Sylvia Farley – New Nurturing Potential’s contributing editor in the area of ecology and the environment – believes in suasion by example. At an age when many, if not most, people are content to exchange a working life for a life of leisure, she uprooted herself from her comfortable Isle of Wight existence and planted personal and an exceptionally diverse range of other roots in a Spanish smallholding.  She has been delighting her social networking followers for months with her descriptions of the hardships (and frequent joys!) she has endured in this bucolic existence.  Now she is presenting the same exciting vistas to the readers of Potential Unleashed.






Currently dining on sun-warmed figs, plums peaches and strawberries.  Meat or fish comes with raw onions, tomatoes, parsley, celery leaves, mustard and lovage.  Cooked veg with eggs or cheese include fry-ups of courgettes, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and wild spinach greens.

Lots of baby fish fry in the river last night  But also lots of black fly which breed in the river weed.  The dams have been open for moths so I hoped most of the larvae would have been washed away, but within days of the flow slowing, the weed grows like wildfire and the flies are back. 

One swollen foot and one swollen calf, total 5 black fly bites at different stages.  I try to think of the feeling as a burn rather than an itch which makes it easier not to scratch.  The bloody things also breed in domestic water sources, so have to keep all sink plugs in place and spray down drains after emptying bowls.  Just quaffed a large glass of baking powder and milk which helps cool down the histamines.  Skin So soft deters them and gumboots protect the legs and feet, at a price.


Another useful aid for all bites is home-made wine vinegar.  So the unsuccessful wine is also a bonus as fruit vinegars are excellent cordials and preservatives, as well as anti-inflammatory skin washes.

I have been averaging 2-3 swollen bites a day, all lasting 3-4 days and driving me bananas  Mozzie bites, (about 12 a day, including tiger mosquitoes which are also back) are annoying for half an hour, but blackfly are usually on feet and lower legs and are an absolute pain.  I work in gumboots and long-sleeved, long-legged white pyjamas and slather myself in Skin So Soft, Honey Lotion and Autun, but they still get me.  From the knees down, everything is soaked in sweat, but my ankles are looking slimmer !  The most annoying thing is that the bites make me unwell and tired and set off all the other problems.  Then I have to keep out of the sun, so the garden is getting out of hand.  I am popping Piriton (which makes me sleepy) washing everything in vinegar, burning coils and oils, and using lots of repellents.  Still working on it.

On the plus side, they use Interferon for MS which I get for nothing from blackfly virus injections, and bee stings have been used for arthritis – so why not mosquitoes ? Maybe it is actually helping.  I am also getting dreadful cramps again so drink at least 3 litres of water a day and wear red-indian style towelling headbands to soak up the sweat.  Just think of all the toxins I am clearing out !


I kicked all my medications into touch a year ago on the theory that warmth, contentment, activity and visualisation are more effective and have fewer side-effects than the stuff the GP pushes, and  I have opted for quality of life rather than duration if there must be a choice.  Vast quantities of anti-hypertensives made the cramps unbearable and hardly touched the BP which hovered around 230:180 and was an out-of-control congenital problem.  15 minutes of meditation reduces it by 30 points and 15 minutes of heavy-breathing exercise drops it another 30, so where is the problem?
I do occasionally use antihistamines and muscle relaxants in extremity, when hiding in the mozzy –proof cool and shade gives me the perfect excuse to read, do puzzles, watch the wildlife, listen to talking books, catch up on the mending and read languages.  I could not get into Catalan fairy stories nor Spanish who-dunnits, so gave them away and started again.  I bought myself a gardening book in Catalan to learn how the locals do it, and have returned to my Spanish teenage novel about a creative misfit which I am now reading aloud for the fifth time.


Hog is coming tomorrow to cut grass and rotovate veg garden to keep down weed cover and deter pests and Marta is coming to pick peaches.  I spent a whole day watering at the cost of about 15 euros worth of petrol. I wonder if it is worth it as I give most of the produce away ! I shall have to treat it as an expensive hobby, or a health regime  But, if I could get the gravity feed irrigation working properly, I could save half of that.  It needs a good dose of lateral thinking.


Over the last week I have picked and given away about 50 lbs of peaches, 30lbs of plums 30lbs of nectarines and 20 lbs of figs.  The trouble is that there is such a short window of opportunity. DAY 1: they are barely ripe but crunchy and sweet. Day 2: Sweeter and softer. Day 3: perfect, juicy and luscious. Day 4: tiny maggots appear.  Day 5: fruit are bags of liquid with large populaation of white maggots and large, striped, pink and red one in each.


This is not surprising when one considers that commercial producers spray their crops at least 15 times to conform with European marketing standards, whilst I do nowt!


The best approach is a total rethink of strategy. Eat as many as possible just before they are ripe, with a texture like sweet apples.  Give away as many as possible.  Eat as many as possible at optimal stage.  Cut up and bottle as many as possible in a cheap vermouth with raw cane sugar.  Juice everything that is going soft. As soon as maggots appear, boil all fruit and strain off liquid.  Add a little homemade wine vinegar to liven up the flavour and use short-term.  Bottle and freeze the rest to take down to the finca on a daily basis.  The frozen juice keeps the fridge cool in the absence of power and can be drunk as it thaws.


The logic is that fermentation is better than waste and replenishes the body’s probiotoic defences.  It also provides B vitamins.  I add a culture of water kefir to some juices to produce a sweet, flavoured vinegar that makes a refreshing drink diluted in water.


Milk kefir culture supplies a fermented probiotic drink, fruit smoothies, thick, creamy yoghourt, yoghourt icecream and finally a starter for sourdough breads and cakes.


To complete the cycle, whatever is left over and going green with a vengeance, feeds my greediest veg, the courgettes and beans, which benefit from a nice, sloshy mulch of hairy, maggoty, riches.


It is all in the mind.....  With a passing nod to Edith Sitwell, I assure my friends that I am NOT eccentric.  I simply live more awarely than most people.....