We heard about Casa Vallecillo whilst staying at the Arriadh Hotel.
“It’s a self catering property in the next valley,” explained Wilbert, one of the owners of the Arriadh, “and Lies Wajer, our friend from Holland, runs it with her Spanish husband. They’ve been into growing their own food, organically and using traditional Andalusian farming methods, for years. Perhaps pay them a visit?”
It turned out to be a great idea.
Lies met us and drove us to the secluded property. There was a family of holiday-makers staying in the house when we visited so we couldn’t do our usual thing of photographing all of the inside very much as they’d spread their stuff out everywhere, as you do when you’re on holiday. So if you’d like to learn more about the place, here is the website – www.vallecilloronda.com
We did take a few snaps outside and of the main room/kitchen though, here they are.
Remember, this is how it looks when it’s had people staying there for a week, if you’re thinking of renting it then it would have been cleaned properly before you arrive.
Another point to note is that Lies is a keen photographer who has enjoyed walking and exploring the local region for over 20 years so if you’re a photographer in search of inspiring local places, she would be a font of knowledge.
It was the garden that we were really interested in at this time though and Lies was happy to show us around. We walked down beyond the swimming pool and met Francis her husband, who is a self taught farmer.
Francis explained that he irrigated the crops using an age old Moorish technique, diverting natural spring water through the fields by moving mud around with a hoe.
“I only need to water twice a week even in the hot summer season,” he said, “as this style of watering really allows the ground to soak up the moisture.” Here’s an image of Francis about to close up a water channel so the ground doesn’t get over-soaked.
We thought this was great; it’s eco friendly and it works better than modern methods (with modern irrigation methods you have to water every day in the summer here so you use far more water, plus electricity for the pump). But what about pesticides, if they don’t use any didn’t they loose lots of crop to insects?
“Some,” said Lies, “but not much. If you start using chemicals in your field, theÂ first insects to die off or leave are the ones that feed on the sort of insects that eat your crop. So you end up with only the insects that eat your crop, so there are more of them as there’s nothing to eat them any more. So when you stop using pesticides, the whole range of insects come back. Sure, there are a few pests that will eat your crop, but there are also lots that will eat the pests themselves and keep the population under control.”
To illustrate this, she showed us a row of lettuce. They were growing in an uncultivated part of the field.
In a normal garden plot these would have either been turned radioactive thanks to heavy doses of pesticide or would have had slugs and what not destroy them in a single day but in this chemical-free environment, the slugs and other pests are controlled by natural means (the other insects and also birds) so whilst a few leaves are lost, there is still plenty left for people to eat as well.
Another plant that was growing without help in this chemical free environment was artichoke.
Around the garden were fruit trees and the potato crop had just been pulled up.
We walked through to another part of the field, on the way picking ripe, juicy plums from heavily laden trees. Anybody who says you need pesticides to grow plenty of food needs to take a good look at themselves, and an operation like Lies and Francis have going.
2 of the 3 family dogs joined us at this point, it was getting hot though and they followed as far as the irrigation channel before lying down for a soak.
The other part of the field was larger and held a range of vegetables.Â First there were huge, imperfect but tasty tomatoes. The supermarkets don’t like produce like this as it doesn’t look perfect and they think buyers don’t like it, which is one of the reasons they stock chemical ridden, poisonous tomatoes on their shelves. It’s up to us to let them know that we’d take a little deformity if it means our food is poison-free.
Next came the rows of eggplant. Huge veg that was often touching the ground it was so heavy and healthy.
There was also onion, and cucumber.
Now, you might be thinking, how can I get hold of some of this organically grown veg? The answer is, unless you know Lies, or stay in her self-catering accommodation, you can’t. There are very strict rules to obtain an ‘organic’ certificate for your produce, and most of these rules cost a lot of money to adhereÂ to. That’s why in many countries you’ll find small farmers such as Lies and Francis who grow organically but can’t officially sell their produce labelled as such because they can’t afford the certification. Nowadays, the only way of knowing for sure if the food is grown properly is to know the farmer. And now I’ve introduced Lies and Francis to you, hopefully that’s one more source you know of that you can trust.
We’ve seen the accommodation that Lies offers, and the food that she and Francis grow and offer to their guests, and based on this, and the wonderful location, we’d say that if you’ve an interest in healthy living, photography or just want a tranquil self-catering base from which to explore the best of Andalucia, we recommend you consider staying at Casa Vallecillo if you have the chance.
Find out more atÂ http://vallecilloronda.com/?lang=en