Living Close to Nature

I love living somewhere with abundant wildlife. I cherish the fact that Asturias has healthy populations of animals and birds that are in danger of extinction elsewhere. But it’s not all Disney, it does have its downside.

This week an industrious jabalí (wild boar) obliterated my potato patch overnight. 50m2 of potato plants completely disappeared. Several days worth of back-aching digging and manuring, of weeding and mounding and watering – all for nothing.

Now, I have to admit it was partially my own stupid fault. The threat of jabalí invasion was known but, unlike my neighbours, I never got round to erecting an electric fence. What can I say? I guess you never think it’ll happen to you. I certainly didn’t think that they would destroy the whole lot in one incursion.

Cute, huh?
Not so much when they’ve just snaffled your whole potato crop…
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Having said that, despite their well-placed electric fence my neighbours have been steadily losing their potatoes to a smaller invader who can shimmy underneath the wires – the badger. The damage is less dramatic but is insidious. He returns night after night to nibble on the tubers, leaving them gnawed and unusable.

To add to their woes, their employment of the battery and fence in their potato patch meant that they left their orchard unguarded and yesterday escaped horses got in and broke off a load of branches from the apple trees.

If it’s not one thing it’s another. ‘No puedes tener nada,’ as my neighbours mutter wearily (you can’t have anything.) They’ve spent all their lives scratching a living from the soil – the sometimes harshness of mother nature is not news to them.

Eagles swoop down from the sky to snatch baby chicks from their runs, stoats squeeze through the tiniest of gaps to penetrate chicken coops and perpetrate massacre, mould blights entire crops. These are just some of the natural dramas I have witnessed here in the past few years.

On the other hand, as Aurelio said to me the other morning ‘antes había mucho más crisis. Esto no ye crisis.’ He was referring to the current economic situation in which Spain finds itself, making the point that times were much harder in years gone by.

At 78 years old Aurelio can say this with some authority. He has worked the land since he was 8, when his father died. His family had dairy cows and he also spent his days, in between milking and other farm tasks handcarving madreñas (Asturian clogs) to earn a little cash. He has lived through the civil war and the subsequent dictatorship.

Madreñas. The stilted Asturian clog used by all when working the fields. Strange looking but eminently practical. (And no, I’ve never dared to don a pair.)

For someone who has grafted at the mercy of nature season in and season out for seventy years the media uproar over the recession and austerity seems a little melodramatic. There are cycles in everything and sometimes, too, there is a little suffering.


  1. Yikes and I moan about a few insects and blackbirds! We hve the wild boar here, but the high fences and hedges around our garden keeps it out.. Sorry to hear about the spuds, can you plant more, or have you missed the planting window?

    • Thanks PiP – I know you understand what it feels like to lose crops. Unfortunately I’m too late to plant any more potatoes, which is gutting because shop-bought ones are just rubbish by comparison! I’ll definitely plant the space up though – I’m thinking probably peas at this stage. Need to have a think what’s best.

  2. Gosh, I didn’t realise the jabalí had destroyed your entire crop :-( You’re not alone, though… Russell and I are mourning the loss of our beloved broccoli plants: some nocturnal creature must have trampled all over them, and I don’t think they are going to make it. Our neighbours seem to be much more philosophical about these kinds of things, though, and brush them off with a “Bueno, pues qué se le va a hacer!”

    • It was actually kind of impressive, in a shocking way. You’d never know that anything had been planted there, the decimation was so complete! Sorry to hear about your broccoli – it’s gutting isn’t it? I guess we have to get used to the idea of a certain amount of plant sacrifice. You can certainly tell that the locals are well used to it, with their philosophical reactions!

  3. I enjoyed your thoughtful post but was sorry to hear that you lost your entire potato crop. Mother Nature can be very unkind.

  4. Great post. The more you are in the country the more you live with nature and its whims. We don’t have pigs (yet) but plenty of animals we have to “discourage” from our garden and orchard. It has taught us some humility…if anything else.

  5. Oh my goodness, look at him. Naughty naughty thing…. Your neighbours sound like wonderful, and very wise people. Love the photographs! :)

  6. I love this – a proper capture of rural Spain. A reminder that is it not all sunshine and the good life!

  7. Lovely post, as usual! Sorry about the potato crop – bad bad piggies! I have a suggestion. I worked in Israel on a Moshav (decades ago I’m sad to say) and wild pigs used to frequently decimate the melon crop. The Israeli farmers rigged up a couple of tractors to play rock music really loudly during the night… it worked for a while I have to say; they stayed away. But in the end they resorted to shotguns, which I’m sure you’re not inclined to do! Love your blog and always look forward to reading your posts. Viva Espana!

    • Oh, that’s a great idea. I’ll definitely give it a go – my potato plot is down the end of the field, so far enough away from the neighbours for volume control not to be too much of an issue. Much better idea than a rifle, whilst I might fantasize about shooting the blighters in my darkest moments it’s not really my style. I’d be sure to shoot myself in the foot anyway! Thank you Sally – and also for the lovely, lovely things you said :)

  8. Wonderful, how you dipped us into the cycles of nature in Asturia here, with the help of your friend Aurelio! Life and death and work and rest and survival and surrender are all present so vividly there for you, aren’t they?

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