It didn’t take too long for us to realise that our initial dreams of growing citrus fruit trees and vegetables were not going to materialise.
Having dealt with the back field full of asphodels, using The Boss’s new “toy” – a brushcutter – we had to face the stark truth. Our soil was not only gritty and of very poor quality, there wasn’t much of it. Having barely breached the earth’s surface with a garden fork, we hit rock. At that point, we decided to abandon the field for the time being and concentrate on another, smaller part of our land, where the soil is all of an inch or two deeper, with the aim of doing some serious weeding and planting a couple of agaves we’d been given by a neighbour.
The majority of our land is pretty much useless for cultivation purposes; what was once a valley with a decent number of fruit trees had been left untended for so long that nature had reclaimed it, suffocating the fruit trees with wild olives, wild broom and . . . well, plain old weeds.
It might not be much good as a garden, but it’s a fantastic haven for wildlife. Every day birds of prey give us a flying demonstration, as they scour the “jungle” for its resident population of rabbits and other small rodents. And we’re often lucky enough to see wild Mediterranean tortoises going – slowly – about their business.
But less than welcome are the ticks – of which there are many, as the countryside around us is largely given over to sheep farming. Ticks are rather fond of sheep, but they’re also quite partial to a bit of human blood. In the UK I happily used to give my blood – for the benefit of other humans – but ticks are something else . . . ready to lay their eggs under your skin if unchecked. Gross.
Some people have a cuppa, a G&T or San Miguel at the end of a hard session’s gardening. We have a rather different après gardening routine, which involves stripping off all our clothes, shaking them out wildly, then inspecting each other minutely for the presence of those dreaded little black beasties – before they can sink themselves into our flesh. You’ve seen chimps in the zoo?
I bet Monty Don doesn’t do the same . . .