How to make a small fortune on Mallorca

Start with a large one and buy an old finca!

I know. It’s an old joke, but there’s some truth in it (assuming you had any kind of fortune to start with – and we certainly didn’t).

This time last year we had to have our roof renewed and buy new gates. We’d hoped that we wouldn’t be spending any more large amounts of money for a long while. But in recent weeks our solar-powered electricity system has been requiring an increasing amount of generator back-up. Every evening we were having to run the generator for an hour or so to prevent it kicking in on auto-start during the night, because of the power drain caused by the fridge/freezer.

Eventually The Boss decided to switch off the auto-start before we went to bed: we really didn’t want the generator bursting into life in the wee small hours and startling the local sheep (or, of course, our neighbours in the valley). Although running our solar power system is ecologically sound, generators aren’t: diesel is horrible stuff and it’s expensive.

Winter draws on

With winter ahead (and The Boss not keen on going out late at night to traipse down the field to the power house in bad weather), we knew it was time to replace our solar polar batteries. A few years ago we were told that we’d be lucky if they lasted five years; they managed nine. Once again we’ve had to shelve any dreams of a holiday, to spend the equivalent of several holidays on replacing our old batteries with a set that will hopefully last at least a decade.

Out with the old and exhausted . . .

Out with the old and exhausted . . .

Thanks to our finca, we’ll never have a large or even a small fortune, but we do have the good fortune to have a reliable and consistent electricity supply now and a sturdy roof over our heads – and, having seen the TV coverage of the heartbreaking devastation in the Philippines, we’re counting our blessings, if not our banknotes.

Putting a damper on things

With apologies to Jane Austen . . .

Our new zinc guttering in place . . . well, you’d hardly want to look at a patch of damp-blackened wall, would you?!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when you attempt to make improvements to an old Mallorcan finca, something will come back to bite you. We’ve experienced this so many times, and it’s a truth that ensures that the finca owner will never have time to twiddle their thumbs and be bored. Cross one job off the list and another (or, if you’re really unlucky, several) will have to be added.

Something’s brewing

Even as we were breathing sighs of relief that we would no longer have rain leaking through the roof into the house – and would have a warmer winter because of the addition of insulation – another problem was brewing.

During our roof repair project, we had some significant rainfall on a few occasions. Fortunately, the new roof lining, insulation, and a layer of concrete had already been applied, and only the tiles and guttering were missing. So although no rain fell through the roof, it did cascade straight down the walls because of the lack of tiles and guttering.

Our walls of made mostly of marès stone – the attractive honey-coloured local sandstone that’s a feature of many iconic buildings on Mallorca, including La Seu, the beautiful cathedral in Palma. It looks beautiful, but has the disadvantage of being extremely porous. And so our walls soaked up all that cascading rain . . .

Hiding behind the sofa

In the past few days I’ve been noticing a distinct smell of damp whenever I entered the house.  And for good reason: the water soaked up by our 60cm-thick walls has, in places, succeeded in reaching the internal walls. A few black spots are peppered here and there in a couple of rooms at the back of the house – which gets no sunshine at this time of the year. And this morning, when I moved the sofa in our sitting room, I was greeted by a large swathe of damp-blackened wall.

The post-project clean-up outside will have to wait: we have an appointment with a bottle of bleach, a sponge and some rubber gloves . . .

Ah, happy Monday!