Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Farm Work

Farm-work is hard, there’s no doubt about that. I read once that in farming, if a job seems too easy, it’s because you’re doing it wrong.

The farm here at Posada del Valle has become more and more central to the hotel’s (and to the family’s) ethos, thus requiring more and more manual input. So in 2007, a dedicated farm-labourer’s position came into being. I arrived here in August 2007, and have just worked the first day of my third season.

Lessons on how to use a scythe by a neighbouring farmer

When the alarm-clock goes off at 7am, and it’s still dark outside, but you can hear the Asturian rain beating on the roof, you don’t always feel like dragging yourself out of bed to get out there to spend the day cutting back brambles, or pulling up nettles, or humping buckets of stones up steep hillsides, or dealing with fifty miserable soggy sheep. Then again, it could be a lovely sunny day (or better still, cloudy but dry), to spend building a dry-stone wall, or weeding and planting in the vegetable garden, or turning the compost, or working on the path alongside the river. Every day is different, and every day has its rewards. When people ask what sort of work I do here, it’s difficult to answer, because the job is so varied. There are only two definites: the hay harvest at the beginning of summer (cutting, turning, drying, humping, stacking); and the apple harvest in autumn (picking, sacking, humping). The rest of the time it could be walling, fencing, painting, weeding, cutting the grass, pasture maintenance, shovelling manure, chopping firewood, and whatever else needs doing on a farm.

Assessing the work, a dry stone wall

And then, when I’ve done my six hours of hard labour (most farms have tractors, here we have a wheelbarrow), I head out into the meadows and woodlands with camera and notebook, identifying and recording the flora on the farm. These days the farm is bursting with spring flowers: a few bluebells that the wild boars haven’t managed to dig up and eat the bulbs of; the first three orchid species of the year to flower; the long golden bells of tubeferous comfrey; a carpet of celendines down by the old rectory ruins; spring squills; cuckoo flowers; buttercups and daisies and dandelions and speedwells; while the winter flowering hellebores are going to seed. And as I search out the flora, I keep an eye out for brambles that need cutting back, rocks that need moving, fences that need mending, patches of nettles that need pulling out, a post that could be useful, or a sheep with visible signs of diarrhoea.

Not all physical work, taking photos for the farm flora guide.

Dusk is now settling on the mountains, and the cats are miaowing for their supper. Time for me to go and recharge the batteries for another day.

Nigel also does his fare share of the hard physical work, humping sacks of apples

This entry written by Hugh Taylor, 1/4/09.


Anonymous said...

Great to get a feel of life on the farm! Is april a good time to visit?

Nigel and Joann Burch said...

April is a lovely time with the spring flowers just starting to come in bloom.


Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.