I’ve written a book and now the hard work begins.



Thank you for visiting. Journalism work, running a farm and writing a book has been keeping me busy and so while I will be uploading photos and videos from the past two years over the weeks to come, somewheresville is temporarily the resting archive for three – now not so recent – adventures: an extensive USA road trip, eight months on a boat-access-only jungle beach in Costa Rica, and, inexplicably, the move to a remote mountain farm to restore it and grow things while attempting to keep the day job. 



After some years as finca sin nombre, farm with no name, on an unmarked track off an unmarked road, the farm now has a name: finquita los pajaros. Or finca los pajaritos. As the farm is small, and so are the majority of the birds, I don’t mind which one it ends up being. I use both on official forms and sometimes nothing so the whole thinking and naming business has merely focused in on the confusion not entirely quashed it.

In English it sounds twee – little bird farm. It conjures up an image of a place where there might be bird feeders and someone weeding with a fork and trowel. But no-one speaks English. And the neighbours don’t disapprove. The three closest to me are naturalists, founts of all knowledge though not all of it correct. There’s a farm nearby where they still trap and eat songbirds which is maybe why so many birds prefer to congregate here.

I had Hitchcock’s The Birds in mind. Swallows, house martins and sparrows had the run of the house for some decades before I pushed open the door wearing hazard gear and carrying a mop, and during the first spring and summer, birds persisted in nesting in the long room. I’d wake up to swallows – spy drones hovering outside the window, and fledglings were constantly falling down the chimneys and being taken off by the cat, or making their fluttery way to hide in shoes or drawers. Sparrows nest under the roof tiles, claws scrabbling for purchase like fingernails on a blackboard, and spend the days – in their hundreds – in the fruit trees beside the house, hopping tetchily, giving the evil eye, waiting for the chance to peck holes in the apricots. Or anything.

All doors and windows are open and will be until October, so the swallows swoop low over my head while I work each morning. Yesterday a jilguero flew in and hit a wall, but after a brief stunned pause, was well enough to evade my helping hands. And at night, especially when the moon is bright, the air is loud with the mewing of little owls, and the low huhs of the eagle owls, out there killing stuff.

So those were the birds I had in mind. Proprietorial birds that tolerate my presence with bad grace. I’ve left great swathes of the farm wild for them, and never use pesticides, and in return they live here and sing, but I know they want the house back.


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It’s all farms around here: farms that incorporate forests and gorges, and, once inside the natural park proper, the Sierra de Grazalema, a series of rocky mountain peaks. So the jabali, the wild boar, can go pretty much where they want. For some reason they want to come here. Fences are a rarity, but because my neighbour has donkeys and I have a vineyard, this farm has one, and this means that in order to come in and dig, or pass through and dig somewhere else, the boars must first chew through the wire fencing. Every night since the beginning of December there has been a Mexican wave of dog howling and fence chewing as the boar families lumber their way west to east and back again.

Liberated from their lives of pampered luxury, the donkeys have been able to break out of their field and gallop through the moonlight in wild-eyed panic; my dog has disappeared for hours and come back stinking of shit, guilt and satisfaction writ large on its face. And instead of the coffee and croissant of my dreams, my days have started with dragging sheets of fencing across fields, along with coils of wire and bolt cutters, and mending various stretches of the perimeter.

I’m hoping that the wandering season ends soon. I’ve read that wolf urine is the best deterrent. It’s used with regularity in the Basque Country to keep wild boar away from country roads and reduce the number of wildlife-car collisions.

I’ve thought about it, but it doesn’t grab me as being the easiest solution.


I’m attempting to post a photo every day this year @somewheresville365 on instagram. Picture credit: estudiantes.info (mine arrive after dark)

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DSC05504 snowy mountain

Well, well: snow. For the first time in fifty years or something. Two days ago, when I was wearing a lot of fleeces and standing out of the wind, it was quite warm. Yesterday was Day of The Snow and schools were closed across the land. And today the two men who have come from a faraway town to fix something are full of stories about road closures, snow on balconies, snow on the bull statue, snow in the bullring, snow on cacti, snow on prickly pears and snow on palm trees, snow on donkeys. Not only the stories, they show me the pictures, along with videos, of snow. Some I really liked, including one video of a man with a stiff brush tied to the front of his bike clearing a path, set to bad music. And another one that’s a compilation of slithering cars, also set to bad music entitled jajaja, or as I’d say hahaha.

It’s a big event though, this snow fall, irregular and signifying something. Bring on spring.

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Extra Virgin Virgin

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When they crank the jolting Heath Robinson conveyor belts at the cooperative olive mill into action, the skies darken. Fact. Not sure why, but black clouds provide a dramatic tension, as does a bigger than normal jam of broken-backed trucks and trailers, lorries, dented Citroens and Seats (and Peugeots) stuffed with white olive sacks, all reversing anarchically in the direction of the grills to drop their loads. Nuestra Señora del Rosario Cooperativa is now a-buzz, the social hub, lit up at night like something industrial in America, and will be until January. You can hear it, and smell it – green, waxy, cloying, oily – a mile off.
Last year I stripped the olives from 400 trees myself using a stick which took a month (if you include time spent lying in the nets too tired to move, with a dog licking my face). This year I recruited a team and a shaker machine, and it took a week.
I was in Puglia some months ago covering an extra virgin olive oil fraud story and had the luck to spend some days in the company of the deCarlo family. They compete to find a space for their exceptional, award-winning, artisan-produced Italian Extra Virgin olive oil in a global market awash with fake slop.
They pointed out that olive oil is a fruit juice, and should be pure, fresh, bitter, with, depending on type of olive, varying notes of grass, tomato leaves, artichoke. And they showcased the best by pouring two types of their own liberally over the best of southern Italian home-cooking during lunch at their family home.
I looked at my own fields with more interest on my return. To ensure plenty of bitterness, which isn’t rated too highly locally, I was the first farmer off the block with the harvesting, picking the fruit while green and fairly hard – and far too early according to my tutting neighbours. I sold the bulk to the cooperative (to join the rest of the area’s haul, to be crushed, filtered and bottled by them under their own label), but kept back 500kg, which thanks to a miscalculation was actually 830kgs, sent it down a different shoot and had it pressed separately, and bottled the stuff that came out at the other end of the system one hour later. Having 167 litres of oil for home consumption is excessive, but it’s genuinely, accidentally, very good. Getting it there is probably what did for the car suspension.


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