating a water detaining system that will prevent the rainwater from escaping and eroding the ground. Their project is called ‘El Molí Verd’, The Green Mill in local Valencian language.
‘This is an amazing view!’ I started skipping along the rim of the cliff that falls into a big ravine down below, with dried river bed and bushes of pink blossoms. We took a walk through that place later in the week. ‘Wait till you see the bio toilet out in the field,’ Javi remarked. Indeed, the cabin of compost toilet in the field stands on the edge of the hill, and its sole window overlooks the wonderful landscape down below and far away, that will put you into deep philosophical mood and make you forget why you came to the toilet in the first place. ’So, what’s the plan in the long run? I know that growing trees is not something that happens overnight, and the change requires a lot of patience, but give me a scoop,’ I asked the guys over dinner. ‘Well, as soon as we sort out the living space and solar showers, we will be able to welcome some WWOOFers and other volunteers, maybe even make them dig us another cave,’ Maider laughed. ‘It takes a lot of time, of course, as we are doing almost everything with mainly two pairs of hands’.