Have you perhaps thought about living in the countryside and staying closer to nature? Does sunny Spain appeal to you not only for the magnificent coastline and the tapas, but have you also considered a tranquil and ecological farm life?
In this week’s blog post we meet with Sandra Fischbach who moved from Germany to Northern Spain and Catalonia to live a simpler and richer life in the countryside. She happily shares her story with MiMove‘s readers to give us all some inspiration and insight on how it is living a much more sustainable life near the majestic mountains of Montserrat.
Sandra Fischbach has always felt connected to nature ever since she was young. She grew up in a Swiss forest village with her German family. As she grew up, she moved to larger and larger villages and cities around Switzerland and Germany for studies and then working within the IT sector.
At the age of 21 she started working for one of the biggest IT companies in the world near Stuttgart in Germany. Soon the company decided to move her department to Sant Cugat, Barcelona, and she had the choice to come along or else, leave the company. She gave it a shot and planned on staying in Spain for a year.
A Far Move Called for A Big Change
As the story often goes for people who move abroad with the intention to “only stay for a little while”, Sandra felt more and more that this was her new home and decided to stay longer.
After six years of working for the big IT corporation, it was time for a big new change. Starting with a trip to Coín, Málaga, and attending a thorough permaculture course at Caña Dulce, she not only learned a lot about ecological and sustainable living, but moving back to living in the country side again became her next plan and a big step forward in life.
Once back in Barcelona, she started searching for a house to rent and found one quite quickly.
“I started looking for a place to rent, so that I could have a base from where I would plan and look for a country house to eventually buy. In 2014 I moved and started to integrate myself and connect with people on the farm outside of Barcelona near Montserrat. After I had taken intense Spanish lessons so that I could communicate with the people, I soon came to realize that everyone out here speaks Catalan and not Spanish. Now I have learned some Catalan too”, Sandra explains.
The house she found was made of big stone bricks and was quite big for one person with its two floors and three bedrooms. The best part of it was the big fireplace and the garden outside where Sandra finally could start growing her own vegetables. The house had satellite internet, solar panels, rainwater system and a compost toilet. She had to be very economical with the resources for it to last throughout the seasons.
Buying a House Wasn’t the Initial Plan…
Sandra lived out here all by herself at first but soon got the company of a couple of cats. Although, not much later she made some human friends as well who lived in the nearby farms and houses.
After living here for about 2.5 years, it was time to move to a different and better place. A plot including two houses and ten acres of land not far away from where she was living became vacant just in the right time.
“Before I moved out to the countryside I actually didn’t have any plans on buying a house. Although, after I had looked at the different options and considering the long term expenses, it was the better choice. I and my partner bought all of it for 300,000 euros, which was a great deal back then (almost 4 years ago). A good benefit is that we can rent out the other house on the land and cover some expenses that way”, Sandra says.
Both houses are more comfortable and better built than the previous one. They are about 150 square metres each and have 4 bedrooms each.
New Land, New Opportunities
The farm is a hidden gem in one of the valleys near Montserrat and it’s difficult to spot from the road. The land also includes a natural pool, two ponds where they get their groundwater from and two narrow rivers. The two houses are parted by one of the rivers with a crossing bridge connecting the lands.
“We grow many different things here. To mention a few, we have apple trees, pears, peaches, arbutus, olives, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts. We also have tomatoes, potatoes, artichoke, chard, ruccula and root-crops. Additionally, we keep thirteen hens and one rooster, and we breed our own chickens. Our one and only donkey, Chula, does the grazing and fertilizing. Thanks to her eating and walking around all days, she is making sure there are fewer plants around to be in risk of catching fire”, Sandra explains.
“Seven cats and one dog also live here. The cats keep coming, it seems like they really like it here! They keep our land free from snakes, mice and rats”, Sandra tells us. “We also have 10,000 lombri worms that are the best kind of worms for composting!”, she adds, sounding more excited about worms than we’d ever heard anyone before – with a good reason.
What About Social Life?
One might think that it can be isolating and lonely living on the farm or in the forest, but so isn’t the case for Sandra, her partner and neighbor across the river.
“We are three people living on this land and we all help each with gardening and harvesting. Additionally, we are a village community of about ten people that keep in touch quite frequently. We make dinners and gatherings once in a while.
I am the secretary of the neighbor association. My function is to be the link between our community and the town hall. I keep everyone informed of what’s going on in the area. We all help each other out with things that need to be fixed and we also exchange tools with each other. We also have an ecologic cow- and chicken meat farmer nearby”, Sandra concludes.
How Do You Get Your Energy and Water Supply?
Sandra, her partner and their tenant across the river get their water from the ponds on the land. The electricity is from SOM Energia, a Catalan non-profit cooperative that provides combined natural energy from wind, water and the sun. At the moment they are also installing central heating with a wood-gasification system, which is the most efficient way to burn wood – leaving the least CO2 possible. An Austrian company, Windhager, is to thank for this system and installation.
What Are the Biggest Challenges?
Having an enormous responsibility towards the land and the animals is the greatest challenge.
“We can’t really take a break from it whenever we’d like. We need to work on the land and around the animals every single day, which can be exhausting sometimes. But, since it is our dream to live like this, it’s all worth it! Keeping any big dream alive takes a lot of work and effort”, she says with a light sigh and a smile.
“Another challenge is protecting our animals from harm. For example, the sneaky foxes that come after our chickens. We had to build a ceiling over the chicken’s fence because we noticed that the foxes somehow managed to scare the chickens in a way that made them jump and fly up high enough to then land on the outer side of the fence, which then made them an easy catch for the foxes”, Sandra explains, sounding a bit annoyed about the vicious foxes.
And What Are the Benefits?
“Everything but the work are the benefits!”, Sandra says with a laugh. “We feel more connected to nature and privileged to be able to work and live at home. There is so much you can do on this land! Some of our upcoming plans are to make more wine, building an earth ship and setting up permaculture”, she says.
Something else that is appreciated are the natural sounds, fresh air, stillness, bird songs and views. There are plenty of nice walking trails around the corner as well. Sometimes their cats and the dog join them on the forest walks, with no leash or force. They feel more free living here with no fences or gates surrounding them and they never feel restricted.
Working with Sustainable Products
“My entire lifestyle and motto is sustainability and keeping everything as natural as possible. Therefore I also had to find beauty and health products that were in line with my values. After finding an Austrian line of amazing products I naturally started sharing my user experience and slowly became part of their distribution team”, she explains while sounding very excited.
Can Our Readers Meet You?
Sandra is a very friendly and open person and invites anyone to contact her with questions around farm living, the health- and beauty products, building up a green business, moving to the country side in Spain or if you just want to connect with a fellow farmer. You can contact her through Instagram and Facebook. She speaks English, German, Spanish and some Catalan.