Chris Stewart is a man on a mission. He and his wife Ana have decided to leave their comfortable existence in England and build a new life in the beautiful mountains of Andalucia, Spain. Easily caught up in the beauty and expanse of his new surroundings, Chris soon finds himself the proud owner of farm named El Valero. The next step is to convince his wife that he has purchased the right place to start the next phase of their lives. While she is decidedly uncomfortable with some of his admissions of less than perfect conditions (yes, there is a bathroom...no, there is no working plumbing), she is excited about the adventure ahead.
Their new lives are filled with both beautiful moments and aggravating dilemmas. The previous owner Pedro stays on for several months to help teach Chris how to run the farm. He quickly becomes a major part of their lives with his monotonous meals of potatoes and fatty ham, huge amounts of wine, and his never-ending cries of lament at having to sell his beloved farm. It is only after he is gone that Chris discovers that Pedro wasn't quite the hard-working, helpful man he appeared to be.
Each day brings new challenges that re-define priorities and deepen connections to the land. Their roof must be completely re-built because of the myriad insects and rodents that have made it their home. This task is deemed a necessity after several nights of enduring bits and pieces of these creatures landing on them as they try to sleep. This is only the beginning. Wonderful chickens in their newly built coops are eaten in the night, seemingly happy sheep refuse to come home, charming goats decimate the newly planted vegetables.
The antidote to these difficulties are the relationships that surpass normal friendship and instead are relegated to the realms of family. Domingo, a local man who lives nearby, becomes a brother. He helps Chris through the mundane, foundational necessities, such as building new walls for their home and forging a bridge across the river that leads to their property. He is also there in solid support of Chris' ‘crazier' ideas such as deciding to show the locals how to use electric sheep-shearing techniques despite the certainty of his audience that the sheep will be electrocuted or die of sunstroke. He is only one of many friends who become an integral part of building a new life at El Valero.
Throughout the multitude of surprises and hilarity, this book is more than just a series of comical stories that reveal the hard reality of living in a place without the modern comforts of suburbia. It transcends the building of a home and a life. It is about slipping into a pool of cool water on a scorching night on your own land. It is about harvesting olives from your own trees. It is about friends who make mysterious dishes called chicharrones and tocino. It is about falling asleep inside walls that you built. It is about the love of an idea and a place that makes everything possible.
This report prepared by Jennifer Breault