The farm is one of five carved out for the sons of a local landowner a hundred or so years ago. No-one remembers what its name is, or when it was last lived in, although it has most recently been used for storing partridges, and as an easy-come, easy-go roost for swallows and house martins (and much more). The long barn with its elaborate tiled floor was used for hay; and the great fireplace played its bit in the annual matanza – or pig killing, the highlight of the farming year.
At least the walls and roof are sound, and it has plenty of water in its own well. There are many decaying Andalucian farmhouses and cortijos in the fields around here, and they’ll never be replaced. Growing olives and raising goats keeps things ticking over, but don’t cover the cost of major structural repairs. Some people stay put and let the place crumble around them; more – as happened here, many decades ago – retreat to the nearest village, get the benefit of heating and a social life, and use the old farmhouse for storing tractors, camping out in the summer, or cooking lunch (as demonstrated above by Fernando’s cousin, Fernando, who I found rustling up a revuelto of eggs and the wild thistle).
I don’t want to change its thick-walled central core as much as clean it, add a bathroom, turn the second floor grain store into a bedroom, rewire. The kitchen is basic. There are a lot of complicated decisions ahead, but right now the priority is mucking out so I can move in at the end of the month. So it is that my days are spent editing and evenings until the light fades, in a mask and rubber gloves removing dark webs as thick as tweed, carrying buckets of water from the outdoor tap, and scrubbing walls and floors with fizzing Salfumant agua fuerte. I find an old red tiled floor underneath the packed mud. Once it’s too dark to see the walls, I reward myself with a wash and glass of manzanilla at the bar. It’s a kind of living.