My first visit to a friend’s huerta revealed an artistic side that I knew nothing of, despite more than 15 years of friendship. Salvador could be called a local legend – a wily, simple but affable man – getting work where he can, his wages go mainly on anise and beer.
Yet he is the first to turn up at my door with enormous tangy lemons, freshly laid eggs with bright yellow yolks and a bundle of aromatic herbs from his land.
Salvador’s huerta on the lower slopes of the village is his sanctuary. It is a jigsaw of land, make-shift outbuildings and concrete lock-ups. The land is fenced off with sturdy chicken wire and the gates are constructed from rusty old bedsteads. These fences are decorated with his collection of found objects – old kitchen implements, abandoned toys and corroded tools. Within the fences – nestling between the vegetables – a touching group of china figurines is displayed on a rocky ledge.
He grows lemons and aubergines, tomatoes and pimientos, herbs and habas here, in well-tended rows.
In the Hen House a dozen or more birds live in comparative luxury.
Julio’s pigsty is empty – after two pigs, Salvador found the matanza too much and couldn’t bring himself to raise a third pig for slaughter. Julio and Julio Dos both ended their short lives with a ceremonial parade through the village before becoming the centre piece of the annual February tradition.
Upon my arrival Salvador rinses out a mug and pops open a beer. He is clearly very proud of his little oasis as he shows me around. This, and his surprisingly tidy three storey house nearby, is a legacy for his sons who one day will benefit from his humble estate.
All images © Pip Art