The house is now submerged in undergrowth or I should say overgrowth, barely visible if not through the window of a light aircraft. While in July I’ll be praying the well doesn’t dry up and dragging a hose over earth turned to rock, I wake these mornings half-expecting the vegetation to have broken through the foundations, to be tumbling in coils from shattered window panes. The track is undetectable. The donkey house, the hen house, and I forget what else was there, are swallowed up along with wheelbarrows, loungers, shoes, shears, umbrellas, football, rolls of wire fencing. The wild flowers have un-hackable trunks, the poppies are over my head; large animals have tunnelled through the grass. Aggressive shrubs are hoovering the water and nutrients needed by the olives and orange trees.
It doesn’t seem right to measure the farm in acres when most of the growth is vertical. Each acre is 43,560 square feet, and the vegetation on it averages 4 foot high which equates to 174240 cubed feet of problem per acre. I watched Arturo fix an ancient tractor he bought secondhand in Seville. He made it look easy (although it has since broken down and been abandoned mid-field). I don’t have a tractor. I do have a strimmer but it’s not up to this; it was like going to war with a peashooter and the strimmer, a brand new acquisition, has joined a lot of stuff on the unlikely to be fixable pile in the shed. I have a scythe I like using but it is slow and dangerous and, for some irritating reason, fascinating to the cat.
The only solution is to fight nature with nature. Juan, 81, father or father-in-law of every farmer I know except Fernando, has located a small herd of sheep for me. However my hesitance (am I still, after all, not footloose?) and the complicated paperwork and housing preparations having sheep entails means even if a decision was made today they wouldn’t arrive until August when everything was turned to straw.
As an interim solution, Fernando has lent me Canalita and Saltalinda, his belligerent donkeys. They arrived last week with Fernando and Fernando’s cousin Fernando, full of bolshy attitude and have already eaten a guard dog sign, a cat litter tray I’d left out to deter mice from climbing up into the engine of the car, a glove and a young fig tree native to Valencia. Like so many solutions this is packed with its own problems.