We got your number from the bio shop in Cangas de Onis and would be very interested in meeting you and seeing your permaculture project. We live in the UK, where we recently got married at Coed Hills, who have a permaculture market garden. We’re now on a year-long honeymoon/sabbatical, exploring Europe and meeting people. We will ring you later today to see if you’d like us to visit. We are currently in the Picos, travelling in a 7.5 ton Merc (8mtrs long, 3.25mtrs high and 2.4mtrs wide), so we might need some guidance re getting to your place! We look forward to meeting/talking to you.
Love, Ruth & Frank x
For Photos of this chapter, and they are worth a click, go to
We couldn’t quite tear ourselves away from the Picos, so on the recommendation of a lady in the local wholefood shop of Cangas de Onis, we contacted Tim, who’d set up a permaculture smallholding.
The road to his smallholding turns out not to be suitable for Emma, so after following instructions that include stopping at a kilometer stone by the side of the road, we meet a very friendly and relaxed young Dutch guy, who takes us up the hill, invites us for a delicious lunch made with produce from the land, and shows us the little chalet he built himself – a new version of the traditional Horreo, which he rents out via airbnb. He says, it’s quite busy, and I can imagine why. It’s absolutely beautiful, and the views are to die for. A little love nest, or a writers refuge, depending on your needs…
Nearby, we stop for the night and swim/wash in a beautifully clear, if cold, mountain stream and have dinner on our fire wok for the second time. This is a very special place. The valley is absolutely quiet at night, and stars abound. In the morning, we wake up to another clear sunny day and see that we are surrounded by high mountains on every side. The land we camped on belongs to an old farmer of over 80 years. Manolo is incredibly strong, still looking after his 14 cows and tending to the fields and fruit & nut trees. What’s his Motto? ‘Tiene que moverse’ (you have to keep moving) and two bottles a day of his home made cider, poured from a great height, to make it bubbly.
It is amazing actually how similar our kombucha tastes to the cider of the region! Manolo is also a musician, and we visit him in his house to hear him play the accordion. He must be deaf, because he cranks the amplification right up (yes, amplification for an accordion in a small room!!!). He used to play for dancing in the region, so his repertoire is a bit of this and a bit of that, all with an Asturian touch, including Tango Asturiano. I can’t make head or tail out of his choice of left hand accompaniment. It seems to me that he almost randomly hits the chords, using them more like percussion than harmony. It has an odd effect – to my ears it sounds like bi-tonal; the melody in one key, the chords in another. We also play together, Accordeon and bandoneon – he knows a number of Tangos but doesn’t know the chords, so just plays the right hand side. Volver sounded really nice!
I’m definitely more impressed by the way he shovels the cow shit, carelessly flinging a huge forkful right across the barn as if it’s got no weight at all. Tim says Manolo is stronger than the three of us together, and that the one summer when he tried to help him for a week, it took him a week to recover afterwards!
When we say good bye, Manolo invites us to come back and camp on his land any time we like. Thank you, Manolo thank you Tim, for your hospitality! We are grateful that our paths crossed.
Here’s the link to Tim’s beautiful Horreo Panoramico:
The next day, we visit a donkey sanctuary and stay on their property amongst the apple orchards, where we end up doing a very early morning shift, looking after one of the donkeys that had fallen the day before, with a weak “ankle”, that she first had difficulty standing on. By the time we leave, having had breakfast with the owner, a dutch woman, and five volunteers, she is limping a little but out of the stable and back in an enclosure with her son (the donkey, that is!).
As with all organisations like this, money is in short supply and there is a lot of work to do. The grounds are beautiful – apple trees everywhere, meadows for the donkeys, but also woodlands, a stream and a pond. Marleen tells us that when she retired she was looking for an adventure – and she got it in heaps! She built a beautiful house incorporating an old barn, and then ran out of money. The house is not quite finished, but since the government is asking for a big sum of money to have a house signed off, it probably will not be finished for a few more years…. Meanwhile, the income from the apple orchards support the running costs of the donkey sanctuary.
The donkeys are beautiful, and so well cared for and loved!
The team of volunteers is international; Italian, Czech, Irish, Calfornian, Estonian… This feels like a good place to come and do volunteer work if you’d like to be somewhere within reach of a train station but off the beaten track, quiet and beautiful, and with the main work of the day being communing with donkeys.
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