Finally we’re on our way to (
hopefully) our future casa! For a few years now we’ve been dreaming of living off the grid and being self-sufficient. We want to escape the busy city life and enjoy the things that really matter to us. We want to live in balance with the earth and according to our morals. It’s crazy to think about the fact that we as humans are capable of doing amazing things. We can design the most advanced technology, but most of us never grew our own vegetables or thought about how to convert sunshine in energy.
Our knowledge is going to be mostly based on what we read and see on the internet, but this makes the challenge even more fun for us. We’ve been living an easy and smooth life for most years, but during our trip in Asia we realised that there is so much to explore. It got more difficult for us to adapt to our Dutch life. Going to work, hurrying back home for Luna (our lovely dog), doing groceries, cleaning the house and in the few days or hours that are left trying to plan things with friends or try to travel. Reading the book Sapiens, talking about life and experiencing the hardships people generally go through in my work as a nurse. Being unable to do what I envisioned in health care and seeing society harden, we packed our bags and began our journey moving to Barcelona in January 2020. Now fast forward to March 2021 after an unusual year and we’re driving to Caspe, finally able to explore again!
I’ll start off with saying a little bit about the city Caspe, there are around 10,000 inhabitants. It’s located in the autonomic state called Aragon in the North-West of Spain, about 2.5 hours driving from Barcelona. Caspe also has its own train station with a direct connection to Barcelona, about 3.5 hours. The Caspe region is quite dry, but there are some bodies of water closeby. Next to the rivers you can see a lot of green and most of the farmers live close to the river, the further inland you go the dryer it gets. There is one dam closeby with a really big reservoir, which they also call the Sea of Aragon. This is where the water from the irrigation of the house is from.
Other than that, Caspe is known for their olives, cherries and almonds. And the best thing off all is that they speak Spanish! Finally no Catalan or other dialects, so we can really put all the things we learned into practise. As of now we can have simple conversations with neighbours, in stores and do our administration. But because of Covid we have less opportunities to practise than we would want. We also found out that there are more Dutch people living here, they gave us a warm welcome and some helpful advice. This is already so different compared to the life we’re living now in Barcelona where we hardly know the neighbours.
The back of the house
So back to the viewing of the property. We agreed to meet the realtor in Maella, as he lives there with his family. This came in handy as it’s not that easy to find the house on your own, especially because we don’t know this area very well. We also didn’t have a lot of options to explore the area, as we were only allowed to see the house. We were a bit hesitant at first to travel this far from Barcelona, because we are still in lockdown and not allowed to leave the city. But after talking to the realtor and other people we figured that the viewing was probably a valid enough reason. We filled out a form, but luckily never had to show it to anyone. Our Ford Fiesta was having a hard time on our way to the finca, as the street that connects the house to the main road is unpaved. Arriving at the property the road is blocked by a big fence, since it’s the last one on the road. From there you cannot see the house and there is a small turn and the first thing you see is the water basin. The first thing we noticed was the cute house and all the land that surrounded it. We weren’t sure if we would have enough space to grow all the food we need, but after guesstimating we’re sure it is (11.800 m2). We also have so many other ideas with what we can do with the land. In the future we would like to build a yurt for guests to sleep in.
It was so nice to see Luna running around, she is one of the reasons we’re taking this step and don’t want to wait for too many years. She’ll have all the space she needs here to run and explore. She’s not a city dog and even though we have lots of parks around in Barcelona and we live in a quiet neighbourhood, she gets easily stressed.
The land consists of different parts. The first area is pretty green, covered in grasses, this is where we parked our car. It is connected to the house and the front of the barn. On the right there is another piece of land which is pretty dry. There are a few trees, blackberry bushes and a peach tree. The land connected to the front of the house is where the water basin is built. The old owners had a vegetable garden here and there is a conifer too and another peach tree. When you exit the land through the gate, on the left there are two terraces that belong to the property. The terraces are full of vig trees, so I can’t wait to make (and eat) vigjam, vig cake, vig cupcakes and dry them :)!
The buildings themselves are about 92 m2 together. The house itself is 50m2, which would be big enough for us as we never owned a big house or apartment. As we were walking in the house, Thomas had the idea to break through the wall and place a big door, so the two parts are connected. It would be perfect; we can make a big kitchen in the barn with a view over our land. We have so many ideas, so we can’t wait to try them! Maybe all the years experience I have with playing the Sims will come in handy.
Luckily the house has an irrigation system that is connected to the river, but we don’t have unlimited access to water. They let the water flow for one and a half days every 2 weeks for all the farms in our area. This way everyone gets enough water to water their crops and it’s equally divided. With the house comes a water basin with a volume of 15,000 liters. We want to expand our irrigation system and set up a system for rain harvesting. In the summer it gets really dry in July and August, so we need to make sure we keep every drop that falls. It doesn’t have a main connection for electricity either, but we want to generate this ourselves anyhow.
After we viewed the property we asked the realtor all of our questions. There was already an offer out, and apparently someone was in self-isolation from the Netherlands to take a look next week too. So there was some pressure to decide but to be honest I think our mind was already set. We spoke about it for a long time, thought about it some more, and searched all Sunday for other properties. Not that we haven’t done this enough the past year, now looking in other areas and for a higher budget just to be sure we didn’t miss anything even comparable.
We had some concerns about the asbestos in the roof though, so we looked for an architect to discuss this with them. We already found some information on the internet, but weren’t sure about the potential extra costs. After asking around for architects in the region we got one recommended. Luckily this is an architect who worked with the realtor before, which is going to happen in these sparsely populated areas. They went together on Monday and called Thomas to discuss all the possible solutions. The asbestos is not dangerous as long as we don’t touch it, so we might improve the roof without removing the asbestos. They also discussed our doubts about the water supply, but we should have enough with the irrigation and rain harvesting. Besides, there are water taps in Caspe and Maelle where you can get extra water or let it be delivered to you by farmers in the neighbourhood.
After leaving the property and driving through Caspe we saw some bars and restaurants with people enjoying the sun and their drinks. There was even a market and later we learned from our lawyer that it’s a good place to cycle too. We guess mainly by Dutch people, as we didn’t see anyone biking. The house is a 5 minute drive from the city center and 10 minutes from Maella.
So now it’s time to put in our offer, we offered the asking price of 45.000 and it has been accepted! After receiving and (trying to) reading the draft contract we did. I asked a friend of mine whose partner is a realtor for some help and he told us to check a bunch of things. Even though we decided we wanted to save money and not hire a lawyer, after we couldn’t find all the information on the internet and realizing our Spanish is not on a legal level we decided to hire one. He speaks English and specializes in real estate law, so now he is checking all the registration and documents and all we need to do is wait on his ‘go’ before we sign.
Our dream is so close now, especially after talking about this for years. Luckily we have our jobs to keep us occupied. Thomas is still working at Doctoralia, a Spanish/Polish company that develops an online agenda for doctor’s appointments. So you can imagine Thomas was never really bored this past year. I started working at a Belgian call center a month ago. This is part time as I’m also studying Spanish. I completed the first course at school and now I’m getting private lessons through my company.
Of course we’re also still enjoying Barcelona a lot. We have a nice terrace and a view of the city and sea. Unfortunately it’s not possible to go out at night and eat tapas with friends. But luckily we got to do this last summer a few times and hopefully this year too. We met some kind and beautiful people and also, sadly, had to say goodbye to some of them. Corona had a big part in this, because the unemployment rate is very high and especially among younger people.